Religious Tolerance?

Of course, he could not have been more wrong. Jefferson did not understand the political forces behind his and Madison’s success in getting his bill for religious freedom through the Virginia legislature. He may have thought that most Virginians accepted the enlightened thinking in his preamble, but the bill would never have passed without the overwhelming support of growing numbers of dissenting evangelical Presbyterians and Baptists in the state who hated the Anglican establishment so much that they did not care what the preamble said. It was not enlightened rationalism that drove these evangelicals but their growing realization that it was better to neutralize the state in matters of religion than run the risk of one of their religious opponents gaining control of the government.

Wood, Gordon S. (2009). Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States) (Kindle Locations 10694-10699).

 

Wood also notes that Jefferson did a lot sucking up to the religious around in an effort to diffuse earlier statements he had made about religious belief which most Americans would have found blasphemous.  His private views had not changed, but he knew that this was otherwise an effective political weapon against him, so he changed his tune to a degree (attending church, etc.).  Classic.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: