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Patriotism and Piety

Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation

Jonathan J. Den Hartog
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: REV - Revised, 2
Pages: 280
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    Patriotism and Piety
    Book Description:

    InPatriotism and Piety,Jonathan Den Hartog argues that the question of how religion would function in American society was decided in the decades after the Constitution and First Amendment established a legal framework. Den Hartog shows that among the wide array of politicians and public figures struggling to define religion's place in the new nation, Federalists stood out-evolving religious attitudes were central to Federalism, and the encounter with Federalism strongly shaped American Christianity.

    Den Hartog describes the Federalist appropriations of religion as passing through three stages: a "republican" phase of easy cooperation inherited from the experience of the American Revolution; a "combative" phase, forged during the political battles of the 1790s-1800s, when the destiny of the republic was hotly contested; and a "voluntarist" phase that grew in importance after 1800. Faith became more individualistic and issue-oriented as a result of the actions of religious Federalists.

    Religious impulses fueled party activism and informed governance, but the redirection of religious energies into voluntary societies sapped party momentum, and religious differences led to intraparty splits. These developments altered not only the Federalist Party but also the practice and perception of religion in America, as Federalist insights helped to create voluntary, national organizations in which Americans could practice their faith in interdenominational settings.

    Patriotism and Pietyfocuses on the experiences and challenges confronted by a number of Federalists, from well-known leaders such as John Adams, John Jay, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Timothy Dwight to lesser-known but still important figures such as Caleb Strong, Elias Boudinot, and William Jay.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3642-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    On July 4, 1798, the twenty-second anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Timothy Dwight of Yale College stepped before his New Haven congregation to deliver the Independence Day sermon. His hearers would quickly grasp that Dwight did not believe things were going well in either the religious or political spheres. He had selected for his text an obscure apocalyptic prophecy from the book of Revelation, which he used to warn of the judgment about to fall on the American nation. Judgment would come as a result of too close attachment to France and the religious errors (“infidelity”) that the...


    • 1 John Jay and the Shift from Republican Religion to Evangelical Federalism
      (pp. 21-44)

      In 1809, Congregationalist minister Jedidiah Morse wrote to the retired statesman John Jay to ask for advice about writing a history of the American Revolution. Jay responded that “a proper history of the United States . . . would be singular, or unlike all others.” Jay believed such a history would be exceptional because “it would develop the great plan of Providence, for causing [America] to be gradually filled with civilized andChristianpeople and nations.” The American republic was significant to Jay because God had willed both its existence and its character as a Christian nation. Clearly Jay saw...

    • 2 Timothy Dwight and Jedidiah Morse: THE POLITICS OF INFIDELITY
      (pp. 45-69)

      Alarmed by French attacks on American shipping and French threats made to American diplomats in Paris, President John Adams called for a national fast on May 9, 1798. Ministers across the country complied, holding public services. On that day, Rev. Jedidiah Morse stepped before his congregation in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He posed a question to his audience: “Have we not reason to suspect there is some secret plan in operation, hostile to true liberty and religion?” This “secret plan,” Morse continued, was “deep-laid and extensive” and had “for many years been in operation in Europe.” At the heart of this extensive...

    • 3 Caleb Strong and the Politics of Personal Piety
      (pp. 70-92)

      In the summer of 1812, with war against Great Britain recently declared, Caleb Strong, governor of Massachusetts, proclaimed a public fast. Such was a traditional duty for Massachusetts’s governors, and Strong had a great deal of experience issuing such calls. Strong’s proclamation was anything but neutral, though. He decried having to fight Great Britain, “the nation from which we are descended, and which for many generations has been the bulwark of the religion we profess.” Strong hoped that God “would preserve us from entangling and fatal alliances with those governments which are hostile to the safety and happiness of mankind”...

      (pp. 93-116)

      In the fall of 1782, as “warm debate” swirled around him in the Continental Congress, New Jersey delegate Elias Boudinot penned a letter to his daughter Susan. Boudinot allowed himself to be distracted for only the most pressing concern—the condition of her immortal soul. He opened with a direct inquiry: “How stands it as to your preparation and hope in the prospects of a joyfull Immortality[?]” This would clearly not be a light letter with news from Congress. Instead, Boudinot proceeded to review the essentials of evangelical theology. “You are well acquainted,” he reminded her, “that the most perfect...


    • 5 Unitarian Politics and the Splintering of the Federalist Coalition
      (pp. 119-140)

      In the election of 1800, Federalists believed the religious qualifications of the major candidates made the choice between them easy. TheGazette of the United Stateschallenged readers with the “Grand Question” of whether they would “continue in allegiance to God—and a Religious President” or declare for “Jefferson— and no God!”¹ That “religious president” was none other than John Adams. This appeal carried weight. Not only did William Linn and John Mitchell Mason weigh in (see chapter 2), but laity echoed their concerns. In Delaware, “A Christian Federalist” portrayed Adams as the defender of “the order of government” and...

    • 6 Religion and Federalism with a South Carolina Accent
      (pp. 141-164)

      In early 1788, the South Carolina lawyer Henry William De Saussure wrote to maintain a connection established the year before with a visitor from the North—Jedidiah Morse. De Saussure informed Morse of the efforts undertaken to guarantee ratification of the Constitution in his state, since they shared a commitment to its acceptance. “My Situation in the middle states during the four years of life when the principles are fixed, made me a federalist almost involuntarily. Reflection has fixed me so,” he wrote. The correspondence continued for years afterward. In 1793, De Saussure celebrated “the adoption of the Constitution &...


      (pp. 167-185)

      In the first half of the nineteenth century, John Jay’s two sons, Peter Augustus (1776–1843) and William (1789–1858), struggled to defend their father’s attitudes about society, politics, and religion’s connection to both. Beginning in a Federalist milieu, they participated in Federalism’s declining fortunes. Like their father and other older Federalists out of politics, they participated in the process of retirement from public life, reflection on politics as outsiders, an increased attention to religion’s vitality and significance, and a reorientation to other endeavors. As politics and society evolved in the nineteenth century, Jay’s sons took alternative courses to preserve...

      (pp. 186-200)

      Whereas Peter Augustus Jay was born in the year of independence, William Jay was not born until 1789, the year the federal government went into operation. By the time he reached an age of political awareness and activity, the Federalists’ influence was much diminished. He had no ties to earlier Federalist dominance, no memories of political rejection or ejection from office. To a much greater extent than his brother, the possibilities of the early republic were wide open for him. He possessed greater liberty to innovate in his political and religious opinions. His actions suggest another course of action for...

    (pp. 201-206)

    No longer competitive after the War of 1812, the Federalist party passed out of existence. Its heirs lived long enough to see the union that Federalists had worked so hard to establish be threatened by slavery and sectionalism. The Civil War would first endanger its existence and then, through the war’s conduct, transform it. Although the Federalist party failed to endure, its implications were profound for both American politics and American culture. As historian Marshall Foletta has observed, “The culture of Federalism was perhaps more powerful, and certainly more enduring, than the party. . . . [It] would persist as...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 207-252)
  11. Index
    (pp. 253-262)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)