Anglican Virginia: The Established Church of the Old Dominion 1607-1786

Arthur Pierce Middleton


Colonial Williamsburg Library Research Report Series - 0006
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia



Arthur Pierce Middleton

"Virginia may be justly esteemed the happy Retreat of true Britons and true Churchmen for the most Part; neither soaring too high nor drooping too low"
Hugh Jones, Present State of Virginia, 1724.

For three latter-day Virginia Anglicans —
Jane, Pamela, and Christopher



A study of religion in colonial Virginia would embrace the structure of the Established Church, the lives and conversation of its clergy and laity, its parish system and church buildings, its College of William and Mary and schools, and those groups which dissented from it. But it would also involve much more, for all these are means to an end. The end is the Faith "once delivered to the saints" and the worship that stems from it.

Unfortunately, the spiritual as opposed to the institutional side of the story is hard to document. It is something not easily detected by the instruments at the historian's disposal. Moreover, the worship of God, the conversion of souls, and ministering to their spiritual needs are continuous activities of the Church. The historian, however, cannot reiterate episodes which are continuous, even though they are the essence of religious history.

The approach attempted here is to deal with both the institutional side and the Faith of the Church in its outward manifestation in liturgy and life. Accordingly, I have given more attention than most other writers to the liturgical and architectural details of Anglican worship. These, after all, are among the few expressions of the Faith which do not entirely slip through the mesh of the historian's net.


In this connection I should like to quote two passages from the Archbishop of York's Claim of the Church of England:

"all through the Prayer Book light is thrown on the doctrine of the Church, From its Orders for the administration of baptism and of Holy Communion we can gather more of the Church's mind on these Sacraments than from the formal statements of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The language of devotion opens the door to mysteries which remain locked to clear-cut definition."
"Everywhere in the Prayer Book the doctrine of the Church is expressed in devotion and worship. Through frequent use it gradually sinks into the mind, and the repetition of rites and ceremonies unconsciously and imperceptibly forms the doctrinal convictions of the worshipper more surely than hundreds of sermons and exhortations."

The 179 years spanned by the Established Church of Virginia witnessed great changes in the social, economic, and political conditions of western civilization. Most significant of all, perhaps, was the impact of the Enlightenment — the Age of Reason, ushered in by such men as Bacon, Locke, Newton, and Descartes — upon the intellectual climate of opinion. These men represented a rationalistic and scientific approach to religious as well as to social, political, and economic issues. They opposed such medieval remnants as feudalism, censorship, religious intolerance, restrictions on trade, and, indeed, any kind of arbitrary and dogmatic authority, Despite its limitations, the Enlightenment had a profound effect upon western thought and left behind it a 3. liberal heritage which we are still enjoying. Thus, at the beginning of our story in 1607, kings ruled by divine right and religious conformity was the universal norm. But the yeast of rationalism was at work, and by the end of our story freedom and tolerance had triumphed. The central theme of our narrative, then, is how the Anglican Church in Virginia, starting out with the medieval concept of rigid conformity, gradually came around to the modern concept of religious freedom.

In some ways the Established Church of Virginia was defective — notably in its lack of resident bishops, and in the gulf which existed in too many cases between the clergy and people — and it had many faults. But taken as a whole, its story is a record of steady growth in tolerance. The Church underwent a considerable change of heart relative to the question of toleration from the third quarter of the seventeenth to the third quarter of the eighteenth century. It is scarcely remarkable when a persecuted dissenting minority espouses principles of religious freedom. It is much harder and more creditable for an Established Church with an inheritance of Catholic faith and order to do so. Yet, that is what happened in Anglican Virginia, and the Church upon its disestablishment bequeathed to modern America a notable example of a peaceful separation of Church and State so that the religious freedom of the individual might be protected against the power of the State acting in behalf of an established church, and the Church left free to attend to its affairs without 4. interference from a State which might one day be motivated by non-Anglican or even not-Christian objectives. Voluntary assent, henceforth, was to be the sole basis of religious conformity or, as the Rev. Devereux Jarratt put it, in a letter to a Methodist on May 31, 1785:

"Virginians may be led, but not drove; and will listen to Scripture and arguments from thence fairly derived, much sooner than to the hard words of thief, villain, unjustly without any Scripture to support them. This is not the way to convert men over to opinions, much less to seal Christianity."

I should like to pay tribute here to the excellent work that has been done by such scholars as the Rev. Dr. George MacLaren Brydon and Mr. George Carrington Mason in the field of Virginia ecclesiastical history. This book rests heavily upon the fruits of their labor. Their spade work has made it possible for us to obtain for the first time a clear and well-documented picture of the Church of colonial Virginia.

Finally, let me say that the subject matter of this book lies close to my heart. As a historian of colonial Virginia and as a priest of the Episcopal Church, I find that my two fields of special knowledge and interest converge in Anglican Virginia.

Arthur Pierce Middleton

King Charles The Martyr's Day,
(January 30), 1954.
Williamsburg, Virginia.


CHAPTER I The Faith Transplanted6
CHAPTER II The Parish System26
CHAPTER III The Parish Churches52
CHAPTER IV The Worship of the Church83
CHAPTER V The Virginia Parson113
CHAPTER VI Dissent and Toleration141
CHAPTER VII The Disestablishment177


Twentieth-century Americans who are accustomed to a complete separation of Church and State and to the idea that religion is a purely private affair must find it difficult to imagine a time in American history when the opposite view prevailed. For 179 years after the settlement of Jamestown the Anglican (or Episcopal) Church was the Established Church of Virginia. Nearly eight generations of Virginians lived under the Establishment believing, for the most part, that in full and acknowledged co-operation, Church and State could best advance the cause of righteousness and further the Kingdom of God on earth.

When the Virginia Company of London received its charter from King James I in 1606, the union of Church and State was universally taken for granted in Europe. Although civil magistrates and clergy had quite different functions, both were considered instruments of God's will. To the former had been committed authority truly and impartially to administer justice, to punish wickedness and vice, and to maintain true religion and virtue. To the bishops, priests, and deacons of the Church — the "sacred" as opposed to the "profane" (secular) ministers — had been committed the duty of setting forth the true and lively word both by their life and doctrine, and rightly and duly administering the holy sacraments.

In an age that made no clear distinction between society, economics, politics, and the will of God, nothing seemed more 7. reasonable than a State which was avowedly a Christian society performing civil functions, and a Church which was the same society worshipping God. As all magistrates from the king down were Churchmen, and all Churchmen from the Archbishop of Canterbury down were subjects of the Crown, the secular and spiritual authority were but two sides of the same coin. To separate the authority of the king by "divine right" from that of bishops was virtually unthinkable in 1607. Both stemmed from God and complemented one another. As King James I said, "No bishop, no king."

It has long been the practice to describe the founding of Virginia as a business proposition, a purely mercantile undertaking by a joint-stock company, in marked contrast to the religious reasons for which New England, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were founded. But additional research and mature scholarship have lately induced historians to abandon this generalization.

Religious objectives, it is true, played an important part in the establishment of the Puritan, Quaker, and Roman Catholic colonies. But so did economic ones! The promoters, especially of proprietary provinces like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, sought to create extensive family estates for themselves in the New World. Non-migrating investors, particularly English merchants, wished to turn an honest penny and develop new trade routes and sources of raw materials such as lumber, fur, and fish. 8. Individuals who came to settle in these colonies were frequently drawn to America by the opportunity of improving their lot in this world more expeditiously than seemed feasible in Europe.

If a generalization can be made about these colonies, it is that the impulse for their founding was both religious and secular. Some settlers doubtless were motivated entirely by a desire to escape religious repression in the Old World; others entirely by a desire to escape the economic repression of Europe with its well-intrenched society of landlords and merchants. Many more — probably a considerable majority — forsook their native shores for a combination of spiritual and material reasons in proportions that varied with each individual.

But what of Virginia? Was it not founded by a London joint-stock company? Surely its objectives were economic pure and simple. The answer, oddly enough, is no. Almost every promotional brochure issued by the Virginia Company in the early days of the Jamestown settlement set forth among its objectives the conversion of the Indians to Christianity, or in the quaint language of the time, "to recover out of the armes of the Divell, a number of poore and miserable soules, up unto death, in almost invincible ignorance." And it is for this reason, among others, that King James directed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to cause sermons to be preached and offerings to be taken in all the churches in the kingdom for the furtherance of so godly a project. For this reason also many of the Anglican clergy and laity were moved to support 9. the undertaking not only with their prayers but also by purchasing shares in the Virginia Company. Many others gave bequests of Bibles, prayer books, altar frontals, and communion silver to the Church in the colony, and later contributed to the Indian school and college that in 1618 were proposed to be established far inland at Henricus, near the present site of Richmond. The founding of Virginia was, in a measure, the fruit of a crusade of the Church of England to carry Christianity to the "Western Indians."

A recent historian of Virginia's Mother Church, the Rev. Dr. George MacLaren Brydon, has pointed out that the religious terms and expressions so frequently used by the early leaders and participants in the undertaking both in England and Virginia would be "inexpressibly blasphemous" if they were insincere. And an authority on New England Puritanism, Professor Perry Miller of Harvard, has observed that the Virginia adventurers intimated that their principal concern was "neither the rate of interest nor the discovery of gold, but the will of God." In consequence, their professions "sound much like those of Massachusetts Puritans." Settlers and promoters considered themselves only secondarily as merchants, exploiters, and even Englishmen. In their own estimation they were first and foremost Christians, and more particularly militant Anglicans.

All this is not to say that religion was the only motive in the establishment of the colony of Virginia. Far from it! It was only one of several, the others being the extension of England with 10. its customs, traditions, and way of life beyond the seas, the establishment of a convenient base of operations against the Spanish in the Caribbean, the discovery of gold and other desirable commodities, the provision of a "vent" for the surplus population of the Mother Country, and the personal profit motive. The point to be made is that the religious impulse is now believed to have been far more important an ingredient in the mixture than nineteenth-century historians realized. And this is true even though Virginia was founded by a commercial company with the active interest of the king — for it also had the blessing and prayers of the Church of England. It is true even though the Virginia colony was not, like the Puritan, Quaker, and Roman Catholic colonies, intended as a resort for dissenters and drew few refugees from religious persecution in the Old World.

The explanation of this paradox is the great difference between the outlook of Englishmen in the early seventeenth century and of Americans today. Religion was then a more compelling force with the rank and file of the nation. The people were more carefully drilled in its basic principles. They were more reverently aware of the pervasiveness of God in His universe, and of their own solemn obligation, on pain of eternal damnation, to conform to His commandments. They took more seriously than many people today their membership in the Church and their positive duty to combat evil and conform to God's will on earth.


These good Christian views were by no means the exclusive property of the Church of England, or of the Puritans within or without it, but were common to Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Protestant dissenters. They were, in fact, characteristic of the prevailing theological climate of opinion shared alike in slightly varying degrees by all Europeans of that day. And they help to explain the otherwise inexplicable similarities of religious outlook, in matters other than ritual and ceremonial, of Virginia Anglicans, Massachusetts Puritans, Rhode Island Baptists, and Maryland and Canadian Roman Catholics in an age of aggravated ecclesiastical conflict and intolerance. True Christians in any age have more similarities than differences. In the seventeenth century, the so-called "theological century," all Europeans had a similar view of God and His universe in spite of the different communions to which they belonged.

Unlike business corporations we know today, the Virginia Company and its contemporary organizations had not yet entirely thrown off the leaven of spiritual concern. Men did not differentiate between the work they did to earn their daily bread and their other endeavors to glorify God. Each sought to serve God in his own calling, whether he was a priest, magistrate, farmer, or merchant. There was no doubt in the minds of the members of the Virginia Company that "God shall bring every work into judgment" (Ecclesiastes 12:14) . And this was supported by St. Paul's dictum, "whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) . Profits were 12. their objective as befitted a self-respecting business undertaking, but the Virginia Company and its contemporaries were genuinely anxious to make them in a way that would please God and further His Kingdom on earth.

Religion was, likewise, a power in the lives of the early Jamestown settlers — not alone of the clergy, but of the rough-and-ready soldiers as well. Captain John Smith, who in a fit of impatience condemned the London Company for "making Religion their colour, when all their aime was nothing but present profit," revealed his own belief that the religious motive should predominate over the economic. And for his own part, he privately and publicly thanked God for His continual care and watchful providence over him through the whole course of his life to the end that he might make God's name "knowne in those remote parts of the world and his loving mercy to such a miserable sinner."

The early clergy at Jamestown were also moved by their unusual evangelical opportunities. The Rev. Robert Hunt, the first Vicar of James City Parish, whom Smith called "an honest, religious, and couragious Divine," and the Rev. Alexander Whitaker, known as "the Apostle to the Indians," labored ceaselessly among the sick and dying during the "starving time," preaching and exhorting the well to compose their quarrels, and experiencing all manner of personal hardship without complaint. Truly it may be said that Virginia history began with two saints who deserve annual commemoration in the church calendar.


The civil magistrates of early Virginia, like Smith and the clergy, willingly paid regular homage to religion. Governor Lord Delaware, arriving at Jamestown in 1610, attended divine service in the parish church even before he presented his commission and assumed the reins of government. And the grizzled veteran of the Flemish wars, Sir Thomas Dale, did likewise when he landed in 1611. Later he wrote to a London friend that he considered himself engaged in a "religious War" with no thought of reward "but from him in whose vineyard I labor, whose Church with greedy appetite I desire to erect."

During the frightful "starving time" at Jamestown, 1608-1609, every member of the garrison who was able to rise from his bed, dragged himself to divine service and sermon every Sunday. And when the supplies of wine grew low, the last two gallons by universal consent were ordered reserved for the sacrament of Holy Communion. When the guard was changed at Jamestown a prayer was said, rivalling in its length and solemnity anything used by the most devout Massachusetts Puritan or Spanish-American Jesuit. And when the first General Assembly of Virginia met in the Jamestown Church in 1619, it began its work with prayer, and its first acts were religious in character, requiring church attendance on Sunday, punishing excess in apparel, idleness, drunkenness, and gaming, imposing a tithe on the people for the support of the Church and clergy, and authorizing churchwardens to present offenders against the moral law.


The origin of the English Church is lost in the mists of antiquity. With the dissemination of the Gospel and the spread of the Church by the Apostolic and post-Apostolic generations, Christianity reached the British Isles at least as early as the second century, and according to a persistent but unauthenticated tradition, in the first century. St. Paul's journey to the furthest part of the west may have meant Britain, and the holy thorn of Glastonbury is traditionally supposed to have been planted there by Joseph of Arimathea. At any rate, Christianity reached Britain by the second century, and early in the next century England's first martyr, St. Alban, died for the Faith.

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire early in the fifth century there was a period of chaos during which the British Church became isolated from the rest of the Universal Church and developed some minor peculiarities not, however, amounting to deliberate heresy or schism. In 597 A.D. St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived in England at the head of a mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great, whose wisdom and tact made it possible to bring the British Church back into conformity with the essential habits and customs of the Western or Latin Church. Thus, the Church of England entered into full communion with the Church of Rome and so remained for nearly a thousand years until Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth and ordered Roman Catholics to withdraw from communion with it in 1570.


After the long night of the Dark Ages and the bright gleam of the high Middle Ages, the great fifteenth-century Renaissance broke upon Europe just at a time when the prestige of the papacy reached its lowest ebb and the Western Church was disfigured by many abuses. The resulting intellectual and religious ferment eventually led to the sixteenth-century Reformation during which the Church of England underwent changes that the amiable but forthright Sir Thomas Browne likened to a ship having barnacles scraped off her hull. These changes when viewed in retrospect were subtractive in character. It was the intention of the reformers that nothing new be added, and nothing that the undivided Holy Catholic Church considered essential be lost. Certain practices and beliefs of recent centuries were rejected as erroneous or uncertain, that is, "grounded upon no warranty of Scripture" and unknown to the "old Fathers" of the Church. That this refining of the old could possibly be interpreted as the founding of a new church seemed incredible to Anglicans. No such intention was in the minds of the men who wrought these changes, and no such intention was imputed to them by others until long afterwards.

The first of these changes occurred in 1534 when the Church of England reasserted its administrative autonomy, declaring that "the Bishop of Rome hath no more authority in England than any foreign bishop." This was not a bolt out of the blue, but the logical conclusion of a series of English protests through several centuries against growing papal interference in purely provincial Anglican affairs. It also brought the constitution, to the great satisfaction 16. of ecclesiastical scholars, more nearly into conformity with that of the early undivided Catholic Church of the Apostles and the Fathers before the papacy had developed its claim of supremacy. This change with respect to the Pope they insisted was merely a readjustment of the Church's constitution and in no way affected the continuity of the Church of England as an institution.

The other point to be remembered is that although the Church of England became Protestant at this time, its protest was the against "tyranny of the Bysshop of Rome and al hys detestable enormities" (Litany of 1552) and for — protestari means to bear witness for — the true Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In other words, the Church of England claimed to be Catholic even after it had become anti-papal. In rejecting papal supremacy, England declared that the Church and nation "intended not to decline or vary from the Congregation of Christ's Church, in things concerning the Catholic faith of Christendom, or declared by Holy Scripture and the Word of God necessary to salvation." For this reason Anglicans have, since the Reformation, regarded themselves as being both Protestant and Catholic, two words which as they use them are not mutually exclusive.

In the ferment of the Reformation, Englishmen were driven to re-examine the Church and rethink its doctrine so that they might defend what was truly Catholic against irresponsible reformers and prevent the continuance of false or doubtful medieval accretions by sentimental or unenlightened conservatism. The Anglican Church 17. emerged from the welter of conflict and contention with a theological and ecclesiastical position described as the via media, or middle way, between the Roman Catholics on one hand and the Continental Protestants on the other.

Before discussing the differences which separated the Church of England from other communions, it is important to recognize the fact that they represented but a small part of the doctrine of the Church. Even after the conflicts of the Reformation there existed a much larger area of theological agreement than is commonly supposed. On such important matters as the doctrine of the Incarnation, the Holy Trinity, and the resurrection of the dead, Anglican writers of the seventeenth century were almost wholly in agreement with their Roman Catholic and Protestant brethren. Similarly, with the exception of some of the smaller and more extreme groups, most Protestants found no fault with the doctrine of the Church of England with respect to the Atonement or to the nature of heaven and hell.

There were, in fact, only four major areas of doctrinal disagreement between the Church of England and Rome or Geneva: these had to do with (l) the source of religious authority; (2) the nature of the Church; (3) Holy Orders and the necessity of bishops; and (4} the Holy Eucharist.

The Church of England recognized three sources of religious authority: the Holy Scriptures, the tradition of the Church, and reason. By Holy Scriptures, it meant the Bible, composed of the universally accepted books of the Old and New Testaments plus the 18. books of the Apocrypha. But it assigned a lower value to the Apocrypha than to the rest of the Bible. Following St. Jerome who made the standard Latin translation of the Bible late in the fourth century, Anglicans held that "the Church doth read [the Apocryphal books] for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine." In making this distinction, the Church of England agreed with Luther who did likewise, but differed from the Calvinists who rejected the Apocrypha altogether, and from post-Reformation Roman Catholics who regarded the Apocrypha as an integral part of the Old Testament.

By tradition, the Church of England meant the historic Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, the common consent of the General Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, and the writings of the "Fathers of the Church" from the earliest times down to St. Jerome and St. Augustine. The authority of the Councils and Fathers was not absolute. They were venerated as interpreters of the original deposit of Faith as recorded in the New Testament. In ascribing religious authority to tradition, or more exactly to Holy Scriptures as interpreted by early Church tradition, Anglicans parted company with the Continental Protestants most of whom rejected tradition as a source of authority. In limiting effective and reliable tradition to the days of the undivided Catholic Church — before the schism between the East and West — the Church of England and the Church of Rome were at variance. The latter claimed the right to define new dogma from its own continuing tradition.


Although the Church of England made no official pronouncement upon reason as a source of religious authority, Anglican theologians generally recognized it as a legitimate one. In doing so they continued the medieval tradition and followed St. Thomas Aquinas who in the thirteenth century defined the place of reason in Christian religious thought, and they opposed Calvin who declared that "In divine things our reason is totally blind and stupid." The Anglican view is best expressed in Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594): "The light of natural understanding, wit, and reason, is from God; he it is which thereby doth illuminate every man entering the world… He is the author of all that we think or do by virtue of that light which himself hath given." The law of reason, maintained, was God's law, and to "refuse the conduct of the light of nature" was to him not only folly but also impiety.

This concept of reason as God-given, and therefore a subsidiary of religious authority, inclined Anglican theologians to be sympathetic to the new discoveries of science that the Age of Reason brought. Hence, it is not surprising that two of the great fathers the Age of Reason, Bacon and Newton, were theologically orthodox whereas many of their Continental counterparts like Spinoza and Voltaire, being out of sympathy with the prevailing theology, became anticlerical if not agnostic. And in the eighteenth century many Anglican priests were learned in the natural sciences.

The attachment of the English Church to reason as one of the sources of religious authority helps to explain the steady growth 20. of toleration in eighteenth-century Anglican thought. By the same token, it also helps to explain the ease with which Deism — a mode of thought which accepted God's existence but allowed no other source of religious authority than reason — became prevalent and fashionable among the English intelligentsia of the eighteenth century. The Church of England set its face against Deism by insisting upon divine revelation and tradition as well as reason. Jeremy Taylor, the great Caroline divine and author of Holy Living and Holy Dying — which was a best-seller in seventeenth and eighteenth-century England — summed up the Anglican position in these words, "Scripture, Tradition, Councils, and Fathers are the evidence in question, but reason is the judge. "

On the subject of the nature of the Church, Anglican theologians were chiefly concerned with defending the claim of the Church of England to be a true branch of the Catholic Church. Their writings were directed against Roman Catholic controversialists who held that papal supremacy was an essential feature of the Catholic Church, and that any Christian body that denied it was no longer Catholic. Against this view the Anglican writers appealed to history for their argument. The Catholic Church, they pointed out, had held no such dogma in the days of the Apostles, the Fathers, and the General Councils. Therefore, they maintained, that papal supremacy, whatever its merits as an administrative expediency, could not be accounted essential to the constitution of the Catholic Church, and that the Church of England was Catholic even though it rejected 21. papal supremacy. The Anglican view is illustrated in Archbishop Laud's remarks, "We live in a Church reformed, not in one made new. Now all reformation that is good and orderly takes away nothing from the old but that which is faulty and erroneous," and "I die as I have lived, in the true orthodox profession of the Catholic faith of Christ … and a true member of his Catholic Church within the communion of a living part thereof, the present Church of England."

During all the turmoil of the Reformation, the Church of England steadfastly strove to preserve the continuity of its ministry from Apostolic times. Hence, it insisted upon a ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons and rigidly excluded from its chancels and pulpits all non-episcopally ordained ministers. On this point the Anglican position was identical with that of the Roman Church, and Anglican arguments about Holy Orders were directed principally against the Puritans and other Protestants who rejected the historic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons. "The ministry of things divine," said Hooker, "is a function which as God did himself institute, so neither may men undertake the same but by authority and power given them in lawful manner." Bishops, priests, and deacons are "ministers of God as from whom their authority is derived, and not from men." He continued, "If anything in the Church's government, surely the first institution of bishops was from heaven, was even of God; and the Holy Ghost was the author of it." The Church had always had bishops; therefore, Anglican writers cried out against the novelty of the idea that the Church 22. could exist without them. Episcopacy, wrote Hooker, is "taught by Christ and his Apostles in the word of God," and the government by bishops has been "observed everywhere throughout all generations and ages of the Christian world." To this Joseph Hall, Bishop of Exeter, in his Episcopacy by Divine Right (1637) added, "To depart from the judgment and practice of the universal Church of Christ ever since the Apostles' times, and to betake ourselves to a new invention, cannot but be, besides the danger, vehemently scandalous."

On the important question of the Eucharist reams were written. Here as in so many other ways the Church of England occupied a middle position between Rome and Geneva. The doctrine of transubstantiation, which was developed during the Middle Ages, held that at the instant of consecration the elements in Holy Communion cease to be bread and wine and quite literally become the body and blood of Christ, in substance the same physical body and blood that Christ had during His earthly life. This the Church of England rejected at the Reformation on the grounds that it could not be "proved by Holy Writ" and was not taught in the early centuries of the Church, and, therefore, could not be considered a belief necessary to salvation. On the contrary, as the twenty-eighth of the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 asserted, it was "repugnant to the plain words of Scripture," for St. Paul referred to the elements as bread and wine after consecration. And in any event, it continued, transubstantiation "overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament" in which there must be an outward and visible sign as well as an inward and spiritual grace, and "hath given occasion to 23. many superstitions." The Church of England, however, did not reject the ancient Catholic doctrine of the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist, implicit in the Scriptures and explicit in the writings of the Fathers. But the English Church laid down no further details as to the exact nature of the real presence, and Anglican theologians refused on principle to theorize at all on the mode of sacramental efficacy. Recognizing that there are limits to human understanding and that if further knowledge about the Eucharist were necessary to salvation, it would have been revealed in the Scriptures, they held that it is enough to receive the sacrament in certain knowledge that Christ commanded it and assured His Church that His body and blood would thereby be received. The Anglican position has been summarized by a modern scholar, Paul Elmer More, in these words: "The Anglicans widely admitted the 'real presence,' not corporal but spiritual, of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. In so far, they tended away from Reformation Eucharistic theology towards the Objectivism of Rome. But in a different respect, namely in their emphasis on the need for the cooperation of faith in the communicant, they leaned towards the Protestant position," The twenty-eighth of the Thirty-Nine Articles asserts, "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten … only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten … is Faith."

The results of the sixteenth-century Reformation were generally well received in England. An overwhelming majority of the people went along with the Church as reformed, but as often happens to those 24. who strive for the golden mean, the Church proved too Protestant for some and too Catholic for others. Hence, two small groups of extremists withdrew from the communion of the Church and became dissenters. One group, the Roman Catholics, felt that in rejecting papal supremacy the Church had gone too far. The other, the Separatists, felt that in retaining Catholic faith and order the Church had not gone far enough. Larger numbers of people who remained within the Church leaned one way or the other, in consequence of which the Church has ever since been in a state of tension between its High Church and Low Church factions. In the early seventeenth century, however, the High Church interests were in control of the Church, especially when William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-44). As a result, the Puritan Nonconformists in the Church were exceedingly unhappy. Finally, the alliance between Laud's churchmanship and King Charles I's politics led to the English Civil War which resulted in the overthrow of both Church and Monarchy for a period of years. After the restoration of Church and Crown in 1660, the great mass of hitherto discontented Puritans seceded from the Church of England and formed their own churches. Then, for the first time, England had a considerable number of dissenters from the Established Church. The Protestant dissenters were given a substantial amount of toleration after 1689, and the Roman Catholics after 1778, but until the eighteenth-century Enlightenment had time to exert its full influence on the side of toleration, the religious picture in England was one of confusion and mutual recrimination. Dean Swift somewhat 25. sardonically remarked that there was just enough religion in the world to make men hate, but not enough to make them love one another.

After the death of Queen Anne, the Stuart dynasty was replaced by the Hanoverian dynasty from Germany, the first several kings of which lacked Queen Anne's piety and love for the Church. Under the early Georges the principal bishoprics in England went to easy-going or "Latitudinarian" Whig bishops, many of whom were men of more social and political pretension than evangelical zeal. Under their unfortunate leadership the Church suffered a temporary spiritual decline after 1713 which was later counteracted by the Evangelical and Tractarian movements. But these lie outside our period. The Virginia Church began during the lull before the Laudian storm, it weathered the hurricane of the Puritan Commonwealth, and later under Latitudinarian "salutary neglect" of the colonies developed its own attitude toward the dissenters who became increasingly numerous in the second half of the eighteenth century.

But enough of that for now. First, let us see how the Virginia Establishment worked, what kind of churches it built, how it worshipped God, and what its clergymen were like. Then we shall see what its relations were with those who shunned its communion and sought to overthrow the Establishment.



We are accustomed to think of a parish as being nothing more than all the members of a particular church wherever they may reside, and of its vestry as a group of men periodically elected by the parishioners to make provision for the financial needs of the church and to transact its temporal affairs. But in colonial Virginia the parish and vestry were much more than this. The parish was a well-defined geographical area created by the General Assembly to serve as the unit of local government both for the Church and for the State. Its vestrymen exercised powers which to the modern mind seem a curious mixture of the ecclesiastical and the civil functions.

When the first settlers came to Jamestown in 1607, they brought the English Church with them so naturally that they all assumed it to be established in Virginia as it was in England, and actually neglected to go through the formality of enacting its official establishment. The Church of Virginia was at first tacitly and later by law expected to conform "as neere as may be," as an act in 1624 stated, to the constitutions and canons of the Church of England. Many of the laws imposed upon the colony prior to the first General Assembly in 1619 — and even some of the acts passed by that body — had reference to Church practices, but did not formally establish the Church. Until well along in the seventeenth 27. century, Virginians were content to let matters take their natural course and to avoid modifying English canon law by legislative action until the difference between colonial and English conditions forced such action upon them.

The Virginia Company of London established parishes in the colony and appointed rectors from 1607 until the dissolution of its charter in 1624. Thereafter, in default of action on the part of the king in appointing a bishop for Virginia or assigning the colony to the care of some bishop in England, the Virginia Assembly proceeded to enact legislation affecting the Church, forming parishes and laying down requirements for their government. The decade 1625-35 witnessed the development of the parish and vestry along the lines which were later to characterize them in Virginia colonial history.

But before carrying the story further on this side of the Atlantic, let us look to the rock from which Anglican Virginia was hewn. The parish in the Mother Country, as it came to be here, was the subdivision of the county and of the diocese. In its civil capacity it levied the tithe, built roads and bridges, and under the Elizabethan Poor Laws administered aid to the poor, the sick, orphans, and other homeless children. In its ecclesiastical capacity it maintained and supported the church and sometimes the clergy as well as the other paid parochial officers: vergers, beadles, sextons, and parish clerk.

The Church of England's Canons of 1604, copies of which were in every Virginia church in colonial days, laid down many of the 28. duties of the executive officials of the parish in temporal matters, the churchwardens and their deputies and assistants, called questmen and sidesmen. They were responsible for maintaining the fabric of the parish church. Canon 85 required them to see that "the windowes bee well glazed, and that the Floores be kept paved, plaine and even, and all things there in such an orderly and decent sort, without dust, or any thing that may bee either noisome, or unseemely, as best becometh the house of God." They also had to provide, at the expense of the parish, what the canons call "Things appertaining to churches." These included a Book of Common Prayer; a Bible, the Books of Homilies (or formal sermons issued by authority of the Church), a stone baptismal font, a "decent" altar covered with an elegant frontal called "a Carpet of Silke or other decent stuffe" and "a faire Linnen cloth" for Holy Communion, the ten commandments on a board or stone slab "set upon the East ende of every Church and Chappell where the people may best see and reade the same," a "comely and decent Pulpit," and a stout chest fastened in a convenient place "to the intent the Parishioners may put into it their Almes for their poore neighbours."

The churchwarden was obliged not only to maintain the church and provide all the necessary ornaments, but also to levy and collect the tithe or church tax and to serve as a kind of prosecuting attorney presenting to the court at least once a year all offenders against the moral law in the parish. He also served as a kind of bailiff or sergeant-at-arms maintaining order and decorum in the 29. parish church during divine service. And he was responsible for periodically recording the boundaries of all the property in the parish — a process known as "processioning" or "beating the bounds of the parish."

Two churchwardens for each parish, by the terms of Canon 89, were chosen by the "joynt consent" of the rector and parishioners "if it may be" and were to continue in office no longer than one year "except perhaps they be chosen againe in like manner." If the rector and parishioners were unable to agree upon the same two men, the rector was to choose one and the parishioners the other. At the end of each year, the churchwardens were to come before the rector and parishioners to give "just accompt" of all money received and spent upon the Church or otherwise for the parish.

The annual election of churchwardens in England took place in Easter week, at which time the parishioners gathered at the church to hear the outgoing wardens render their accounts and to vote for their successors. As the parishioners formerly often assembled in the vestry — the room off the chancel where the clergy changed vestments — they came when so assembled to be known as the vestry. English vestries, however, remained open, which is to say that any adult male parishioner could attend their meetings and participate in their deliberations. An open vestry is, in fact, almost identical with a modern annual congregational meeting at which the parishioners elect vestrymen for the coming year.


Conditions in colonial Virginia, however, were quite unlike those of the long-settled English countryside. And although some of the parochial practices of the Mother Country were transferred to Virginia, others proved impracticable under colonial conditions. The annual meeting of the parishioners was an English custom that had to be given up because of the great size and isolated settlements of Virginia parishes.

After 1611 when tobacco became the principal crop of the colony, the inhabitants of Virginia settled on widely scattered plantations rather than in towns and villages. Hence, the area served by a priest had to be enlarged to include enough families to support him and pay the other parochial charges without making the tax burden too heavy. The Virginia parish, therefore, was generally of much greater size than the English parish. Indeed, with poor roads that were sometimes impassable and with long stretches of forest, swamp, and pine barren between plantations, the larger Virginia parishes often had more than one church so that parishioners would not have to travel more than eight or ten miles to reach the parish church or chapel of ease. In 1724 in reply to a questionnaire circulated by the Bishop of London, twenty-eight Virginia parochial reports out of a total of 48 parishes were returned. Seven of these parishes had one church only; twelve had two; seven, three; and two, four. Moreover, the large number of indentured servants, transported convicts, and African slaves on Virginia plantations made the planters — especially those without overseers — reluctant to leave their wives and children more often than was absolutely necessary.


