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Church and State – the Danbury Baptists letter

Letter from the Danbury Baptist association of Connecticut to President Thomas Jefferson. Original dated October 7, 1801; transcribed from the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Accessed in April of 2003

The address of the Danbury Baptists Association in the state of Connecticut, assembled October 7, 1801.

To Thomas Jefferson Esq., President of the united States of America


Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your Election to office; we embrace the first opportunity which we have enjoyed in our collective capacity, since your Inauguration to express our great satisfaction, in your appointment to the chief Magistracy in the United States: And though our mode of expression may be less courtly and pompious than what many others clothe their addresses with, we beg you, Sir to believe, that none are more sincere.

Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty -, That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals – That no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religionous Opinions – That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors: But Sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the Laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the Basis of our government at the time of our revolution; and such had been our laws and usages, and such still are; that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights to: and these favors we received at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those, who seek after power and gain under the pretense of government and Religion should reproach their fellow man – should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

Sir, we are sensible that the President of the united States, is not the national Legislator, and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine and prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth. Sir when we reflect on your past services, and see a glow of philanthropy and good will shining forth in a course of more than thirty years we have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the chair of State out of that good will which he bears to the Millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you to sustain and support you in your Administration against all the predetermined opposition of those who wish to rise to wealth and importance on the poverty and subjection of the people.

And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.

Signed in behalf of the Association
The Committee
Nehemiah Dodge
Ephraim Robbins
Stephen S. Nelson