When we first came to the land
My most ancient forebear, Thomas Boyte, came to American an indentured servant, leaving from Bristol on October 19, 1667, 125,616 days ago, 343 years.
A hundred years later, his namesake, another Thomas, stood for religious freedom, against establishment, and in favor of deism:
Protest against the bill obliging the inhabitants of the Commonwealth to pay the teachers of the Christian religion. (reel 134, box 175, folder 17)
Signed by Thomas Boyt and others (Ballard, Langston, Howell) of Nansemond Co. VA. For a complete list of persons signing the petition select next for copies of the original signature pages.
Petition for Religious Freedom, 1785, Nansemond County
27 October 1785, Nansemond County, Virginia
To the Honourable, the Speaker & Gentm of the House of Delegates.
The petition of the Inhabitants of Nansemond County humbly sheweth: that whereas it hath pleased your Honourable House to publish a Bill obliging the Inhabitants of this Commonwealth to pay the teachers of the Christian Religion, and required their opinion concerning it.
Your petitioners therefore do most earnestlly declare against it: beliving it to be contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, and the Bill of Rights.
And having duly considered that worthy clause in the late revisal of our laws in “A bill for establishing Religeous freedom”. “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he unbelieves and abhors, is sinful & tyranical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own Religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to that particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, & whose powers he feels most pursuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an (absolution) of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest & unremited labour for the instruction of mankind,” do humbly conceive it will be nothing less than an infringement on the Rights of a free people. The blessed Author of our religion suffered, died and maintained his Gospel in the world for several hundred years, without the aid of (___) (___), & against all the powers upon Earth. Neither was it the better for the Church when Constantine first established religion by human laws: though there was rest from persecution; but quickly was he overrun with errors, superstitions & immorality. We humbly conceive it the duty of the Legislature to enact such law as shall punish the vices & immoralities of the times; & let there not be wanting such men placed in authority, who by their pious examples shall recommend religion, and by their faithfulness scourge the growing vices of the age. As touching the Christian religion, the teachers thereof, & a support for them, we think the work is the Lord’s: & those whom devine grace hath called to the work of the Ministry will esteem it their highest Honour to do his pleasure without being moved thereto by temporal interests or lucrative vice & then we shall have religion flourishing in our land, & Deism be put to open shame: but while religion is endeavored to be (preached), & held up by human laws, & the people constrained to a conformity thereto; we trust your Honourable House will very well recollect, that it has been very much the reverse, & Deism gained ground & grew a pace, till it got possession of, alass! but (humaness).
Under these considerations your petitioners hope that the Wisdom and uprightness of your Honourable House will leave them entirely free in matters of religion, & the manner of supporting it, and your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray.