On May 10, 1776, the Second Continental Congress sitting in Philadelphia adopted a Resolution urging each of the British colonies in North America “to adopt such government as shall . . . best conduce” in response to the impending crisis with Great Britain. A suitable preamble was passed on the May 15 following, and Congress then directed that the document be released to the public. The Resolution of May 15 set in motion a round of constitution making in the colonies, several of which soon declared themselves sovereign states and severed all remaining ties to the British Crown. In forming these written constitutions, the delegates to the state conventions were forced to address the issue of church-state relations. Each colony had unique and differing traditions of church-state relations rooted in the colony’s peoples, their country of origin, and religion, and the state constitutional framers had to confront the issue of religion, which many would have preferred to put off.
This unique volume, comprising twenty-one original essays by eminent historians and political scientists, is a state-by-state account of disestablishment in the original thirteen states, as well as a look at similar events in the soon-to-be-admitted states of Vermont, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Also considered are disestablishment in Ohio (the first state admitted from the Northwest Territory), Louisiana and Missouri (the first states admitted from the Louisiana Purchase), and Florida (wrestled from Spain under U.S. pressure).