Political and Religious Liberties After American Revolution
Before the Revolution, the majority of colonies supported religious institutions with public money and discriminated in voting in elections and holding office against Jews, Catholics, and Dissenting Protestants. On the eve of independence, Baptists who refused to pay taxes for supporting local ministers of congregations were being jailed. Nevertheless, religious and political liberties expanded after the Revolution, with religious toleration becoming one of the most important “causes of Freedom.” As a result of the War of Independence, the deeply-rooted tradition of American anti-Catholicism weakened. This occurred due to the crucial assistance of France in facilitating American victory, which led to the strengthening of the idea that Catholics had a role to play in forming a newly independent nation.
Another important development was concerned with the separation of Church and state that would free politics and intellectual affairs from religious control. After the Revolution, states disestablished their churches and deprived them of public funding and special privileges associated with legal matters. Nevertheless, colonial leaders were not hostile to religion and believed that personal virtue was the framework for establishing a free society and that, following the same logic, religious and political freedom was necessary for developing virtue. The principles of freedom allowed people to participate in the newly-expanded public sphere and elect individuals who would represent their views based on the religious and political perspectives adopted by specific populations — a broad diffusion of knowledge, opinions, and approaches to public life. As mentioned by Jefferson, no nation could expect to be ignorant and free at the same time. The Revolution facilitated a push in the direction of societal development and the dissemination of diverse ideas that would make the nation stronger.