Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES MONROE. mad. mss. - The Writings, vol. 2 (1783-1787)
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TO JAMES MONROE. mad. mss. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 2 (1783-1787) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 2.
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TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Richmond Decr. 30, 1785.
The past week has been rendered important by nothing but some discussions on the subject of British debts. The bill brought in varied from that which miscarried last year 1. by adding provision in favor of the Creditors for securing payment at the dates of the instalments 2. by annexing a clause empowering the Executive to suspend the operation of the Act in case Congress should notify their wish to that effect. Great difficulty was found in drawing the House into Comte on the subject. It was at length effected on Wednesday. The changes made in the Bill by the Comittee are 1. striking out the clause saving the Creditors from the act of limitation which makes the whole a scene of Mockery—2. striking out the provision for securities—3. Converting the clause authorizing Congs. to direct a suspension of the Act into a clause suspending it, until Congs. should notify to the Executive that G. B. had complyed with the Treaty on her part, or that they were satisfied with the steps taken by her for evacuating the posts, paying for Negroes and for a full compliance with the Treaty. The sentence underlined was proposed as an amendment to the amendment and admitted by a very small majority only. 4. exonerating the public from responsibility for the payments into the Treasury by British debtors beyond the real value of the liquidated paper. Since these proceedings of the Committee of the whole, the subject has slept on the table, no one having called for the report. Being convinced myself that nothing can be now done that will not extremely dishonor us, and embarrass Congs., my wish is that the report may not be called for at all.
In the course of the debates no pains were spared to disparage the Treaty by insinuations agst. Congs., the Eastern States, and the negociators of the Treaty, particularly J. Adams. These insinuations & artifices explain perhaps one of the motives from which the augmeion of the fœderal powers & respectability has been opposed. The Reform of the County Courts has dwindled into directions for going thro’ the docket quarterly, under the same penalties as now oblige them to do their business monthly. The experiment has demonstrated the impracticability of rendering these courts fit instruments of Justice; and if it had preceded the Assize Question would I think have ensured its success. Some wish to renew this question in a varied form, or at least under a varied title; but the Session is too near its period for such an attempt. When it will end I know not. The business depending wd. employ the House till March. A system of navigation and commercial regulations for this State alone is before us and comprises matter for a month’s debate. The Compact with Maryd. has been ratified.1 It was proposed to submit it to Congs. for their sanction, as being within the word Treaty used in the Confederation. This was oppd. It was then attempted to transmit it to our Delegates to be by them simply laid before Congs. Even this was negatived by a large Majority. I can add no more without risking the opportunity by the post except that I remain Yr affec. friend
CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT.mad. mss.
We the subscribers members of the protestant episcopal Church claim the attention of your honourable Body to our objections to the law passed at the last Session of Assembly for incorporating the protestant Episcopal church; and we remonstrate against the said law—
Because the law admits the power of the Legislative Body to interfere in matters of Religion which we think is not included in their jurisdiction.
Because the law was passed on the petition of some of the Clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church without any application from the other members of that Church on whom the law is to operate, and we conceive it to be highly improper that the Legislature should regard as the sense of the whole Church the opinion of a few interested members who were in most instances originally imposed on the people without their consent & who were not authorized by even the smallest part of this community to make such a proposition.
Because the law constitutes the Clergy members of a convention who are to legislate for the laity contrary to their fundamental right of chusing their own Legislators.
Because by that law the most obnoxious & unworthy Clergyman cannot be removed from a parish except by the determination of a body, one half of whom the people have no confidence in & who will always have the same interest with the minister whose conduct they are to judge of.
Because—by that law power is given to the convention to regulate matters of faith & the obsequious vestries are to engage to change their opinions as often as the convention shall alter theirs.
Because a system so absurd and servile will drive the members of the Episcopal Church over to the Sects where there will be more consistency & liberty.
We therefore hope that the wisdom & impartiality of the present assembly will incline them to repeal a law so pregnant with mischief & injustice.
