The Bible Society of Virginia was founded in 1813 in Richmond as "[a] Society for the distribution of the Holy Scriptures to the poor of our country."[1] Thirteen men were designated to serve as the inaugural managers in 1813: Reverend John Buchanan (president), Reverend John D. Blair (vice-president), Reverend Jacob Grigg (vice-president), Reverend Jacob H. Rice (corresponding secretary), William Munford (recording secretary), Samuel Greenhow (treasurer), Archibald Blair, William Mayo, Robert Quarles, George Watt, Reverend John Bryce, William Fenwick, and Alexander M’Rae.

Samuel Greenhow also happened to be Thomas Jefferson's agent at the Mutual Assurance Society. He decided to approach Jefferson for a donation to the fledgling Bible Society, writing to him, "I [am] very unwilling to be considered as impertinent, and have therefore hesitated, before I determined, that, I might, without impertinence, inclose to you a Copy of the Address & Constitution of an Association in Virginia, for the distribution of Bibles gratuitously, to those who are not able to purchase them. ... We should be much pleased to number you among the members of the Society; But, if you should prefer it, we will thankfully receive any donation that you may be pleased to aid us with—"[2] On January 31, 1814, Jefferson replied, "I presume the views of the society are confined to our own country, for with the religion of other countries, my own forbids intermedling. I had not supposed there was a family in this state not possessing a bible and wishing without having the means to procure one. when, in earlier life I was intimate with every class, I think I never was in a house where that was the case. however, circumstances may have changed, and the society I presume have evidence of the fact. I therefore inclose you chearfully an order on Messrs Gibson and Jefferson for 50.D. for the purposes of the society, sincerely agreeing with you that there never was a more pure & sublime system of morality delivered to man than is to be found in the four evangelists."[3]

- Jack Robertson, 2007; revised and expanded by Anna Berkes, March 2012


  1. ^ Address of the Managers of the Bible Society of Virginia to the Public (Richmond: Printed by Samuel Pleasants, 1814), 1.
  2. ^ Greenhow to Jefferson, November 11, 1813, in PTJ:RS, 6:607-08. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Jefferson to Greenhow, January 31, 1814, in PTJ:RS, 7:178. Transcription available at Founders Online.