Master of Arts (MA)
Samuel C Smith
Primary Subject Area
History, United States
Baptists, Jefferson, Madison, Presbyterians, Religion, Virginia
The struggle for full religious liberty in Virginia encompassed nearly two decades and generated thousands of documents in the form of petitions and legislation. In spite of historical tendencies to claim primacy in the victory of liberty over establishment in matters of religion for one denomination or individual, it was a unique triangulation of religious dissenters and prominent legislators that resulted in the separation of church and state in Virginia. The ideas that brought these seemingly disparate groups together emerged from theological, as well as political ideas that were prevalent in 18th century thought. The passage of Jefferson's Statute Establishing Religious Liberty in Virginia was the product of a unique crystallizing moment in American history that married Renaissance humanism, Reformation theology, and Enlightenment philosophy in the form of Scottish Common Sense Realism.