Religion and Politics in the Early Republic
Jasper Adams and the Church-State Debate
In an 1833 sermon, "The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States," the Reverend Jasper Adams of Charleston, South Carolina, an eminent educator and moral philosopher, offered valuable insight into the social and political forces that shaped church-state relations in his time. Adams argued that the Christian religion is indis-pensable to social order and national prosperity. Although he opposed the establishment of a state church, he believed that a Christian ethic should inform all civil, legal, and political institutions.
Adams's remarkably prescient discourse anticipated the emergence of a dominant secular culture and its inevitable conflict with the formerly ascendant religious establishment. His treatise was the first major work from the embattled religious traditionalists controverting Thomas Jefferson's vision of a secular polity and strict church-state separation.
Eager to confirm his analysis, Adams sent copies of the sermon to scores of leading intellectuals and public figures of his day. In this volume, Dreisbach brings together for the first time Adams's sermon, a critical review of the treatise, and transcripts of previously unpublished letters written in response to it by James Madison, John Marshall, Joseph Story, and J.S. Richardson. These letters provide a rare glimpse into the minds of several influential statesmen and jurists who were central in shaping the republic and its institutions. The Story and Madison letters are among their authors1 final and most perceptive pronouncements on church-state relations.
The documents that Dreisbach has assembled in this edition provide a vivid portrait of early nineteenth-century thought on the constitutional role of religion in public life. Our ongoing national discussion of this topic is illuminated by the debate encapsulated in these pages.
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"Pinpoints secularism and pluralism as key issues shaping early nineteenth-century debate over church-state relations."—Journal of Southern History
"The book will be of interest to anyone interested in religion and politics or American history. In addition, because the book makes available obviously important primary source documents, it should be placed on the shelves of every serious academic library."—Review of Religious Research
"The data of this book bear serious scrutiny."—The Christian Statesman
"Dreisbach's book is worthy of serious attention."—University Bookman
"Dreisbach has done an important service in returning this little-studied controversy to the public debate."—American Journal of Legal History
|University Press of Kentucky|
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