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1763.]

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months, and did not contain the usual clause suspending its effect until it should receive the King's assent. The law was at this time quietly endured, but in 1758, acting on the belief that the crop was again to fall short, the Assembly re-enacted the statute of 1755, and as before, they annexed no suspending clause which would have rendered necessary the sanction of the Crown. The clergy now took fire. It is undoubtedly true that the effect of this law was to deprive each of them of about two hundred and sixty pounds sterling per annum, for tobacco was now worth six pence per pound instead of two pence as before. But they suffered in common with all other creditors, and their loss was occasioned by the double medium of exchange, then existing in Virginia.

Immediately a hot controversy commenced. Rev. John Camm, of William and Mary College, wrote a strong pamphlet, in which the "two penny act" was denounced with keen sarcasm, and assailed by plausible argument. Richard Bland and Landon Carter replied, and so important became the dispute, that His Majesty in Council took up the question, and at once cut the Gordian knot by declaring the act of 1758 null and void. Whereupon, in various counties throughout Virginia, suits were brought by clergymen against their respective parish collectors to enforce the law of 1748. In the County of Hanover, the Rev. James Maury had

* See Hening, vii. 240, 241; Wirt's P. Henry, 24; Grahame, iv. 95, 96; Hawks' Eccles. Hist. Va., 118, 119.

b Wirt's P. Henry, 25; Hawks, 122; Grahame, iv. 96.

brought a suit against his vestry, and skilful lawyers had been retained on either side. The action was founded on the statute of 1748, which gives the tobacco in specie. To this the defendants pleaded specially the statute of 1758, and the plaintiff demurred to the plea. He objected to the law of 1758, first, because it had not received the royal sanction when enacted; and secondly, because it had been expressly declared void by the King in Council. When this demurrer came up before the County Court for November, 1763, it was argued by Peter Lyons, for the plaintiff, and by John Lewis for the defendants, and the Court, notwithstanding that popular feeling ran strongly against the clergy, sustained the demurrer, and thus decided that the law of 1748 must take full effect.

b

This decision reflects honour upon the firmness and integrity of the Court. If the whole question be regarded in an aspect merely legal, there can be no doubt that the clergy were right, and as they are said to have triumphed decidedly in the war of pamphlets which had previously been waged, so they seemed now about to prevail in the judicial combat. The question of law having been disposed of, nothing remained but to call a jury and submit to them the question of damages to which the ministers were entitled because of the obstruction of their legal rights. At this stage, Mr. Lewis with

Afterwards Judge Lyons of the Virginia Court of Appeals; Wirt's P. Henry, 21-26.

Mr. Wirt, upon a review of the

pamphlets, ascribes victory to the clergy; P. Henry, 25, and see Dr. Hawks, 118.

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drew from the case, telling his clients that he had done all that he could, and that they must be defeated.

But there was a deeper question than that of mere law affecting the case of the clergy. Already in Virginia, the evils of an establishment had been felt and acknowledged by a large body of the people. The Episcopal rectors had not been so remarkable for their holy lives as to commend their church to the more serious inhabitants, and the vicious and disorderly openly denounced her. A very large number of those who were then properly called "Dissenters, " had gathered in the Colony, and embracing in their ranks men of pure lives, of keen intellects, and of accurate knowledge, they powerfully affected public opinion. Any tax, whether in money or in tobacco, for the support of one sect while others were restrained, was justly odious. No law could remove this foul blot from the record. Neither the patents of a King, nor the statutes of a Colonial Assembly, could make it just to compel men to contribute to the support of a religious denomination from whose teachings they dissented, and upon whose ministry they never attended. This was the fatal point in the case of the church, and so strongly did it address itself to the common sense of mankind, that the clergy suits were in universal odium, and were generally stigmatized as the actions of "the parsons against the people."

* See Semple's History of Virginia Wirt's P. Henry, 29, edit. 1839. Baptists, 2-7; Hawks, 121, 122.

Under these circumstances, the case came before a jury of the County Court of Hanover, on the 1st day of December, 1763. Unable to retain Mr. Lewis, and almost in despair as to their cause, the defendants employed Patrick Henry to represent them in the question of damages. His own father was the presiding Justice, and his uncle was one of the very clergymen who were now urging their claims at law. The court-house was crowded to excess. Mr. Lyons, in behalf of the plaintiffs, opened the case, and, certain of success, he contented himself by a statement of the previous steps before the court, and concluded his speech to the jury by a brilliant eulogy upon the merits of the clergy. When he had concluded, Mr. Henry rose and commenced his address. He was awkward and embarrassed; his words faltered; the clergy smiled, nodded, and exchanged glances of compassionate triumph; the people trembled for their champion; his father hung his head in shame and sorrow. But gradually a mighty change came over the speaker; his form became erect and graceful; his eye kindled into fire; his voice grew in thrilling emphasis, and from his lips poured forth words which bound every soul in the assembly as with a magician's spell. A dead silence prevailed, and bending forward from seats and windows and each place where they stood, the people listened in awe and astonishment to the voice of the great spirit of eloquence who had descended among them. His power was such that he made "their blood to run cold in their veins, and their hair to

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rise on end." His father sat a listener, and tears of indescribable feeling ran down his cheeks as he marked the triumph of his son.. With resistless sway the orator pleaded before the jury the injustice of the plaintiffs' claims. He denounced the act of the King in declaring void the law of 1758, and with prophetic force he urged that the compact between people and sovereign might be dissolved by royal oppression. He painted in glaring colours the conduct of the clergy, and at length, at one withering burst of invective, the ministers present, unable longer to endure, rose and fled from the house in total discomfiture! For one hour Mr. Henry held his hearers in chains, and when the case was submitted to the jury, they returned almost immediately to the bar with a verdict of one penny damages. A motion for a new trial was made, but was promptly overruled by a unanimous vote. It seemed as though men were already looking into the future. Justice asserted her right, although law was openly disregarded.

b

After this decision the clergy abandoned all their suits, and never again urged their claims. Patrick

"Abiit-excessit-evasit-eru- iii. It is amusing to note in Dr. pit!" Cicero in Catal. Delphin. Class. iv. 1303. The effect of Henry's eloquence was more striking because more immediate than that produced by the great Roman orator. In no other point will it be pretended that the clergy of Virginia were like the seditious Cataline.

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Hawks, the struggle between his admiration of Henry's genius and his evident disgust at his success. Prot. Epis. Church in Va., 123, 124. The Doctor could hardly be expected to approve the decision. He insists much upon the demurrer, and expresses the horror of a lawyer at the wide field of discussion which Henry assumed.

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