First Amendment Timeline #4


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

First Amendment Timeline #4

Connecticut passes the first dissenter statute and allows “full liberty of worship” to Anglicans and Baptists.


New York publisher John Peter Zenger is tried for libel after publishing criticism of the Royal Governor of New York. Zenger is defended by Andrew Hamilton and acquitted. His trial establishes the principle that truth is a defense to libel and that a jury may determine whether a publication is defamatory or seditious.


The State of Virginia jails 50 Baptist worshipers for preaching the Gospel contrary to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.


Eighteen Baptists are jailed in Massachusetts for refusing to pay taxes that support the Congregational church.


Virginia’s House of Burgesses passes the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The Virginia Declaration is the first bill of rights to be included in a state constitution in America.


Thomas Jefferson completes his first draft of a Virginia state bill for religious freedom, which states: “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” The bill later becomes the famous Virginia Ordinance for Religious Freedom.


The Continental Congress adopts the final draft of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.


The Virginia legislature adopts the Ordinance of Religious Freedom, which effectively disestablished the Anglican Church as the official church and prohibited harassment based on religious differences.


Originally published in New York newspapers as The Federalist and widely reprinted in newspapers throughout the U.S., The Federalist Papers are a unique collection of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay urging ratification of the Constitution. In Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton writes on the subject of the liberty of the press, declaring that “the liberty of the press shall be inviolably preserved.”