Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginias Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and…

Hardcover | May 19, 2010

byJohn A. Ragosta, John A. Ragosta

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Before the American Revolution, no colony more assiduously protected its established church or more severely persecuted religious dissenters than Virginia. Both its politics and religion were dominated by an Anglican establishment, and dissenters from the established Church of England weresubject to numerous legal infirmities and serious persecution. By 1786, no state more fully protected religious freedom. This profound transformation, as John A. Ragosta shows in this book, arose not from a new-found cultural tolerance. Rather, as the Revolution approached, Virginia's political establishment needed the support of the religious dissenters, primarily Presbyterians and Baptists, for the mobilizationeffort. Dissenters seized this opportunity to insist on freedom of religion in return for their mobilization. Their demands led to a complex and extended negotiation in which the religious establishment slowly and grudgingly offered just enough reforms to maintain the crucial support of thedissenters. After the war, when dissenters' support was no longer needed, the establishment leaders sought to recapture control, but found they had seriously miscalculated: wartime negotiations had politicized the dissenters. As a result dissenters' demands for the separation of church and state triumphed overthe establishment's efforts and Jefferson's Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom was adopted. Historians and the Supreme Court have repeatedly noted that the foundation of the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty lies in Virginia's struggle, turning primarily to Jefferson and Madison to understand this. In Wellspring of Liberty, John A. Ragosta argues that Virginia's religiousdissenters played a seminal, and previously underappreciated, role in the development of the First Amendment and in the meaning of religious freedom as we understand it today.

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Before the American Revolution, no colony more assiduously protected its established church or more severely persecuted religious dissenters than Virginia. Both its politics and religion were dominated by an Anglican establishment, and dissenters from the established Church of England weresubject to numerous legal infirmities and serio...

John A. Ragosta is an instructor at the University of Virginia School of Law and received his PhD in history from the University of Virginia.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 0.98 inPublished:May 19, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195388062

ISBN - 13:9780195388060

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Virginians Dissent: Snakes, Hornets, and Brimstone2. Negotiating Support for the War and Religious Freedom3. British Failures and Plans for Success4. Mobilizing Support: Did the Dissenters Fight?5. After the War: A Resurgent Establishment and the End of Compulsion6. What Did They Fight, and Bargain, For?EpilogueNotesBibliographyIndex