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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


This foot note contained in document ADMS-05-02-02-0003-0002-0001
14. The Representation of the Lords of Trade, 31 May 1771, is set out in 4 A&R 1016, and in slightly different form in 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 323–324. For the decision itself, see ibid.; 4 A&R 1045. The memorial on which the Board of Trade acted asserted only that the Ashfield Act was contrary to the general exemption law, but the Board seems to have taken a broader position. It was not until 1774 that the complicated financial questions arising out of the Act's disallowance were resolved. See Act of 6 March 1773, c. 30, 5 A&R 228; Act of 9 March 1774, c. 24, 5 A&R 331. See also notes, 5 A&R 278–279, 371–375. On the controversy generally, see 2 Backus, Church History 246–261; Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 54–66. JA does not seem to have been directly involved in the dispute, but in 1774 as a member of the Continental Congress he felt the effects of the organized Baptist campaign for religious liberty of which the Ashfield matter was a part. Isaac Backus, James Manning, and other Baptist leaders, through the offices of Philadelphia Quakers, procured a meeting with the Massachusetts delegation at which the Ashfield case and other complaints were aired and the intolerance of the Massachusetts establishment was urged as an obstacle to colonial union. JA and his colleagues promised to have action taken on the matter at home, and the Massachusetts Provincial Congress accordingly resolved in favor of the Baptists. A committee of the General Court was appointed to bring in a bill, but the onset of revolution brought a postponement of such problems until after the end of hostilities. See 2 JA, Diary and Autobiography 152–154 and sources there cited; 3 id. at 311–313; Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 92–95.