Resolution Respecting a Baptist Petition, August 16, 1775
The first shots of the Revolutionary War occurred on April 19, 1775, when British troops marched to capture patriot leaders and weapons. The British met armed opposition from colonists in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord and there the first blood of the Revolutionary War was spilled. In June 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned George Washington to organize and lead a Continental army, and on July 2, 1776, Congress officially broke from Great Britain. They adopted the formal Declaration of Independence two days later.
As Virginia and the other colonies raised militias for their defense, Baptist leaders petitioned the third Virginia Revolutionary Convention, which met in Richmond from July 17 to August 26, 1775. The petitioners requested permission for Baptist ministers to preach to soldiers who did not wish to attend religious services conducted by the paid chaplains, who were all members of the Church of England. Patrick Henry drafted this resolution to allow “dissenting clergymen” to conduct religious services for soldiers. Thus, this resolution is significant as an early step along the path that Virginia took during the American Revolution that led to greater support for the concept of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
1. Who were the "dissenting clergymen"?
2. What denomination were the regular chaplains?
1. How do this resolution and the petition from Prince Edward County on October 11, 1776, to the House of Delegates foreshadow the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom?
Thomas E. Buckley, S.J. Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776–1787. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1977.
Bland, Henretta. "Patrick Henry and the Fight for Religious Freedom." Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 119 (November 1985): 780–785.