The Anglican Church was the established church in colonial Virginia, and while the Great Awakening had encouraged growth in religious dissent, especially among evangelicals, it did not substantially loosen the hold of the establishment on the polity nor republicanize Virginia. In fact, discrimination against dissenters increased as the Revolution approached, with arrests of Baptist preachers beginning in 1768. Before the Revolution, legislative efforts to increase religious toleration failed in the Anglican‐controlled House of Burgesses. This posed a challenge when the Revolution broke upon Virginia: how could the establishment leaders who had led efforts to discriminate against dissenters obtain their support for effective mobilization?
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