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PRESIDENT MADISON'S RELIGIOUS OPINIONS.
In the neighbourhood of Orange Court-House, at Montpelier, lived Mr. James Madison, once President of the United States, and relative of Bishop Madison. Having been often asked concerning his religious sentiments, I give the following, received from the Rev. Dr. Balmaine, who married his near relative, and by whom Mr. Madison himself was married. Mr. Madison was sent to Princeton College,-perhaps through fear of the skeptical principles then so prevalent at William and Mary. During his stay at Princeton a great revival took place, and it was believed that he partook of its spirit. On his return home he conducted family worship in his father's house. He soon after offered for the Legislature, and it was objected to him, by his opponents, that he was better suited to the pulpit than to the legislative hall. His religious feeling, however, seems to have been short-lived. His political associations with those of infidel principles, of whom there were many in his day, if they did not actually change his creed, yet subjected him to the general suspicion of it. This was confirmed in the minds of some by the active part he took in opposition to every thing like the support of churches by the Legislature, in opposition to Patrick Henry, Governor Page, Richard Henry Lee, and others. This, however, ought not to have been sufficient to fix the charge upon him, as George Mason and others, whose faith was not questionedd, agreed with him in this policy. A reference to a memorial against
such act by Mr. Madison, at the request, it is affirmed, of some non-Episcopalians, will show his character and views. It is by far the ablest document which appears on that side of the question, and establishes his character for good temper as well as decision. It is drawn up on the supposition of the truth of Christianity. must indeed have done this in order to be acceptable to those by whom it was solicited. Whatever may have been the private sentiments of Mr. Madison on the subject of religion, he was never known to declare any hostility to it. Ile always treated it with respect, attended public worship in his neighbourhood, invited ministers of religion to his house, had family prayers on such occasions, —though he did not kneel himself at prayers. Episcopal ministers often went there to see his aged and pious mother and administer the Holy Communion to her. I was never at Mr. Madison's but once, and then our conversation took such a turn-though not designed on my part—as to call forth some expressions and argu
ments which left the impression on my mind that his creed was not strictly regulated by the Bible. At his death, some years after this, his minister—the Rev. Mr. Jones—and some of his neighbours openly expressed their conviction, that, from his conversation and bearing during the latter years of his life, he must be considered as receiving the Christian system to be divine. As to the purity of his moral character, the amiableness of his disposition toward all, his tender affection to his mother and wife, kindness to his neighbours, and good treatment of his servants, there was never any question.
Among the many orations called forth by the death of Mr. Madison, there was one—now before me—by Mr. Philip Williams, of Winchester, Virginia. From this I select the following passages :
“ His parents were both pious, and instilled into his youthful mind the moral and religious principles which were the strong foundations of his future greatness. His father died before he was elevated to the Presidency, but his mother lived to see him advanced to that office, and enjoying all of worldly honours that the fondest mother's heart could wish. ceived his classical education from Mr. Robertson, a Scotchman, who resided in King and Queen, and the Rev. Mr. Martin, an Episcopal clergy. man, who lived for many years in his father's family. Under their in struction he prepared himself for college, and entered at Princeton in 1769. When he arrived at Princeton, he found that in his literary acquirements he was behind many of his juniors, and, with praiseworthy emulation, determined to learn twice as much each day as was usually acquired in that time. He persevered in his determination until he graduated on the last Wednesday in September, 1771. He continued at Princeton until 1772, from a desire to learn Hebrew and to extend his other studies under the superintendence of Dr. Witherspoon, then President of the College, to whom he was sincerely attached.”
From his early training in pious principles, and from the testimony of his minister and others as to his later years, Mr. Williams expresses his conviction that Mr. Madison was an humble believer in Christianity. Mr. Williams, though a zealous Episcopalian, agrees with Madison in his opposition to the law advocated by Mr. Henry for the support of religion, and quotes the following passages with some others from his argument on the subject, introducing them with this statement:
“ The free exercise of religion was protected by the Bill of Rights; but there were many of our most distinguished men, who not only insisted upon the right of the Legislature, but urged the expediency of compelling every man to contribute to the support of some Church, but giving him the liberty to prescribe to which Church it should be paid. At the pre ceding session a bill for a general assessment ‘for the support of Christian
teachers,' upon this principle, was reported to tiie House. Its opponents, with the double view of enlightening the public mind and ascertaining more accurately the public will, succeeded in passing a résolution that the bill should be printed and submitted to the people, that it might be examined by them, and passed or rejected at the ensuing Legislature as they might dictate.
“Mr. Madison drew a memorial and remonstrance against the passing this bill, characterized by his usual mildness, good sense, and close reasoning, which was extensively circulated throughout the State, and doubtless contributed in a great degree to defeat the measure.
“ This memorial was by many attributed to the pen of George Mason. While it admitted the divine origin of the Christian religion, and paid a just tribute to the purity of its doctrines, it showed clearly the impolicy and danger of any interference by the civil power with the subject of religion.
“ This able paper is so little known that I must trespass upon your patience by some extracts from it :
“ “ The bill implies either that the civil authority is a competent judge of religious truth, or that it may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the extraordinary opinions of rulers, in all ages and throughout the world; the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation. The establishment proposed by the bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian religion. Το
say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the power of this world; it is a contradiction to fact, for it is known that this religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.
