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Inhabitants of Fauquier County, Petition Regarding the Separation of Church and State, 1785

Context

On the eve of the passage of the Statute for Religious Freedom, numerous citizens and religious denominations bombarded the General Assembly with petitions advocating both for and against a tax (called an "assessment") to support Protestant denominations. Primarily, Episcopalians—inheritors of the Church of England's glebes and infrastructure—were for an assessment; Deists—such as Jefferson and Madison, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, and others—were against the tax.

Definition: Petitions to the General Assembly were the primary catalyst for legislation in the Commonwealth from 1776 until 1865. Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation issues were just some of the concerns expressed in these petitions. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research, including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.

Citation: Petition of the Inhabitants of Fauquier County, Fauquier County, 1785, Legislative Petitions Digital Collection, Library of Virginia.

Standards

VS1, VS.6b, US1.1, US1.7b, US1.7c, CE.1, CE.2b, VUS.1, VUS.5c, GOVT.1, GOVT.2f

Suggested Questions

Analyze: What evidence do the petitioners give supporting their stand?

Analyze: Compare this petition to a similar petition from Southampton County (1785 Petition of Members of the Episcopal Church in Southampton County). Do the petitioners share the same opinion?

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