January 17

This little note may not be as serious as most, but it is interesting.

On this day in 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the third president of the United States by the House of Representatives. Elder John Leland who had been a neighbor of both Congressman James Madison and Thomas Jefferson was delighted with the results, because he had helped to clarify the principles of liberty in the minds of both men.

To help celebrate the great political victory, Leland, who was then pastoring in Cheshire, Massachusetts, collected the milk from 900 local, loyal Republican cows and brought it into town where the citizens gathered singing hymns, socializing and making cheese. The milk was processed into a mammoth cheese wheel 4 feet 4 inches in diameter, 15 inches think and weighting 1,235 pounds.

Bro. Leland and Darius Brown loaded up the cheese and set off for Washington, DC. During the trip they used a sleigh, a wagon and a sloop to carry the cheese to Baltimore. As news of the gift spread, crowds gathered and Leland preached the gospel to multitudes. Upon arrival in Washington, Jefferson welcomed the Baptists to the executive mansion. Leland said that the great cheese “was not made… with a view to gain dignified titles or lucrative offices, but by the personal labor of freeborn farmers, without a single slave to assist, for an elective president of the free people.”

Leland remained in the capital for several days preaching Christ at various public venues. Federalist congressman Manessah Cutler, no friend of either Jefferson or the Baptists, described the preacher as a “poor, ignorant, illiterate cheesemonger,” and his sermons were “farragos bawled with stunning voice, horrid tone, frightful grimaces and extravagant gestures.”

The cheese fed guests at the President’s home until sometime in 1805. Whether understood or not, it spoke of the influence that some Godly Baptists had on the early development of liberty in this country.