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Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
 -  Rewritten History  -

By Catherine Millard

     Williamsburg, Virginia, is a trip into America’s colonial past, where the House of Burgesses sat in the old State Capitol from 1699-1780, and where matters leading to the birth of the new nation were deliberated and heatedly debated.   

     In the 1930’s John D. Rockefeller provided the funds to fulfill the cherished dream of the Reverend Dr. William A.R. Goodwin, a godly man and Rector of Bruton Parish Church, that is: to restore Williamsburg to its original 18th-century historical architecture and beauty.

     A predominant sign in the Bruton Parish Church entranceway discloses the church’s true identity as a place of prayer and worship where America’s providential history was made: “Enter with reverence.  An Episcopal church in continuous use for the worship of God since 1715.”

     The original Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed are beautifully calligraphied upon the rear altar wall. 

     The founding fathers’ original family pews are designated with their names upon them, showing forth where their allegiance lay:

     Front Row, (right)
     Gen. George Washington Pew 16
     Patrick Henry Pew 18
 
     Front Row (left)
     Thomas Jefferson Pew 17
     Thomas Nelson and Edmund Pendleton pew 19
     George Mason and George Wythe Pew 21

     In addition to these Christian founders and patriots of the land worshiping the one, triune God at Bruton Parish Church, numerous great American statesmen find their place, to include:

     John Marshall, fourth Supreme Court Chief Justice Pew 13
     James Monroe, fifth U.S. President Pew 14
     Sir John Randolph (Vestryman 1727)
     Edmund Randolph and Peyton Randolph (Vestrymen 1747) pew 20

The College of William and Mary

     Of primary significance in the heart of Williamsburg is the College of William and Mary, established in 1693 by the crown of England.  A plaque prominently displayed on the inside wall of the Christopher Wren Building, first edifice of what is now a vast college campus, quotes from its charter specifying that the purpose for the school is the training of ministers of the gospel and the propagation of the Christian faith:

     Charter granted by King William and Queen Mary, for the founding of William and Mary College in Virginia.

     William and Mary, by the grace of God, of England, Scotland,
     France and Ireland, King and Queen, Defenders of the Faith,
     to all whom these our present Letters shall come, greeting.
     forasmuch as our well-beloved and trusty Subjects, constituting
     the General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia, have had it in
     their minds, and have proposed to themselves, to the end that
     the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a Seminary of
     of Ministers of the Gospel, and that the Youth may be piously
     educated in Good Letters and Manners, and that the Christian
     Faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the
     glory of Almighty God…

     A Visitors’ Guide to the College of William and Mary says this about the origins of the college:

     A few years after the founding of Jamestown, a movement was
     started in England and in Virginia to establish a college, but
     construction at a settlement called Henrico, near Richmond,
     was disrupted by an Indian massacre in 1622.  The idea of a
     college for the Virginia Colony persisted, and in 1693 King
     William III and Queen Mary II granted a Charter to establish “the
     College of William and Mary in Virginia” in what is now
     Williamsburg.  Actual construction commenced in 1695….
 
     Compare the above with the true text of the Charter already discussed.  It fails to explain what the true purpose for the founding of this college was – the salvation  of souls.  It is but another example of the removal of all traces of Christianity and the Christian value system from the original documents of the nation. 

     The College of William and Mary holds preeminence at the nation’s oldest college (Harvard being the oldest university).  Three United States presidents (Tyler, Monroe and Jefferson) attended this college, George Washington being its first chancellor.  At its establishment in 1693, the college comprised three schools: The Grammar, Philosophy and Divinity Schools.  Among the textbooks studied were, Buchanan’s Paraphrase of the Psalms, the Latin Bible, the Greek New Testament and Greek and Latin editions of the Book of Common Prayer.

     In 1697 an Indian School was added, its stated purpose being to prepare Indian boys so that they could go back to their tribes as Christian evangelists to teach and preach the Word of God.

     Member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Wythe, for whom the law college is named, was legal mentor to Thomas Jefferson and many early Americans.

     From this school proceeded great American patriots such as John Marshall, star pupil of George Wythe, and fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Payton Randolph, first president of the Continental Congress, along with 16 members of that body; and four signers of the Declaration of Independence.

     As Edmund Randolph, attorney general under George Washington observed: “until the Revolution, most of the leading men were alumni of William and Mary.”

     It was here, too, that George Washington received his surveyor’s commission in 1749, Benjamin Franklin the honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1756, and the Chevalier de Chastellux and Thomas Jefferson in 1782, the degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

     The famous and unique chapel, which houses the oldest organ in continuous use in America, is appropriately located within the Christopher Wren Building.  This inspiring chapel was initially used for morning and evening prayer, moral discourses and conferring of degrees and honors.  Evening prayer was the most popular service of scholars and townsmen, bringing about a joyous gathering of “town and gown” at the close of day.  The Wren Building Chapel reminds us of an era when church, state and school were linked together by Christianity.  Without Bruton Parish Church, the College of William and Mary would probably not have come to Williamsburg, and without the church and college, the capital would not have located here.

