Monday, February 28, 2011

Was the Father of Virginia Orthodox?

George Wythe was the intellectual Giant of Virginia. He trained Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe, and Henry Clay. His reputation was impeccable, yet not much is known about his faith. Mr. Munford, who gave his eulogy, and had lived with him stated he was a Christian:
He made no public confession of his religious faith ; and, as Mr. Jefferson has observed respecting him that "that religion must be good which could produce a life of such exemplary virtue," there have been doubts of his belief in the Christian system; but these are at once and forever dispelled by the declarations of Mr. Munford, who stated, in his eulogy pronounced over the corpse of Wythe in the Hall of the House of Delegates, that prayers for the mercies of his Redeemer were among his most fervent and latest aspirations.
--THE VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1776. A DISCOURSE// DELIVERED BEFORE THE VIRGINIA ALPHA or THE PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY, IN THE CHAPEL OF WILLIAM AND MAKY COLLEGE, IN THE CITY OF WILLIAMSBURG, ON THE AFTERNOON OF JULY THE 3rd, 1855. BY HUGH BLAIR GRIGSBY. [published By A Resolution Of The Society] J. W. RANDOLPH, * 121 MAIN STREET, RICHMOND, VA. 1855.

Without reading his biography, Wythe was not as hostile to fundamental Christianity as his friend Thomas Jefferson:
At this period he acquired that attachment to the Christian religion, which, though his faith was afterwards shaken by the difficulties suggested by sceptical writers, never altogether forsook him, and towards the close of his life was renovated and firmly established. Though he never connected himself with any sect of Christians, yet for many years he constantly attended church, and the bible was his favourite book.
--The American Law Journal and Miscellaneous Repertory, p. 93-94. Vol III. By John Elihu Hall. PHILADELPHIA: PUBLISHED BY FARRAND AND NICHOLAS. Also by Philip H. Nicklin & Co. Balt1more; D. W. Farrand & Green, Alban; D. Mallory .\ Co. Boston; Lyman, Hall k Co. Portland; Swift & Chipman, Middlcbury, (Vt.); Patterson and Hopkins, Pittsburg; and J. W. Campbell, Petersburg, Virginia.Try & Kammerer, Printers.1810.

A better perusal of his faith is needed. However, Chris Rodda repeats Bishop Meade's assertion Wythe was hostile to Christianity, linking him with Thomas Jefferson. Most likely Bishop Meade considered Wythe and Jefferson two peas in a pod, which may or may not have been the case. Wythe was silent regarding faith, and a close friend with the infidel Thomas Jefferson. However, Wythe never had the reputation of hostility against Christianity as TJ did. The evidence supports an active church membership early in life, his lukewarm faith by the time of the Revolution, then his subsequent return to fervent faith.

Wythe's attorney wrote "he had declared to him his firm belief in Christianity."

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