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"NOT BY FORCE OR VIOLENCE": RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE, ANTI-CATHOLICISM, AND RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE IN THE EARLY NATIONAL UNITED STATES
By Chris Beneke, Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2012. CHRIS BENEKE (BA, Cornell University; PhD1 Northwestern University) is an associate professor of history and is director of the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences, Bentley University. He is author of Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism (2006) and coeditor of The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America (2010). His publications have appeared in the Massachusetts Historical Review and the American Educational History Journal. Special interests include religious toleration and integration in education. This article benefited from comments by Pauline Maier, Christopher S. Grenda, and the members of the Boston-area American religious history seminar, particularly Clifford Putney and Owen Stanwood. An earlier version was presented at the April 2010 George Washington Forum conference at Ohio University. The author is grateful to the forum and its director, Robert Ingram, for their generous support and encouragement.
"That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other." - Art. XVI, The Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776
The constitutional ferment that accompanied the American Revolution uprooted colonial religious establishments and delivered substantive bundles of religious rights to believers of many lands.In states across the union, new laws detached civil liberties from religious affiliation, eliminated some taxes on religious minorities, and extended privileges of incorporation to churches that had never been legally recognized.1 These changes were neither simultaneous nor universal. In addition to the suppression of African American and Native Americans faiths, non-Protestant whites continued to face considerable constraints. Yet amid the clutter of discriminatory laws, preferential taxes, moral regulations, and office-holding requirements that remained, the principle of religious liberty was firmly entrenched. An early and especially influential example of its hold on the Revolutionary United States was Virginia's 1776 Declaration of Rights, which stated that "all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion" and that religious faith and practice should be solely "directed by reason and conviction." Over the ensuing years, state after state moved in the same direction. Like Virginia, most eschewed the restricted rights known as "toleration" for more robust protections that guaranteed "the free exercise of religion."
The Virginia Declaration of Rights included another stipulation that usually goes unremarked: that religion "not" be directed "by force or violence."2 This negative construction of the maxim that religion could be legitimately directed only by reason and conviction might have been a rhetorical flourish, or it might reveal something significant about the dangers from which late eighteenth-century constitutional provisions were intended to shield citizens. The reason a plausible interpretation eludes us is because we have very little understanding of the contemporary relationship between the apprehension of religious violence (defined at the time as an extreme form of "force") and the budding American tradition of religious Liberty. In a pioneering 1953 work on U.S. church-state relations, constitutional scholar Leo Pfeffer noted that the "religious wars which plagued Europe during the 16th and 1 7th centuries were a matter of history when America declared its independence from the Old World." Then, without hesitation, he concluded: "then memory was still vivid in the minds of the Constitutional Fathers." Pfeffer proceeded to say that "[w]ith minor exceptions, the history of church-state relationships was a history of persecution, oppression, hatred, bloodshed, and war, all in the name of the God of Love and of the Prince of Peace."3 That is more or less where the discussion ended. Never decisively confirmed and rarely denied, the assumption that religious violence bore some material responsibility for the First Amendment and similar state measures has floated in the historiographical ether for several decades. The interpretive vacuum is complicated by the difficulty of measuring the impact of collective memory. As Pfeffer noted, those who framed early U.S. provisions protecting conscience and prohibiting exclusive church establishments were clearly acquainted with the history of European and early colonial religious conflict and persecution. At the same time, they enjoyed more than three generations of historical distance from the age of martyrs and the worst of sectarian strife. What influence, then, might religious violence have had on the incipient American tradition of religious liberty?
This essay maintains that the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars of religion, as well as the periodic hanging, burning, and disemboweling of heretics, did indeed provide a lush and useful ideological backdrop during the Revolutionary era. As state and federal constitutions were framed, religious violence was vividly recalled, but it was also safely ensconced m the distant past. Late eighteenth-century partisans of religious rights generally treated religious violence as the defining characteristic of a regrettable age that all reasonable and sympathetic people would want to avoid reliving, rather than an imminent threat. This approach to a sanguinary and increasingly remote history was integral to a new legal and cultural framework in which anti-Catholicism slackened and less corporal understandings of religious faith took hold. It was also integral to the justification of a more expansive conception of rights. Toleration's protections were limited to preserving dissenters from violence and severe, intrusive forms of persecution. By contrast, "religious liberty" (a close, late eighteenth-century synonym for "free exercise of religion"), protected them from the more mundane operations of religious oppression, such as restrictions on movement, marriage, and office holding, exclusive incorporation laws, and inequitable taxation, thus clearing the way for full participation in civil life.4 To those who conceived and defended religious liberty in the new nation, violence was of course deplorable. It was just not directly relevant.
Religious Violence in Colonial British America and the Revolutionary United States
A notable thing about religious violence in the early national era was how limited it was. Between 1776 and the ratification of the First Amendment, inter-religious conflict was subdued, severe state persecution was largely unknown, and the structures and symbols of traditional faiths survived mostly intact. Given that the free, white population was well armed and committed to a wide range of mainly Protestant faiths, this was far from an inconsequential achievement. Of course, blood flowed abundantly in Revolutionary America, sometimes for reasons directly related to religious matters. Conscientious objectors, including Pennsylvania Quakers and the newly arrived sect known as Shakers, bore the brunt of revolutionary religious violence. Groups suspected of complicity with the enemy, or even just neutrality, such as the Anglicans whose churches were vandalized by patriots and the Presbyterians whose churches were burned by British soldiers, also suffered.5 But identifiably religious violence paled in comparison with other forms of contemporary violence. And though it is always difficult to tease out religion from other aspects of culture, it was clearly political- and not religious- dissenters, who were the chief victims of popular and state violence in the 1770s and 1780s.6
The dearth of Revolutionary- and founding-era religious violence represented a continuation of colonial patterns. The list of bloody religious episodes m colonial America is well known and blessedly short. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the colonies witnessed the hanging of Massachusetts Quakers, dramatic whippings of Virginia Baptists, and occasional mob assaults on Catholics and Jews. In addition, Native Americans endured repeated and brutal colonial attacks that were often justified on religious grounds. However, by comparison with early modern Europe, British colonial America was characterized by what Susan Juster terms a "scarcity" of conventional religious violence. "The starkest and most brutal forms of persecution," she writes, "the burning of heretics, wholesale destruction of sacred places and objects, the forced expulsion and enslavement of outsiders such as Jews and Huguenots- were noticeably absent from the British colonies."7 Extended periods of peaceful coexistence had not been unknown across northwestern Europe during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.8 Still, from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century through the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, Europeans were involved in unusually frequent and occasionally stunning instances of religiously motivated conflict and corporal punishment. This was simply not what colonial or revolutionary-era Americans experienced.
The relative absence of religious violence in colonial and Revolutionary America has been overlooked in historical explanations of early national church-state provisions.9 Like Pfeffer, leading historians have periodically gestured to the threat of religious conflict and severe persecution as a critical source of anti-establishment sentiment. And there is reason to believe, as Edwin S. Gaustad pointed out, that enlightenment liberals such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison "came to understand much of western European history as needlessly besmirched and tragically bloodied by the heavy hand of despotic religion."10 Madison, for instance, recalled the "[t]orrents of blood" that had spilled in Europe because of attempts to eliminate religious divisions and quash religious dissent.11 Beyond that, historians have given little indication as to how the memory of seventeenth-century religious violence shaped the First Amendment's religious clauses. And yet no systematic challenge has been offered to the casual connection forged in the Supreme Court's landmark First Amendment case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947) between the experience of early modern European men and women who were "fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed" and the provisions made for religious liberty in the early national United States a century after and an ocean apart.12 Elaborating on this interpretive leap a few years afterward, with no evident concern for distinguishing European wars from the conditions that prevailed in the British American colonies, Justice Hugo Black observed that:
it was precisely because Eighteenth Century Americans were a religious people divided into many fighting sects that we were given the constitutional mandate to keep Church and State completely separate. Colonial history had already shown that, here as elsewhere zealous sectarians entrusted with governmental power to further their causes would sometimes torture, maim and kill those they branded "heretics," "atheists" or "agnostics." The First Amendment [would] insure that no one powerful sect or combination of sects could use political or governmental power to punish dissenters whom they could not convert to their faith.13
Church-state jurisprudence has advanced considerably since Justice Black ruminated on these matters in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Nonetheless, the idea that the First Amendment was born in fear of imminent religious violence resonated in the decades that followed the court's early attempts to decipher the meaning of the First Amendment.14
Justice Black's condensation of early modern history is not the only way to misapprehend the relationship between violence and the early modern history of rights. The strain of historical analysis that traces a direct line from the brutality of the Inquisition and the European religious wars to the First Amendment makes a revealing contrast with the argument advanced by historian Lynn Hunt, in her much praised Inventing Human Rights: A History (2007). Hunt's book crafts a very different and equally problematic narrative of the relationship between the representation of suffering and rights. Inventing Human Rights makes the case that novel reading was integral to the rise of "imagined empathy," as well as the discomfort with torture and the blossoming of human rights sentiment that followed in the wake of empathy's ascendance. It is a compelling hypothesis but Hunt is inexplicably averse to crediting the most graphic and widely read early modern portraits of human suffering- namely religious martyrdom and religious cruelty- with more than nominal efficacy. One would not know from Hunt's work that John Foxe's veritable encyclopedia of Protestant martyrs, the Acts and Monuments (better known as the Book of Martyrs), was one of the best selling and most widely referenced works in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and America. Foxe's grisly tome receives not even passing mention in Inventing Human Rights. This is especially noteworthy because well before novel reading swept England and colonial America there were also evocative accounts of human pain and suffering in some of the great works on human liberty. Among them was the seminal 1644 tract on religious liberty by the irreverent founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, which opened by reminding the English Parliament that "[o]f Bodies impoverished, imprisoned, &c. for their souls beliefs, yea slaughtered on heapes for Religions controversies in the Warres of present and former Ages."15
Notwithstanding Hunt's inattention to this salient strain of early human rights justifications, the tradition of depicting toleration and religious liberty as salutary alternatives to the suffering produced by religious violence carried into the eighteenth century. As Juster notes, "British colonies were . . . 'awash' in martyr literature."16 A woodcut of Protestant convert John Rogers's 1555 burning for heresy, together with the stirring consolation that he allegedly offered his own wife and nine children, was featured in the New England Primer and recited by New England school children for decades. Prominent appeals for rights of conscience swelled with visceral accounts of the punishments inflicted upon dissenters and heretics. Voltaire's chapter on "Toleration" Ui his renowned Philosophical Dictionary shimmers with affecting examples of bloodshed and torture. Voltaire's compendium also included his essay on "Torture" wherein he asserted that the abolition of torture was the second greatest of Catherine the Great's reforms. The greatest was "universal toleration."17 People did not have to read sentimental novels to forge an emotive connection between violence, suffering, and the most revered of early modern rights- those that sheltered conscience.18
In short, neither the compressed narrative of the Everson decision, which proceeds hurriedly from religious war to the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, nor Hunt's narrative of empathy derived human rights, which neglects the connection between religious suffering and religious rights, offers a satisfying description of how religious violence was connected to the history of religious liberty in the early national United States. Nor do these narratives account for the fact that late eighteenth-century Americans had little immediate contact with the sort of violence on which traditional justifications of religious toleration had been premised. So tenuous had the memory become that the vigorous Baptist chronicler of religious persecution and inveterate advocate of religious liberty Rev. John Leland could improbably remark in 1790 that "Virginia soul has never been stained with vital blood for conscience sake."19 Whether this was a case of gross understatement or blissful forgetting, it conveys the fragility of the association between religious violence and rights of conscience Ui late eighteenth-century America.
The dearth of discernibly religious violence through the Revolutionary era stood in decided contrast to the contemporary profusion of civil violence. Neither one of these circumstances could have done much to foster the collective memory of religious wars and brutal forms of religious persecution nor to reinforce then connection to rights of conscience. Some of the more egregious examples of religious violence, such as the repeated mob attacks on Mother Ann Lee and her fellow Shakers, do not seem to have figured m late eighteenth-century campaigns for religious liberty. Likewise, the widespread and brutal violence visited upon African Americans and Native Americans by then white Christian masters and neighbors continued well past the American Revolution. But such violence was probably too remote from contemporary understandings of religious rights and too entangled with other forms of oppression to make a decisive impact on the legal provisions made for dissent, or then justification.20
Yet if Justice Black's Everson narrative compresses history between the European Wars of Religion and the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, at least it offers a plausible chain of causality. In colonial and Revolutionary America, arguments for rights of conscience drew intellectual and emotive sustenance from the well-known European experience of religious violence. On both sides of the Atlantic, the most important early appeals for toleration were anchored m the assumption that escaping the horrors of bodily torment and sectarian warfare required that dissenters be left alone to worship according to the dictates of then own consciences.21 Maryland's famous 1649 Act of Toleration, enacted the same year that Charles I was executed, included generous protections for the beliefs and practices of Trinitarian Christians on the grounds that religious compulsion "hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous Consequence in those commonwealthes where it hath been practiced." That the pursuit of religious uniformity might lead to war, popular violence, or state-induced corporal punishment was an idea shared by some of the leading seventeenth century proponents of liberty of conscience, including Roger Williams, Pierre Bayle, and John Locke. Then efforts were focused on relieving Protestant dissenters of the physical pain and debilitating financial injuries meted out by persecuting civil states as well as the hardship caused by interdenominational conflict.
The great seventeenth-century proponents of toleration also ascribed the tendency to use violence as an instrument of faith to what the founder of the famously tolerant colony of Pennsylvania, William Perm, referred to as "Violent Popery"- or, as one of Penn's sons and gubernatorial successors put it, "the bloody Religion of France and Spain"- that is, Roman Catholicism.22 Early defenders of religious rights were concerned with the effects of violence on conscience and were usually inclined to associate such violence with Roman Catholicism. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Protestants derided Catholics for then alleged idolatry, superstition, corruption, and for their attachment to hierarchy as well. But the advocates of religious liberty reserved special scorn for the Catholic Church's penchant for torturing and killing those who believed differently. In an influential 1744 pamphlet, Connecticut legislator and clergyman Elisha Williams lamented how a callous indifference to rights of conscience among both clergy and civil rulers had oppressed "the Consciences of Men," a process that continued "'till it produced the most detestable Monster the Earth ever had upon it, the Pope, who has deluged the earth with the Blood of Christians."23
Such reasoning was particularly conspicuous at the outset of the American Revolution. The series of measures passed in the summer and fall of 1774 and known collectively as the Coercive Acts expanded rights for Canadian Roman Catholics (the Quebec Act), closed the port of Boston, severely constrained representative government in Massachusetts, and invigorated communal loathing of Catholic rule and violence. In response, the pre Revolutionary Continental Congress denied that the British Parliament was "authorized to . . . establish a religion fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets," "a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion, through every part of the world."24 At roughly the same time, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Niles conjured the image of a Catholic military state where Protestant children would be "dashed against the wall, and then pious parents put to the rack for the religion of Jesus."25 And as independence (and the Virginia Declaration of Rights) neared, Rev. Samuel Sherwood reminded his listeners of the "[r]ivers of blood" shed by saints and martyrs over centuries, especially during Queen Mary's reign, which had presented "a most tragical scene of bloodshed and slaughter." These colonies had once seemed "a safe retreat from the relentless fury and shocking cruelty" of Catholic-inspired "oppression, tyranny, and persecution." But British tyranny now threatened to bring that pacific era to a brutal end.26
This pronounced strain of Anglo-American Protestant thought, which identified Catholicism with the brutality of the Inquisition, proved useful to those who advocated religious "toleration," a limited form of religious rights. Tolerationist policies enacted intermittently across Europe and colonial America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries protected law-abiding dissenters from physically destructive and financially ruinous punishments. However, these rudimentary protections for life, liberty, and property did not preclude religious establishments and the preferential treatment that was usually accorded to one or more favored churches. Locke's position that all believers except Catholics and atheists were entitled to toleration was also widely shared on both sides of the Anglo-American world through the early years of the American Revolution. Toleration in its seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American forms was thus both a means of protecting the rights of Protestant dissent and fending off the perceived menace of Catholic-inspired violence.
