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Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty Hardcover – May 19, 2010


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Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty + God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (May 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195388062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195388060
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,433,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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. Daniel Clinkman, Reviews in History

About the Author


John A. Ragosta is currently the Robert C. Vaughan Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He received his PhD in history and his law degree from the University of Virginia. He has taught at Hamilton College, UVA, Randolph College, and George Washington University. Prior to earning his PhD, Dr. Ragosta practiced international trade law and litigation in Washington, DC. He also keeps bees in Culpeper, Virginia.

More About the Author

An award-winning author, Dr. Ragosta is a historian, lawyer, and beekeeper living in Rixeyville, Virginia. He is the Robert C. Vaughan Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and was the 2010-11 Gilder Lehrman Junior Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. His second book -- "Religious Freedom: Jefferson's Legacy, America's Creed" -- was released by the University of Virginia Press in April 2013; it is due out in paperback in the fall of 2014. He has taught history at Hamilton College, the University of Virginia, and Randolph College and law at the University of Virginia and George Washington University. Before returning to academia, Dr. Ragosta was an international trade and litigation partner at Dewey Ballantine LLP where he was deeply engaged in World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and other issues for the U.S. lumber, steel, semiconductor, motion picture and cable, and satellite launch industries. Dr. Ragosta has degrees in early American history, law, and physics-chemistry and has published in historical, legal, and scientific journals.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
John A. Ragosta offers a valuable contribution to the story of America's transition from a collection of largely theocratic colonies to a nation founded upon religious liberty and separation of church and state.

Focusing on Virginia in the 1770s and 1780s, Ragosta mines the data and documentary evidence from political leaders, establishment church preachers, and dissenters (Baptists and Presbyterians) pertaining to the fight for religious liberty and separation of church and state in Virginia. Virginia's political leaders in turn (including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington and Patrick Henry) utilized the Virginia model, encapsulated in Thomas Jefferson's 1786 Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom, in successfully campaigning for religious liberty and separation of church and state at the federal level, enshrined in 1791 in the First Amendment.

Thus, Virginia is pivotal to understanding why America was founded as a secular nation upon the principles of religious liberty and separation of church and state, and Ragosta systematically dispels contemporary evangelical mythologies that posit America's founding as a Christian nation.

More to the point, however, Ragosta's work examines the manner in which minority, persecuted, Christian dissenters in Virginia transitioned from a position of powerless within a theocratic colony (the established church was Anglican) in the early 1770s, to successfully dethroning Virginia's theocracy by the late 1780s.

In Ragosta's narrative, Virginia's need for rifles in the revolution against Great Britain provided an opening for dissenters to emerge from prisons and disenfranchisement and engage political processes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eric James on May 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Length: 2:04 Mins
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. L. LaCroix on May 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I almost despaired of finishing this book at first. In fact I was going to quit after chapter 4 but then it switched to "After the War" and became the book I'd expected and hoped for from the title.

The author must have felt the need to really back up and justify his conclusions so made sure there was no doubt he'd done his research. But research can be dry and I didn't want to retrace every step of his learning process, however I did want to know what he learned. I expect to be able to look at the notes (of which there are plenty) at the back of the book and check it out if I doubt him. After reading those first 4 chapters, I didn't doubt his research.

If you counted the words "dissent" and "dissenters" and eliminated them from the book, it would be half as long. Where was an editor to make this less cumbersome and more interesting?

Chapters 5, 6 and the Epilogue were very good, partly because by that time I had complete faith that he'd done his homework and partly because it was such a relief to read something interesting.

I'd recommend the book, but advise people to skim the first part and enjoy the last part, unless you're really, really interested in dry facts about the dissenters (Presbyterians and Baptists) in Virginia. I'm glad they were smarter than the current Puritans in our country, at least, or we WOULD be a Christian nation, whether we liked it or not.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazingly detailed and a true eye-opener on American history in regards to separation of church and state.
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