A Baptist Preacher and The First
David L. Brown, Ph.D.
During the summer of 2001 my family and I took a trip to Virginia and
North Carolina to do family tree research and visit some historic
locations. As we were traveling "the Constitution Route" on highway 20 in
Virginia, I came across an interesting monument about seven miles east of
Orange. On it was the embossed head of John Leland, the influential
Baptist preacher and champion of religious liberty. It is believed that
the monument marks the location where James Madison and John Leland met to
discuss Madisons candidacy for Virginia delegate to the Convention to
ratify the Federal Constitution. At that meeting, Leland pressed Madison
concerning his stand on religious freedom and individual rights. Madison
promised Leland if he was elected, he would do all in his power to see
that religious freedom and individual freedom would be incorporated into
the Constitution by amendment. Elder John Leland and hence the Orange
Baptists did throw their support behind James Madison who was elected. As
expected, he voted in favor of ratification of the Constitution. Then,
true to his word, he drafted and introduced twelve amendments to the
Constitution. Article III of Madisons proposed Bill of Rights reads,
"Congress shall make no laws establishing articles of Faith, or mode of
worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging
freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble and to petition to the government for redress of grievances."
The members of the convention condensed Madisons proposed third article.
In fact, they changed it to the First Amendment which reads; "Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
the government for a redress of grievances."
John Leland and James Madison