N OTES AND D OCUMENTS Beyond the Wall Reinterpreting Jefferson's Danbury Address JOHANN N. NEEM In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson replied to an address from a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association. He thanked them for their ``esteem and approbation'' and used the opportunity to respond to longstanding Federalist and ministerial attacks on Jefferson's supposed atheism. Rather than express his own religious views, historians generally argue, Jefferson's response instead focused on the importance of protecting religious freedom. From a political angle, this position strengthened the ties between New England's dissenters and Jefferson's Republican party. From an intellectual perspective, it represented Jefferson's own deep commitment to the separation of church and state. As he wrote in his letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, the first amendment of the federal constitution erected a ``wall of separation between church and State.''1 Johann N. Neem is assistant professor of history at Western Washington University. He is completing his manuscript, ``Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts.'' The author thanks Ari Helo, James H. Hutson, Robert M. S. McDonald, Peter S. Onuf, Leonard J. Sadosky, Gordon S. Wood, and the JER's reviewers for their comments. 1.
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Feb 23, 2007