TOLERATION ACTS provided for varying degrees of religious liberty in the American colonies. In New England, where the Congregational Church enjoyed legal establishment, the law required taxpayers to support the Puritan churches. Strong dissent in Massachusetts and Connecticut during the early eighteenth century resulted in legal exemptions for Quakers, Baptists, and Episcopalians. Rhode Island was the exception in New England, granting full freedom of worship.
The middle colonies offered broad religious liberty. William Penn's Charter of 1682 provided for freedom of conscience to all Pennsylvanians who believed in God. Later, however, royal pressure forced the legislature to restrict liberties for Jews and Catholics. The New Jersey proprietors offered religious liberty in order to attract settlers. In New York, although the Anglican Church enjoyed official establishment, the realities of religious diversity and local control resulted in de facto religious liberty for most denominations.
The Anglican Church was stronger in the southern colonies and often encroached on dissenters' religious practice, particularly in Virginia and Maryland. Virginian evangelicals met with resistance, as did Maryland Catholics, although the latter enjoyed protection under the Toleration Act of 1649. Georgia's royal charter (1732) confirmed religious liberty for all except Catholics. In North Carolina, Anglicans maintained tenuous power.
The American Revolution reinforced the doctrine of individual liberty, including religious freedom. Most state constitutions framed in this era sanctioned freedom of conscience to some extent. Local religious establishment continued in many states (until Massachusetts separated church and state in 1833). The Northwest Ordinance (1787) extended religious liberty to the Northwest Territory. The First Amendment of the federal Constitution forbade Congress to abridge the free exercise of religion.
Bonomi, Patricia U. Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Curry, Thomas J. The First Freedoms: Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Hall, Timothy L. Separating Church and State: Roger Williams and Religious Liberty. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
Isaac, Rhys. The Transformation of Virginia, 1740–1790. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982.
"Toleration Acts." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/toleration-acts
"Toleration Acts." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved January 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/toleration-acts
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.