Jefferson Returns to Virginia from France

[File photo by Jerry Newcombe] When Jefferson returned home from France in December 1789, he soon became aware of a Virginia religious revival if he was not already that was impacting the Presbyterian college of Hampden Sidney. He still found his St. Anne’s Parish to be missing any clergyman and largely defunct, so he continued what he had begun shortly before going to France—he joined the services in the courthouse of Charlottesville led by Episcopal minister Rev. Matthew Maury of the adjacent Fredericksville Parish. That parish was also no longer functioning formally and thusunable to support Maury, so in fact Maury operated more as an independent (as Clay had done) through donations of supporters such as Jefferson.

Jefferson wrote to Rev. Maury on January 8, 1790, asking for information on a Bible and pledging to support Rev. Maury’s school: “I recollect you have…Grabe’s septuagint [i.e., Old Testament in Greek] in 10. vols. Not knowing where, when, and by whom it was printed, I have been unable to ask for it in Europe, which I had wished to do. I will thank you to inform me of these circumstances that I may be enabled to have the edition procured for me by the first occasion in Europe.” Jefferson reading the Bible in Greek showed that he was a seriousstudent of the Scriptures.

Six weeks later Jefferson noted on February 23 in his account book that he “Paid Mr. Maury marriage fee.” This was for performing the wedding of his daughter Martha to Thomas Mann Randolph at Monticello. A Trinitarian marriage service was held in Monticello. Even if Jefferson was beginning to doubt some of the orthodox creeds, it was now easier for him to participate in worship because the more complex and detailed Athanasian Creed had been removed from the Episcopal service in 1785 in favor of the simpler Apostles’ Creed [which is still Trinitarian in its outline: I believe in God the Father…I believe in Jesus Christ…I believe in the Holy Ghost…] and Nicene Creed. More about the 4th century St. Athanasius and the highly-detailed Trinitarian creed named after him is explained in a later chapter, but now it is enough to know that without this change, it is possible that Jefferson may have discontinued participating in Episcopal worship when he returned to America, but he does not. No attacks later during the presidential campaign claimed that he did not attend church or refrained from taking communion.

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