Virginia parishes may have elected churchwardens in the English fashion after the colony became royal in 1624. But as time passed, the difficulty of assembling an appreciable proportion of the freemen of a parish at any one place led to the gradual development of what is known as the closed vestry. Under this system, upon the creation of a new parish, all the freemen living within its bounds assembled to elect twelve of their number to serve for life as legal agents for the whole body of parishioners. Thereafter, the freemen of the parish never again met in a body: their agents, the twelve vestrymen, acted for them, annually elected two churchwardens from among their own members, audited their accounts, and transacted the temporal affairs of the parish. If a vestryman died, moved away, or resigned, the remaining members of the vestry chose someone to succeed him. Thus, the vestries became self-perpetuating bodies. Only in the event of malfeasance or other serious irregularity was a new election held. In such a case charges against an existing vestry were placed before the House of Burgesses, and if the evidence warranted it, the Assembly dissolved the vestry of that parish by legislative act and called for a new election.

An act of the Virginia Assembly in 1632 authorized the rector, justices of the peace, churchwardens, and "chiefe of the parish" to repair and rebuild churches, let contracts, and apportion the cost among the parishioners. This is taken to represent a transition between the open and closed vestry, the "chiefe of the parish" being forerunners of the later vestrymen. The transition was apparently 32. complete by 1633 or 1634 when a Vestry Act was passed. The original text has not survived, but as reenacted in 1643 it is to be found in the printed statutes of colonial Virginia. It provided that "there be a vestrie held in each parish" and that "the most sufficient and selected men be chosen and joyned to the minister and churchwardens to be of that Vestrie." A later act, in 1645, specified that the vestry was to be elected by the "major part of the parishioners," that is, by a majority of the free male inhabitants of the parish who attended the meeting for the purpose of the election.

Later in the colonial period the parish franchise was restricted to property-owners and house-holders, but there were no religious qualifications for voting in parish elections. The reverse was true for office-holding. A vestryman did not have to own property, but he was required to subscribe and conform to the faith and discipline of the Established Church.

The vestry acts spoke of the initial election of vestrymen by the parishioners, but neglected to provide for periodic reelection. Also, the number of vestrymen was not at first specified. By 1662, however, these defects were corrected by statute, and the Virginia parish and vestry assumed their classical form. The code of 1661-62 provided "that for the making & proportioning the levyes and assessments for building and repayring the churches, and chappells, provision for the poore, maintenance of the minister, and such other necessary duties for the more orderly manageing of all parociall 33. affaires, Be it enacted that twelve of the most able men of each parish be by the major part of the said parish chosen to be vestrymen out of which number the minister and vestry to make choice of two churchwardens yearly as alsoe, in the case of death of any vestryman or his departure out of the parish, that the said minister and vestry make choice of another to supply his roome …"

In a sparsely settled country like Virginia the self-perpetuating vestry had the advantage of sparing the parishioners the inconvenience of attending parochial meetings. But it also deprived them of control over the churchwardens and vestrymen by putting an end to periodic elections. As time went on and a planter aristocracy emerged first in the Tidewater and later in the Piedmont, the parish vestries became composed largely of the foremost planters, the leading lawyers and physicians, and well-educated younger sons of prominent families and exhibited a tendency towards hereditary membership. By the middle of the eighteenth century it was not uncommon in Tidewater parishes to find that the same families had been represented on the vestry for three, four, and even five successive generations.

The duties of the vestry in colonial Virginia consisted of (1) selecting the rector; (2) levying tithes for parish expenses; (3) paying the rector and other parochial officers their salaries; (4) building and maintaining churches and chapels and providing their ornaments (as required by English Canon Law); (5) periodically processioning the parish and recording all land boundaries; (6) presenting moral offenders to the county court; and (7) caring 34. for the poor, the aged and infirm, the sick and insane, and for orphans and other homeless children.

In England the patronage of church livings, called "advowson, " and the [right of] naming of a priest to be the incumbent of a parish, called [the right of] "presentation," generally belonged to large landholders or to an institution such as a college at Oxford or Cambridge University, rather than to the parishioners. As these rights had generally been acquired in the Middle Ages by virtue of endowments given by the lord of the manor and others for the support of the parish priest, it was thought only fair that such benefactors and their successors should have the right of selecting the person who was to enjoy the living they had endowed. If their choice was agreeable to the bishop of the diocese in which the parish lay, the priest so named was formally inducted into the cure, and thereafter had an ironclad legal right to the rectory, glebe, salary, and fees, collectively called the "temporalities" of the parish. He could be removed only after an ecclesiastical court had found him guilty of some heinous offense and the bishop had deposed him from Holy Orders.

In colonial Virginia the pattern of church life was not complicated by private patronage. Because the temporalities of each parish were the product of public tithes rather than private benefactions, the vestries held that they were entitled to the advowson and right of presentation by English law, and in this view they were confirmed by an opinion of Queen Anne's attorney general, Sir Edward Northey, in 1703. When the vestry presented a priest, 35. the governor was empowered by the Bishop of London to induct him into the cure of the parish. But if the incumbent subsequently proved to be unworthy, it was virtually impossible for him to be fairly tried in absentia by an ecclesiastical court 3,000 miles away, and the governor had no authority to depose a clergyman from the priesthood. Consequently, there was no legal means of removing an unworthy rector of a Virginia parish. And because of this lack of effective episcopal supervision, the colonial vestries were extremely cautious in presenting a clergyman for induction. Instead, when there was a vacancy, the vestry often secured an available priest to fill the cure as locum tenens, this is, in an acting capacity without security of tenure. After some years, if the vestry were convinced of the locum tenens' suitability, they might present him for induction. In 1724 only five of the rectors of twenty-eight Virginia parishes which sent reports to the Bishop of London that year had been inducted. The remaining twenty-three were serving on a temporary basis, subject to dismissal by the vestry at the end of each year.

Some of the more vigorous governors, like Francis Nicholson and Alexander Spotswood, tried to force parishes to induct their acting rectors in the interest of strengthening the position of the clergy and bringing the Virginia Church into closer conformity with the Mother Church. If the holder of the patronage of an English parish neglected to exercise his right of presentation within six months after a vacancy occurred, the bishop of the diocese had the power 36. to "collate," that is, to induct a rector of his own choice. Sir Edward Northey's opinion of 1703 held that in Virginia the bishop's right of collating could lawfully be exercised by the governor. And both Nicholson and Spotswood strenuously attempted to do so. the legality of the governor's action, the vestries put such determined opposition to the practice of collating that the governor had to abandon the right, and leave the parish priests at the mercy of their vestries for the rest of the colonial period. This curious practice was merely a practical remedy for a defect in the law whereby normal episcopal oversight was inoperative and there was no practical way of removing an unsatisfactory rector. On the whole, it worked no great hardship on the clergy, for vacant parishes were always available. Besides, the authority and influence of a priest was the result of his personal ability and piety rather than of his indefeasible legal right to the temporalities of a parish. In practice the Virginia clergy usually spent many years in the same cures and showed a degree of stability that indicates mutual satisfaction of rectors and their parishioners.

Despite the fact that colonial vestries faced some problems that their modern successors no longer have, they were spared the trouble and uncertainty of today's every-member canvass and annual parish budget. They merely spent what was necessary and apportioned their expenditures among the inhabitants of the parish in the form of the church tax or tithe.


Acting under the direction of the vestry, the churchwardens let contracts for building or repairing the church or rectory, sent physicians to attend the aged and infirm, bound out orphans as apprentices, purchased bread and wine for Holy Communion and perhaps a new crimson velvet frontal for the altar, sent the rector's surplice to be washed and mended, assumed the burial expenses of a pauper — including rum for the pallbearers — and whatever else was required. Once a year they rendered their account in pounds of tobacco, and the vestry determined the tithe by dividing the total disbursements by the number of tithables living within the parish. Tithables were all slaves (men and women) over the age of sixteen and all free males over sixteen.

The tithe was usually collected by the churchwardens and their assistants, the questmen and sidesmen, from every householder in the parish. It generally amounted to between thirty and sixty pounds of tobacco per tithable — a modest tax — and since it was in the produce of the country rather than in cash, it was easily paid. Being based upon labor rather than land, it proved to be a simple and fair means of distributing the financial burdens of the parish, for income in the tobacco colonies depended largely upon the number of laborers a planter could put in the fields rather than upon the number of acres he owned.

The rector's salary and perquisites were fixed by law, and will be dealt with later. The other paid officials of the parish were the parish clerk or reader, the clerk of the vestry, and the 38. sexton. As most Virginia parishes had several churches and chapels, the rector went to them in rotation for Sunday services, and in his absence each of them had a parish clerk or reader to officiate at mattins and evensong, read homilies, catechize the youth, and bury the dead. When the rector was present, the parish clerk also served a useful function. Wearing cassock and bands he occupied a special pew just beneath the rector's reading desk, read the lessons at the daily offices and the liturgical Epistle at Holy Communion, led the congregational responses, and, if there was no organ, pitched the tune for singing the metrical version of the psalms. The parish clerk, though a layman, occupied an important place in both English and Virginia church life and in the affections of the people who saw more of him, often, than of the rector himself. Hugh Jones, in his Present State of Virginia in 1724, described the parish clerk as "a kind of curate" who assisted the priest and in his absence performed "all of the offices of the church, except the two sacraments and matrimony."

When the rector's salary was 16,000 lbs. of tobacco and cask plus a glebe, Mr. Francis Cooke, "Clarke of the Parish" of Blisland in 1722, received an annual salary of 1500 lbs. of tobacco and cask. At the same time Mr. Henry Holdcraft, "Clarke of the Vestry," received 500 lbs. of tobacco and cask, and Walter Wood and Francis Shoemaker, the sextons, got 540 lbs. apiece. A few years later, in 1726, the sexton of Blisland's Upper Church received the same, while the new sexton of the Lower Church — perhaps, a mere youth — got only 300 lbs. 39. The sexton of St. Peter's Church, New Kent, received a salary of 500 lbs. in 1722 and an additional 200 lbs, "for his Trouble in Ringing the Bell,"

A distinction must be made between the "parish clerk" and the "clerk of the vestry." The function of the former bas been described. He was appointed by the rector and served as his lay curate. The clerk of the vestry, on the other hand, was merely the secretary or register of the vestry and received his appointment from that body. He had no liturgical duties. He kept the official records of the parish: the minutes of vestry meetings, the accounts of the churchwardens, and the reports of land processioning. He was usually a gentleman and later often became a vestryman. Though his duties were important, they were not onerous, and his salary was small. It frequently happened that the same man served simultaneously as parish clerk and clerk of the vestry. The only parish records not kept by him was the register of births, marriages, and deaths which was kept by the rector.

Little need be said about the colonial sexton, because his duties were the same then as now. The only difference was that he sometimes served as grave digger in the eighteenth century and even when he did not, he was given extra remuneration when an interment was made within the parish church to compensate him for the trouble of removing and replacing the stone paving and cleaning up the dirt left behind by the grave digger. Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg has 36 known interments beneath its Bristol-stone floor.


Another function of the vestry was the periodic determination of private land boundaries within each parish. In an agrarian society like Virginia this was of considerable importance in order to prevent unnecessary litigation in connection with the transfer and bequest of property. From time immemorial this had been done in England by an annual ecclesiastical procession with crucifer, choristers, taperers, and vested parish priest leading the parishioners carrying banners, bells, staves, and streamers. Hence, arose the name "processioning," which was used in Virginia. Its other names in England were "perambulation" and "beating the bounds" of the parish. It was always held in Rogation Week, the sixth week after Easter, and was originally associated with the medieval "rogation," or blessing the fields and praying for fruitful seasons.

These were occasions for popular rejoicing, and even for drinking and rioting. For that reason attempts were made during Queen Elizabeth's reign to make them more sober and restrained. Much, but not all, of the ecclesiastical pageantry was omitted, but they remained, contrary to the intent of the Church, occasions for merrymaking.

In Virginia, perhaps because of the wilderness conditions, processioning was shorn of the last of its ecclesiastical aspects and became both secular and sober. It even departed from its traditional Rogation Week, and came to be held between the end of September and the beginning of March, when tobacco planters were comparatively free from work and when the thickets and underbrush of the Virginia woods were more easily penetrated than in spring or summer.


In the course of the summer prior to processioning, each vestry, on order of the county court, divided the parish into precincts — often as many as twenty or thirty — and assigned at least two freeholders to each precinct. When the time came for processioning, these men walked around the precinct attended by all the freeholders who owned land in or adjoining it. At each boundary verbal agreement by all present was reached and the marks — often a blazed tree — were noted and, if need be, renewed. This process was repeated at intervals of four years, and by means of it constant oral tradition was used to establish and perpetuate local boundaries.

When the vestry of St. Peter's Parish ordered the "Clarke of the Vestry" in 1706 to give notice to the inhabitants of the parish "to procession as has been usuall," they were to be given "timely notice to bring their Children to See the Said processioning."

Elementary education is the most misunderstood aspect of colonial Virginia life. As a result of Sir William Berkeley's celebrated — and erroneous — statement that he thanked God there were no free schools in Virginia, and because no records of many small schools are extant, it is commonly assumed that local schools were practically nonexistent in the colony. It is true that there were no public schools in our modern sense and that the responsibility for educating a child was held to reside in the master of the household in which he lived rather than in the community. But despite this, there were 42. schools all over the more settled portions of the colony. Indeed, few parishes were without several of them.

Many of these small schools were kept by the rector of the parish, a few possibly by the parish clerk. It is probable that a majority of colonial rectors engaged in this kind of educational activity and taught children of parishioners in return for fees that varied with their ability to pay. Hugh Jones in 1724 wrote that "In most parishes are schools (little Houses being built on Purpose) where are taught English and Writing." Many eminent Virginians received their elementary education at these "Parsons' Schools." One of them, kept by the Rev. James Marye at Fredericksburg numbered Washington, Madison, and Monroe among its pupils. And it was in similar schools that Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and John Marshall were educated. Most of these schools were small, but there were a few exceptions. The Rev. Jonathan Boucher in Hanover Parish and later in St. Mary1s Parish had thirty boys in his boarding school, including Washington's stepson, Jacky Custis. And these parsons' schools were not always limited to English and writing. One Anglican clergyman in Virginia in 1771 proposed to teach French, Latin, Greek, and English, book-keeping by double entry, algebra, geometry, surveying, mechanics, fortification, gunnery, and navigation. In his Virginia's Mother Church, Dr. Brydon states his opinion that "an appreciable part of the great contribution made by the clergy of the Anglican Church as a class to the life and development of the colony of Virginia was the lessons in culture and refinement 43. and the love of the finer things of life instilled by them through their labors as schoolmasters to the youth of their parishes."

English parishes frequently paid for the education of poor children in private schools. But for some unknown reason this practice was comparatively infrequent in Virginia. There were, of course, a few privately endowed charity schools that existed primarily for this purpose. But they were inadequate to meet the needs of the entire colony. Children of parents too poor to pay for their schooling sometimes were apprenticed to a planter or craftsman who contracted to teach the child to read and write as well as farming, domestic service, or a trade. But even poor parents were reluctant to part with their children, and although the law empowered the churchwardens to bind out such children by force if necessary, it was seldom done.

That the larger part of them received no education is clear from a report of Theodorick Bland of Bristol Parish, Prince George County in 1755, lamenting "the unhappy and indeed miserable circumstances of the many poor orphans and other poor children, whose parents are utterly unable to give them any education" and recommending the erection of a school and workhouse to serve three adjacent parishes "that such poor children should be brought up in a religious, virtuous and industrious course of life."

Apprenticeship was the usual way the parish authorities dealt with orphans, and with neglected and illegitimate children. This system was intended to augment the number of skilled workers, to 44. reduce poverty and vagabondage, to bring up uncared for children in a wholesome way, and to provide for the support and education of poor children without any cost to the taxpayers of the parish. A careful investigation of the statutes of the colony and the records of the parishes reveals that no one of these objectives was dominant. But as time went on, perhaps under the influence of the rising tide of humanitarianism in the eighteenth century, there was an increasing emphasis upon the welfare of the children. To that end the educational requirements were gradually increased and the illegitimates placed upon the same footing as other children. But, judging from the surviving records, it is probable that the apprentice system provided for only a very small number of the poor children of the colony. The greater portion grew up with no more education than their parents were able to give them, which in that day was often very little indeed.

The parish workhouse, which was so much a part of English life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was rare in Virginia, although it was becoming more common toward the end of the colonial period. In England they housed and educated the poor, and provided work suitable to the age and condition of each inmate so that they might have something with which to occupy their time and also help pay for their own support. Some of the workhouses, particularly in the early seventeenth century, offered intensive industrial training. Some contained endowed schools. But this function later diminished and in the following century they were populated chiefly 45. by the aged and infirm or by children too young to be apprenticed. At this stage of their development — or rather deterioration they have been memorably portrayed by Dickens in his Oliver Twist.

In Virginia the population was too widely scattered and wealth too slowly accumulated to make the parish workhouse a practicable solution. The poor were cared for in their own homes or boarded out on farms if they were too young or too old to be indentured as servants or apprentices. Two attempts by the General Assembly to set up workhouses failed. The first, in 1646, provided for a "flax house" at Jamestown where children of "such parents who by reason of their poverty are disabled to maintaine and educate them" might be sent from all over the colony. Here they were to be instructed and employed "in carding, knitting, and spinning… under such master or mistresse as shall there be appointed." Its objective, however, was principally educational and industrial, rather than to care for poor children, The parish apprentice system served well enough for the latter purpose. The second abortive attempt was an act in 1668 authorizing similar workhouses to be established by the joint action in the counties and parishes "for the better converting wool, flax, hempe, and other commodities into manufactures, and for the increase of artificers in the country." This act was permissive in character, and very few, if any, workhouses were built in pursuance of it.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, the population of Virginia had grown greatly and the number of poor people and vagabonds began to be troublesome. To meet this condition an act in 1755 was passed authorizing the vestry of each parish to purchase, 46. hire, or build one or more houses in the parish "for the lodging, maintaininge, and employing of all such poor people as shall be upon the parish…, and to levy a reasonable allowance in their parish levies, for the education of such poor children as shall be placed in the said house, or houses, until they shall be bound out according to law." Beggars and vagabonds were to be sent to these workhouses, as well as all those who applied to the churchwardens for relief. Unlike its seventeenth-century counterparts, this law was obviously intended primarily for caring for the poor rather than for industrial or educational ends.

An interesting, although minor, feature of this act is the provision that parish levies were to be used for educating the poor children. This was the first time a Virginia statute made any provision for elementary education at public expense. Small though it was, it was the entering end of the wedge. At this point public education at the taxpayers' expense had its beginning. In England the practice of using parish levies for the education of poor children was well established by custom, but not by statute.

Under this act a number of Virginia parishes actually did establish workhouses for the poor, although the sparsity of population often led several parishes to join forces and build a single workhouse to serve them all, and thus to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and to keep down the parish tithes. Most of them, however, made no provision for educating or employing their inmates. They were poorhouses, pure and simple.


As wealth accumulated in the older parishes, charity schools were sometimes endowed by benevolent individuals and the churchwardens and vestries occasionally designated as trustees of bequests. The best known instances of this are the Syms and Eaton academies founded in Elizabeth City Parish and Nattey Whaley's Free School in Bruton Parish.

Benjamin Syms's will of 1635 bequeathed 200 acres of land together with the mill and increase of eight cows "for the maintenance of a learned, honest man, to keep upon the said ground a free school for the education and instruction of the children of the adjoining parishes of Elizabeth City and Kiquotan." Trusteeship was conferred upon the justices of the peace of the county and the rector and churchwardens of the parish, who "when there should be a sufficient increase of the said cattle" were authorized to sell a part of them and build a schoolhouse. Syms died five or six years later, and his will was confirmed by an act of 1643 and the school actually began soon thereafter.

The other famous free school in the same parish was endowed by Thomas Eaton in a will dated 1659, with 500 acres of land, two Negroes, 12 cows and two bulls, 20 hogs, and a long list of household furniture and utensils . Like Syms, he appointed the county and parish officials to be its trustees. He further ordered that "no free education bee allowed but to such children as shall be borne within the said county." The school was in operation soon after 1659. In the eighteenth century the two were united under the name 48. Syms-Eaton Academy, and maintained a precarious existence until it became absorbed into the public school system. But it has preserved the identity of its name. The children of Hampton still attend the Syms-Eaton School, though it is now housed in a modern building.

Similar privately endowed charity schools were founded in a number of other Virginia parishes: the Peasley School in Abingdon and Ware Parishes in 1675, the Sandford School in Accomac Parish about 1710, the Horton School in Washington Parish sometime between 1700 and 1721, and the Yeates School in Suffolk Parish about 1731. When the Rev, John Farnefold, rector of St, Stephen's Parish, Northumberland County, died in 1702, he left part of his estate to endow a free parish school for poor children. It was to be called Winchester School and take "fower or five poore children belonging to ye parish," to board them gratis, and to teach them to read the Bible and write a legible hand. As soon as they could do that, the pupils were to be dismissed and new ones taken. We do not know whether the school was ever in operation or not. A private charity school, called Mattey Free School, was begun in Williamsburg about 1706 by Mrs. Mary Whaley, and named for her nine-year-old son who died that year. When she died in 1742, she endowed the school and bequeathed it to the rector and churchwardens of Bruton Parish, specifying that it should "teach the neediest children of the Same parish who shall be offered in the art of reading writing and arithmetic." The present public school of Williamsburg bears the name Matthew Whaley and as the modern representative of Mattey's Free School admirably fulfills the terms of Mrs. Whaley's will.


As these charity schools all had insufficient endowment, some of them, like Eaton and Mattey's schools, allowed the master to augment his wretched stipend by taking the sons of gentlemen who could pay tuition. This, of course, saved the schools from extinction, but it also changed their character and thwarted the purposes of the donors.

In retrospect the parish system of old England worked remarkably well when transferred to Virginia and proved to be a satisfactory means of administering the affairs of Church and State on a local level. The principal peculiarity of the Virginia parish was the evolution of the self-perpetuating vestry, which although an unrepresentative and aristocratic institution, proved to be an extremely useful one in the life of the colony. It greatly facilitated the work of the parish and it committed the affairs of the smallest unit of civil and ecclesiastical government to the best educated and most respected gentlemen of the community who willingly served without remuneration. It was also an excellent training ground for young statesmen, in that it acquainted them with the process of deliberation and also with the stark realities of life among the less fortunate classes of society.

The Virginia aristocracy of the eighteenth century was notably politically-minded. Familiar from early manhood with the problems of administering a plantation and ruling over a household of servants and slaves, its members almost always served on the vestry of their parish and as justices of their county court before going to 50. Williamsburg to take their seats in the House of Burgesses, and, ultimately, for the successful few, in the Council.

As a vestryman, the young gentleman who was already familiar with plantation management, enlarged the scope of his activities to include people of all walks of life, and not merely those of his household and slave quarters. In this position he could no longer act in an authoritarian way as lord of the manor, but rather had to learn, perhaps for the first time, how to deliberate with equals and superiors. Many of his fellow vestrymen were older, more prominent, and more experienced than himself. He had, therefore, to develop the talent of an effective presentation of his own point of view and of tactfully exposing the fallacy in his opponent's argument without injuring his sensibilities or drawing fire from the other vestrymen. All this was useful in teaching co-operation and excellent preparation for the House of Burgesses to which the young vestryman might in due course be sent to represent his county.

Service on the vestry also gave a man an extraordinary opportunity for acquiring insight into human nature. It enabled him to see in the course of his work the frailties and follies of human nature, the crippling effects of sin on the lives of the common people, and the nobility of soul with which some persons were able to face the calamities of poverty, sickness, and death. Also, by bringing him into close touch with the pressing needs of the poor, the sick, and the bereaved of his own community, it offered him opportunities for unostentatious almsgiving.


Documentary evidence is not available for everything that takes place in the mind and soul of men in all places and times, but it is reasonable to conjecture that years of conscientious duty as a colonial Virginia vestryman worked great changes in the hearts of the men who so freely gave of their time and energy to the service of their fellow-men. Doubtless it led to the reform of much that was amiss in the temper and disposition of their souls, especially with respect to their pride and arrogance, those characteristic sins of men born to wealth and intellect. It is not impossible that the contact with the unfortunate classes of the parish which membership on the vestry provided helped to foster the humanitarian aspirations of the society that before long addressed itself to mitigating ignorance, disease, and the rigors of eighteenth-century prisons and criminal codes, and even committed itself to the proposition that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."



Anglican Church life in the New World began, appropriately enough, at the sign of the cross. When Christopher Newport and his little fleet of ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery made their landfall at the Virginia Capes on April 29, 1607, a party put ashore at Cape Henry, erected a large wooden cross, and took formal possession of the country in the name of God and King James I of England. A few days later on May 13, when the fleet had threaded its way past Horseshoe Shoal and up James River to the site of Jamestown, the settlers went ashore and began the worship of God which has not ceased in Virginia since that day.

The earliest places of worship were necessarily rather crude. Captain John Smith has left us a description of those at Jamestown: "When we first went to Virginia, I well remember, wee did hang an awning (which is an old saile) to three or four trees to shadow us from the Sunne, our walles were rales of wood, our seats unhewed trees, till we cut plankes; our Pulpit a bar of wood nailed to two neighboring trees; in foul weather we shifted into an old rotten tent… This was our Church, till wee built a homely thing like a berne, set upon cratchets, covered with rafts, sedge, and earth … yet wee had daily Common Prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons, and every three moneths the holy Communion."


The wattle-and-daub church of which Smith spoke was destroyed by the fire of 1608 that burned all Jamestown, and it was rebuilt by mariners from Newport's fleet. By 1610 when the new governor, Lord Delaware, arrived in the colony, this "pretty Chappell" was in such poor repair that it was replaced by a new and larger frame Church, 60 by 24 feet, which according to a contemporary account, had "a Chancel [screen] in it of Cedar and a Communion Table of the Bla[c]ke Walnut, and all the Pews of Cedar, with fair broad windowes, to shut and open, of the same wood, a Pulpet of the same, with a Font hewen hollow, … with two Bels at the West end."

When completed, the frame church was the scene of much ceremony and several historic events. "It is so cast," went on the contemporary account, "as to be very light within and the Lord Governour and Captains Generall doth cause it to be kept passing sweet and trimmed up with divers flowers with a Sexton belonging to it… Every Sunday, when the Lord Governour and Captains Generall goeth to Church, he is accompanied with all the Counsailors, captaines, other officers and all the Gentlemen, and with a Guard of Holberdiers in his Lordship's livery, faire red cloakes, to the number of fifty, both on each side and behinde him: and being in the Church, his Lordship hath his seats in the Quier, in a green Velvet Chaire, with a Cloath, with a Velvet Cushion spread on a Table before him, on which he kneeleth." It was in this church that the fair Indian princess, Pocahontas, was baptized in 1613 and the next year married to Captain John Rolfe, the secretary of the colony, before a notable gathering, including the Indian Emperor Powhatan's brother.


For some unknown reason Delaware's church was in ruins by 1617 and was replaced that year by the fourth Jamestown Church, 50 feet by 20, under the direction of Captain Samuel Argall, Though smaller, and probably not so handsome as its predecessor, this church of 1617 witnessed the historic meeting of the Virginia General Assembly in 1619, the first representative assembly in the Western Hemisphere. A small portion of the original cobblestone foundation and tile paving of this building is still to be seen at Jamestown.

The proceedings of this first Assembly, preserved in England, record that "the most convenient place we could find to sitt in was the Quire of the Churche where Sir George Yeardley, the Governour, being sett down in his accustomed place, those of the Counsel of Estate sate nexte him on both handes, excepting onely the Secretary then appointed Speaker, who sate right before him. … But forasmuche as men's affairs doe little prosper where God's service is neglected, all the Burgesses tooke their places in the Quire till a prayer was said by Mr Buck, the Minister, that it would please God to guide and sanctifie all our proceedings to his owne glory and to the good of this Plantation."

Argall's fourth church was in service for twenty years, when it was replaced by a brick church begun during the second administration of Governor Sir John Harvey about 1639, and completed about 1647. This church was gutted by fire in 1676 when the rebel Bacon burned Jamestown. It was subsequently repaired, and continued in use until about 1758, when it was abandoned because by that time there were only three occupied houses in Jamestown. The church later fell into 55. ruin and disappeared except for the ruined tower at the west end, which alone of Jamestown's seventeenth-century buildings survives to remind us of the dawn of our national history. It has been lovingly preserved for the last half century by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, under whose auspices a memorial church was built by the National Society of Colonial Dames in 1907 to cover and protect the surviving fragments of the cradle of religion and of representative government in the United States.

From the excavations of the foundations and from the surviving brick tower, we know that the fifth Jamestown Church (1639-47) was of Gothic design, with massive buttresses, and walls 32 inches thick. In shape it was a rectangle, 56 feet long and 28 feet wide on the outside. The brick tower at the west end, apparently erected after the church itself, measures 18 by 18 feet on the outside.

All the archaeological and documentary evidence indicates that the fifth Jamestown Church was very much like the only existing colonial Gothic church in Virginia, St. Luke's, Isle of Wight County. This remarkable edifice is the most complete and authentic survival of Virginia's seventeenth-century churches, and can reasonably be called our nation's oldest church. Built as the church of Warrasquoyake, later Newport Parish near the middle of the century — the date is unknown, some holding to the traditional date 1632, and others advancing plausible arguments that it was built between 1638 and 1668 — it is a genuine Gothic edifice, resembling the small English 56. parish church of the late Middle Ages. There are no flying buttresses, pinnacles, or spires, but it has massive wall buttresses with sloping sett-offs and arched windows with brick-mullioned tracery.

Another church known to have had buttresses, although no longer standing, was the second church of Bruton Parish, built at Middle Plantation (now Williamsburg) in 1679-83. A rectangular brick church, 60 by 24 feet, it had wall buttresses, a steeply-pitched roof, and a Jacobean curvilinear gable projecting above the roof.

The seventeenth-century Virginia churches, then, fall into two categories: (1) the simple, half-timbered, thatched structures of the type of the first four Jamestown churches. These were probably the most common, but none has survived, and (2) the brick Gothic structures of which St. Luke's, Isle of Wight County, and the tower of the fifth Jamestown Church alone survive.

Two other seventeenth-century survivals present a problem: Merchants' Hope Church, which documentary evidence dates to 1657 but which is in a style that suggests a later period, and Grace Church, Yorktown, built in 1697, much altered at a later time, and, therefore, not illustrative of seventeenth-century architecture.

The seventeenth century was a period of architectural as well as political and religious confusion in England. The Elizabethan style which was a development of late Gothic, survived into the first half of the century, and produced in 1630 the superb perpendicular Gothic of Christ Church College, Oxford. Meanwhile, however, the early Renaissance influence had reached England by way of Germany 57. and Flanders where it had been locally modified, and united with Elizabethan to produce what we know as Jacobean architecture in England. Both Elizabethan and Jacobean were offshoots of Gothic, but with increasing Renaissance influence. The pure Renaissance style was introduced into England by Inigo Jones (1573-1653), who had visited Italy and studied the classic work of Andrea Palladia at close range. Jones's Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace, London, built in 1619, is regarded as the starting point in England of the pure Renaissance style which was eventually to sweep all before it and culminate in eighteenth-century Georgian. But the victory took time. All three styles coexisted in England in the first half of the seventeenth century, and all three exerted influence on the parish churches of Virginia built before 1700. The fifth Jamestown Church and St. Luke's, Isle of wight County, reflect the Elizabethan phase of Gothic. The second Bruton Church, with its curvilinear gable, represents the Jacobean phase. Merchants' Hope Church (if it reached its present stage of development prior to 1700) and certain details in the other churches, such as the round-headed windows in the Jamestown and St. Luke's towers and the absence of end buttresses in St. Luke's, suggest the beginning of pure Renaissance influence in Virginia.

After 1700 a genuine colonial Georgian architecture emerged which fully reflected the pure or late Renaissance in England. This style is characterized by the sloughing off of Gothic features that survived in Jacobean architecture. The buttresses disappear, 58. round-headed windows become standard, brick mullions give way to small wooden muntins, gables no longer project above the roof, and the roof itself gradually becomes less steeply pitched.

St. Peter's Church, New Kent, built in 1703 and well preserved, is a transitional type somewhat like the Jacobean second Bruton Church of 1679-83, although without buttresses. Its side windows, although symmetrically placed, have not yet developed round heads. The great east window, twelve feet high and nine feet wide, has an elliptical arch. Architectural evidence indicates that it originally had a projecting curvilinear gable, which disappeared long after the handsome tower was added in 1740. The west gable, however, left its outline upon the brickwork of the tower and has now been restored. The gable, Jacobean in character, was originally copied from the old parish church of St. Peter's in Kent, England. Hence, nostalgia for their old home helps to explain why Virginians in 1703 were building in a style that was already old-fashioned in the Mother Country.

Another transitional church is Yeocomico in Westmoreland County, built in 1706. Originally rectangular, except for its porch, it is characterized by a steep roof, with splayed-out eaves, the former an old, the latter a new feature. Another curious survival is the lack of symmetry of its windows.

The oldest surviving example of a typical Georgian Virginia church is the present Bruton Parish Church, built 1711-15, apparently (but not certainly), from the plans of Alexander Spotswood, who had just come from Great Britain to be the royal governor of Virginia, 59. Except for the steep pitch of its roof, and possibly its cruciform shape, everything about it speaks of pure, late Renaissance: its plain walls, its tall round-headed windows, its simple, classical modillioned cornice, and its circular windows in transept and east walls. Even its square brick tower surmounted by a wooden octagonal spire in two stages, added in 1769, strongly suggests the tradition of Wren and Gibbs and resembles a simplified version of the heavy octagonal tower of St. Michael's Church in Charleston, completed about 1760.

