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Religion in the revolutionary era


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Title: Religion in the revolutionary era

Religion in the revolutionary era
Religion and the Revolution
  • Except for the great awakening, no forces of
    consequence had acted prior to the Revolution to
    break down the social, economic, and religions
    walls which divided the American colonies.
  • Indeed, there seemed to be a horror of
    consolidation, tending to tear down any proposals
    for unification.
  • So regnant was this feeling that the colonists,
    many of them loyal members of the Church of
    England, labored to prevent the introduction of
    the Anglican episcopate into America lest it
    begin a process of setting up a complete
    autocratic hierarchy with centralized authority.
  • Because the Church of England had such a
    traditionally centralized organization, it never
    became a popular church in colonial America even
    where it was established by law.

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • Nevertheless, certain intellectual factors as
    well as economic and political, helped to prepare
    the way for revolution and to bind the people,
    out of necessity, into a confederation.
  • Among these were--
  • the idea of fundamental law and the natural
    rights of the individual as guaranteed by that
  • the social contract idea that government is
    created by consent of the people
  • and the ideataught by Calvinthat when there is
    oppression, the representatives of the people
    have the right to resist.

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • Three religious factors, in particular, had an
    important and direct bearing on the Revolution.
  • The first was the Great Awakening.
  • In this great revival, the American colonists
    discovered for the first time a common emotional
    and intellectual challenge.
  • Intercolonial leaders such as Edwards,
    Whitefield, and Tennent did much to foster
    cooperation and union among various religious
    groups and to lessen racial and denominational
  • This emphasis, together with an increasing shift
    of population throughout the colonies, helped to
    create a sense of rapport.
  • By drawing many nominal adherents of the Anglican
    Church into the fellowship of the evangelical
    denominations the revival weakened the chain
    which bound the colonies to England.
  • Since the Anglican Church was one of the
    principal links between England and her
    possessions, any noticeable decline in its
    strength was bound to have an effect on relations
    with the mother country.

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • 2. A second contributing factor was fear of
    Anglican ecclesiasticism by evangelicals.
  • Since colonial Anglicanism was hindered by its
    inability to administer confirmation and
    ordination in America, it was natural that from
    time to time some of its leaders would agitate
    for the establishment of an episcopate which
    would make these functions possible.
  • The sending of a bishop to America might actually
    have been a step toward independence, for it
    would have whetted the American appetite for

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • 2. A second contributing factor was fear of
    Anglican ecclesiasticism by evangelicals.
  • But evangelical leaders, principally
    Congregationalists and Presbyterians, strongly
    objected to this attempt on the ground that it
    was another excuse for interference from the
    British government.
  • Between the years 1766 and 1775 these two
    denominations held joint conferences to combat
    ecclesiasticism the principal effect of their
    meetings was to promote a more favorable attitude
    toward intercolonial cooperation.
  • While nothing came of the effort to establish an
    American episcopate, the discussion stirred up
    more discontent with England and its national
    church and thus indirectly contributed to the
    revolutionary cause.

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Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • 3. A third factor was concern over the Quebec Act
    of 1774.
  • In 1763 England had received the French dominion
    in Canada as part of the settlement of the Treaty
    of Paris which terminated the Seven Years War.
  • In return she had agreed to extend toleration to
    Roman Catholics.
  • But eleven years later, when she included the
    Northwest Territory, a triangular area between
    the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers within the
    boundaries of the Province of Quebec, a storm of
    protest was raised.
  • It seemed to many Protestants that Roman Catholic
    influence would be coming too close to New
    England and the Middle Colonies for comfort.
  • The result was mounting tension culminating in

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Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • During the pre-revolutionary era the pulpit was
    the most important single force in the colonies
    for the shaping and controlling of public
  • The minister was usually the best-educated person
    in the community and his words were regarded as
    having considerable authority behind them, even
    when they dealt with political philosophy.
  • When fired with zeal to preach independence and
    resistance to royal authority, he could exercise
    a tremendous influence over his congregation.
  • In light of the fact that Congregationalist,
    Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and Baptist
    ministers were almost overwhelmingly on the side
    of the Revolution and that they were supported to
    a large extent by the Lutherans and German
    Reformed, one can understand the importance of
    the role played by the clergy in this tumultuous

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • The attitude of the ministry is well represented
    in the sermons of the period.
  • The philosophy of John Locke is curiously blended
    with illustrations from the OT.
  • George III is reminded of the fate of Rehoboam,
    and communities which do not furnish their quotas
    of men and money to the patriot cause are
    reminded that the people of Meroz were cursed for
    similar faults.
  • Compelled submission to the arbitrary acts of
    legislators who do not represent the people is
    contrary to the will of God and must be resisted.
  • So the clergy stirred the minds of their people
    and fanned the flames of rebellion.

