Cover image for The founding fathers and the place of religion in America
Title:
The founding fathers and the place of religion in America
Author:
Lambert, Frank, 1943-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xii, 328 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
How did the United States, founded as colonies with explicitly religious aspirations, come to be the first modern state whose commitment to the separation of church and state was reflected in its constitution? Frank Lambert explains why this happened, offering in the process a synthesis of American history from the first British arrivals through Thomas Jefferson's controversial presidency. Lambert recognizes that two sets of spiritual fathers defined the place of religion in early America: what Lambert calls the Planting Fathers, who brought Old World ideas and dreams of building a "City upon a Hill, " and the Founding Fathers, who determined the constitutional arrangement of religion in the new republic. While the former proselytized the "one true faith, " the latter emphasized religious freedom over religious purity. Lambert locates this shift in the mid-eighteenth century. In the wake of evangelical revival, immigration by new dissenters, and population expansion, there emerged a marketplace of religion characterized by sectarian competition, pluralism, and widened choice. During the American Revolution, dissenters found sympathetic lawmakers who favored separating church and state, and the free marketplace of religion gained legal status as the Founders began the daunting task of uniting thirteen disparate colonies. To avoid discord in an increasingly pluralistic and contentious society, the Founders left the religious arena free of government intervention save for the guarantee of free exercise for all. Religious people and groups were also free to seek political influence, ensuring that religion's place in America would always be a contested one, but never a state-regulated one.
Language:
English
Contents:
Acknowledgments -- Introduction -- pt. 1. Religious regulation -- ch. 1. English heritage -- ch. 2. Transplanting the Church of England in the Chesapeake -- ch. 3. Puritan fathers and the "Christian common-wealth" -- ch. 4. A "holy experiment" in religious pluralism -- pt. 2. Religious competition -- ch. 5. "Trafficking for the Lord" and the expansion of religious choice -- ch. 6. Deists enter the religious marketplace -- ch. 7. Whigs and dissenters fight religious regulation -- pt. 3. Religious freedom -- ch. 8. The American revolution of religion -- ch. 9. Constitutional recognition of a free religious market -- ch. 10. Religion and politics in the presidential campaign of 1800 -- Epilogue -- Notes -- Index.
ISBN:
9780691088297
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

How did the United States, founded as colonies with explicitly religious aspirations, come to be the first modern state whose commitment to the separation of church and state was reflected in its constitution? Frank Lambert explains why this happened, offering in the process a synthesis of American history from the first British arrivals through Thomas Jefferson's controversial presidency.


Lambert recognizes that two sets of spiritual fathers defined the place of religion in early America: what Lambert calls the Planting Fathers, who brought Old World ideas and dreams of building a "City upon a Hill," and the Founding Fathers, who determined the constitutional arrangement of religion in the new republic. While the former proselytized the "one true faith," the latter emphasized religious freedom over religious purity.


Lambert locates this shift in the mid-eighteenth century. In the wake of evangelical revival, immigration by new dissenters, and population expansion, there emerged a marketplace of religion characterized by sectarian competition, pluralism, and widened choice. During the American Revolution, dissenters found sympathetic lawmakers who favored separating church and state, and the free marketplace of religion gained legal status as the Founders began the daunting task of uniting thirteen disparate colonies. To avoid discord in an increasingly pluralistic and contentious society, the Founders left the religious arena free of government intervention save for the guarantee of free exercise for all. Religious people and groups were also free to seek political influence, ensuring that religion's place in America would always be a contested one, but never a state-regulated one.


An engaging and highly readable account of early American history, this book shows how religious freedom came to be recognized not merely as toleration of dissent but as a natural right to be enjoyed by all Americans.


Author Notes

Frank Lambert is Professor of History at Purdue University. He is the author of Pedlar in Divinity and Inventing the "Great Awakening" (both Princeton).


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Lambert (history, Purdue Univ.; Inventing the "Great Awakening", CH, Oct'99) has made a major contribution to US religious, constitutional, and political history with this superb book. In a sweeping overview of church and state from colonization through the election of 1800, Lambert's historical insight, good sense, and sound judgment serve him well. While both the Anglicans of Virginia and the Puritans of New England aspired to create societies in which government enforced godliness on the populace, that was not the vision of the Founding Fathers who wrote the US Constitution. Humanist in outlook, they saw religious liberty as a basic freedom that the state should not abridge. They were joined by dissenting sects spawned by the Great Awakening, particularly Baptists and Presbyterians, who feared any interference by the state in what was an intensely personal relationship between God and humans. For both groups, Colonial Pennsylvania became the model, a marketplace in which religions competed for allegiance, a model enshrined in Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the Bill of Rights. Heirs of the Puritan vision, however, still argued that survival depended on official encouragement of Christianity, a debate that continues today. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All libraries. T. D. Hamm Earlham College


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Part One Religious Regulation
Chapter 1 English Heritagep. 21
The Crown and the Churchp. 23
The Age of Faithp. 31
The Act of Uniformity, Religious Liberty, and Dissentp. 39
Chapter 2 Transplanting the Church of England in the Chesapeakep. 46
"Nursing Fathers" of the Churchp. 48
A Gentleman's Religionp. 58
Religious Outsiderp. 67
Chapter 3 Puritan Fathers and the "Christian Common-wealth"p. 73
"the religious design of [the Puritan] Fathers"p. 76
"Shields unto the Churches of New-England"p. 82
"a well-bounded Toleration"p. 89
Chapter 4 A "Holy Experiment" in Religious Pluralismp. 100
The "Holy Experiment"p. 102
"a great mixt multitude"p. 109
Religion, Politics, and the Failure of the "Holy Experiment"p. 114
Part Two Religious Competition
Chapter 5 "Trafficking for the Lord" and the Expansion of Religious Choicep. 127
Regulated Parishesp. 129
"a Sett of Rambling Fellows"p. 136
"as tho 'they had their Religion to chuse"p. 145
Chapter 6 Deists Enter the Religious Marketplacep. 159
The New Learningp. 162
Science and Religionp. 167
Founder and "True" Religionp. 173
Chapter 7 Whigs and Dissenters Fight Religious Regulationp. 180
Whig and Dissenting Traditionsp. 182
Warning against "Spiritual Directors"p. 187
Dissent against the Standing Orderp. 194
Part Three Religious Freedom
Chapter 8 The American Revolution of Religionp. 207
Religion and Independencep. 210
Opposing Massachusetts's "oppressive establishment of religion"p. 219
Triumph of Religious Freedom in Virginiap. 225
Chapter 9 Constitutional Recognition of a Free Religious Marketp. 236
Religious Factions and the Threat to Unionp. 241
The "Godless Constitution"p. 246
Ratification Contingent upon Religious Freedomp. 253
Chapter 10 Religion and Politics in the Presidential Campaign of 1800p. 265
"...govern ...in the name of the Lo: Jesus Christ"p. 268
"Jefferson--And No God"p. 276
"one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods"p. 280
Epiloguep. 288
Notesp. 297
Indexp. 323