Virginia • James I (1603-1625) chartered two companies to support settlements in North America. • The London Company given exclusive right to land between the 34th & 41st degrees latitude. • The other, Plymouth, received a similar grant farther to the north. • Jan. 1, 1607 London Co. sent forth its first expedition, 3 small ships sighting the Virginia coast near the end of April. • The 1st settlement bore the king’s name, Jamestown, but the colony as a whole took its name from the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth. • The title of honorary rector of the first parish formed at Jamestown was given to Richard Hakluyt.
Virginia • In a visibly religious age, religious motivations received explicit acknowledgement in the Royal Charter of Virginia. • This daring adventure was to be carried on only “by the providence of God.” • John Rolfe said that they saw themselves as “a peculiar people, marked and chosen by the finger of God, to possess [the land], for undoubtedly He is with us.”
Virginia • For many years, however, they might have questioned whether God was with them. • 100 settlers in May 1607 had been reduced by half by the following September. • Indians attacked before the first fort was finished. • Fire destroyed the first fort with several houses and the church. • Food rotted, rats invaded and supplies disappeared. • Sickness spread in the “malarial swamp” they had settled upon.
Virginia • Whatever the motivations for coming, the expectations were out of all proportion to the reality. • They found no gold or silver. • Nor did they find natural resources to exploit or profitable crops to raise for export. • The population reached about 2,000 in 1622 but an Indian attack killed about 1/5 of the settlement. • In 1624 the king took control to improve the colony’s direction and prevent its demise. • But Virginia was saved by its cultivation of tobacco. • Virginians found in its exportation the nearest equivalent to the Spaniard’s gold.
Virginia • Religious progress was no speedier then economic progress. • A second parish was organized in 1611 in Henrico, Alexander Whitaker appointed rector. • Whitaker won a place in Virginia’s early history by performing the celebrated marriage in 1614 between John Rolfe and Pocahontas.
Virginia • The Virginia legislature took its first steps in 1619 toward making the C of E the officially established and sole publicly supported church. • Parishes were laid out, glebe lands (acreage that could be used to raise crops for the support of the church) were set aside, and support for the clergy promised. • Again in 1642 and 1662, in language ever more explicit and prescriptive, the legislature provided for a re-creation in Virginia of the established church at home in England. • One doctrinal standard was tolerated (the 39 Articles of the C of E) and one ministry accepted (that sent out by a bishop back in England).
Virginia • In the 1660s, with the legal structure in place, one might have expected to see in Virginia the typical English parish at work, but such would not be the case. • No typical English towns rose up on the banks of Virginia’s broad rivers. • Parishes stretched for many miles (not blocks) in narrow bands along the James, or the York or the Rappahannock rivers. • Congregations were so scattered as to make the assembly of a significant number difficult, and in bad weather, impossible. • A harried minister might find himself responsible for two or more of these sprawling parishes. • He could hardly offer regular services, let alone attend to christenings, weddings, funerals, etc.
Virginia • The church’s marginality was aggravated by a shortage of clergy, especially of the well-qualified and well-motivated kind. • Salaries paid in tobacco and corn were never stable. • Some parishes even failed to provide a parsonage and often failed to put the glebe lands to use.
Virginia • From the other side, parishes could complain that some clergy received better support than they deserved. • Sometimes it seemed that only those clergy left England who wished to escape bad debts, unhappy marriages, etc. • in 1632 the House of Burgesses felt obliged to decree: “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 . . .”
Virginia • A 1662 pamphlet, “Virginia’s Cure,” advised— • Creating towns, artificially is necessary, where schools could be supported and the parish church the center of religious life. • For clergy, “Virginia Fellowships” should be offered in England to pay for education of young men who in exchange would give at least 7 years in service to the church in Virginia. • But it was nearly 40 years later when this advice was heeded. • Thomas Bray led in the creation of societies that would send both literature (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1699) and clergy (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701) to all of the English colonies.
Virginia • By 1650 about 30 parishes had been created and double that by the end of the century. • Parishes in the most settled regions ranged from 20 to 40 miles long and 5 to 10 miles in width. • Those to the west or south of the James River might be 100 miles or more in length. • It was a tremendous challenge for a given parish to employ a minister, build a church, care for widows, etc. • Even with the difficulties Anglicanism by 1750 had more than 100 parishes and was stronger in Virginia than anywhere else in North America.
Virginia • Only Virginia among the Southern colonies had its own college. • In 1693 the College of William and Mary received its charter, so that Virginia youth might “be piously educated in good letters and manners,” to provide “a seminary of ministers of the gospel” and so that “the Christian religion may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the glory of Almighty God.” • It never managed to attract the Indians and young clergy still had to go to England for ordination. • But in the 1700s it did educate many who would play significant roles in the formative years of the new nation.
Virginia • Just as the strength of Anglicanism seemed assured, dissenting churches began to infiltrate the colony. • In the 1600s Puritans and Quakers met with such resistance that they did not grow significantly. • In the 1700s, however, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists repeatedly battered the wall of Anglican establishment. • In general these dissenters settled in the foothills and backcountry of the more western, mountainous Virginia.
Virginia • In general the dissenters practiced a religion more passionate and personal than that found in the formal liturgy and printed prayers of Anglicanism. • When the Great Awakening swept the colonies in the 1730s and 1740s evangelical religion rode the wave into the hinterlands with such force that it could not be defeated. • By the end of the 18th c. evangelicals had transformed the society and religion of colonial Virginia.
Virginia • The Presbyterian Samuel Davies (1723-1761) came from Pennsylvania in 1747. • Outside the law, unable to perform marriages, unauthorized to travel from community to community, Davies protested again and again that religious restrictions were even more stringent than in England itself. • As Davies evangelized widely, among both blacks and whites, authorities determined to stamp out dissent. • But, concerned about the economic growth of the colony, the London-based Board of Trade advised that “a toleration and free exercise of religion is so valuable a branch of true liberty and so essential to the improving and enriching of a trading nation, it should ever be held sacred to His Majesty’s Colonies.”
Virginia • Nevertheless, many more years would pass before “free exercise” would become a meaningful phrase in Virginia. • Meanwhile, Davies continued to preach, to push, to win converts to evangelical religion in general and Presbyterianism in particular. • Davies took seriously the obligation to see that the gospel reached Virginia’s blacks who in 1750 numbered over 100,000.
Virginia • Blacks had first come in 1619, but were brought in in ever increasing numbers once they proved to be an effective labor force. • Soon blackness and slavery became interchangeable terms. • Religion instruction among this large segment of the population (ca. 40% by 1750) was impeded by several factors. • Resistance by plantation owners to giving workers time off for religious matters. • Fear that Christian baptism might give a slave free status. • Widespread illiteracy in the black population. • The argument that blacks had no souls.
Virginia • With few exceptions, Anglicanism had not made significant progress in converting the slave population. • Evangelical religion, on the other hand, had made the gospel appear more accessible, more comprehensible and more emotionally satisfying. • Davies had found blacks ready to hear, ready to sing, ready to learn. • Before long, blacks found leaders within their own ranks to preach, organize and inspire.
Virginia • Another evangelical group, the Baptists, succeeded in becoming a prominent force in Virginia during the second half of the 18th c. • Shubal Stearns (1706-1771) arrived from New England in 1754 to spread the notion of a free church-- • without a confining or authoritarian hierarchy • with a ministry that depended upon no credential or ceremony other than the call of God • which baptized by immersion adult believers (not infants) who heard a gospel that they were ready to accept and profess. • Though Stearns soon left for North Carolina, he left behind many to continue the evangelical conquest.
Virginia • An Anglican leader warned in 1759: This “shocking Delusion . . . threatens the entire subversion of true Religion in these parts, unless the principal persons concerned in that delusion are apprehended or otherwise restrained.” • Some 40 to 50 Baptist preachers were jailed or “otherwise restrained” over the next 15 years or so, usually on a charge of disturbing the peace.
Virginia • The arrest of a half-dozen “well-meaning men” near the home of James Madison set the future president on a career dedicated to religious liberty. • At age 22, Madison condemned the “diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution.” • No Baptist, nevertheless Madison was ready to make common cause with them and other dissenters who found themselves arrested and jailed for no reason other than the assertion of their religious opinions.
Virginia • John Leland (1754-1841), another New Englander come south, arrived in 1776, led in the creation of many Baptist churches and quickly identified himself with religious liberty. • Baptists joined with Presbyterians in petitioning the Virginia legislature for relief from oppressive laws. • Baptists joined with Jeffersonians in urging that the best thing which government can do for religion is simply leave it alone.
Virginia • Blacks turned to the Baptists in greater numbers than any religious body, in part because they could • create their own fellowships, • ordain their own clergy, and • improvise their own modes of worship. • Leland welcomed their conversion, but worried about their condition. • In 1790 he presented Virginia Baptists a resolution that condemned slavery as “a violent deprivation of the rights of nature” and as an institution wholly “inconsistent with a republican government.” • The resolution was adopted but the issue of slavery was not to be swiftly or peaceably settled.
Virginia • Methodists achieved independent denominational status in America only after the nation itself won independence. • Well before that time, however, Methodism as a movement within the Church of England made itself felt in Virginia. • Launched by John & Charles Wesley, Methodism in England was an effort to revive the C of E, to improve personal piety and reach the working classes that were abandoning the C of E.
Virginia • Methodism was initially a little church within a larger church and as such drew upon lay people to a great degree to spread its message both in England and America. • In Virginia, Methodism used some Anglican churches as a natural base of operations. • At least one Anglican minister, Deveraux Jarrett (1733-1801) found himself caught up in the fervor of this evangelical force.
Virginia • In some ways Methodism was more disturbing than other dissenting bodies because it was boring from within. • Despite harsh condemnations from the Bishop of London, Methodism made rapid progress in Virginia and elsewhere. • And after its break with the C of E in 1784, it grew even more rapidly.
Virginia • So over time Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists all beat against the strong civil wall that surrounded and protected the Anglican church. • Still, it is doubtful whether that wall would have fallen if major political forces had not been added their force and voice.
Virginia • The first force was the American Revolution itself. • Fighting a war against England, most Americans were disinclined to seek or preserve any special favor for the church of that nation. • The Revolution put Anglicanism on the defensive not so much because Anglicans opposed the Revolution, though outside Virginia many did oppose it. • While most Virginia churchmen supported the Revolution, the very nature and government of their church was intimately joined with England—England’s civil authority as well as sacred authority.
Virginia • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), though a nominal Anglican, led in the battle for a full and free exercise of religion in Virginia. • Proposing a “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” as early as 1779, he had to wait for seven years before it finally became law. • Some like Patrick Henry (1736-1799) argued that if the C of E were not to be supported, that at least Christianity should be declared the state religion. (He tried to get such a bill passed in the 1780s.)
Virginia • James Madison led the opposition; his famous Memorial and Remonstrance against the Henry proposal, argued (like Leland) that a government establishment of religion had always, since the days of Constantine, been bad for religion. • Such special favor created “pride and indolence in the Clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” • As Patrick Henry lost and James Madison won, as a Revolution was concluded and a new frame of government adopted, the Anglican walls in Virginia came tumbling down.
Virginia • Henceforth, the C of E (renamed the Protestant Episcopal Church after the Revolution) would become only one among many denominations. • Evangelical religion would prevail. • The most populous of the colonies by the 1760s, Virginia took bold steps in the 1780s toward religious liberty, steps that would light pathways for other states and for the nation.
Puritan New England • While some Englishmen and women labored to transplant England’s national church to Virginia, others labored to transform that church into a more thoroughly Protestant institution, an institution closer to that which John Calvin had brought into being in Geneva. • The Puritans hoped to change the character, the liturgy, the theology, and the governance of the whole Church of England. • The Pilgrims hoped to create a new church model, starting all over again, separate from politics, separate from royal control, separate from the pretensions of Parliament and of lordly bishops.
Puritan New England • Those who in American history have won the name of “Pilgrims” and who are forever associated with the crossing of the Mayflower determined, while still in England, to go their own ecclesiastical way. • In the early 17th c. this was both illegal and dangerous. • A small congregation of Separatists (or Pilgrims) in Nottingham, north of London, met secretly in the early years of the 17th c. trying to hide from the eyes of the law. • If they stayed in England, they must either compromise their consciences or lose their estates and possibly their lives.
Puritan New England • If they left England, where could they go? • Holland presented the likeliest option, being only a few miles across the English Channel and providing a greater measure of religious toleration in the early 1600s than did any other European country. • So ca. 1607 this congregation which had been meeting in the home of William Brewster determined to migrate. • Amsterdam was their first residence but it proved to be too full of temptations; under the leadership of John Robinson they moved on to the smaller town of Leyden.
Puritan New England • The voluntary exile was assumed to be a temporary one, but as they waited the hoped for changes in England did not come. Where could they go? • Could they return to English soil, but not in England itself with sheriffs so near and bishops so powerful? • Complex negotiations were required to gain the approval of the Virginia and of the king. • These Separatists had to prove that they were God-fearing Englishmen, not radicals.
Puritan New England • The Pilgrims came as close as they could to asserting their orthodoxy and loyalty; the king came as close as he could to recognizing their liberty; the Virginia Company came as close as it could to underwriting the costs of the voyage. • Thus in July of 1620, not the whole Leyden church but a portion thereof left Holland for England where two ships would be readied for the Atlantic crossing. • Two ships left Southampton in August, but one proved unseaworthy.