Leland, John 
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Time Period
5/14/1754  - 1/14/1841
John Leland was an evangelical minister who became one of the early champions of religious freedom during the formative years of the United States. He was a notable supporter of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps swayed by Jefferson’s opposition to a compulsory tax to support religion at the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776. In "A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia," Leland wrote that "the notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever . . . all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."
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Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
John Leland, born to New Light Presbyterian parents, was an evangelical pastor in Massachusetts and Virginia during the Revolution and Early American Republic. Leland was a defender of religious liberty, not surprising given the intolerance shown towards evangelicals in both Congregationalist Massachusetts and Anglican Virginia because of the entanglement of church and state.

While in Virginia, Leland supported the disestablishment of the Anglican church. After the success of that campaign, he threw his support behind James Madison in the closely fought election of 1788, impressed by Madison's support for a Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. Leland's 1791 sermon "Rights of Conscience Inalienable" was distributed in pamphlet form and aided the crucial effort to ratify the U.S. Constitution in Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Leland returned to Massachusetts, possibly because of his staunch opposition to slavery, where he formed a network of local Baptist associations that supported Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800, giving Jefferson not only their votes but also a mammoth wheel of cheese.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Triennial Convention
Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists
Virginia's Religious Disestablishment

John Leland portrait- Internet Archive- from The Writings of the late Elder John Leland by L. F. Greene

John Leland Letter to James Madison- Library of Congress, Manuscript Division

John Leland portrait- Internet Archive- from The Baptist Encyclopaedia by William Cathcart
Additional Resources
Web Source(s)
John Leland's PBS Biography
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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