Oddly enough, the cruciform plan of Bruton Church, although an outmoded Gothic feature, caught on in the colony and was imitated in several later churches, sometimes in the form of a Latin cross, sometimes of a Greek cross. Possibly this proved well adapted to colonial needs: small churches could enlarge their seating capacity by the addition of transepts without encountering the structural problems of increasing the dimensions of the nave and chancel. More than a dozen Virginia churches built between 1715 and 1775 were cruciform. A number of others became L-shaped or T-shaped by the addition of a single transept. Had the Revolution not taken place and the Church fallen on hard times, these churches might ultimately have added a balancing transept and so become cruciform.

Other Georgian churches are numerous after 1715, but the finest and best-preserved of them is Christ Church, Lancaster County, built in 1732, entirely at the expense of Robert Carter, commonly known as "King" Carter because of his great social pretensions and extensive 60. land holdings of 300,000 acres. Christ Church approximates a Greek cross in plan, each axis being 68 feet long, and the nave only slightly longer than the chancel and transepts. It has a steep roof like Bruton Church, and flared eaves like Yeocomico. Its three doors are twelve feet high; its ten great round-headed windows measure 6 by 14 feet. Because of its proportions and sophisticated details, it is regarded as the best example of the colonial Virginia church in existence.

Christ Church, Lancaster, is one of the few colonial churches the interior woodwork of which has survived untouched. Its high box pews, panelled dado, high pulpit with curved stairs, sounding board with ornamental finial, panelled gallery, original altar piece, and marble font carved with acanthus leaves and cherub heads are all excellent examples of the workmanship of the period. The aisles are paved with Purbeck stone from England. Except for the pine pews, the interior woodwork is black walnut, and contrasts effectively with the white plastered walls above the dado. The ceiling is a gently curved vault reaching a peak 33 feet above the floor, which provides excellent acoustics. Bishop Meade of Virginia wrote of Christ Church in 1838, "Peculiarly delightful it was to raise the voice in a house whose sacred form and beautiful arches seemed to give force and music to the feeblest tongue beyond any other building in which I ever performed or heard the hallowed services of the sanctuary."


Before going on to the later Georgian brick churches, a word ought to be said about the small frame churches that were in use in Virginia at this time both as parish churches in frontier counties and as "chapels of ease" in the larger Tidewater and Piedmont parishes. These, for the most part, were rectangular and plain, having been built of wood mainly in cases where money was wanting for better materials. Few except late colonial ones have survived. Although no longer standing, one of the best examples was St. Andrew's Church, Albemarle Parish, Surry County, built in 1750. It was a frame building, 69 by 26 feet in the clear, with walls 16 feet high. The three doors, one at the west end and two on the south facade, were four feet wide and seven feet high. Double doors swung on heavy HL hinges. The altar, as always in Anglican Churches, was at the east end. The three-decker pulpit, reading desk, and clerk's desk were placed against the middle of the north wall. The font occupied a small baptistry in lieu of one of the box pews at the west end. The box pews were four feet high, with hinged doors on one side and plank seats on the other three sides. The aisle was six feet wide. The altar was raised upon two steps and railed as usual. The interior must have been quite as pleasing as that of brick churches, although doubtless somewhat less ornate than Bruton Church or King Carter's Christ Church. St. Andrew's cost only £290, whereas good brick churches ranged in price from £420 for the Lower Church of Blisland Parish (1734-38), which was 60 feet by 26 in size, to £l,300 for the 62. 1768 Church of Stratton Major Parish, King and Queen County, which measured 80 feet by 50, and had 27-foot walls.

After the middle of the eighteenth century, Virginia ecclesiastical Georgian reached its final stage, best exemplified by an existing group of churches on the Northern Neck, of which Aquia Church (1757), Christ Church, Alexandria (1767-73), and Pohick Church (1769) are the most famous examples. These late Georgian churches are noted for their simplicity, dignity, and for their unchurchlike appearance. One would not know they were churches if he came upon them unexpectedly and did not see the gravestones with which they are surrounded. This apparently disturbed their nineteenth-century parishioners who in later years added a tower and belfry to Christ Church and Aquia, They were also higher than the early eighteenth-century churches, and had two tiers of windows to provide more space and light for the galleries which were becoming more and more necessary as the population grew. The lower range of windows commonly were rectangular, and the upper tier round-headed.

These churches have three distinctive features: (1) they have elaborate door and window frames often of Aquia freestone, or of rubbed brick; (2) they also have Aquia freestone quoins to relieve the plainness of the walls; and (3) they have heavy cornices, often elaborately carved with classic motifs.

As most Virginia churches were situated in the country, originally near a navigable river or stream, and later on near crossroads, they had no need for a tower and belfry, which in English parish churches 63. called the faithful to daily worship. That explains why so few towers were built here, except in the case of churches like Jamestown Church, Bruton Parish Church, St. Paul's, Norfolk, St. John's, Hampton, and Christ Church, Alexandria, which were in towns. And it is interesting to note that in each of these cases the church was built first and the tower added many years later. The church of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, built 1712-14, was embellished in 1719 by the addition of "a convenient Cupilo at the West End" to house a bell given the previous year by John Robinson, the Bishop of London, who was a kinsman of the leading family of that parish. St. Peter's, in the woods of New Kent County, certainly had no need for a tower: it was added as an afterthought in 1740 to house a fine bell given to the parish in 1722, by the simple process of adding a second story and spire to the porch already built at the west end of the church. Aquia Church also added a small belfry or tower in the nineteenth century. But outside of towns this was unnecessary and was seldom done.

Throughout the seventeenth century Virginia windows were of the casement variety. Small diamond-shaped panes of glass were held together by lead cames, the whole placed within a metal frame hinged at the side in typical medieval and Jacobean fashion. The first building in Virginia known to have wooden sash windows was the Wren Building of the College of William and Mary, built 1695-1702. The new Capitol, built in Williamsburg 1701-05, also had sash windows, which were specified in the Act of 1699 ordering its erection. Thereafter sash windows were commonly used in public 64. buildings, although it was several decades before they entirely superseded casement windows in dwelling houses. Churches, being public buildings and needing good light, quite early turned to sash windows. But conservatism sometimes held back progress. In 1704 St. Peter's Parish, New Kent, ordered "Glass Lead Sodder and Casements" for its chapel. As late as 1714 the vestry of St. Paul's Parish, Hanover County, sent to England for "Glass & Casements for the upper Church." But Bruton Parish Church (1711-15) and Ware Church, Gloucester (c. 1715), had large sash windows from the start. The sixteen sash windows of Bruton Church and the ten of Christ Church, Lancaster, contain 38 panes each. The two great east windows of Ware Church contain 60 panes each.

Four surviving Virginia churches are built of English bond, that is, of brickwork consisting of courses of stretchers (bricks laid lengthwise) alternating with courses of headers (bricks laid endwise). These are the Jamestown Church Tower, St. Peter's, New Kent (1703), Yeocomico Church (1706), and the Lower Chapel of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex (1717). The first three of these are among the oldest churches in Virginia. St. Luke's, Isle of Wight, on the other hand, and all the other surviving colonial brick churches of the Old Dominion are built of Flemish bond, in which each course is composed of stretcher, header, stretcher, header, and so on. The overall effect, especially when glazed headers are used, is quite pleasing. The checkerboard pattern of Flemish bond helped to offset the plainness of Georgian walls.


Another means of achieving a decorative effect was by elaborating the architraves of doors and windows. The doorways of early churches, although dignified by a tower or porch, were undecorated. But soon after the Georgian style with its plain walls came into fashion, church doors were ornamented with classical pediments. The earliest surviving examples are those of Ware Church (c. 1715) and the third church of Petsworth Parish (1723), both in Gloucester County. This kind of doorway thereafter became a standard feature of the late colonial Virginia church.

Early examples are of moulded, gauged brick, rubbed so as to take a lighter color and thus to stand out in contrast to the darker brick of the building. Churches in the Northern Neck that were situated on or near navigable water were provided with stone doorways and quoins from the freestone quarry at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, which was in operation from 1662 onwards and which in the late eighteenth century had the distinction of providing the stone of which the federal Capitol and White House in Washington were built.

As it was common to bury the dead in English churches and churchyards, the practice was also in vogue in colonial Virginia. Even though many families preferred to maintain private burying grounds on their plantations, interments were also made in Virginia parish churches and in churchyards laid out for the purpose. "King" Carter's handsome tomb occupies the chancel of the church he built for Christ Church Parish, Lancaster. Bruton Parish Church contains 36 interments, including the remains of Governor Fauquier. The Chapel of the College of William and Mary is the resting place of 66. the mortal remains of Sir John Randolph, Lord Botetourt, Peyton Randolph, and several other notables.

More commonly, burials were made in the churchyards which always surrounded colonial churches. These usually began as small plots, one hundred feet square, and were later enlarged as needed. They were commonly enclosed by fences or brick walls, and provided with gates, horse blocks, and in some cases sheds to protect the horses of parishioners during services. St. Paul's, Hanover, in 1719 ordered Mr. Henry Cary to "Rail in the Church yard 100 foot Square, with Seven Rails in a pannel; five foot high each pannel, to be Eight foot in Length & well Tarr'd." St. Peter's, New Kent, in 1719 ordered a brick wall built around its hundred-foot-square churchyard, and specified that it be "in all Respects as well Done as the Capitol wall in Williams:Burgh." Bruton Parish in 1752 ordered Samuel Spurr to build the present brick wall around the churchyard, and when he completed it in 1754 paid him £320 Virginia currency for it.

A few churches had special meeting places for the vestry. St. Peter's, New Kent, in 1740 had a vestry room in the second floor of the tower, with a table, three benches, and a fireplace for their convenience. Some other churches built separate vestry houses at the edge of the churchyard. Examples of these are the third Petsworth Parish Church, Gloucester County, which had a "Vestry house by the Church" in 1727; Kingston Parish, Gloucester County, which in 1753 ordered payment for "two Vestry Houses [i.e., one at each of the two 67. churches in the parish] 12 by 16 Fram'd & plaistered and floored" with "a chimney & one window with eight lights [i.e., window panes]"; and the New Church, Stratton Major Parish, King and Queen County, which in 1768 had a brick Vestry House sixteen by twenty feet in size.

The only other feature of a churchyard worthy of mention is the occasional presence of stocks. The entry in 1734 in the Vestry Book of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent, speaks for itself: "Order'd — That the Church Wardens cause a good and substantial Pair of Stocks to be forthwith erected near the Church-Yard Wall, for the Restraint of licentious and disorderly Persons several such having lately appeared in the Church, to the great Disturbance of the Minister and Congregation, during divine Service."

People accustomed to thinking of a church as a meeting house, an auditorium for preaching, in which the pulpit is the center of all attention, will find it difficult to understand the architectural setting of Anglican worship in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. First of all, a church was thought of as consisting of two quite distinct sections, the chancel and the nave. And this was so whether or not there was a visible division, such as a chancel screen, between them. The chancel, which symbolized paradise, was the portion of the sacred edifice in which Holy Communion was celebrated and received, and where other sacramental rites such as weddings, confirmations, and ordinations took place. The nave symbolized the world; in it were the rank and file of the 68. people, and it was in the nave that the word was preached, children catechized, daily prayers and the litany read, and Holy Baptism administered.

In the larger English parish churches which still had their solid medieval rood screens separating chancel and nave, it was not uncommon for the Holy Eucharist to be celebrated in the chancel at the same time a service or catechism was being held in the nave for those who were not yet confirmed. In the simple little churches of colonial Virginia this was impossible, but the Anglicans here retained their rigid concept of the two separate compartments into which the church was divided. Following English practice, where alone of the European countries medieval rood or chancel screens were preserved, Virginians often provided their little churches in the wilderness with simple chancel screens to separate chancel and nave. Although not a single example has survived, a number of churches are known from documentary evidence to have had chancel screens: the 1660 Middle Plantation Church; the 1665 Church of Christ Church Parish, Middle sex; the 1667 Church of Lancaster Parish, Middlesex County; the 1677 Poplar Spring Church, Petsworth Parish, Gloucester County; the three churches of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, ordered built in 1710; and Trinity Church, Portsmouth (1764). It is also quite possible that the "Chancell of Cedar" in the 1610 Jamestown Church was a chancel screen, but the 1660 Middle Plantation Church seems to have set the style for the later ones, because the churches of Christ Church and Lancaster 69. parishes were ordered built "according to the Modall of the Middle-plantacon Church in all respects."

The most detailed description of a chancel screen appears in the specifications for Poplar Spring Church (1677): "the Chancell to be 15 foote and a Screene to be runn a Crosse the church wth ballisters." We can, therefore, visualize it when we read a contemporary English architectural builder's book account of the construction of a chancel screen as "close paneling beneath about three feet to three feet six inches high, on which stands screen work composed of slender turned balusters or regular wooden mullions, supporting tracery more or less rich, with cornices, cresting, etc., and often painted in brilliant colors or gilded." The three Churches of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, ordered in 1710 were to be furnished with "a comendable [i.e., handsome, or ornate] Screene to divide the Church from the Chancell," and the last mention of a chancel screen in the vestry book of the parish was in 1715. Although we have no account of the construction of chancel screens in Virginia after that time with the single exception of Trinity Church, Portsmouth (1764), where a French visitor mentioned its "rood screen" in recording his impression of its interior in 1794, they were still being built in English churches and probably were more common here than has hitherto been realized.

Eighteenth-century churches which did not have chancel screens nonetheless maintained the distinction between chancel and nave in the practice of the liturgy by reading mattins and evensong, the 70. litany, and antecommunion in the nave, and celebrating Holy Communion in the chancel. This distinction was also given occasional architectural recognition by placing a six-inch step in the aisle where a rood screen would normally be. Just such a chancel step marks the boundary between chancel and nave in the present Bruton Parish Church. And in 1712 the vestry of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, specified in connection with the new churches for the parish "That the Chancell be raised one step (of six inches) higher than the sd Church floore."

The pulpit and reading desk, unlike modern practice which generally places them on opposite sides of the aisle, were almost always placed together in colonial days. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they assumed great importance, not because preaching was more highly valued than the sacraments, but, as we shall see in the next chapter, because the liturgical usage of the time sanctioned the reading of the daily offices, the litany, and antecommunion from the reading desk, rather than from the chancel and sanctuary.

Not only were pulpit and reading desk combined into a single unit, but an additional desk at a lower level was often provided for the parish clerk who led the congregational responses. Hence, the so-called three-decker emerged and gradually replaced the earlier two-decker. An excellent example of a colonial three-decker is in Christ Church, Lancaster County (1732). Another is in Aquia Church (1757) . Bruton Parish Church as restored illustrates the two-decker arrangement.


So rigid was the Anglican concept of the division between chancel and nave that pulpits and reading desks were occasionally placed in the central aisle directly in front of the altar. This, however, showed no disrespect to the altar, because the altar was in a separate part of the church, not to be confused with the nave. This location of the pulpit was unknown until after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, and then it made very little headway against English conservatism until late in the eighteenth century, when the Evangelical Movement placed unprecedented emphasis upon preaching. In Virginia there is no known instance of it prior to the Revolution, although the vestry of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, in 1714 ordered that the "pulpitt and two Desks Stand in the Alley [aisle]" of its new Lower Chapel, just west of the chancel screen. This, however, was not done. At a meeting less than a month later the vestry rescinded the order, and directed the pulpit and desks to be placed more conventionally on one side of the aisle.

Also unknown in colonial days was the practice of placing the pulpit in the center of the east wall behind the altar, as one sees today in Christ Church, Alexandria. This would have violated the concept of separation of chancel and nave and would have been considered an irreverence to the altar. This practice, introduced by innovators after 1780, belongs to the period of liturgical debasement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The pulpit, reading desk, a clerk's desk in English churches were often fitted with candlesticks, as well as shelves for sermon 72. notes and for the folio Bible and prayer books used for the service. They also had seats for the priest and clerk, and sometimes a wig stand. Over the pulpit there was usually a tester or sounding-board, often a thing of beauty, topped off with a decorative finial.

The pulpit and often the reading desk as well was covered with a large cushion decorated with tassels and often a hanging or valance called a pulpit cloth. Crimson was, perhaps, the favorite color, but there are examples of purple, blue, red, and even cloth of gold pulpit cloths in colonial Virginia churches.

There were two kinds of pews: box pews and the bench-like "slip pews" that have now become almost universal. Box pews were high and usually fitted with doors, intended to protect one from cold drafts in the unheated churches. They were considered to encourage prayer and meditation by cutting off one's view of the occupants of the other pews. The height of the pews also explains why high pulpits were necessary, even in small churches, so the worshipers could see as well as hear the rector when preaching. Seats ran around three sides of the box pews, presumablY, so that foot-warmers could be conveniently placed in the center of each pew in winter. Also, the fact that Anglican churches had two or three liturgical centers — font, altar, and pulpit — and that they seldom coincided, meant that in most churches the people wished to face one way for a baptism, another way for the Holy Eucharist, and yet another way for the sermon.


Slip pews, or forms often placed at the back of churches and in the galleries, were regarded as less desirable than box pews, and were frequently assigned to servants, children, and the less honorable parishioners. They had narrow seats, straight backs, kneeling boards, and sometimes bookrests fastened to the pew in front. St. Peter's Parish, New Kent, ordered some "new Benches made of saw'd white Oak Plank" eleven inches wide. St. Paul's Parish, Hanover, in 1745 ordered "ledges at the front of each Pew, to Lay Books on, and kneeling Boards to kneel on."

The small size of colonial churches and the rapidity with which population increased put a premium upon space and forced vestries to devise means of enlarging the seating accommodations. This was done first by adding galleries, and then building additions to the church. It was not uncommon two centuries ago to find the interior of Virginia churches cluttered with high box pews and numerous hanging galleries, very few of which have survived.

Box pews and benches built at the cost of the parish were assigned to certain parishioners by the vestry, in accordance with their rank and prominence. The north side of the church was sometimes reserved for men and the south side assigned to women. This was done at Bruton Parish Church in 1717. In other cases the principal magistrates, militia officers, churchwardens, and vestrymen were given the choice pews, and the others allotted to the remaining families. Churches occasionally had a gallery or some rear benches reserved for servants. Special galleries and pews were built for 74. small children. In Bruton Parish Church the greater part of the gallery was reserved in 1718 for students of the College of William and Mary. In 1752 another gallery was allotted partly to faculty of the College, the other part containing the official pew of the Speaker of the House of Burgesses. There was also a state pew for the governor and Council, and other pews for the Burgesses. A gallery along the south side of the nave, now no longer standing, housed the children, and the north gallery, the servants.

In some cases gentlemen of wealth requested and secured permission to build special pews or galleries at their own expense, in which case the pews were their private property and could be bequeathed or sold. Before the Revolution this was much less common in Virginia than in England. After the disestablishment in Virginia, it became almost universal here to sell or rent pews to parishioners, and to allot a gallery or rear pew to the poor who could not afford pew rent.

West galleries both in England and the colonies were favorite places for organs and choirs when parish churches were fortunate enough to have them. Organs were common in English cathedrals and abbeys from the Middle Ages onward, and became more and more common in parish churches until the triumph of the Puritans under Cromwell. During the Commonwealth period and Cromwell's protectorate a systematic destruction of church organs occurred. After Charles II's restoration, organs were again placed in churches. Half a century later in 1714, virtually all the churches and chapels in London had organs "which accompany the Singing of Psalms and play Voluntaries to the assemblies as they go out of the Churches."


Because of poverty American churches were slow to acquire organs, but after 1713 when King's Chapel, Boston, acquired one, the number of them in our larger towns grew apace. St. Peter's, Port Royal, Virginia, had one at an undetermined date early in the eighteenth century, which is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Poplar Spring Church, Gloucester County, Virginia, took up a subscription in 1735 for an organ. When it arrived from England two years later, a gallery was built in the west end of the church to accommodate it. Anthony Collins was employed to be the organist at a salary of £20 per annum on condition that he would "Teach Som Other fit person in the Mistory of the Said Musick with all Convenient Speed."

The new church of Suffolk, Nansemond County, was equipped with a pipe organ when it was completed in 1753. And in 1752 Bruton Parish Church received an appropriation or £200 from the General Assembly for an organ. When the instrument arrived from England in 1755, it was located in a loft built for the purpose at the east end over the sanctuary, entered by an outside covered stairway. The same year Peter Pelham, stepbrother of the Boston artist John Singleton Copley, was appointed organist, a post he held for over forty years. At first he was paid by voluntary subscriptions, but later received a salary from the colony varying between £20 and £0 a year. The talented and versatile Pelham also served as jailor, directed the orchestra at the Waller Street Theatre, and taught young ladies the harpsichord and spinet. He was greatly appreciated in Williamsburg, and declared by one admirer to be the "modern Orpheus." 76. When he practiced in Bruton Church, the townspeople gathered informally to listen to his playing, thereby creating a precedent for the modern semi-weekly organ recitals which are held in Bruton Church as a memorial to him. A Williamsburg girl, Ann Blair, writing to a friend in 1769 said "scarce an evening … but we are entertained with Mr. Pelham's performance's of Felton's, Handel's, Vi-vally's, etc."

Other Virginia churches which had organs are the 1751 Church of Hungars Parish, Northampton County, and the New Church (1768) of Stratton Major Parish, King and Queen County, the organ of which was described in 1773 as "inferior to none on the Continent" for "elegance and sweetness of tone." It was cased in mahogany, had gilt pipes, and was adorned with "Imagery … striking and large as life." It cost £200.

The font was one of the traditional "ornaments" of Anglican worship. One of the Canons of 1604 required that a font should be provided in every church or chapel and that it should "be set up in the ancient usual places," which is to say at the west end of the church near the main door, as a reminder that entrance into the Church was by Holy Baptism. This was generally, but not always, done.

Lower Southwark Church, Surry County (1751), had its font in a pew next to the west door. St. Andrew's Church, Albemarle Parish, Surry County (1750), had a small baptistry in lieu of one of the box pews at the west end, fitted up with a font and lectern in the center and benches all around it. In a few instances both in England and Virginia the font was placed near the altar, apparently 77. in order to show equal honor to the two great sacraments, for example, the Church of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex (1712-14), and the Glebe Church, Suffolk Parish, Nansemond (1737-38).

Among the surviving fonts of colonial Virginia are those of Bruton Parish, Yeocomico, and Christ Church, Lancaster County. The Bruton font, though brought from Jamestown according to tradition, is probably the font stone received from England by Bruton Parish in 1692.

At the time Jamestown was settled, a common practice of the English Church was to move the altar table into the aisle of the chancel when the Sacrament was to be celebrated and place it with its long axis east and west, the priest standing at the north side of it. Out of service time the holy table was required by the Canons of 1604 to be placed altar-wise at the east end. This was the result of a compromise reached under Queen Elizabeth between the opposing views of High Churchmen and Puritans. So long as this was the custom, altars had to be in table form and of wood so as to be portable. It was also inexpedient to have altar rails, for the entire chancel was the sanctuary. Under the vigorous leadership of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-44), this was forcibly abolished, and the more conventional medieval practice restored. Communion tables were thereafter permanently kept altar-wise at the east end of churches and railed in to force communicants to receive the Sacrament kneeling and to protect the holy of holies from desecration by Puritans, who, objecting to the idea that any 78. material object could be holy, were reputed to cast up their churchwarden's accounts on the altar or to use it as a desk in the parish school between "Sacrament Sundays."

The Laudian liturgical reform met violent opposition in England and was lost during the Puritan supremacy under the Commonwealth. But it enjoyed a complete victory after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, and has ever since been the norm of Anglican worship. When altars again became permanently located, and no longer needed to be portable, they were once more built of stone. Durham Cathedral's new altar in 1617 was of marble. Worcester acquired a stone altar in 1634. And after 1660 they became increasingly common. In Virginia there were no known examples of them prior to the nineteenth century. Indeed, the first one in the United States was installed in St. Paul's Chapel, New York, in 1788. But Laudian influence was reflected here by the railing of sanctuaries soon after the Restoration. In 1684 the vestry of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, ordered that the "Communion Table at the Great Church and also at both Chappells be Railed in, as Convenient as possible may be, without Obstructing any passage." Other churches did likewise, so that a railed sanctuary was universal by the eighteenth century.

In English churches the rail usually went straight across the chancel, leaving an ample space within the sanctuary. But in the small Virginia churches, where space was at a premium, the rails generally ran on three sides of the altar, thus crowding the altar, but providing ample rail space and room for chancel pews. The small size of the sanctuary was less serious in the colony than at home, 79. because the chronic scarcity of clergy in Virginia meant that most Holy Eucharists were celebrated by a single priest with the clerk for a server, but no deacon. In a few instances, such as the Lower Church of Blisland Parish (1734-38), the altar rail was curved rather than rectangular.

With few exceptions colonial altars and altar rails were made of black walnut, the ecclesiastical wood par excellence of Virginia. This was true of the altar in the 1610 Jamestown Church and of virtually all its successors until the Revolution. One of the few original altars that have survived since colonial days in Virginia is the Holy Table of Yeocomico Church, Westmoreland County. Original altar rails of excellent workmanship also survive in Christ Church, Lancaster County.

In order to give special honor and dignity to the altar, English churches often provided it with a handsome architectural setting: an exquisitely carved reredos or altar piece, special marble pavement in the sanctuary, and an ornamental canopy (called a baldacchino) above it or, at least, special treatment of the ceiling over it. The last two practices, though found in contemporary Anglican churches in New York and Charleston, were unknown in colonial Virginia. But chancels here were set off with steps, panelled dadoes, and carved altar pieces. The new churches being built by Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, in 1712 were ordered to have the chancel raised one step of six inches above the floor of the nave, and the "Communion Table to be raised two steps (of six inches each) higher then the floore 80. of the chancell." In 1732 the churchwardens of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent, were authorized to beautify the parish church by contracting "with Some person to waynscut the East end of the Church, behind the Communion Table as high as the Window." In addition, almost every church had a reredos or altar piece behind and above the altar. Usually they consisted of fluted pilasters with carved capitals and a pediment, the whole designed to carry and frame the tablets of the law — that is, boards on which the Ten Commandments were painted, which the Canons of 1604 required each church to display. If a large east window existed, the altar piece was sometimes divided and put on either side of it. If there were two east windows, a tall narrow altar piece was designed to fit between them. An example of the former is found in the vestry book of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, in 1719 when Mr. John Grymes was "Impowered to Divide the Altar Piece and Sett up the Same Each Side of the East Window." An extreme example of the latter is the existing altar piece in Ware Church, Gloucester County (c. 1715), and a modified one, that of Christ Church, Lancaster County (1732). Not all altar pieces were of this type. Poplar Spring Church, Petsworth Parish, Gloucester County, which was under construction in 1677, had the distinction of having a mural painting, presumably as an altar piece. In 1679 Thomas Powell was paid 500 lbs. of tobacco "for draweing the Cherubim." The same year Robert Draper was paid for "making the frame on which the King's armes are drawen." The use of the royal arms, although common in the interior of English churches 81. and of Anglican churches in the other colonies, is attested by few records and no survivals in Virginia. It may have been so common as to occasion no comment. If so, it is strange that payments for work or repairs on the royal arms so seldom appear in Virginia vestry books. The only other instance concerns an outside example. Tradition in Hampton asserts that the tower and wooden steeple which was added to St. John's Church in 1762 was ornamented with the royal arms which were struck by lightning and hurled to the ground during the Revolution, an event then considered to be a good omen for the cause of the United Colonies.

The later church at Poplar Spring was also provided with a mural painting in 1738 when the vestry of Petsworth Parish ordered that Mr. Samuel Peacock "hansomly paint the Aulter peace," and in preparation for his work, the churchwarden, Mr. Augustine Smith, was to "Send for 700 Leaves of Leafe Gould for the Use of the Aulter peace." Peacock was apparently not up to the work, and was replaced by Richard Cooke, an indentured servant, who was hired by the parish from his master for £40. The specifications for the altar piece were that it was to be "Neatly Painted; the Ground Work of the Pannels to be Japannd; the Creed Lords Prayer & Ten Commandments to be Done in a Leagable hand In fair Gold letters, And All the Carving Work to be Guilded." Cooke, however, was so talented that he actually painted a mural on the reredos.

A nineteenth-century description of the Poplar Spring Church reredos when it was almost in ruins, was sent to and recorded by 82. Bishop Meade in 1857: "I remember a broad cornice, painted with the resemblance of a bright blue sky and clouds rolling off on either hand; below this were fragments of the plaster, extending farther down at the corners, and representing an immense curtain drawn back… There used to be an angel just where the curtain was drawn on one side with a trumpet in his hand, and rolling on toward him were vast bodies of clouds with angels in them… "

Mrs. Elizabeth Stith in her will, written in 1764, bequeathed to Southwark Parish, Surry County, £50 Virginia currency "to purchase an Alter piece for the lower Church… I would have Moses and Aaron drawn at full length holding up between them the Ten Commandments and if my money [is] enough I would have the Lord's prayer in a small Fraim to hang on the right hand over the great Pew and the Creed in another small Fraim to Hang on the Left Hand over the other great Pew."

The remaining means of showing honor and respect to the altar — covering it with a fine silk damask or velvet frontal with silver or gold fringe — will be treated in the next chapter in connection with the traditional ornaments of Anglican worship.



Conditions in the New World imposed certain modifications upon the Anglican Church when transplanted to Virginia, The great cathedrals and large parish churches that dot the English countryside found no counterpart along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where the American wilderness and the lack of accumulated wealth resulted in the erection of small wooden or brick parish churches which, handsome and neat though they were, must have seemed austere and plain to a newly-arrived English settler.

But if the Virginia Anglicans were compelled to worship in modest churches, nothing prevented them from beautifying the altar and pulpit so as to give outward and visible respect to the sacrament and the word. No Anglican altar, whether of carved marble or a simple black walnut table, could lawfully be left uncovered in service time. The Canons of 1604, enshrining an unbroken custom since the early centuries of the Church, required that they be "covered in time of divine Service with a Carpet of Silke or other decent stuffe." This was the frontal which not only covered the top of the altar or Holy Table but came down to the floor on all sides of it. These frontals were generally of the finest materials: silk, damask, velvet, and in the wealthier English churches even cloth of gold. Many churches in the Mother Country preserved a color sequence, though rather a poor one. Red was used throughout 84. most of the church year except in Lent, when black was substituted. Black was also used for funerals. In colonial Virginia every parish church had a silk or velvet frontal for its altar, usually a very costly one, and there is evidence that black hangings were substituted for funerals. A contemporary description of Bruton Parish Church in the Virginia Gazette in 1770, on the occasion of the funeral of the royal governor, Lord Botetourt, says: "At the western gate the corpse was removed from the hearse, and, carried eight bearers, the Gentlemen appointed supporting the pall, placed in the centre of the church, on a carpet of black. The altar, pulpit, and his Excellency's seat, were likewise hung with black."

Apart from funerals, however, red was the commonest but not the only liturgical color used in Virginia. In 1730 the vestry of Blisland Parish ordered six yards of purple silk cloth, nineteen yards of purple silk lace, two purple silk "Tossels," and two skins and four pounds of feathers to make a frontal, pulpit cloth, and cushions. The next year Mr. William Chamberlayne was instructed by the vestry of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent County, to send to England for "a Communian Table Cloth of Green Velvet three yards Long & two yards wide, with a Silver friange." In 1751 Petsworth Parish, Gloucester County, ordered a pulpit cloth, frontal, and cushion "the cloth to be of Crimson Velvet, with a Gold Frienge & Lace." There was even an instance of cloth of gold in connection with a pulpit cloth given to Bruton Parish Church by Mrs. Alice Page 85. in 1698. Other pulpit cloths were of "flowred Crimson velvett" or of purple or green silk.

When the king commissioned a royal governor, a part of the perquisites of his office was the issue on loan of "furniture" for use in the "chapel royal" in his colony. In the eighteenth century this consisted of two flagons, a chalice, a paten, and an almsbasin of sterling silver worth £80, a large Bible, two large and twelve small prayer books, two surplices, and a frontal, pulpit cloth, and cushions "all of crimson damask with silk fringe." The whole issue was worth £110. Though not known for certain, it is possible that the set of communion silver bearing the arms and cypher of George III and hallmarked 1764 and 1766 owned by Bruton Parish Church was a part of the royal issue to Lord Botetourt who came to Virginia as royal governor in 1768 and died in Williamsburg in 1770. As Bruton Church was the chapel royal of Virginia by virtue of the governor's residence in Bruton Parish, it is likely that he turned his chapel furniture over to this church during his governorship. And since he died in the colony, the plate might not have been returned as it should have been. But this is pure conjecture.

Altar candle sticks, two of which were commonly found in English churches of the period, must have been rare in Virginia, for they do not appear in the vestry books that have survived. But colonial altars were probably decorated with almsbasins placed upright against the reredos in the middle of the altar. This practice reflected the emphasis of the Caroline divines upon the "oblation," 86. or the offering of oneself to God, in the Eucharist. Virginia altars were also occasionally enriched by beautifully-bound prayer books, sometimes placed in the center in lieu of the almsbasin. The vestry of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent, in 1741 ordered "That two Church ffolio Comon Prayer Books be Sent for neatly bound in Turkey Leather & Letter'd on the back in gilt Letters Viz. (St. Peters Parish)."