The constellation of ideological predispositions (support for toleration but accommodation to religious establishments, the rejection of religious violence, and anti-Catholicism) that held sway prior to the American Revolution was embodied in the 1776 essay "Worcestriensis" ("from Worcester"), which was published by an anonymous Massachusetts writer who lamented the "rivers of blood" that had already been shed in past religious conflict. The author noted a peculiar fact about humanity: "[H]owever strange it may appear, yet indubitable facts prove that mankind [is] naturally compassionate [toward] those who are subjected to pains and hardships for the sake of their religion, and very frequently join with them and espouse their cause, raise sedition and faction, and endanger the public peace."27 Examples of religious persecution and suffering could be found in German and papal histories (revealingly, he referred to the Catholic church here as "the mother of harlots") "in a manner and degree sufficient to shock any one who is not destitute of every spark of humanity." Along with the religious hypocrisy that state-imposed religion produced, the author contended that these facts were sufficient to dissuade any feeling person from forcing believers to embrace state sanctioned doctrines. At the same time, maintaining a system of state funding for qualifying churches was perfectly acceptable to this Protestant.28
The argument that moved from the fact of religious violence (and the suffering it caused) to the need to protect rights of conscience did not go away. It may not have even declined in frequency. Nonetheless, by the end of the Revolutionary era, the bloodletting spawned by the Inquisition and the early modern European religious wars was no longer a vital referent in defense of rights of conscience. Nor were anti-Catholic justifications central. This change occurred along with a larger revolution in the early national cultural environment within which a broader conception of religious rights was forged. The first component of this transformation involved the substitution of religious liberty for what contemporaries sometimes called "mere toleration." The specter of religious violence especially Catholic violence- was bound up with the early modern case for toleration, which had provided for limited and private rights. But it does not seem to have had much to do with religious liberty, which provided for the rudiments of social and political equality, such as the freedom to collect money to one's own church and (for white males) to participate in politics regardless of religious affiliation. It was very hard to be religiously martyred during the Revolutionary and founding periods. Neither those with power nor those without it had the stomach for inflicting or enduring anything like it. However, it was still possible to be humiliated, inconvenienced, and disenfranchised. Religious Liberty freed most believers (and, to a lesser degree, nonbelievers) from these more prosaic forms of oppression. Its tools were the legal instruments that we now refer to as due process and equal protection.
A second, more subtle change took place that was Ultimately bound up with both the waning of arguments from religious violence and the rise of religious liberty as a constitutional and statutory phenomenon. The founding period marked a shift- of much longer duration, but concentrated m this period- in the conceptual defense of rights of conscience. There was a move from the protection of the body as the primary locus of religious experience, contestation, and oppression toward the protection of the mind as an autonomous source of feeling and understanding. Leading figures Ui the European enlightenment aimed to free the mind from both bodily impulses and the external pressures (sometimes called "forces") that acted indirectly through the body, a relationship that Protestants often framed in explicitly anti-Catholic terms. Elisha Williams, for example, contrasted "a Christian State, . . . where the sacred Scriptures Ue open to the People" to a "Popish State, where People's Eyes being put out, they are more easily induced to follow then Leaders."29 Likewise, the early eighteenth century Whig radicals, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, whose ideas gained significant traction in British America, excoriated Catholicism on the grounds that:
[W]hen people are taught to reverence butchers, robbers, and tyrants, under the reverend name of rulers, to adore the names and persons of men, though their actions be the actions of devils: Then here is a conformed and accomplished servitude, the servitude of the body, secured by the servitude of the mind, oppression fortified by delusion.. .. By this, the Turk and the Pope reign. They hold their horrid and sanguinary authority by false reverence, as much as by the sword.30
Yet even in Trenchard and Gordon's early eighteenth-century world, belief was well on its way to becoming one of many forms of "opinion."31 Leading advocates of rights of conscience during the Revolutionary and founding eras placed still greater emphasis on the freedom of the mind from the constraints of politics, society, and the law rather than the direct coercion that had once presented an overriding threat to such rights. The work of liberating the believer's body from actual physical force was an increasingly distant collective memory.
From Toleration to Religious Liberty
The convergence of these ideological changes- away from toleration, anti-Catholic justifications for religious liberties, and a focus on bodily suffering- is evident in the development of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which moved that state decisively away from religious inequality and begrudging toleration and toward a policy of equal religious liberty. In the decades preceding the American Revolution, colonial Virginia maintained an exclusive Anglican establishment and its provisions for toleration were murky at best and negligible at worst. Members of the colonial legislature made repeated efforts to pass a toleration bill. Each failed. As Independence neared, however, a new constitution was framed, preceded by a Declaration of Rights. The sixteenth and last section of this declaration provided for rights of conscience. The draft, principally authored by George Mason, read: "That religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; . . . therefore that aU men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion."
A young James Madison famously revised Virginia's Declaration of Rights in 1776, replacing Mason's phrase "the fuUest toleration" with his own: the "free exercise of religion." This was a momentous change that inaugurated an unambiguous turn away from toleration and toward religious Liberty. Less famously, Madison suggested another revision, the substitution of "violence or compulsion" for "force or violence." Unlike the substitution of free exercise for toleration, this one was rejected. The difference may seem inconsequential, but as the church-state historian Darnel Dreisbach notes, m provisionally replacing "force" with "compulsion" "Madison was expanding the protection afforded religious citizens to include a prohibition on all pressure or interference by the civil state m matters of conscience."32 The proposed revision would have better corresponded to the switch from toleration to equal free exercise as well as the elimination of civil support for religion, which Madison also proposed. Madison's substitution of "compulsion" for "force" suggests, too, that he regarded the term "force" as a close correlate of violence and therefore expendable. His proposal would have put "violence" at one end of a wide spectrum of illegitimate constraints on conscience that ran from mere inconveniences to severe physical cruelty. It would have nudged the commonwealth toward protecting individuals from the mundane infringements of the state while also sapping the singular poignancy of the conventional argument from violence. But it did not pass.
