A major exhibition at the Library, "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic" will explore the role of religion and its relation to the nation during its formative years. View the exhibition online. As the Librarian of Congress writes in his foreword to the exhibition catalog, "The wide variety of materials in the superb collections of the Library of Congress creates a unique national resource for mounting an exhibit on religion and the founding of the United States."
"The exhibition does not intend, however, to provide a comprehensive history of religion on the North American continent from the 17th to 19th centuries," he writes.
Because the exhibition focuses on religion and government's relation during the founding period, it does not cover in depth such subjects as the religion of Native Americans or religion in Spanish and French North America. "In planning the exhibition," Dr. Billington continues, "it became apparent that justice could not be done to these and a number of other rich subjects in the context of a show focusing on church-state relations in the early republic." The curator of the exhibition is Dr. James Hutson, chief of the Library's Manuscript Division. This article was extracted from exhibit texts.
America as a Religious Refuge: The 17th Century
Many of the British North American Colonies that joined in 1776 to form the United States of America were settled in the 17th century for religious purposes by men and women who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and risked the perilous crossing of the Atlantic to practice their religion as they believed the Scriptures commanded.
The New England Colonies and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some who arrived in these areas came, of course, for secular motives -- "to catch fish" as one New Englander put it -- but the great majority of settlers left Europe to worship God as they wished and enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to turn individual Colonies into "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove to European enemies that God's plan for his churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness.
Even Colonies such as Virginia, which were planned as commercial ventures, were led by entrepreneurs who considered themselves "militant Protestants" and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church. The faith in which the Colonies were founded gave them a religious orientation that remained strong when the government of the United States was created in the years after 1776. Boosted by the "golden age" of evangelicalism, religion thrived in 19th century America. Its impact remained so conspicuous in the early decades of this century that in 1922 a British observer called the United States "a nation with the soul of a church."
The religious persecution in Europe that filled the British North American Colonies with settlers was motivated by the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that a uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in their jurisdictions in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as "inforced uniformity of religion," meant that in 17th century Europe (and in New England and Virginia as well) majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst.
Crossing the Ocean to Keep the Faith: The Puritans
Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform -- to purify -- the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. In the 1620s leaders of the English state and church grew increasingly unsympathetic to Puritan demands and insisted that they conform to religious practices that they abhorred, removing their ministers from office and threatening them with "extirpation from the earth" if they did not fall in line. Zealous Puritan laymen received savage punishments; one, for example, in 1630 was sentenced to life imprisonment, had his property confiscated, his nose slit, an ear cut off and his forehead branded "S.S." (sower of sedition).
Beginning in 1630, as many as 20,000 Puritans emigrated to America from England to gain religious freedom. Most settled in New England but some went as far as the West Indies. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalists." Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts from Holland in 1620, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, though in need of major reforms. Every New England Congregational church was considered an independent entity, beholden to no hierarchy. The membership was composed, at least initially, of men and women who had undergone a conversion experience and could prove it to other members. Puritan leaders hoped (futilely, as it turned out) that, once their experiment was successful, England would imitate it by instituting a church order modeled after the New England Way.
Persecution, American Style
Although victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it, that of the necessity of a uniformity of religion in the state. The Puritan procedure was to expel dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America's first major female religious leader. Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on four Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Reflecting on the 17th century's intolerance, Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to concede to Virginians any moral superiority to the Puritans.
Jews Find a Refuge in 17th Century America
The first Jews who settled in British North America were fleeing a possible pogrom in Brazil. For some decades, Jews had flourished in Dutch-held areas of Brazil, but a Portuguese conquest of the area in 1654 confronted them with the prospect of the introduction of the Inquisition, which had recently burned a Brazilian Jew at the stake (1647). A shipload of 23 Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York) in 1654 and by the next year had established religious services in the city. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, they had established several thriving synagogues.
The Quakers (or Religious Society of Friends) coalesced in England in 1652 around a charismatic leader, George Fox (1624-1691). Many scholars today consider Quakers as radical Puritans because they carried to extremes many Puritan convictions. Theologically, they expanded the Puritan concept of a church of individuals regenerated by the Holy Spirit to the idea of the indwelling of the Spirit or the "Light of Christ" in every person.
Such teaching struck many of the Quakers' contemporaries as the most dangerous sort of heresy and they were cruelly persecuted in England. By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England and 243 had died from torture and mistreatment in the king's jails. This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in New Jersey in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched. By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to live in Pennsylvania. Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society. The Quakers, as represented by their great leader William Penn, believed in religious liberty.
