The first step in the proceedings before the General Court of Massachusetts is recorded on page 112 of the House Journal for that year, as follows:
"Monday 20 January 1812
P'n of Sundry Persons—praying that a tract of Land may be appropriated to the establishment of a Seminary for the benefit of the Baptist Denomination—Read & Committed to Mr. Smith of W. S. Mr. Webb of B. Hovey, M. V. Coburn of Canaan.
With such &c S up for Con."
The petition referred to is preserved in the Archives as House 7209. It reads as follows:
To the Honorable Senate and Honorable House of Representatives in General Court Assembled.
Your petitioners humbly show, That whereas the encouragement of arts and sciences, and all good literature tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian Religion, and the great benefit of this, and of the other United States of America: and whereas wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused, generally, among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, we believe it to be, as the Constitution of our State says it shall be, the duty of Legislators and Magistrates in all future periods of this Commonwealth, to cherish the interests of Literature and Sciences, and all seminaries of them, and encourage public institutions.
Your Petitioners beg leave further to show, that whereas Harvard College in Cambridge, as well as the other Colleges and seminaries, in this State, have been liberally endowed, either by the appropriation of public Lands, or otherwise, by grants of the General Court, and have been committed to the more particular direction and management of that specific part of the community, denominated Congregationalists; and whereas we have sustained a part, and not an inconsiderable part, of those appropriations, without having any particular share in the oversight and direction of such appropriations ever assigned, by authority, to that part of the community denominated Baptists, we therefore consider, and are firmly persuaded, that the General Court would do no injustice to any section of the Commonwealth, but would render more equal justice to the different sections, and largely promote the best good of the State generally by kindly receiving and favorably answering the petition, to which we solicit the attention of your honorable body.
Your petitioners also beg leave to show farther, that there are, belonging to the regular Baptist Churches, at least between six and seven thousand members, in the district of Maine, and, large congregations, generally united with the Churches in the same sentiment, so that the Baptists are, undoubtedly, more numerous, in this district, than any other denominations, if not, than all others.
Notwithstanding our numbers are so large, and daily increasing,