Whatever Madison intended by this proposed revision, the Declaration of Rights was adopted at a particularly rich moment in the semantic history of "violence." Violence was an elastic term in the eighteenth century. It was formally defined as an extreme manifestation of "force," and both force and violence were considered incompatible with sincere belief and the so-called "divine right of private judgment." As Boston Congregationalist Charles Chauncy had put it Ui 1739: "[T]he Use of Force, in Matters of Religion and Conscience, is not only contrary to the Example of Christ, and the Precepts of his Gospel; but to the Nature and Reason of Things. "Tis in it self a Method altogether unsuited [sic] to Work upon the Minds of Men. For whatever Influence it may have upon their Bodies, it can have none on their Souls."33 Though the term "violence" had long been used in several different senses, its exploitation was particularly acute during the years immediately preceding the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Amid the controversy over the proposal for an American Anglican bishop in the 1 760s and early 1770s, for instance, "violence" served a multitude of functions, characterizing everything from strong rhetoric to state executions (sometimes by the very same writers).34 One Virginia Anglican suggested that if given the chance, his dissenting opponents would stop "appeal[ing] to Argument," and turn "to Violence, or to one of the severest Methods of Persecution, namely, that of letting loose the inflamed Mob."35 Another overheated pro-bishop apologist complained that "[t]he Papists would burn us for being Protestants, and the Presbyterians and Independents would demolish us another way for being Papistsl"36
Nearly every eighteenth-century group and individual advocate of toleration had their own narrative of religious violence and suffering, some more plausible than others. Conservative Anglicans were unlikely targets of state-sponsored religious violence but they nonetheless dwelled on the beheading of Charles I, whom they called "the martyr," at the hands of Ohver Cromwell and his Presbyterian allies. For their part, Presbyterians and Congregationalists capitalized on a long tradition of sometimes severe Anglican persecution to advance their own campaigns against the Church of England. Even in the pre-Revolutionary era, the invocation of religious violence was mainly a polemical strategy, serving as a foü against which consensus could be buüt and denominational unity maintained, rather than a description of contemporary reaUty. Nonetheless, it spoke to the long association between the terrors of religious violence and the need to protect tender consciences from it.
James Madison's own interest m the effects of religious force, compulsion, and violence went beyond the merely semantic or anything that he might have taken from the contemporary bishop controversy. In the early 1770s, the recent Princeton graduate defended local Baptist preachers who were subject to beatings, whippings, and harrowing imprisonments for preaching without a license and disturbing the peace.37 If witnessing these sights was insufficient to evoke the fires at Smithfield or the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, then impact on Madison has to be weighed. This was religious violence as early tolerationists would have understood it, and it made a discernible impression on him. Yet Madison's position on rights of conscience was shaped by a new set of assumptions and expectations. As part of the campaign to defeat a law that would have established Christianity m Virginia and pass Jefferson's liberal law for religious freedom in its place, Madison wrote that state-funded religion "degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only m degree. The one is the first step, the other the last of the career of intolerance."38
Madison was not maintaining here, as had the authors of a series of anti-episcopate essays m the late 1760s, that religious establishments generate "pride" that "easily proceed[s] to inquisitions, tortures, and death."39 For him as for the tens of thousands of ordinary Virginians who signed petitions against state supported religion in the 1780s, the burning issue was not Catholic bloodletting nor the suffering of martyrs nor sectarian strife- nor, importantly, the imminence of any of them. It was instead the challenge of securing the most unassuming of liberties, such as the right to be married by your own clergyman, the right to preach without having to ob tarn a license from unsympathetic authorities, and the right to worship freely without enduring the many humiliations, small and large, that accompanied nonconforming status. Madison's focus was on providing protection from the everyday inconveniences and injustices that established religions perpetuated, and not from wars of religion or unjust executions. For him, compulsion and violence were part of the same continuum of coercion, infringing m a fundamental way on every believer's inalienable freedom to speak and worship according to the dictates of conscience. Guarding against brutal acts of violence represented the historical beginning, rather than the contemporary end, of religious liberty.
In the year after the VUginia Declaration of Rights passed, a leading proponent of religious Liberty, Rev. William Tennent of Charleston, South Carolina, developed a similar logic in making the case against religious establishments. Defending a 1777 petition on behalf of South Carolina's dissenters, Tennent distinguished between different forms of establishment and the varieties of injustice they perpetuated. First, there were the traditional establishments and the "savage cruelty" they inflicted- "fines, imprisonment, and death"- on dissenters. Such regimes, he suggested, could only be viewed "with horror" by his fellow South Carolinians. There were other forms of establishment "[o]f the same nature, though differing somewhat in the degree of then cruelty . . . which incapacitate good subjects who differ from the speculative opinions of the State." And then there was South Carolina's establishment, which did not cause direct physical harm or deprive citizens of fundamental rights of conscience, but instead maintained a monopoly of financial and legal privileges.
This was the religious establishment that Massachusetts's Worcestriensis had recently defended. It was neither overtly cruel nor systematically violent.40 It "molest [ed]" neither body nor soul. And precisely for those reasons, South Carolina Anglicans wondered how anyone could object to it. Having already acknowledged the distinction between regimes that maintained uniformity through "savage cruelty" and those that employed less extreme measures, Tennent attacked the social and political discrimination that lay at the heart of the current regime, asking whether his Anglican brethren would be satisfied with bare toleration and whether the citizens of "a free State that expect[ed] to gain its liberties by the sword" would fight for such paltry protections. Surely the assembly, "now unfettered by British violence, wül not permit the continuance of such a monument of inequality."41 The traditional terms of tolerationist apologetics were here. Then use and then context, however, were new, as was the conception of religious rights that Tennent was advancing.
Despite the efforts of Madison and Tennent, religious establishments persisted for another decade in Virginia and a few more years beyond that m South Carolina. In Virginia, the Statute for Religious Freedom effectively ended the debate. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and finally ushered to legislative passage by Madison m January 1786, this law laid the groundwork for the religious clauses of the First Amendment. Its preamble opened with the invocation of a presumed consensus: "Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either." The text advanced from this premise to the conclusion that civü and religious authorities cannot thereby establish "then own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others," before moving on to assert "that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions of physics or geometry."42
Readers of the Virginia Statute are often struck by Jefferson's stark assertion of the mind's rightful independence from external forces and his equation of religious belief with other forms of "opinion." The preamble seemed to offer an unapologetic justification for the inviolability of religious belief and simultaneously undermine its distinctive gravity as a mode of belief. After all, in Jefferson's estimation, religious "opinion" was no more intimately connected to civil rights than an individual's views on science. Jefferson's justification and the legal provisions against establishment that followed reflected a decisive break with the relatively limited provisions for dissenters that had been made in the colonial past. The statute is distinguished by the unprecedented latitude that it gave to the mind from "temporal punishments," "burdens" and "civil incapacitations"- all of the accoutrements of religious establishment. It was also distinguished by its application, which was universal. No form of belief (or unbelief ) was proscribed; nor did the law single out specific victims or perpetrators of religious persecution.
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and its preamble expanded upon the sentiments in that state's Declaration of Rights and similar measures passed in several other newly independent states. We can get a better sense of how rights of conscience were unhinged from an earlier framework that relied upon the threat of religious violence, the trope of anti-Catholicism, and the primacy of bodily experience by comparing the Virginia law with a less well-known argument from forty years before: a thanksgiving address before Maryland's governor that also championed the duty to preserve the autonomy of the mind and the body. The author, Anglican minister John Gordon, was a recent emigrant from Scotland.43 The sermon was delivered shortly after the slaughter of Scottish Highlanders by British forces at Culodden in April 1746, which had brought the most recent Jacobite uprising to a brutal conclusion. For Gordon, the mind could not be swayed, nor should anyone attempt to sway it by "torment ting] and punish[ing] the Body." How, he asked, "can you think to inform Mens Minds by putting their Bodies to Torture? Is it not evident that the Understanding cannot be compelled to the Belief of any Thing by outward Force?"
