Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas B. Parker, 30 January 1821

To Thomas B. Parker

Monticello Jan. 30. 21.


I am indebted to you for your favor of the 16th and for information of the two amendments to your constitution therein noticed, and on which you ask my opinion. in a former letter to you I expressed my entire retirement from every thing political, and my unwillingness to commit myself to controversy or offence, even by expressing opinions: and on the same grounds I must request to be excused in the present case, and especially on subjects respecting other states, so much more capable than I am of judging for themselves. the making your Senate the [re]presentative of wealth instead of men, is a feature which doubtless will be scrupulously questioned by the people, to whom it is to be referred, and who are themselves men, but not wealthy men. the question of a general assesment for the support of the ministers of religion was a very early one in this state. the supporters of the antient establishment of the Anglican church here finding that establishment untenable retreated to a general assesment as a strong hold, on which many rallied to them. but the principle of perfect freedom in religion at length prevailed and we have not since found in experience that the zeal of either pastors or flocks has been damped by this reference to their own consciences; and the proposition of a general assesment, on which, before it was tried, we were almost equally divided, would not now I think get one vote in ten. I pray you to accept my respectful salutations.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Chapman Johnson to TJ, 25 Sept. 1819; damaged at seal; at foot of text: “Mr Thomas B. Parker”; endorsed by TJ.

TJ’s 1779 “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” at length prevailed in Virginia, becoming law in 1786 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 2:545–53).

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; entering current political debates search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Massachusetts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom search
  • Massachusetts; constitutional convention of1820–21 search
  • Massachusetts; Senate of search
  • Massachusetts; TJ on search
  • Parker, Thomas B.; and Mass. constitutional convention search
  • Parker, Thomas B.; letters to search
  • politics; TJ avoids political debates search
  • religion; Anglicanism search
  • religion; state support of search
  • religion; Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom search
  • taxes; and religion search
  • taxes; and representation search
  • Virginia; Act for establishing Religious Freedom search
  • Virginia; religion in search