Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thomas Jefferson, Religious Freedom, and a Palace Garden

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Thomas Jefferson behind the Governor's Palace 

In August we made a quick visit to Colonial Williamsburg. Saddened that it would be short, I was heartened that our short stay was during the very time that a Founding Father would be speaking behind the Governor's Palace! Who would it be? Any one of them would be incredible! Just imagine...a moment to slip into the 18th century to relive the beginnings of our nation.

Incredibly, the very man I have been reading about in my 21st century life walked onto the stage to share his 18th century work, bringing my book to life.  Lately I have been studying the history of the Bill of Rights and religious freedoms with Michael Farris' book From Tyndale to Madison. Did you know that we have our religious freedoms in America today because of three Virginians? Do you know who they are? Virginia followed the state religion of England, Anglicanism.  Three Virginian Anglicans worked industriously to give the freedom FOR religion to all, including the Quakers, Baptists and Jews. Often persecuted, often jailed, all people gained religious freedom because of Patrick Henry, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson!    

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Thomas Jefferson-Colonial Williamsburg

This idea for freedom for religion was quite novel in its day.  Up to then there had been a state religion.  Europe had battled for centuries over religion. In fact one of the books we studied a couple of years ago was titled. The Religious Wars in Europe. Whether Catholic, Anglican, Puritan, Calvinist, Baptist, Quaker, Jewish, and more...they suffered much for their beliefs, whether in Europe or the colonies, depending on the governing authorities declaration of religion. It's a fascinating story which Jefferson brought to life as he shared how he put many bills before the House of Delegates.  He can quote every aspect, every bill number and logically defend the  necessity of religious freedom for all.

Even today we often hear others incorrectly say that because of separation of church and state, religion shouldn't even be noticed. To this my daughter always quickly exclaims from her  many meetings with Mr. Jefferson, that this is not the case. Instead the separation clause is that the government should keep its hands out of religion.  However as Patrick Henry always says, without virtue (obtained from religion) government will fail. 

Mr. Jefferson concluded his program by giving a young boy his sword in one hand, and his quill in the other, then asked him which was mightier.  Such a question was easily answered, because it was the summation of Jefferson's life, of all he fought for.


3 comments:

  1. Always love reading about your trips to W'burg. I'm starting to get excited about ours next June, and to the possibility that I may be speaking at the AHLFAM conference there on the Bloomers. Either way we're still going. Such a treat!
    Val

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    1. Oh, I thought your speaking opportunity was definite. I hope it works out. Any trip to Williamsburg is fun, but that would be quite a thrill to be a speaker about one of your projects too!
      Laurie

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    2. At first I thought it was but my co-hort said when she verbally suggested it to them they were very excited. We have to give them our proposal along with everyone else's on Dec 1 and we should know by the end of the month. But I have to mentally plan that we will be doing it. I'm even planning a couple Regency outfits as some of the ladies that want to come suggested we all dress in that for dinner, etc. We do have our timeshare in W'burg reserved and we will be coming, just won't know about AHLFAM until the end of Dec. :)
      Val

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