Petition 1786 | Gilliams of Virginia

Early Religious Petition: Lunenburg, Opposed to the Repeal
Updated March 1, 2016

Political and Religious Life in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

Before the American Revolution, voting requirements in Virginia generally excluded women, African Americans, and the poor. Although many voters came from the middle ranks of society, they tended to elect political leaders from among the plantation gentry. Even after the Revolution, voters usually continued to elect representatives to the General Assembly from among the gentry. Yet the elected representatives held a republican ideal of responsive government in which public service was both the duty and the responsibility of the privileged. They shared many of the concerns of those who elected them and were able to consider issues relevant to other localities with common interests.

The Church of England (or Anglican Church) was the established church in Virginia until 1786, though after American independence it was incorporated as the newly named Protestant Episcopal Church. Parish affairs were governed by elected vestries composed almost entirely of gentry and overseen at a distance during colonial times by the royal governor and the bishop's commissary. The vestries maintained a great deal of control over local religious life, and usually retained their positions for long periods unless dissolved by some higher authority.

Over the course of the eighteenth century, as the colonies sought more control over their own policies, general authority to regulate church affairs shifted to the Virginia legislature. Laws to divide parishes or redraw parish boundaries in order to equalize the tax base, as well as decisions to overturn vestry decisions or dissolve unpopular vestries, became increasingly common. Petitions played a vital role in originating most of this legislation.

Before 1740, Virginia had few dissenters, as those who dissented from the beliefs of the Church of England were called. They were generally tolerated as long as they obeyed colonial laws and did not seem to threaten the Anglicans' dominance. Although both Anglicans and dissenters frequently petitioned the legislature to address a variety of religious concerns, the relationship of church and state did not assume great importance until the Revolutionary period. As the number of dissenters and their political needs increased, and as Enlightenment ideals gained ground among certain political leaders, complete religious freedom emerged as a common goal for a heterogeneous group of Virginians.

Hincha Gilliam of Brunswick though a landowner in Lunenburg, never appears in any extant Tax Records. This petition is one of the few records that places him in Lunenburg, other than the deeds that bear his name.

6 Nov 1786
Lunenburg County, Virginia

To the honorable the Speakers and other members of the General Assembly the Petition of the Church wardens & Vestry and other Members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the County of Lunenburg dutifully presents

That your Petitioners have Reason to apprehend that at your ensuing Session an attempt will be made to prevail with the General Assembly to repeal the Law for incorporating the said Church. And although no Change of Circumstances has intervened to require the Repeal of an Act which was judged necessary when passed; yet lest the Silence of the Members of the said Church amidst the various and zealous attacks with which she is threatened, may by any means operate to her Prejudice, your Petitioners think it proper to request that they may not be deprived of those Conveniences which the said Act procures to them. Some have affected to consider the Act here referred to, if not as an Establishment, yet at least as tending to an Establishment of the Episcopal Church and strange Fears have been excited for the Safety and Independence of the other Christian Churches without her Pale. But these Fears must appear to be groundless when it is considered that the Members of the said Church wish to see the other Protestant Churches enjoy the Benefits arising from being incorporated.

—Your Petitioners declare with the greatest Sincerity that however their Opinion of the Purity and Excellence of their own church must naturally give them a Degree of Zeal for its Support; yet that Zeal is not embittered with any Rancour against their Protestant Brethren of other Denominations. Nor do they wish to possess any Authority or Domination over them.

—Thus affected towards them, your Petitioners hope for a Return of equal benevolence and Christian Forbearance; and thus by a continual Interchange of brotherly Love and friendly Offices render quite unimportant all the little Differences of Opinion which may still keep them separate

—but if contrary to this Hope, Your Petitioners should meet with Opposition from those who wish to see any Act repealed which is judged convenient for the good Government of the Episcopal Church, and which can affect the Rights of no other, they leave it to the World to determine what church it is, which has most Reason to dread a tyrannous Exertion of Power & a Suppression of its dearest Interests.

—Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that any such unreasonable Interference may be rejected.

Thos. Buford, C[hurch] W[arden]
Sam Garland

Edwd Brodnax
Sterling Neblett
William Buford
Covington Hardy
Henry Stokes
Lyddal Bacon
James Buford
Anthy Street

Abram Maury
Joshua Ragsdale Jr.
Jno Billups
Abram Walls
Tho. Garland
John Ragsdale
Peter Garland
Jeffrey Murrell
John Cureton
LeRoy Buford
Thos E. Williams [?]
John Neblett
William Johnson
John Connall
Humphrey Garratt
Phillip Morgan
Danl Epperson
Jeremiah Morgan
Thos Hardy
John Laffoon
Charles Parrish
John Rigrans [?]
Henry Freeman
John Connell
John Wyatt
Overstreet Wyatt
John Rudder
Thos Garland
Wm Ambrose
Saml Rudder
Robt Phillips
David Thompson
Robert Brown
William Gill
Nathl Laffoon
Peter Lamkin Jr.
John Wilkinson
Henry Buford Senr
Young Bowers
Benj Tomlinson
Nevil Gee
Peter Andrews
Wm Twitty [?]
Edward Eppes
Wilson Walker
Joshua Ragsdale
Jesse Gee Jr.
Benj Moore
Benj Taylor
John Rash [?]
Joel Pewit
William Marshall [?]
Wm Johnson
Benj Gee Jr
James Green
Eldred Williams
Henry Gee
Charles Gross
Chappell Singleton
Benj Strange
Jas Hungerford
Samuel Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Benj. Gee Senr
John Pettus Senr
Wm Deupree
Archibald Fallon [?]

Page 2

Wm Bouldin
Thos Pettus
Jno Hightour
James Johnston
John Lock
John Settle [?]
Daniel Crenshaw
James Shorter
James Williamson Junr
John Pettus
Thomas Crenshaw
Overton Pettus
Thos Pettus
John Pamplin
William Stokes
Jonathan Davis
Bryan Leister
Benjamin Tatum
Caron Bayne
Wm Henry Tatum
Reuben Tatum
Nathaniel Hix
Peter Slanton [?]
John Crafton
Richard Jonson [?]
James Williams Jur.
Jacob Stow
Nathaniel Sullavant
Anthony Fullilove
James Radford
Robert Basley
John Pitman
Lewis Hawks
Robert G. Tucker
Wm Fullilove
Scott Pattersson [?]
Daniel Harper [?]
John Shelburne
John Eubank
Lodowick Farmer
Alexr Listre
John Johnson
Thomas Crafton
John Ward Junr
Jeremiah Farmer
John Claiborne
Anthony Crofton
Benjamin Jackson
James Hamlet
William Moore
William Doshier
Francis Smith Sr.
James Johnson
William Wrenn
Richd Stone Junr
Benja Estes Senr
Jno Hazlewood
Richd Johnson
Jas Smith
Drury Murrell
John Estes
Curtis Heath
Charles Cabiness
James Etham
Geo W Foster
Saml Harris
Sam Ward
Michl Carroll
Robt Crafton
John Claughton
John Wright
John Elmore
John Davies

Page 3

Robert Estes
David Street
Hugh Kelso
Minor Wilks Senr.
James Hamblett
James Knott
William Tisdale
John Ingram
Wm Cockerham
William Stone Sr
John Hightower Sr
Edards Brown
Jno Powell
John C. Brown
Thos Neal
Jessie Bragg
Wm Wilson
John Hardwick
Clark Taylor
Edwd Wilson
Samuel Cheatham
Richard Knott
Chs Gee
Wm F Barry
Thos Ellis
Valentine Brown
Trevor H. McClure [?]
Willm Morrow
Michael Johnson
Isaac Brizendine
John Cureton Junr.
Mi Stokes
John Moon
John Johnson
Robt Willson
John Willson
Robert Willson Senr
Wm Stone Senr
Wm Fisher
James Thompson
Jere Hooper
Jos White
Wm Irby
Isham Rainey
George Grizle
William Ball
Robert Parrish
Jas Yarbrough
Joshua Chaffin
Joel Tucker
Thomas Maxey
Ellexander Rudder
John Bowers
John Ragsdale
John Moore
Thos Hardy, Jr.
William Dicks
Edward Rudder
Jos Farmer
John Hayes
Wm Hamlett
P. Snead
Tyree Glenn
Richd Stone
Thos Estes
William Pettipool
Abraham Patillo
Bartlett Estes
Saml Estes
Branch Tucker
Thomas Penick
G____ [?]
John Stevenson
John Boisseau
Edward Ragsdale
John Penick Jur.
Nathan Penick
Wm Hamblen
Jn Ellington
Daniel Hamblen
Michaux Cunningham
Henry Cook
Benja Estes Jr.
John Knight
Woodson Knight
Jarrard McConico Jun
John Bennet
Barker Potts [?]
Coleman Jeffress
Elisha Jeffress
Rawleigh Parker
Thomas Jeffress Jun.
David Stokes Sen
John Barnes
Thos Hudson
George Barnes
Isaac Brizadine
Richard R Cralle
Benj Bramdom [?]
Grief Green
Elisha Betts
Micl Stokes
John Long
Henry Walker
Saml Sneed
Sam Sneed Senr
John Cross
Robert Chapel
Edward Chambers
Wm Chambers
Elisha Winn
Thos Winn
James Scott
Ashley Davies
Copland Davies
Thos Jones
Thos Hamlin
George Hightour
Thomas Chambers
Hezekiah Davies
Wm Liveret
Wm Pulley
Ellic. Moore
Saml Hardie

Page 4

Wm Street
Thos Wilson
Edward Hatchet
Wm A Whitlock
John Anthony
Wm Stokes

  • Early Virginia Religious Petitions.