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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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After the War

After the War

(p.109) 5 After the War
Wellspring of Liberty

John A. Ragosta (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

By wars' end, dissenters had still not achieved full religious liberty, with continuing administration of some social and governmental activities granted to Anglican vestries; yet, with the necessity of mobilization gone, post‐war dissenter petitions demanding reform met with little political response. By 1784, Anglican leaders, led by Patrick Henry, sought to reinvigorate the establishment by introducing a general tax assessment to support all Christian ministers, a proposal which obtained initial approval in the Virginia House of Delegates. Faced with a nonsectarian establishment of Christianity, dissenters rose in massive opposition, insisting that government support of churches was inconsistent with the “spirit of the Gospel.” Joined by James Madison's famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, opposition to the general assessment overwhelmed the House; in its stead, dissenters pushed through the Assembly Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom. There was, though, significant support for an assessment, and the dissenters' opposition was essential. This campaign demonstrated that the dissenters were wholly politicized and Virginia largely republicanized by the wartime negotiations.

Keywords:   Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom, general assessment, Patrick Henry, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, petitions, religious freedom, republicanization

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