I have a longstanding, though slowly developing thesis that the American Revolution was really just an extension, an aftershock rippling through history, of the Protestant Revolution (recall that I do not use the term “Reformation,” for it reformed nothing) and the Wars of Religion that followed in its aftermath.
Protestant religion and its Deistic derivative combined with “Enlightenment” ideology were a toxic brew that led not to a pro-active struggle for freedom and justice for all, but a reactive revolution against state sponsored Roman Catholicism and its own state-sponsored Protestant derivative, Anglicanism. In short, the American revolution was an anti-Catholic reaction whereby men of the “Enlightenment,” be they Protestant or mundane Deist, sought to replace the religious virtues of Christendom with secular virtues of a new Protestant/”Enlightened”- only state. Even after Catholics won the right to worship, “Separation of Church and State” was built as like a towering edifice to prevent Catholics from assuming their traditional dominant role in politics. The objective was not to keep Protestantism and Enlightenment ideology out of politics. The objective was to keep Roman Catholicism out of politics.
To this point, note that one of the main driving forces behind the 1st Continental Congress was King George’s Quebec Act. Prior to the Quebec Act, it was illegal for a Catholic to sit on any British colonial council. The Test Act forced a Catholic to renounce his Catholic faith before being allowed to sit. However, in a grand gesture to the French Canadians now under his reign (after the British ran off the Catholic French authorities), the Test Act was made inoperative through the Quebec Act. Catholics in Quebec could sit on legislative councils in Canada. This drew horrified ire from the ruling colonial oligarchy. That Catholics could sit on a council in the royal realm was tantamount to treason and Popery of the highest order!
To wit, Article 10 of the local Boston, Suffolk county, convention read:
“That the late act of Parliament for establishing the Roman Catholic Religion in that extensive country, now called Canada, is dangerous in an extreme degree to the Protestant religion and to the civil rights of all Americans; and, therefore, as men and Protestant Christians, we are indispensably obliged to take all proper measures for our security.” (Coulombe, Puritan Empire).
Alexander Hamilton would chime in:
“The Roman Catholic faith is made the established religion of the land (Canada) and his Majesty is placed as the head of it… They may as well establish popery in New York and the other colonies as they did in Canada.” (Coulombe, Puritan Empire)
This issue was the key prelude to war, and “Separation of Catholicism and State” was the true driver. The general cry of “Separation of Church and State”; though not phrased as such in the constitution – this would be manifest more directly in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists – became generalized for all sects, as Protestantism had no use (and still does not have it would seem) for any type of state sponsored religion.
“Freedom and justice for all” meant freedom and justice from Roman Catholicism, the Monarchy, and the ancient 1,300 civilization of Christendom. The American Revolution was simply an extension of the on-going religious revolution against the Church and Christendom that began in the 16th century. The American Revolution was, it seems, simply another Protestant Revolution.
(Source and Inspiration: Charles Coulombe – Puritan’s Empire)