Again, despite the simplicity of the architectural setting of worship imposed upon the colonists by their dispersed population and lack of accumulated wealth, there was nothing to prevent them from continuing the reverent and dignified ceremonies associated with Anglican worship. These ceremonies were severely attacked by the Puritans, and partially curtailed in the early seventeenth century in a vain attempt to mollify them. But, moderation having failed to keep them within the Church, the Church gave up its policy of self-restraint after the restoration of Charles II in 1660 and wholeheartedly revived and enjoyed such of its ancient ceremony as it considered did not tend to superstition or exemplify erroneous doctrine. For one thing, the Puritan custom of entering church with hats on was rigidly forbidden. The Canons of 1604 required that "No man shall cover his head in Church or Chappel in the time of Divine Service." After the Restoration, no man was permitted to enter a church, in or out of service time, with a hat on. Indeed, pious Anglicans sometimes raised their hats when walking or riding past a church. Another custom was that of "reverencing," that is, bowing the head towards the altar upon entering and leaving 87. a church or chancel. Along with it was the practice of making a similar reverence at the mention of the Holy Name. The 1604 Canons ordered that when "the LORD IESVS shalbe mentioned, due and lowly reverence shall bee done by all persons present as it hath bene accustomed," and it was normal Anglican practice in the second half of the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century. Priests and people turned to the east at the Creed and at the "Gloria Patri" (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost), after the psalms and canticles of mattins and evensong. At Holy Communion all sat for the liturgical Epistle, stood for the Gospel, and knelt to receive the Sacrament. Sitting for prayers was regarded as an odious Puritan practice absolutely forbidden by canon law and in violation of Anglican usage. The 1604 Canons required "all manner of persons … reverently [to] kneele upon their knees when the Generall Confession, Letany, and other Prayers are read, and stand up at the saying of the Beleefe" i.e,, the Creed. All these outward ceremonies, the Canons asserted, testify to the worshippers' "inward humilitie, Christian resolution, and due acknowledgement that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and eternal Sonne of God, is the onely Saviour of the world, in whom alone all the Mercies, Graces, and Promises of God to mankinde for this life and the life to come are fully and wholly comprised."

American conditions in the colonial period certainly played havoc with traditional Anglican use in many ways. The scarcity of clergy in Virginia and the general dispersion of the population brought 88. about a reduction in the number of services in parish churches and even made it expedient to transfer some of them, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals from the church to private homes. The Prayer Book intends mattins and evensong to be said every day of the year, and required all priests and deacons "to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer either privately or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause" and parish priests, "being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say the same in the Parish-church or Chapel where he ministereth, and shall cause a bell to be Tolled thereunto a convenient time before he begin, that the people may come to hear God's Word, and to pray with him." This was generally adhered to in English churches. A New View of London written in 1708, states that there are "few of the 100 churches contained in this City … but where there is Divine Service once, twice, or more in a Day," and the hours of service were carefully selected to be convenient for all classes from the nobility, gentry, and merchants down to servants and laborers. This pious custom was perpetuated at the Chapel of the College of William and Mary in colonial days. The much-beloved governor, Lord Botetourt, especially endeared himself to the College by arising early and on occasion attending mattins in the College Chapel with the Masters and students. Bruton Church also, according to an account in the early 1780's, had daily prayers. But this was rare elsewhere in Virginia. The rural isolation of the usual parish church and the fact that there were often three or four churches and chapels in one parish, rendered it 89. inexpedient for the rector to read the daily offices in church and inconvenient for the parishioners to attend.

For the same reason, Holy Days that did not coincide with Sunday were not regularly observed, except for Christmas, which was as dear to the Anglican heart as it was hated by the Puritan. The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was often one of the "Sacrament days," i.e., when the Holy Eucharist was celebrated and the people received Communion. The Christmas season was the occasion for decking the church with evergreens and mistletoe and for vacations, feasting, and merrymaking at home. Gift-giving was kept at a minimum, except to servants, and Christmas cards were yet unknown. Hence, the Feast of the Nativity had not yet been overlaid by the commercialism of today, and the figure of Santa Claus had not yet eclipsed the divine Christ Child in the popular mind.

Easter Day was, then as now, the greatest religious festival. It was approached by forty days of Lenten abstinence — especially by the solemn fast days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Easter Day was, of course, a Sacrament day. More than that, it was a day of obligation — one on which all Anglicans were to receive Holy Communion. It was observed with great regularity, being very well attended. It was also the time for paying parish tithes and for special acts of devotion by almsgiving. The king and other members of the royal family habitually received the Sacrament and, as the Bath Journal for 1754 reported, "made their Offering at the Altar according to annual Custom for the Benefit of the Poor."


Rogation processions — on the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday before Ascension Day (the fortieth day after Easter) — continued to be held in England throughout the eighteenth century. A writer in 1678 said that "the Priest on these days goes in Procession with the Cross before him … to make Perambulations and Processions with the Young children in every Parish and Township with us to view and understand the Ancient Limits and Boundaries of every Parish." In Virginia, as we have seen, the custom of processioning was transferred to the winter, a more convenient season for this climate, and thus detached from Rogation week became completely secularized, serving merely as a means of ascertaining and recording boundaries of private lands and without any ecclesiastical association except that it continued to be administered by the parish.

A word ought to be said about the keeping of Sunday and other Holy Days in colonial Virginia. In 1618 James I issued his famous Declaration of Sports, which set the official tone for Anglican observance of Sundays. This was renewed by Charles I in 1633. It condemned those who tried to debar the people from lawful recreations on Sunday, after they had attended church. Sundays were to refresh the spirits of "the meaner sort who labour hard all the week" no less than to worship God in His Holy Church. King Charles declared that "after the end of divine service our good people be not disturbed, letted [hindered] or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or 91. any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting-up of May-poles … so as the same be had … without impediment or neglect of divine service." Forbidden only were the cruel and unlawful games such as bear and bull-baiting.

Needless to say, this was anathema to the Puritans who believed in a solemn, joyless Sunday, like a Jewish Sabbath, with no relaxation or recreation permitted. But it has remained to this day the chief official Anglican pronouncement on the subject, even though during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries many Anglicans under Puritan or Evangelical influence personally favored the rigid keeping of Sunday. In colonial Virginia, both the official and the opposing unofficial views can be found. But it is certain that enough of the clergy and laity acted in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Sports to give rise to numerous charges of "worldliness" and "loose conduct" from some of the evangelical dissenters who saw little difference in gravity between murder, incest, and blasphemy on the one hand and dancing, card playing, and horse racing on Sunday on the other.

Another adverse effect of conditions in colonial Virginia was the dismal failure of the Church to convert the Indians to Christianity. There were several reasons for this. First of all, there was little or no integration of the Indians into Virginia life. Instead of intermarrying with them or of enslaving them for plantation laborers as was done in the French and Spanish colonies, the English in Virginia 92. pushed them to the west. It must be remembered that the Virginia Indians, unlike those of Central America, were in a primitive hunting stage of civilization, ill-fitted to absorb European modes of life and thought without a prolonged period of education and orientation. And since they relied on hunting and therefore had to move westward with the advancing frontier of English settlement, they had little continued contact with the white colonists except at the frontier itself where their relations were generally hostile and occasionally violent. The Anglican clergy in Virginia were virtually all perish priests, living in settled areas, and charged with the care of more souls distributed over large areas than they could minister to effectively — an unfortunate result of the plantation system and the dispersion of population. They had almost no opportunity to engage in missionary work among the Indians on the distant frontier. Moreover, the Church of England suppressed its monastic orders in the sixteenth century and did not revive them until the nineteenth. In the interim it lacked an effective organization to serve as an instrument for missionary work of this kind. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (founded in 1701) was designed to fill this need, and, in part, did so, but its principal sphere of activity lay to the north and to the south of Virginia. Hence, it did not solve the missionary problem of the Virginia Indians.

The most that was accomplished here in colonial days was through the agency of the Indian School at the College of William and Mary. This school was housed in its own building, the Brafferton, by 1723 93. and continued to operate until the Revolution at the expense of a fund left for the purpose of converting the Indians by Robert Boyle, the famous Irish physicist, after whom Boyle's Law is named. Boyle died in 1691, and the executor of his estate later divided the proceeds of his bequest between Harvard College and the College of William am Mary. The Virginia portion of the Boyle fund came from his Yorkshire estate, (an estate in Yorkshire purchased by his executors called Brafferton) Brafferton, which explains the name given to the building in the College yard that accommodated the school. The Indian youths who attended the school were taught enough English to repeat the Catechism and say their daily prayers, but were, apparently, not sufficiently instructed in European ways to become permanently civilized. No Indian succeeded in acquiring a college education. The tawny-skinned alumni of the Brafferton were sufficiently educated to unfit them for life among their barbarian kinsmen, but not enough to fit them for life among the English settlers. Their lot was pitiful and unhappy. They commonly took to drink, died young or sank back into an unwelcome barbarism from which they perhaps desired but were unable to rise. Because of the faulty system of education, the Indian scholars, like Moses on Mount Pisgah, were permitted a view of the Promised Land, but denied an entrance into it.

The record of the Virginia Church in converting the Negro slaves in the colony was somewhat better — but, even so, left much to be desired. In 1671 there were only about 2,000 Negroes in Virginia, forming a twentieth of the colony's population. Increased slave importations in the half century following the Peace of Utrecht (1713), 94. which terminated Queen Anne's War and gave an impetus to English participation in the African slave trade, greatly increased the Negro population of Virginia. By 1790 the state had 311,000 Negroes or nearly 40% of the total population of 824,000.

This meant that at any time between 1700 and the Revolution a considerable portion of Virginia slaves were African-born, and hence spoke English very poorly or not at all. There were few slaves and few great landed estates in the colony before 1676. Virginia consisted largely of small or moderate land holdings worked principally by white indentured servants. But in the century prior to the Revolution the more enterprising planters enlarged their holdings and bought slaves in order to increase their tobacco crops and lower the unit cost of production. Thus emerged the great planter class, the "first families of Virginia," with their huge estates and great aggregations of slaves.

The emergence of this genuinely-American aristocracy was gradual. In good years the moderate planter who aspired to become a great one bought several newly-imported slaves. In bad years, none. Hence, a large slave-holder in, say 1750, owned slaves that he had purchased not all at once, but through many successive years. The African-born slaves on any plantation, therefore, did not all come from the same place in Africa, but, generally, from half a dozen or more West African ports from Guinea to Angola. As a result, the Negroes spoke a great variety of dialects and could not converse with one another in their native tongues, but only in broken English. This pattern of linguistic confusion proved to be a great barrier to the effective conversion of 95. the slaves in the eighteenth century. The priest whose parish covered more than one hundred plantations, large and small, had all he could do — and more — to minister to the spiritual needs of the English settlers. Even if he were unusually concerned about the slaves, he was hampered at every turn by their ignorance of English and their condition of servitude which kept them on their widely dispersed plantations. Slave-owners sometimes resisted efforts to convert their slaves — but this was not always the case. Language and the impossibility of providing regular and continuous Christian education were the chief barriers. Even if an enterprising parish priest took pains to learn an African dialect, it did little good. The slaves in every Tidewater parish spoke a dozen different dialects.

Yet, despite even these almost insuperable difficulties, some progress was made in most parishes. In Bruton Parish the baptismal register, complete for only about 25 years out of the eighteenth century, shows that some 1,122 slaves were baptized. And Bruton was not exceptional.

The greatest success of which we have any record was that enjoyed by the forthright and redoubtable English priest, Jonathan Boucher, who was rector of St, Mary's Parish, Caroline County, from 1764 to 1770. On one Sunday in 1765 he baptized in St. Mary's Church 115 adult Negroes, and on Easter Monday, 1766, no fewer than 313, and preached to upwards of one thousand. Boucher later wrote in his reminiscences, "I question whether so extraordinary an accession 96. to the Church of Christ, by one man and in one day, can be paralleled even in the journals of a Popish missionary."

Boucher thought highly of his colored parishioners despite their lack of educational opportunities and declared that "Negroes, when compared with any other class of people in a Christian country, are no doubt lamentably ignorant; yet I saw no reason to think they were more so than many of the first converts to Christianity must needs have been."

His method of adapting Christian education to their needs is extremely interesting and may have been commonly done in Virginia parishes. He picked out two or three intelligent and thoroughly-converted Negroes, concentrated on their instruction, and sent them as itinerant schoolmasters to the surrounding plantations where they taught the slave children to read, thus anticipating the later Sunday School movement. In consequence, Boucher had twenty or thirty Negro parishioners who regularly attended church on Sundays "who could use their prayer-books, and make the responses." When they advanced sufficiently in Christian doctrine, he admitted them to the Sacrament of Holy Communion along with their white fellow-churchmen.

As a result of the patient and loving attention of Boucher and many of his fellow clergy, most Virginia churches, at least in the areas where slaves were numerous, numbered a few devoted Negroes among their usual congregations. The colonial Church of Virginia was, in fact, the Church of all the people from the royal governor and great tobacco planters down to the simple artisan and humblest 97. slave, and though the shortage of clergy and the conditions of colonial life in a plantation society presented many difficulties, the Church enjoyed at least partial success in the conversion of the Negro slave.

Despite the adverse effect of colonial conditions on the Anglican Church, the colonial church was only slightly less fortunate than its English parent in access to good books. Through the agency of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (founded in 1699), the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (founded in 1701), and individual planters, clergymen, and booksellers, quantities of devotional and theological books were annually imported into Virginia from England. Bibles and Prayer Books were so common that scarcely a private library, even if it contained only two books, was without them. And to them were usually added one or more of the popular Anglican books of devotion such as the Whole Duty of Man, Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living and Holy Dying, Robert Nelson's Companion for the Festivals and Fasts of the Church of England, and William Law's Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, as well as collections of sermons like those of Archbishop Tillotson.

By their wide distribution and continual use, these devotional works probably did more than the homilies and sermons of the clergymen, or in their absence, of the clerks, to stimulate the widely-scattered parishioners to piety. Moreover, they encouraged them to make daily devotion a regular feature of their lives on their remote plantations in lieu of the more frequent church attendance which was characteristic 98. of English church life. The form of family prayers commonly used by Virginians was based upon a set of prayers drawn up in 1691 by Archbishop Tillotson of Canterbury for the private use of King William III, and revised and improved in 1705 by Edmund Gibson, later Bishop of London. Gibson's publication proved to be very popular, and reached its eighteenth edition by 1750. Widely distributed in the American colonies by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, it became so much a part of colonial life that it was incorporated into the American Prayer Book in 1789 and remains a part of it to this day.

The services of the Church of Virginia were, of course, those of the Book of Common Prayer which has changed only in detail since 1662, so that a modern Episcopalian, after the fashion of a Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, might attend mattins or Holy Communion two centuries ago in Bruton Parish Church without finding any appreciable difference in the ritual. But he would find notable differences in ceremonial and in the musical setting of the services.

Arriving at a colonial parish church on a Sunday morning, the worshiper would find a little group of parishioners gathered in the churchyard busily exchanging greeting and news while their slaves or sons fastened the reins of the carriage horses to near-by trees. An English visitor who attended a service at Pohick Church 99. late in the eighteenth century wrote, "A Virginian church-yard on a Sunday, resembles rather a race-course than a sepulchral ground; the ladies come to it in carriages, and the men after dismounting from their horses make them fast to the trees." From the belfry would come the familiar tones of the bell being tolled by the sexton, as a signal that divine service was about to begin. And if the people continued to dawdle, the parish clerk might come out and summon them to enter.

The parish priest would arrive in his ordinary habit or street attire, which consisted of a long cassock, cincture (a sash), gown, tippet (a long black scarf), and soft black square cap (the distinctive headgear of Anglican clergymen, the forerunner of the academic mortarboard, and which is to the Anglican Communion what the later biretta is to the Church of Rome). Or he might have substituted a black cocked hat for his canonical square cap, and a black or grey coat for his priest's gown, in which case he would wear a shortened or tucked-up cassock so that he might ride a horse. And he would have worn a large wig and "bands" — a soft white linen neckcloth, later starched stiff to become our modern clerical collar, with two pendant tabs. Bands were evolved in the early seventeenth century and were worn by the clergy of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church, as well as by Lutheran and Calvinist ministers and by members of other learned professions — lawyers, physicians, and schoolmasters. They were universally worn by the Anglican clergy in Virginia and elsewhere until our grandfathers' day, and are still 100. occasionally to be seen in the English and American Episcopal Church. Though long since given up by the laity, they have left their legacy to the secular world in the word "bandbox."

The rector would remove his square cap or hat, enter the parish church, and walk informally down the aisle or "central alley," perhaps pausing to greet the parishioners and inquire of ill relatives. Upon reaching the rector's pew, usually near the crossing in cruciform churches and against the north or south wall in rectangular ones, he would lay aside his tippet and gown and put on his surplice. This linen garment was the principal Anglican vestment and in the seventeenth century, the object of the wrath of the Puritans who likened it to a "rag of Popery." In the eighteenth century when much of the rancor had subsided, the dissenters still disliked the surplice, and half humorously called it a "Canterbury nightgown."

The truth is that the surplice, though unknown in the Orthodox Communion, is very ancient in the Western or Latin Church, having been used since the tenth century at least, and possibly much earlier than that. Its origin, lost in the mists of the early Middle Ages, is the subject of speculation. As the word is derived from "super pelliceae" (over the fur), it is supposed that it began as an overgarment to protect the furs of the clergy from wear as they recited their daily offices seven times a day in the unheated stone churches of those early centuries of the Church.

From the earliest times until late in the nineteenth century, the surplice was extremely full and long, almost touching the ground. In 1767 the Lower Church of Blisland Parish purchased twelve yards of 101. linen, at a cost of £4:10:0, "for a Surplice," and there are other instances in which even more material was used. The surplice for centuries had been put on over the officiant's head, but in the late seventeenth century when the clergy began to wear large wigs, the surplice was altered, by being slit up the front and provided with buttons, so the priest could more easily put it on and take it off in the chancel in full view of the congregation without disarraying his wig. After the clergy gave up wigs, in the early nineteenth century, the surplice gradually regained its historic form without front opening or buttons.

Having put on "a decent and comely Surplisse with sleeves," and possibly also his hood and tippet as required by the Canons of l604, the priest now began mattins with a loud voice, and proceeded with the service known to modern Episcopalians as "Morning Prayer." The parish clerk, also in a cassock, bands, and wig, occupied a reading pew adjacent to, and often just below, the rector's pew, and led the congregational responses for the benefit of those who had no prayer books or could not read. The lessons from the Old and New Testament were read either by the churchwardens, vestrymen, or some other prominent layman such as a Councillor or the commander of the county militia, or perhaps more commonly by the parish clerk.

The other chief difference between a service then and now was in the music. A few churches, like Bruton Parish Church, had organs imported from England, but most of the country churches did not. The earliest known organ in a Virginia church dates to about 1735, 102. and even Bruton Church, the "chapel royal" of Virginia, did not have an organ until 1755. Churches without them had to sing without accompaniment, and the congregation was started off by the parish clerk "pitching" the tune. At the Reformation, hymns ceased to be used at divine service, and were entirely replaced for three centuries by the metrical version of the psalms.

The first version of the psalter "Collected into English meetre … with apt Notes to sing them withall" by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins, was published in 1562 and became dear to the hearts of many generations of church people despite the poor quality of much of its verse and tunes. Queen Elizabeth pronounced them to be "Geneva jigs." The "stout-church-and-King-man," Thomas Fuller, said that two hammerers on an anvil would make better music. And an eighteenth-century English writer on church music lamented "the cold, the meagre, the disgusting Dulness of Sternhold" which, he said, "hath quenched all the poetic Fire and devout Majesty of the royal Psalmist." An example of this version is the twenty-third psalm :

The Lord is only my support,
and he that doth me feed:
How can I then lack any thing
whereof I stand in need?

In pastures green he feedeth me,
where I do safely lie:
And after leads me to the streams
which run most pleasantly.

And ends:

Thou hast my table richly spread
in presence of my foe:
Thou hast my head with balm refresh'd,
my cup doth over flow.

And finally while breath doth last,
thy grace shall me defend:
And in the house of God will I
my life for ever spend.

Late in the seventeenth century, in 1696, a new version of the psalms by King William's chaplain-in-ordinary, Brady, and the Poet-Laureate, Tate, appeared that was greatly superior to the Sternhold-Hopkins 103. version. But the "old version" continued to be favored by the common folk, and ran through several hundred editions, the last in the middle of the nineteenth century. For a century and more Tate and Brady's version fought an uphill battle against its predecessor, only to succumb in due course to the rising tide of hymnody in the nineteenth century. Thus, if you entered a Virginia parish church two hundred years ago, the chances are that the old version rather than the new would be in use. Possibly Bruton Church, being the chapel royal for Virginia, might have been sufficiently sophisticated to prefer the Tate and Brady version. If so, it probably had few companions among the churches of the colony.

Another notable difference would be the absence of the vested choir preceded by a crucifer, now so invariable a part of Anglican Sunday services. Until the late eighteenth century, vested choirs were not found in Anglican parish churches, although cathedrals and collegiate churches often had them. The normal English parish church choir in the eighteenth century was composed of men, women, and children who sat unvested in the west end of the church — often in the west gallery — near the organ and whose musical efforts were calculated to lead and bolster the congregational singing. This was the practice in some Virginia parishes churches as well. Philip Fithian, a tutor at Nomini Hall, the handsome country seat of Councillor Robert Carter on the Northern Neck, recorded in his diary on Sunday, September 25, 1774, shortly after he had come to Virginia, that he attended Yeocomico Church and "was surprised when the Psalm begun to hear a large collection of voices singing at the same time, 104. from a Gallery, entirely contrary to what I have seen before in the Colony, for it is seldom in the fullest Congregations, that more sing than the Clerk, and about two others."

After mattins, the priest read the litany, and after that began the antecommunion, the portion of the Holy Communion that came before the invitation and confession. And if there was to be no sacrament, he concluded the service at this point with the blessing. Thus, the service, even when there was no communion, was much longer than we are accustomed to, and included the Old and New Testament lessons from mattins and the liturgical Epistle and Gospel for the day.

After the blessing, the priest removed his surplice, put on his gown and possibly his hood — especially if he boasted a doctor of divinity degree from Oxford or Cambridge — and ascended the narrow steps leading to the high, wine-glass pulpit, so characteristic of the time. The sermon or homily was introduced not by the invocation or collect so universal today, but by the Bidding Prayer prescribed by the 55th of the Canons of 1604. This began: "Ye shall pray for Christs holy Catholike Church" and went on to specify other objects of prayer — the king, queen, and other members of the royal family, the Privy Council, nobility, magistrates, and commons of the realm, "all those which are departed out of this life in the Faith of Christ," and finally that "we may have grace to direct our lives after their good example" and "this life ended, wee may be made partakers with them of the glorious Resurrection in the life Everlasting." Then the Bidding Prayer always concluded with the Lord's Prayer, said by all present.


The colonial sermon is unlikely to appeal to the modern churchman. It was generally very long, heavily freighted with quotations and citations from Holy Scripture and the early Fathers of the Church, and usually read verbatim from carefully prepared notes. The glorious good news of Christ's Gospel was not lost, but it was heavily overlaid with ecclesiastical scholarship, if not philosophical rationalism. One English parish priest who lived principally in his library and whose sermons smelt of the lamp was said to be "invisible on weekdays and incomprehensible on Sundays." He was, however, a caricature of the type. The rank and file were better than that. And, besides, our colonial ancestors had stronger stomachs than modern congregations for long and meaty sermons. Many colonial Virginia libraries contained whole sets of sermons by eminent Anglican divines, and it was worth the while of booksellers in Williamsburg to import and advertise for sale enormous numbers of works of this kind.

It is worth noting that a favorite modern church practice was wanting then: the gathering and presentation of alms at Morning Prayer. Alms were, of course, gathered as a part of the offertory in the rite of Holy Communion and every set of communion plate included a sterling silver almsbasin. But it would not have occurred to the colonial rector to make a ceremony of presenting alms at the altar during mattins. The Church, as has been seen in chapter 2, had no financial anxieties. It spent what it had to and apportioned the expenses among all the parishioners in the form of 106. parish levies, which were collected by law. Apart from the Eucharist, divine service was not to be interrupted by such unnecessary materialism. Poor boxes there were in every church, and the devout parishioner who wished to make a thank offering for some special instance of God's loving-kindness was encouraged to do so in that way.

Another difference between colonial and modern practice is in the use of flowers to decorate the altar. There is no precedent in either Virginia or England prior to the nineteenth century for altar flower vases. Flowers and greens were indeed used in Anglican churches at Easter and Christmas, and other great festivals, but they were hung about the walls in garlands, not placed in vases and never put on the altar. As altars were invariably hung with exquisite frontals of costly and beautiful material, often decorated with gold or silver fringe, no flowers were needed to dignify them or enhance their beauty. The use of plain and bare altars in the nineteenth century led people instinctively to try to correct the offence by crowding expensive flowers on their altars. In colonial days flowers and greens were used in churches only on great holy days, and then to decorate the building rather than the altar.

Still another difference is the seventeenth and eighteenth-century aversion to the use of brass and other inferior metals on the altar. Communion plate was almost always gold, silver-gilt, or sterling silver, the last mentioned being almost universal in the colonies. Occasionally poor churches used pewter as a temporary make shift, but in general anything less than pure silver was, before 107. the Industrial Revolution, regarded as unworthy of a decent and proper worship of Almighty God, "The Lord of lords and King of kings."

Holy Communion was by our standards received infrequently, but more frequently than had been the case prior to the Reformation. In the Middle Ages, communicants were obliged to receive the sacrament at least once a year — on Easter Day or within the octave of that great feast. Devout persons in many cases received it more often than that. The great objective of the Reformer was to revive the early practice of the Church by which Holy Communion was the principal service every Sunday, and all communicants received weekly. The medieval custom of infrequent reception of the sacrament proved too deeply intrenched, and the most the Reformers accomplished was to make Communion slightly more frequent. The Anglican Canons of 1604 required Holy Communion to be administered in every parish church and chapel "so often, and at such times as every Parishioner may Communicate at the least thrise in the yeere (whereof the Feast of Easter to bee one)." Professors, Masters, scholars, and students in colleges and universities were required to receive the sacrament at least four times a year. And the 1662 Prayer Book required all priests and deacons connected with cathedral churches and colleges to receive Holy Communion "with the Priest every Sunday at the least, except they have a reasonable cause to the contrary."

The answers to a questionnaire sent to Virginia parishes in 1724 by the Bishop of London indicate that Holy Communion was normally celebrated three or four times a year in most parishes, 108. but six or eight times a year in a few. In Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County, however, the rector in 1684 announced that "out of his pious Intentions to the good of the Soles of his Flock" he would administer the "blessed Sacrament … on the first Sunday in the Month" and, moreover, "that this great Solemn Mistry might as well Worthily as Frequently be observed," he promised to preach a sermon on Saturday afternoon before each Sacrament Sunday by way of preparation. The vestry duly recorded that this proposal was "Thankfully and Cheerfully Entertained" and "Did unanimously Concurr."

The practice of inviting all comers to receive Holy Communion, which Low Churchmen have favored since the nineteenth century, was unlawful in colonial days. The 1604 Canons are quite specific in ordering priests to exclude from the sacrament (1) all notorious and unrepentant offenders against the moral law and Church discipline, (2) all schismatics, (3) all who refuse to receive kneeling, (4) all impugners of the Church of England, its Prayer Book, its episcopal form of government, and (5) all strangers. Those intending to receive Holy Communion could not just present themselves at the sanctuary rail on Sacrament Sunday; the Prayer Book required them to "signify their names to the Curate, at least some time the day before." This was to enable the priest to consider whether or not they came under the above headings.

Confirmation, or the apostolic rite of laying on of hands by the bishop upon baptized persons who have come to years of discretion, was never performed in colonial America because there were no bishops here to do it. Instead, when the rector of a parish was 109. convinced that a baptized parishioner was sufficiently prepared, he admitted him to Holy Communion without Confirmation. The Prayer Book specifically stated that "there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed," but as this manifestly could not be complied with in the colonies, the Bishop of London ordered colonial clergy to ignore it. At the 1662 revision the rubric after the Confirmation service had the words "or be ready and desirous to be confirmed" added specifically for the benefit of churchmen in His Majesty's American plantations.

Under the terms of the English Test Acts of 1673 and 1678, all holders of public office were obliged to take certain oaths recognizing the ecclesiastical and political supremacy of the king, abjuring papal authority in England and her colonies, and denying the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, and also "receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the Usage of the Church of England … in some publick church, upon some Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, immediately after Divine Service and Sermon." In order to obtain the right to hold public office, many dissenters willingly received the sacrament at the hands of an Anglican priest, took office, and then continued to frequent a dissenting chapel. To correct this abuse, Parliament passed the Occasional Conformity Act in 1711 imposing a fine of £40 on any officeholder who, having received the sacrament, subsequently resorted to a dissenting conventicle which did not use the Prayer Book and forever incapacitated him from holding office, unless he repented, took the test again, and conformed to the Church of England for "the space of one year, without 110. having been present at any Conventicle." This act, however, was soon repealed. Thereafter no machinery existed for excluding from public office a dissenter who was prepared to take the oaths and receive the sacrament.

One of the most interesting documents that have survived from colonial Virginia is a treatise on religion, written by Col. John Page of Middle Plantation (subsequently renamed Williamsburg), and dated August 10, 1687. Page, a prominent resident of Bruton Parish, "was a Councillor, a churchwarden, and the donor of the present churchyard to the parish in 1678.1674? Shortly before his death he wrote this treatise, under the title, "A Deed of Gift To my Dear Son, Captain Matt. Page, One of His Majesty's Justices for New Kent County, in Virginia," intending to leave behind him a reasoned account of his faith. It conforms in general to the tenor of the writings of the leading Caroline divines. The section on church services, which reflects the intensity of late seventeenth-century Anglican piety, says:

"Come therefore with joy and delight into the house of God, Come also with holiness. It is holy ground; not by any inherent holiness, but in regard of the religious use. Put off thy shoes (your carnal affections,) the place where thou standest is holy ground. Be the minister never so sinful; the word is holy; the action holy, the time holy, the place holy, ordained by the most Holy to make us holy.

"My son, be not you like some that when they come first into the church, sink down on their seats, clap their hats before their 111. eyes, and scarce bow their knees; as if they come to bless God, not to intreat God to bless them. Be not you ashamed of God's service; but in his house of prayer and praise, let your carriage there be decent and devout, full of reverence, kneeling on your knees in the time of prayer."

On the subject of praying and preaching, Col. Page had this to say:

"The Apostles gave themselves continually to prayer, and to the preaching of the word. Acts VI.4. There prayer is put in the first place; yet many come to those holy places, and are so transported with a desire of hearing, that they forget the fervency of praying and praising God. The end is ever more noble than the means that conduce it. Sin brought in ignorance, and ignorance takes away devotion. The word preached brings in knowledge, and knowledge rectifies devotion. So that preaching is but to beget your praying, to instruct you to praise and worship God… This is not written against frequent hearing of sermons, but to let you know that it is not the only exercise of a Christian to hear a sermon, nor is that Lord's day well spent, that dispatcheth no other business for heaven. In heaven there will be no sermons, yet in heaven there will be hallelujahs. All God's service is not to be narrowed up in hearing; it hath greater latitude; there must be prayer, praise, adoration, and worship of God."


In the course of the eighteenth century, the piety that characterized the previous century declined, but it did not disappear. Indeed, with the Wesleyan movement and the Great Awakening, it obtained a new force and wide currency among the lower classes, which were effectively reached by the wandering evangelical preachers. It even retained a hold upon the upper class, especially in colonial America. Worldly men like William Byrd II, who was well acquainted with sins of the flesh, nonetheless exhibited a surprising degree of piety when he spoke or wrote of things religious, as can be seen in his secret diary, in which he concludes the entry for almost every day with, "I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thanks be to God Almighty." Similarly the royal governor, Sir William Gooch, although usually urbane and debonair, became most humble and pious in writing an account to his brother in England of the death of the governor's only son, William, in 1742. When the young man, aged twenty-six, lay on his deathbed in the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, the governor wished to send for a priest to administer the sacrament, but the physician urged him not to do so, "insisting the sight of him might sink his spirits." But, as the governor wrote, "that dear young man of himself desired one might be sent for, and his Mother saying to him, My Dear and you'l receive the Sacrament, even then he tried to conceal his Sentiments, giving her this answer, there is no occasion, but with all my Heart." The governor reported also of Bruton Parish Church, that "the whole Congregation were in Tears the Sunday he was prayed for at Church."



In popular American folklore the typical Virginia parson of the eighteenth century was a hard-riding, hard-drinking gentleman, who commonly performed his sacerdotal duties in a perfunctory way — often neglecting the pastoral function altogether — and devoted himself to the social diversions of the tobacco aristocracy. This is, however, a mere caricature of the real Virginia parson, and one that does a great injustice to most of them, who, on the whole, were as devoted servants of their Lord as could be found anywhere. Yet, there are several reasons why the popular view arose. One was the fact that most of the clergy of the Established Church, being gentlemen, did move in the social circles of the gentry and participated in current aristocratic diversions. This resulted, all too frequently, in the creation of a wide gulf between them and their lower class parishioners, which was difficult to bridge, because humble folk of colonial Virginia were very much in awe of the upper class and consequently were reluctant to carry their personal and spiritual problems to a member of the aristocracy. Another was that the colonial clergy were well educated and generally conformed to the eighteenth-century Anglican practice of preaching sermons that were over the heads of many of their parishioners. As Fithian said, they were "always made up of sound morality, or deep studied Metaphysicks." Thirdly, with the evangelical Great 114. Awakening of the middle of the century, many dissenting groups manifested a horror of dancing, fox-hunting, and card-playing which were all regarded by Anglicans as being perfectly innocent. Accordingly, some of the more outspoken evangelical preachers denounced the clergy of the Established Church and spread the belief that they were often men of loose lives. In 1774 some Baptists in Loudoun County called for "an intire Banishment of Gaming, Dancing, & Sabbath-Day Diversions," whereupon the voluble Anglican clergyman, Parson Giberne "preached several Sermons in opposition to them," in which he strove "to convince his People that what they say are only whimsical Fancies or at most Religion grown to Wildness & Enthusiasm." Another Anglican priest, the Rev. Abner Waugh of St. Mary's Parish, Caroline County, left behind him the reputation of being the best dancer of the minuet in Virginia. Then, too, there were some few clergymen who were guilty of immorality, some who were intemperate, and some who were mere time-servers attracted to the ministry chiefly by the temporal rewards of a rector of a parish. This state of affairs, as we shall see in chapter 7, was rendered the more unbearable by the defect in the constitution of the Virginia Church which deprived it — largely for political reasons — of the benefits of a resident bishop with power to discipline offending clergymen and, if necessary, to remove them from their cures and depose them from holy orders. These factors must all be taken into consideration by anyone who would arrive at a fair estimate of the Established Church in Virginia, but so, too, 115. must the fact that the great majority of clergy were able and faithful pastors of their flock who performed their duties well in the face of obstacles that often rendered their work difficult and discouraging.

