DISSENTERS, the name commonly applied in America to those who disagreed with the doctrines of the religious establishments, particularly the Church of England in Massachusetts. Dissenting bodies, or "nonconformists," splintered from established churches with increasing frequency in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The most important dissenters were the Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, and Wesleyans, or Methodists. Once the legal separation of church and state ended the Anglican and Congregational franchises, the ranks of the dissenters grew rapidly. Organized collectively in evangelical groups, these congregations would dominate social reform and force political realignments during the antebellum era.
Gaustad, Edwin S. Faith of our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987.