This book, The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame Press 2009), is not brand-new, but it is a wonderful introduction to some lesser-known but deeply interesting thinkers in early America. The book is a collection of essays on the views of these early Americans with respect to the role of religion in civil society, authored by several highly respected historians, most especially Daniel Dreisbach. The publisher’s description follows. — MOD
This interdisciplinary volume brings together essays on eleven of the founders of the American republic—Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Thomas Paine, Edmund Randolph, Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman, and Mercy Otis Warren—many of whom are either little recognized today or little appreciated for their contributions. The essays focus on the thinking of these men and women on the proper role of religion in public life, including but not limited to the question of the separation of church and state. Their views represent a wide range of opinions, from complete isolation of church and state to tax-supported clergy.
These essays present a textured and nuanced view of the society that came to a consensus on how religion would fit in the public life of the new nation. They reveal that religion was more important in the lives and thinking of many of the founders than is often portrayed and that it took the interplay of disparate and contrasting views to frame the constitutional outline that eventually emerged.