Religion and the Revolution
  • Background
  • Edmund Burke, who understood the colonies as well
    as any English man, reported to Parliament that
    the Americans were largely Protestant dissenters
    from the C of E.
  • They had grown accustomed to the freest
    discussion of all religious questions, and this
    had brought about extreme individualism.
  • The right of private judgment which they reserved
    for themseIves in spiritual matters and the right
    to elect and dismiss religious leaders had been
    carried over into politics, a fact which
    accounted for their pronounced liberalism.
  • But perhaps the most important factor in American
    patriotism was the conviction that from the
    outset God him self had guided their adventure in
    the new land.
  • Fortified by a dream and a destiny, they could
    not be overwhelmed.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • No religious body surpassed the
    Congregationalists in contributions to the
    revolutionary effort.
  • The entire force of NE was thrown into the
    struggle, and this force was started and
    controlled largely by the clergy.
  • One Loyalist from New York wrote to a friend in
    London that the NE ministers were wicked,
    malicious, and inflammatory their pulpits were
    converted into Gutters of Sedition and they
    substituted politics for the Gospel.
  • Perhaps the most outspoken of these, ministers
    was Jonathan Mayhew of Boston, a vigorous
    opponent of the Stamp Act and the establishment
    of episcopacy in America.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • One of his best- known sermons, entitled A Snare
    Broken, was preached in Boston on May 23, 1776.
  • In it he said he had learned from the Bible that
    wise, brave and virtuous men were always friends
    to liberty that God gave the Israelites a king,
    or absolute monarch, in his anger, because they
    had not sense and virtue enough to like a free
  • The NE clergy had plenty of opportunity to preach
    on civil affairs on election days, days for
    fasting and humiliation, and Thanksgiving days.
  • The election sermon was especially important
    because it was preached before the governor and
    the colony law-making body and then was

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • From their studies of Locke and Milton, the
    ministers taught that civil government was of
    divine origin and that rulers derived theft power
    from God.
  • But rulers are limited by law and must not
    transcend their rights.
  • If they do so then the people have the right to
  • The clergy could, of course, find plenty of
    reasons why the people should resist the tyranny
    of England.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • When hostilities actually broke out, the NE
    clergy exercised great influence in raising
  • Presidents Samuel Langdon of Harvard and Timothy
    Dwight of Yale advocated revolution and then
    commended the war effort to their students.
  • Many ministers joined the army as chaplains or as
    regular soldiers.
  • In fact, it was quite common for a clergyman to
    become an officer of troops raised from his own

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • The dynamic and forceful John Cleaveland of
    Ipswich, MA, is said to have persuaded his entire
    parish to enlist and then volunteered himself.
  • David Avery of Windsor, Vermont, on hearing about
    the battle of Lexington, preached a sermon in
    which he called his congregation to arms.
  • He then bade them farewell and marched away at
    the head of a score of volunteers, enlisting
    others as they went along the way.
  • At Beverly, Massachusetts, Joseph Willard helped
    to raise two companies which he escorted into

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • There were undoubtedly many instances in which a
    zealous clergyman could win more recruits than a
    seasoned veteran of many campaigns.
  • Those who could not go to war contributed much to
    the cause of independence through their writings
    and gave as liberally as their stipends would

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • Representative of Congregational laymen in the
    revolutionary era was Samuel Adams (1722-1803).
  • Educated at Harvard, where he had been trained in
    both theology and law, his thought was shaped
    largely by Puritanism and the natural-rights
    school of political philosophy.
  • His democratic psychology was grounded in the NE
  • He believed fervently in the sovereignty of the
    people and in their right to change their
    fundamental law, along with its interpretation
    and administration, whenever they desired.
  • This was because of his liberal faith that the
    people were competent to judge their own good and
    conduct their own affairs.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Congregationalists
  • Samuel Adams
  • Through his vigorous support of the revolutionary
    effort he furthered the democratic ideals of his
    compatriots and gave added force to the doctrines
    being proclaimed from New England pulpits.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • As an ecclesiastical organization the Anglican
    Church was, of all the denominations, most loyal
    to the English king.
  • Yet out of its ranks came many of the most
    outspoken patriots men who would give their very
    lives for freedom from the tyranny of that same
  • Among the clergy there was a strong inclination
    at the beginning of the Revolution to remain
    loyal to the crown.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • There are very few Loyalist sermons dating from
    the war period now in existence.
  • Because of national sentiment it was extremely
    hazardous for a Tory minister to preach his
    political convictions.
  • In fact, Jonathan Boucher deemed it necessary to
    preach with loaded pistols lying before him on a
  • During one service he was actually forced out of
    his church by a band of armed men.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • In Virginia the majority of the clergy were
    Loyalist, though a substantial minority, perhaps
    one-third, was hostile to the English crown.
  • Among the laity of Virginia, overwhelming
    support was on the side of independence with only
    a portion adopting the opinions of the Loyalist
  • In the northern colonies, especially
    Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, the
    clergy were even more inclined toward loyalty to
    England than in the South.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • From New York the Reverend John Stuart wrote No
    class was so uncompromising in its loyalty as the
    clergy of the Church of Eng land in this State
    and they in consequence did not fail to
    experience the bitter effects of their own unwise
  • The Reverend Charles Inglis of Trinity Church,
    New York, in his Letters of Papinian, addressed
    to John Jay and the people of North America,
    attacked the revolutionary leaders in vehement
    tones You will find these pretended enemies of
    oppression the most unrelenting oppressors and
    their little fingers heavier than the kings
    loins. . . .There is more liberty in Turkey than
    in the dominions of the Congress.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • In NE, with the exception of Connecticut, most of
    the clergy were forced to flee they took refuge
    in New York, Canada, or England.
  • Those that remained followed the dictates of
    necessity and were known for their peaceful
    submission and quiet deportment.
  • Considering the fact that NE was the most zealous
    of all the regions in waging the war for
    independence, mere refusal to take a stand
    against the British could be viewed as a form of
    high treason.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • No Tory minister in the colonies labored under
    greater difficulties than the Reverend Samuel
    Seabury (1729-1796) subsequently to become bishop
    of Connecticut.
  • When the Revolution began, he was in charge of
    the Westchester parish in New York and was busily
    engaged in turning out a series of loyalist
    pamphlets under the pseudonym The Westchester
  • In these pamphlets, which were written in an
    unusually witty and engaging manner, he attacked
    the Continental Congress and proposed peaceful
    submission to Britain.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • Later, while in Connecticut, Seabury was seized
    by a band of armed men and thrown into the New
    Haven jail on a charge of authoring the
  • After languishing in prison for a month he was
    released for lack of evidence.
  • Upon returning to New York he was severely
  • Then, after the battle of Long Island in 1776, he
    managed to escape to the British lines.
  • He became a chaplain in the kings army and was
    assigned to a regiment of American Loyalists.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • All New York Anglicans. however, were not
  • Dr. Samuel Provoost, later to become first bishop
    of New York, fought on the side of the
  • And it was Alexander Hamilton, a Church of
    England layman, who refuted the arguments made by
    Seabury as the Westchester Farmer.
  • Other New York Anglicans of patriotic renown were
    John Jay and Robert Morris.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • Philadelphia Anglicanism was more revolutionary
    than that of New York.
  • Two of its outstanding representatives were
    William Smith, Provost of the College of
    Philadelphia, and Jacob Duché, rector of Christ
  • Duché served as the first chaplain of the
    Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776, and
    during that time no preacher could have done more
    for the cause of freedom.
  • He is especially noted for his sermon The Duty
    of Standing Fast in our Spiritual and Temporal
  • preached in Christ Church on July 7, 1775.
  • Strangely enough, when the British captured
    Philadelphia he went over to their side and later
    fled to England where he became chaplain of an

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • One of the most faithful leaders on the American
    side was the Reverend William White of
  • At the time when the revolutionary cause was
    closest to disaster he was offered the chaplaincy
    of Congress, which he accepted even though he
    knew that it might cost him his life if the
    British were victorious.
  • He remained as chaplain until the close of the
  • His influence had much to do with the decisions
    of many clergymen to serve as army chaplains, and
    the fact that the Anglican Church contributed the
    third largest number of chaplains to the patriot
    side was at least partially due to his efforts.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • It is significant that a large majority of
    Anglican laymen were patriots, while two-thirds
    of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
    were affiliated with the Anglican Church.
  • In general, however, Anglican laymen were very
    much divided in their allegiance.
  • In the Southern and Middle Colonies the majority
    were patriotic, while in New England they tended
    to side with the British.
  • In the South, most Whigs belonged to the Church
    of England in New England no outstanding Whig
    was an Anglican.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • It is significant that a large majority of
    Anglican laymen were patriots, while two-thirds
    of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
    were affiliated with the Anglican Church.
  • In general, however, Anglican laymen were very
    much divided in their allegiance.
  • In the Southern and Middle Colonies the majority
    were patriotic, while in New England they tended
    to side with the British.
  • In the South, most Whigs belonged to the Church
    of England in New England no outstanding Whig
    was an Anglican.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Anglicans
  • Yet in all fairness it should be noted that the
    Anglican Church had no legislative body in
    America through which it could have expressed a
    patriotic sentiment.
  • Its reputation was, of course, ruined by the
    large number of pro-British clergymen.
  • Nevertheless, through many laymen as well as some
    clergy, the church made a contribution to
    American independence.
  • One need only look at the names of a few of its
    distinguished membersGeorge Washington, James
    Madison, Patrick Henry, John Marshall, Robert
    Morris, John Jay, and Alexander Hamiltonto be
    assured of that fact.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • It has been asserted that the sturdy
    Republicanism of the Presbyterians gave them an
    influence over the course of the Revolution out
    of all proportion to their numbers.
  • Many writings of Loyalist leaders have indicated
    the amount of support given by Presbyterians to
    the patriot cause.
  • Joseph Galloway, a Pennsylvania Tory, said that
    the foes of the English government in 1774 were
    Congregationalists, Presbyterians and
  • Concerning the composition of the Continental
    army he reported that one-fourth were natives of
    America, one-half were Irish, and the other
    fourth were English and Scottish.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • While it is certainly true that the Presbyterian
    Church took its stand in favor of independence,
    it is worth noting that as late as 1775 the Synod
    of New York and Philadelphia opposed a complete
    break with the mother country and claimed that
    it is well known to you (otherwise it would be
    imprudent indeed thus publicly to profess,) that
    we have not been instrumental in inflaming the
    minds of the people, or urging them to acts of
    violence and disorder.
  • On the other hand, the Synod endorsed the
    Continental Congress as a body of representatives
    duly elected by the people and commissioned to
    secure and defend their natural rights.
  • Such action was thoroughly in harmony with the
    Calvinistic theory of government.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • British officials in the Middle Colonies,
    however, seemed to be thoroughly convinced that
    the Presbyterians were responsible in large
    measure for the political events of the time.
  • John Hughes, the stamp distributor for
    Pennsylvania, reported in 1775 that bigoted
    Calvinists were ripe for open Rebellion when
    they poisoned the Minds of the people enough.
  • The following year the Reverend Charles Inglis,
    an Anglican Loyalist in New York, accused the
    Synod of passing a resolution to support the
    Continental Congress in all its measures he was
    probably referring to the statement issued in

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • More malicious and unfounded was the report of
    missionaries of the Society for the Propagation
    of the Gospel in Delaware, who claimed at the
    outset of the Revolution that the war had been
    definitely planned by Presbyterians with the
    object of gaining their own religious
  • The first religious body in the colonies to
    accept officially the Declaration of Independence
    and identify itself with the revolutionary cause
    was the Hanover Presbytery in Virginia.
  • In a statement directed to the Virginia Assembly
    on October 24, 1776, it declared that we rely
    upon this Declaration, as well as the justice of
    our honorable legislature, to secure us the free
    exercise of religion according to the dictates of
    our consciences.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • In 1778, when the British controlled
    Philadelphia, the Synod was held at Bedminster
    because Philadelphia was in possession of the
  • It would seem definite that the Synod considered
    itself on the side of the Continental army.
  • Nor could Abigail Adams have been entirely wrong
    in her statement to her husband, John, that the
    Presbyterian clergy are particularly active in
    supporting the measures of Congress from the
    rostrum, gaining proselytes, persecuting the
    unbelievers, preaching up the righteousness of
    their cause, and persuading the unthinking
    populace of the infallibility of success.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • A considerable number of Presbyterians were
    leaders of the Revolution.
  • Many were graduates of the College of New Jersey
    where they had first been exposed to the
    principles of freedom of conscience and
    government by the consent of the governed.
  • Nine of the colleges alumni became members of
    the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787,
    and its president,
  • John Witherspoon (1728-1794), a Scottish
    immigrant, was a memorable figure in political
  • So prominent was he in the movement for
    independence that he was characterized by John
    Adams as an animated Son of Liberty.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • A great proportion of the Presbyterian clergy in
    those days had come under his guidance, a
    circumstance which partially accounts for the
    fervid patriotism of those leaders.
  • Elected to represent New Jersey in the
    Continental Congress, Witherspoon began to
    agitate almost immediately for independence.
  • In 1776 he signed the Declaration of
    Independence, being the only minister who was a
    member of the Continental Congress when that
    historic measure was enacted.
  • His service in the Congress continued until 1783.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • In 1778 he signed the Articles of Confederation
    on behalf of his state.
  • He was a member of the committee on foreign
    affairs, the board of war, the secret committee,
    and also the committees of finance and supplies
    for the army.
  • In November, 1776, when the war was going badly
    for the Americans, he and two others went to the
    headquarters of General Washington to render
    assistance in reenlisting the soldiers whose
    terms had expired or were about to expire.
  • It is not difficult to understand why the
    Reverend Jonathan Odell, the Tory satirist, who
    quit his parish at Burlington, New Jersey, and
    fled to the British lines in 1777, singled him
    out for this vitriolic attack in verse.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • George Duffield, chaplain to the Continental
    Congress and pastor of the Third Presbyterian
    Church, Philadelphia, was another outstanding
  • He was particularly noted for his direct and
    forceful sermonic presentations, with their pithy
    remarks, which prompted John Adams to observe in
    a letter to his wife that Duffields principles,
    prayer, and sermons more nearly resemble those of
    our New England clergy than any I have heard.
  • The minister became chaplain to the army around
    New York during the summer of 1776, and remained
    with that body during the whole of that terrible

