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Wellspring of LibertyHow Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty$
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John A. Ragosta

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388060

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388060.001.0001

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Pleading for Reform and Demanding Freedom

Pleading for Reform and Demanding Freedom

(p.43) 2 Pleading for Reform and Demanding Freedom
Wellspring of Liberty

John A. Ragosta (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

As the war approached, Virginia's dissenters petitioned for increased toleration, but reforms were not forthcoming. By 1776, though, with recruiting lagging badly and facing the prospect of an extended war against the most powerful nation in the world, Virginia's establishment leaders faced a flood of petitions demanding religious liberty if the dissenters were to support mobilization whole‐heartedly. What followed was not principled liberalization, but a complex negotiation for mobilization with piecemeal reforms paralleling military necessity as Virginia's political leaders sought to obtain the support of dissenters without wholly abandoning their established church. Anglicans objected vociferously, insisting that the contingent support offered by dissenters was unpatriotic. By the end of the war, the establishment had been forced to eliminate church taxes and penalties for nonattendance, to liberalize provisions on marriage, and to limit the civil functions of Anglican vestries.

Keywords:   American Revolution, Virginia, religious dissenters, petitions, Baptists, Presbyterians, mobilization, George Mason, James Madison, Virginia Declaration of Rights

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