As for the temporal benefits of the ministry, the rector of a Virginia parish enjoyed a modest competence secured to him by law. Under the terms of the Act of 1748, he was entitled to an annual stipend of 16,000 pounds of tobacco, plus 8 per cent more to cover the cost of prizing it into hogsheads for export, plus another four per cent to cover unmerchantable tobacco that might be included in the tithes. However, he was entitled to a glebe of at least 200 acres of "good and convenient land," together with a dwelling house and all necessary dependencies and farm buildings, or a reasonable annual allowance to enable him to rent its equivalent. He was expected to keep the rectory and glebe in repair at his own expense, but if the repairs were not the result of his negligence, the vestry was empowered to pay for them out of the parish tithes. In addition, the parish priest received fees for occasional services, for marriages and funerals, and many of them kept schools as well. In 1695 the House of Burgesses reported to the governor that "most if not all the Ministers of this Country are in as good a Condition in point of Livelyhood as a Gentleman that is well seated & hath twelve or fourteen Servants." The Bishop's Commissary, Dr. James Blair, disputed the point, arguing that whereas the rectors of parishes that grew the better grades of tobacco were moderately well ll6. off, the incumbents of the more numerous parishes where poorer tobacco grew, were inadequately compensated by their salary of 16,000 pounds. Moreover, he said, the fees for marriages and funeral sermons generally "do not amount … to above five pounds per annum." And in many parishes "there are noe Glebes at all" and in some others they are "soe destitute of houses, Orchards and other Conveniences that they are no way fitting for his commodious reception & accommodation & one with another are not worth above forty or fifty shillings per annum."

To this the House of Burgesses replied that "if there by any parishes without a Glebe" the law clearly directs "the providing of one," and went on to point out that the clergy of Virginia up to that time had been "eminent for Learning and life" and had "lived plentifully and [had] raised their fortunes." As to the value of the fees, the Burgesses ventured to estimate that they were, on the average, worth from twelve to twenty-five pounds, rather than five.

It is rather difficult to determine the truth in this case, but it is probable that it lay somewhere between the two points of view. The rectors of the better parishes probably were nearer the Burgesses' estimate, and those of the poorer parishes nearer Commissary Blair's estimate.

Yet, the fact remains that for the most part the clergy in eighteenth-century Virginia were reasonably well-to-do, and certainly better off from a material point of view than the rural clergy of England. One of the reasons for this, however, was that even in 117. class-conscious Virginia the Anglican clergyman, whether he came from the upper or lower stratum of society, was accepted as a gentleman and received into the ranks of the colonial aristocracy. This was due partly to respect for his sacred calling, and partly to the respect in which learning was held. Philip Fithian, when a tutor at Robert Carter's Nomini Hall in 1774, wrote to a New Jersey friend that if a college graduate came to Virginia without any other kind of recommendation, he would be rated as a gentleman worth £10,000, and might "come, & go, & converse, & keep company, according to this value" and would be "dispised & slighted" if he rated himself "a farthing cheaper." In any event, Virginia parsons did habitually move in the social circles of the upper class and not infrequently married into the most prominent families. The Rev. John Bracken, for example, four years after he arrived in Virginia from England in 1772, married Sally, daughter of Carter Burwell of Carter's Grove, and thereby became possessed of a large fortune and some of the best property in Williamsburg. The talented but intemperate Parson Isaac William Giberne, who came to Virginia in 1758 and became rector of Hanover Parish, King George County, married a wealthy widow, Mary Fauntleroy Beale of Richmond County in 1760, thus acquiring extensive landholdings in the Northern Neck. Commissary Blair, who himself married Sarah Harrison, a daughter of one of the most prominent planters in the colony, solemnly assured the Bishop of London in 1724, that any young clergymen who intend to marry "need not fear but that they may match to very good advantage with the Gentlemen's daughters of the Country."


The only parishes which paid poorly — the ones which grew tobacco of low quality — frequently went without rectors for years on end, or else were saddled with the most dissolute and incompetent clergymen who could not obtain or hold better parishes. As William Byrd II put it, "The ill Reputation of Tobacco in those lower Parishes makes the clergy unwilling to accept of them, unless it be such whose abilities are as mean as their Pay." As a result, he said, "Tis a wonder no Popish Missionaries are sent from Maryland to labour in this Neglected Vineyard… Nor is it less Strange that some Wolf in Sheep's cloathing arrives not from New England to lead astray a Flock that has no shepherd."

The chronic scarcity of clergy gave all but the worst of them ample opportunity for advancement. One, the Rev. Benjamin Goodwin, rector of Wilmington Parish, also accepted the rectorship of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent in 1710, and endeavored to hold the two benefices simultaneously. The matter was discussed by the Council which was informed by the president, Edmund Jennings, that this was "the first instance of pluralitys in the Colony." The Council straightway forbade the practice "because it is not possible in two large Parishes for one Minister to discharge (as he ought) the duty of his office in visiting the sick and administering the Sacraments when necessity requires," and moreover, because "it will likewise prove a very great discouragement to other worthy Clergymen to come into the Country when they understand that the Ministers already settled are suffered to hold plurality of good benefices and none 119. but the meanest Parishes left for them." And so that put an end to the practice which they otherwise predicted would "draw after it such ill consequences."

But if an ambitious priest could not hold several cures at a time, he could leave one parish for a better one. Sometimes he had only to intimate his intention of leaving, and the vestry would endeavor to make him contented. Bartholomew Yates, rector of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, was particularly adept at this strategy. In 1721 one of the churchwardens reported to the vestry that Yates "had received an Invitation from York Hampton parish to come to that parish," whereupon the vestry asked the rector point-blank "Whether he had any thoughts of accepting of it." Yates, according to the record in the vestry book, "was pleased to tell us That as there was greater Encouragement in that parish," by which he meant a higher stipend or a better glebe, "he thought to embrace it." The vestry then resolved, "In consideration of the Extraordinary Satisfaction he has given to this parish for Seventeene yeares" to increase his stipend by 4,000 pounds of tobacco and cask over and above the salary required by law. Touched by this token of their approval, Mr. Yates stayed on.

Seven years later, however, Mr. Yates informed the vestry that "the Mansion house and other Building[s] upon his Glebe are in so ruinous a Condition that rather than undertake to put & keep them in Such repair as the Law requires He must quit his Incumbency." 120. The vestry, admitting that no other clergyman would accept the buildings in that condition and "very ardently desiring" Mr. Yates's continuance as rector, ordered that the buildings on the glebe "be repaired at the Charge of the Parish Untill new ones are erected."

At the end of the Revolution and during the lean years for the Church at the time of its disestablishment, the Episcopal clergy, although somewhat reduced in number and prestige, were nonetheless remarkably well-to-do. A recent study of the tax returns for 1791 shows that the sixty-five Anglican clergy men then in Virginia owned over 20,000 acres of land and 550 slaves. Several were accounted unusually wealthy. The Rev. Anthony Walke of Lynnhaven Parish, Princess Anne County, owned 3,880 acres and 47 slaves, which would have done justice to a very large planter. The Rev. Thomas Lundie of St. Andrew's Parish, Brunswick County, owned 3,312 acres and 11 slaves. The Rev. Matthew Maury of Fredericksville Parish, Albemarle County, had 1,186 acres and 12 slaves. And the Rev. Devereux Jarratt of Bath Parish, Dinwiddie County, although he began life in humble circumstances, had accumulated 717 acres and 17 slaves.

Among the more colorful of colonial Virginia parsons was Jonathan Boucher, who, happily, left behind him an autobiography, written in 1786, covering the years during which he was a schoolmaster and clergyman in Virginia and Maryland. Boucher was 121. born in the north of England of an old but impoverished family. He acquired a good education through his own intellectual ability and the help of the kindly Rev. Mr. James, headmaster of St. Bee's School in Cumberland, who employed him as an usher at the school where Arthur Lee and other notable Virginians were educated. During his years there, 1756-58, Boucher later wrote, "In all my life I never have spent my time, or lived more rationally, than I think I did for the two years that I was at Saint Bees." To the good Mr. James, he paid the highest compliment. By his conversation "I learned more than I had done in all my life before, or than, I fear, I have ever since done, in the same space of time. What I ought to value still more is, that here also I learned habits of virtue, and such principles of thinking and acting, as could alone have supported and carried me through the many severe trials to which I have since been exposed." To Mr. James's friendship, Boucher acknowledged that he owed "much, if not all, of either the knowledge or the virtue which I have since possessed."

When Mr. James was satisfied that young Boucher was "a decent scholar" and, what is more important, "a Tolerably decent man," he recommended him to a merchant in near by Whitehaven, who was in the tobacco trade and who had been commissioned by a Virginia gentleman to procure a tutor for his sons. Boucher got the appointment, and sailed from Whitehaven to Virginia in the summer of 1759, ultimately reaching Port Royal on the Rappahannock River, where his employer, Captain Dixon, a well-to-do merchant, lived.


In addition to tutoring Dixon's two sons, aged eight and ten, Boucher learned the business of managing a plantation, dabbled in the study of medicine and law, and engaged in a small way in trade on the side. None of these activities entirely satisfied him, and his thoughts occasionally turned to the ministry, which as a boy was his chosen profession. At this juncture, the rector of Hanover Parish, King George County, just opposite Port Royal, left to take another parish in Richmond County where his wife owned a large estate. The vestry of Hanover Parish, having formed a favorable opinion of young Boucher's character and ability, offered him the vacant cure. This profoundly moved him and led him finally to decide to go to England for holy orders. He made the long voyage to the Mother Country and went to London where he was ordained first deacon and then priest by the Bishop of London, and licensed to hold a Virginia parish.

Upon his return to the colony, he found that his former employer, whom he had inadvertently alienated, and his predecessor as rector of Hanover Parish had spread falsehoods about his unworthiness. But he found that he was not without friends. A prominent gentleman in the parish who scarcely knew him, "merely from a sense of honour and a love of justice," spoke in his behalf, and made his entrance upon his duties much easier than it otherwise would have been. Boucher's first sermon was based upon the text Psalm 109, verse 2 — "For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue." In his sermon, 123. as he later wrote, "I begged leave to waive any particular mention of the cruel treatment I had lately met with, but thanking them for having suspended their opinions, and listened to me with candour, I assured them I wished to rise or fall in their good opinion only as I should or should not be able to disprove all the vile calumnies that had been so industriously propagated against me during my absence." And in the years that followed the well-meaning Boucher won the hearts of his parishioners and was completely vindicated against his slanderers. He became popular almost at once. People vied with one another to show their kindness and affection. There being no glebe house, or rectory, Boucher rented a house called Smith's Mount, near Leeds-Town, where, in addition to his priestly duties, he kept school, and soon had half a dozen boys boarding with him. His reputation as a schoolmaster soon spread, and before long several gentlemen in Maryland sent their sons to Boucher's school.

When the rector of St. Mary's Parish, Caroline County, died, the vestry approached Boucher to offer him the cure. After some hesitation he accepted, but not until he put the matter before his parishioners in Hanover Parish and secured their free consent to his leaving them. This they gave him, and out of respect and affection for him voluntarily continued his stipend for an additional quarter of a year as a farewell present.

Boucher's reason for changing to St. Mary's was the inconvenience of having no glebe in Hanover. The parish allowed him an extra 4,000 pounds of tobacco in lieu of a glebe, but the only house 124. available for rent was without a good supply of water and could not easily be altered to suit the needs of a school. St. Mary's Parish, on the other hand, provided more suitable quarters for the purpose. He also undertook to farm the glebe, and bought stocks of cattle, horses, and slaves.

In his new parish, Boucher, in addition to managing his plantation himself, increased his boarding school to nearly thirty boys all of whom he taught without an assistant. His rectory was eleven miles from the parish church, which imposed upon him the necessity for a great deal of riding.

Despite these activities, it was at this time that Boucher began to rethink for himself the theological basis for the Church's doctrine. He was naturally of an inquisitive turn of mind, "eager to trace the causes and reasons of things, and, if possible, to come at the truth." Throughout his life he made it a habit to read on both sides of every question. In the course of his wide reading and re-examination of everything he had taken for granted, he became exposed to some of the deistic writings that were then becoming fashionable in literary circles. These for a while shook his intellectual acceptance of "the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity," and plunged him into a brief period of theological bewilderment. But more mature thought and meditation led him to embrace the orthodox teachings of the Church with renewed assurance and fervor. After a year of speculative doubt during which he somewhat neglected the sacerdotal functions of his order, he returned with new energy and conviction to those duties, and later in life thanked God for this period of doubt and 125. its outcome, for, he wrote, I "have ever since been an orthodox and diligent parish priest."

With a spirit renewed and refreshed, Boucher set about to recover the fallen and evangelize the infidels in his parish. There were many dissenters in that part of Virginia — not so much in St. Mary's as in the two neighboring parishes, one of which was without a rector and the other saddled with one who was himself weak and incapable of setting a good example and taking the lead in the spiritual life of the parish. By diligently seeking out those who had fallen into dissent and expounding the doctrines of the Church, Boucher was soon able to boast that St. Mary's had not a single dissenter. Indeed, "some of the thoughtful people of those less happy parishes applied to me to go amongst them, and endeavour to check the delusion," he wrote in his reminiscences. "Accordingly I prepared some sermons which I delivered among them, and by the blessing of God with such effect, that many who had been decoyed from the Church returned to it; and so, finding their congregations fall off, their leaders soon left them."

His method of dealing with dissenters is worth noticing. "I attributed much of my success in this to my avoiding all disputation with their ministers, whom I spoke of as beneath such condescension, on the score of their ignorance and their impudence. And when one of them publicly challenged me to a public debate I declined it, but at the same time set up one Daniel Barksdale, a carpenter in my parish, who had a good front and a voluble Tongue, and whom therefore 126. I easily qualified to defeat his opponent, as he effectually did. And I am still persuaded that this method of treating the preachers with well-judged ridicule and contempt, and their followers with gentleness, persuasion and attention, is a good one."

Boucher's attitude towards Roman Catholics, however, was friendly and charitable, and on at least one occasion he preached a sermon "On the Toleration of Papists," in order to counteract a prejudice he detected in his parish against them. He declared that people were intolerant "when in the common offices of friendly intercourse, [they] refuse to have any dealings with any respectable and worthy men, either as individuals, or in any corporate capacity, merely because they are of a different communion from ourselves." Furthermore, he opposed any form of coercion in the realm of religion. Truth, he held, must be embraced by conviction alone. Compulsion, he insisted, "is the worst way we could possibly take to produce conviction." There was only one way to do it — by "fair and strong argument." All that compulsion can produce is "hypocritical conformity."

When Parson Boucher's school had thirty boys, he decided it was time to engage an assistant master. His first, a Mr. Lewis, did not remain with him for long, and was succeeded by James Madison, later to become President of the College of William and Mary and Bishop of Virginia. At this time, too, Boucher had among his students Jackie Custis, the stepson of George Washington, and as a result "laid the foundation of a very particular intimacy and friendship" with Washington that lasted until they took different sides in the 127. Revolution. Boucher genuinely liked Colonel Washington even though they differed politically, but he did not entertain a very high opinion of the Colonel's greatness. Boucher described him as "shy, silent, stern, slow and cautious" with "no quickness of parts, extraordinary penetration, nor an elevated style of thinking." He felt obliged to admit that Washington was "regular, temperate, [and] strictly just and honest" in his moral character, and also that he was religious, having been "pretty constant, and even exemplary, in his attendance on public worship in the Church of England." But he found nothing "generous or affectionate in his nature," and concluded that "I cannot conceive how he could, otherwise than through the interested representations of party, have ever been spoken of as a great man." To the Tory-minded Boucher, the "most distinguished part of his character was that he was an admirable farmer."

Besides gathering the strays into the fold of the Established Church, and bringing up the youth of the parish in the fear and admonition of the Lord, Boucher also made a frontal attack on the paganism of the slaves who had been imported in large numbers from Africa. His predecessor as rector of St. Mary's had neglected the Church's mission to the slaves because of "the great fatigue and disagreeableness of the duty" and "on the pretence that the poor creatures were so extremely ignorant, and wholly uninstructed, and could get no proper sponsors." But what would have daunted lesser men, merely served as an additional stimulus to Boucher. He selected two or three intelligent Negroes and after adequate instruction sent 128. them as schoolmasters "to teach the children around them merely to read at their leisure hours, and chiefly on Sunday afternoons, something as Sunday schools now are here in England," he wrote in 1786. In this way large numbers of the slaves in his parish were instructed in preparation for baptism. As we have seen, on one day in 1765 he baptized 115 adult Negroes, and on Easter Monday 1766, some 313, and lectured extemporaneously to more than one thousand. In consequence, he had almost every Sunday twenty or thirty Negroes in church who could use their prayer books and make the responses, and towards the end of his ministry at St. Mary's he had thirteen Negroes who were sufficiently well instructed and devout to become regular communicants. It was Boucher's conviction that Negroes were as amenable to instruction as other races. "I had under my care many negroes as well-informed, as orderly and as regularly pious, as country people usually are, even in England."

Here we shall leave Parson Boucher, with only a word or two about his later career. In 1770 he left Virginia for the neighboring colony of Maryland where he was inducted into a good parish and married the daughter of a wealthy planter. As the Revolutionary movement progressed, Boucher became more and more staunchly a Tory, and his sermons increasingly unpopular. At a gathering dominated by patriots, a toast was proposed: "May the Americans all hang together in accord and concord," to which Boucher wittily gave a rejoinder: "in any cord, … so it be but a strong cord." These and his other forthright assertions brought him threats of violence 129. if he did not cease to pray for King George and change his tune to something more agreeable to the "friends of America." Not to be intimidated, he preached for six months with a pair of loaded pistols on the cushion of his pulpit which he vowed he would use to good effect if anyone endeavored to prevent him from "performing what in my conscience I believed and knew to be my duty to God and His Church." But, despite his courage and conviction, he could not stem the tide of revolt, and eventually found no other course open to him but to return to his native England, where he was appointed the Vicar of Epsom, and lived happily to a ripe old age, famous for his learning and celebrated for toughness of moral fibre.

The other eighteenth-century Anglican clergyman who left behind him a detailed autobiography, so that we can peer into his life and thoughts, was Devereux Jarratt, who in many ways was quite different from Jonathan Boucher. Jarratt was a Low Church or Evangelical Anglican who espoused the Revolution, whereas Boucher was an old-fashioned High Churchman of staunch monarchical and pro-British views. Yet, they have similarities as well as differences: both were born in humble circumstances, they were largely self-educated, they were intellectuals who never lost the common touch, and they ended their lives as well-to-do scholars and gentlemen.

Devereux Jarratt was born on January 6, 1733, in New Kent County, Virginia, the son of a simple but honest carpenter. His family, although claiming no distinguished ancestry and pretending to no cultural or social distinction, nonetheless enjoyed a reputation of 130. honesty and industry by which, he wrote, "they lived in credit among their neighbors, free from real want, and above the frowns of the world." They lived almost entirely upon the produce of their farm, drinking no tea or coffee, using very little sugar, and wearing plain homespun clothing suitable to their humble station. They looked upon "what we called gentle folks, as beings of a superior order," and as a child, Jarratt was shy of them, and "kept off at a humble distance." When he saw a gentleman wearing a wig, which was the badge of gentility, he would be so alarmed that he ran off and hid from him.

When Jarratt was six years old, his father died, leaving all of his land to an elder son, Robert, and only £25 to Devereux. From the age of 8 or 9, Devereux attended local schools, learning reading, writing, and arithmetic, until the age of 12 or 13, when his mother died, thus ending his formal education. For the next five or six years he lived successively with his two older brothers, Robert and Joseph. During this time he never saw or heard anything of a religious nature. The parish church of St. Peter's was only three miles away, and was well attended by the parishioners. But because of the lack of interest of his brothers in things of the spirit, young Jarratt rarely ever set foot in the church. And on the few occasions when he did, there was little to induce him to alter his ways, for the Rector of St. Peter's, the Rev. David Mossom, who is remembered today chiefly because he solemnized the marriage of George Washington and Martha Custis, was an ineffectual preacher. 131. Being near-sighted and preaching wholly from notes, Mr. Mossom kept his eyes fixed upon the paper and so near, that "what he said seemed rather addrest to the cushion, than to the congregation." The only time he straightened up and spoke out so that all might hear was when he had a grudge against someone, which often happened, for he had a reputation for being hot-tempered. On one occasion he was offended by the parish clerk, and boldly vilified him in a sermon. The clerk sat it out without a sign of discomfiture, but repaid the angry sermon by reading the psalm thus:

With restless and ungovern'd rage,
Why do the heathen storm?
Why in such rash attempts engage,
As they can ne'er perform.

In any event, young Devereux Jarratt grew to manhood largely "ignorant of God, and careless about religion." He followed the example of his elders and superiors, he later said, but, unfortunately, their example was a bad one. Yet, even in the days of his ungodliness, Jarratt had a conscience which frequently troubled him with "awful forebodings of a judgment to come." The thought of death was terrible to him. He somehow recognized his own unworthiness and earnestly desired to be "good." But his sheer ignorance proved a stumbling block: "what real goodness was, or how to attain unto it, I knew not, and therefore came to no settled purpose of going in pursuit of it." Instead, he dismissed these "uneasy sensations" as best he could, and tried to fill his thoughts with other interests.

One may well ask why he did not go to the parish priest for spiritual counselling. Jarratt himself supplied the answer. The 132. humble folk of colonial Virginia were commonly too much in awe of a clergyman to presume to carry their problems to him. In later life when he became a priest, Jarratt experienced difficulty in finding out the spiritual concerns of his humble parishioners because "at that time, people in the lower walks of life, had not been accustomed to converse with clergymen, whom they supposed to stand in the rank of gentlemen, and above the company and conversation of plebeians."

Having a good mind and a thirst for knowledge, Jarratt borrowed books on various subjects, and read them in the field while the horse with which he was plowing or harrowing grazed for an hour or two at noon. By continual application of this kind, he soon acquired an unusual amount of learning, for one in his circumstances, and an even great reputation for scholarship among his neighbors. When he was nineteen years old, an overseer named Jacob Moon, who had gone from New Kent to settle in Albemarle County, persuaded young Jarratt to open a school for the children in his neighborhood.

In his new environment Jarratt at first found his religious advantages worse rather than better. Jacob Moon's family, in which Jarratt lived, was quite as ignorant and careless of religion as he was. Moreover, as Albemarle was then nearly a frontier county, the people's manners were rougher and more uncivilized than those of the Tidewater. In New Kent and the neighboring counties there were well-established parishes with churches and clergymen to hold divine service every Sunday, if not on weekdays as well. But in Albemarle, "there was no minister of any persuasion, or any public worship, within many miles."


It chanced, however, that someone left a book at Jacob Moon's house, and the book proved to be the first of several, as we shall see, that were to be the turning point in Devereux Jarratt's life. It contained eight sermons preached in Glasgow by the famous Anglican divine, George Whitefield, whose remarkably effective preaching in Great Britain and America helped to bring about the Great Awakening and to extend the influence and numbers of the Methodists until, at length, they were transformed from a religious society within the Church of England into a denomination of their own.

Shortly after the book was left at the Moon house, Devereux took ill with the ague, which confined him to his bed for periods of time during some eight or nine months, and depressed his spirits. He read Whitefield's sermons, but could not understand very much of them. Because of his estrangement from God and his indifference to the salvation of his soul, as he later wrote, "blindness and insensibility had fallen upon me."

A little later, Jarratt went to board with a planter named Mr. Cannon, who was a wealthy and cultivated gentleman such as young Devereux had never before known. Mrs. Cannon was an extremely pious woman who had apparently been so much influenced by Whitefield and others like him, that "all levities of every kind must be banished from her presence, and every species of ungodliness must expect a sharp reproof from her." As Jarratt wished to win her approval, he undertook "to act the hypocrite," to pretend that he was religious 134. to the point of piety. In consequence, he affected to pay close attention to the sermon that she habitually read aloud every evening after dinner. And when she wearied of reading, he was asked to take his turn at it. At first, due to his total lack of religious education, he understood "not the tenth part of what was read." But after many weeks of exposure to Mrs. Canon's serenity of soul and to the strong dramatic imagery of the sermons of the eloquent Presbyterian divine, John Flavel (1630?-1691), who was a great favorite of hers, young Jarratt began to find that Christian doctrine made sense and exactly fitted his own case. One sermon in particular, on the text "Then opened he their understanding," made a great impression on his mind. And it proved to be a lasting one. It followed him to bed, it haunted him the next day. For the first time in his life he became convinced of his complete separation from God and resolved to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. He became aware of his complete immersion in things secular. He had no "sense of any particular sin, or sins in general," but "that I was a stranger to God and true religion, and was not prepared for death and judgment."

To make a long story short, Mrs. Cannon was the first vitally religious person that Devereux had ever come to know, and she was, on that account perhaps, the first person who felt any concern for nurturing young Jarratt's spiritual development. In the course of the next year Jarratt made rapid progress, but his "religion continued in a state of fluctuation for a great while." As he later put it, "I had religion enough to make me frequently uneasy — but 135. never to make me happy." His life was a round of "sinning and repenting — repenting and sinning." He had as yet "no conception of being justified by the righteousness of Christ, or any other righteousness but my own."

In the course of following his new interest, Jarratt borrowed and read a number of books on divinity, one of which delighted him, for it answered so many of his questions and opened to him for the first time the meaning of the Bible. It was William Burkitt's Expository Notes, with Practical Observations, on the New Testament, published in 1724. Having no candle, Jarratt sat down flat on the hearth in the evenings, propped the precious volume on the end of a chest, and by the light of the fire read until midnight. By this means he acquired "considerable views of the nature and plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ." And along with it, from the non-conformist writings he read, Jarratt acquired rigid ideals of behavior which led him to give up dancing, horse racing, and card playing. His easy-going relatives in New Kent, when he returned home for a visit, could scarcely understand their changed brother. They all agreed that they should be good, but said, "sure there can be no harm in innocent mirth, such as dancing, drinking and making merry." But Devereux would have none of their easy-going ways, and so found himself a stranger among his own people.

Returning to the Cannon household in Albemarle, Jarratt continued his study of divinity, and acquired experience and skill in extemporaneous prayer , both at family prayers at the Cannons' house 136. and at the nearby Presbyterian meeting house when the minister was away. By degrees Jarratt came to be regarded as a suitable candidate for the ministry, and at length determined to seek ordination. Up to this point, he knew nothing of the doctrine of the Anglican Church, and, indeed, was prejudiced against it because of such clergymen as David Mossom. All that he knew of Christianity, he learned from the Presbyterians. Hence , he considered no other ministry than theirs. But the Presbyterian requirement of Latin and Greek for those who sought to enter the ministry presented an almost insuperable obstacle to one whose educational background was as meager as his. Mr. Cannon, however, cheerfully undertook to assist him financially, and a young scholar fresh from Princeton who was a tutor on a nearby estate, voluntarily offered to teach him what he needed to know of the classical tongues. So, at the age of twenty-four, Devereux Jarratt began his studies for the ministry in earnest, and in seven months began to read Suetonius, one of the most difficult Latin authors in prose.

Thereafter, in the spring of 1762 Jarratt changed his mind. Instead of entering the Presbyterian ministry, he resolved to go to England as a candidate for holy orders in the Anglican Church. The reason for the change was that as he read and studied more widely, he began to learn more about the Church, and he found "the writings of several churchmen, with which I was highly pleased, delighted, and edified." Because of his earlier prejudice against the Church and the cold and unedifying manner of preaching of many of the Church's 137. clergymen, Jarratt was at first "much set against the Prayer Book, and, indeed, against any public form of prayer." But as he came to revise his view of the Church, he took up an objective study of its liturgy. "The Prayer Book I had not examined, but had catched up a few scraps and detached sentences out of it, which were said to be objectionable, and which I thought were justly so. But, on mature consideration, and examination of the book on a larger scale, I saw, or thought I saw, that most of the objections were ill founded." Upon the whole, "I thought it contained an excellent system of doctrine and public worship — equal to any other in the world." On the doctrinal side, Jarratt thought the Church of England "no way inferior to the Presbyterian," but his mind "hung in a state of equilibrium between the two, respecting their theory."

Then he considered the advantages and disadvantages arising from the choice. If he chose the Established Church, he would have to take the trouble and risk of going to England for holy orders, whereas he could have Presbyterian ordination right in Virginia. But this "present and temporal inconvenience, was ballanced by the prospect of a more permanent support hereafter." The Presbyterian minister was dependent upon annual contributions — "a mode of support very precarious in itself, and which subjects the Minister to the caprice of so many people, and tends to bind his hands and hinder his usefulness." Another consideration was "the general prejudice of the people, at that time, against dissenters, and in favour of the church." These two combined to persuade him that he could do 138. more good in the Church than anywhere else. And so he traveled to Williamsburg, interviewed the governor and the Bishop's Commissary, and sailed to England carrying their testimonials and letters of recommendation, and a title (i.e., a promise of a parish upon his return).

Upon reaching London, he went to Fulham Palace, waited on the Bishop of London, and put all his papers in his hand. "He read them, and told me my credentials were very authentic, and refered me to his chaplain, Dr. Fortin, for examination." Having "past my trials before him with approbation," Jarratt was duly presented to the Bishop of London, and ordained deacon, in the King's Chapel, on Christmas Day, 1762, along with several Oxford and Cambridge graduates. In the afternoon they were received by the bishop at his palace and politely complimented upon their performance at their examinations. "All are well done," said the bishop, and fixing his eyes upon Jarratt , "especially yours from Virginia."

As canon law forbids the ordination of a candidate to the diaconate and priesthood on the same day, the Virginian was sent by the Bishop of London to the Bishop of Chester, then visiting London, where Jarratt had to undergo another examination by the bishop's chaplain. Then, one week after his ordination as deacon, Devereux Jarratt was ordained priest.

Before returning to Virginia, he had the opportunity of preaching in several London churches, before numerous congregations. Here his early non-conformist background made itself felt. "I preached in a manner, so different from what was customary with the clergy, that 139. it was strongly suspected I was a Methodist, or something else besides a churchman. Though, at that time, I had never seen, or conversed with a Methodist in all my life, nor did I know what the principles of the Methodists were."

While waiting for the frozen Thames to thaw before he could sail for home, Jarratt caught the smallpox, which was so much dreaded by Americans sojourning in eighteenth-century England. Jarratt rightly said that it "was extremely formidable to Virginians," because of the rural nature of their country and their almost complete lack of resistance to this disease which was particularly virulent in large cities. Jarratt had a hard time of it, suffering considerable pain, and running a high fever for five or six weeks. The eminent physician, Dr. Thomas Reeves, and the apothecary, Mr. John Walton, were in frequent attendance upon him, and out of respect for the priesthood, declined to accept a fee. This fact greatly impressed Jarratt, who declared that had he suffered the same illness in Petersburg, Richmond, or any other town in Virginia, "I must have paid, I suppose, fifty or sixty pounds, at least" for professional services.

Upon his recovery he found that his landlord, having less respect for holy orders, had cheated him out of all the money he had, including his Queen Anne's Bounty of £20 — a sum of money given to each clergyman who undertook to take a parish overseas as a result of an endowment created by the queen whose name it bore. But the Virginian's English friends came to his rescue and provided him with money to carry him to Liverpool and free passage 140. aboard a tobacco ship bound to Chesapeake Bay. And after an uneventful passage, Jarratt reached Virginia in July, 1763, after an absence of nine months. Landing at Yorktown, he breakfasted at an inn and took a boat up York River and Queen's Creek to Williamsburg, where he presented his credentials to the Bishop's Commissary and the Governor: his certificate of ordination to the priesthood and his license from the Bishop of London to receive a parish in Virginia.

Soon thereafter he heard that Bath Parish, Dinwiddie County, was vacant, and went there to meet the churchwardens and vestrymen. On the following two Sundays, at their invitation, he officiated at two of the parish churches, and on Thursday, being a thanksgiving day, appointed by the governor, for peace between France and England, at the third parish church. The following Monday the vestry met at the Glebe and unanimously offered him the cure of the parish, which he accepted. Thus began his incumbency, which lasted thirty-eight years, until his death in 1801.

At this point we shall leave the Rev. Mr. Devereux Jarratt, at the threshold of his ministry, but not for long, because he will soon appear again at the apex of his extraordinarily active and effective career.



Although the seventeenth century was a period of exaggerated religious conflict in Europe, it also saw the beginning of the spirit of tolerance, especially in England, where it was manifested notably in the Act of Toleration of 1689. Virginia got off to a good start with respect to toleration by avoiding religious strife in the early decades of its existence. This was due in part to the preoccupation of the Virginia Company with other matters and in part to the temper and disposition of the early settlers.

For a short time when the colony was under the military rule of Sir Thomas Dale, 1610-1613, there were laws which discouraged dissenters. Except for them, however, Virginia in its early decades was a haven of religious peace. The Anglican Church was established and the incumbency of parishes restricted to priests in Anglican orders. But other than that, toleration was the prevailing spirit. Dissenters were welcome to settle in the colony and were not persecuted.

In 1641, however, Sir William Berkeley came from England to be the governor of Virginia, a post he held until 1676 except for the Commonwealth period when he lived in retirement at his famous estate, Greenspring, in James City County. Berkeley was an attractive young man, a man of talents and forceful personality. Well-born and well-educated, he was a staunch royalist and Anglican, a devoted adherent 142. of the House of Stuart, and a follower of Archbishop Laud. He first wielded the civil authority to enforce religious conformity in Virginia.

