Baptists responsible for First Amendment
October 14, 1774 – Dr. James Manning read the petition from the Warren Baptist Association to the representatives from the State of Massachusetts.
The call for the Continental Congress had actually originated in that state and the Baptists had asked that their concerns for religious liberty be heard by their state delegation. The meeting was held in Boston at Carpenters Hall and after the petition was read Rev. Isaac Backus explained it. John Adams, leader of the Mass. delegation, was obviously upset by the plea from the Baptists. Answering the grievances of the Baptists, John Adams gave a lengthy speech, and Samuel Adams spoke as well. Both of them claimed, “There is indeed an ecclesiastical establishment in our province but a very slender one, hardly to be called an establishment.” In their lengthy reply, they attempted to divide the Baptist brethren, but Backus replied, “It is absolutely a point of conscience with me; for I cannot give in the certificates they require [i.e., a complicated exemption certificate], without implicitly acknowledging that power in man which I believe belongs only to God.”
“John Adams closed the four-hour discussion with a promise that the Mass. delegates would do what they could for the relief of the Baptists, then, according to Backus, added these words: ‘Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts laws respecting religion, you many as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens!” Unfortunately that promise was not kept. “John Adams returned home and reported that Mr. Backus had been to Philadelphia to try to break up the union of the colonies.”
Dr. Dr. Greg J. Dixon from This Day in Baptist History I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 426-27.
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