Roman Catholics in Maryland
Although the Stuart kings of England were not haters of the Church of Rome, many of their subjects were, with the result that Catholics were harassed and persecuted in England throughout the 17th century. Driven by "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren," George Calvert (1580-1632), a principal lieutenant of James I until his religion cost him his job, obtained a charter from Charles I in 1632 for the territory between Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new Colony.
Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the 17th century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, the Church of England was legally established in the Colony and English penal laws that deprived Catholics of the right to vote, hold office or worship publicly were enforced. Until the American Revolution, Catholics in Maryland were dissenters in their own country, living at times under a state of siege, but keeping loyal to their convictions, a faithful remnant, awaiting better times.
Religion in 18th Century America
Recently, scholars have changed their opinion about the condition of religion in 18th century America. Against what had become a prevailing view that 18th century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers' passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now stress the high level of religious energy in the Colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the "ascension rather than the declension"; another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the Colonies in the 18th century in a state of "feverish growth."
Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. It is estimated that between 1700 and 1740, 75 percent to 80 percent of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace. Anglican churches increased from 111 in 1700 to 406 in 1780; Baptist from 33 to 457; Congregationalist from 146 to 749; German and Dutch Reformed from 26 to 327; Lutheran from 7 to 240; and Presbyterian from 28 to 475.
Deism made its appearance in the 18th century. It was a religious movement, promoted by certain English and continental thinkers, that attracted a following in Europe toward the end of the 17th century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late 18th century. Deism rejected the orthodox Christian view of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more that a "sublime" teacher of morality.
Deism and some strains of "liberal religion," which stressed morality and questioned the divinity of Christ, found advocates among upper class Americans, conspicuous among whom were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin, but supporters of these views were never more than "a minority within a minority" and were submerged by evangelicalism in the 19th century.
The Great Awakening (ca. 1735-1745): The Emergence of American Evangelicalism
Toward mid-century the country's first major religious revival, the Great Awakening, occurred. The Awakening swept the English-speaking world, as religious energy vibrated between England, Wales, Scotland and the American Colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. The Awakening, which signaled the advent of an encompassing evangelicalism in American life, invigorated even as it divided churches. The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust -- Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists -- became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the 19th century; opponents of the Awakening or those split by it -- Anglicans, Quakers and Congregationalists -- were left behind.
Evangelicalism is difficult to date and define. In 1531, at the beginning of the Reformation, Sir Thomas More referred to religious adversaries as "Evaungelicalles." Scholars have argued that, as a self-conscious movement, evangelicalism did not arise until the mid-17th century, perhaps not until the Great Awakening itself. According to experts, the fundamental aspect of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to the "new birth" by the preaching of the Word. The first generation of New England Puritans required that church members undergo a conversion experience that they could describe publicly. Their successors were not as successful in reaping harvests of redeemed souls. During the first decades of the 18th century, a series of local "awakenings" began in the Connecticut River Valley that broadened by the 1730s into what was interpreted as a general outpouring of the Spirit that bathed the American Colonies, England, Wales and Scotland and produced mass open-air revivals in which powerful preachers like George Whitefield brought thousands of souls to the new birth. The Great Awakening, which spent its force in New England by the mid-1740s, continued in subsequent decades in the South.
Religion and the American Revolution
A debate about the role of religion in the American Revolution began while the war between Britain and the Colonies still raged. Opponents of the Revolution, the Tories, claimed that "republican sectaries," specifically, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, had caused the conflict. In the 1960s, a scholar argued that evangelical Christians, converted during the Great Awakening, were responsible for the war. Although neither of these views has been widely accepted, there can be no doubt that religion played a major role in the Revolution by offering, through the sermons, pamphlets and actions of the American clergy, a moral sanction for opposition to the British, an assurance to the average American that opposition to the mother country was justified in the sight of God.
Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774-1789
The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that also exercised executive power, governed the United States from 1774 to 1789 and left an impressive list of accomplishments, not the least of which was winning the war with Great Britain, the greatest military power of the age. Congress, as it was always called, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men, some of whom -- John Dickinson, Elias Boudinot and Charles Thomson, for example -- retired from public life to write religious tracts and commentaries and publish new translations of the Bible.
The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion throughout the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government.
Congress appointed chaplains to minister to itself and to the armed forces; it sponsored the publication of a Bible; it imposed Christian morality on the armed forces; and it granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. Most conspicuous were the national days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" that Congress proclaimed at least twice a year throughout the war. These proclamations were always accompanied by sermonettes in which Congress urged the American populace to confess and repent its sins as a way of moving God to grant national prosperity.
