Notions of Christian love, or charity, strongly shaped the
political thought of John Winthrop, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham
Lincoln as each presided over a foundational moment in the
development of American democracy. Matthew Holland examines how
each figure interpreted and appropriated charity, revealing both
the problems and possibilities of making it a political ideal.
Holland first looks at early American literature and seminal
speeches by Winthrop to show how the Puritan theology of this famed
17th century governor of the Massachusetts Colony (he who first
envisioned America as a "City upon a Hill") galvanized an
impressive sense of self-rule and a community of care in the early
republic, even as its harsher aspects made something like
Jefferson's Enlightenment faith in liberal democracy a welcome
development . Holland then shows that between Jefferson's early
rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and his First
Inaugural Jefferson came to see some notion of charity as a
necessary complement to modern political liberty.
However, Holland argues, it was Lincoln and his ingenious blend of
Puritan and democratic insights who best fulfilled the promise of
this nation's "bonds of affection." With his recognition of the
imperfections of both North and South, his humility in the face of
God's judgment on the Civil War, and his insistence on "charity for
all," including the defeated Confederacy, Lincoln personified the
possibilities of religious love turned civic virtue.
Weaving a rich tapestry of insights from political science and
literature and American religious history and political theory,
Bonds of Affection is a major contribution to the study of
American political identity. Matthew Holland makes plain that civic
charity, while commonly rejected as irrelevant or even harmful to
political engagement, has been integral to our national
The book includes the full texts of Winthrop's speech "A Model of
Christian Charity"; Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration and
his First Inaugural; and Lincoln's Second Inaugural.
Subjects: Religion, Political Science
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