Gordon thought that if "Priests" (and by this, he clearly meant Catholic priests) were so confident in their religious doctrines, they should not fear objective investigation into them. He went on to ask in extended exclamation-laden passages whether those "who delight in Torture and Bloodshed" could number among Christ's true followers, and then to lament that a "pretended Zeal" to glorify God could lead some "to torment and butcher their Fellow Creatures, 'til Cruelty itself is weary of persecuting!" Gordon concluded this particular rhetorical flourish with a gesture toward Great Britain's "happy State" under a Protestant king who protected every individual in his religious belief, and ruled over a land where "Where are no bloody Inquisitions, no Statutes for burning of Heretics, no Padlock· upon Mens Understandings, no Persecution for the Sake of private Judgment and Difference of Opinion." There, "by the Blessing of a good Government, the ravenous, persecuting Spirit of Popery has nothing to devour."44 The language was obviously more graphic in its depiction of religious violence and religious suffering than Jefferson's. It was also considerably more specific in its identification of perpetrators and victims of religious violence: the latter were Protestants, the former Catholics.
Some important contextual caveats need to be presented: Gordon's 1746 thanksgiving address was composed following an extended, internecine conflict in Scotland and England Ui which Catholic-led Jacobite forces attempted to overthrow the Protestant Hanoverian regime. By contrast, Jefferson's text was composed amid a Revolutionary War effort that depended on French Catholic support and enacted at the end of a tough, albeit peaceful, battle over religious establishment in Virginia. Gordon was a devout minister, Jefferson an infamous freethinker. There is also the fact that Jefferson's preamble was just that- a preamble to a legislative act- and such texts tend toward the understated and the consensual. Political sermons were generally not quite as constrained.
Yet there was an opportunity in Jefferson's extended preamble to recapitulate what Protestants had long understood as the long, unhappy history of Catholic, or Catholic-inspired, religious violence. The 1777 New York Constitution had gestured in that direction when it justified its protections for religious Liberty. They were purportedly necessary "to guard against that spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests and princes have scourged mankind."45 Ui his own Notes on the State of Virginia, composed earlier that decade, Jefferson himself had steered closer to Gordon's rhetoric, recalling a long tram of violence against the unorthodox in the pursuit of religious uniformity and asserting that "[millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned ___ " Yet here as well, Jefferson neglected to cite recent examples or identify culprits.46 Instead, he offered a free-floating indictment of coercion in matters of faith.
The ideological gulf between Gordon's 1746 thanksgiving address and Jefferson's 1786 legislation corresponds to a broader shift away from anti-Catholicism during the Revolutionary era. More specifically, it illustrates the disentanglement of anti-Catholicism from arguments for rights of conscience.47 It also signals a shift m emphasis by advocates of rights of conscience from the repulsive specter of state torture for religious dissent and the spectacular violence of religious conflict toward an appeal for protections from the more prosaic burdens and less terrifying pressures imposed by religious establishment. Religious violence, whether vividly remembered or tremulously anticipated, might have been critical in building a case for toleration. But the religious liberty that most revolutionaries sought required a subtler kind of justification. The liberal provisions made for free exercise during the founding period were gratuitous if it was only protection against bodily harm or sectarian conflict that was sought. Whatever the causal chain and precise chronological sequence may have been, we have this correlation: the rhetoric of anti-Catholicism and invocations of religious bloodletting were at least partially displaced as appeals for religious liberty became more expansive.
Religious Liberty, Religious Violence, and the Turn from Anti-Catholicism
Historians have long puzzled over the noticeable turn away from anti-Catholicism during the Revolutionary years. The trajectory sketched here sheds some light on that change. The break was by no means unambiguous and some advocates of religious liberty (such as William Tennent) willingly acceded to, or even promoted, early state constitutional provisions that excluded Catholics from public office. Nonetheless, appreciating the longstanding prejudice of anti-Catholicism as part of a larger network of assumptions and antinomies whereby rights of conscience were understood to protect the body from inquisitorial torment, it becomes possible to appreciate the revolutionary decline of anti-Catholicism as the unintended victim of a broader transformation. Once claims for religious liberty were oriented toward the prosaic and away from the terrible, anti-Catholicism became a dispensable appendage of the campaign for religious liberty. The need for Catholic troops and French ships, as well as a broad shift toward religious civility, were obviously important as well. Still, it is notable that the revolutionary establishment of religious liberty in a largely Protestant country was not animated by lurid accounts of real or alleged Catholic atrocities. Instead, contemporary religious culture was rhetorically insulated and logically differentiated from the carnage that had defined earlier times and other places.
Madison's use of the phrase "torrents of blood" in his defense of Jefferson's bill for religious freedom and President George Washington's reference to the "horrors of spiritual tyranny" in his response to the United Baptists of Virginia functioned as conceptual capsules- condensed, enclosed evocations of a collective past that passed through the debate regarding religious post-Revolutionary establishments with little evident relationship to contemporary events.48 Like the reference in Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia to the "millions" brutally treated in pursuit of religious uniformity over the centuries, these references to religious violence were neither specific nor sustained.49 Nor were they bound up with the physical mechanics of belief; they did not have anything to say about how one moved from the experiences of the body to the imperatives of the mind. In contrast to the "heapes" of slaughtered bodies that the seventeenth-century New England Baptist Roger Williams had invoked in his revealingly titled defense of rights of conscience, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution (1644), the late eighteenth-century New England Baptist John Leland sought to protect the autonomy of the "mind" in his own The Rights of Conscience Inalienable, and Therefore Religious Opinions Not Cognizable by Law.50
If encounters with inquisitorial methods, or even the shadows of the Inquisition were distant collective memories in the early national period, there were now living, breathing, and sometimes vocal Roman Catholic citizens to answer to, including the feisty Irish emigrant and publisher Mathew Carey. Carey would not countenance conventional Protestant slurs on Catholicism, especially the longstanding hyperbole regarding papal indulgences. But as combative as he could be on issues involving the Catholic Church, Carey was willing to admit that it had gravely erred in its past treatment of religious dissent. In 1792, amid a larger defense of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia's newspapers, Carey called for "mutual forgiveness" with regard to the religious violence of the past. "Much is to be pardoned on all sides," he wrote.
Nearly every sect had committed atrocities. Whether it was "the horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew" or the "butcheries ... of the Catholics under Elizabeth," the sin of religious violence was well distributed among religious groups.51 Carey's was not a one-sided admission of guilt. A few years earlier the ecumenical Massachusetts Congregationalist David Osgood published a sermon that held both Protestants and Catholics responsible for early modern religious bloodletting: "The contending parties whether papists or protestants, and the different sects among each of these, however opposed Ui other respects, yet, all agreed in this one horrible point, 'that it was lawful to extirpate by fire and sword the enemies of the true religion, and such they reciprocally appeared to be in each other's eyes.'"52 Though this ignominious approach to religious differences had originated with "popery," Osgood concluded that both Catholics and Protestants would benefit from Christ's rebuke (Luke 9:56) to the disciples who failed to appreciate that he was there to save lives rather than destroy them.
