Primary Resource

Tax on Religion; an excerpt from the Journal of the House of Delegates (1784)

In this excerpt from the Journal of the House of Delegates, the House adopts a resolution supporting "a moderate tax or contribution, annually," to benefit all Christian sects, including dissenters from the established Church of England. The resolution, which eventually failed, excited such opposition that James Madison was emboldened to reintroduce Thomas Jefferson's Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which was passed by the General Assembly on January 16, 1786.

Transcription from Original

— page 18 —

THURSDAY, November 11, 1784.

[…] A memorial of a committee of sundry Baptists Associations, assembled at Dover meeting-house, was presented to the House, and read; setting forth, that they have still reason to complain of several acts now in force, which they conceive are oppressive and repugnant to the equal rights of religious liberty, particularly the marriage and vestry law; and praying that the same may be amended.

Ordered, That the said petition be referred to the committee for Religion; that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their opinion thereupon, to the House.

A petition of sundry inhabitants of Southampton and the adjacent counties, whose names are thereunto subscribed, was presented to the House, and read; praying that the inspection of tobacco at South Quay, the warehouses of which were destroyed by the enemy in the year 1781, may be revived.

— page 19 —

Also, a petition of the inspectors of tobacco at Royston's, and Fredericksburg inspections; praying that their salaries may be augmented, and that they may be allowed a commission for the collection of the tax on tobacco.

Ordered, That the said petitions be referred to the committee of Propositions and Grievances; that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their opinion thereupon, to the House.

The House, according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a committee of the whole House on the state of the Commonwealth; and after some time spent therein, Mr. Speaker resumed the chair, and Mr. Matthews reported, that the committee had, according to the order, again had the state of the Commonwealth under their consideration, and come to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk's table, where the same were again read, and are as followeth:

Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee, That the people of this Commonwealth, according to their respectful abilities, ought to pay a moderate tax or contribution, annually, for the support of the christian religion, or of some christian church, denomination or communion of christians, or of some form of christian worship.

Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee, That the auditors of public accounts ought to be authorised to ascertain the balance now due upon the claims of Daniel Clarke, and to issue specie warrants for one moiety of the said debt, receivable in any taxes for the next year, and like warrants for the other moiety of the said debt, receivable in any taxes for the year 1786.

The 1st resolution being read a second time was, on the question put thereupon, agreed to by the house.

Ayes, 47. Noes, 32.

On a motion made by Mr. Strother, and seconded by Mr. Matthews,

Ordered, That the names of the ayes and noes on the foregoing question, be inserted in the Journal.

The names of those who voted in the affirmative are, Samuel Sherwin, Nicholas Cabell, William Meredith, Thomas Edmunds of Brunswick, Bernard Markham, Matthew Cheatham, Carter Henry Harrison, Edward Carrington, Joseph Jones of Dinwiddie, Miles King, George Wray, Thomas Smith, Andrew Donnelly, Batte Peterson, Isaac Coles, John Coleman, Garland Anderson, Patrick Henry, William Norvell, John Scasbrook Wills, Philip Barbour, Joseph Jones of King George, William Thornton, John Heath, William White, George Slaughter, Francis Corbin, William Curtis, Willis Riddick, William Armistead, John Kearnes, Daniel Sandford, Littleton Eyre, Thomas Gaskins, John Thornton, Benjamin Lankford, William Mayo, Edward Bland, Thomas Walke, John Fauntleroy, Bailey Washington, Carter Bassett Harrison, John Allen, Thomas Edmunds of Sussex, Richard Lee, Joseph Prentis and Henry Tazewell.

The names of those who voted in the negative are, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Edward Carter, Zachariah Johnston, Robert Clarke, Moses Hunter, Archibald Stuart, John Nicholas, John Ward, Samuel Hawes, Jacob Morton, French Strother, Spencer Roane, William Gatewood, William Pickett, Samuel Richardson, Thomas Underwood, George Clendinnen, Ralph Humphreys, Nathaniel Wilkerson, Benjamin Pope, Richard Bland Lee, Anthony Street, John Breckenridge, James Madison, jun. Charles Porter, John Hays, Gawin Hamilton, John Hopkins, William Russell, James Montgomery, Nathaniel Nelson and Thomas Matthews.

The latter resolution being read a second time was, on a motion made, ordered to lie on the table.