“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” - Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799

The working title of my current manuscript is Faith and Freedom in Fredericksburg: Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (Copyright 2010).


This book will present: Thomas Jefferson’s time at Fredericksburg in 1777, his meeting at Weedon’s Tavern (known as Smith’s at the time) in which he agreed to author the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the story surrounding the writing of it, why Jefferson took so much pride in its completion, and how the results are commemorated to this day. Additional modern-day looks will include regional details on Fredericksburg’s Religious Freedom Monument, the establishment of the Jefferson Institute, and the city’s annual multi-denominational celebration that acknowledges freedom of religion in America.


The subject of Thomas Jefferson’s experiences in Fredericksburg and the roots leading up to the VA Statute has not been examined definitively in any single study –at least from the angle at which I am pursuing it. In 1998, Cambridge Studies in Religion and American Public Life Series included a book titled The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History, but as this book looks at the statute from more of a political and sociological perspective, my study is more regional.


Author Steven Waldman has also published a broad examination titled Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, but once again, my focus will be on the local experience and influence on the birth of the document, not how it has affected the public square today. In essence my book will be a two-sided examination of both Jefferson and the statute as they relate to Fredericksburg Virginia.


I am working closely with the Thomas Jefferson Library, as well as the Central Rappahannock Regional Library while obtaining a variety of primary and secondary sources including Jefferson's Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, selections from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson including his Thoughts on Religion, and local references from the CRRL’s archives to include The Laws in Virginia (1819 First Edition). Additionally, I have acquired copies of materials from the catalogs at the University of Mary Washington and the College of William and Mary, as well as articles from local publications like The Freedom Record and the Thomas Jefferson Institute Quarterly.


I have outlined a general framework for the manuscript and time-lined a schedule that would have me ready for submission to the publisher sometime in mid-late 2012. This will be my 7th book and certainly the most challenging, ambitious and scholarly to date. I can provide a marketing and target project proposal upon request.


Publishers who are interested in discussing this project further may contact me directly at ma@pinstripepress.net. In addition to the book, I also anticipate writing several associated articles for magazine/newspaper publication, as well as a lecture.


Michael Aubrecht (May, 2010)