In 1810, Theophilus Parsons, the Federalist chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, argued that the state need not recognize voluntary churches, calling the idea "too absurd to be admitted." In contrast, the modern idea of civil society is premised on the right of individual citizens to associate and for their institutions to gain the legal privileges connected with incorporation.' Federalists did not share this idea. They believed that in a republic the people's interests and the state's interests were the same, since voters elected their own rulers. Private groups threatened the Federalists' vision by dividing the population. The freedom of association was not considered a right, but a privilege extended to certain institutions that served the common good.
Journal of the Early Republic
Required Publisher's Statement
© 2004, University of Pennsylvania Press. Neem, Johann, "The Elusive Common Good: Religion and Civil Society in Massachusetts, 1780-1833." Journal of the Early Republic, 24.3 (2004): 381-417.
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of scholarly citation, none of this work may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. For information address the University of Pennsylvania Press, 3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112.
Neem, Johann N., "The Elusive Common Good: Religion and Civil Society in Massachusets: 1780-1833" (2004). History Faculty and Staff Publications. 4.
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
Church and state--Massachusetts--History--19th century; Religion and sociology; Religion and politics
Massachusetts--History; Massachusetts--Religion--19th century