Scholars have recognized that Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God had bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people, stipulating that they "should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation. Year in and year out, therefore, Congress urged its fellow citizens to repent "of their manifold sins" and strive that "pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail."
The Continental-Confederation Congress, the first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people on March 19, 1782, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy, people."
Religion and the State Governments
That religion was necessary for "public prosperity" was an opinion that found expression not only in Congress but in the state legislatures of the new American republic as well. The connection between religion and the public welfare seemed so obvious to the public at large that it was articulated by its representatives at every level of government.
The Church-State Debate in Massachusetts
After independence the American Colonies, now states, were obliged to write constitutions, spelling out how they would be governed. In no place was constitution- making more difficult than in Massachusetts. That state's Constitutional Convention included in the draft constitution submitted to the voters the famous Article Three, which authorized the levying of a general religious tax to be directed to the church of a taxpayers' choice. Despite substantial doubt that Article Three had been approved by the required two-thirds of the voters, in 1780 state authorities declared it and the rest of the Constitution to have been duly adopted.
The Church-State Debate in Virginia
The debate in Virginia over the relation of government to religion produced an outcome very much at odds with the results in the New England states and in Maryland and Georgia, challenging the frequently made assumption that Virginia set the pattern for church-state relations in the Revolutionary period.
In 1776 the Virginia Assembly moved toward the disestablishment of the Church of England, taking the decisive step in 1779 by depriving the Church's ministers of tax support. Church-state relations were not settled, however, as an attempt in 1779 to pass a general religious tax demonstrated. Patrick Henry, the great orator of the American revolution, revived and pressed for a general religious assessment in 1784 and appeared to be on the verge of securing its passage, when his opponents neutralized his political influence by electing him governor. As a result, legislative consideration of Henry's bill was postponed until the fall of 1785, giving its adversaries an opportunity to mobilize public opposition to it.
James Madison, the leading adversary of government-supported religion, rallied opponents in his celebrated Memorial and Remonstrance and in the fall of 1785 marshaled sufficient legislative support to administer a decisive defeat to the effort to lay religious taxes. In place of Henry's bill, Madison and his allies passed in January 1786 Thomas Jefferson's famous Act for Establishing Religious Freedom which brought the debate in Virginia to a close by severing, once and for all, the links between government and religion.
Religion and the Federal Government
In response to widespread sentiment that, to survive, the United States needed a stronger federal government, a convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and on Sept. 17, 1787, adopted the Constitution of the United States. Aside from Article VI, which prohibited religious tests for federal office holders, the Constitution said little about religion. Its reserve troubled those Americans who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some Colonies, exerted so much pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress that they adopted in September 1789 the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion."
The first two Presidents of the United States were patrons of religion -- Washington was an Episcopal vestryman and Adams described himself as "a church going animal." Both offered strong rhetorical support for religion. In his Farewell Address (September 1796) Washington called religion, as the source of morality, "a necessary spring of popular government," while Adams claimed that statesmen "may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth presidents, are generally considered less hospitable to religion than their predecessors, but evidence shows that, while in office, both offered religion powerful symbolic support. During his two administrations (1801-1809), Jefferson was a "most regular attendant" at church services in the House of Representatives at which, surviving records show, evangelical Christianity was forcefully preached. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who road on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Jefferson permitted church services to be conducted by various denominations in government buildings, such as the Treasury and the War Department. During his administration, the Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. It is, in fact, accurate to say that on Sundays in Washington during the Jefferson and Madison administrations the state became the church.
Recently, scholars have contended that Jefferson adopted a more positive view of Christianity in the 1790s as a result of reading Joseph Priestly's arguments that many of the miraculous features of Christianity to which Jefferson objected were not authentic, having been added at a later time by a self-interested priesthood. Whatever the reason, after becoming president in 1801, Jefferson began making statements about the social value of Christianity.
Religion and the Constitution
When the Constitution was submitted to the American public, "many pious people" complained that the document had slighted God, for it contained "no recognition of his mercies to us ... or even of his existence." The Constitution was reticent about religion for two reasons: many delegates were committed federalists who believed that the power to legislate on religion, if it existed at all, lay within the domain of the state, not the national, governments. Second, the delegates believed that it would be a tactical mistake to insert such a politically controversial issue as religion in the Constitution. The only "religious clause" in the document -- the proscription of religious tests as qualifications for federal office in Article Six -- was, in fact, intended to defuse controversy by disarming potential critics who might claim religious discrimination in eligibility for public office.
