Prof. Carl H. Esbeck recently published a chapter in an anthology on law and religion in a multi-volume collection, Historical Introduction to Law and Religion in the West. The anthology is issued by Ashgate Publishing Ltd. in the United Kingdom.
Prof. Esbeck’s chapter concerns religion and religious liberty during the American War of Independence and its aftermath. The extended essay is juxtaposed with another on the French Revolution, providing a comparison of the role religion played in these revolutions that continue to shape the modern world. In addition to the American Revolution itself, which unfolded over 1775 – 1783, the chapter points out how changes within American Protestantism had a leveling effect on society and, during the early years of the republic, the political and religious culture exalted liberty, individualism, and the voluntary church.
Where American patriots might have suffered divisions due to religion, the denominations instead united in support of the Revolution. The unity of Protestants among themselves (excepting Quakers and Church of England) and with the Enlightenment-rationalists behind the War-time effort was widespread. Rationalists, in turn, were able to join with Protestants regarding an organization of the central government which respected conscience and left authority over religion in the States.