A group of Puritans who had settled in Isle of Wight County on the south bank of James River wrote to Massachusetts in 1642 to invite three Puritan ministers to come to Virginia to serve them. They arrived just as the news of the outbreak of the Civil War in England reached Virginia's shores. The move seemed to Berkeley to have more political than religious significance. Massachusetts was notably hostile to King Charles. The Puritan ministers might be spies, or the nucleus of a Puritan "underground" determined to organize a resistance movement in the heart of royalist Virginia. The governor and Assembly would have none of it. The "missionaries" were sent back to New England and the governor and Council imposed a fine of £100 on shipmasters who in future brought a Puritan minister to Virginia. This was followed by an act of the Assembly in 1643 requiring all clergymen in Virginia to conform to "the orders and constitution of the Church of England … and not otherwise to be admitted to teach or preach publicly or privately."

The act, however, was not rigidly enforced. Puritans continued to increase in numbers and we know of at least one Puritan minister who was the rector of a parish in Lower Norfolk County at this time. Meanwhile things were going badly for the royalists in England. As the tide turned against the king, Sir William Berkeley became more and more zealous in suppressing Puritanism in Virginia, Finally, 143. after King Charles was captured and imprisoned, Lord Baltimore invited the Virginia Puritans to settle in Maryland, where he offered them the guarantee of toleration. In 1649 more than 300 of them took advantage of his offer and left Anglican Virginia to settle on the banks of the Severn River in Maryland, a village they called Providence, but which was later renamed Annapolis. Thus, Virginia got rid of most of her Puritan non-conformists. As King James I had threatened the Puritans at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, that unless they conformed he would "harry them out of the land," so Sir William Berkeley actually did in Virginia in 1649. Thereafter Puritans were a source of turmoil and trouble in Maryland, but not in Virginia.

In England the armies of Oliver Cromwell ultimately gained ascendancy. Early in 1645 the Puritan Parliament struck a blow at the Church. An act of attainder was passed against William Laud, the high-minded but intolerant Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was beheaded. At the same time the use of the Prayer Book was forbidden in all churches and chapels in England and all loyal bishops and priests of the Church were driven from their cures and replaced by ministers of Presbyterian or Independent ordination. When King Charles was captured and offered his life if he would assent to drastic political and ecclesiastical changes, the former he agreed to, but he resolutely refused to abandon the Church, and so died a martyr to the Faith on January 30, 1649.


Virginia, shocked by this unexpected turn of events, was inspired by Sir William Berkeley's leadership to stand by the Crown and Church and to defy the Puritan Parliament. She welcomed refugee English clergy who came to the colony and offered them vacant parishes. In 1647 the Assembly required every minister in Virginia to use the Prayer Book in public services and released parishioners from the obligation of paying stipends to any clergyman who refused. Finally, when the news of King Charles's execution reached Virginia, the colony immediately proclaimed his exiled son, Charles II, as king, a bold act for which the colony later won the honored title "Old Dominion," having been the first to proclaim the new king. And after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Virginia observed "King Charles the Martyr's day" on January 30 annually until the Revolution.

But in time the long arm of Cromwell reached even to the shores of Chesapeake Bay. In March, 1652, Cromwell's commissioners arrived in the colony and called upon Virginia to submit to the Commonwealth of England. At first Virginia prepared to resist, but Cromwell's terms were so generous that the colony accepted them. The Lord Protector had his hands full at home and was ready to allow Virginia to govern herself if only she would acknowledge his Protectorship in England. Virginia submitted peaceably, and for the remainder of Cromwell's administration actually enjoyed a greater measure of self-government and free trade than at any other time before 1775.

All the terms of the submission were favorable to Virginia except one, and that one, happily, was not enforced. The colony was 145. granted permission to continue to use the Prayer Book for only one year, provided, of course, the prayers for the king and royal family were omitted. But nothing was done to suppress it at the expiration of the year. So, despite the Puritan interregnum in England, the Church of Virginia remained Anglican and the use of the Prayer Book was uninterrupted.

During the Commonwealth period, 1652-1660, Virginia had her second brush with dissent, when Quakers began to enter the colony. We are accustomed to think of Quakers as pious, well-mannered people, often well-to-do and well-educated. But such was not the case in the 1650's, when Quakerism was new. At that time they were generally ignorant and rude, and did not hesitate to declare publicly that the Church was false and its clergy not "ministers of Christ." They poured scorn on such Church practices as "images and crosses and sprinkling of infants, with all their holy days," to use the words of their founder, a simple shoemaker named George Fox. They also opposed higher education as wicked and ignored the social conventions of the day by refusing to remove their hats to magistrates and ladies and by addressing everyone in the then familiar form, "Thee" and "Thou." Lastly, they renounced the Church, holy orders, and sacraments and refused under any circumstances to bear arms or to swear oaths.

So many of them came into Virginia in the 1650's that the Assembly in 1660 passed "an Act for the Suppression of Quakers," in order to prevent them from occupying any offices in the colony, and in 1662 an act penalizing them for refusing to have their 146. children baptized. Finally, in 1663, the Assembly made it unlawful for Quakers to hold religious meetings. The Assembly also in 1663 investigated one of its own members, Mr. John Porter, a burgess from Lower Norfolk County, who was reported to be "very loving to the Quakers and had been at their meetings and was … against the baptizing of children." He was called upon to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and refusing, was ejected from the Assembly.

Thus, although Quakers were not executed here as in New England, they were subjected to every kind of legislative discouragement. Their chief crimes were that they attacked the Church, interfered with the baptism of children, declined to show respect to their betters, and refused to take part in the defense of their country. The English Toleration Act of 1689, later extended to Virginia, granted them freedom of worship. But the Assembly continued to enact laws requiring them to appear at the musters of the militia, under penalty of a fine. In the eighteenth century, Quakers enjoyed increasing toleration, and before the Revolution even were exempted from military service.

In order to understand the treatment of Quakers in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, one must bear in mind the fact that their pacifism made them suspect. In 1691 when England and France were at war, the Virginia Council heard reports that the Philadelphia Quakers had declared that if their city were attacked by either the French or Indians, they would march out unarmed and refuse to fight. The report was probably false, but it sounded plausible in view of 147. well-known Quaker doctrines, and it greatly alarmed the civil authorities. Again in 1711 when Virginia was threatened by a French naval attack, Governor Spotswood heard that the Quakers in Henrico County not only refused to sell pork to the militia but also declared their intention of feeding their enemies, in the event that the French entered James River. Because of the exposed position of many Tidewater and western counties, the militia was the first line of defense. Colonial Virginians were afraid to have people living in their midst who would not take a fair share of the burden of defending their communities.

When Quakers and other dissenters were law-abiding and avoided controversy, they were generally welcome in Virginia and the laws on the statute books were not invoked. Anglican Virginia was willing to make the Establishment as easy as possible for dissenters who refrained from disturbing the peace and were content to mind their own business. Yet, throughout the colonial period Virginia had laws requiring church attendance under penalty of a fine, and requiring parents to bring their children to the parish priest for baptism. In the seventeenth century after 1643, it was unlawful for persons to assemble publicly for worship except according to the Prayer Book and liturgy of the Established Church. But the atmosphere of the Enlightenment began to undermine the enforced conformity of bygone days. The English Toleration Act of 1689 was re-enacted in Virginia in 1699 and, thereafter, Protestant dissenters were permitted, under certain conditions, to hold their own meetings for worship under their 148. own ministers, in their own chapels and meeting houses, They were not, however, exempted from parish tithes, for these were used for local public welfare purposes no less than for the support of the Church and clergy, but they were permitted to absent themselves from services at the parish church and to have their children baptized according to their own rites. The term "chapel folk" here as in England long remained a designation for dissenters as opposed to "churchmen."

In spite of the influx of Quakers and certain other dissenters in the second half of the seventeenth century, the great bulk of Virginians were Anglicans until after the middle of the eighteenth century. By the beginning of Governor Gooch's administration (1727), the various dissenting sects, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Quakers, though a small minority of the population, were an acknowledged part of Virginia life. So long as they behaved themselves in an orderly and law-abiding fashion, they enjoyed a generous toleration by law and custom. As a matter of fact, custom was even more tolerant than the law. Enforced attendance at parish church services remained on the statute books even after the licensing of dissenting chapels and meeting houses was authorized. But there is ample evidence to indicate that the law was generally ignored in the case of sincere and well-meaning dissenters. Timothy Reading and Sarah, his wife, who were arraigned before the King George County Court in 1721 by the grand jury for not attending church, were dismissed without penalty, "they alledging to the Court that they are Dissenters, and of the Presbiterian communion."


In 1744 the General Assembly, although continuing to require attendance at public worship, brought the law up to the level of custom by allowing each person to select the worship he preferred. Thus, during the last thirty years of the colonial period, Virginians could attend either the parish church or a dissenting chapel, but attend they must, and if no chapels or meeting houses existed in their neighborhood, then they were obliged to go to the parish church.

Even this law, however, was not, and could not be, rigidly enforced, The conditions of life in colonial Virginia, with a population dispersed on scattered plantations and with bad roads, made regular church-going difficult even for the most loyal and pious churchmen. Moreover, a considerable portion of the population, especially in the Tidewater, were in bondage. Negro slaves fresh from African jungles, transported convicts from the jails of London, and indentured servants were not free to roam about the country, and their masters found it prudent to keep most of them at home on their plantations, and to remain themselves or to leave overseers or adult male members of the family at home at all times to keep order and maintain authority.

The Church, though convinced of the superiority of its own "true and apostolical" faith and worship had come at this time to take a charitable view of dissenters. In 1724 the vestry of Hanover Parish, King George County, built a chapel at the expense of the parish for a group of dissenters and even provided a salary for their minister, rather than force them unwillingly to attend the 150. parish church. Such a policy was given official enunciation by Governor Gooch in his first address to the General Assembly in 1728. He rejoiced that it was his good fortune to find the Church of England established and "almost universally received and complied with," but, he continued, "if there are among you any dissenters from this Church with consciences truly scrupulous, I shall think an indulgence to them to be so consistent with the genius of the Christian Religion that it can never be inconsistent with the interest of the Church of England."

This religious peace which marked the first half of the eighteenth century in Anglican Virginia is in marked contrast with the illiberal temper of Puritan Massachusetts and Roman Catholic New France and New Spain at the same period. Unfortunately, it was seriously strained in Virginia by the impact of the Great Awakening, which unleashed the forces of evangelical "enthusiasm" and gave rise to mutual recrimination and distrust.

The early eighteenth-century Virginia dissenters were a small fraction of the total population, and generally were sedate and settled in their habits. They willingly applied for, and gratefully received, licenses for their ministers and meeting houses, feeling that it gave them official recognition and the protection of the law. Hence, they fitted easily into the parochial framework of the Established Church and into the pattern of a legally protected and regulated religion. It is true that a dissenting minister could officiate and preach only in the parish or parishes in which he was 151. licensed, but then the same rule applied to the Anglican clergy in England and in Virginia. No priest could officiate or preach in a parish other than his own without the permission of the rector, or in another diocese without the permission of the bishop. If Virginia law required a dissenting minister to show his credentials in proof of his ordination before he could be licensed, the same applied to the Anglican clergy each of whom had to present his certificate of ordination to the priesthood and also a license from the Bishop of London authorizing him to officiate in Virginia before he could take a parish in the colony.

This regulation under the law was designed to protect the people, churchmen and dissenters alike, from irresponsible men who might otherwise come like wolves in sheep's clothing and, pretending to be ministers in good standing of some recognized communion, use their position to teach heresies, Romish doctrines, or to spread political falsehoods subversive to the government and peace of the colony.

The Quakers, it is true, did not fit into this pattern as easily as did the Presbyterians and Lutherans. They had no ordained ministry and no sacraments. Their itinerant preachers traveled up and down in the colony and under the guidance of their "inner light" spoke what to Anglican ears sounded like blasphemy. Moreover, as we have seen, their political loyalty was suspect because of their refusal to bear arms in defense of the country. Even so, the spirit of toleration so far outran the law that they were rarely molested in eighteenth-century Virginia. Anglican priests and Presbyterian ministers 152. occasionally martialled powerful arguments from the arsenal of historic Christian orthodoxy to combat Quaker denials of fundamental Christian beliefs, but seldom was the law invoked to silence, fine, or imprison them. Though never very numerous, Quakers continued to increase at a steady pace during the century, and they held their meetings for worship without hindrance.

Roman Catholics in Virginia as in England were generally excluded from the benefits of the Toleration Act and from the prevailing charitable view toward law-abiding dissenters. They could not hold office, military or civil, and they were forbidden after 1705 to vote for members of the House of Burgesses. Throughout the colonial period they were regarded with suspicion because they were thought to be disloyal to the government. Spain and France were the principal rivals and archenemies of Great Britain at that time, and both were solidly Roman Catholic. Moreover, those countries had extensive colonial possessions in North America adjacent to the British colonies. It was generally believed that in the event of an Anglo-French or Anglo-Spanish war, the real sympathies of Roman Catholics in the American colonies would be with the enemy. They were, therefore, like Communists today, regarded as being subversive both to Church and State and not to be trusted. Occasional Roman Catholic families that settled in Virginia were unmolested, but the prevailing sentiment of the colony was opposed to any large influx of them, and their political activity and religious rites were rigidly suppressed.


After 1720, when the area west of the Blue Ridge Mountains began to be settled, the colonial government and the Tidewater gentry who had considerable financial interests in western land were anxious to attract desirable settlers, and of these the great bulk were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German Lutherans. By 1750 it was apparent that the seventeenth-century homogeneity of Anglican Virginia had gone. Now there were two distinct sections of the Old Dominion with different national, religious, and cultural backgrounds. The Tidewater and, to a large extent, the Piedmont was a plantation society, English in nationality, Anglican in religion, and aristocratic in tone, resting upon a tobacco economy and slave-holding. The Shenandoah Valley and the mountains beyond presented an entirely different picture; small farms producing food crops and flax, owned by a non-English, non-slaveholding people who were largely anti-aristocratic and non-Anglican. Western Virginia, in short, was a kind of "new Pennsylvania" set down on the landward side of the proud Chesapeake plantation society.

It became apparent quite early that this influx of settlers in the west complicated the religious life of the colony. A rigid enforcement of conformity to the Established Church would have been impossible, and , in any event, it would have run counter to the tolerant spirit of the age. In consequence, the General Assembly in 1720 provided that wherever as many as twenty families of Protestant dissenters settled beyond the Blue Ridge in proximity to one another, so as to build a chapel and support a minister of their own denomination, they were to be exempted from parish tithes for a 154. period of ten years. Thus, in a measure, the Establishment of the Anglican Church in Virginia may be said to have been largely confined to the section east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The dominant Anglican Tidewater was prepared for reasons of both expediency and principle to be charitable towards the alien element in the hinterland.

Presbyterians, Lutherans, and German Reformed people were never "persecuted" in Virginia, and, indeed, on many occasions were given a helping hand by the Established Church. Presbyterian ministers were sometimes licensed by the county court justices to perform marriages when the bride and groom were of that persuasion. In 1760 the vestry of St. Patrick's Parish, Prince Edward County, closed one of its several churches because the people who lived in the vicinity were Presbyterians and had their own chapel nearby. In the case of the German Reformed settlers brought to Virginia by Governor Spotswood to work his iron mines at Germanna in 1714 and who later moved to Germantown in Fauquier County, the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts sent a gift of prayer books in the German tongue.

The creditable record of the Church of Virginia for religious peace in the early decades of the eighteenth century, however, temporarily broke down under the impact of the "Great Awakening," or Evangelical Revival, which swept across England and the American colonies in the 1730's and l740's. Dr. Brydon has summarized the movement in these words, "In the midst of a general drift into careless disregard of spiritual ideals and duties, and a growing 155. deadening of the sense of religion under the assaults of laxity in social life and deistic and atheistic modes of thought, the great preachers of the Evangelical Revival, like John the Baptist of old, proclaimed in voices which carried to the farthest limits of the British empire the truth that each individual soul must approach personally and directly to the Eternal Lord God; and in recognition of its own sin and evil ask pardon from the Saviour of mankind, and a new strength by which to live a life of moral uprightness and faith."

The roots of this Awakening lie in the previous century which witnessed a movement in the Church of England to found religious societies. The most famous of these was the semi-monastic community of Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, begun in 1626 by the saintly Nicholas Ferrar who forsook finance for holy orders, after having served as deputy treasurer of the Virginia Company. Conditions in England in the second half of the century following the political and religious confusion of the Puritan Commonwealth and the moral laxity that followed in the wake of the Restoration of Charles II, proved favorable for devotional and charitable societies. Most of them consisted of young men who voluntarily undertook to conform to rigid devotional rules and to study and practice Christian principles. Frequent daily prayer, meditation, and reception of the sacrament plus organized charity for the support of missions, schools for the poor, and visitation of the sick and prison inmates characterized the objectives of these societies. By 1710 London had forty-two such clubs, and the other English towns smaller numbers.


In the l720's a similar but more important religious revival in Germany began to influence and reinforce the movement in England. The following decade three English priests, John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, inspired by the success of these societies, took up the challenge to revitalize the spirit of Christianity in England. This movement proved to be more effective and far-reaching than its predecessors, and before long the new fire and zeal spread to America, where Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts and Theodore Freylinghausen in New York became its foremost colonial exponents.

Whitefield made nine visits to America, between 1738 and 1770, traveling up and down the colonies, preaching with great vigor to large crowds. His strong emotional appeal and simple language were in marked contrast to the sedate, academic sermons which were then the common fare of the principal communions in the New World. Many of his hearers were moved to tears and agitated by hitherto unfelt consciousness of personal sin.

Because of his priest's orders, Whitefield was at first welcomed by the Anglican rectors whose parishes he visited. When he came to Williamsburg in 1739, the rector of Bruton Parish, the elderly Dr. James Blair, invited him to preach in the parish church. This he did, and the Virginia Gazette of December 21, 1739, reported, "On Sunday last the Reverend Mr. Whitefield preached at our Church on the words 'What think ye of Christ?' … His Extraordinary manner of Preaching gains him the Admiration and Applause of most of his hearers."


But the rising tide of religious emotionalism which followed in Whitefield's wake brought with it a spate of self-appointed lay preachers, many of them with little education and even less regard for propriety. These revivalistic evangelists swarmed across colony and parish boundaries and whipped huge crowds into a kind of emotional frenzy without so much as "by your leave" from the governor, county court justices, or parish rectors. This appeared to be heresy and schism to the lawfully constituted authorities of Virginia and a scandalous mode of behavior to the well-born, well-mannered, and theologically conservative portion of the community, for not only did these itinerant preachers ignore all authority, they also commonly abused both Church and State in intemperate language, uttered what to the orthodox seemed the rankest kind of blasphemy, and stirred ignorant people into frenzied behavior that smacked of rioting and disregard of law and order.

The Great Awakening, however, had the effect of reviving the spiritual life of countless thousands, particularly of the common people who in the course of their transplantation to the colonies had severed their church connections or who had become unchurched as a result of wilderness conditions and the greater isolation of life in rural America. It led also, in the Northern Colonies, to the founding of several institutions of learning that have since become celebrated, among them Princeton, Brown, Rutgers, and Dartmouth. On the debit side, however, the movement's initial achievements proved to be superficial. Many ardent converts soon 158. relapsed into apostasy, and the movement greatly intensified antagonisms between the new evangelicals and the existing communions. Under the impact of the Great Awakening the colonial Presbyterians were split, and for several decades two mutually antagonistic sects, the New-Side (evangelicals) and the Old-Side (conservatives) co-existed. The Congregationalists, likewise, were rent into "New Light" and "Old Light" factions. The Baptists developed "Separate" as well as "Regular" congregations and associations. The Anglican Church under the influence of the Awakening developed a large group of evangelicals known as Methodists, who remained a discontented group within the Church until their secession from it after the Revolution.

If the Established Church suffered the greatest loss, at least numerically, of any of the churches, the Baptists and Methodists reaped the richest reward s from the Great Awakening. Before it the Baptists were few and far between in the colonies, and the Methodists, of course, did not exist as a separate communion. Under the influence of the emotional appeal of the new lay preachers, whose numbers grew rapidly and who needed no education or ordination to function successfully, the newly-formed Methodists and the already existing Baptists converted thousands upon thousands of the unchurched and won many lukewarm churchmen to their fold. They emerged from the spiritual welter of the eighteenth century as the most numerous of the Christian bodies in the United States.

The several visits of George Whitefield, acknowledged to be the most effective preacher of his day, served to make those who heard 159. him alert to the revival that had begun overseas, but they had no continuing effect. The movement did not really get under way in Virginia until 1747 when the great Presbyterian minister, Samuel Davies, came here from Pennsylvania.

Davies was a product of one of the remarkable "Log Colleges" run by Presbyterian ministers in Pennsylvania. Their graduates were so zealous in preaching a vital personal faith, that they had marked success in winning converts and founding new churches and presbyteries. But their emotionalism, their lack of education, and their refusal to observe the ecclesiastical proprieties when preaching in another minister's parish won them the bitter opposition of the conservative Presbyterian clergy. The revivalists countered with equal bitterness, accusing their conservative brethren of being unregenerate and unworthy to exercise the ministry. By 1741 the conflict had split the Presbyterians into two rival groups, the conservative Old-Side and revivalist New-Side.

Out of this babel of denunciation several New-Side preachers emerged and came to Henrico and Hanover Counties in Virginia, where they found local groups of persons who were reading widely in religious books, seeking a faith which they could accept. Even before the ministers arrived, these groups had finally decided that Presbyterianism was the thing they had been searching for. Hence, the New-Side ministers were able to establish a number of congregations with comparatively little effort.

Then the trouble began. The Presbyterians were a recognized dissenting group protected by the Toleration Act and the laws of 160. Virginia if their ministers would show their credentials and request a license for their chapels and preaching points. The evangelistic New-Side ministers, however, neglected to secure licenses, and soon incurred the hostility both of the Established Church and of conservative Virginia Presbyterians by denouncing them with vituperation. To make matters worse, the Old-Side Presbyterian Synod of Philadelphia wrote to Governor Gooch in 1745 to assure the Virginia authorities that the New-Side preachers were not members of their body but were "missionaries sent out by some who by reason of their divisive and uncharitable doctrines and practices were in May, 1741 excluded from our Synod." This put the New-Side preachers in the position of being renegades, without recognized ordination.

Notwithstanding all this, Governor Gooch courteously received a delegation of two New-Side ministers, and expressed a willingness to recognize the New-Side Presbyerians as a new sect and license them provided that they would register themselves as the law required and that they would refrain from reviling both the Church and their conservative Presbyterian brethren. But he warned them that those who made attacks on other Christian groups would be brought to trial under the law.

In 1747 complaints reached Williamsburg from the Germans in the Shenandoah Valley that itinerant Mennonite missionaries were preaching without licenses, and proselytizing the people. Gooch wished to be generous and tolerant, but he felt obliged to protect 161. existing Christian bodies, the Church and dissenters as well, from irresponsible preachers who did not hesitate to sow discord. Therefore, on April 3, 1747, he issued a proclamation forbidding "all Itinerant Preachers, whether New-Light Men, Morravians or Methodists from teaching or holding any meeting in this Colony." Copies of the proclamation were posted in every county and parish. The gauntlet had been throw down. Anglican Virginia wished to be tolerant but the government was determined to protect all of her inhabitants, churchmen and dissenters alike, from enthusiasts who appeared likely to ignore the laws of the colony and the proprieties of Christian charity. Thereafter no one could teach or preach without first registering with the county court, showing his credentials as a dissenting minister, and securing a license. Virginia authorities agreed with St. Paul that all things were to be "done decently and in order."(I Cor. 14 :40 ) The county magistrates were required strictly to enforce the law in all cases.

At this crucial stage, the Rev. Samuel Davies came to Virginia, settled in Hanover County, and dutifully conformed to the law, registering and being licensed. In a short time, he became the acknowledged leader of New-Side Presbyterians in Virginia and he raised their tone, for Davies was a man of considerable intellect and dignity, who never let his enthusiasm carry him beyond the bounds of Christian propriety. He concentrated on the task of winning souls for Christ and declined to indulge in verbal attacks upon other Christian bodies. His wise leadership at this critical juncture saved the New-Side Presbyterians from conflict with 162. Governor Gooch's proclamation and the laws of Virginia. After Davies' arrival, no Presbyterians were arrested or fined in Hanover County.

With the ascendancy of Davies among the New-Side Presbyterians, the evangelical revival in Virginia passed into its second and more violent phase, dominated by the "Separate" Baptists. Regular or "General" Baptists were not new in Virginia; they had been in the colony for several decades, and they were a recognized body under the Toleration Act. But they were few in number, and generally humble and quiet. They belonged to the Philadelphia Baptist Association until 1756, when the Ketoctin Association was formed in Virginia. By 1770 this new association had some ten churches in seven counties and a membership of 624. As these "General" Baptists conformed to the law and duly registered their preachers and obtained licenses for their meeting houses, none was arrested, fined, or otherwise interfered with until the violent "Separate" Baptists invaded the Old Dominion and set things in an uproar.

The first signs of trouble appeared in Orange County in 1767 when some "Separate" Baptists who had entered Virginia were refused affiliation by the settled Regular Baptists. The reasons for this action were partly doctrinal disagreement and partly a strong disapproval of the method of preaching employed by the Separates. Nothing daunted, the newcomers settled in the area and, being more dynamic, came in time to set the tone for Baptist preaching. As the Regulars gradually came to emulate the Separates, they began to feel the disapproval of the community, and, in some cases, the heavy hand of the law.


The Separate Baptists were organized in 1751 by a former New England Congregational New-Light who settled in North Carolina in 1755. From there the Separates gradually infiltrated Virginia from the south, not coming into contact with the Regular Baptists until 1767 in Orange County. Among their early converts in Virginia was a man of education and influence, Samuel Harris, a former vestryman of the Church and a burgess from Halifax County. He was ordained in 1760 and became the foremost of the Separate Baptist ministers.

In general, the Separate preachers represented the most extreme form of emotionalism and psychological excitement. Their preaching to well-bred and conservative ears seemed akin to the wildest ravings of a disordered mind. They shouted and gesticulated, and indulged in the vilest kind of denunciation of all who held other ideas about doctrine and worship. Despite Harris' conversion and ordination, most of them were of humble origin and had little education. Hence, their pathetic attempts to cope with theology and with the English language brought down upon them the scorn and derision of the gentry, which in turn served only to heap coals upon the fire of their attacks upon the ruling classes and Established Church.

A Baptist historian has described their manner of preaching as being more novel than their doctrines. They had "a very warm and pathetic address accompanied by strong gestures and a singular tone of voice." And many of their hearers, moved as never before, expressed their emotions by weeping, trembling, screaming, or shouting. 164. Many were converted on the spot. Even some of those who came to scoff were moved to pray. But this was not true of all. As these meetings provided an entertaining show, the rougher element in the neighborhood often attended them for a lark, and the preaching services sometimes ended in riots, which made it necessary for the county law enforcement officials to intervene in order to preserve the king's peace.

The position of the Separate Baptist preachers was an unfortunate one. They were more or less disowned by their long-settled brethren, the Regular Baptists of the Ketoctin Association, and hence appeared to the civil authorities to be irresponsible persons, not acknowledged members of a recognized Protestant dissenting body. Moreover, as most of the Separate preachers had neither education nor ordination, they did not qualify for registration and licenses under the law. Furthermore, even the few Separates who were ordained Baptist ministers refused to comply with the law. It was an article of faith with them — and one quite novel to the colonial government — that since preaching was a God-given gift, therefore no law, civil or ecclesiastical, made any difference to them in the exercise of their self-assumed ministry. By opposing in principle any kind of interference or regulation by the State, they resembled modern conscientious objectors who refuse to register for the draft. If they comply with the law, they receive exemption. But if they defy the law and refuse to register, they lose their right to claim the law's protection, and they go to jail.

Under the law of Virginia, all these Separate Baptist preachers could have been imprisoned and fined. Yet, such was the tolerant 165. spirit of the age that very few arrests were made for preaching without a license. Instead, the civil magistrates chose to wink at the law. It was generally only when the preaching of the Separate Baptists led to popular turmoil and rioting, as it often did, that the county justices intervened and arrested the persons who, in their view, had started the trouble. The first Separate Baptist revivalist was arrested in 1768. From that year until the beginning of the Revolution, about fifty were imprisoned in various Virginia counties, almost all of them for a breach of the peace.

It is probable that the Anglican clergy looked askance upon the behavior of these emotional preachers and upon their lack of understanding of conventional theology. It is certain that they disapproved of their unreserved attacks upon the Church. But the surviving evidence indicates that they were sometimes — perhaps generally — inclined to be charitable toward these preachers when they ran afoul of the law.

There are five known instances of contact between Separate Baptist revivalists and clergymen of the Established Church. One concerned our old friend Jonathan Boucher, when he was rector of St. Mary's Parish, Caroline County. After preaching against the doctrines of the Separate Baptists in his county, he visited those who had been imprisoned in 1768 and offered to stand security for their bail so that they might be released. The second instance took place in King George County, where four old men held an impromptu Baptist service without a license. They were arrested by an overzealous magistrate who obtained a warrant for them, 166. and sent to be tried by a justice of the county court, who in this case — oddly enough — was also the rector of Hanover Parish, the Rev. Thomas Landrum. Although there was a technical infraction of the law, no rioting ensued. Therefore, Parson Landrum tore up the warrant and dismissed the defendants. The third occurred in Middlesex County, when an angry magistrate endeavored to pull a Separate Baptist down from the platform he occupied, and was prevented from doing so by the Rev. Samuel Klug, rector of Christ Church Parish.

In the two remaining incidents of which there is any record, the Anglican clergymen involved were arrayed with the law enforcement agents against the evangelists. In one case the parson, presumably the same Samuel Klug mentioned above, was with the sheriffs and posse that apprehended a Separate Baptist for preaching without a license. In the other, Andrew Moreton, rector of Drysdale Parish, Caroline County, committed the isolated and unpardonable offense of trying to run the butt end of his riding crop down an evangelical's throat in order to silence him.

The Separate Baptists were the only group of preachers who suffered violence and imprisonment in the last quarter century of colonial Virginia, and, as has been seen, the violence came largely from the lewd fellows of the baser sort who made sport of them and the imprisonment from the county justices determined to preserve the peace. No attempt was made to enforce religious orthodoxy by coercion. Indeed, the civil authorities for the most part nearly bent over backwards to avoid arresting these evangelicals for the 167. law they flouted. But in order to maintain peace, a number of them were was arrested, and since the law enforcement authorities were invariably Anglicans, the injured Separate Baptists construed the actions of the county justices to represent a deliberate religious persecution on the part of the Established Church.

But despite their unfortunate brush with mob violence and with the law, the Separate Baptists grew by leaps and bounds. By 1774, only six years after they first entered Virginia, they had more than fifty-four congregations, and by 1776 they claimed no fewer than 10,000 adherents in the State. When the Revolution came, these people formed the nucleus of the attack on the Church with the intent of hastening its disestablishment.

We have considered the manifestations of the evangelical revival in the realm of dissent. We have now to consider what effect it had upon the Established Church. The Virginia Church like the colony at large was in close touch with what was going on in the Mother Country. The tobacco colonies enjoyed unusually good communication with Great Britain because their principal export, tobacco, went almost entirely to the wharves of London and other British seaports, and Virginians imported an abnormally large portion of their consumer goods from England. Moreover, the aristocratic nature and English tone of the ruling class in the Old Dominion made the well-to-do tobacco planters and their families long to keep up with the latest fashions of London. 168. Books made their appearance in the libraries of the great tobacco plantations along the James and Potomac within a few years of their appearance in London shops.

The same was true of the Virginia Church. All the various movements and parties within the Church of England were represented here. There were High and Low Churchmen, Latitudinarians, Erastians, and Evangelicals on the James River as well as on the Thames. All native-born Virginia clergy had traveled to England for ordination, and, in addition, a substantial number of beneficed clergy here were of British birth and education. Hence, the cultural tie between the Virginia clergy and England was, perhaps, even stronger than that between the people of the colony at large and the Mother Country.

In consequence, the Wesleyan movement in England soon had reverberations in Virginia, and the ideas it generated moved swiftly across the Atlantic, along with the other latest fashions from London, and found a receptive public in the far-flung parishes of the Chesapeake Tidewater. The Revival took a different form under Anglican auspices, than among the dissenters, but it was no less successful in deepening the faith and stirring the enthusiasm of those churchmen who came under its influence. Two priests of the Virginia Church, Devereux Jarratt and Archibald McRoberts, actually did take up the method of emotional preaching in open fields that won such a harvest for the Baptists and other itinerants. But this was exceptional. McRoberts ultimately abandoned holy orders for one of the revivalistic sects, and Jarratt, when he saw the Methodist movement headed for schism, changed his course and remained a priest 169. of the Church even though in so doing he lost much of his popular following to the new domination. In general, the Great Awakening produced a greater personal piety throughout the Virginia Church and bore fruit in the early nineteenth-century evangelical movement in the Episcopal Church.

The Wesleyan movement in England and America not only began within the Established Church but also remained within it from its origin in 1738 until after the American Revolution. The three principal founders of it, the two Wesley brothers and George Whitefield, lived and died priests of the Church and refused to leave its communion or to sanction any thought of schism. Yet, the Methodist movement reached countless persons among the lower classes who had theretofore been untouched by the normal ministrations of the Church and who had been left uninspired by the conventional academic preaching of the Anglican pulpits of the day. Many were so moved that without benefit of theological training or grace of episcopal ordination they took to the road and preached enthusiastically to crowds of listeners in barns, at village market crosses, or in open fields.

