I thought I’d spend a wee bit more time on Daniel Colvin just to see what pops up, and sure enough, something intriguing did. It was that he and his son, Mason Colvin, had signed the now -famous Ten Thousand Names Petition, which ultimately resulted in disestablishment or what we modern folks like to think of as our Freedom of Religion. It’s the very first amendment listed among our hallowed Bill of Rights — those first ten amendments to our Constitution. (Hint: the order of the amendments is also a clue to their societal importance) What that means in practice, essentially, is that a United States citizen can participate or not participate in a faith pretty much anyway he sees fit. There are folks nowadays, for example, who insist that L. Ron Hubbard was somehow linked to an alien deity of sorts. Thus, with the blessing of the IRS, Scientologists have the blessing of the government to do and think whatever it is that Scientologists do in the name of, well, in the name of L. Ron Hubbard. I won’t debate the merits of worshiping a science fiction writer from Nebraska, but none of that freedom would exist without the Ten Thousand Name Petition which is what launched the whole U.S. freedom of religion business.
By the 1760s, Virginians were fairly fed up with the constraints of the Church of England especially its tithing and other religious and pecuniary requirements. For example, if you were a Baptist in Virginia and wanted to get married, yes, you could find a parish minister, but he’d likely be Anglican and would charge you three or four times the amount of tobacco (or chickens or whatever you paid,) that your Anglican neighbor paid for the same service. Mean? Yes. Plus, finding a Baptist preacher to perform the rite was a bit tricky. Only one or two per county were legally allowed to practice, and many worked “underground,” at their peril. Worse, even if a dissident minister did marry you, the county clerk was not obliged to record a Baptist marriage return in the local marriage registry. This is also why one finds so many marriage bonds in early colonial Virginia records, but far fewer ministerial returns. In other words, the Anglicans had the church monopoly sewn up and were hell-bent on keeping it.
That changed when the most massive religious petition ever signed in colonial Virginia was sent to the state’s General Assembly. It ultimately resulted, by the 1780s, of Virginia’s breaking with the Anglican Church as its state-imposed religion. In fact, because of its spearheading efforts, Virginia lead the national vanguard of what eventually became arguably the most important amendment to the Bill of Rights. True, property rights were important, but the right of a citizen to determine the stewardship of his own soul, more so.
The other aspect of this document that intrigued me was less patriotic and more visual. Again, seeing the names Colvin, clearly spelled, confirmed for me for the umpteenth time how the surname COLVIN is rarely misspelled in original documents despite the fact that for numerous decades folks have been mistranscribing it in every way possible. The Virginia Genealogy Society Quarterly, ( 36: 1) for example, for unknown reasons, transcribed those same names in their 1998 edition which featured a partial transcription of the petition, as ‘Corbin”. Sigh. But at least they got the page number of the petition correct. That made finding it among the 250 pages of the digitized version (which the Library of Congress has displayed in its entirety and made available online,) fairly easy. Daniel Colvin is in left hand column; his son, in the right. As to whether those are the actual signatures of said petitioners, I have doubts since many of the names close by appear to be written in a similar hand. This pattern is similar throughout the page.
 Historians are often hamstrung in finding a specific marriage date because a bond is only a surety; the marriage return, however, shows when and by whom the ceremony was performed. The name “return” is given because of the minister’s practice of bundling his lists of marriages together (typically monthly,) and returning to the county civil servant to have the information from his lists recorded in the county marriage registries. Without them, baring other documentation such as an extant family bibles, etc., historians are left using approximate dates, based on extant bonds, banns, etc.