From Theocracy To Religious Liberty: Connecticut's Journey from Thomas Jefferson's "Wall of Separation" Letter to a State Constitution, as Told Throug
"Right-wing theocracy was defeated in America - 200 years ago, in a story with startling parallels to our time ... What a story it is It's a tale of two clashing partisan identities that's strikingly similar to our world today ... It's a source of inspiration and instruction for all of us in the midst of our own very dark time." - Salon.com
One party were the conservatives, the party that believed the rich should rule, feared that more people being able to vote would put them out of power, regarded immigrants with contempt, and hypocritically boasted of having "all the religion." Their clergy preached that it was a religious duty to vote for this party. They raised alarms that religion was in danger from the other party, and claimed that this other party would even try to undermine the institution of marriage. They spread a plethora of the craziest conspiracy theories, and predicted that all manner of anarchy and vice would result if the other party got into power, proclaiming themselves the party of law and order. No, not today's Republicans; but the Federalist party of the early 1800s in New England, and particularly in their stronghold of Connecticut.
On January 1, 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote his now-famous letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists, in which he coined the phrase "separation between church and state."
Jefferson was replying to an address from the Danbury Baptist Association in which the Baptists, after congratulating him on his election to the presidency, told him of the oppression they faced as a dissenting sect under the Congregationalist-Presbyterian theocracy of their state.
It would be another fifteen years before Jefferson, upon hearing of the Republican victory in the 1817 Connecticut election, would write to John Adams:
"I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character."
This book, through newspaper articles from the time (including much political poetry and satire), tells the story of the decade-and-a-half-long struggle of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans to overthrow the Federalists and transform Connecticut from a "protestant popedom," as Jefferson put it, into a state with a constitution that guaranteed religious freedom.
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