     Its presidents, until 1814, and most of its faculty until the American Revolution were ministers.  Six of its presidents have jointly held the position of Rector of Bruton Parish Church, which served founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others.

     Two of the college’s great academicians are memorialized within its regal, yet simple interior.  They are:  Dr. James Madison, president of the College of William and Mary, and second cousin to the fourth U.S. president, James Madison; and George Wythe, founder of the prestigious Wythe School of Law at the college.  Plaques honoring these men read as follows:

In Memoriam of the Right Reverend Doctor James Madison
(1749-1812)

Graduate of the College of William and Mary (1771)
Professor of Mathematics (1773-1775)
Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry and of Political
Economy and International Law
President (1777-1812)
Member of the Commission appointed in 1779 to determine
the boundaries between Virginia and Pennsylvania
Elected first Bishop of Virginia (1790)
He cooperated with Thomas Jefferson in 1779 in reconstructing
the curricula of the College of William and Mary introducing
the elective system of study, the Schools of Modern Languages,
Municipal and Constitutional Law and Medicine.
He also introduced the study of Political Economy (1784) and
the study of History (1805)
 
 
George Wythe’s plaque reads as follows:
 
George Wythe, LLD (1726-1806)
Member of the Continental Congress,
Signer of the Declaration of Independence,
Member of the Commission of 1776 on the revision
Of the laws of Virginia
Judge of the Chancery Court
First Professor of Law in the College of William and Mary
The American Arisides
He was an examplar of all there is noble and elevating in the
Profession of Law.  Erected as a tribute to his courage as a
Patriot, his ability as an instructor, his uprightness as a
Lawyer, his purity as a Judge.
The original tablet was presented by the Virginia State Bar
Association in 1893. 

     In respect to the College of William and Mary, Thomas Jefferson was requested to expand the curricula of this college by introducing an elective system of study, which included the Schools of Modern Languages, Municipal and Constitutional Law, Medicine and Political Economy and History.  Jefferson has left us his own account of what actually transpired in his handwritten autobiography:

     …The acts of assembly concerning the College of William and
     Mary were properly within Mr. Pendleton’s portion of our work
     But these related chiefly to its revenue, while its constitution,
     organization and scope of science were derived from its charter.
     We thought that on this subject a systematical plan of general
     education should be proposed, and I accordingly prepared three
     bills for the Revisal, proposing three distinct grades of education,
     reaching all classes…the second bill proposed to amend the
     constitution of William and Mary college, to enlarge its sphere
     of science, and to make it in fact a University.  The third was
     for the establishment of a library…
 
     To further elucidate the true identity of the College of William and Mary, an official college memorandum dated February 11, 1962, entitled Wren Training, raises the following question:

  1. Was the College of William and Mary Episcopal following the disestablishment of the church here?  If so, did it remain so until it became a State School?

The correct historical answer given in the memorandum is:

     William and Mary was private, not Episcopalian, after the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Virginia.  There were still strong ties between the College and the Episcopal Church, of course, notably because of Episcopal clergy on the faculty.  In 1780 College president James Madison (who was Episcopal bishop of Virginia) wrote: “it is now thought that Establishments in Favor of any particular Sect are incompatible with the Freedom of a Republic.”  Jefferson reorganized the College at about the same time he was working on the principle of Religious Freedom.  The College remained private until 1906 when during Lyon G. Tyler’s presidency it became a state-supported school for training teachers.

     The above reinforces the fact that Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s “Freedom of Religion” principle referred exclusively to mainline Christian sects or denominations, having equal footing and acceptance within the community proper, without the interference of a state-controlled church.

     One of America’s most cherished possessions of her founding period history is owned by Bruton Parish Church.  It is the original 1752 Book of Common Prayer in which the prayers for the sovereign of England were substituted with prayers for the Congress of the newly established United States of America. This was done in the margins, in longhand, the original words being crossed out of the text and substituted with:

     for the people of these United States in general; so especially for
     their Senate and representatives in congress assembled;…thy
     people…Almighty God who has given us grace at this time, with
     one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost
     promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy name,
     thou wilt grant their requests; fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and
     petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; grant-
     ing us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to
     come life everlasting….The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
     the love of God, land the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us
     all evermore.

Capitol of Williamsburg

     The beautiful and imposing Capitol of Williamsburg stands at the end of the Duke of Gloucester Street. This red brick, Georgian style building is designed in the shape of an “H.”  It was here that the House of Burgesses convened, and the chaplain of this governing body commenced each session of the House with prayer and Scripture readings.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and many other prominent Virginian sons were among the delegates who heatedly deliberated the urgency and cause of America’s independence from Great Britain.

