Synopses & Reviews
No American living in 1800 would have predicted that Thomas Jefferson's idiosyncratic views on church and state would eclipse those of George Washington, let alone become constitutional dogma. Yet today's Supreme Court guards no doctrine more fiercely than Jefferson's antagonistic wall of separation between church and state. The most admired man of his age, Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention and was president when religious freedom was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Washington considered religion essential for the virtue required of self-governing citizens. Though careful not to favor particular sects, he believed that a democracy must not merely accommodate religion but encourage it. Ross and Smith combine a study of Washington's thought with a copious appendix containing the full texts of his letters, speeches, and official documents on issues of church and state. They present his views chronologically, devoting a chapter to each stage of his career. An epilogue explains how Jefferson's separationist perspective achieved its disproportional influence on the modern Supreme Court.