Petition of 160 inhabitants of Prince Edward County, September 24, 1776
Beginning in the spring of 1776 and continuing without interruption for nearly ten years, dissenters, or people with any religion other than that of the Church of England, in Virginia petitioned the General Assembly to abolish all privileges of the Church of England in Virginia and to allow Protestants full religious liberty without having to pay taxes to support clergymen of any denomination, to allow clergymen of any denomination to perform marriages, and to terminate the Church of England's official connection with the government of Virginia. The petitions specifically linked the struggle for religious liberty in Virginia with the colonial struggle for political liberty from Great Britain. This eloquent early petition from Presbyterians in Prince Edward County to the House of Delegates explicitly invoked the final clause of the Virginia Declaration of Rights that the members of the General Assembly, acting as members of the fifth and final Virginia Revolutionary Convention, adopted in June 1776.
1. What does ecclesiastic mean?
2. What did the petitioners mean by "pull down all Church Establishments"?
1. Read the Virginia Declaration of Rights; do you think that the Prince Edward petitioners properly interpreted the last article? What do you think the convention intended that article to convey?
Thomas E. Buckley, S.J. Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776–1787. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1977.