They soon ran into difficulties with English ecclesiastical law, which did not countenance public preaching without licenses from the bishop of each diocese. Yet withal, they remained loyal to the Church even while violating her discipline, rallied to her support when she was attacked by dissenters, and urged their followers to repair to the parish church for Holy Communion after hearing their open-air sermons.


As early as 1760 Methodist lay-preachers made their appearance in the American colonies, at first in New York, and then elsewhere. By 1769 there were enough of them to warrant John Wesley to appoint a personal representative in the colonies, Richard Boardman. In 1772 Francis Asbury held this post, and the next year the first Methodist Conference in the New World took place at Philadelphia.

The earlier missionary visits of the Rev. George Whitefield have already been mentioned. He came as a priest of the Church, and was accorded a warm welcome in Bruton Parish Church and elsewhere. It was a different story, however, when the Methodist lay-preachers appeared in the colony with no credentials of ordination and no license from the Bishop of London to officiate in Virginia. As Anglicans they could not claim the privilege of dissenters under the Toleration Act, and they had no lawful authority to minister within the Church. Hence, they fell between the upper and nether millstone.

The first of them to come to Virginia, Robert Williams, reached Norfolk in 1772 and preached on the steps of the court house at Portsmouth and in vacant lots in Norfolk, until his audience fitted up a warehouse as a meeting house. Williams soon moved on to other colonies, but was succeeded by others — Joseph Pilmore and William Watters. But their efforts bore little fruit, because their hearers were, for the most part, as Watters complained, "the most hardened and ill-behaved of any I have ever beheld."


The Methodist movement got a better hold in Southside Virginia, the area south of the James River. Here it had the helping hand of the evangelical priest, Devereux Jarratt, who was the rector of Bath Parish in Dinwiddie County from 1763 until his death in 1801, and of Archibald McRoberts, rector of Dale Parish, Chesterfield County from before 1769 until 1776. Under Jarratt and McRoberts the revival had a distinctively sacramental flavor. Sometimes as many as a thousand persons crowded into their parish churches to receive Holy Communion, and the two had to celebrate the sacrament on alternate Sundays, so each could assist the other in administering the paten and chalice to such unprecedented numbers of communicants.

But they also emphasized preaching and became so much in demand that they eventually went about the countryside, ignoring parish boundaries and preaching without permission of the rectors of other parishes to large gatherings in open fields. This indiscretion incurred the criticism and opposition of their fellow clergy and tended to alienate rater than conciliate the Established Church's attitude toward the movement.

Despite the Methodist practice of ignoring parish lines and not applying for preaching licenses, neither the Established Church nor the Colony's governmental authorities did anything to suppress the movement. Much as they disliked it, they recognized it as a legitimate one. Hence, no Methodist preachers were thrown into prison or otherwise hindered, even though they were unordained and unlicensed. The explanation of this extraordinary tolerance on the 172. part of the Church and State is probably the fact that the Methodists, unlike the Separate Baptists, never attacked the beliefs of others and rarely stirred up riots at their meetings. The Virginia authorities were generally inclined to be tolerant wherever dissenters were themselves charitable and peaceable. The presence or absence of those qualities rather than doctrinal orthodoxy or ecclesiastical conformity determined the kind of treatment dissenting preachers received at the hands of the constituted authorities.

Under these circumstances Methodism made rapid strides. The number of Methodists in Virginia increased from 100 in 1773 to nearly 2,500 in 1776. Every one agrees that the rise was due largely to the evangelical zeal of that extraordinary Anglican priest, Devereux Jarratt, who subsequently abandoned his numerous following rather than lead them into schism from the Church he loved. During the Revolution the Methodist movement was embarrassed by the fact that its leaders were loyalists and that the elderly John Wesley issued a pamphlet circulated in America calling upon every Methodist to stand by his allegiance to King George. In the North the spread of Methodism was retarded by its association with the Church of England and with political loyalism. But in Virginia where the members of the Established Church were overwhelmingly on the side of the Revolution, Methodism escaped from the odium it suffered in the North and continued to flourish during the war. When the Revolution was over, Virginia and North Carolina were the heart and center of the movement on this side of the Atlantic and contained more than half of all the Methodists in America.


The very success of Methodism in gaining converts created a problem which it could not solve within the Established Church. The need of clergymen to baptize and celebrate Holy Communion could not be satisfied during the war, when the colonies were in arms against the Mother Country. After the war, the English bishops were unable to consecrate American bishops until Parliament removed the requirement that all bishops-elect swear an oath of allegiance to the king. This was ultimately done in 1786. Meanwhile, however, the Church of Virginia and elsewhere in America languished for want of bishops and a fresh supply of priests which had been completely cut off after 1776. Hence, by the end of the Revolution more than half of the hundred parishes in Virginia had no rectors.

Because many Methodists were thus cut off from Anglican sacraments and because additional clergy could neither be ordained in America where there were no bishops nor procured from England because of the Revolution, there arose from them a strong demand for a non-episcopally ordained ministry. This, of course, the Anglican Church would not hear of. Therefore, the American Methodist movement, despite the protest of John Wesley in England and Devereux Jarratt in Virginia, took the bold step of separating from the Established Church and ordaining its own ministers. Meeting at Brokenbackt Church, Fluvanna County, Virginia, in 1779, a majority of the lay preachers declared that as they had been prevented from seeking ordination in the usual way they had a right to organize their own church and ordain ministers for their own people. Then 174. they chose four men and authorized them to administer the sacraments and ordain other ministers to do likewise. This action proved so great a shock to Wesley and Methodists in the North that at the Virginia Conference of 1780 Francis Asbury persuaded the newly-ordained ministers to give up their authority, and the General Conference of 1781 declared that any lay preacher who presumed to administer the sacraments would be excommunicated. But the rapid increase of Methodist converts after the end of the Revolution accentuated the need for clergymen. In consequence, Wesley was finally persuaded in 1784 to ordain several "deacons" and "elders" and to "set apart" Thomas Coke "as superintendent for the Church of God under our care in North America." This act in defiance of Church polity produced the Methodist schism. By it, Methodism left the fold of the Mother Church, and became a new Christian sect without the Apostolic Succession of the episcopate, and therefore, out of communion with the Church of England and its American counterpart, the Episcopal Church.

The Methodist schism, in retrospect, seems quite unnecessary. There was no irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement. Wesley and his American associates were too impatient. The same month that Weesley's "ordained" ministers arrived at Baltimore to organize the American Methodist Church as a new denomination, the American Episcopal Church received its first bishop. Samuel Seabury, who had been elected Bishop of Connecticut but denied consecration in England, went to Scotland and was consecrated bishop at Aberdeen on November 14, 175. 1784, by three bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Moreover, Parliament rescinded its former decision, and in 1786 authorized English bishops to extend the episcopate to America. In 1787 the Archbishop of Canterbury assisted by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Bishop of Peterborough consecrated two bishops for the American Episcopal Church, William White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost of New York. And in 1790 James Madison, cousin of the famous statesman of the same name and president of the College of William and Mary, was consecrated Bishop of Virginia in England. Thereafter, the American Church had a full complement of bishops and was no longer dependent upon the Mother Country for a supply of clergy. But by this time the Methodists had flown the coop. The schism was beyond healing!

So far this chapter has dealt with toleration only as it related to freedom of worship. But there is a broader meaning of the word toleration as it relates to freedom of inquiry and thought. On this score Virginia's record in colonial days was admirable. The Church of Virginia never resorted to anything remotely resembling an inquisition in matters of faith and intellect. There was a restriction on worship and what one could teach publicly, but there was none whatever on what one could read or say privately. Thought was always free in colonial Virginia, and anyone could import, sell, buy, and read books on any subject, however unorthodox or subversive. In this respect there was a world of difference between English Virginia and Spanish-American colonies to the south, where a rigid 176. religious and political censorship existed.

Even Virginia's institution of higher learning, the Anglican College of William and Mary, was officially committed to the principle of free inquiry. If all truth, like goodness and beauty, as the Church held, proceeded from God, then truth must be pursued in an untrammelled fashion, no matter where it led. If followed objectively and honestly, it seemed clear it could only lead ultimately to God.

One of the College's statutes in 1727, renewed without alteration in 1757, specifically rejected the medieval strait jacket of Aristotelian logic and physics "which reigned so long alone in the Schools, and shut out all others," and, instead, left "to the President and Masters by the advice of the Chancellor, to teach what systems of Logick, Physicks, Ethicks and Mathematicks they think fit in their Schools." The same enlightened attitude was characteristic of elementary and secondary education, and of Virginia thought generally. The Enlightenment, which marked the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries in Europe, found a "safe lodging and a holy rest" in the hearts and minds of Virginians.



In spite of the tolerant nature of the Established Church in eighteenth-century Virginia, opposition to it grew by leaps and bounds in the last two decades before the Revolution. The animosities fanned by the Great Awakening, the vituperation of many itinerant preachers, often uneducated and ill-mannered, and the scorn and ridicule poured upon them by the upper classes, who were virtually all Anglicans, contributed to the rising tide of popular resentment of the Establishment. Dissenting groups like the Presbyterians did not object to the Establishment as long as they were allowed freedom of worship, but they disliked the parish tithes and ultimately suggested an alternative, a system whereby each householder, though obliged to pay tithes, might designate the church to which he chose to pay them. Baptists and Quakers, on the other hand, opposed in principle an ecclesiastical establishment of any sort, and were always ready to do anything in their power to bring about the disestablishment of the Church. The Methodists, being within the Anglican fold until 1784, stood loyally by the Church, and even though they objected to the parish system and the geographical limitations of jurisdiction, they resisted any attempt at disestablishment.


From the onset of the Great Awakening until the Revolution, the Established Church became involved in one way or another in a series of incidents which put the Church in a bad light and which received widespread publicity. The Church, as we should say today, suffered from a bad press. As late as 1748 the Church was still strongly entrenched in public favor. The Act for the Better Support of the Clergy, adopted that year, was the high water mark of colonial legislation favoring the Church. Over and above the annual stipend of 16,000 pounds of tobacco prescribed by earlier acts, the rector of a parish was allowed an additional eight per cent for the collection and prizing of the tobacco and an additional four per cent to cover tobacco paid in tithes which was of such poor grade as to be unmerchantable. The law also prescribed that the rector's glebe consist of at least 200 acres of "good and convenient land," as well as a dwelling house, dependencies, and farm buildings. Thereafter, the tide turned, and one thing after another served to lessen the esteem in which the Church was held.

From 1689 until the Revolution, the Bishop of London appointed a clergyman in Virginia as his "Commissary," or representative and agent. The commissary was not in bishop's orders, and, therefore, could not confirm or ordain, but in other respects he was much like a suffragan or assistant bishop. He convened the Convocation of the clergy, held visitations, corrected erring priests, and made recommendations to the Bishop of London concerning the fitness of Virginia candidates for holy orders, and other matters relating to 179. the Church in the Old Dominion. The first commissary in Virginia was James Blair, a man of forceful character and great ability, who held office for more than half a century. He was the founder and first president of the College of William and Mary (1693-1743), president of the Council and acting governor of the colony in 1740, and perhaps the most influential man in Virginia in his time. Upon his death in 1743, however, there followed a series of commissaries who fell short of him in stature and forcefulness of character, and who, as the Revolutionary movement progressed, became extremely unpopular because of outspoken sentiments of loyalty to King George III.

Dr. William Dawson, who served as commissary 1743-52, bitterly opposed one feature of the Act for the Better Support of the Clergy in 1748, the clause allowing the vestry twelve months, instead of six as was the practice in England, in which to choose a new rector when there was a vacancy, and sought to procure royal disallowance. His reason was simply that it represented a departure from English practice. The fact that conditions in the New World, especially the necessity of writing to England for possible candidates for a vacant parish, made a longer period of time imperative does not seem to have influenced his opinion. This and other examples of an unsympathetic attitude toward the peculiar needs of the Virginia Church put the commissary in an unfavorable light in the colony, and increased colonial dissatisfaction with the Establishment.

When William Dawson died in 1752, Governor Dinwiddie recommended the late commissary's brother Thomas to succeed him. But the governor 180. was in the midst of a constitutional quarrel with the House of Burgesses over his right to collect a fee of one pistole (a Spanish gold coin worth about $3.50 that circulated in Virginia) for every land patent granted. The Board of Visitors of the College instead of waiting for the Bishop of London to appoint a commissary and then elect him president of the College, proceeded immediately to elect an outspoken opponent of the pistole fee, the Rev. William Stith, who at once applied for appointment as commissary. But the Bishop of London acted on the recommendation of the governor, and appointed Thomas Dawson. Thus, for the first time the offices of commissary and president of the College were held by different men, and the commissary appeared to be a creature of the unpopular and arbitrary governor, whereas Stith personified the interests and objectives of the colony. The feud ended with Stith's death in 1755, whereupon the Board of Visitors chose Dawson to succeed him as president of the College. But the remainder of Dawson's tenure of office was darkened by the controversy which culminated in the Parson's Cause and by a strong dislike of him on the part of the College faculty. Although a man of exemplary character until the last years of his life, Dawson eventually took to drink to escape frustration. As his compassionate successor said of him, "inasmuch as he had been teazed by a contrariety of opinions … into the loss of his spirits, … it was no wonder that he should apply for consolation to Spirituous Liquors."

When Thomas Dawson was relieved of his sorrows by death in 1761, he was succeeded by William Robinson, rector of Stratton-Major Parish, l8l. King and Queen County, whose appointment was made over the opposition of Governor Fauquier with whom he was never on good terms. The College presidency was given to someone else, and Robinson alone of all the commissaries was not appointed to the Council. Hence, his distinction of being the only Virginia-born commissary proved to be an empty one. On the whole his administration of that office was characterized by inaction and lack of initiative. Robinson was a staunch Tory, and became increasingly out of touch with Virginia sentiment which rejoiced over Patrick Henry's victory in the Parson's Cause, opposed the Stamp Act, and resented the British government's attempt after 1763 to restrict western land settlement. Had he lived until the Revolution, he would undoubtedly have been a loyalist, but he died in 176S and so escaped the sorrow and frustration which the war for independence would have caused him.

The Parson's Cause, which stirred all Virginia and brought public wrath upon the clergy of the Established Church, was essentially a political rather than a religious protest. The real point at issue did not specifically relate to the Church, it concerned the injustice of unsympathetic British interference in domestic American affairs. Some of the clergy happened to be the group within the colony that unwittingly set off the controversy. The stipend of the clergy, as we have seen, was fixed in tobacco by the General Assembly in l748, and the act had received the king's assent. Therefore, it could neither be amended nor repealed without prior royal assent. In 1755, however, an abnormally short tobacco crop threatened to 182. send prices to an unprecedented height. In the public interest the Assembly passed an emergency relief act which allowed a person to pay any tax, fee, or debt in money instead of tobacco at the rate of two pence per pound of tobacco. The Two-Penny Act, as it was called, was to last only one year, and therefore expired before the London authorities had time to disallow it. In 1758 there was an even poorer crop, and the Assembly passed another Two-Penny Act similar to the last. This time some of the clergy, smarting under the injustice of being deprived of the rare advantage of a rise in the value of tobacco when they had suffered losses in previous years, appealed to the Bishop of London, who procured the royal disallowance of the act. This meant that the law was invalid from the start. Thereupon several Virginia clergymen sued their vestries for the amount by which the act of 1758 had illegally reduced their stipends. The courts had no choice but to find for the plaintiff in every case. All that remained was to determine the damages. In one of these suits, heard by the Hanover County Court on December 1, 1763, Patrick Henry, representing the parish vestry, made one of his most famous orations. Realizing how unpopular the clergy were for inviting royal interference, he virtually ignored the question of damages and, instead, delivered a polemic against the unsympathetic king and the hard-hearted clergy of the Established Church. His contention was that the colony faced a genuine emergency in 1758 and that the Two-Penny Act was a good law. The king should not have disallowed it, and the clergy were to blame for asking him to do so. He branded the king a tyrant and denounced the clergy as "enemies of the 183. community." Moved by his eloquence, the jury found for the plaintiff damages of only one penny. Thus, it was a legal victory for the parson but a moral victory for Patrick Henry.

The significance of the Parson's Cause was that it revealed the basic problem of imperial relations: where was the power of making laws to reside? The disagreement between Great Britain and the colonies over the answer to this question ultimately led to the Revolution. At the same time, the Established Church of Virginia was put in a bad light. Because of the Church-State connection, there appeared to be a selfish alliance between the arbitrary power of the Crown and the grasping clergy of the Established Church. Hence, the Parson's Cause injured the prestige of the Church and brought the clergy into a disesteem which was largely unwarranted, for the action which set off the whole affair was taken by a small minority of the clergy.

All the commissaries after William Dawson suffered from insufficient authority to summon convocations of the clergy and to discipline those guilty of misconduct. The explanation of this fact is that the then Bishop of London was endeavoring, by pleading inadequate powers over the Church in the colonies, to force the king and Ministry to establish an American episcopate. Unfortunately, the stratagem failed to achieve the desired result and did irreparable harm to the Church of Virginia. After 1752 the commissary lacked the legal power to try, remove, or otherwise discipline clergymen who neglected their duties or were guilty of misconduct. 184. In consequence, in the instances that occurred, the evil, instead of being nipped in the bud, was allowed to become full-blown before being dealt with at law, and then had to be carried into the civil courts. The facts of these cases received widespread notoriety and further diminished the reputation of the Established Church clergy and the popular confidence in the commissary whose function was to prevent such occurrences. The problem of discipline, of course, was one which could have been solved only by a resident bishop.

When Robinson died in 1768, the two leading contenders for the offices of Bishop's commissary and president of the College were John Camm and Richard Graham, both of whom were arch Tories and had been deeply implicated in the move to obtain royal disallowance of the Two-Penny Act. Governor Fauquier, who never forgave Camm for the part he played in humiliating him by procuring a letter of rebuke from the king, survived Commissary Robinson just long enough to recommend someone other than Camm for the office. The new commissary, James Horrocks, was not a very happy choice. Unlike Camm and Graham, he was not one of the leading clergymen in the colony. Indeed, he was an obscure young man, having been in Virginia only a short time as Master of the Grammar School at the College, and his career as commissary was not noteworthy except for a convention of the Virginia clergy in 1771 to discuss the proposal of a group of Anglican clergy in New York and New Jersey who sought their co-operation in requesting England to consecrate bishops for the American colonies.


This was an old subject. In 1672, in 1705, and again in 1713 a plan for sending a bishop to Virginia narrowly failed. In the first instance, a change of Ministry diverted attention to more pressing problems; in the second, the depression in Virginia caused by Queen Anne's War complicated the provision of financial support for a bishop; and in the third, Queen Anne died and was succeeded by Hanoverian kings who were less zealous for the welfare of the Church. In the northern colonies, because of ingrained Puritan hatred of prelacy, the idea of bishops was extremely unpopular with all except Anglicans who formed a small minority of the population. Even in the southern colonies, where the Church of England was established, the proposal to send English bishops to America was unwelcome, particularly at this difficult juncture of Anglo-American relations, when the colonies had so recently opposed the Stamp Act and Townshend duties. In England bishops were officials of State as well as Church, and many Americans feared that English bishops in the colonies would serve to strengthen British authority, rather than merely to strengthen the Established Church.

At the Convention, held at the College of William and Mary on June 4, 1771, only twelve of the hundred Virginia clergy were present, and they were divided on the proposal. Eight strongly favored it, feeling that to deny them a bishop was to "unchurch the Church." The others, however, considered the proposal unwise in view of all the circumstances. The whole subject was hotly debated in the columns of the Virginia Gazette, and probably also in every tavern 186. and coffee house in the colony. The former view prevailed with Commissary Horrocks and most of the College faculty. The latter view was widely held by the parish clergy and the laity. So far as the laity were concerned, a particularly galling feature of the proposal was that the clergy intended directly to address the king on the subject of a colonial bishop without first obtaining the concurrence of the General Assembly. The following month the House of Burgesses publicly thanked the four clergymen who formed the minority at the clergy convention "for the wise and well-timed Opposition they have made to the pernicious Project of a few mistaken Clergymen, for introducing an American Bishop; a Measure by which much Disturbance, great Anxiety and apprehension would certainly take place among his Majesty's faithful American People." Here again, as in the Parson's Cause, the bitterness of the quarrel and the seeming political alliance between the Church and Great Britain brought the Establishment into further disesteem in Virginia.

When Commissary Horrocks left for England soon after the clergy convention of 1771, because of his health, it was commonly rumored that he had gone home to be consecrated Bishop of Virginia. This, however, did not occur, and on his way back the next year he sickened and died. His successor, John Camm, was indeed the foremost clergyman in Virginia but he had taken a leading part in virtually every unpopular move from the Parson's Cause to the application for a colonial bishop, and his subsequent career as a loyalist served only to identify the Established Church more than ever before with the increasingly unpopular Mother Country.


On the eve of the Revolution the House of Burgesses was considering a new Toleration Act to amend and bring up to date the Act of 1699 which extended to the colony many of the features of the English Toleration Act of 1689. To that end the House created a new committee in 1769 to undertake to prepare a bill. This Committee for Religion, which had some of the leading Burgesses on it including Edmund Pendleton, Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard Bland, and Richard Henry Lee, continued its work for six years. Periodically it referred tentative proposals to the House for discussion and in 1772 published a draft of a bill in the Virginia Gazette. In the course of this prolonged consideration, the committee received a number of petitions from various religious bodies in the colony asking for certain privileges and exemptions. The most interesting of these came from the Presbytery of Hanover in the name, as the Journal of the House described it, of "all Presbyterians in Virginia, and all Protestant Dissenters elsewhere." Drawn up in November, 1774, it was presented to the Burgesses June 5, 1775, and stated the objectives of the petitioners "To have and enjoy the full and free exercise of our Religion without molestation or danger of incurring any penalty whatever," Although nothing was done as a result of this petition because the Burgesses ended their session June 24, 1775, and never again had a legal quorum, it gave expression to the conviction that no amount of toleration equals the right of religious freedom. The document, therefore, was a forerunner of the sixteenth article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of June 12, 1776, which declared that "all men are equally 188. entitled to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience."

But let us return to June 24, 1775, when the House of Burgesses met for the last time. Lord Dunmore, the governor, fearing for his life, fled from the Governor's Palace on June 8, 1775, and went aboard HMS Fowey anchored off Yorktown, and tried to control the government from shipboard. When this proved impossible, he declared Virginia to be outside the king's protection. To meet the situation, a Convention of Delegates met in Williamsburg in July and created a provisional government, the Committee of Safety, which governed the colony for nearly a year. The Convention of 1776, meeting in Williamsburg from May 6 to July 5, terminated the provisional government and set up a permanent one based on a written constitution. This remarkable convention on May 15 unanimously instructed the colony's delegates to the Continental Congress to propose to that body that it declare the United Colonies free and independent states. Pursuant to these instructions Richard Henry Lee did so at Philadelphia on June 7, which proposal was ultimately agreed to on July 2 and resulted in the Declaration of Independence, adopted July 4. Meanwhile, the Virginia Convention also on May 15 appointed a committee to draw up a declaration of rights and a frame of government. George Mason's draft of a Declaration of Rights was adopted unanimously on June 12 and the Virginia Constitution on June 29. Patrick Henry was elected the first governor of the Commonwealth, and the Convention became the first House of Delegates under the new Constitution.


Before adjourning on July 5, the Convention attended to a piece of unfinished business. It assumed the right hitherto confined to Parliament to revise the Prayer Book. On the last day of its session it adopted an ordinance directing the omission of prayers for the king, queen, and royal family in Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany, and Holy Communion, and substituting for them a prayer for the magistrates of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Church of England in Virginia had now become the Church of the Commonwealth of Virginia!

The Declaration of Rights with its clause favoring complete religious freedom was unanimously adopted by a Convention every member of which was an Anglican. This remarkable fact illustrates the rapidity with which men's minds were changing in the spring of 1776. The movement for independence in Virginia was the work principally of the same landed aristocracy that controlled the colony before 1776. Out of the ruling planter class only a handful remained loyalists after 1776, and of that few only John Randolph "the Tory" felt strongly enough about it to return to England. The Virginia aristocracy almost to a man supported the Revolution, and in turning their thoughts to the question of political rights and freedom, they came to perceive that they were inextricably bound up with religious freedom. The Virginia Anglicans, therefore, while struggling for American independence, came to believe that they should surrender the special privileges the law had formerly given their Church, so that civil and religious liberty might be inseparably united.


On June 12, 1776, when Mason's Declaration of Rights was adopted by the Convention, Virginia committed herself to the principle of complete religious freedom while the Church was still established. The translation of the principle into reality, however, required ten years to accomplish and involved the problem of resolving great differences of opinion as to the proper method of doing so.

When the House of Delegates under the new Constitution met in the Williamsburg Capitol on October 11, 1776, it received a number of petitions from dissenting bodies requesting the immediate disestablishment of the Church. The one which best expresses the sentiments of them all hailed the last article of the Declaration of Rights as "the rising sun of religious liberty" and requested the House "to complete what is so nobly done" by overturning the Establishment and abolishing "every tax upon conscience and private judgment." The Methodists, on the other hand, presented a petition on October 28, 1776, dissociating themselves from the dissenters, declaring themselves to be "a religious society in communion with the Church of England," and urging the continuance of the Establishment. But the most important petition in defense of the Church came from the clergy. Although denying any wish to encroach upon the religious rights of "any sect or denomination," they expressed their belief that "a religious establishment in a state is conducive to its peace and happiness." In support of this statement they pointed out that "the opinions of mankind have a very considerable influence upon 191. their practice," that "the doctrines of Christianity have a greater tendency to produce virtue amongst men than any human laws or institutions," and that "these can best be taught and preserved in purity in an established Church, which gives encouragement to men to study and acquire a competent knowledge of the Scriptures."

It is interesting to note that the defense of the Establishment came only from the clergy and the Methodists and not from the Anglican laity. Of the hundred parishes of the Church in Virginia only two or three sent petitions to the Assembly in favor of maintaining the Establishment. It is reasonable to conclude that by this time a great majority of Anglicans agreed with the sixteenth article of the Declaration of Rights and felt that the continuance of the Establishment was an anachronism and an impropriety in a commonwealth. The Anglicans were still in control of the legislature and, if the Methodists be numbered with them, commanded a majority of the population. If they chose, they might easily have continued the Established Church. But they thought otherwise. Even those who loved the Church, like Wythe, Mason, and Pendleton, would ask no special privilege for it. And the Rev. James Madison, president of the College of William and Mary and later first Bishop of Virginia, wrote to the president of Yale in 1780 that the professorship of divinity had been abolished at William and Mary because "it is now thought" that establishments in favor of any particular church "are incompatible with the Freedom of a Republic."


The bone of contention was not so much the continuance or disestablishment of the Church as it was what to do to provide for the support of the Church after disestablishment, or to compensate the clergy for the loss of their stipends. In English law and custom, which had prevailed in Virginia for 170 years, a clergyman once inducted as rector of a parish had what was called a "parson's freehold," which is to say, an indefeasible right to the economic remuneration of the post, which could not be terminated except by his death, resignation, or removal for misconduct. To deprive a rector of his stipend and glebe was equivalent to confiscating a man's property without due process of law. The petition from the clergy in favor of the Establishment pointed out that "when they undertook the change of parishes in Virginia they depended on the publick faith for receiving that recompense for their services during life or good behaviour, which the laws of the land promised; a tenure which to them appears of the same sacred nature as that by which every man in the state holds…his private property."

After prolonged consideration, the Assembly decided to postpone the matter of disestablishment until a later time. The war was under way; the times were uncertain. The Establishment with its parish system was woven into the fabric of Virginia life, and could not easily be eradicated. Instead, the Assembly passed a law in December, 1776, exempting all dissenters from levies and impositions for the support of the Church and its clergy, but requiring vestries 193. to continue to collect tithes for the support of the sick and the poor. It suspended the colonial act which fixed the stipend of the rectors of parishes. Hereafter, the Episcopalians in each parish would pay their rector what stipend they chose. The act also specifically reserved to the Church all churches and chapels, all private donations, all books, communion silver, and ornaments, and all glebes acquired by it prior to the passage of the act. The Assembly was temporizing in hopes that this interim measure would satisfy enough people to avoid a final solution at a time of crisis when a heated discussion might undermine the morale of the people and do a disservice to the war effort.

But it did not satisfy. Throughout the years 1777-1779 the House of Delegates was inundated with an increasing number of petitions on both sides of the question of whether ministers of all denominations should be supported by voluntary contributions or whether the state should impose a general assessment, like the old parish tithe, and merely allow the master of each household to designate to which minister and denomination it should be given. During these years while the Assembly was waiting for the people to think about the whole matter and reach some conclusion, several rather radical measures were introduced into the House and in each case voted down. One bill proposed to dissolve all vestries and end the Establishment. Another provided for a general assessment. A third, known to history as the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, was introduced in 1779, debated, and tabled. Meanwhile, 194. parishes were falling vacant through the death or resignation of rectors, vestrymen were neglecting their duties because of the uncertainty of their position, and dissenters were refusing to pay tithes for the poor. The Church was still bound to the State but no longer derived any benefit from the connection.

On the eve of the Revolution there were 105 Anglican clergymen in Virginia. Most of these were rectors of the hundred parishes in the colony. A few were professors at the College of William and Mary, and a few were young men just back from England and serving as curates to older rectors, teaching school, or awaiting vacant parishes. Of this number, some fifteen are known to have been loyalists who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new Commonwealth after July 5, 1776, and who, therefore, were deprived of their public functions. Another five who were patriots to start with, later lost faith in the cause of American independence, and became loyalists. Another nineteen dropped out of view during the war years. Whether death of infirmity terminated their rectorships or poverty forced them to earn a living in some other way, or whether they too made their peace with the British authorities we do not know. The remaining sixty-six, however, are known to have been faithful to the American cause throughout. Those few who were conscientiously unable to take the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth in July, 1776, were forbidden to officiate at public services but were 195. allowed to remain rectors of parishes, to live on the glebes, and to officiate privately at weddings and funerals, provided they would give no help to the British troops in America. If they wished, they might return to England. And if they could not afford the passage, the Commonwealth was ready to assist them financially. Those at the College who were loyalists, however, were ejected from their posts, though allowed to remain in the country if they would live quietly. Only one Anglican clergyman in Virginia is known to have been roughly handled because of his politics. Christopher MacRae, rector of Littleton Parish, Cumberland County, was seized, bound, and badly beaten by a group of men while carrying the sacrament to an ill woman in a remote section one stormy night. Despite this, he remained in the parish throughout the war and resumed his duties as rector after the disestablishment without ever having taken an oath of allegiance against his conscience.

Not only were more than two-thirds of the clergy in Virginia supporters of the Revolution but many of them took an active part in it, signing non-importation agreements, serving on county committees of safety in more than twenty counties, and fighting with the armed forces. One Virginia clergyman, Charles Mynn Thruston, served as a colonel in the army and lost an arm in the war. Another, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, began as a colonel and ended as a major-general. Still another, Adam Smith, enlisted as a private in the militia in order to defend his frontier parish from the Cherokees in 1776-1777. The future Bishop of Virginia, 196. James Madison, served as captain of a militia company composed of college students. All thirteen of the known Virginia chaplains during the Revolution, with the exception of a Lutheran who served the German-speaking Eighth Virginia Regiment, were Anglican clergymen. When one considers that each regiment elected its chaplain, this is a tribute to the popularity and patriotism of the Established clergy.

Despite the fact that there were some Tories among them, the clergy of the Established Church played such a conspicuous role in the war for independence that in later years Chancellor George Wythe in handing down a judicial decision, paid a handsome compliment to the clergy: "At the commencement of our happy revolution that reverend body of men who then filled the pulpits in this country, far from inculcating the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance to the invaders of the rights of their country, were zealous in her cause… And if ever men in their station deserved the esteem of their country, that meed was due to the Established Church in Virginia at that period."

The College of William and Mary was founded primarily, as the royal charter of 1693 declares, "to the end that the Church of Virginia may be furnish'd with a Seminary of Ministers of the Gospel." And by 1776 it had come to supply many of the clergymen 197. of the colony, and those generally the best. On the eve of the Revolution the various endowments and duties devoted to the support of the College produced an annual income of more than £3,000, making it the richest college in America. When independence was declared, its president, John Camm, was an ardent loyalist, and so were several of its other professors, John Dixon, professor of divinity, and Emmanuel Jones, Jr., Master of the Indian School. Thomas Gwatkin and Samuel Henley, also Tories, had returned to England in 1775, disgusted by the raucous patriotism of the student body. Camm, Dixon, and Jones were dismissed as enemies of America by the Board of Visitors on May 6, 1777. This left only two professors at the College, James Madison, the new president, and John Bracken. To them was added Robert Andrews late in 1777 . Meanwhile, however, most of the students left their studies and joined the army. Thereafter the College concentrated upon the grammar school boys who were too young to bear arms. When the British raided Virginia in 1780-1781, President Madison organized the boys into a militia company, and on several occasions led them as its captain against the enemy.

In 1779 under the aegis of Governor Jefferson, a member of the Board of Visitors, the College was reorganized along modern lines. The professorship of divinity and that for Greek and Latin were abolished and replaced by new professorships of law and police, anatomy and medicine, and modern languages. As a result of this streamlining in the interests of utilitarian subjects, the College 198. virtually ceased to be Anglican, and no longer trained clergymen for the Church. Also after the Revolution, the intellectual atmosphere of the College became strongly deistic and opposed to all organized religion, so that men preparing for the ministry were inclined to go elsewhere rather than to William and Mary. An unsuccessful attempt in 1820-1821 to revive the professorship of divinity at the College ultimately led to the founding of the Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria in 1823.

In 1780 the Assembly received another flood of petitions, this time to remove legal discrimination against dissenting ministers. They were legally regarded as laymen, and therefore not exempt from jury and militia duty as were the Anglican clergy. Moreover, not being priests, dissenting ministers could not legally perform marriages in Virginia. In July, 1780, the House passed a bill to permit dissenting ministers to perform marriages, which was defeated by the Senate, but enacted into law in the autumn session of 1780. Unfortunately, the act made certain restrictions which greatly exasperated the dissenters. It provided that no more than four ministers of each denomination in any county might be selected and licensed by the county court to perform marriages, and that they might not exercise this function outside the county in which they were licensed. No such restrictions applied to the clergy of the Established Church, all of whom by virtue of their priesthood could 199. solemnize marriages in their own parishes and also in any other in Virginia subject to the assent of the rector or, if none, of the churchwardens. Why the Assembly framed an act like this one, with its petty restrictions on dissenting ministers, after the Commonwealth had committed itself to complete religious freedom in the Declaration of Rights, is hard to understand. Possibly the enthusiasm for liberty that was rampant in the spring and summer of 1776 led many conservative Virginians to concede so much that they later repented of it. Possibly the reverses of the American forces in the South in 1780 and the impending British invasion of Virginia in 1781 confused their thinking with respect to the religious settlement. In any event, Established Church life was rapidly deteriorating and the Assembly could not bring itself to administer the coup de grace. Consequently, it repeatedly ignored or voted down all petitions and bills designed to hasten the fall of the Establishment, and yet hesitated to act upon the counterproposals for some form of state support of religion.

The stalemate lasted until after the Treaty of Paris, which was signed in September, 1783, and which terminated the Revolution and recognized American independence. The American people, released from the strain of eight years of war, were setting about putting their new house in order. In other states Episcopalians were in process of forming dioceses and in the case of Connecticut, electing 200. their own bishop. But the Virginia Church, which had the largest number of adherents, was unable to reorganize itself or do anything to halt the rapid deterioration of its life because it was in bondage to a Commonwealth which refused to act.

At its spring session in 1784 the Virginia Assembly again took up the question of the religious settlement. Because of the intolerable situation in which the Church found itself, the Established Church clergy, who formerly had petitioned to preserve the Establishment, now requested the Assembly to release the Church from the burden of it, to free the vestries from civil duties, and to incorporate the Episcopal Church so that it might develop its own life free from state restrictions. In consequence of this petition and the fact that disestablishment would please the dissenters, the Assembly on December 28, 1784, passed an act which incorporated the Episcopal Church in Virginia and terminated the Establishment. It created the new post of Overseers of the Poor in each county to take over the civil duties formerly exercised by the parish vestries, and it freed the Church from the burden and embarrassment of political control.

One question yet remained, Should the Commonwealth impose a general assessment for the support of religion and allow each householder to designate the recipient, or should the State abandon the churches to their own devices? Action on this question was postponed until the session of November, 1785, and was not finally taken until January 16, 1786, when the Assembly passed the famous Statute for Religious Freedom, which put an end to all thoughts of 201. general assessment, and permanently committed Virginia to the principle of complete separation of Church and State.

Drawn up by a committee of five men, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, and Thomas Ludwell Lee, all of them at one time vestrymen of parishes, and introduced into the House of Delegates in 1779, this bill was tabled as a part of the Assembly's policy of putting off until the end of the war the final solution of the religious settlement. Jefferson later claimed to be the chief author and pronounced it one of the three accomplishments of his life worthy to be recorded on his gravestone. In recent time George Mason has been advanced as an important contributor to it. Regardless of the identity of the author, it is a great milestone in the history of religious liberty and ought to be cherished by all lovers of freedom. It amplified the terse sixteenth article of Mason's Declaration of Rights and granted complete religious freedom, not as a privilege, but as a right. The idea of toleration being merely a necessary compromise with error in order to assure peace and tranquility in the State was foreign to its theory. The truth, the bill declared, "is great and will prevail if left to herself; … she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them."


The argument of the bill in favor of religious freedom was not that it conformed to the liberal principles of the Enlightenment or democratic thought, but that it rested upon orthodox theological concepts. The preamble asserted, "Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free: that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do…" Therefore, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyranical." Moreover, "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geography," and to confine public offices to those who profess a particular faith "tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing … with a monopoly of wordly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it."

Thus the Established Church of Virginia terminated its connection with the State and brought to an end the 179-year-old establishment. Its legacy on parting was the glorious principle of religious freedom so admirably stated in this act. It has become a cardinal principle of the American way of life and a beacon light in the history of civil rights, and of Western Civilization.



This small book could not have been written had it not been for the devoted labors of a number of historians in the field of church history, notably George MacLaren Brydon, whose monumental Virginia's Mother Church (Vol. I, Richmond, 1947; Vol. II, Philadelphia, 1952) is a book of sterling worth, destined long to remain the standard work on the subject. I have drawn heavily upon Dr. Brydon's book at every stage in writing mine. In particular, most of Chapter II, part of Chapter V, and virtually all of Chapters VI and VII of this book have been drawn out of the voluminous materials in Virginia's Mother Church, a debt I am happy to acknowledge.

For ideas in the first part of Chapter I, I am indebted to an excellent monograph by Professor Perry Miller of Harvard University entitled "Religion and Society in the Early Literature: The Religious Impulse in the Founding of Virginia" in the William and Mary Quarterly, 3d. ser. V (1948), pp. 492-522, and VI (1949), pp. 24-41. The second part of Chapter I rests upon Paul Elmer More and Frank Leslie Cross, Anglicanism: The Thought and Practice of the Church of England, illustrated from the Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century, Milwaukee, 1935, and James Thayer Addison, "Early Anglican Thought, 1559-1667," in the Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, XXII (1953), pp. 249-369. The last part of Chapter II owes much to Guy Fred Wells, Parish Education in Colonial Virginia 204. New York, 1923. Chapter III rests upon George Carrington Mason, Colonial Churches of Tidewater Virginia, Richmond, Stephen P. Dorsey, Early English Churches in America 1607-1807, New York, 1952, and G. W. 0. Addleshaw and Frederick Etchells, The Architectural Setting of Anglican Worship, London, 1950. Many illustrative details of this and other chapters come from the various colonial vestry books that have been published by the Virginia State Library and from William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin, The Record of Bruton Parish edited, with revisions and additions by Mary Francis Goodwin, Richmond, 1941.

Chapter IV owes much to H. A. Wilson, ed., Constitutions & Canons Ecclesiastical 1604, London, 1923, to Vernon Staley, The Ceremonial of the English Church, London, 1940, and to the invaluable source book, J. Wickham Legg, English Church Life from the Restoration to the Tractarian Movement, London, 1914.

Chapter V draws heavily upon Jonathan Boucher's Reminiscences of an American Loyalist, 1738-1789, edited by Jonathan Bouchier, Boston, 1925, and The Life of the Reverend Devereux Jarratt, Baltimore, 1806, reprinted with an introduction and notes by Douglass Adair in the William and Mary Quarterly, 3d. ser., IX (1952), pp. 346-393.

December 3, 1980

To: Mr . Peter Logan
From: Linda Rowe

Attached are Xerox copies of sections from several books in the library speaking to the church/state relationship in colonial Virginia. Also I include a response to a query concerning the oath administered to Burgesses which you mentioned the other day. Finally, there are copies from our York County Project file of several cases involving non-attendance at church, swearing, etc. I could not locate the case I mentioned to you Monday: a fellow was excused by the York County Court from church services because he was found to be deaf. It was York County, seventeenth century, if you want to use it.

I hope these bits and pieces will be of help to you. Please call if you have questions. I will mention all of this to Harold on Friday. If he has anything to add I will call you then.

L. H. R.



[...]civil and criminal. In more important cases the justices sat as a group which until 1643 was called the monthly court. In that year it met every two months and was known as the county court.21 The defendant was given a trial by jury upon request. Appeals could be taken to the General Court, consisting of the Governor and Council sitting in quarterly judicial sessions at Jamestown. Appeals could also be made to the General Assembly. The verdicts of the justices were enforced at the jail, whipping post, stocks, pillory, ducking stool, and in certain cases in the churches, where public confession was made.

Like the justice courts in England the justices here had a wide variety of administrative duties which were added to from time to time. They looked after the peace and general welfare of the community, probated wills and granted letters of administration, established ferries and fixed their rates, licensed ordinaries and ferries, laid off parishes according to the Assembly's directions, and regulated the price of liquors from time to time as the price of tobacco fluctuated.22 The justices were chosen from the most influential men in the Colony. They received for their labor and pains in office their expenses and the satisfaction of knowing that they had done their duty as English gentlemen. Eventually the justices had the privilege of recommending other justices for the governor's approval.23 The sheriff was chosen from among the members of the court. (Since Church and State in Virginia were two parts of the same body, it is not surprising to find the Church looking after the poor and unfortunate, and performing many other functions now belonging to the State. Churchwardens of every parish, as one of their duties, had to "deliver in a true presentment in writing of such misdemeanors as to their knowledge have been committed" during the previous year.24 )

When the northern and westward movement began in 1630 there were upwards of twenty-five hundred people in Virginia.25 Each year hundreds of emigrants left England for the new Virginia frontier, and by April 1635 the census showed a population of [...]

Source: Richard L. Morton, Colonial Virginia, Vol. I

34 and 35

[...]vestry be in the power of the major part of the parishioners, who being warned, shall appear to make choice of such men as by plurality of voices shall be thought fit." This democratic method seems to have persisted until sometime during Berkeley's second administration. Then, at least some of the vestries began themselves to fill vacancies in their ranks, and thus to become self-perpetuating bodies.

The long continuance of vestries was presented as a grievance to the King's commissioners after 'Bacon's Rebellion. The people of Surry complained that they had "not had liberty to choose vestrymen," and asked that "the whole parish may have a free election." Northampton asked "that we may have liberty granted to choose a new vestry, and that every three years a vestry may be chosen." Isle of Wight made the same request. In response to like appeals, the Assembly of June, 1676, passed an act giving the freemen of every parish the right to elect vestrymen whenever they wished by a majority vote.

After this law was voided, there seem to have been elections only when a new parish was established. Beverley says that "the vestries were at first chosen by the vote of the parishioners, but upon the death of one, have been continued by the survivors' electing another in his place." Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton, in their The Present State of Virginia, make a similar statement. The vestry was chosen at first by all the masters of families, they say, but they had "power to continue themselves, for as one dies or removes out of the parish, the remaining vestrymen choose another in his room." We may follow this process in the VestryBook of St. Paul's Parish, of Hanover County. The vestry was elected by the freeholders and housekeepers in 1704, but after that it became a self-perpetuating body. When Mr. David Crawford died the vestry chose Mr. William England in his place, when Mr. England died they chose Mr. William Meriwether, when Mr. Robert Anderson died they elected Mr. Joseph Baughan. And so it continued until the vestry was dissolved by the Assembly during the Revolution, and a new one elected by the people.

The vestries were the dominant power in the established church. The Bishop of London, 1675, acted as diocesan of all the colonies, but in practice he had little authority. In 1689 he appointed the Reverend James Blair as his Commissary, with power to hold convocations, make visitations, and supervise the conduct of the clergy. Since the Governor claimed by his commission the right to induct and collate ministers, the Church had two heads, each with very limited authority. Consequently the vestries did pretty much what they pleased.

The basis of their power was their control of the parish purse. In England wealthy patrons, who had perhaps endowed a parish, presented the minister to the bishop for induction. But in Virginia the vestry, who had built the church and who paid the minister his salary, claimed the right to select him. In a few cases they did present clergymen for induction, but most of the clergy officiated only as their salaried employees.

Governor Nicholson made a determined effort to force the vestries to present their ministers, and even secured an opinion from Attorney-General Edward Northey, that in cases where they refused to do so he had the right to collate. But the vestries defied both Nicholson and Northey, and, one after the other, refused to obey. In the end the Governor had to submit, for had he forced his nominee on a parish, the vestry would have withheld his salary and starved him out.

Turning now to administrative positions other than that of Governor, we find that the President of the Council, Secretary of State, Attorney-General, Auditor, and Treasurer, were the most important. It was the custom for the Councillor having had the longest term of service to become President when the office of the Governor became temporarily vacant, until a new Governor arrived. For this reason one's rank in the Council was jealously guarded. The President exercised all the powers of [...]


[…]them in laying the county levy. The same representatives were to have an equal voice also in "making wholesome bylaws." But this attempt to make local government more democratic failed with the voiding of Bacon's Laws.

The county levy was often heavier than the public levy. In the period from 1685 to 1699 the public levy for Middlesex averaged 20,165 pounds a year, the county levy 26,759. The Essex public levy from 1692 to 1699 totaled 49,568, the county levy 224,632. The chief item of expense in the local budget was the salary and expenses of the county's representatives in the House of Burgesses.

Every county had one or more parishes, each under the direction of a vestry. To this body was entrusted the nomination of the minister, the payment of his salary, the erection of the church and one or more chapels, ecclesiastical discipline, the providing for the aged and poor, taking care of orphaned children, and laying the parish levy. The minister charged with "excess in drinking, or riot, or spending his time idly by day or night, playing at dice, cards, or any other unlawful game" would have to explain his conduct to his outraged vestry. If they preferred charges against him before the Governor and Council, he would be fortunate if he escaped suspension. Ecclesiastical discipline extended, not only to the clergy but to laymen. In 1639 Robert Sweet, who ranked as a gentleman, was ordered to appear in church in a white sheet, for improper relations with a servant girl. In Northampton, in 1648, the wife of a prominent citizen was accused before the vestry of infidelity to her husband, found guilty, and presented by the minister and churchwardens to the county court for punishment.

The power of the vestry to tax the parishioners, made it a matter of great importance that they should be elected by the people. The parish levy was always heavy, and in some instances exceeded that of either the public or county levy. In 1645 the Assembly passed an act providing "that the election of every[...]


[...]witnesses" was very great, "particularly by the multitude of places and other favors he has to promise in case they favor him in the trial, and partly by the certain ruin they must expect if they do otherwise." In the case of Swan versus Wilson Governor Nicholson so greatly abused Swan's attorney "that everybody cried out shame." Since the Governor appointed the justices of the peace who constituted the county courts, his influence over local justice was equally great.

The Governor was also the legal head of the established Church. He had the right to induct ministers after they had been presented by the vestries. He also claimed the right of collation to vacant parishes, but since this was bitterly opposed by the vestries, he seldom tried to exercise it. Late in the seventeenth century the Bishop of London, who acted as diocesan for the Anglican Church in the colonies, appointed a Commissary to represent him in Virginia. This led to divided authority in ecclesiastical affairs, and at times to bitter disputes between the Commissary and the Governor.

If we turn now to the Council of State, intended originally to serve only as an advisory body for the Governor, we find that in time they assumed also other functions. Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton, in their The Present State of Virginia, thus summarize their duties and privileges: "They are the Council of State under the Governor, who always presides; and in the vacancy of a Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, the eldest of the Council is President. They are the Upper House of Assembly, answering to the House of Peers in England. They are by custom, but without commission, the supreme judges (together with the Governor who presides) in all causes, viz. in chancery, King's Bench, common pleas, exchequer, admiralty, and spirituality, and there lies no appeal from them but to the King in Council…They are colonels and commanders-in-chief of the several counties, in the nature of the Lords Lieutenants in England.

Source: Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Government of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century


19th March 1721/2 [illegible]

Richd. King [presented] by the Grand Jury for not going to Church is fined five Shillings & ordered that [he pay] the Sd [fine] to the [Church] wardens of Bruton parish at their next levy with [Costs als.Exo.]


15th January 1721/2 603

John Fossett presented by the Grand Jury for Swearing is fined five Shillings and ordered that he pay the same to the Church wardens of Charles parish at their next Levy with Costs als. Exo.

CW(16) 101

15th January 1721/2 [illegible]

Richd, King presented by the Grand Jury for not going to church according to Law being Summond and failing to appear Ordered that the Sheriff take him into Custody untill he gives Security for his appearance at the next Court to ansr. the sd presentment.

William Rogers the Same
Joseph Frith the Same

CW (16) 321

Birdson [Burdsong] Elizabeth 15 Feb 1724/5

had a bastard child

Upon the information of James Parsons churchwarden of Charles Parish agt EB for having a bastard child ordered that the sheriff summon the sd E to appear' and answer the same at the next ct.

JO (2) 207

21 May 1753

Thomas Roberts, foremanEllyson Armistead
Merritt MooreRobert Crawley
John FergusonNathaniel Crawley Jr
Edward TabbRobert Smith
Edward MossEdward Cross
William Sheldon SclaterJohn Richardson
Thomas MountfortMatthew Burt
John WoottenJohn Hay
Alexander CraigEdward Potter
William MoodyJohn Crawley
Frederick BryanSeymour Powell

were sworn a Grand Jury of Inquest for the body of this county and having received their charge went out of ct and after some time returned and made the following presentments viz:
John Tenham surveyor of the Brook road for not keeping it in repair.
Sarah Bratenham for having a bastard child.
William Gill for absenting himself from his parish church.
William Pierce for the same.
John Coman for the same
Mary Evans for the same,
John Wormley, William Willcox & John James Hulett for unlawful gaming.
Gerrard Roberts, Jr. for absenting himself from his parish church.
Samuel Roberts for the same.

JO (2) 207-208

21 May 1753

William Forgasson for the same,
Gawton Hunt for the same.
John Parsons for the same.
Robert Brown for the same.
Edward Mason for the same.
James Holloway for the same.
Nicholas Morris for the same.
John Hunt for the same.
John Moore for the same.
William Stanup as a common swearer.
James Mitchell for absenting himself from his parish church.
John Morgam for the same.
Robert Brodie for the same.
John Clark for the same.
William Britain for absenting himself from his parish church.
John Holloway for the same.'
Robert Willis for the same.
Robert Wise for the same.
Edmund Stuckey for the same.
and then the Grand Jury having nothing further to present were discharged.

November 18, 1953

Mr. Bernhard Knollenberg
Parker's Point
Chester, Connecticut

Dear Mr. Knollenberg

Ch. of England
Burgesses (Laws of)

Pardon my delay in answering your letter of November 3, 1953 concerning "the Test" which Virginia burgesses-elect had to subscribe before taking their Place in the Assembly.

The English Test Act of 1673 required holders of any office, civil or military, to receive within three months of their taking office the Sacrament of Holy Communion according to the rite of the Church of England "in some publick Church, upon some Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, immediately after Divine Service and Sermon," and to deliver a certificate of their having done so, signed by the priest, churchwarden, and two credible witnesses.

The Test Act of 1678 (30 Car, II stat. 2, cap. 1) provided the text of a declaration that had to be audibly repeated and signed. This declaration is doubtless the one that all Virginia burgesses made when they "subscribed the Test." Here is the text of the declaration from D. Oswald Dykes, Source Book of Constitutional History From 1660, London, 1930, pp. 251-52:

"I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, That I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the Elements of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the Consecration thereof by any Person whatsoever: and that the Invocation or Adoration of the Virgin Mary, or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this Declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the Words read unto 2 me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever, and without any Dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the Pope, or any other Authority or Person whatsoever, or without any hope of any such Dispensation from any Person or Authority whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or Man, or absolved of this Declaration, or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other Person or Persons, or Power whatsoever, should dispense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null or void from the beginning."

An explanation of the purpose of this oath is seen in the fact that the Church of England at the Reformation retained the ancient catholic doctrine of the "real presence" of Christ in the Holy Communion, but rejected as heretical the distinctively Roman doctrine called "transubstantiation," which asserts that the bread and wine at the instant of consecration cease to be bread and wine and miraculously become the actual corporeal body and blood of Christ. Belief in transubstantiation after 1570, therefore, served as a kind of shibboleth whereby anyone who secretly was a Roman Catholic might be forced to reveal his ecclesiastical affiliation.

Trusting that this information will be of some help to you,
I am, Sir,
Yours faithfully,

Arthur Pierce Middleton
Director of Research

146 and 147


Tobacco, lbs.
For a Depositum712
Collector, 6 percent1412
1686 tythes at 14 lbs.23004

The collector was ordered to sell the tobacco and make the money payments as levied. For another example of the currency inflation of the period, the budget for three years200 later shows the levy per poll at 48 pounds of tobacco, as against I4, and the cash levy at £2315 5s. as against £64, I4S. 7¼d.

Vestries, however, were beginning to go out of existence after the Declaration of Independence, especially in the Western part of the state. As early as 1777201 the commissioners of the tax for Botetourt county were authorized to make a levy for the poor, due to the lack of a vestry, though a general law202 in the same year ordered the sheriff to collect the parish levy when asked by the churchwardens to do so, at a 6% commission. The vestry was still missing in Botetourt county in 1782 when the first four justices were ordered203 to levy on the parish to pay the back salary of the minister. In the same year, all vestries were abolished by law204 in Shenandoah, Henry, Monongalia, Ohio, and Berkley counties Three vestries were also abolished in the East, but new elections ordered, in the cases of St. Anne,205 Antrim,206 and Westover.

The formal disestablishment of the Church came in 1784,207 thus ending its career as a branch of the government, and it became a private incorporated body. All laws concerning the church were repealed in toto, all vestries dissolved, and the new vestries to be formed were to be elected by the members of each individual church. The only government connection with the new organization was the requirement that the new vestries report to the county court every three years on the administration of their property. The outgoing vestry, however, was authorized to make one last levy, if any legal obligations remained unfulfilled. The next year the time for choosing new vestries was extended208 to Easter, 1786, because some of the churches were still unorganized.

The abolition of the vestry made it necessary to lodge its non-religious functions elsewhere, and of these the support of the poor by far the most important. The care of the poor, however, had been in a state of flux for some time before the disestablishment of the Church. In 1776209 the parish of Westover was allowed to sell its poorhouse and land as "being burdensome and not to answer the purpose thereby intended," but in 1779210 the vestries were required to levy for the support of the poor even after the ministers' salaries had been abolished. With the discontinuance of the vestries in seven counties, in 1780,211 the Assembly created a board of five, elected by the freeholders for three years, to take care of the poor. This marks the origin of the overseers of the poor who were to be part of the Virginia scheme until the depression and the New Deal combined to abolish them in recent times. They were to be "… a body politick and corporate, to sue and be sued, and be invested with all the powers and subject to all the penalties that vestries and churchwardens were liable to, and vested with, before the passing of this act." The existing vestries were ordered to account to the overseers for all money and tobacco [...]

Source: Porter, County Gov't.



[...]to the sheriff of York county to hold an election in Charles Parish in which he was to limit the voting to householders and to avoid the "turmult and confusion which usually happens on such occasions."

The duties of the vestry remained a mixture of religious and civil. They were responsible for hiring and paying the minister, maintaining the church, parsonage, and glebe, and at the same time they were responsible for all poor relief. In order to raise money for these activities they could levy a tax on the people of the parish and, as the situation in Frederick revealed, were under no legal check or control in the amount collected or in the manner of spending it. Bacon's law requiring six men to be elected from the parish to sit with the vestry while laying the levy was repassed in 1677,229 but there is no evidence that it became the general practice or even went into effect. The parish taxes were collected by the sheriff and in 1727230 the commission was fixed at 10% if the tobacco was near a landing or at 8% if in cask. There was the usual provision for a fine on the vestry for refusal to make the levy and on the sheriff for negligence in collecting, while if the vestry did not trust the sheriff, it could appoint its own collector. This was occasionally done, as in Kingston Parish, in 1753,231 when a special collector was appointed by the vestry and was required to give bond to the vestry for his collections.

While the appointment of the minister was a vestry function, there is considerable evidence that the vestry was not left alone an in this task. As was natural, the vestry of a rural parish could have little or no personal knowledge of ministerial candidates and due to the frequent shortages of ministers in the colony, vestrymen might have considerable difficulty in finding a candidate at all. Under these circumstances the Governor was the natural source of aid and assistance. In 1710232 Governor [...]

Source: Porter, County Gov't.



[...] in the neighborhood of £400 instead of the £144 allowed by the law. While the ministers were probably worse off than other creditors, nevertheless the law hurt all those who received salary or fees, stated in tobacco, and there was considerable satisfaction among this group when the parsons appealed to England. The disallowance of this law brought in its train the famous Parsons' Cause, in which Patrick Henry burst upon the American scene and which was one of the incidents leading to the Revolution. The struggle between the ministers and the vestries was settled by an Act in 1769239 which allowed the vestry to make its own rate of exchange, and in the same year240 an act stated that the ministers did not have to receive their salaries in money, but might contract with the vestry to do so. In such case the vestry would levy on the people in money. If the minister refused to bargain with his vestry and insisted on the full salary in tobacco, the vestry might levy on the parish in money and buy the necessary tobacco in the market at the prevailing price.

In addition to his religious duties the minister was also the recorder of vital statistics. In 1712241 he was required to keep a record of births and deaths and return a copy to the secretary of the Colony annually. All births and deaths were to be reported to him within twenty days, though if the parish maintained a clerk this duty might be handed over to him. Of course each parish kept a register of marriages. Many of these registers have survived as the happy hunting ground of those interested in Virginia genealogy.

Next to the church affairs, care of the poor was the chief duty of the vestry. Duties in this connection are outlined in a long series of acts. The form of relief granted was, in most of the cases, outdoor relief. The records of the vestries are full of allowances to those unable to help themselves, the first step [...]

Source: Porter, County Gov't.



[...]from another county, the court, on notice from the churchwardens, might send him home at county expense.

In the case of dependent children, a sharp distinction was made between those unfortunate enough to be orphans and from those even more unfortunate who were born out of wedlock. Orphans were under the control of the county court.248 If they had no property they might be bound out by the justices. If, however, they had property, the court appointed the guardian and checked his accounts.249 The Act of 1748250 gave the courts "full power and authority" to deal with orphans, to appoint guardians and put them under bond, and to check the accounts annually and have them entered by the clerk. There was a large fine imposed for failure to perform these duties and in addition the justices were personally liable for any damage or loss resulting from a dishonest guardian, if they had been negligent in their duty of supervision.

Bastards, however, were in a different category. In 1727251 they could be bound out by the churchwardens under the supervision of the vestry, but in 1769252 the whole matter was set out in detail. If the mother of a bastard named the father on oath before a justice, the father, on application by a churchwarden, might he committed to jail, unless he agreed at the next court to provide for the maintenance of the child, while the mother was fined 20s. for the offence. If the father was not named or refused to be responsible the child might be bound out by the churchwardens until the legal age, which was twenty-one for men and eighteen for women. The master of such apprentices agreed to supply food, clothing, lodging, and "accommodations" and to teach the child to read and write. When the indenture came to an end, the master was to make [...]

Source: Porter, County Gov't.



[...]tice in charge of each, and this justice was to make the list of tithables. The lists were to be made public in order that the people could make corrections and then the final lists were to be made up in August and returned to the Assembly in September. The tithables not only included all free males over sixteen, but all servants and Negroes, both male and female. At the same time184 the revision continued the requirement that the sheriff collect the quitrents, public levies, officials' fees, and be bonded. In fairness to the sheriffs, however, it must be noted that all neglect and inefficiency was not due to them, for in 1667185 the Assembly found it necessary to lay a fine on county courts which failed to lay the county levies as required.

In addition to the county, the other area of local government in colonial Virginia was the parish. In fact, the parish ante-dates the county for the first church in the Colony was founded with the settlement of Jamestown and as early as 1619 there is mention of the churchwardens and their election at a public meeting was noted as early as 1623. That other parishes had been established with the spread of settlement is shown by the Act186 of the same year1624 which required them to maintain a public granary. With the establishment of the county, the parish became a subordinate area, but there was no fixed rule determining the number or the size of the area. In a small and relatively compact county like Elizabeth City there was one parish, co-terminous with the county, while a large county might have several parishes, or a large parish might have several chapels in addition to its church. In general the number and boundaries of the parishes was decided by the county court, as in Northhampton county in 1643.187 In 1657188 the courts were definitely 38 and 39 charged with dividing the county into parishes and in 1660189 the Assembly went farther and required the court to mark the boundaries of both the county and the parishes and to have them viewed each year at Easter. In 1667190 the Assembly itself changed parish lines with the passage of an Act which united two parishes into one, but the usual practice seems to have been to leave this to the courts.

The governing body of the parish was the vestry. The name was in general use as early as 1635191 and there is a provision for their election by the parishioners in the law of 1644.192 The number of members in a vestry seems to have varied from parish to parish until 1660193 when the number was set at twelve and their election by popular vote was provided, though with the development of the planter aristocracy this was later done away with. The executive officers of the parish were the church-wardens. Two in number, they were chosen in a variety of ways from election194 to appointment195 by the court until mid-century when the practice196 became general of election by and from the vestry, each vestryman serving in rotation, and the election was fixed by law197 at Easter.

The functions of the parish were twofold, religious and civil. They were responsible for securing and paying the minister, maintaining the church, and administering the glebe lands. In addition, they were charged with maintaining the moral tone of the parish and were to investigate immorality198 and prosecute it before the county court. On the civil side they were responsible for all the administrative duties which now fall under the general head of public welfare, as well as certain other minor administrative functions. To support these functions they were allowed to levy a tax, called, after the English practice, rates, on the inhabitants of the parish, and for some time it was the duty of the churchwardens199 to collect it, though it was later given to the sheriff200 who collected the rates along with the other levies In 1665201 the Assembly gave to the vestry the duty of looking after the roads necessary for getting to church and this was added to the problems of the churchwardens. Keeping vital statistics was also a parish function. The minister was charged with keeping a register of births and deaths,2021632 and the churchwardens reported the total,203 along with marriages, to the quarter court in June. In addition they were also to report the levies, collections, and payments, and continued to do so until relived of this duty by the clerk in 1659.

Following the English practice of the day, poor relief was the chief civil duty of the parishes, which were given this task as early as 1619,204 when they were authorized to levy rates for the purpose. In general, outdoor relief was the method used and there was no attempt at institutional care until 1646,205 when the building of a workhouse at Jamestown was authorized, with the appropriation of ten thousand pounds of tobacco to help the county defray the expense. The law further provided that flax should be raised and that knitting an spinning should be 40 and 41 taught. A general law in 16671668206 permitted counties to combine with parishes for the construction of workhouses for poor children, and separate parish or county workhouses were permitted the following year.207 It is doubtful if there was any great use of such institutions, however, during the seventeenth century, and even during the eighteenth century most of the parish records indicate that outdoor relief was the usual normal procedure. In 1642 the poor,208 who were receiving relief from the vestry, were exempt from the payment of county and public levies, and the vestry was required to notify the compiler of the list of tithables of the names.

Orphans, however, were entrusted to the county courts and the justices were to act as their trustees. If the orphan had no property he might be bound out209 by the justices, as might children from homes too210 poor to take care of them, and also such bastards as211 came before the court. In 16572121658 the courts were specifically charged with taking care of the lands of "orphants," and the sheriff was ordered213 to summon before the court for accounting all persons who had orphans in their care.

Of the present-day functions of county government, the only one not in existence in the first fifty years of the colony was that of public education, but private endowment for education began with the establishment of the county in 1634. In that year,214 a farmer of Elizabeth City county provided in his will that his estate, consisting of two hundred acres of land and eight cows, should be used to found a free school for the children of the county, and four years later, in 1638, the will of Thomas Eaton added five hundred acres of land, twelve cows, and eight Negroes to another foundation. One of the remarkable things in American history is that this foundation is in existence today, having lasted through all the upheavals of three centuries, and the funds thus started by Benjamin Syms and Thomas Eaton are today providing an income for the schools of their county.

Aside from education, therefore, the seventeenth century county was exercising all the functions of the county of today, taxation and assessment, highways, election, records, welfare, and militia. The needs of that day were simple and the organization was accordingly simple and direct, but the problems which worried early Virginians were different only in degree, not in kind, from those which tax lawmakers today. The history of county government in Virginia, or in any other state for that matter, shows the growing complexity of local government and the problems which were vital parts of that growth.

Source: Albert Ogden Porter, County Government in Virginia


^21. 16 T 76-85; I H 273.
^22. See 1658 list in t H 462.
^23. In 1656. I H 402.
^24. I H 309-310, and other references in this volume to churchwardens. For a survey of the field, see Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Government of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, Jamestown Booklets, ed. Swem (Williamsburg, 1957).
^25. Governor Harvey's statement. 7 V 381.
^200 Bell, op. cit., 442.
^201 IX Hening 527.
^202 Ibid.
^203 XI Hening 56.
^204 Ibid., 62.
^205 Ibid., 130.
^206 Ibid., 73.
^207 XI Hening 533.
^208 XII Hening 93.
^209 IX Hening 530.
^210 X Hening 198.
^211 Ibid., 288.
^229 II Hening 396.
^230 IV Hening 205.
^231 Chamberlayne, C. G., ed., The Vestry Book of Kingston Parish, 52.
^232 Spotswood Letters, 16.
^239 See above, p. 86.
^240 VIII Hening 384.
^241 IV Hening 42.
^248 IV Hening 412.
^249 V Hening 100.
^250 V. Hening 450.
^251 IV Hening 212.
^252 VIII Hening 374.
^184 II Hening 83.
^185 II Hening 2S5.
^186 I Hening 128.
^187 Bruce, Institutional History, I, 55.
^185 I Hening 4D9.
^189 II Hening 19.
^190 II Hening 252.
^191 Bruce, op. cit., 64.
^192 I Hening 290.
^193 II Hening 25.
^194 See above, p. 37.
^195 Bruce, op. cit., 79.
^196 Ibid.
^197 I Hening 180.
^198 Bruce, op. cit., 73.
^199 Bruce, op. cit., 90.
^200 Ibid., 93.
^201 Ibid., 114.
^202 I Hening 157.
^203 I Hening 155.
^204 I Hening 115.
^205 I Hening 336.
^206 II Hening 266.
^207 II Hening 343.
^208 I Hening 242.
^209 I Hening 416.
^210 I Hening 336.
^211 I Hening 438.
^212 I Hening 443.
^213 I Hening 551.
^214 Tyler, Lyon G., History of Hampton, 22.