In sparsely populated colonial America it was hard to adhere to conventional practices of worship; a parish could stretch for over 100 miles, and with churches and millions ministers often distant, anticlerical, self-reliant and sometimes idiosyncratic forms of Protestant flourished. From the beginning of English, Dutch and Swedish colonisation of North America in the 17th century, the population was religiously diverse: Anglicans in Virginia, Congregationalists in New England, Catholics in Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania. During the 18th century successive waves of migration broad evermore diversity, predominantly but certainly not exclusively Protestant: including Jews, French Huguenots, Dutch Calvinists, Scottish Presbyterians. A plethora of new movements emerged sometimes collectively referred to as ‘dissenters’, such as the Baptist, Unitarians and Quakers. In the colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania religious toleration was enshrined in the Constitution.
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