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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0003-0002-0001

Editorial Note

The Province Charter of 1691 provided that there should be “a liberty of Conscience allowed in the Worshipp of God to all Christians (Except Papists)” who inhabited Massachusetts. Despite these bold if less than all-embracing words, the faith of the founding Puritans constituted the “establishment” of the province. It continued as such beyond the time of independence and well into the 19th century.1 As the discussion in Pierce v. Wright, No. 36, suggests, however, the term “establishment” is here used in a rather special sense. Local autonomy meant that Massachusetts had neither an established religion nor quite an established church.
Nevertheless, there were established churches. Within each town in the Province at least one church or congregation—generally Calvinist in doctrine and congregational in polity—was entitled under the existing laws to receive special favors from the government. Statutes provided financial and other support for the church with which a majority in each “town or place” was affiliated. That majority in almost every case subscribed to doctrines which, however variant, had enough in common to occupy the broad theological center which was Congregationalism. Dissenters to the left and right might worship as they chose, but they were rarely in a position to receive the kind of state sanction and assistance accorded to the Congregational churches. Moreover, despite exemption acts, they had to battle constantly to avoid contributing to support the established order.
The principal dissenting denominations in 18th-century Massachusetts were the Episcopalians, the Quakers, and the Baptists. All three fought establishment actively, but after about 1750, the Baptists were its chief { 33 } opponents. Green v. Washburn is an example of the varied litigation which their struggle produced.
Barely a year after the promulgation of the Charter, the basic principle of establishment was laid down by statute. “Able, learned, orthodox” ministers “of good conversation,” approved by a majority of the church-going voters in a “town or place” were to be supported by taxes levied upon all of the inhabitants. If a town was delinquent in providing itself with such a minister, the Court of General Sessions for the county could “take effectual care to procure and settle a minister qualified as aforesaid, and order the charge thereof and of such minister's maintenance to be levied on the inhabitants of such town.”2 A dissenter was free to support his own church as well, but if he did so he paid twice.
In 1724 the Privy Council ordered the remission of part of the province tax intended to support Congregational ministers in two towns in which a majority of the inhabitants were Quakers. This decision was itself of narrow effect, but the dissenters pressed the attack, perhaps inspired by the Board of Trade's position that the tax in question was contrary to the Charter.3 At length, in 1728, having previously granted { 34 } Episcopalians the right to have their taxes paid to their own pastors in certain cases, the General Court passed legislation relieving Quakers and Baptists (or “Anabaptists” as they were called) from taxes “assessed for the support of the minister or ministers of the churches established by the laws of this province.” Eligibility for exemption was first determined on the basis of attested lists of those who attended meeting and professed themselves Baptists or Quakers, which were to be furnished by principal members of the denominations in each town. A re-enactment in 1734 provided that lists of exempt Baptists were to be prepared by the town assessors, but omissions could be supplied on the certificate of “two principal members of that perswasion” that they believed omitted persons “to be conscientiously of their perswasion, and that they do frequently and usually attend their meetings for the worship of God, on the Lord's Day.”4
{ 35 }
After the Great Awakening of the 1740's had left an irremediable split within Congregationalism, problems in the administration of these laws increased. The “New Lights,” who had supported the revivalist movement, in many cases formed Separate churches and sought the same tax relief that had been given earlier to the dissenting sects; but the “Old Lights,” and those New Lights who continued to support the established order, resisted, apparently finding outright dissent easier to tolerate than Separatism. The inspiration of the Great Awakening had also produced a division in the Baptist ranks between the old General Baptists with their Arminian beliefs and New Light Baptists, who adhered to the strict Calvinism of the revival. With doctrinal differences few, many Congregational Separates became Baptists, forming for themselves, or joining New Light Baptists in, what came to be called Separate Baptist churches. This development brought forth from the Standing Order and from unconverted Separates alike the charge that the converted ones had had themselves “dipped to wash away their taxes.”5 The criteria for determining who was a Baptist took on a new importance as this sudden growth in what had theretofore been a static and relatively innocuous minority began to threaten both the doctrinal and the financial stability of the established churches.
To meet the situation the General Court tightened the exemption laws, requiring in an Act of 1753 that a Baptist's certificate of faith and attendance was to be given by the minister of his church, as well as by two principal members, all of whom had to be vouched for in turn by three other Baptist churches.6 The latter requirement, which had proved most { 36 } obnoxious to the Baptists, was eliminated in 1758 when a statute was enacted to replace all previous exemption acts for Baptists and Quakers, which had by then expired. The new measure carried forward the exemption in terms similar to those of previous acts, but provided that no person was to be “esteemed or accounted an Annabaptist” unless his name appeared on a list given to the assessors over the certificate of the minister and three principal members of his church to the effect that all those on the list were “really belonging thereto, that they verily believe them to be conscientiously of their perswasion, and that they do frequently and usually attend the publick worship in such church on the Lord's day.” The first-quoted clause apparently added actual church membership to the requirements under earlier law.7
