own conscience only by the purest and most unselfish
attachment to human freedom.
On the twenty seventh of May, Cary
from the committee presented to the convention the declaration of rights, which Mason
For the next fortnight the great truths which it proclaimed, and which were to form the groundwork of American institutions, employed the thoughts of the convention, and during several successive days were the subject of solemn deliberation.
One clause only received a material amendment.
had written that all should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion.
But toleration is the demand of the sceptic, who has no fixed belief and only wishes to be let alone; a firm faith, which is too easily tempted to establish itself exclusively, can be content with nothing less than equality.
A young man, then unknown to fame, of a bright hazel eye, inclining to grey, small in stature, light in person, delicate in appearance, looking like a pallid, sickly scholar among the robust men with whom he was associated, proposed a change.
He was James Madison
, the son of an Orange county
planter, bred in the school of Presbyterian dissenters under Witherspoon
, trained by his own studies, by meditative rural life in the Old Dominion, by an ingenuous indignation at the persecutions of the Baptists, by the innate principles of right, to uphold the sanctity of religious freedom.
He objected to the word toleration, because it implied an established religion, which endured dissent only as a condescension; and as the earnestness of his convictions overcame his modesty, he went on to demonstrate that ‘all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of ’