“Stepping Stone to an Establishment”: The 1785 Campaign Against the Religious Tax in Virginia
This chapter examines a Revolutionary-era petition campaign that in many ways set a template for secularist crusades of the nineteenth century. In 1785, James Madison rallied opposition to a religious tax in Virginia. Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” made a series of influential arguments about the proper relationship between religion and government. The campaign also prefigured some of the odd alliances that would mark subsequent campaigns, as Virginia’s Baptists launched their own petition drive in order to defeat the religious tax.