Bible Removed

     But one important thing has been removed – the Bible that was in constant use by the House of Burgesses prior to the birth of the United States.

     Information given to me by the Director of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Graham Hood, on October 7, 1987, advises that the famous “Vinegar” Bible, King James Version, published in Oxford, England in 1717, was constantly in use by the House of Burgesses.  Its pseudonym, “Vinegar” comes from the fact that that the word: “Vineyard” at the top of the 22nd chapter of Luke’s Gospel, was misspelled to read: “Vinegar.”  Said Hood, (the Curator):

     This Bible was consistently and continually used whenever prayer
     For the assembly was needed.  The Bible was part of the Conference,
     Council and Committee meetings in Congress.  Removed in the mid-
     1970’s and returned to the library of the south Committee Room in
     the early 1980’s.  Cannot be seen by the public except by permission,
     when one is doing a specialized project.
 
     Information recently received in September 1988 gives a different story of this famous, well-used Bible, which I was permitted to see and photograph.  The following,
Somewhat evasive information, was sent to me upon my inquiry regarding the pertinent
Information, significance and date of the Vinegar Bible:

     …I enclose copies of the pertinent data re: the “Vinegar” Bible
     at the Capitol  In accord with our policy, I have removed the
     names of the individuals whose letters prompted the research
     responses.  I do note that the evaluation given the Bible in the
     1950’s was done by a widely recognized Rare Book and
     Manuscript dealer.

                                                  (signed) John E. Ingram, Curator
                                                                       Special Collections
                                                   Colonial Williamsburg Collection

     Two copied letters of information – with names and addresses removed – were also sent by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on the “Vinegar” Bible, which was used by members of the House of Burgesses during the crucial years which paved the way for the birth of the new nation, establishing itself under the protection of Almighty God.

      The two paragraphs which really concern me in this redescriptive phraseology pertaining to one of America’s oldest and most cherished possessions are:

 1960

…The book was removed from the Capitol because it was doubtful such
a large Bible (20 inches) would have been in the room and because undue
emphasis was being placed on its curious significance.

1958

…I have not forgotten that I was to write you about the Vinegar Bible.
We find that at least six copies have been sold in this country in the last
30 years, and since most copies naturally turn up in London, and since
many are sold privately, you will see it can hardly be considered a rarity. 
As a matter of interest, I might say that the auction prices have ranged
From $24.00 to $70.00.
 
     According to the curator, the above reinterpreted historical information is now on file with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, descriptive of the one and only “Vinegar” Bible in the House of Burgesses, Capitol of the Virginia capital city in the 1700’s.

 

     Why does this Bible hold preeminence over others with the same error?  Because of its significance and use by men whom God appointed to form and fashion a unique new republic – a government based upon biblical truth.

     Upon taking the tour of Williamsburg’s Capitol, and inquiring as to the whereabouts of this famous old Bible, neither the supervisory curator nor the guide knew anything about it.  This specific “Vinegar” Bible is now in an obscure library of the Williamsburg Capitol, away from the admiring eyes of God-loving, patriotic Americans, who would revere and honor its intrinsic value and worth.  This famous volume of Holy Scripture served to imbue Burgesses such as founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others, with God’s incomparable words and direction at such an important crossroads in the nation’s history.

     The “Vinegar” Bible is one of the riches and most valuable possessions of America’s Founding Period.  It forms an intricate part of the nation’s Christian heritage – a true testimony to the hand of Almighty God in directing the decisions and actions of the founding fathers in their quest for liberty.

History Rewritten by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

     Another recent piece of literature printed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is entitled “No Thanksgiving in Williamsburg.”  It appeared in prominence, next to the design of a large turkey, in the back of the 1989 Thanksgiving Day Menu.  This was at the well-known Bay Room of the Williamsburg Lodge.  The front of this select menu featured mythological King Neptune with his pitchfork, above the wording “The Bay Room Thanksgiving Menu,” and three smaller sailing vessels below.  The text read as follows:

“Scholars will search in vain for any mention of Thanksgiving Day in the 18th Century Virginia Gazette.  Fourth Thursdays in November were no different from other days – runaway slaves, lost pocketbooks, ships departing to London.  Page after page, it is always business as usual.  No festivities, no turkey, no stuffing, no sleigh ride to grandmother’s house, in short no Thanksgiving Day.  There were, however, many days of thanksgiving.  Bumper harvests, drought-breaking rains, safe voyages, and military victories were made frequent occasions for public prayers and celebrations during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The colonists who settled Berkeley Hundred in 1619 carried instructions to give thanks “yearly and perpetually” on the anniversary of their arrival.  And they did, for three years – until Indians annihilated the settlement in 1622, after which it seemed prudent for surviving Virginians to proclaim another day of thanksgiving for having been spared.  There were comparable observances in eighteenth-century Williamsburg.  Days of thanksgiving were proclaimed to commemorate, for instance, Queen Anne’s health and the “happy agreement” between her Majesty and the House of Parliament.

These were all solemn religious occasions.  They have only an indirect relationship to the present Thanksgiving holiday, which we should give ungrudgingly to New Englanders.  Or, better yet, to Old Englanders, for the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims were only celebrating a folk custom that they remembered from England. The Harvest Home, a time of feasting, dancing, and gaming after the crops were safely gathered, was an ancient peasant festival.  Brought to all the American colonies, it thrived best in the small farming communities of New England.  Only in 1863 did President Abraham Lincoln make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday as a reminder of ‘peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union’ in time of civil war.  So it turns out that your Thanksgiving dinner in Williamsburg is one of history’s tastier ironies.”

     The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a tax-exempt entity, operates the entire historic area of Williamsburg, Virginia, called “the cradle of the nation.”  The proceeds from this Williamsburg Lodge are used for its educational and historic programs.

     My records indicate that the “No Thanksgiving at Williamsburg” literary piece is incorrect historical information and untrue to the traditional annual American Thanksgiving Day observance celebration, which forms part and parcel of her rich Christian heritage.  The national origins of a day of observance set apart to give thanks to our gracious God and Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the God of the Americans, naturally encompassed 18th-century Virginia.  The fact that Abraham Lincoln in 1863, by Act of Congress, set apart the last Thursday in November as the official annual observance day for each American to give thanks to Almighty God for His bountiful blessings upon the land, does not in any wise detract from prior national Thanksgiving observance days, celebrated on different dates, but on a regular basis.  This unique and revered American Christian tradition began with the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation, on November 1, 1777, by Order of Congress, and signed by Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress.  It is here reprinted in its entirety:

     “Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased Him in His abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of His common Providence.

     It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive power of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise:

    The with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgements and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please god, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance;

     That it may please Him graciously to afford His blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whose; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the Providence of Almighty god, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace; That it may please Him, to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people, and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.’

     And it is further recommended, that servile labour, and such recreation as, though at other times innocent, may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment, be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”

     In keeping with the general tone in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s “No Thanksgiving in Williamsburg” literary piece, is their comment that “…the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims were only celebrating a folk custom that they remembered from England.  The Harvest Home, a time of feasting, dancing, and gaming after the crops were safely gathered, was an ancient peasant festival.  Brought to all of the American colonies, it thrived best in the small farming communities of New England.”

     The above-quoted 1777 National Thanksgiving Proclamation denotes gratitude, humility and repentance towards Almighty God, supplication for His mercy, thanksgiving for His blessings of independence and peace and prayers for the prosperity of Christianity in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  This preclude the Harvest Home festival, a godless folk custom.

     I submit, once again, that the above is a falsification of America’s true Christian origins and history, deceiving multitudes into believing foibles, fables and tales which have absolutely nothing to do with the Pilgrims in New England and the Mayflower Compact, from which the first Thanksgiving celebration stems.

     After the harvest crops were gathered in November 1623, it was governor William Bradford of Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who proclaimed that:

     All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones, do gather at the
     Meeting House, on the hill…there to listen to the pastor, and
     render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.

     Had the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation authors and scholar of this historic, educational piece entitled “No Thanksgiving in Williamsburg” searched the December, 1777, issues of the Virginia Gazette, they would have assuredly found that the Christian colonists in Williamsburg were gratefully giving thanks to Almighty God (together with the rest of their fellow Americans) on the third Thursday in December, 1777, rather than the last Thursday in November of that year.

     The above indicates a serious questioning of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s ability to correctly research and interpret America’s rich founding period history to the public.

     The authors of “No Thanksgiving in Williamsburg” further state that “…only in 1863 did President Abraham Lincoln make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday as a reminder of ‘peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union’ in a time of civil war.  So it turns out that your Thanksgiving dinner in Williamsburg is one of history’s tastier ironies.”

     I submit that the above is a deliberate misinterpretation and falsification of the true importance and meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s own words on his October 3, 1863, Thanksgiving Proclamation, in which he glorifies our God and Father - the God and Father of the Americans, and stresses the infallibility and inerrant Truth of the Bible, the Word of God, which instructs us to “give thanks unto the Lord in all things for His manifold blessings to us.”  It is hereunder excerpted for all to read:

     …It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly,
     reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one
     voice, by the whole American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow
     citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea
     and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe
     the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to
     our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

                                                                                  (signed) A. Lincoln
                                                                                        October 3, 1863

(Excerpted from the book, The Rewriting of America’s History, copyright 1991 by Catherine Millard).


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