Backus, Isaac 
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Time Period
1/9/1724  - 11/20/1806
Isaac Backus was an 18th century clergyman and vocal proponent of disestablishment in early American history. After refusing to pay taxes to the established Congregational church in Massachusetts, Backus left the denomination to form a Baptist church. He threw himself into preaching and evangelical revivals. During his tenure, he witnessed an explosion of Baptist churches and worked to unify them. In 1767, Backus founded the Warren Baptist Association, the leading alliance of Baptists in New England.
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Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
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Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Isaac Backus, one of the fathers of the Baptist tradition in America, was converted during the First Great Awakening and became an itinerant preacher in 1746 despite his rudimentary education. He founded a church that was independent of the established Congregational church in his area; when he refused to pay the parish taxes that went to the established congregation, Backus was threatened with prison, an incident that fueled Backus's life-long ardor for religious liberty. Backus, along with his younger contemporary John Leland, laid the foundation for disestablishment in New England through sermons and pamphlets, including his 1773 An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty.

Backus oversaw the dramatic spread of Baptist churches in New England, from only 18 congregations when he began preaching to more than 300 by the end of his ministry. Despite, or perhaps because of, his lack of formal education, Backus supported the formation of the College of Rhode Island (today known as Brown University) in 1764, serving as one of its trustees.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Brown University
Publication of An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty
Virginia's Religious Disestablishment
The First Great Awakening

Isaac Backus portrait- Internet Archive- from Early History of Brown University by Reuben Aldridge Guild

Isaac Backus portrait- Internet Archive- from Church History of New England from 1620 to 1804 by Isaac Backus
Book/Journal Source(s)
Larson, Timothy and David Bebbington and Mark Noll, 2003. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.
Web Source(s)
Biography of Isaac Backus
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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