Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty

John A Ragosta (Author)

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
May 19, 2010
6.25 X 0.92 X 9.49 inches | 1.14 pounds

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About the Author

John A. Ragosta is an instructor at the University of Virginia School of Law and received his PhD in history from the University of Virginia.


"Focused, persuasive, and meticulously researched .Helps us to more precisely understand the true implications of the Great Awakening as well as the threat of establishing an Anglican bishop as catalysts to American independence."--Episcopal History

"A timely and useful book. Ragosta's insistence on the agency of dissenters is refreshing and timely. This book makes a worthy contribution to the ongoing study of religious freedom in the United States."--Church History

"Relying on an impressive array of court records, letters, diaries, newspapers, sermons, denominational histories, and, most importantly, hundreds of petitions sent to the Virginia legislature...Ragosta leaves no doubt that dissenters were key players in Virignia's transformation from an Anglican stronghold to a bellwether of religious freedom. An innovative and important book that sheds new light on Revolutionary loyalty, military mobilization in Virginia, and the origins of religious liberty in America."--American Journal of Legal History

"This engaging, revisionist study reveals in new detail the contribution of dissenters-especially Baptists and Presbyterians-to the triumph of religious freedom in late-eighteenth-century Virginia. First bartering their support of the Revolution for greater toleration, the newly politicized dissenters turned after the war to public meetings and vast petitioning campaigns to push for the complete separation of church from state finally delivered in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. No one has examined this story with a sharper eye than John Ragosta."--Patricia U. Bonomi, New York University

"Combining wonderful research with significant insights into Revolutionary-era America, John Ragosta adds new support for the assertions that religious establishment, in any of its forms, resulted in extensive persecution of dissenters and that the process of disestablishment was extremely contentious. Ragosta's work will likely become required reading for scholars in the history of the separation of church and state."--Mark D. McGarvie, author of One Nation Under Law: America's Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State

"Wellspring of Liberty is a detailed and important study of how Virginia's religious dissenters demanded religious concessions in exchange for their support of the American Revolution, and it outlines the piecemeal, incremental nature of wartime and post-war religious reforms. This study significantly attributes much of the republicanization of Virginia to the dissenters who successfully negotiated, in a forced dialogue with establishment leaders, for disestablishment and religious freedom. Ragosta convincingly finds that the Revolutionary War was the wellspring of both republicanization and religious liberty."--Nancy L. Rhoden, The University of Western Ontario

"In addition to offering a compelling, well-documented narrative of dissenters' path to power, the author sheds light on the contemporary public discourse concerning the role of religion in the founding years of the American nation. This volume is a valuable addition to the shelves of historians, theologians, and the general public."--Baptist Studies Bulletin

"The great appeal of Ragosta's book lies in its ability to increase our understanding
of the ideological genealogy of religious freedom...[It] presents an interesting and detailed portrait of the politicization of Virginia's religious dissenters that will undoubtedly be useful for students of Virginia's religious history."--Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

"Ragosta makes a valuable contribution to the field by showing how religious disestablishment in Virginia, which became the template for freedom of religion at the national level, was the hard-won product of political and military mobilization during the War of Independence and the early years of the peace. As a social history, it is a superb telling of an inadequately explored part of the revolution in Virginia. Wellspring of Liberty deserves to take a prominent place on the shelf of religious and social history during the American Revolution."--Reviews in History

"This creative and accessible work is required reading for scholars of the Revolution, and it offers important revisions to the history of church and state in early America."--North Carolina Historical Review

"Remarkably detailed and informative. Indeed, no one has told the story better...Ragosta's book should become a staple among those books that examine the early history and development of the American ideal of separation of church and state. Works like this one that inform and help clarify a complex issue are of considerable value to scholars and students alike."--American Historical Review

"Ragosta's focused, persuasive, and meticulously researched argument has the potential to change how we think about nonconforming religion and the struggle for independence...Wellspring of Liberty not only provides insight into the particulars of the conflict for the largest, most populous, and richest colony--sometimes contrasting the situation in Virginia with the situation in other southern colonies as well--it helps us to more precisely understand the true implications of the Great Awakening as well as the threat of establishing an Anglican bishop as catalysts to American independence."--Anglican and Episcopal History

"[Ragosta] presents a fascinating account for his readers about the established church's control slipping from its grasp, the dissenters' eventual success, and our inheritance of religious freedom."--Religioust Studies Review