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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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(p.161) Epilogue
Wellspring of Liberty

John A. Ragosta (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Virginia's history of religious persecution and religious freedom played a central role in adoption of the First Amendment to the Constitution and the subsequent evolution of American religious freedom, and it is appropriate that the Virginia experience continue to be given a central place in its understanding. Unfortunately, the role of dissenters has often been underestimated. This has occurred, in part, by the elevation of the views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in spite of Madison's particular interest in promoting the dissenters' views. Historic forgetfulness has also been encouraged by the triumphant role that former dissenters claimed in the Revolution—not wishing to stress the contingent nature of their support—and the desire of former Anglicans to minimize any religious conflict. The dissenters' story demonstrates the highly contingent nature of the development of religious freedom in early America and the significance of their fight. Further, the politicization of the dissenters in the Revolutionary negotiations for religious freedom and the resulting republicanization of Virginia were to play an important role in the development of the new republic.

Keywords:   First Amendment, church and state, establishment clause, free exercise, religious liberty, original intent, James Madison, Supreme Court, republicanization

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