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • Perhaps the most romantic episode concerned James
    Caldwell of the Presbyterian church at Elizabeth,
    New Jersey.
  • It is said that when the militia at the battle of
    Springfield ran out of wadding for their muskets,
    Caldwell hurried to his church and returned with
    an armful of Watts Psalm Books, throwing them to
    the ground and crying out, Now, boys, give em
    Watts! Give em Watts!
  • Caldwell and his wife were subsequently murdered
    by the British.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Presbyterians
  • When the war finally drew to a close in October,
    1781, Presbyterians rejoiced over the victory.
  • The following year the Synod sent out a Pastoral
    Letter which spoke of the general and almost
    universal attachment of the Presbyterian body to
    the cause of liberty and the rights of mankind.
  • It then urged that prayers of thanksgiving be
    offered for the achievement of independence.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Dutch Reformed
  • The Dutch Reformed Church was fundamentally on
    the side of freedom.
  • Unfortunately, since its congregations were
    situated largely in areas where British might was
    most vigorous, the church suffered acutely from
    the war many edifices were destroyed and the
    ministers were frequently driven from their
  • When the British captured New York, a number of
    the church buildings were desecrated the Dutch
    ministers fled the city and their congregations
    were scattered.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Dutch Reformed
  • The denomination set aside days of fasting,
    thanksgiving, prayer and humiliation during the
    war period.
  • Thus, in 1775, the General Synod recommended its
    churches in New York and New Jersey to set aside
    the seventh of May as a day of solemn
    humiliation, with fasting and prayer.
  • At the same time the church did what it could to
    further enlistments in the Continental army.
  • Because of war conditions the synod did not meet
    in 1776 and 1777.
  • After what the synod deemed a just and necessary
    war had been terminated, it deposed Domine J. C.
    Rubel for immoralities he was alleged to have
    committed and for being a Tory.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The German Reformed
  • In general the record of the German Reformed
    Church was patriotic.
  • A number of the officers in the Continental army
    such as General Nicholas Herkimer, the hero of
    Oriskany, and Baron Frederick William Von
    Steuben, a ruling elder in the Nassau Street
    Church in New York, were from its ranks.
  • Many of the ministers also seem to have been
    staunch supporters of independence.
  • At the outset of the war the Reverend John H.
    Weikel got into difficulty for preaching on the
    text, Better is a poor and wise child, than an
    old and foolish king, who will no more be
  • Michael Schlatter of Philadelphia was put in
    prison by the British for favoring the American
    cause, while William Hendel required armed guards
    to protect him from pro-British Indians while
    preaching in Lykens Valley, Pennsylvania.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The German Reformed
  • Conversely, several German Reformed churchmen
    favored the British.
  • The Reverend John Michael Kern of New York became
    a Loyalist because he thought that the colonies
    were not yet prepared for independence.
  • He emigrated to Nova Scotia but at the close of
    his life returned to Pennsylvania, penniless and
    sick at heart.
  • At the beginning of the struggle Dr. John Joachim
    Zubly of Savannah, Georgia, played a prominent
    part with the Sons of Liberty, armed citizens who
    harassed British officialdom up and down the
  • He was even sent to the Continental Congress as a
    representative from Georgia.
  • But he did not favor separation from Eng land and
    used what influence he had to combat it.
  • The result was that he soon lost his prestige and
    was banished from Savannah in 1777.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The German Reformed
  • In 1775 the Pennsylvania Coetus directed that a
    day of general fasting, repentance and prayer
    shall be held in all our congregations on the
    last Wednesday in June.
  • That same year the Reformed and Lutheran Churches
    joined in an appeal to the German citizens of New
    York and North Carolina, calling upon them to
    support the measures of Congress and the cause of
    American freedom.
  • The Germans also helped to organize militia
    companies which were prepared to march wherever
    and whenever they were commanded.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • The German Lutherans were not well organized in
    America when the Revolutionary War began, and so
    their contributions must be measured in terms of
    the actions of various representative leaders.
  • By all standards, the family of the Muhlenbergs
    was the most important of the Lutherans in
  • Henry Melchior Muhlenberg the father, had
    exercised a governing position over all the
    Lutheran churches from New York to Georgia.
  • Though he maintained a standard of neutrality,
    his sons were patriots.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • The German Lutherans were not well organized in
    America when the Revolutionary War began, and so
    their contributions must be measured in terms of
    the actions of various representative leaders.
  • By all standards, the family of the Muhlenbergs
    was the most important of the Lutherans in
  • Henry Melchior Muhlenberg the father, had
    exercised a governing position over all the
    Lutheran churches from New York to Georgia.
  • Though he maintained a standard of neutrality,
    his sons were patriots.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • John Peter Muhlenberg was a pastor at Woodstock,
    VA at the beginning of hostilities.
  • The Sunday after he had heard the news of Bunker
    Hill he rose in his pulpit and told his
    congregation that in the language of Holy Writ,
    there is a time for all things. There is a time
    to preach and a time to fight and now is the
    time to fight.
  • At the close of the service he removed his pulpit
    vestments and stood before the congregation in
    the uniform of a Virginia colonel.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • He later became a breveted major-general and took
    part in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown,
    and Monmouth.
  • At Yorktown he was in command of the first
  • In 1776 he was a member of the Virginia
    Convention, and later represented Pennsylvania in
    both the House and Senate of the United States.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, his brother, was
    pastor of Christ German Lutheran Church in New
  • When the British approached the city in 1776, he
    fled and became an assistant to his father.
  • From 1779 to 1780 he was a member of the
    Continental Congress and was president of the
    Pennsylvania Convention which ratified the
    Federal Constitution.
  • During the years 1789 to 1797 he was a member of
    the national House of Representatives and served
    as its first speaker.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Lutherans
  • While Lutherans were predominantly in favor of
    independence, some were loyal to the English
  • When the British captured New York the Reverend
    Bernard Hausihl remained in the city and proved
    himself to be a Tory.
  • Upon the evacuation of the city by the English
    army, he and many of his congregation migrated to
    Nova Scotia and settled near Halifax.
  • He later became a clergyman in the Church of
  • In Georgia, the Reverend Christopher Triebner, a
    German immigrant, went over to the British side
    and at the close of the war moved to England.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Baptists
  • Baptist congregations gave intense support to the
    movement for independence.
  • Persecuted as they were under English law, they
    could not help but favor a cause which promised
    them full liberty of conscience.
  • They supported the Revolution because they hoped
    for fairer treatment under the new government and
    because idealogically their democratic polity and
    compact theory of government harmonized more
    nearly with the principles which ruled the
    patriot side.
  • The Baptists suffered excessively at the hands of
    the British.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Baptists
  • When the English army took possession of Newport,
    Rhode Island, in 1776, they burned the Baptist
    meetinghouse and parsonage and imprisoned the
  • From that time Rhode Island Baptists worked
    actively for the Revolution, even though it meant
    uniting with the Congregationalists, who had once
    bitterly persecuted them.
  • Isaac Backus, the Baptist historian, stated that
    in Massachusetts the Baptists were so completely
    united in the defense of their country that when
    the General Court of Boston passed an act in
    October, 1778, listing 811 men who were enemies
    of the government and should not be permitted to
    return, not a single Baptist was on the list.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Baptists
  • In 1774, the Warren Association, composed of
    Baptist churches in NE, met under the leadership
    of Isaac Backus, President Manning of Rhode
    Island College, John Gano, and Morgan Edwards.
  • Backus was sent to Philadelphia to petition the
    Continental Congress for full religious liberty.
  • The attempt met with failure and the Baptists
    turned to the provincial congress of
    Massachusetts where once again their overtures
    were rejected.
  • The Baptists, nevertheless, did receive some
    recognition for their patriotic activities.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Baptists
  • In 1779, Samuel Stillman, pastor of the First
    Baptist Church of Boston was commissioned to
    preach the annual election sermon.
  • The principal thesis of his homily was that the
    foundation of civil society is the consent of the
  • Election should be free and often, and
    representation should be as equal as possible.
    The sacred rights of conscience are among the
    inalienable rights of mankind and can never be
    controlled by any human authority.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Baptists
  • Virginia Baptists were particularly militant In
    August, 1775, they issued an Address which
    stated that because of the oppression in America
    it was perfectly lawful to go to war, and that
    they ought to resist Britain because of her
    unjust invasion, her oppressive tyranny, and her
    repeated hostilities.
  • Numerous Baptists responded by enlisting in the
  • In Culpepper County, Thomas McClanahan recruited
    a company of Baptists and led them into service.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Methodists
  • At the beginning of the Revolution Methodism was
    still new to America.
  • In all the colonies there were only 19 preachers
    and 3148 members.
  • In general this group was regarded as
    unpatriotic, thanks largely to the pronouncements
    of John Wesley.
  • Until 1775 Wesley had disapproved of the
    repressive measures taken by the British
  • But then he read Dr. Samuel Johnson Taxation No
    Tyranny, and was so convinced that he wrote A
    Calm Address to the American Colonies, in which
    he condemned the colonists for their actions
    against the crown.
  • This created rabid hostility to the Methodists
    which was not relieved when, in 1776, Wesley
    called John Hancock a felon and urged the
    Americans to lay down their arms.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Methodists
  • Most Virginia Methodists hurried to the defense
    of the Established Church.
  • A large proportion of their missionaries had only
    recently arrived from England and, of course,
    remained loyal.
  • Leaders such as Martin Rodda and Thomas Rankin
    became pronounced Loyalists.
  • Even Francis Asbury refused to take the oath of
    allegiance in Maryland and was forced to flee to
    Delaware where clergymen were not required to
    take the oath.
  • Some were pacifists, as in the case of Jesse Lee.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Methodists
  • By 1778, every Methodist minister sent out by
    Wesley had left America, with the exception of
    Asbury, and he was in forced retirement.
  • Methodists were frequently persecuted.
  • During the years 1778 to 1780, few gains were
    made outside Maryland and Virginia where the
    Anglican Church was strong and not entirely
    opposed to the Methodist societies.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Methodists
  • A number of Methodists refused to follow their
    English leaders and went over to the patriot
  • Among the native preachers there were many
    patriots such as Freeborn Carrettson, Philip
    Gatch, and William Watters.
  • But their contributions were not sufficient to
    relieve Methodism of the contempt which had been
    placed upon it.
  • Despite all disabilities, however, the Methodist
    revival was carried forward in the South by 1781
    the membership throughout the country had risen
    to 10,539.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • Contributions of the Friends to the Revolution
    were relatively meager.
  • With the exception of a minority who believed a
    defensive war to be justifiable, they opposed war
    because they felt it could not he justifiable by
    its results.
  • At a time when feeling ran high and physical
    resistance was regarded as the only proof of
    loyalty, such a position practically amounted to
  • But a close examination of the facts will show
    that while the majority of Friends were opposed
    to war most of them tended to be anti-British.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • In 1765, fifty of them signed a non-importation
    agreement as a means of passive resistance.
  • What the Loyalists counted on was the
    conservatism of the old Quaker families and the
    strong resolutions passed by the Quaker meetings
    against violent resistance to the civil
  • Actually, about 400 members of the church were
    disowned for participating in the war efforts of
    the patriots, while only six were similarly
    disciplined for aiding the British.
  • Friends were expelled not only for joining the
    army, but also for fitting out an armed vessel,
    making weapons of war, and even assuming a
    military appearance.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • The faction which held that armed resistance is
    justifiable broke with the orthodox group and
    founded the Free Quakers or Fighting Quakers,
    a sect which lasted well into the nineteenth
  • Among them were Thomas Mifflin, who subsequently
    became Quartermaster General and governor of
    Pennsylvania, and Nathanael Greene, who succeeded
    Muffin as Quartermaster General.
  • None was more famous than Betsy Ross, who made
    the first American Stars and Stripes.
  • When the British, under General Howe, were in the
    vicinity of Philadelphia in 1777, a number of
    prominent Friends alleged to be pro were arrested
    and removed to Winchester, Virginia, where they
    were held in confinement throughout the winter.

