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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2

This note contained in document ADMS-05-02-02-0003-0002-0001
2. Act of 4 Nov. 1692, c. 26, 1 A&R 62, as amended by Act of 17 Feb. 1693, c. 46, §§8–11, 1 A&R 102–103. The latter act was made expressly inapplicable to Boston, where ministers had always been supported by voluntary contributions. Id., §9; see Reed, Church and State in Mass. 38. Parts of both acts are set out in notes 225 and 326, below. The Act of 13 June 1695, c. 8, 1 A&R 216, provided that a council of ministers called by the church might overrule a town's rejection of the church's choice. Later acts permitted ministerial taxes to be raised in precincts set off for church purposes from existing towns. Act of 9 Nov. 1702, c. 10, §2, 1 A&R 506; Act of 24 Dec. 1732, c. 14, 2 A&R 306. The Act of 19 June 1718, c. 1, 2 A&R 99, permitted taxes to be levied for the construction and repair of meeting houses in precincts. Presumably such taxes were levied in towns under their general power to levy taxes “for the defraying of other necessary charges.” Act of 16 Nov. 1692, c. 28, §6, 1 A&R 66. Another provision strengthened the power of the Court of Sessions by authorizing it to appoint assessors in delinquent towns or districts and to direct the grand jury to investigate conditions in such communities. Act of 9 Nov. 1702, c. 10, §1, 1 A&R 505. If the towns remained recalcitrant, the General Court was empowered to settle a suitable minister and provide for his maintenance. Act of 14 Nov. 1706, c. 9, 1 A&R 597; Act of 20 Dec. 1715, c. 17, 2 A&R 26, extended to May 1730 by Act of 5 July 1722, c. 4, 2 A&R 244. As to all of this legislation and its enforcement, see Reed, Church and State in Mass. 24–34, 50–85. Despite these provisions, in a few instances where dissenters were in the majority in a town, they were permitted to treat their church as the established one, thus gaining the benefit of the tax collection process. See id. at 70–73; Shipton, “The Locus of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts,” in George A. Billias, ed., Law and Authority in Colonial America (Barre, Mass., in press). After 1760 the requirement that ministers have the equivalent of a college education provided a further basis for opposing this practice. See notes 15, 16, 327, below. Although the Privy Council held certain applications of the establishment acts invalid (notes 3 and 14 below), the basic principle of establishment embodied in the acts of 1692 and 1693 was upheld by the Crown law officers against an attack based on the charter clause in 1732. See 2 A&R 477–484; Reed, Church and State in Mass. 183–184.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.