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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Power of a Teacher

In the debate linked to in my last post Bruce repeatedly quotes from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The two writers of our nation's most important documents. Jefferson, Madison and James Monroe, three of our earliest presidents had a teacher in common. The Reverend James Maury. While they were students. Maury brought a lawsuit against Virginia concerning his salary provided by the state. What a case! It's known as the Parson's Case. Patrick Henry's father was the judge, Patrick Henry represented the state. To sum up the case Anglican preachers were paid in tobacco set at 16,000 pounds which under normal conditions sold for two pence a pound. In 1757 there was a drought and the price of tobacco increased to six pence per pound. The colonial legislature passed a law known as the Two Pence Act basically taking away their windfall. The King, being head of the Church of England overturned Virginia's law. Maury sued for the full market value. It is in this case that Patrick Henry lays the foundation for the Declaration of Independence Jefferson would write 19 years later. Henry argued in substance "that a King, by disallowing Acts of this salutary nature, from being the father of his people, degenerated into a Tyrant and forfeits all right to his subjects' obedience." (Ann Maury, "Memoirs of a Huguenot Family," G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1872, letter at pages 418-424, quote at page 421). The jury found in favor of Maury, but awarded only one pence per pound effectively cutting his salary in half instead of tripling it. I wonder if this case that all three men witnessed first hand laid the seeds of our first ammendment separating church and state.

Aside Scott Horton today on his No Comment Blog has an article on the historical use of jury nullification.

I'm currently writing a novelized life of Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of Oceanography and Meteorology, reverend James Maury's grandson. My father-in-law was a descendant of reverend's fourth son Lt. Abraham Maury. Matthew Fontaine Maury was the son of Richard Lancelot Maury, the reverend's seventh son.

My point in this post is that Jefferson, Madison and Monroe didn't dream up the blue print for our country in a vacuum. They were grounded in the classics, that meant knowing Latin, Greek and reading classical literature. Most importantly Polybius. Who wrote about the need for monarchial equilibrius which Montesquieu used to for the idea of separation of powers that Madison incorporated in the Constitution. How much of Reverend James Maury's teachings rubbed off on these men? BTW Matthew Fontaine Maury is buried between Madison and Monroe.

The Reverend James Maury (17191769), Unfortunately no picture available.

Was a son Matthew Maury, a French Huguenot, who came shortly after his birth to Virginia from Castel Mauron, in Gascony. His mother was Mary Anne Fontaine, daughter of Rev. James Fontaine and Anne Elizabeth Boursiquot, his wife. He attended The College of William and Mary, and on July 31, 1742, was appointed usher of the grammar school. In February, 1742, he went to England and was ordained a minister. Returning to Virginia he became minister for one year of a parish in King William county and then went to Louisa to Fredericksville parish, which was afterwards in Albemarle county. As a minister he was highly regarded for his piety and learning. He opposed the Two Penny Act of 1757 and brought suit against the collectors of the parish for the full amount of his salary in tobacco. This suit, known in American history as The Parson's Cause was an important legal and political dispute in the Colony of Virginia often viewed as an important event leading up to the American Revolution involving the question of taxation. It was defended by Peter Lyons, afterwards president of the state supreme court, and opposed by Patrick Henry, who denounced the interference of the King in setting aside the law as treason to the people of Virginia. Mr. Maury won the law suit for only a small amount. He continued to hold the esteem of the people of Virginia. Afterwards the Rev. James Maury wrote a letter in reply with and explanation of the event that was later termed as "The Parson's Opinion of 'The Parson's Cause'" by a writer, a copy of which is located on wikisource s:Maury, Reverend James vs Henry, Patrick -- "The Parson's Opinion Of The Parson's Cause". Maury was still minister of his parish when he died, June 9, 1769. He had married Mary Walker, daughter of Captain James Walker and Anne, his wife. source: Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume II; VIII—Prominent Persons

The Reverend James Maury taught instruction in classics, manners and morals, mathematics, literature, history and geography (Dabney 110), and also Latin and Greek. Most of Reverend Maury's pupils boarded at his school, as home was too far away to leave school and return the next morning. (Writings of Thomas Jefferson) Therefore the boys knew another well as young adults and as adults they (Jefferson & "Counsul James Maury) worked to make this nation great.

Thomas Jefferson lived with Rev James Maury's family for two years while he was being educated. Jefferson and others naturally went home on special holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes on the week ends. Jefferson was enrolled in Rev. Maury's Classical School for Boys immediately after his father, Peter Jefferson, died.

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