• Experience testifies that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation.
" " The establishment in question is not necessary for the support of civil government.
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society ? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in more instances have they been seen upholding the throne of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries; a just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion, with the same equal hand which protects his person and property, by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another. It will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our law to intermeddle with religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the Old World by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord by proscribing all differences in religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and vigorous policy, whenever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The
American theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly, eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence in the health and prosperity of the State. If, with the salutary effect of this system under our eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly.
At lçast, lei warping be taken at the first-fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the bill has transformed that Christian forbearance, lóve, and charity, which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies which may not soon be appeased. What mischief may not be dreaded should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of law!
“ • The policy of the law is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false religion, and how smail is the former! Does the policy of the bill tend to lessen the disproportion ? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of truth from coming into the regions of it, and countenances, by example, the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible every obstacle to the victo. rious progress of truth, the bill, with an ignoble and unchristian timidity, would circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachment of error.
. Finally, the equal rights of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion, according to the dictates of his conscience, is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government, it is enu. ierated with equal solemnity, or rather with studied emphasis. Either, then, we must say that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority, and that, in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights, or that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred; either we must say that they may control the freedom of the press, may abolish the trial by jury, may swallow up the executive and judiciary powers of the State, --nay, that they may annihilate our very right of suffrage and erect themselves into an idi. dependent and hereditary assembly; or we must say that they have no authority to enact into a law the bill under consideration.'»
THE CHURCHES IN MADISON AND RAPPAHANNOCK.
The following letter from the Rev. Mr. Leavell, the present minister of these counties, contains all that I have been able to collect concerning old Bloomfield parish:
“ DEAR BISHOP:-I have endeavoured to obtain all the information to be had respecting the old parish of Bloomfield, -embracing a section of country now known as Madison and Rappahannock. What I have gathered is from the recollections of the venerable Mrs. Sarah Lewis, now
in her eighty-second year. Mrs. Lewis is descended from the Penületops and Gaineses, of Culpepper, the Vauters, of Essex, and the Ruckers. From her I learn that there were two churches,—the brick church, called F. T., which stood near what is now known as the Slate Mills. It took its name from being near the starting-point of a survey of land taken up by Mr. Frank Thornton, who carved the initials of his name-F.T.oak-tree near a spring, where his lines commenced. The other church was called South Church,-I presume from its relative situation, being almost due south, and about sixteen miles distant, and four miles below the present site of Madison Court-House. It was a frame building and stood on the land of Richard Vauters. Both buildings were old at the commencement of the Revolutionary War, and soon after, from causes common to the old churches and parishes in Virginia, went into slow decay. The first minister she recollects as officiating statedly in these churches was a Mr. Iodell, (or Iredell,) who was the incumbent in 1790 or 1792. He remained in the parish only a few years, when he was forced to leave it in consequence of heavy charges of immorality. He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. O'Niel, an Irishman, who had charge of the parish for some years, in connection with the Old Pine Stake and Orange Churches. He was unmarried, and kept school near the Pine Stake Church, which stood near to Raccoon Ford, in Orange county. Mr. John Conway, of Madison, was a pupil of his, and relates.some things which I may bere mention, if you are not already weary of the evil report of old ministers.
He played whist, and on one occasion lost a small piece of money, which the winner put in his purse, and whenever he had occasion to make change (he was a sheriff) would exhibit it, and refuse to part with it, because he had won it from the parson. He also took his julep regularly, and, to the undoing of one of his pupils, invited him to join him in the social glass. Scill, he was considered as a sober man. Mr. O'Niel left these churches abjut the year 1800. After that the Rev. Mr. Woodville occasionally performed services there. After the parish became vacant, and the churches nad gone to decay, the Lutheran minister, a Mr. Carpenter, officiated at vhe baptisms, marriages, and funerals of the Episcopal families. It was at the old Lutheran Church, near the court-house, that some of our srst political men in Virginia, when candidates for Congress, held meetings and made speeches on Sundays, after the religious services. The same was also done in other places, under the sanction of Protestant ministers.
“ The Episcopal families around the churches above ment) ned were the Ruckers, Barbours, Beales, Keastleys, Lewises, Blafords, Vauvers, Strothers, Thorntons, Burtons, Conways, Gipsons, Pannells, Gaineses.
Since the resuscitation of the Church in Virginia, ali uough a long time after the commencement of the same, efforts have been made to re. vive the Church in the old Bloomfield parish. A new brick church has been put up at Madison Court-House, and for a time there was a most encouraging prospect of a considerable congregation at tuat place; but emigration, the bane of so many other rising congregations in Virginia, has sadly reduced our numbers and disappointed our hopes.
“ Since the first efforts in behalf of the churches in Madison, the following clergymen, ministers of the adjoining counties of Orange, Culpepper, and Rappahanpock, have given a portion of their time and labours to Madison :--The Rev. Mr. Lamon, the Rev. Mr. Doughen, the Rev. Mr. Cole, the Rev. Mr. Brown, the Rev. Mr. Earnest, the Rev. Ir. Leavell.