Repeatedly Jefferson Had Many Positive Interactions with Christians and Churches, Even as President

On December 13 Thomson, sent Jefferson a copy of his translation of the Old Testament from the Greek—providing evidence once again that our third president was a serious student of the Bible. Jefferson replied on Christmas day saying: “I have dipped into it at the few moments of leisure which my vocations permit, and I perceive that I shall use it with great satisfaction on my return home. I propose there, among my first emploiments, to give to the Septuagint an attentive perusal…”

But Jefferson ordering Unitarian-oriented literature about the same time as the evangelical Scott Bible, and Thomson’s Old Testament and corresponding equally warmly with orthodox and unorthodox religious leaders, and also attending and funding Trinitarian church services, makes it difficult to make absolute declarations about specifics of his beliefs at this time in his life. But his extended and repeated correspondence with Gospel ministers demonstrates his affinity and support for the Christian faith, and many clergy at this time still respected and praised Jefferson for it. Corresponding With Many Religious Groups At the end of 1807, a group of Quaker leaders wrote to Jefferson from their Yearly Meeting in Baltimore representing the Western Shore of Maryland, the adjacent parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the State of Ohio. They commended Jefferson for avoiding war, aiding Indians, and stopping the slave trade. In his reply to Mr. Thomas, Mr. Ellicott, Mr. Hopkins, and the Society of Friends, Jefferson said: “….I learn with satisfaction their approbation of the principles which have influenced the councils of the General Government….It was dictated by the principles of humanity, [and] the precepts of the gospel….” Jefferson also  thanked them for helping “…to ameliorate the condition of the Indian natives…; …preparatory to religious instruction…”

Jefferson did not comment on the topic of slavery, his opposition for which they gave their “warmest approbations.” But the topic of slavery came up again in a letter from about 30 leaders of “the Baptized Church of Christ” in Ohio and Kentucky written to Jefferson at the end of August. They called themselves the “Friends of Humanity” that had gathered at New Hope meeting house in Woodford County, Kentucky. The letter of commendation was sent by Rev. John Thomas (and Rev. John Winn). On November 18, 1807, Jefferson replied and again claimed that Christianity provided the basis of his administration: “…Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that you so justly particularize, of liberty to worship our creator in the way we think most agreeable to his will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government, and yet proved by our experience to be its best support…”

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