“Call this war…by whatever name you may, only call it not an American Rebellion, it is nothing more or less than an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.” (Hessian Captain)
“Presbyterianism is really at the Bottom of this whole Conspiracy.” (British colonial minister, 1777)
The connection between the rhetoric of the great awakening revivals and the Revolution
“With Whitfield’s celebrated speaking tours of the colonies there appeared an innovative style of communications that redefined the social context in which public address took place. The sheer size and heterogeneity of the audience exceeded anything in the annuls of colonial popular assembly. To organize the mass meetings, both speaker and audience altered the roles and language they customarily adopted in public worship. In the process, a new model of social organization and public address developed – a model which could be applied to a broad range of social, political and religious contexts…Contemporary and historic accounts agree that the awakening was the most momentous intercolonial popular movement before the Revolution. Indeed, the parallel between the popular engagement and “enthusiasm” evidenced alike in the revivals and rebellion merits close attention…Any revolution in world view requires a new rhetoric. He most conspicuous and revolutionary product of the revivals was not to be found in doctrine… Evangelicalism’s enduring legacy was a new rhetoric, a new model of persuasion that would redefine the norms of social order.” (Harry Stout)
“as though there were some irrefutable charm in all extemporaneous speaking, however rude, the orators of our committees and sub-committees, like those in higher spheres, prevail with their tongues. To public speakers alone is the government of our country now completely committed…(Loyalist Jonathan Boucher, 1773)
“The “country” publicists did not provide the textbook of revolution, so much as a lexicon of revolution, the meaning of which could be grasped only within a persuasion that celebrated the sovereignty of the new political audience.” (Stout)
The Religious rhetoric of the New Side toward the war
“God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side…Great numbers of angels, no doubt, are encamping round our coast, for our defense and protection. Michael stands ready, with all the artillery of heaven, to encounter the dragon, and to vanquish this black host.” (Rev. Samuel Sherwood, 1776).
The British attack was one “of the last efforts, and dying struggles of the man of sin.” (Sherwood)
1740’s – Revival in religion flickered
“Manna grows tasteless and insipid after a Year or two’s Enjoyment.” (minister). In 1744 not a single minister reported a fresh revival, many expressed anxiety at the lack of spiritual interest in America.
“…the work is put to a stop every where, and it is a day of the Enemy’s triumph.” (Jonathon Edwards). A new tour by Whitfield went almost unnoticed.
The New Light millennial vision could never have provided the intellectual foundation for the historical optimism prevalent among ministers of the Revolutionary era. Based on the success of awakened piety, it could not sustain the interest of a generation whose infatuation with revivalism faded as quickly as it flowered. When society ceased to march to revival’s cadence, the New Light drummers faced the necessity of developing a more compelling beat. (Nathan Hatch)
“In this sickness I had remarkable views of the difference between the church and the world, and how much Christ regards his church, or true believers, above all and everything in the world beside. That Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and that he cares little how things go in the kingdoms of this world, compared with his regard to what they are in his church; and I had a clear and strong views of the duty of ministers of the gospel to be wholly engaged to promote the kingdom of Christ, or true religion, in the hearts and practice of men” (Rev. Jacob Green, Chair of committee to establish a New Jersey constitution, 1776)
12 of 26 signers of Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians…235 Princeton students rendered military service for the patriots, 13 known Loyalists
John Witherspoon, only minister to sign Declaration, often preached sermons in support of the war.
Scottish settlers in North Carolina
30,000 loyalists migrated to Canada, began Presbyterian church there
Presbyterian ministers wrote fellow ministers in North Carolina in 1775 that unless the North Carolinians supported the patriots, “we can have no fellowship with you; our soul shall weep for you in secret, but will not be able any longer to number you among our friends, nor the friends of liberty.”
Preaching to George Washington’s troops, Rev. Alexander MacWhorter of Newark dwelt on the evils of the British and of the “Papist Highland Barbarians (Scottish Presbyterians)”
“The cause of America is the cause of Christ” (Robert Smith)
Discussion – What has changed and what hasn’t in American Christianity?