[1 ]Aug. 9, 1785, George Mason wrote from Gunston Hall to Madison, enclosing for his inspection a copy of his and Henderson’s report to the Legislature and of the joint letter to the government of Pennsylvania of the Virginia and Maryland commissioners.
June 3, 1784, a memorial from the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia was presented in the House of Delegates stating that the church labored under disadvantages because of several laws directing the modes of worship, and requesting the repeal of such acts; “that an act may pass, to incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, to enable them to regulate all the spiritual concerns of that Church, alter its form of worship, and constitute such canons, by-laws and rules for the government and good order thereof, as are suited to their religious principles; and in general that the Legislature will aid and patronize the Christian religion.” This was referred to the Committee on Religion, of which Madison was himself a member; but he was opposed to the views of the majority of his colleagues. On June 8 Carey reported that the memorial seemed to the committee to be reasonable. The bill for the incorporation of the Protestant Episcopal Church was read the second time June 16, and after modification to a less objectionable form passed at the next session of the Assembly. (See Journal of the House of Delegates.) Madison himself voted for it, as a strategic movement, to ward off action on the more important bill for religious assessments. The act contained twelve sections, providing that the “Minister and vestry of the Protestant Episcopal Church” should, under that name, constitute a body politic and corporate in the respective parishes, and should forever enjoy all glebe lands already purchased, churches, burying-grounds, etc., belonging to them, “and every other thing the property of the late established church.” In the proceedings of the ministers and vestries all matters were to be decided by a majority vote. They had full power and authority to purchase and enjoy lands, etc. In whatever parishes ministers and vestrymen wished to form a body corporate under the act, it was lawful for any two members of the church to call together the other members in the parish and elect twelve church members, to form a vestry and with the minister of the church were authorized to regulate all its religious concerns, doctrine, discipline and worship. (Hening’s Statutes at Large, 11, 532).
Beginning with the session of the Assembly in the Autumn of 1786 petitions to repeal the act began to pour in, and also a smaller number against the repeal (Journal of the House of Delegates, Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Nov. 6, Nov. 9, Nov. 10, Nov. 17, Nov. 24, Dec. 4, Dec. 5, Dec. 7.) The act of repeal was finally passed Jan. 10, 1787. (Hening’s Stats. at Large, 12, 266.)
Rev Dr John B. Smith, of Hampden-Sidney College, a Presbyterian, wrote to Madison under date June 21, 1784:
“Since my arrival at home, I have seen a part of your Journals, & by them have learned the objects of the Petition from the Episcopal Clergy, which in one or two instances, appear to me very exceptionable. The first part of their prayer is necessary & proper; & the whole of it might pass without much animadversion to its disadvantage, ’till you hear them requesting that ‘they, the Clergy, may be incorporated by law’; & then an attentive mind must revolt against it as very unjustifiable, & very insulting to the members of their communion in general. Had they requested that an incorporating act should pass, in favour of that Church as a party of Christians, whereby the people might have had a share in the direction of ecclesiastical regulations, & the appointment of Church officers for that purpose, it would have been extremely proper. But as the matter now stands, the clergy seem desirous to exclude them from any share in such a privilege & willing to oblige the members of their Churches to sit down patiently, under such regulations as an incorporated body of Clergymen, who wish to be peculiarly considered as ministers in the view of the law, shall chuse to make, without a legal right to interpose in any manner, but such as these spiritual leaders may think fit to allow. * * * * * *
“But that part of the petition, which concerns me most as well as every non-Episcopalian in the state, is, where these Clergymen pray for an act of the Assembly to enable, them to regulate all the spiritual concerns of that Church &c. This is an express attempt to draw the State into an illicit connexion & commerce with them, which is already the ground of that uneasiness which at present prevails thro’ a great part of the State. According to the spirit of that prayer, the Legislature is to consider itself as the head of that Party, & consequently they as members are to be fostered with particular care.”