Madison Letter to Randolph, July 26, 1785

Madison Letter to Randolph

In stating his approval of the contents of the ecclesiastical Journal, Madison expresses some of his objections to the General Assessment (proposed by Mr. Henry). One of his greatest fears is oppression of the liberty of conscience through the legal establishment of Christianity.

Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group


Orange July 26, 1785

Your favour of the 17th inst: inclosing a letter from Mr. Jones and a copy of the ecclesiastical Journal, came safe to hand. If I do not dislike the contents of the latter, it is because they furnish as I conceive fresh and forcible arguments against the Genl Assessment. It may be of little consequence, what tribunal is to judge of Clerical misdemesnors or how firmly the incumbent may be fastened on the parish, whilst the Vestry & people may hear & pay him or not as they like. But should a legal salary be annexed to the title, this phantom of power would be substantiated into a real monster of oppression. Indeed it appears to be so at present as far as the Glebes & donations extend. I had seen some parcels of these proceedings before I recd your letter, and had remarked the sprinklings of liberality to which you allude. My conjectures, I believe, did not err as to the quarter from which they came.

Letter from James Madison to Edmund Randolph (July 26, 1785), in 2 The Writings of James Madison, 1783-1787, at 152 (Gaillard Hunt ed., 1901).