Since the assessors were often hostile toward those seeking exemption, these provisions produced much dispute and consequent litigation. A detailed study of this litigation based upon court records has yet to be made and cannot be undertaken here. Secondary sources and the documents in a few cases in which John Adams was involved indicate that the usual suit was one brought by the dissenting taxpayer against the town officials who had either collected the tax from him or had had his goods or body taken by way of distress. These suits seem to have turned principally on the questions whether the plaintiff's eligibility for exemption was made out by his certificate, and whether the certificate itself was executed in proper form. And procedural points, common to all litigation in Massachusetts, were often present to cloud the issue.8
{ 37 }
Although larger questions of fundamental rights may have been raised in argument, these cases can hardly be said to have adjudicated any such { 38 } issues. The famous controversy concerning the Baptists of the town of Ashfield did seem to resolve more basic questions, but resolution took place on a level higher than that of the courts of the province. The earlier exemption acts had provided that the exemption should not “extend to new towns, granted upon condition of settling an orthodox minister and erecting a house for the public worship of God, till such time as those things are accomplished.”9 This provision was omitted from the 1758 exemption act, but since that statute applied to taxes levied in a “town, district, precinct, or parish,”10 the practice under the former act of denying exemption in unincorporated “plantations” was apparently continued. After the plantation of Huntstown was “erected into a town by the name of Ashfield” in 1765, indeed, the proprietors continued to assess ministerial taxes against all, regardless of religion.11 When the Baptists sought legislative relief, they were met with a special act which only strengthened the proprietors' position, providing that the taxes should be levied against every part of each proprietor's right, “in whose hands soever the same may be,” and that the lands of delinquents might be sold to pay the tax.12
{ 39 }
Despite more petitions, the Baptists' lands were sold in 1769 for nonpayment of the tax. The conflict which then arose brought forth a full range of the kind of argument on religious toleration and human rights with which today such controversies are customarily clothed.13 The General Court remained unmoved, but in 1771 the Ashfield Act came before the Privy Council and was disallowed. While the exact grounds of this decision are unknown, it in effect adopted a Board of Trade recommendation based on a broadly worded finding that “This Clause, whereby all persons of whatever sect or persuasion in religion, occupying Lands in this Township are equally and indiscriminately taxed for the support of the Independent Church therein established, is in our opinion equally unusual and unreasonable particularly in the case of the Sect commonly called the Antipedobaptists.”14
Perhaps as important to the Baptist churches as the right of their membership to freedom from ministerial taxes was the right of their ministers to the privileges and immunities of the established clergy. An act of 1760 provided that no assessments could be levied for the support of a minister who did not have either a suitable formal education, or the testimony of a majority of the clergy in his county that his learning was sufficient.15 Baptist ministers apparently both lacked the requisite learning and experienced great difficulty in obtaining the necessary support among { 40 } their Congregational counterparts. As a result, in one well-known case, even though the majority in the town of South Brimfield were Baptists, they were not allowed to apply their taxes to the support of a minister of their own persuasion.16
A further problem was the status of the ministers themselves as taxpayers. The annual acts which authorized the towns to assess and levy province, county, and town taxes exempted a long list of persons, including “settled ministers.” In 1762, early in the Ashfield controversy, the town assessors, themselves Baptists, had applied this exemption to their minister, Ebenezer Smith. According to a later report by Smith and one of the assessors, a taxpayer complained to the Hampshire County Court of General Sessions that he had been “overrated.” The assessors were summoned and on the trial in May 1762, the court “would not suffer [them] to bring any Proof of the said Ministers Settlement neither by Certificate nor by living Evidence and said that if they should prove his Ordination yet he should not be free paying Taxes. And in the Conclusion cast 4 pounds lawful Money Charges on the two Assessors,” denying them an appeal to the Superior Court on the grounds that no appeal lay in such a case.17
These problems of ministerial status were at least partially resolved by Green v. Washburn. Nathaniel Green, pastor of what was known as the Second Baptist Church in Leicester, had been ordained a minister in October 1763, at which time he took charge of his congregation, which had gathered only the year before. Green's church first met in Spencer, but soon moved to the western part of Leicester. Perhaps because of its pastor's experiences, to be related, the church joined the newly formed Warren Association in 1768 and thus became part of the organized Separate Baptist movement for the attainment of religious liberty.18
{ 41 }
In December 1767 when Seth Washburn and others, the assessors of Leicester, had levied the province, county, and town taxes upon Green, he had refused to pay. Accordingly, in February 1769, his body was taken in distress by the constable, and he was held in custody for several hours until he paid the tax. At the May 1769 Worcester Inferior Court, with John Worthington as his attorney, Green brought suit against Washburn and the other assessors in an action of the case, alleging that, knowing of his status as a settled minister, they had illegally assessed him, and had ultimately procured his arrest. Adams, for the assessors, entered a plea of not guilty, and the case went to trial.19
Adams' minutes of the trial (printed below) suggest that he relied largely on the language of Province statutes dealing with the ministry to define the term “settled minister” in the tax act. The earliest statutes could be read to mean that only those “able, learned and orthodox” ministers who had been approved by a majority of the voters in a town and were to be supported by all of the town's taxpayers were “settled.” The act of 1760, already referred to, seemed to add the further requirement of education, or at least ministerial approval. In contrast, the only Act which dealt with the qualifications of a Baptist minister required that for him to certify members of his church to the tax assessors he need have only certificates attesting to his faith from three other Baptist churches.20 James Putnam, who joined Adams, elaborated upon this theme in a brief but notable address which seemed to sum up all the contempt of the Harvard-bred establishment for the rude and argumentative religion of the Baptists.
Worthington, citing Locke, argued for a broader construction of the tax act, urging that it covered any man chosen by his flock as a minister. Witnesses testified as to Green's ordination and the size and continuing existence of his church. Despite other testimony apparently intended to show that, even among Baptists, Green's was merely a splinter group not entitled to recognition as a church, the jury brought in a verdict for the plaintiff of £2 and costs.21 On appeal to the Superior Court in September 1769, with Adams no longer involved in the case, Green won again, although his recovery was reduced to£1 13s. 6 1/2d., the amount of the tax, and costs.22
{ 42 }
If no great constitutional pronouncement came out of this case, the principle which it announced was nevertheless considered an important one. In his Church History of New England, Isaac Backus, a leading figure in the Warren Association and a participant in many such battles, capped his account of the storms of the 1760's by reporting that “one thing that gave check to oppression was a determination of authority, that the ministers of the Baptist Churches were lawful ministers, so as to have a right to marry people, and to be exempted from civil taxes.” This “determination” took place in two Superior Court decisions, one of which was Green v. Washburn.23
1. For the 1691 Charter provision, see 1 A&R 14. As to its construction, see Susan M. Reed, Church and State in Massachusetts, 1691–1740 21–23 (Urbana, Ill., 1914). The nature of the problem was altered after independence by the terms of the Declaration of Rights in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which, in requiring the legislature to make the towns provide “for the public worship of GOD,” allowed taxes paid by an individual who so requested to “be uniformly applied to the support of the public teacher or teachers of his own religious sect or denomination, provided there be any on whose instructions he attends.” Declaration of Rights, Art. III, in Robert J. Taylor, ed., Massachusetts, Colony to Commonwealth 128–129 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1961). For cases and other materials on the gradual decline of the establishment under this provision and its abolition by constitutional amendment in 1833, see Mark DeWolfe Howe, Cases on Church and State in the United States 27–54 (Cambridge, Mass., 1952). See also Edward Buck, Massachusetts Ecclesiastical Law 39–65 (Boston, 1866); Jacob C. Meyer, Church and State in Massachusetts from 1740 to 1833 90–200 (Cleveland, Ohio, 1930); Butterfield, “Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant,” 62 Amer. Antiq. Soc., Procs. 155, 207–215 (1952); Leonard Levy, The Law of the Commonwealth and Chief Justice Shaw 29–42 (Cambridge, Mass., 1957).
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.
3. On the 1724 decision, see Reed, Church and State in Mass. 75–78, 119–127. The General Court had acted under the Act of 20 Dec. 1715, note 2 above. The tax act in question, the Act of 3 July 1722, c. 8, §1, 2 A&R 251, 254–255, had not provided on its face that the assessments were intended to support ministers, although the Quakers presented evidence that this was its effect. The Board of Trade in its report of 20 Dec. 1723 to the Privy Council thus did not recommend disallowance, but pointed out that taxing the majority to support the minority's minister was not consistent with the Massachusetts Charter's grant of an “absolute and free liberty of conscience for all Christian Inhabitants there, except Papists.” 2 A&R 276. The tax act for the next year, Act of 29 June 1723, c. 8, §1, 2 A&R 293, 296, contained an express statement of the purpose of the assessment. The Board of Trade, on 6 May 1724, recommended disallowance of this act, urging both the Charter clause and an inconsistency with the establishment statutes, in which it was “laid down as a just and equitable rule that the majority of each Town or Congregation shou'd have the choice of their own Teacher.” 2 A&R 277. The Privy Council, in its Order of 2 June 1724, granted relief only under the 1722 act and did not disallow it. Ibid.; see 3 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 58–59. Other materials concerning the case, which pertained to Dartmouth and Tiverton, are collected in 2 A&R 269–277.
4. The Episcopalian relief measure was the Act of 19 Dec. 1727, c. 7, 2 A&R 459, which provided that members of the Church of England should be taxed at the same rate as members “of the churches established by the laws of this province,” but that if there were a minister of the Church of England within a town, taxes assessed against inhabitants who worshipped with him and lived within five miles of the church were to be paid over to him by the town treasurer. They were also exempt from meetinghouse taxes. For the problems of Episcopalians generally, and subsequent legislation concerning them, see Reed, Church and State in Mass. 141–143, 148–189; Meyer, Church, and State in Mass. 14, 27–30, 69–89. The Act of 20 June 1728, c. 4, §1, 2 A&R 495, exempted from tax the polls of Baptists and Quakers “enrolled or entred in their respective societies as members thereof, and who alledge a scruple of conscience as the reason of their refusal to pay any part or proportion of such taxes as are from time to time assessed for the support of the minister or ministers of the churches established by the laws of this province in the town or place where they dwell,” with the proviso that they attend “meetings of their respective societies” regularly and live within five miles of the meetinghouse. The provision for determining eligibility for exemption was in id., §3. Persons so exempted were barred from voting on church questions in town meeting. Id., §5. See note 7 below. By Act of 20 Dec. 1729, c. 6, 2 A&R 543, the estates of Baptists and Quakers were exempted under the same conditions. For the passage of this legislation, see Reed, Church and State in Mass. 128–135. After the expiration of these acts, separate measures were passed for Quakers until 1758. See id. at 135–144; Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 15–17. The exemption for Baptists “who alledge a scruple of conscience” was continued and extended to taxes for the construction of meetinghouses, by Act of 4 July 1734, c. 6, §1, 2 A&R 714. The certificate provision for determining exemption was in id., §2. It was superseded in 1753. See note 6 below. The 1734 act omitted the five-mile requirement, but provided that the exemption did not apply in “new towns.” See text at note 9 below. This statute was re-enacted in virtually identical form by Act of 30 June 1740, c. 6, 2 A&R 1021, renewed until 1757 by Act of 29 June 1747, c. 6, 3 A&R 362. For the Baptists' account of the passage and implementation of all of this legislation, see Petition of a Committee of Baptists to the General Court, 29 May 1754, 4 A&R 122–126. See also Reed, Church and State in Mass. 132–135, 141–143.
5. Quoted in Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 36. See also id. at 18; C. C. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740–1800 213 (New Haven, 1962). Mr. Goen argues convincingly that this charge was largely unfounded, since in some communities even unquestioned Baptists were not able to take advantage of the exemption acts, and where this was not the case many Separates hesitated to become Baptists precisely because of the material advantage. Even the sources which he quotes, however, show that adoption of Baptist principles was urged by some “as the way God had opened to escape such sufferings [i.e. ministerial taxes].” Id. at 213–215. It is clear, however, that there were many other factors—doctrinal as well as practical—which influenced conversion. Id. at 208–257. As to the Great Awakening and its effect generally, see id. at 34–67, 206–207, 272–275, 285–287 and throughout; see also Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 20–47. For an example of a typical transition from Standing Church to Separate to Separate Baptist, see note 932 below.
6. Act of 5 Jan. 1753, c. 15, §§1, 3, 3 A&R 644, quoted in part in note 528 below.
7. Act of 25 Jan. 1758, c. 20, §§1, 3, 4 A&R 67–68, renewed to 30 Jan. 1771 by Act of 31 Jan. 1761, c. 21, 4 A&R 420. As to the construction of this act, see note 8 below. The 1758 act did not contain the provisions of earlier measures (note 4 above) that those exempted should be deprived of the vote on church matters and that the exemption should not apply in new towns. As to the former, see No. 31, note 511. As to the latter, see text at note 10 below. Subsequent legislation carried forward the exemption and certificate provisions, with the major variation that a town could vote to exempt Baptists and Quakers without regard to certificates. See Act of 20 Nov. 1770, c. 10, 5 A&R 111; Act of 16 June 1774, c. 6, 5 A&R 392. For Baptist objections to the 1753 act, see Petition of 29 May 1754, 4 A&R 122–126, discussed in Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 270–271. Although the 1753 act's requirement of certification by other churches (text at note 6 above) was not carried forward by statute after 1758, the practice seems to have been continued. The Baptists of Haverhill in John White's case (note 8 below) submitted to the assessors not only the requisite certificate of their pastor and elders, but certificates of the First and Second Baptist churches of Boston and James Manning's Warren, R.I., church that the Haverhill church had been received as “Breathern and Sisters of the same Denomination,” and that the pastor, Hezekiah Smith, was duly ordained and qualified. SF 131793.
8. For a discussion of many of the cases from the viewpoint of an active Baptist participant in the struggle, see Isaac Backus, A Church History of New England, 2:239–265, 277–282 (Providence, R.I., 1784), a continuation of Backus' A History of New England, With particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists (Boston, 1777). Volume 3 of this work, also entitled A Church History of New England, was published at Boston in 1796. See also Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 51–68. JA was a participant in one of the best known of these suits, White v. Bartlett. John White, “shopkeeper” of Haverhill, sued Enoch Bartlett and Jonathan Webster, the town assessors, in trespass for £30 damages, alleging that they had taken from him goods and chattels valued at £16 12s. 8d. White won on demurrer in the Inferior Court, Ipswich, in March 1767, and on appeal to the Superior Court under an agreement stipulating “The trial of this appeal to be final,” won a verdict of £30 and costs at the Salem Nov. 1767 term. Min. Bk. 85, SCJ Essex, June 1767, N–11; Nov. 1767, C–19. White remitted £12 to the defendants, but they moved for a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was against law and the damages excessive. The new trial was granted, although the court, apparently paraphrasing English authority, noted that there were “Few new Tryals after a Tryal at Bar. Not to be taken out of the course of the Law.” SF 131793. Min. Bk. 85, SCJ Essex, Nov. 1767, C–19; Nov. 1768, C–7. See No. 12. On the new trial at Ipswich in June 1769 it was stipulated by the parties that the issues were limited to the legality of the town's actions, “The sufficiency and legallity of the appellees Certificate in the case (it being agreed that the Certificate was given in to the assessors before the first assessment was voted) and whether the appellee was Conscientiously of the Anabaptist persuasion.” SF 131793. With JA now appearing for White, the jury reversed the former judgment, awarding costs to the assessors. Min. Bk. 85, SCJ Essex, June 1769, C–3. Backus was incensed by this result, both on account of the technicality which was used to avoid the agreement that the first appeal would be final and by the fact that Baptists were not allowed to testify on grounds of interest. He reported that the ground for the decision was a ruling by the court that the law exempted only “a steady worshipper,” not “a baptized church member,” and that White's certificate did not state that he was the former. 2 Backus, Church History 241–242. Ezra Stiles, in a diary entry of 11 Jan. 1773, reported that in conversation Justice Peter Oliver of the Superior Court gave a slightly different reason: “By the old Law [i.e. pre-1770] the Baptists were to certifie themselves as to three things—that they were conscientiously Baptists—usual Attendants—and Members i.e. baptized by immersion and Communicants. Mr. Whites Certificate showed the two first, not the last; and for this Defect Judgment was given against him.” 1 Stiles, Literary Diary 333. Oliver's version is borne out by the certificate of the pastor and elders of the Haverhill church that White and fourteen others “are conscientiously of our Persuasion and that they do frequently and usually attend the Publick Worship with us on the Lord's Day.” SF 131793. That the content of the certificate was the issue, rather than the actual facts as to White's persuasion, is also suggested by the statutory language (text at note 7 above), which would seem to make the certificate conclusive. If the court found that it could look only to the certificate, despite the stipulation of the parties, then its ruling excluding the Baptists as witnesses may have been based merely on a finding that their evidence as to White's beliefs was immaterial. JA was of counsel in at least one other similar case, this time arguing for the successful assessors. See Taft v. Cragin, Min. Bk. 101, SCJ Worcester, April 1774, C–3. SF 152818. He appeared for the assessors also in Follansbee v. Pearson, a case in which a Newburyport Presbyterian was successful in claiming an exemption under an order of the General Court dating from 1752 which expressly exempted members of his society from tax, there being no general statute covering Presbyterians. Min. Bk. 85, SCJ Essex, Nov. 1767, N–11; June 1768, C–12; June 1769, N–8; Nov. 1769, C–11. SF 131661, 131867. In at least two cases involving the tax on members of the Church of England (note 4 above), JA appeared for the church. Richmond v. Walker, Min. Bk. 84, SCJ Taunton, Oct. 1770, N–4. SF 145564 (plaintiff discontinued after jury impaneled); Bass v. Knight, Min. Bk. 93, SCJ Essex, June 1773, N–9; Min. Bk. 102, SCJ Essex, June 1774, C–21; Min. Bk. 108, SCJ Essex, June 1780, C–3. SF 92148, 132321, 132714 (verdict for assessors; on review continued after special verdict until neither party appears).
9. Act of 4 July 1734, c. 6, §5, 2 A&R 715. The provision was carried forward in re-enactments and renewals of this act cited in note 4 above.
10. Act of 25 Jan. 1758, c. 20, §1, 4 A&R 67. See note 7 above. The Act of 4 July 1734, note 9 above, and its successors prior to the 1758 act applied to taxes levied on Baptists “in the town or place where they dwell.”
11. Act of 21 June 1765, c. 13, 4 A&R 815. §3 of this act provided
“That all taxes already raised for settling a minister, or that may be raised for his support, for building a meeting house, clearing and repairing roads, be levied on the several proprietors of said plantation, according to their interests, until the further order of this [i.e. the General] court; and that said inhabitants and proprietors of said town proceed by the same rules, in levying and collecting said taxes, as proprietors in new plantations are obliged, by law, to observe.”
The last clause presumably refers to the Act of 19 June 1753, c. 1, §2, 3 A&R 670, which provided machinery for the proprietors of undivided lands to assess proportionally their individual shares for the purpose of raising funds “for bringing forward and compleating the settlement of such common lands . . . and for carrying on and managing any other affairs for the common good of such proprieties.” That the proprietors considered this legislation a sufficient basis for taxing the Baptists and proceeded to do so appears in the complaints of the latter to the General Court in 1768 and 1769 set out in 4 A&R 1036–1037. A provision similar to that involved in the Ashfield controversy is found in other acts of incorporation passed at the same time. See Act of 21 June 1765, c. 14, 4 A&R 815 (Lanesborough); Act of 21 June 1765, c. 15, 4 A&R 816 (Charlmont).
12. Act of 24 June 1768, c. 5, 4 A&R 1015. Although the proprietors had proceeded to levy taxes under the 1765 act of incorporation, note 11 above, they had been aware of its ambiguities, since in March 1767 they had petitioned the General Court, reciting that the provision for levying taxes was “a clause of great uncertainty” and praying for an act to remedy the consequent difficulties. These appear to have been at least three: (1) the lack of any express authority to tax the Baptists; (2) the fact that many provisions of the statute governing meetings of proprietors of undivided lands (note 11 above) did not apply to lands that were actually within a township and had been laid out; (3) the fact that the Act of 6 March 1762, c. 44, 4 A&R 532, detailing the machinery for levying against unimproved lands, had expired on 1 April 1765. The first problem was met by the statutory language quoted in the text. To resolve the second it was provided that meetings were to be called in accordance with the Act of 25 March 1713, c. 9, 1 A&R 704, covering meetings of proprietors of common lands within a town, and that the provisions for levying and collecting taxes were applicable to lands “already laid out or agreed to be laid out.” Finally, the machinery of the 1762 act was expressly adopted.
13. See the various petitions and complaints of the Baptists in 1770 and 1771 in 4 A&R 1038–1045.
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.; 4A&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 Autobiography152–154 and sources there cited; 3 id. at 311–313; Meyer, Church and State in Mass. 92–95.
15. Act of 13 Feb. 1760, c. 24, 4 A&R 288, set out in part in note 427 below.
16. See 2 Backus, Church History 242–243. Compare 4 A&R 876. The minister involved was apparently James Mellen. 3 Backus, Church History 185.
17. Memorial of Ebenezer Smith and Reuben Ellis [1768], 4 A&R 1037. See also 2 Backus, Church History 246–247; note 23 below. The statute affording relief for an “overrated” taxpayer provided that he might complain to the General Sessions and be reimbursed whatever amount he was entitled to, “with the charges” (presumably costs of court) to be paid “out of the town or parish treasury.” The court had power “to require the assessors to produce the lists of their assessment.” Act of 3 Oct. 1730, c. 1, §7, 2 A&R 551. It is not clear whether the “charges” adjudged against the assessors here were merely costs of court, or were a reimbursement of the tax, perhaps assessed against them by analogy to §6 of the Act, which provided that assessors “failing of their duty” should themselves pay the sums which they were to have assessed.
18. As to the formation of Green's church, see note 932 below. Green (1721–1791) and his congregation moved again in 1772, this time to Charlton, where he remained pastor until his death. See generally 3 Backus, Church History 176; Estes, “Historical Discourse,” in The Greenville Baptist Church in Leicester, Massachusetts 56–57 (Worcester, Mass., 1889); Emory Washburn, Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester 114–115 (Boston, 1860). As to the Warren Association, see David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World 469–470 (N.Y., 1848); Henry S. Burrage, A History of the Baptists in New England 80–85 (Phila., 1894); Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 272, 277–282.
19. See the various warrants in the tax proceedings, the writ, and the pleadings in SF 152427.
20. The statutes cited by JA appear in notes 2–525–28 below.
21. The Inferior Court judgment is in SF 152427.
22. Min. Bk. 90, SCJ Worcester, Sept. 1769, N–10. SCJ Rec. 1769, fol. 115. According to this source “Sewall” joined Putnam as counsel for the assessors in the Superior Court. While this might not be conclusive as to JA's participation in the argument, an examination of the rest of the cases heard at this term does not reveal his name as counsel in any of them, strongly suggesting that he did not even attend this session of court. An MS account of Baptist sufferings by John Davis states that on appeal to the Superior Court
“it went in Greens favor there also and they allowed him Costs, all that it had cost him; that is, what Mony he had expend in the Law, and lawful Cost. The Jury did not go out—because the Judges advise Green to settle it. Green says it cost him 20 Dollars more than what he was allowed—beside all his Travelling for Witnesses—to prove himself a Minister.” Isaac Backus Papers, Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Center, Mass., on temporary loan to RPB.
As to Davis, an important figure in the Warren Association and a member of the American Philosophical Society, see 2 Backus, Church History 275–276.
The Warren Association (note 18 above) on 12 Sept. 1769 “Voted to give a Certificate acknowledging that he is regular, and in Fellowship to Rev. Nathaniel Green, to be made use of at the Superior Court at Worcester.” MS Minutes, p. 3, Backus Papers. No such document appears in the Superior Court file of the case. SF 152427. The editors are indebted to Prof. William G. McLoughlin of Brown University for these and subsequent references to the Backus Papers, as well as for his invaluable aid in plumbing various ecclesiastical mysteries.
23. 2 Backus, Church History 263. Backus did not positively identify the cases in his printed history, but in a draft of the work, discussing the case of Ebenezer Smith of Ashfield (note 17 above), he said “And though they assert that Mr. Smith is not a minister in law, yet the honorable justices of our Superior court, by their decisions in two parallel cases, have made them know that therein they did not speak the truth: and consequently that it was a violation of law and equity, to punish the baptists assessors in 1762, for allowing him the privileges of such an one.” Backus subjoined a footnote identifying the “two parallel cases” as “The case of elder Green of Charlton, and of elder Clark of Wilbaham, the last of which was decided in the court of Northampton near the close of this year [1771].” 2 Backus, Church History (MS—preliminary draft) 248, Backus Papers.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0003-0002-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-05

Adams' Minutes of the Trial1

Worcester Inferior Court, Worcester, May 1769

Prov. Law. 16.2 33.3 386.4 Temp[orary] Laws. About Certificates for Anabaptist Ministers and People,5 to be used in the Case following of
{ 43 }
Green vs. Washburn et als.
Worth[ington].6 All wise States have seen the Necessity of some Religion for the Support of Society.
{ 44 }
The Happiness of Brit[ish] dominions that an order of Men. The Romans and Grecians would have thought themselves happy if they had had such an order of Men.
All Ministers are exempted. By the annual Tax Act.7
Mr. Locks Defin[ition] of a Ch[urc]h. Ecclesia. A Number of Persons met to worship God.8 And that Man they choose for their Head shall be their Minister. He thinks him self as orthodox as any.
A Number of People, whether they disliked their former Ministers. About 50 Men and Women agreed to meet. An Anabaptist Church and an Anabaptist Minister.
Witnesses.
Mr. Streeter. About 50 when called. 100 now. 7 male members. About as many females. In Octr. the ordination 1763. The Church unanimous. Not certain whether the Congregation voted. They belonged to Leicester, Spencer and Charlton.9 Green was a Mason by Trade.
{ 45 }
Mr. Alden.10 Mr. Green came to a general Meeting of the united Churches of the Anabaptist order. Mr. Stillman's Church was not then one. Mr. Mannings of Prov[idence] was not then.11 We examined him, found him Sound in Principle, and of regular Conduct. We went and read certain Rules.
We were sent to afterwards, and after being formed into a Council, and Enquiry after their Covenant &c., We ordaind him.12
{ 46 }
Mr. Jacob. Of Killingsley. The Elder 18 Years.13
Hall. Dont work much, reads Bible and Annotations &c. 2 exempted.
Mr. Alden and Mr. Jacobs broke fellowship with the Church I belonged to, and were formerly dealt with for so doing. Mr. Green, I understand, preaches in Charlton.
Dr. Greens Society and Mr. Southgates, are in Leicester. Strict Communion, and Strict Principles.14 Mr. Alden said He thought he missed it in giving the Charge he did to Mr. Green.
Mr. Putnam.15 Some Learning is necessary. Learning comes not by Inspiration, great Labour and study is necessary. The Law could not intend that every Man who shall start up, should be a Minister. He is learned in his Trade no doubt, and may understand his Bible, well eno' to secure his own Salvation. But he is wrong in leading People { 47 } off from their legal Pastors, and forming Seperations. He seperates for trifles, I cant think 'em essential. He cant communicate with them, because they dont insist on the Formality of laying on Hands.16 One Motive why he became a Preacher, might be, because he did not love to work.
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. For the dating, see note 22 above.
2. The Act of 4 Nov. 1692, Acts and Laws, Of His Majesty's Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New-England 16 (Boston, 1759); c. 26, §1, 1 A&R 62, provided
“That the inhabitants of each town within this province, shall take due care, from time to time, to be constantly provided of an able, learned orthodox minister or ministers, of good conversation, to dispense the Word of God to them; which minister or ministers shall be suitably encouraged and sufficiently supported and maintained by the inhabitants of such town.”
The remainder of this section dealt with contracts for the “settlement or maintenance” of ministers and schoolmasters, giving the court of quarter sessions power to oversee such contracts. Under §2, if “any town shall be destitute of a minister qualified as aforesaid, and shall so continue by the space of six months, not having taken due care for the procuring, setling and encouragement of such minister,” the Court of Sessions was to order the town to take the necessary steps, or in default, the court was to “take effectual care to procure and settle a minister qualified as aforesaid.” §4 provided
“That every minister, being a person of good conversation, able, learned and orthodox, that shall be chosen by the major part of the inhabitants in any town, at a town meeting duly warned for that purpose . . . shall be the minister of such town; and the whole town shall be obliged to pay towards his settlement and maintenance, each man his several proportion thereof.”
§5 required the “settlement and maintenance” of schoolmasters. See, generally, text at note 2 above.
3. The Act of 17 Feb. 1693, Acts and Laws 33 (1759); c. 46, §8, 1 A&R 102–103, repealed §4 of the Act of 1692, note 2 above, providing instead [§9],
“that each respective gathered church in any town or place within this province, that at any time shall be in want of a minister, such church shall have power, according to the directions given in the word of God, to choose their own minister. And the major part of such inhabitants [i.e. of the town or place] as do there usually attend on the publick worship of God, and are by law duly qualified for voting in town affairs, concurring with the churche's act, the person thus elected and approved, accepting thereof and settling with them, shall be the minister; toward whose settlement and maintenance all the inhabitants, and rateable estates lying within such town, or part of a town, or place limited by law for upholding the publick worship of God, shall be obliged to pay in proportion.”
Under §10 the inhabitants of a place where there was no church might by majority vote at a town meeting,
“with the advice of three neighbouring ordained ministers . . . choose and call an orthodox, learned and pious person to dispense the word of God unto them, to the settlement and maintenance of which minister all rateable estates and inhabitants within such town or place shall be assessed and pay proportionably.”
See, generally, text at note 2 above.
4. Act of 13 Feb. 1760, Acts and Laws 386 (1759); c. 24, 4 A&R 288:
“[I]t shall not be lawful for any town, district, precinct or parish to assess the inhabitants thereof for or towards the support or maintenance of any person who shall be hereafter called to or settled in the work of the gospel ministry in such town, district, precinct or parish, unless such person shall have been educated at some university, college, or publick academy for the instruction of youth in the learned languages, and in the arts and sciences; or shall have received a degree from some university, college, or such publick academy; or shall have obtained testimonials under the hands of the major part of the settled ministers of the gospel in the county where such town, district, precinct or parish shall lie, that they apprehend him, the said person being a candidate for the gospel ministry, to be of sufficient learning to qualify him for the work of such ministry.”
See, generally, text at note 15 above.
5. JA probably cites the Act of 5 Jan. 1753, c. 15, § 1, 3 A&R 644, relieving such Anabaptists of taxes for the support of the ministry as should be either upon the assessors' lists, “or such as shall produce a certificate, under the hands of the minister and of two principal members of such church, setting forth that they conscienciously believe such person or persons to be of their perwasion and that he or they usually and frequently attend the publick worship in such church on Lord's days.” In §2 it was provided
“That no minister, nor the members of any Annabaptist church as aforesaid, shall be esteemed qualified to give such certificate as aforesaid other than such as shall have obtained from three other churches commonly called Annabaptists, in this or the neighbouring provinces, a certificate from each respectively, that they esteem such church to be one of their denomination, and that they conscientiously believe them to be Annabaptists.”
This act expired of its own force in 1758 (id. §3), and was not renewed, although its provisions were apparently still observed. See text and notes 6 and 7 above.
6. John Worthington, counsel for Green.
7. The statute under which the tax in suit was levied was the Act of 23 June 1767, c. 8, §2, 4 A&R 971, which provided that the Province Treasurer should require the selectmen and assessors of each town
“To assess all rateable polls above the age of sixteen years . . . (excepting the governor, lieutenant-governor and their families, the president, fellows, professors, Hebrew instructor and students of Harvard College, settled ministers and grammar-school masters, who are hereby exempted as well from being taxed for their polls, as their estates being in their own hands, and under their actual management and improvement; as also the estate pertaining to Harvard College).”
8. Probably a reference to this well-known passage in John Locke's first “Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689):
“Let us now consider what a church is. 'A church then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the publick worshipping of God, in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls. . . . A church, then, is a society of members, voluntarily uniting.'” John Locke, Works, 2:253–254 (London, 4th edn., 1740).
See Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, 1:143 (N.Y., 1950).
9. See the account of the church's founding given by John Davis in his Journal:
“Their Constitut[ion] was in [the] year 1762. 13th of July: when a Number of persons, having upon Conversat[ion], found they were of the same opinion in matters of Religion: and agreed to incorporate into a Church.
“In the year 1749 a Number of persons separated from the Standing Church, for 3 Reasons: 1. a Dislike to the Church Constitution. 2. The Manner of Supporting the gospel. 3 Manner of preaching. After they separated they continued in what is called the Separate Order for sometime, but in the same year gathered into a Church, upon what they Call Large Communion: that is mixt Communion.
“In 1762 Nathl. Green, and others separated from the Separates, having been baptized some time before; Green was baptized in Sturbridge by Blunt. Blunt recanted his own Baptism. And the same year, 1762, Mr. Green and others, from Leicester, Spencer, and Charlton became a baptist Church as aforesaid.
“Their Number in Ch[ristiani]ty was 6: who were Joined in a short time by 8 or 10 more. The names of the 6 were, Nathl. Green, Jno. Hill, and Jno. Hill Junr., Dorothy Shaw, Mary Hill, the wife of John Hill Junr. and Dorothy Shaw, Daughter of Dorothy Shaw. In Decem. 10th 1762 the Church called Nathl. Green to the Exercise of his ministerial gifts. He accepted the call, and continued the preacher alone in this Church—on tryal, till 13 of July 1763, when He gave the answer to the call—And was ordain'd their Pastor on the 12 of October 1763.
“Mr. Green had great Difficulties in the Separate Church, [in ?] endeavouring to suppress the Strange Spirit of the Separates: and this determined his Leaving the Separates.” Journal of John Davis, 27 April 1771, Backus Papers.
See also 3 Backus, Church History 176. Rev. John Blunt, pastor at Sturbridge from 1749 to 1752, renounced his Baptism and became a Separate in the latter year. See Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 103, 224–225. It has been said that Nathaniel Green's church was formed “by the dismission of several members” from Thomas Green's Leicester church (note 1437 below). See Estes, “Historical Discourse” 55–56. There is no evidence of this, but it is possible that some members of Thomas Green's congregation did join Nathaniel at some point, since there seem to have been doctrinal differences between the two churches. See note 1639 below.
10. The witness was probably Rev. Noah Alden, pastor of the Separate Baptist Church at Stafford, Conn., from 1754 until 1766, when he was called to the First Baptist Church of Bellingham, Mass. In 1767 Alden's Bellingham church became one of the initial members of the Warren Association. See Benedict, General History 416–417, 469; Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 228, 308; George F. Partridge, History of the Town of Bellingham, Massachusetts, 1719–1919 107–113, 132–136 (Bellingham, 1919). According to a contemporary record, Alden and Nathaniel Green were both pallbearers at the funeral of Rev. Thomas Green of the First Baptist Church of Leicester (note 1437 below) in 1773. Estes, “Historical Discourse” 37 note.
11. Samuel Stillman (1738–1807) accepted the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Boston in Nov. 1764. James Manning (1738–1791), first president of Rhode Island College (now Brown University) and a leader in the Baptists' struggles, took a church at Warren, R.I., in the same year, moving to Providence only in 1770. DAB; Burrage, History of the Baptists 75–76, 98. Probably the witness' placing Manning in Providence in 1769 is a mere slip. For JA's contact with Manning, see note 14 above. The organization to which Stillman and Manning are characterized as not belonging is presumably an association of about eight Baptist churches, formed in 1763, which included Alden's Stafford, Conn., church (note 1033 above) and Wightman Jacobs' Thompson, Conn., church (note 1336 below). See 3 Backus, Church History 261; Elder Charles Train, Sermon, 31 Dec. 1826, in 7 American Baptist Magazine (n.s.) 153–154 (1827), a reference supplied by Professor McLoughlin. This group seems to have expired in 1767 with the founding of the Warren Association, in which Manning was instrumental, and which Stillman's church had joined in 1768. See note 18 above; note 1639 below.
12. Ordinarily when a church wished to have a minister ordained, it called a council of ministers to carry out the task. The ministers would first examine the candidate as to his beliefs and then perform the actual service of ordination. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 168. The council called in Green's case seems to have already examined him informally on his appearance at the association meeting, although a formal examination may also have been held at the time of the ordination. The council apparently had the further duty of approving the organization of Green's church, which was newly formed. See note 932 above.
13. Presumably Rev. Wightman (or Whitman) Jacobs, Pastor of the Baptist Church in Thompson, Conn. (once part of Killingly) from 1750 to 1769, when he followed many members of his congregation to Royalston, Mass., after a doctrinal split in Thompson. See 3 Backus, Church History 178, 261; Lilley B. Caswell, History of the Town of Royalston, Massachusetts 65–68, 324–325 (Royalston, 1917). The Thompson church was one of those belonging to the association by which Green was examined. See notes 1134 above, 1639 below.
14. “Dr. Green” is not the plaintiff here, but Rev. Thomas Green (1699–1773), pastor of the First Baptist Church in Leicester, who was actually a medical doctor. See Estes, “Historical Discourse” 31–38. “Mr. Southgate” is undoubtedly Elder Richard Southgate (1714–1798), who preached to a Baptist society in Leicester which “was never organized as a corporate religious society; and, after the death of Elder Southgate, seems to have been merged in other societies.” Washburn, Historical Sketches of Leicester 115. “Strict Communion,” apparently the doctrine of these two societies, was the principle that no one should be admitted to communion who had not been baptized as an adult by total immersion. Opposed to it was “mixed communion,” under which those baptized by sprinkling in infancy were also admitted. The difference was a major cause of dissension among Separates and Baptists. See Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 229–232, 258–264. Compare note 932 above. “Strict Principles” perhaps means strict adherence to Calvinism. Thomas Green's church, of which he had been pastor since its founding in 1738, was strongly Calvinistic. He was apparently on good terms with the Leicester Congregationalists; the town had remitted his taxes in 1741. See Estes, “Historical Discourse” 22, 36; Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 237. The evidence thus seems calculated to cast doubt on Nathaniel Green's bona fides as a minister.
15. James Putnam, counsel for Washburn. For views similar to those here expressed by Putnam, see Petition of the Ashfield Proprietors, 27 March 1771, 4 A&R 1039–1043.
16. The doctrine that laying on of hands was a condition precedent to communion was adhered to by most of the General Baptist churches, which were strongest in Rhode Island and Connecticut and were known as “Six Principle” churches, this being in effect the sixth principle. The Calvinistic Particular Baptists of the Middle Atlantic states and most of the Separate Baptists of New England, including James Manning (originally a Philadelphian) and Isaac Backus, leaders of the Warren Association, rejected the doctrine. See Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 272 note; Burrage, History of the Baptists 27–30, 80–81; 3 Backus, Church History 59; Isaac Backus, A History of the Warren Association in New England, from its first formation to the present time (MS) 108, Backus Papers; Benedict, General History 453–454; Richard C. Knight, History of the General or Six Principle Baptists 100 and throughout (Providence, 1826) (the editors are indebted to Professor McLoughlin for the last three references). According to Backus, the association of Rhode Island and Connecticut churches which Green joined in 1763 (note 1134 above), although presumably Calvinistic, was founded upon the principle of “the laying on of hands upon every member as a term of communion . . . but in two years after the most of them gave up that bar of communion, of whom Mr. Jacobs [Wightman Jacobs, note 1336 above] was one.” 3 Backus, Church History 261. The association seems to have broken up thereafter over this issue. Both Jacobs and Noah Alden moved to Massachusetts at this point and took churches which joined the Warren Association (note 18 above). Since Green also joined the Warren Association in 1768, it seems probable that all three had been among those members of the earlier association who “gave up that bar” of laying on of hands. If this is so, Putnam's statement is inaccurate as of the time of the trial, but probably it correctly describes the circumstances which led to the foundation of Green's church. Holding this belief, Green could not “communicate” (i.e. be in fellowship) with either the Standing Church or the Separate Church, from both of which he had separated (note 932 above). In all probability, his position would also have prevented him from “communicating” with Thomas Green's Leicester Baptist church as well. If Thomas Green were a Calvinist of “Strict Principles” (note 1437 above) it is unlikely that he accepted what was essentially an Arminian doctrine. Moreover, in the church at Sutton, of which Thomas had been co-pastor before the foundation of his Leicester church, “Laying on of hands was left indifferent. Some were and some were not under h[an]ds.” Journal of John Davis, 27 April 1771, Backus Papers. See also Estes, “Historical Discourse” 17–19. Thus, Putnam's point seems to be that, if it were not for this doctrinal “trifle,” Nathaniel Green need never have formed his own church at all.
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/