Attacks on Jefferson from Rev. Linn and Rev. Mason

Although many of the ministers accusing Jefferson of unbelief hailed from New England, two of the most prominent names were ministers from New York. Hamburger notes, “The onslaught against Jefferson began in earnest when Federalist pamphlets charged that Jefferson was a deist and an infidel. William Linn and John Mitchell Mason—the one a Dutch Reformed pastor in New York City, the other a Presbyterian minister of the city’s Associate Reformed Church—initiated the assault, and numerous other Federalists quickly joined the fray.”[1] The attack by Rev. William Linn was the most unexpected in light of previous friendly correspondence and cooperation with Jefferson. The content of Linn’s earlier letters offer no explanation or hint of any discomfort with Jefferson’s faith.

But in the 1800 election season Linn warned: [2]


  • “the election of any man avowing the principles of Mr. Jefferson” would “destroy religion, introduce immorality, and loosen all the bonds of society.”
  • a vote for Jefferson “must be construed into no less than rebellion against God.” He feared the “destruction of all social order and happiness.”


Second, there were similar dire predictions from Rev. John Mitchell Mason:“By giving your support to Mr. Jefferson, you are about to strip infidelity of its ignominy. . . . By this act, you will proclaim to the whole world . . . that you do not believe it subversive of moral obligation and social purity.”

Rev. Mason saw a Jefferson victory as “a crime never to be forgiven,” that the people would transfer the presidency “upon an open enemy to their religion, their Redeemer, and their hope, [and it] would be mischief to themselves and sin against God.” The Virginian’s “favorite wish,” according to Rev. Mason, is “to see a government administered without any religious principle among either rulers or ruled.” He charged (partially correctly) that Jefferson’s perspective is: “Religion has nothing to do with politics.”[3]

[1] Hamburger, Separation of Church and State, 113.

[2] William Linn, Serious Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States (New York: 1800), 24.

[3] John Mitchell Mason, The Voice of Warning, to Christians, on the Ensuing Election of a President of the United States (New York: 1800), 35.

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