Church and State in Early America: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Jackson

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This book describes American ideas about and policies toward the relationship between government and religion from the founding of Virginia in 1607 to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837. Four principles were paramount during this period: the importance of religion to the public welfare; the resulting obligation of government to support religion; liberty of conscience and voluntaryism; the requirement that churches be supported by free will gifts, not taxation. The relevance of the concept of the separation of church and state during this period is examined in detail.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This slender volume offers a brilliant survey of the events, ideas, and personalities that shaped America's distinctive approach to church-state relations. With uncommon clarity, keen insights, and illuminating anecdotes, James H. Hutson recounts the complicated, but inspiring story of the development of religious liberty in North America. Few stories in history are more important and more deserving of our attention.” -Daniel L. Dreisbach, professor, American University and author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State.

“In many ways, the story of America is a tale of the long and tortuous struggle to define and defend the rights of conscience: religious liberty as America’s ‘first freedom.’ In Church and State in America, Jim Hutson constructs this narrative—‘one of the miracles of the age’—with profound insight and meticulous scholarship. He has the historian’s gift for uncovering the forgotten anecdotes, animosities, proclamations, and lamentations that enlighten our understanding of the past and offer wisdom to confront the contemporary challenges to freedom. A very timely and engaging piece of work.” -Joseph Loconte, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and commentator on religion and politics for National Public Radio.

“The signal contribution of this book is to show that, while the American Revolution and American Constitution did alter some inherited wisdom on church-state connections, they also left a great deal from earlier centuries unchanged. James Hutson's reading of the founding era and what lead up to it calls into question a great deal of conventional wisdom, but does so in the most productive way—through painstakingly careful attention to specific historical evidence.” -Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame

“This richly textured and text-filled study tells the unique American story of church and state. Moving beyond modern clichés about a wall of separation, Hutson shows that America's founders regarded religion and the church as vital to politics and the state, so long as both remained freely chosen and freely exercised. Meticulously researched and masterfully narrated, James Hutson's latest offering has all the earmarks of a classic in the making.” -John Witte, Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University

"Hutson's prose, research, and analysis are solid throughout, but his succinct treatment of all seventeenth-century English colonies is especially noteworthy...his nuanced description of both Great Awakenings' impact on church-state relations is unique and helpful. Most of all Hutson's work in praiseworthy because it sheds light convincingly on a contemporary topic without being overtly present minded." —Canadian Journal of History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521683432
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Series: Cambridge Essential Histories Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 222
  • Sales rank: 940,028
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

James H. Hutson has been Chief of the Manuscripts Division at the Library of Congress since 1982. He has previously held positions as Coordinator of the American Revolution Bicentennial Programs at the Library of Congress, and as lecturer at the College of William and Mary and Yale University. Among his many publications, Dr Hutson has written Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (6th printing, 2002); Forgotten Features of the Founding: The Recovery of Religious Themes in Early American History (2003); and The Founders on Religion (2005).

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Table of Contents

1. The seventeenth century; 2. To the American Revolution; 3. The Confederation period; 4. The Constitution and beyond.

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