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[Enclosure B]

234. Statement on Episcopal Church in Virginia.

About the Episcopal Church

The earliest history of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, dates back to October 1621, when Sir Francis Wyatt Governor, who brought over a new frame of


government for the colony dated July 24th 1621, establishing a Council of State and a General Assembly. Amongst his instructions was one, for the permanent guidance of the Govr. and Council. He was to provide for the Service of God in conformity with "the church of England as near as may be". Ministers were ordered in Session March 1630 to "conform themselves in all things according to the cannons of the Church of England". The first act of the Session 1632 provides "that there be a uniformity throughout this Colony both in substance and circumstance to the Cannons and Constitution of the Church of England as near as may be; and that every person yield ready obedience unto them upon penalty of the pains and penalties in that case appointed." Another act directs that "Ministers shall not give themselves to excess in drinking or riot, spending their time idly by day or night playing at dice, cards or any other unlawful game."

In 1661 laws were passed demanding strict conformity and required all to contribute to the established church. The Vestry was now invested with the power of perpetuating its own body by filling vacancies themselves.

By an Act of Assembly passed in 1662 a Salary of Ł80 was settled upon every minister "to be paid in the valuable commodities of the country, if in Tobacco, at 12 shillings the hundred, if in cord, at 10 shillings the barrel."

In 1696 the salary of the clergy was fixed at 16,000 lbs of tobacco worth at that time about Ł80. This continued to be the amount of their stipends, until 1731 when the value of Tobacco being raised, they increased to about Ł100 or Ł120. This was exclusive of their Gebes and other perquisites.

In 1779 former acts providing salaries for the ministers, which had been suspended from time to time, were repealed.

Whilst the right existed from Oct. 1621 to tax for the ministry, yet I do not see that it was exercised until 1661. Then to answer your question I assume that the tax commenced in 1661 and ended with the act of 1779. After this period the Episcopal Church continued to exercise peculiar privileges until the act of January 1799 put them on a footing with all other Churches and the Act of 1802 gave their Glebe lands to the State for certain uses.

An act to Establish Religious Freedom soon followed — a copy of which I send you. It was the work of Mr. Jeffersons great mind.

It only remains for me to answer your question "When was the law of Primogeniture repealed in Virginia?"

I answer in 1785 to take effect on the 1st day of January 1787. This law was the production of the united labors of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Pendleton and Mr. Wythe. As reported by them and passed by the Legislature, it made no difference in the descents of infants estates and those of adults. I send you a copy of this law as reenacted in 1819 and somewhat changed, but not in its cardinal principles.

I think the foregoing answers your questions. I regard it reliable as it is culled from works of character and copied almost verbatim.

"The works of Jefferson" to which I have not access at this time, will furnish


you fuller information on all these subjects than I can now give — See his 1st Vol., not his "Correspondence" or "Memoirs," but "The works of Jefferson."

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2643 (letter), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2644 (enclosure A); Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:2 — 8 (letter, enclosures A and B)



1. This material on the church and practice of religion in early Virginia was apparently compiled by either Harris or an anonymous informant in compliance with Herndon's requests. The text is taken from the Springer transcription.

2. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. H. A. Washington, 9 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1853 — 54).