Header image  
line decor
line decor


The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina

Edited by James Lowell Underwood and W. Lewis Burke
Introduction by Walter Edgar

The struggles of six diverse groups to garner religious freedom in the face of Anglican dominance

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. A government-sponsored denomination, the Church of England received tax-funds from all property-holders, church members or not, and participation in the political process often depended on religious qualifications. 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 Africans, 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.

The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina is augmented with an introduction by Walter Edgar, director of the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, the Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies, and the George Washington Distinguished Professor of History.

James Lowell Underwood is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law at the University of South Carolina Law School. His past books include four volumes on the Constitution of South Carolina and At Freedom's Door: African American Founding Fathers and Lawyers in Reconstruction South Carolina.

W. Lewis Burke is a professor and director of clinics at the University of South Carolina Law School and coeditor of At Freedom's Door and Matthew J. Perry: The Man, His Times, and His Legacy.

"The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina explores the checkered history of religious toleration in the colonial Carolinas from the earliest settlements into the five decades following independence. From the perspectives of various religious groups, the book's contributors delineate the smoldering tension between post-Restoration 'tolerance' and the growing strength of Anglicanism, both institutionally and electorally. Sensitive to the political and cultural aspects of religious belief, the authors provide broad coverage of a topic as vital today as it was in the seventeenth century."—Herbert A. Johnson, professor emeritus, University of South Carolina School of Law

"This collection of well-documented and well-written essays will edify specialists and new readers alike. The authors adduce much fresh evidence to show how colonial South Carolina tolerated a surprisingly large number of religious groups and after statehood gradually extended religious freedom to all. Although it delayed the dawn of religious freedom for some religious groups, nineteenth-century South Carolina proved surprisingly progressive and expansive in its protection of religious freedom."—John Witte Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, Atlanta



book jacket for The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina


6 x 9
248 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-621-7
cloth, $39.95s

W. Lewis Burke
Orville Vernon Burton
Peter Clarke
Belinda Gergel
Richard Gergel
David Herr
Alexander Moore
W. Scott Poole
Bernard E. Powers Jr.
James Lowell Underwood

    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press