Religion and the Bill of Rights
Although there were proposals for making the ratification of the Constitution contingent on the prior adoption of a bill of rights, supporters of a bill of rights acquiesced with the understanding that the first Congress under the new government would attempt to add to it a bill of rights.
James Madison took the lead in steering a bill of rights through the First Federal Congress, which convened in the spring of 1789. The Virginia Ratifying Convention and Madison's constituents, among whom there were large numbers of Baptists who wanted freedom of religion secured, expected him to push for a bill of rights. There was considerable opposition in Congress to a bill of rights of any sort on the grounds that it was "unnecessary and dangerous." The persistence of Madison and his allies nevertheless carried the day and on Sept. 28, 1789, both houses of Congress voted to send 12 amendments to the states. Those ratified by the requisite three fourths of the states became in December 1791 the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Religion was addressed in the First Amendment in the following familiar words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." In notes for his speech, June 8, 1789, introducing the bill of rights, Madison indicated that a "national" religion was what he wanted to prevent and it is clear that most Americans joined him in considering that the major goal was to forestall any possibility that the federal government could act as several Colonies had done by choosing one religion and making it an official "national" religion that enjoyed exclusive financial and legal support. The establishment clause of the First Amendment meant at least this: that no one religion would be officially preferred above its competitors. What ever else it may -- or may not -- have meant is obscured by a lack of documentary evidence and is still a matter of dispute.
Washington's Farewell Address
Washington's Farewell Address is one of the most important documents in American history because the recommendations made in it by the first president, particularly in the field of foreign affairs, have exerted a strong and continuing influence on American statesmen and politicians. The Farewell Address, in which Washington informed the American people that he would not seek a third term and offered advice on the country's future policies, was published in David Claypoole's Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser on Sept. 19, 1796, and was immediately reprinted in newspapers and as a pamphlet throughout the United States. The Address was drafted in July 1796 by Alexander Hamilton (Washington also had at his disposal an earlier draft by James Madison) and was revised for publication by the president himself.
The "religion section" of the Farewell Address was for many years as familiar to the American people as Washington's warning that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with foreign nations. The first president advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."
Evangelicalism and the Emergence of the African American Church
Scholars disagree about the extent of the native African content of black Christianity as it emerged in 18th century America, but there is no dispute that the Christianity of the black population was grounded in evangelicalism. The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, has been called the "central and defining event in the development of Afro-Christianity." During these revivals Baptists and Methodists converted large numbers of blacks; according to a contemporary estimate, there were by 1815 40,000 black Methodists and an equal number of black Baptists. Many African Americans were, nevertheless, disappointed at the treatment they received from their fellow believers, especially at the backsliding in the commitment to abolish slavery that inspired many white Baptists and Methodists immediately after the American Revolution. Blacks responded by trying to establish as much autonomy as possible within the Baptist and Methodist denominational frameworks.
When discontent could not be contained, forceful black leaders followed what was becoming an American habit of forming new denominations. In 1816, for example, Richard Allen (1760-1831) and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed. By 1846, the A.M.E. Church, which began with eight clergy and five churches, had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches and 17,375 members.
Another distinctive religious group, the Mormons, arose in the 1820s during the "Golden Day of Democratic Evangelism." The founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), and many of his earliest followers grew up in an area of western New York called the "Burned Over District," because it had been scorched by so many revivals. Yet the Mormon Church cannot be considered as the product of revivalism or as a splintering off from an existing Protestant denomination. It was sui generis, inspired by what Smith described as revelations on a series of gold plates, which he translated and published as the Book of Mormon in 1830. The new church conceived itself to be a restoration of primitive Christianity, which other existing churches were considered to have deserted. The Mormons subscribe to many orthodox Christian beliefs but profess distinctive doctrines based on post-biblical revelation.
Persecuted from its inception, the Mormon Church moved from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, where it put down strong roots at Nauvoo. In 1844 the Nauvoo settlement was devastated by its neighbors, Smith and his brother being murdered in the havoc. This attack prompted the Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, to migrate to Utah, where the first parties arrived in July 1847. The church has thrived since the removal to Utah and today is a flourishing, worldwide denomination.
Benevolent societies were a new and conspicuous feature of the American landscape during the first half of the 19th century. Voluntary, ecumenical organizations devoted originally to the salvation of souls, but in due course to the eradication of every kind of social ill, the benevolent societies were formed by the pooling of resources of evangelicalism's legions. The benevolent societies were the direct result of the extraordinary energies generated by the evangelical movement, specifically, by the "activism" resulting from conversion. "The evidence of God's grace," the Presbyterian evangelist, Charles G. Finney insisted, "was a person's benevolence toward others."
