« ForrigeFortsett »
It is ordained by the constitution of the United States.* that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and the same principle appears in all the state constitutions. The principle is generally announced in them without any kind of qualification or limitation annexed, and with the exclusion of every species of religious test.b
» Amendments, art. 1.
b I say generally, for in the constitutions of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi, religious tests, to a certain extent, seem to have been retained. By the constitution of North Carolina of 1776, no person denying the divine authority of the Old or New Testament, or the truth of the Protestant religion, could hold a civil office. By the amended constitution of 1835, the word Protestant was omitted, and the word Christian substituted.
In Massachusetts, by an order of the general court in 1631, no persons were to be admitted to the freedom of the commonwealth but such as were members of some of the churches within the same. Massachusetts Antient Charters and Laws, Boston, 1814, p. 117. But this law was declared to be repealed in 1665. Id. So also in Connecticut, or rather in that part of it which, until 1665, constituted the separate New-Haven Colony, the early settlers established, and enforced by law, a uniformity of religious doctrine and worship, and made it requisite that every person holding a civil office should be a church member. Trumbull's Hist. of Connecticut, vol. I, 100, app. 535-7. The Blue Laws of New Haven Colony, commonly called the Blue Laws of Connecticut. By an Antiquarian. Hartford, Conn. 1838, p. 122, art. 16, p. 127, 128, art. 23. In the former editions of this work I inadvertently applied the blue laws to Connecticut at large This was incorrect, for until 1665 New-Haven was a distinct colony from Connecticut; and to the New Haven Colony the blue laws eo nomine, as digested by Governor Eaton, were to be confined. The severity of such a religious establishment was afterwards relaxed, and by the constitution of Connecticut, 1818, perfect freedom of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, was ordained. And in the ordinance of congress of July 13th, 1787, for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio, it was declared to be an article of compact between the original states and the people and states in the said territory—a fundamental principle, to remain for ever unalterable—that no person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, should ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments.
The charter of Rhode-Island, of 1663, established a freedom of religious opinion and worship of extraordinary liberality for that early period of New-England history. It declared, that "no persons within the colony, at any time thereafter, should be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted. or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, who do not actually disturb the civil peace of the colony." The principles and character of Roger Williams, the earliest settler and actual founder of the state of Rhode-Island, in 1636, had prepared the way for such an unexampled declaration of the rights and sanctity of conscience.* The legislature of Maryland had already, in 1649, declared by law, that no persons professing to believe in Jesus Christ, should be molested in respect of their religion, or in the free exercise thereof, or be compelled to the belief or exercise of any other religion, against their consent.b Thus, to use the words of a learned and liberal historian,0 the Catholic
* The covenant into which the first settlers of Providence, in Rhode Island mutually entered, and which is supposed to have been drawn by Roger Williams, declared "that they promised to be subject to all such orders or agreements as should be made for public good of the body, in an orderly way, by the major assent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a town fellowship, and such others whom they should admit into them, Onlv In Civil Vhings." (Address of William G. Goddard, Esq., Newport, 1843.) In this original, but brief and admirable document, we see deeply laid the seminal principles of freedom of conscience, and of a provident and guarded democracy.
b Bacon's Laws, 1649, ch. 1. See, also, Chalmers' Political Annals, p. 219. This legislative act of Maryland, in favor of religious toleration, was prior in time to any in America, if not in any country, but it was still limited to trinitarian Christians. Bancroft, in his History, vol. i. p. 276, gives a true copy of the law, as taken from Langford, p 27-32. Mr. Kennedy, in his Discourse before the Maryland Historical Society in December, 1845, says that the glory of Maryland toleration is not the act of 1649, but in the charter granted to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, in 1632, and who, though a Catholie, was a distinguished friend to religious toleration.
« Grahame's History of the Rise and Progress of the United States.
planters of Maryland procured to their adopted country the distinguished praise of being the first of the American states in which toleration was established by law; and while the Puritans were persecuting their Protestant brethren in New-England, and the Episcopalians *36 retorting the same severity on *the Puritans in Virginia, the Catholics, against whom the others were combined, formed in Maryland a sanctuary, where all might worship and none might oppress, and where even Protestants sought refuge from Protestant intolerance. The proprietaries of Carolina, for the better encouragement of settlers, declared, concurrently in point of time with the Rhode-Island charter, that all persons settling therein should enjoy the most perfect freedom in religion.* So, also, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, the proprietaries of New-Jersey, in their first concessions to the settlers, in 1664, of a charter of civil liberties, secured to them the full and perfect enjoyment of religious liberty, by adopting the same language as that used in the charter of Rhode-Island. The fundamental constitutions of the twenty-four proprietors in 1683, reiterated the right to the same unqualified freedom of religious profession and worship. In 1698, the declaratory act of the general assembly of East-New-Jersey was a little more restrictive in its operations. Religious liberty was confined to the Protestant professors of the Christian faith, and so was the religious toleration allowed by the Massachusetts charter of 1691, and by the declaratory act of the general assembly of New-York in 1691, and by the charter of Georgia in 1732.b On the other hand, the concessions of
» Chalmers' Annals, 517, 518. The charter of Charles II. of 30th June, 1667, to the proprietors of Carolina, authorized them to grant religious liberty of conscience and practice to non-conformists, who did not thereby disturb the civil peace of the province. See the charter in R. S. of N. Carolina, vol. 2.
b Bradford's edition of the Lawa of New-York, 1719. Massachusetts the one hundred and fifty proprietors and planters of the province of West-New-Jersey, in 1676, established under the auspices of William Penn, went to the most large and liberal extent. It was declared in them, that no men on earth had power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters, and that no person should be called in question, or punished, or hurt, in person, estate, or privilege, for the sake of his opinion, judgment, or worship, in the concernments of religion.11 In the code of laws, or charter of privileges, prepared by William Penn for Pennsylvania, and adopted by the first provincial assembly, it was declared, that no persons acknowledging a Deity, and living peaceably and justly in society, should be molested or prejudiced for their religious *persuasion or practice in faith and wor- *37 ship, or be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious ministry or worship.b It appears from these
Colony Laws. edit. 1814. 1 Holmes' Annals, 553. It appears, however, that by the charter of liberties established by the general assembly of the province of New-York, under the Duke of York, in 1683, complete enjoyment of religious profession and worship was granted to all persons who "professed faith in God by Jesus Christ." This of course included Roman Catholics. It is to be observed, however, that the Duke of York (afterwards James II.) was himself a Papist. The body of laws known as tho Duke's laws and digested and promulgated by a convention of deputies on Long Island, Feb. 1665, called by Governor Nicoll, the first governor of New-York under the Duke of York, declared that no person should be molested for differing in judgment in matters of religion who professed Christianity. See an abstract of the code in Thompson's History of Long Island, vol. 1, p. 132, edit. 1843.
« Smith's History of New-Jersey, p. 126, 270—4, app. Nos. 1 and 2, Leaming $ Spicer's Coll. edit. Philad. 1757, p. 12—26, 153—166, 368. 382—111. In 1693 the legislature of West New-Jersey prescribed a confession of faith as a condition of holding office, and that confession contained the declaration of a belief in the doctrine sf the Trinity, according to the English toleration act of 1689. Gordon's Hist. of New-Jersey, 45.
b Proud's History of Pennsylvania, vol. i. p. 196, 206, 207, vol ii. app. No. 2, p. 19, sec. 35. Charter of Privileges granted by William Peim, in 1701, and accepted by the general assembly, and inserted in the beginning illustrious examples, that various portions of this country became, even in its infant state, distinguished asylums for the enjoyment of the principles of civil and religious liberty, by the persecuted votaries of those principles from every part of Europe.
of the volume of the Laws of Pennsyleania, edit. 1775. The Puritans of Massachusetts, under the charter of 1629, assumed the grant to them of the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience ; but the better opinion is, that this was a gratuitous assumption, not warranted by any sound construction of their charter; and while they claimed this right for themselves, and exercised it without any foundation in the grant, they forthwith denied to Episcopalians the privilege of using their own creed and worship. The two recent historians, Grahame and Bancroft, take different sides on this question, (if any question there can really be,) under the charter of 1629. The former, in his History of the United States, (vol. i. p. 244—247,) follows Neal and other Puritans of that age, in favour of the Puritans' claim ; and the latter, in his History of the United States, (vol. i. p 371, 372,) follows Chalmers, Robertson, and Story, in opposition to it. The leading principle in the religious system of the colouy of Massachusetts, was the compulsory support of public worship, and the liability of every inhabitant to taxation for its support. Anabaptists and Quakers were first exempted, and next Episcopalians, who were allowed to pay their taxes to their own clergymen. The laws still in force contain the principle, that a religious establishment of the Christian Protestant religion, and public worship, ought to be maintained by legal coercion. Dakes v. Hill, 10 Pick. Rep. 333.
Some of the colonial governments provided for the enjoyment of religious liberty in the largest sense, as allowing every man the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination, and this was the language of the constitution of New-York of 1777; and it is continued in the Revised Constitution of 1846 ; and the singularly argumentative Preamble and Statute of the assembly of Virginia in 1786, carried the doctrine of religious freedom to the same extent. In other instances religious toleration was granted, which meant the allowance of religious opinions and modes of worship, differing from those established by law. The prevalent doctrine at the present day is in favor of religious liberty and equality without the existence of any power of control, or distinction by law, or establishment. The Revised Constitution of New-York in 1846, seems to have set at liberty even the consciences of witnesses, for it declares that " No person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness on account of his opinions on matters of religious belief."