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The Diary of Isaac Backus
William G. McLoughlin, Editor.
From the introduction of The Diary of Isaac Backus, 3 volumes.

      Baptists first appeared in New England in the 1630s. In 1644 Massachusetts passed a law banishing all Baptists. However, the law never was enforced well [p. xxv].

     In Massachusetts and Connecticut after 1631, Baptists were exempted from taxation imposed to support the established Congregational churches. To qualify for such an exemption, a person had to submit a certificate proving his membership in a bonafide Baptist church [pp. xxiv-xxv].

     In the 1760s the Baptists were again taxed in New England. A tax certificate was developed that said Baptist churches must be registered in order to be certified as tax exempt. Many pastors and members refused to register and were put in jail and their animals and other property were sold at auction to get the necessary taxes to support the Congregational churches of the area. Isaac Backus led in the founding of the Warren Baptist Association in 1767 [the second oldest in the nation] and strengthened the association to lead in defending the Baptists against the government. At first they just sought toleration, but then they saw that "separation of church and state" - complete religious freedom - was necessary for Baptists and others to worship without government interference. In 1773, Backus wrote a tract, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty. This is a key document in the history of the American struggle for freedom in religious worship [pp. xxviii-xxix].

     Backus and the Warren Association sent a delegation of Baptists to the First Continental Congress in 1774. The confrontation between these Baptists and John Adams, Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine in described in his diary entry for October 14-15,1774.

     In 1780, Massachusetts drew up a constitution that contained a clause that continued the old system of taxation for the support of the "standing order" [Congregational churches]. When Backus turned to the civil courts to try to get help for Baptists, he was told to have the Baptist churches incorporated. He refused to do this; he said that to ask Caesar for a license to preach the Gospel was as unscriptural as to turn over to Caesar a certificate in order to be exempted from religious taxes. Some Baptists went along with this "license" plan [pp. xxx-xxxi].

     Religious taxation was finally eliminated in Connecticut in 1818 and in Massachusetts in 1833. Backus never lived to see this as he died in 1806, having pastored two Baptist churches for 58 years in Massachusetts: Titicut, and Middleborough [pp. xxxi].


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