Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014


Jurists, scholars, and popular writers routinely assert that the men who framed and ratified the First Amendment were influenced by James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance (1785) and Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Liberty (1786). In this essay I demonstrate that there is little evidence to support these claims. Because these documents represent only one approach to church-state relations in the era, jurists and others who believe that the religion clauses should be interpreted in light of the founders’ views need to look well beyond these texts if they want to understand the First Amendment’s “generating history.”


Originally published in American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, vol. 3, number 1, pages 32-63. (Spring 2014).