Concerns about the Clergy’s Involvement during the Ratification Process

Concerns over the relationship between the church and state, a persistent issue dating back to the early 17th century, again became a matter for discussion during the ratification period. During the 1780s, five states prohibited the clergy from holding public office. The Massachusetts ratification convention was notable in that it had seventeen clergymen elected to serve as delegates and, as was the case with several conventions, opened each day with prayer. These policies gave rise to questions concerning the role of the clergy in the process. One writer noted that religious leaders were “bound to concern themselves only with those things that appertain to the kingdom of heaven.” Others comfortable with clergymen being involved in the process observed “they have a sufficiency of leisure upon their hands to fix, at least, one eye pretty steadily upon the political affairs of the world we are in.” Our selections illustrate both the dismay and comfort many expressed about having religious leaders being engaged in the ratification process.