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From Jamestown to Jefferson

The Evolution of Religious Freedom in Virginia

Paul Rasor, Richard E. Bond

Publication Year: 2011

Drawing on a decade of new scholarship on religion in Virginia, this collection of essays suggests how the evolving political, social, and religious conditions in the colony gradually helped create a space within which a new understanding of religious freedom, represented by Jefferson’s Statue of 1786, could emerge.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The origins of this volume lie in a semester-long symposium held during the fall of 2007 at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia, entitled “From Jamestown to Jefferson: The Evolution of Religious Authority in Colonial Virginia.” The symposium was sponsored by the college’s Center for the Study of Religious Freedom and organized by Paul Rasor, director of the center, and coordinated with a concurrent course in the history of Virginia taught by Richard E. Bond, assistant professor of history at Virginia Wesleyan. ...

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pp. 1-16

Less than two weeks before his death on July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson wrote precise instructions for the inscription to be placed on his tombstone: ...

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1. Evidence of Religion in Seventeenth-Century Virginia

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pp. 17-42

In the beginning - that is to say, in the spring of 1607 - Protestant Christianity got off to an inauspicious start in Virginia. Late in life, Captain John Smith penned a short recollection of “how we beganne to preach the Gospell in Virginia.” He wrote: ...

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2. Lived Religion in Colonial Virginia

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pp. 43-73

Lived religion in colonial Virginia took many forms, ranging from prayer and preaching and Bible reading to actions people today might consider magical or superstitious. The “god-centered” men and women of early modern England, the same people who ventured to Virginia, focused intensely on religion and the supernatural in ways that individuals in the twenty-first century have a difficult time understanding.1 ...

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3. Religious Diversity in Colonial Virginia: Red, Black, and White

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pp. 74-107

Early Virginia was a place of striking religious eclecticism. The colony contained little religious orthodoxy. Indeed, I was tempted to label this chapter “unorthodox religions” in colonial Virginia, but unorthodox is an awkward term, reflecting unease about how to describe a broad but inchoate phenomenon that is in opposition to the nominally orthodox. ...

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4. Sectarians and Strategies of Dissent in Colonial Virginia

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pp. 108-137

In the 1760s and 1770s, as Virginians joined other colonists in laying claim to a host of natural and civil rights, many dissenters in the colony argued that persecution for religious beliefs was actually becoming more frequent and intense. Baptists reported their meetings were disrupted by armed men and malicious activity. Ministers were threatened with bullwhips, clubs, and guns. ...

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5. Establishing New Bases for Religious Authority

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pp. 138-165

For many if not most Virginians on the eve of the Revolution against Great Britain, the idea of religious freedom as their descendants would later envision it made no sense whatsoever. Religion was too important to let any Tom, Dick, or Harry believe whatever nonsense came into his head, much less spread it through the neighborhood. Instead, the value Virginians placed on religion found expression in a formal religious establishment that linked church and state together by law, custom, and practice. ...

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6. Virginia’s Contributions to the Enduring Themes of Religious Liberty in America

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pp. 166-192

In the bicentennial year of the U.S. Constitution, a wordsmith for the Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution coined a clever slogan that was displayed prominently on commission literature and state promotional materials. 1 ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 193-194


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pp. 195-203

E-ISBN-13: 9780813931180
E-ISBN-10: 0813931185
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813931081
Print-ISBN-10: 0813931088

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 755619454
MUSE Marc Record: Download for From Jamestown to Jefferson

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Subject Headings

  • Church and state -- Virginia -- History -- 17th century.
  • Church and state -- Virginia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Virginia -- Church history -- 17th century.
  • Virginia -- Church history -- 18th century.
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Social and political views.
  • Virginia. Act for establishing religious freedom.
  • Freedom of religion -- Virginia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Freedom of religion -- Virginia -- History -- 17th century.
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