Act of Incorporation of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester 1792

This act of incorporation lists the male members of the newly formed church and explicitly states that they should not be liable to support other churches within the town through governmental town taxes. It is a beautifully written document and contains the signature of John Hancock, then governor of the state.

Related documents to the separation of church and state in Gloucester:
First Parish Meeting Minutes, Gloucester 1777
Town Meeting Minutes, Gloucester 1777
Partial List of Subscribers of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester c. 1790s
Meeting Minutes of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester 1795

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred & ninety two

An Act to incorporate1 certain persons by the name of the Independent Christian Church in Gloucester‐‐‐

Whereas sundry persons2, inhabitants of the town of Gloucester, have for several years past associated for the purpose of public Worship3 and have at their own expense supported a public teacher in the preaching the Gospel4 upon principles most agreeable to the dictates of their own consciences; And have petitioned this Court to be incorporated, that they may be better enabled to conduct their parochial affairs5 with ease & regularity—

Be it enacted by the Senate & House of Representatives in General Court Assembled & by the authority of the same, that David Pearce, Winthrop Sargent, Joseph Foster, Epes Sargent, John Somes, David Plummer, Barnett Harkin, John Low 3rd, William Pearce, Isaac Elwell, James Sawyer, Abraham Sawyer, jun, William Gee, Francis Norwood, Benjamin hale, Daniel Marchant, jun, Aaron Sargent, Samuel Wonson, jun, Caleb Poole, John Stevens Ellery, Benjamin Lufkin, Benjamin K. Hough, William Murphy, Jonathan Low, Benjamin Tarbox, Henry Phelps, Moses Fitz, Thomas Foster, Joseph Proctor, Solomon Babson, Daniel E. Proctor, Aaron Hall, Joseph Allen, jun, Winthrop Allen, John Allen, David Sargent, William Baty, Caleb Norwood, Joseph Baker, John Gott, Ebenezer Gott, Samuel Wonson, Benjamin Marshall, Ebenezer Pool, John Norwood, Nathan Pool together with all those who are—and those who shall become‐‐ members of the same Church or being of the same religious denomination6 shall unite with them in the same place of Worship within said town of Gloucester, together with their several Estates lying within said town be, ‐‐and they hereby are set apart & incorporated into a society by the name of “The Independent Christian Church in Gloucester,” and by that name may sue and be sued, plea and be impleaded, defend & be defended7, in any Court or place whatever‐‐‐

And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid that the Members of said incorporation at any meeting of the Society, shall have a right by a majority of votes to ordain & establish all such rules.

and regulations & to appoint such officers for the government of said Society as shall not be repugnant8 to the Laws and constitution of the Commonwealth and at Such meetings to vote such taxes & make such assessments thereof as Shall be necessary for the Support of said Church and the public teacher thereof.‐‐‐

And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all male persons who usually assemble with the aforesaid Church & Congregation for public worship being of the same religious denomination & qualified to vote in town affairs, shall have a right to vote in said Society.‐‐‐

And let it be further Enacted by the authority aforesaid that any five of the petitioners or other persons usually assembling with said Church and Congregation may call a first meeting of said Society at such time & in such place within said Town of Gloucester as they shall see fit, at which meeting the method of calling their future meetings shall be determined conformably to the Laws of the Commonwealth‐‐‐

And let it be further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the petitioners & all other associates in said Church & Congregation & their several Estates lying in said town of Gloucester shall not be liable9 to any tax or assessment for the support of any public teacher of Piety, Religion or Morality10 whatever religious sect or denomination, but are hereby declared to be exempt thereon—

And let it be further Enacted that all those who hereafter shall be desirous of becoming members of said Church or Society being inhabitants of said Town shall leave their names with the Town Clerk of said Town twenty days at least previous to the annual meeting of the Inhabitants of said Town in the month of March or April otherwise they shall not be considered in law as members of said Church or Society ‐‐

In the House of Representatives
June 26th 1792
This Bill having had two Several readings passed to be Enacted.

By the Governor approved June 28th 1792
John Hancock

Samuel Phillips, Presiding
True copy attested11
John Avery, Secretary

1 Act to incorporate = law to recognize a ‘society’
2 Sundry persons = some people
3 Public worship = formed a church
4 A public teacher in preaching the gospel = a minister for their church
5 Parochial affairs = church business
6 Religious denomination = belonging to the same religion
7 “sue or be sued…defended” = they become a state recognized religious group


“Act of Incorporation, 1792,” Records of the Independent Christian Church. Cape Ann Museum Archives, Gloucester, MA.