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Amendment I (Religion)



Document 15

Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists

20 Nov. 1772Writings 2:352--53

As neither reason requires, nor religeon permits the contrary, every Man living in or out of a state of civil society, has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience.--

"Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty" in matters spiritual and temporal, is a thing that all Men are clearly entitled to, by the eternal and immutable laws Of God and nature, as well as by the law of Nations, & all well grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.--

In regard to Religeon, mutual tolleration in the different professions thereof, is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced; and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind: And it is now generally agreed among christians that this spirit of toleration in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society "is the chief characteristical mark of the true church"1 & In so much that Mr. Lock has asserted, and proved beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only Sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach Doctrines subversive of the Civil Government under which they live. The Roman Catholicks or Papists are excluded by reason of such Doctrines as these "that Princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those they call Hereticks may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion of Government, by introducing as far as possible into the states, under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty and property, that solecism in politicks, Imperium in imperio2 leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war and blood shed--

The natural liberty of Men by entring into society is abridg'd or restrained so far only as is necessary for the Great end of Society the best good of the whole--

  1. See Locks Letters on Toleration.

  2. A Government within a Government--


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 15
http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions15.html
The University of Chicago Press

The Writings of Samuel Adams. Edited by Harry Alonzo Cushing. 4 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904--8.

Easy to print version.


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