The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina

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James L. Underwood, William Lewis Burke
University of South Carolina Press, 2006 - History - 222 pages
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Although South Carolina's colonial charter promised a safe harbor of religious freedom for these who were oppressed, eighteenth-century religious minorities in the colony found their rights were subjugated to those of the Anglicans. The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina contains eight essays by historians and legal scholars that trace the quest for religious equality by Protestant dissenters, Huguenots, Jews, Quakers, Afro-Carolinians, and Roman Catholics. Uncovering the historical roots of the separation of church and state, the contributors use South Carolina's experience to illustrate that religious freedom is more secure when widely shared. South Carolina was a beacon of religious freedom when compared to many other North American colonies. The contributors recount the incremental steps that culminated with the 1790 Constitution's grant of "free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference." Separate chapters revisit the experiences of the Huguenots, who found themselves caught in a political crossfire between Anglicans and Protestant dissenters; the Quakers, who ultimately left the state because of their inability to reconcile with the principles of a slaveholding society; the Afro-Carolinians, who created "psychological living space" through religion while their masters watched nervously for signs of rebellion; and the evangelicals, whose emphasis on equality before God brought ideas about egalitarianism to South Carolina society. The volume's contributors also enumerate Catholic and Jewish efforts to gain religious equality, and recount the leading roles played by such individuals as Jewish patriot Francis Salvador, Catholic bishop John England, and statesman Charles Pinckney.

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About the author (2006)

Burke is a professor of law at the University of SC and author of a book on consumer law.

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