The earliest and most important of the benevolent societies focused their efforts on the conversion of sinners to the new birth or to the creation of conditions (sobriety sought by temperance societies) in which conversions could occur. The six largest societies in 1826-27 (based on their operating budgets) were all directly concerned with conversion: the American Education Society, the American Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday-School Union, the American Tract Society and the American Home Missionary Society.
Three of these groups subsidized evangelical ministers, one specialized in evangelical education and two supplied evangelical literature that the other four used. In seeking to convert the American people, the benevolent societies were consciously trying to create, simultaneously, a moral and virtuous citizenry on which republican government was thought to depend. They proudly asserted that they were "doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity."
"Religion and the Founding of the American Republic" is on view June 4 through Aug. 22 in the Northwest Gallery of the recently restored Thomas Jefferson Building, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Library is closed on Sundays and federal holidays. The exhibition is free and no tickets are required. A companion volume, from which this article is excerpted, is available for $20 from the Library's sales shops. Development and publication of the volume was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. "Bud" Smith and the Pew Charitable Trusts. View the exhibition online. The exhibition is supported by generous grants from Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Smith of Dallas, the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia and the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis. After closing in Washington, the exhibition will travel to venues around the nation.
Virginia founded. Church of England planted in British North America.
Plymouth settled by Pilgrims.
Massachusetts Bay Colony founded. Congregationalism planted in British North America.
Maryland founded. Roman Catholic Church planted in British North America.
Roger Williams expelled from Massachusetts. He founds Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissidents.
Jews, fleeing religious persecution in Brazil, arrive in New York City.
Quakers hanged in Massachusetts, persecuted in Virginia; victims of the prevailing belief in enforced religious uniformity.
William Penn, leader of the Quakers, receives a charter for Pennsylvania; Penn establishes religious liberty in the Colony.
Members of German sects begin arriving in Pennsylvania, attracted by religious liberty.
English Parliament passes the Toleration Act, which improves the conditions of dissenters throughout the American Colonies.
The Great Awakening, a religious revival throughout the English-speaking world, invigorates and polarizes religious life in America.
Separate Baptists, a product of the Great Awakening, proselytize in the South.
Presbyterian Church, split by the Great Awakening into New and Old Sides, reunites.
First Methodist meeting (in New York City) in the American Colonies.
American independence declared.
Massachusetts Constitution adopted; state support of religion provided.
Methodist Episcopal Church established.
Jefferson's Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom passed by Virginia Assembly; state support of religion prohibited.
U.S. Constitution adopted; religious tests for public service under the federal government prohibited.
Protestant Episcopal Church established; ties with church of England cut; Presbyterian Church also established on a new footing.
Bill of Rights passed by Congress; proscribes congressional "establishment" of religion and congressional interference with the "free exercise thereof."
Major revivals in Kentucky, which spread east and initiate a long period of evangelical dominance in American religion.
African Methodist Episcopal Church established.
Joseph Smith founds Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).
Disciples of Christ established.
Massachusetts becomes the final jurisdiction to renounce state support of religion.
Tocqueville's Democracy in America published, in which the famous French commentator observed that Americans considered religion "indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."
Symposium to Coincide with Exhibition Opening
A symposium celebrating the opening of the exhibition "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic" will be held in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building June 18-19. The free symposium, chaired by Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University, will explore many of the issues developed in the exhibition.
Symposium on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic
Thursday, June 18
"Religion in 18th Century America" -- David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School
2:00 -- 5:30 p.m.
"How to Govern a City on a Hill: Religion and Liberty in the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution" -- John Witte Jr., Emory University School of Law
"The Use and Abuse of Jefferson's Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom: Separating Church and State in 19th Century Virginia" -- Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley
"Thomas Jefferson, a Mammoth Cheese, and the 'Wall of Separation Between Church and State'" -- Daniel Dreisbach, American University
Comment -- Michael Crawford, head, Early History Branch, Naval Historical Center
Friday, June 19
10:00 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m.
"Republicanism and Religion: The American Exception" -- Mark A. Noll, Wheaton College
"Women and Religion in the Early Republic" -- Catherine A. Brekus, University of Chicago Divinity School
Comment -- Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University
2:00 -- 4:30 p.m.
"The Influence of Christianity and Judaism on the Founders" -- Michael Novak, American Enterprise Institute
"The Question of the Christian Nation Considered" -- Jon Butler, Yale University
Comment -- James Smylie, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond