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Religion in American History and Politics

Selected and introduced by Sarah A. Morgan Smith


This volume draws together twenty-five primary documents through which readers may trace central themes in the long, complex story of religion and politics in American history. It is the first in a series of primary document collections intended to capture the depth and rich variety of American religious experiences and the ways in which such experiences relate to other social and political developments. The volumes, we hope, will open new pathways for investigating the course of American history in the conviction that as we learn to better understand the past, we are better equipped to face and shape our civic future.

Along with other projects of the Religion in American History and Politics program of the Ashbrook Center, this first publication aims to illuminate not only the influence of religion on American politics and history, but also the influence of America on the religious convictions and practices of her citizens.


Table of Contents

Documents Include:

  • Laws, Rights, and Liberties Related to Religion in Early America (1610-1682)
  • George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)
  • John Quincy Adams, An Address…Celebrating the Declaration of Independence (1821)
  • Abraham Lincoln, The Temperance Address (1842)
  • Benjamin Morgan Palmer, “Baconianism and the Bible” (1852)
  • Henry Ward Beecher, “The Moral Theory of Civil Liberty” (1869)
  • E.L. Youmans, “Herbert Spencer and the Doctrine of Evolution” (1874)
  • A.C. Dixon, “The Bible at the Center of the Modern University” (1920)
  • Martin Luther King, “Can a Christian Be a Communist?” (1962)
  • Barack Obama, Address at Cairo University (2009)