There was of course something else happening in the 1770s and 1 780s that weighed against the old calculus: an extended civil rebellion against British rule. One perhaps unsurprising consequence was that actual contemporary violence was frequently discussed without reference to religious differences. In revolutionary rhetoric and imagery, blood was less upon the hands of Catholic inquisitors than it was upon the hands of British officers and soldiers, and the King himself-"the CRUEL, BLOODY, and UNNATURAL tyranny of GEORGE the Third."53 A very different kind of martyr- the patriot martyr- was being made on the battlefields of North America. Dissenters and non-dissenters now suffered together in a war for broadly applied freedoms and against a common civil enemy. The point was made by both Protestants and Catholics.
In building his case for the rights of South Carolina's dissenting Protestants, William Tennent asked if his audience could "imagine, that the numerous Dissenters who venture their all in support of American Freedom, would be fond of shedding their blood in this cause if they did not with confidence expect, that they should have justice done them, and that they should stand upon the same footing with their brethren?"54 Similarly decrying the limits remaining on Catholic religious liberty and office holding in the early state constitutions, Carey noted that, at the very same moment, "American soon was drinking up the best blood of Catholics, shed in defence of her freedom." He thought the contradiction worthy of tears.55 Powerful confirmation that the connection between violence and rights had shifted from the religious to the civil sphere came with Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address (1801). "[H]aving banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered," the new president cautioned, "we have yet gamed little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions."56
The revulsion that religious conflict and religious cruelty inspired and the corresponding identification with its victims does much to explain the early rise of toleration in England and its North American colonies. If we want to identify a link between torture, empathy, and the early history of human rights, it is hard to imagine a better laid path than through the tradition of religious toleration. But that does not, as some church-state analysis might suggest, get us to Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom and the First Amendment. Because, along the way, there is John Gordon and his exuberant anti-Catholicism. Gordon's excoriation of religious violence and his identification of such violence with French and Spanish popery was in keeping with the custom of early tolerationist antipathy toward a practice that seemed peculiarly popish.
By contrast, Jefferson's statute was neither a defense of toleration nor an anti-Catholic screed. Nor was it in any way explicitly about violence. Instead, it is an especially luminous example of the winding but discernible drift away from the framework in which appeals for rights of conscience had generally been made. Securing an expansive conception of such liberties required more than an elaboration of the individual's right to believe and worship as he or she pleased; the social, political, and linguistic context had to change as well. Religious violence was critical to the ideological foundation that made provisions for religious rights possible. The full rights-building enterprise, however, required a broader appreciation of the manifold injuries- the political disabilties imposed by religious tests, the social indignities resulting from dissenting status, and the economic costs wrought by preferential religious funding- that less conspicuous forms of religious intolerance might inflict.
1. Among the leading works on early U.S. church-state history are Thomas E. Buckley, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977); Thomas J. Curry, The First Freedoms: Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Derek H. Davis, Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Daniel L. Dreisbach, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution: The Case against Religious Correctness (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997); Leonard W. Levy, The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment, 2nd rev. ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Mark D. McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America's Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (DeKaIb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2004); William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630-1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971); Vincent Philip Muñoz, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); and Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: Beacon Press, 1953).
2. This same phrase, together with most of Article XVI, would later be proposed as language for the federal protection of religious liberties by North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Virginia. See Neil Cogan, ed., The Complete Bill of Rights: The Drafts, Debates, Sources, and Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 12-13. There were more oblique references to violence in the constitutions of Massachusetts (1780) and New Hampshire (1783). Massachusetts's constitution stated that "no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." In addition, as will be noted later in this article, New York's 1777 constitution referred to the "scourg[ing]" of "Mankind" by "weak and wicked Priests and Princes." See Cogan, ed., The Complete Bill of Rights, 21, 22, 26.
3. Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, 26-27.
4. I have especially benefited from the thinking of Christopher S. Grenda on the distinction between toleration and religious liberty. See his essay, "Faith, Reason, and Enlightenment: The Cultural Sources of Toleration in Early America," in The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America, ed. Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 30.
5. For a concise account of violence against Shakers in the Revolutionary period, see John Corrigan and Lynn S. Neal, Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 10910; also, Adam Jortner, "The Political Threat of a Female Christ: Ann Lee, Morality, and Religious Freedom in the United States, 1780-1819," Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 7, no. 1 (April 30, 2009): 179-204; and Stephen J. Stein, The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992). On the Revolutionary-era destruction of churches and religious symbols, see Susan Juster, "Iconoclasm Without Icons?: The Destruction of Sacred Objects in Colonial North America," in Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic, ed. Linda Gregerson and Susan Juster (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 236. For attacks on Anglicans and Anglican symbols especially, see Brendan McConvüle, The King's Three Faces: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 296-300.
6. There were exceptions to this rule. Among them was the vicious official and unofficial intimidation of Baptists in Pepperell, Massachusetts, in 1778, which the leading Baptist proponent of religious Liberty, Isaac Backus, detailed and used to illustrate his argument in Government and Liberty Described and Ecclesiastical Tyranny Exposed (Boston, 1778), 15-20. Also see William G. McLoughlin, Soul Liberty: The Baptists' Struggle in New England 1630-1833 (Hanover: Brown University Press, 1991), 191-92, 196-209.
7. Susan Juster, "What's 'Sacred' about Violence in Early America?: Killing, and dying, in the name of God in the New World," Common-place 6, no. 1 (October 2005), http://www.common-place.org/vol-06/no-01/juster/. Also see Juster, "Iconoclasm Without Icons?," 216-37. John Corrigan has demonstrated how biblical language and concepts, particularly those used to enjoin the Hebrews to exterminate the Amalekite tribe (in body and in memory), justified early American religious violence. See Corrigan, "Amalek and the Rhetoric of Extermination," in The First Prejudice, ed. Beneke and Grenda, 53-72. The claim here is that the violence that would have been recognized at the time as religious violence was relatively scarce.
8. On patterns of European religious coexistence, see Benjamin J. Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modem Europe (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2007).
9. William Cavanaugh points out that "there was virtually no significant interdenominational violence in the American colonies." "Undoubtedly," he adds, "the Establishment Clause was wise policy. What is dubious is the idea that that the Establishment Clause put an end to a war of all sects against all." See Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modem Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 136.
10. Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 36-37.
11. "Madison's Remonstrance" in Charles James, Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 260.
12. Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1 (1947). Revealingly, Pfeffer cited these lines- and not much else- in making the connection between the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious wars and the First Amendment. See Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, 26-27.
13. Justice Black's dissent in Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), 318-19.
14. Along these same lines of interpretation, the iconic church historian Sidney E. Mead wrote regarding American constitutional provisions for religious Liberty: "As a consequence [of the European Wars of religion] there developed a sheer weariness with divisions, a repugnance toward wars of extermination, and a widespread positive desire for peace and unity. And underneath it all was the growing suspicion that formal theological and liturgical differences were probably not of ultimate importance, and perhaps not even important enough to fight over." See Mead, "American Protestantism during the Revolutionary Epoch" Church History 22, no. 4 (December 1953): 279. More recently, discussing the founders' approach to religious Liberty, the philosopher and legal scholar Michael Sandel remarked: "We do not Uve on the brink of the wars of religion that gave toleration its first occasion." This was obviously true in the early 1990s when Sandel wrote that sentence. However, it would have also been true for someone writing about religious Liberty in the United States during the 1 770s and 1 780s. Sandel would no doubt agree with this point. What is important about his brief and otherwise innocuous remark here is the tendency toward historical condensation that it emblematizes. See Michael J. Sandel, "Freedom of Conscience, or Freedom of Choice?," in James Hunter, Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace: The Religious Liberty Clauses and the American Public Philosophy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1990), 86. In an important 1985 First Amendment case, Justice John Paul Stevens recalled the powerful language from the 1943 majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Bamette. "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." Majority opinion delivered by Justice Jackson in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Bamette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). This passage was quoted in Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), n. 39.
15. Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, ed. Samuel L. Caldwell, First Series, Vol. 3 (Providence: Narragansett Club, 1867), 7. John Locke wrote in his "Letter Concerning Toleration" that "it will be very difficult to persuade men of sense, that he, who with dry eyes, and satisfaction of mind, can deliver his brother unto the executioner, to be burnt alive, does sincerely and heartily concern himself to save that brother from the flames of hell in the world to come." See Locke, "Letter Concerning Toleration," in Political Writings of John Locke, ed. David Wootton (New York: Mentor, 1993), 405.
16. Juster, What's 'Sacred' about Violence in Early America?
17. Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, trans. Theodore Besterman (New York: Penguin, 1972), 396.
18. Early tolerationists count as the first "Liberals," in the words of the political philosopher Judith N. Shklar, in that they "put cruelty first." See Shklar, "Putting Cruelty First," Daedalus 111, no. 3 (Summer 1982): 17-27. On the association between religious violence, cruelty, and religious toleration in England, see Scott Grinsell, "The Idea of Religious Toleration and the Memory of the English Civil War, 1720-1776" (PhD diss., Oxford University, 2006); and Philippe Rosenberg, The Moral Order of Violence the Meanings of Cruelty in Early Modern England, 1648-1685 (PhD diss., Duke University, 1999); I am grateful to Dr. Grinsell for sharing a personal copy of his thesis with me.
19. John Leland, The Virginia Chronicle (Norfolk, 1790), 23. He continued: "Heaven has restrained the wrath of man, and brought auspicious days at last. We now sit under our vines and fig-trees, and there is none to make us afraid."
20. One exception was the 1772 Virginia bill for toleration. See Jon Sensbach, "Slaves to Intolerance: African American Christianity and Religious Freedom in Early America," in The First Prejudice, ed. Beneke and Grenda, 214.
21. For seventeenth-century tolerationists, the virtue of protections for nonconformists was not simply that it protected tender consciences; toleration possessed the additional virtue, it was repeatedly stated, of protecting the polity from the violence of the persecuted nonconformist. See, for instance, Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23: "Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full" (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005), 57.
22. William Perm, "An Address to Protestants of All Persuasions" (1679) in The Political Writings of William Perm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002), 204. The Scottish philosopher David Hume described the era of Roman Catholic dominance of England as one of "violent persecutions, or what was worse, a stupid and abject credulity." See Hume, The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688, 6 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983), EQ: 136. The quotation from Pennsylvania Governor John Perm appeared as part of a statement urging his colony to arms in 1 740. It also disavowed prejudice toward any one group of Protestants. See Perm, "Message from the Governor to the House of Representatives," The American Weekly Mercury, January 15,1 740. Weighing in on the question of religious liberty and religious establishment in colonial New York and Pennsylvania, an English minister made what may have seemed a persuasive distinction at the time: "The persecuting Zeal of the Papist is founded in Principle," he wrote, "and therefore urges on to Conversion from a Motive of Charity." By contrast, "[t]he persecuting Zeal of a Protestant is only founded in Passion; and therefore goes no farther than as it is urged by the Motive of Dislike." John Brown, On Religious Liberty (London, Philadelphia, 1763), v. It should be noted that even after the American Revolution, Thomas Paine was among those who still equated religious persecution (he called it "intoleration") with "the pope, armed with fire and faggot." See Paine, The Thomas Paine Reader, ed. Michael Foot and Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Books, 1987), 231.
23. Elisha Williams, The Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants: A Seasonable Plea for the Liberty of Conscience and the Right of Private Judgment in Matters of Religion (Boston: S. Kneeland and T. Green in Queenstreet, 1744), 44-45.
24. John Jay, "Address to the People of Great Britain," in The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A. M. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1890-93), Vol. 1 (1763-1781), http://oU.Libertyfund.org. On the relationship between the development of English conceptions of liberty and anti-Catholicism, see Clement Fatovic, "The Anti-Catholic Roots of Liberal and Republican Conceptions of Freedom in English Political Thought," Journal of the History of Ideas 66, no. 1 (January 2005): 37- 58.
25. Nathaniel Niles, Two Discourses on Liberty (Newburyport, MA: 1774), 38. Niles's sermons were given in June 1774, too early for hirn to have learned of the Quebec Act, though not necessarily for him to have learned of it when preparing his sermons for publication. His language does suggest that had such a measure in mind, U not the precise act itself.
26. Samuel Sherwood, "The Church's Flight into the Wilderness" (1776), in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805, ed. ElUs Sandoz, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), I: 519, 508.
27. "Worcestriensis," No. IV (September 4, 1776). This essay appeared in the Massachusetts Spy. It is reprinted in Dreisbach and Hall, ed., The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009), 274.
28. "Worcestriensis" favored what John Adams would later describe as the new state's "most mild and equitable establishment of religion," which preserved (in Adams's words) "the tender consciences of the people of Massachusetts" who felt duty-bound to sustain public displays of religion. For this quote from Adams, see John Witte Jr., "? Most Mild and Equitable Establishment of Religion': John Adams and the Massachusetts Experiment," in Religion and the New Republic: Faith in the Founding of America, ed. James H. Hutson (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), 2.
29. Williams, The Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants, 38.
30. "Of Reverence True and False," (June 1, 1723), in John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato's letters, or, Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious, and Other Important Subjects, ed. Ronald Hamoway, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995), ?: 907. Trenchard and Cato did elaborate in a less specifically non-Catholic way, noting that some "Protestants. . . had imposters of their own as cruel as the Pope, had their power been as great, and their hands as loose" (p. 907). On this, as on other matters, their views were echoed by the mid-eighteenth-century New York publicist William Livingston who wrote that "[a] religious Tyrant, is, of all the Tyrants in the World, the most untameable and sanguinary: He punishes you for your own Good; pains your Body, for the Health of your Soul; and breaks your Head, to illuminate your Mind." See The WATCH-TOWER No. XVm, New-York Mercury, March 24, 1755,
31. On growing concern with the protection of opinion, see J. G. A. Pocock, "Religious Freedom and the Desacralization of Politics: From the English Civil Wars to the Virginia Statute," in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History, ed. Merrill D. Peterson and Robert C. Vaughan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 43-73.
32. Daniel Dreisbach, "George Mason's Pursuit of Religious Liberty in Revolutionary Virginia," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 108, no. 1 (2000): 15.
33. Chauncy, The Only Compulsion Proper to be Made Use of in the Affairs of Conscience and Religion (Boston, 1739), 9. If there is a difference other than one of degree in the tolerationist literature, "force" tends to refer to the legitimate use of state power to influence religious belief and behavior, while "violence" refers to the illegitimate use of nonstate power (namely mob violence) or the non-legitimate and excessive use of state power (i.e., torture or the threat of torture). Noah Webster's dictionary follows Samuel Johnson's dictionary in making very little distinction between the terms, suggesting only that violence was an extreme and unjust use of force. See Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York 1828), 795; and Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language: In Which the Words are Deduced from Their Originals, and Illustrated in Their Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers, 2 vols. (New York AMS Press, 1967). First published 1755.
34. John Camm, An Address to the Merchants, Freeholders and All Other The Inhabitants of the Province of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1768), B.
35. John Camm, To the Reverend Mr. Thomas Gwatkin, on his Defence of the Protest, Virginia Gazette, August 15, 1771 [Purdie and Dixon].
36. "To the Anatomist," in A Collection of Tracts from the Late Newspapers (New York, 1769), 41.
37. For a detaüed popular account, see Steven Waldman, Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 2008), lOlff.
38. "Madison's Remonstrance" in James, Documentary History, 260.
39. "Centinel UI" (April 7, 1768), in The Centinel: Warning of a Revolution, ed. EUzabeth Nybakken (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1980), 102.
40. William Tennent, Mr. Tennent's Speech on the Dissenting Petition (Charleston, 1777), 7-9.
41. Ibid., 14.
42. The only oblique reference to violence was Jefferson's assertion that truth had "nothing to fear from the conflict" with error "unless" she was "disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate."
43. Gordon was a Scottish-born clergyman who was later elected the first Episcopal bishop of Maryland, though never consecrated. See Mary Starin, "The Reverend Doctor John Gordon," Maryland Historical Magazine 75, no. 3 (September, 1980): 167-91.
44. John Gordon, A Sermon on the Suppression of the Late Unnatural Rebellion (Annapolis, 1 746), 1 3 - 1 7.
45. Constitution of New York, April 20, 1777.
46. Jefferson also wrote: "At the common law, heresy was a capital offence, punishable by burning" and "Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error." See Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1982), 158.
47. On the history of colonial and revolutionary anti-Catholicism, see Francis D. Cogliano, JVo King, No Popery: Anti-Catholicism in Revolutionary New England (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995); Charles P. Hanson, Necessary Virtue: The Pragmatic Origins of Religious Liberty in New England (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998); and Owen Stanwood, "Catholics, Protestants, and the Clash of Civilizations in Early America," in The First Prejudice, ed. Beneke and Grenda, 218-40.
48. For the quotation from Washington, see Robert Baylor Semple, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia (Richmond: Pitt and Dickinson, 1894), 488. An echo of revulsion against severe persecution can also be detected in "A Landholder's" insistence that a "test-law is the parent of hypocrisy, and the offspring of error and the spirit of persecution. Legislatures have no right to set up an inquisition, and examine into the private opinions of men. Test-laws are useless and ineffectual, unjust and tyrannical; therefore the [U.S. Constitutional] Convention have done wisely in excluding tnis engine of persecution, and providing that no religious test shall ever be required." See "A Landholder, No. 7, December 17, 1787," in The Complete Bill of Rights, ed. Cogan, 76; John Witte Jr. cites several additional references to religious violence (used as counter-examples to the American experiment in religious liberty) in his Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 2nd ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 2004), 2-3. These too are lavish in their descriptions of early modern European violence, but generally nonspecific in the objects of their criticism.
49. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. David Waldstreicher (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 193.
50. John Leland, The Rights of Conscience Inalienable, and Therefore Religious Opinions Not Cognizable by Law, or, The High-Ftying Churchman, Stript of His Legal Robe, Appears a Yahoo (New London, 1791), 7-8.
51. Verax [Mathew Carey], The Calumnies of Verus or, Catholics Vindicated, from Certain Old Slanders Lately Revived in a Series of Letters, Published in Different Gazettes at Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1792), 20. For an illuminating discussion of this controversy, see Michael S. Carter, '"What Shall We Say to this Liberal Age?': Catholic-Protestant Controversy in the Early National Capital," U.S. Catholic Historian 26 (Spring 2008): 79-95. It is worth noting that Carey was still fending off charges of Catholic persecution three decades later, as well as offering counter-charges himself, appealing for "the divine doctrine of mutual forgiveness and forgetfulness of the crimes of ages of barbarous ignorance, insatiate rapacity, blind bigotry, infuriated fanaticism, and blood-thirsty cruelty." From the opening dedication of a pamphlet by Carey, employing the pseudonym "A Catholic Layman." See Letters on Religious Persecution: Proving, that Most Heinous Crime Has Not Been Peculiar to Roman Catholics, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: Griggs and Dickinson, 1829). This particular quote first appeared in the 1826 (fourth) edition. The first edition of the pamphlet appeared in 1817. For a discussion of this text and its appeal for forgiveness, see Margaret Abruzzo, "Apologetics of Harmony: Mathew Carey and the Rhetoric of Religious Liberty," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 134, no. 1 (January 2010), 23-24.
52. David Osgood, A Sermon, Preached at the Request of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company, in Boston, June 2, 1788 (Boston, 1788), 13. Osgood was quoting here from Joseph Priestley, An History of The Corruptions of Christianity, 2 vols. (Birmingham, 1782), ?: 191. In a later retrospective letter (1830), John Leland alluded to a history of Roman Catholic violence (referring to "crusades," the "inquisition," and "massacred" South Americans), but then gestured more ecumenically to Christianity's long and deplorable history of coUaboration with the state and the "pride, hypocrisy, and. ..worst kind of cruelty" that resulted. John Leland, "Extracts from a Letter to hon. R. M. Johnson" (March 29, 1830), in The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, including Some Events in His Life, Written by Himself, with Additional Sketches, &c, ed. L. F. Greene (New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), 569.
53. "The Crisis," No. XXII. As reprinted in The New-England Chronicle. June 17, 1775, 1.
54. Tennent, Speech on the Dissenting Petition, 17. Campaigning against an exclusive church establishment, Virginia's Hanover Presbytery referred to "the common blood and treasure of our countrymen of different names and opinions" that had expended in the name of equal rights. See James, "Petition of the United Clergy of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia" (May 26, 1784), in Documentary History, 230. Sarah Purcell observes that the America Revolution created a surfeit of martyrs for liberty. See Purcell, Sealed with Blood: War, Sacrifice, and Memory in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), esp. 22-23. For a vivid use of civil martyrology, see [David Daggett], An Oration, Pronounced in the Brick Meeting-House (New Haven, ), 17-18.
55. Carey, Calumnies of Verus, 10.
56. Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address" (March 4, 1801), in Thomas Jefferson: Writings, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Library of America, 1984), 493-95. A self-described "Old Whig" made the same point in 1787, noting that "[i]f in America we have not lighted up fires to consume Heretics in religion, if we have not persecuted unbelievers to promote the unity of the faith, in matters which pertain to our final salvation in a future world, I think we have aU of us been witness to something very like the same spirit, in matters which are supposed to regard our political salvation in this world." Such a spirit, given human nature, might one day lead again to violent religious persecution. See "An Old Whig, No. 5, November 1, 1787," in The Complete Bill of Rights, ed. Cogan, 76. Invocations of religious violence never went away, of course. Indeed, sixteen years after this, in a letter to Jefferson, John Adams remarked on recent religious controversy with characteristic cynicism: "What a mercy it is that these people cannot whip and crop and pUlory and roast as yet in the United States! If they could they would." Adams noted in particular that "the General of the Jesuits, and consequently aU his host have their eyes on this country," yet he also warned of similar schemes by the "Anglicans, Quakers, Anabaptists, Moravians, Swedenborgian, Methodists, Unitarians, and Nothingarians." See John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (May 18, 1817), in Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb, et al., 20 vols. (Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903-1904), 15: 118-19.
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"NOT BY FORCE OR VIOLENCE": RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE, ANTI-CATHOLICISM, AND RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE IN THE EARLY NATIONAL UNITED STATES