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • After the Continental army reentered Philadelphia
    in the spring of 1778, the Quaker residents
    became targets of malicious attacks inspired by
    feverish patriots.
  • Their homes were ransacked, their farms
    despoiled, and their property seized when they re
    fused to pay war taxes.
  • School teachers were thrown into prison for
    refusing to take an oath of allegiance others
    were kept in jail for months without being
    brought to trial.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • In New England the Friends, were treated with
    greater favor.
  • Early in the war the Rhode Island Legislature
    passed an act which granted exemption from
    military service to persons who could prove they
    held membership in a Quaker meeting.
  • But the misuse of the provision by unworthy
    persons soon led to its repeal.
  • A new enactment provided that Friends, upon being
    drafted, might elect to pay for a substitute if
    they refused to do so, their property would be

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Friends
  • In view of the terrible hardships experienced by
    the revolutionaries in Rhode Island and the
    apparent Loyalist leanings of the Friends at
    Newport, such legislation seems to have been
  • In Massachusetts, where Friends were to be found
    in considerable numbers, the government adopted a
    policy similar to that of Rhode Island.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Mennonites and Moravians
  • Most of the Mennonites in Pennsylvania, like the
    Friends, favored the American side, but refused
    to engage in hostilities.
  • Only a few were Tories, and these emigrated to
    Canada at the close of the war.
  • Their main division came over the question of
    whether they should pay the war tax.
  • A group led by Christian Funk thought they should
    pay it the majority, notwithstanding, felt
    otherwise, and Funk and his followers were forced
    to withdraw in 1776 and form a separate religious
  • On the whole the Mennonites suffered little
    persecution, although they contributed nothing
    beyond a few supplies to the patriotic cause.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Mennonites and Moravians
  • The Moravians furthered the revolutionary effort
    in various non-military ways, but were badly
    treated by both sides.
  • They offered their buildings at Bethlehem to be
    used as hospitals for the Continental army and
    furnished the army with much-needed supplies.
  • Some rendered noncombatant service, as in caring
    for wounded Continental soldiers.
  • Probably their greatest service was rendered
    through their missions to the Indians.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Mennonites and Moravians
  • In the opening years of the struggle, David
    Zeisberger kept the Delawares from going to war
    with the settlersa most important service in
    days when every man was needed to fight the
  • During the course of the war Zeisberger and his
    associates were twice summoned to Detroit and
    accused of espionage, but they were able to
    prove their innocence.
  • Their Indian converts, inspired by pacifist
    principles, did their utmost to dissuade hostile
    natives from going on the warpath as well as to
    warn settlers of planned attacks.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Mennonites and Moravians
  • Their motives were frequently misjudged by both
    sides during the winter of 1781 they suffered
    terribly from exposure and lack of food, having
    been driven by the British from their homes.
  • Finally they were granted permission to go back
    to their settlements along the Tuscarawas River
    in Ohio to gather food.
  • Here the Christian Indians welcomed a company of
    American militia who, they supposed, had come on
    a friendly mission.
  • Instead they were crowded into two buildings and
    ruthlessly slaughtered.
  • Only two boys in the party of 96 escaped alive.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • The year 1776 found Roman Catholicism in America
    neither populous nor well organized.
  • But its adherents supported the Revolution whole
    heartedly in the hope that they might gain more
    toleration, since only in Maryland and
    Pennsylvania did they enjoy anything
    approximating religious liberty.
  • As the war advanced, their influence grew,
    especially after the Roman Catholic countries of
    Spain and France had recognized the United

