9.7 × 6.5 in. (24.6 × 7.8 cm)
On view in The Impact of the Bible, Bible in America
Thomas Jefferson was a towering figure among America’s founding generation, serving as the nation’s third president from 1801–1809. Influenced by Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke, Jefferson was a fierce advocate of religious freedom. Indeed, he authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777, which later served as a model for the First Amendment. Religious freedom in America enabled religious diversity to flourish, heavily influencing the way people used and encountered the Bible. Jefferson reflected on religious freedom in this letter, which he wrote at the end of his presidency, to a Methodist church in Connecticut. He wrote, “No provision in our constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority . . . I trust that the whole course of my life has proved me a sincere friend to religious, as well as civil liberty.”
Composed in 1809 by Thomas Jefferson, Washington, DC; Received in 1809 by the Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, New London, Connecticut. Acquired before 1975 by Elsie (1906–1997) and Philip (1902–1975) Sang, Chicago, Illinois; Sold at auction in 1979. Acquired by 2000 by an anonymous collector, United States; Purchased at auction in 2000 by Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery, Natick, Massachusetts; Privately purchased in 2012 by The Acts of Mercy Foundation, Rancho Santa Margarita, California; Privately purchased in 2013 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2015 to National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry), under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.
Notes:  Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Highly Important American Historical Documents Autograph Letters & Manuscripts, The Property of The Elsie O. & Philip D. Sang Foundation, June 20, 1979.  Christie’s New York, Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana, May 19, 2000, Lot 70. In response to the museum’s inquiries, Christie’s could provide no further information about the letter’s owner.  Email from Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery to the museum, February 5, 2019.  Email from Acts of Mercy to the museum, January 7, 2019.
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