Taxing or Coveting?
Baptists today know little about the struggle for religious freedom in the early days of our Republic. Here is a portion of a letter that was sent to the brethren of the Philadelphia Baptist Association to be read in the annual meeting of October 16, 17, and 18, 1770. You will see the letter was sent from Baptists in Massachusetts. “The laws of this province were never intended to exempt the Baptists from paying towards building and repairing Presbyterian meeting houses, and making up Presbyterian ministers’ salaries; for, besides other insufficiencies, they are all limited both as to extent and duration. The first law extended only five miles round each Baptist meeting house; those without this circle had no relief, neither had they within: for, though it exempted their polls, it left their estates to the mercy of harpies, and their estates went to wreck. The Baptists sought a better law, and with great difficulty and waste of time and money, obtained it; but this was not universal. It extended not to any parish until a Presbyterian meeting house should be built, and a Presbyterian minister settled there; in consequence of which, the Baptists have never been freed from the first and great expenses of their parishes, expenses equal to the current expenses of ten or twelve years. This is the present case of the people of Ashfield, which is a Baptist settlement. There were but five families of other denominations in the place when the Baptist church was constituted; but those five, and a few more, have lately built a Presbyterian meeting house there, and settled an orthodox minister, as they call him; which last cost them 200 pounds. To pay for both, they laid a tax on the land; and, as the Baptists are the most numerous, the greatest part fell to their share. The Presbyterians, in April last, demanded the money. The Baptists pleaded poverty, alleging that they had been twice driven from their plantations by the Indians last war; that they were but new settlers, and had cleared but a few spots of land, and had not been able to build commodious dwelling houses. Their tyrants would not hear.
Dr. Dale R. Hart From: “This Day in Baptist History III” David L. Cummins pp. 606 – 608