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • Father John Carroll, later archbishop, worked,
    though unsuccessfully, with a committee of
    Congress in an effort to win the French Canadians
    to the cause of independence.
  • Among the Roman Catholic signers of the
    Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
    were Thomas Fitzsimmons, Daniel Carroll, and
    Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
  • A number of Roman Catholic volunteers enlisted in
    the army and navy.
  • Several Roman Catholic regiments were organized,
    including Congress Own, the Catholic Indians
    from St. John, Maine, and the Catholic

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Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • There were also a number of Roman Catholic
    officers who came from Ireland, France, and
    Poland to give their services to the cause of
  • Only a few Roman Catholics were Tories.
  • In Philadelphia, a Roman Catholic regiment was
    recruited in 1777-1778, while General Howe and
    his troops occupied that city.
  • It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alfred
    Clinton, then a member of St. Marys parish.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • On July 4, 1779, the French minister and first
    diplomatic representative to the United States,
    Conrad Gerard, invited the American officials in
    Philadelphia to attend a Te Deum in St. Marys
    Church to celebrate the third anniversary of
    American independence.
  • When the news of the surrender at Yorktown
    reached Philadelphia, the French minister again
    invited the Congress to attend a service of
    thanksgiving in the Roman Catholic church.
  • These actions did much to place Roman Catholics
    in a favorable light and to establish their
    prestige among the American people.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • It is thus understandable that in response to a
    letter of congratulations from the Roman
    Catholics, President Washington should have
    written of their part in the struggle for
    independence I presume your fellow-citizens
    will not forget the patriotic part which you took
    in the accomplishment of their revolution.
  • While the American churches can scarcely be held
    responsible for the precipitation of the
    revolutionary conflict, there were elements
    within them which fostered the national desire
    for liberty.
  • There was a religious temper in America which
    bred discontent with the former order.

Churches and the Revolution
  • The Roman Catholics
  • Not only did the majority of church bodies in the
    colonial period have politics which favored
    democracy or republicanism, they experienced a
    higher degree of religious liberty than was to be
    found in any other country of the world.
  • Where religious liberty is found in part a demand
    for political freedom will come in like manner.
  • The Christian churches supported the cause of
    independence, not because they hoped to profit
    from it in a materialistic way, but because of
    their profound conviction that every man has the
    right to live in freedom and worship his Maker
    according to the dictates of his own conscience.

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The Churches in A Period of reorganization
Churches and Reorganization
  • With the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown
    in 1781, American independence had at last been
  • An American nation, however, waited to be born
    out of the conflict and confusion which
    characterized the opening years of autonomous

Churches and Reorganization
  • At the completion of independence, America was
    thirteen rather than one the Articles of
    Confederation had, to be sure, established a
    loosely knit confederacy, but its power was in
    name only.
  • The spirit of localism forgotten for a time in
    the flush of revolutiona