Protestant Experience and Continuity of Political Thought in Early America, 1630-1789

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Protestant Experience and Continuity of Political Thought in Early America, 1630-1789, Is A Well-Researched Topic, It Is To Be Used As A Guide Or Framework For Your Research.

Abstract

The debate on the continuity of American political thought from the 17th century Puritan settlements to the 18th century American founding assumes a bipolar spectrum, ranging from strong continuity to strong discontinuity. The degree that scholars recognize distinctively Christian, theological, or Protestant ideas operating in the founding era determines where they are placed on the spectrum. The most popular view today is the “amalgam” thesis, which is a moderate view, resulting from decades of debate. Amalgam theorists argue that the founders’ political theory relied on a variety of sources, from classical to Protestant. The current debate centers on which tradition is predominant (and in what way) and whether the collection of sources is coherent. In this work, I question the framing of that debate. Protestantism is not just another competing source or tradition among others in the founding era. Rather, it supplied the underlying principles of early American political thought. I argue that throughout the period in question (1630—1789) there was continuity as to immutable, fundamental, and necessary principles of political order, and these were distinctively Protestant principles. The apparent discontinuity in political thought was in the application of those principles. The same principles were applied differently, even in contrary ways, due to Protestant experience and changes in circumstances. There was principled discontinuity, meaning that discontinuity arose from the unfolding (but not the undermining) of Protestant principles over time. I conclude that the American founding was both harmonious with classical Protestantism and represents the culmination of American Protestant experience. To show this, I correct confusions in the scholarly literature on the Reformed tradition (particularly on natural law and natural theology), I challenge the common narrative on 17th century religious persecution in New England, and I demonstrate that the founding generation assumed Protestant principles as the basis for their political discourse and political theory.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………ii
Abstract………………………………………………………………………………..vii
Part I: Theological Foundations
1. Introduction
1. Introduction to Topic…………………………………………………..……..…2
2. The Research Problem…………………………………………..………………5
3. Statement of the Question…………….………………………..…………….…7
4. Terminology…………………………………………………..………….………8
5. Literature Review……………………………………………..………………..10
6. Problems in the Literature……………………………………..……………….21
7. Summary of the Argument.…………………………………..………….….….26
8. Chapter Summary……………………………………………………………………………………27
2. Clarifying Reformed Theology
1. Problems in Scholarship……………………………………..……….……..….30
2. Reformed Orthodoxy………………………………………..……………….…34
3. Reformed Political Theory…………………………………..…………….…….53
Part II: Puritan New England
3. The First Generation: John Davenport and John Cotton
1. Introduction………………………………………………….…….…….……..69
2. Civil Government in a New Plantation…………………………..……….…….70
3. Civil Suppression of Dissent and Heresy………………….……….…….…….82
4. Conclusion…………………………………………….………….……..….…..95
4. Samuel Willard
1. Introduction……………………………………………….…….…….……..…96
2. Biographical Sketch…………………………………….……….…….….……97
3. Reformed Theological Anthropology…………………….……….……………100
4. Willard’s Political Theory………………………………….………….….……115
5. Puritan New England and Religious Dissent: Historical Examples
1. A Fledgling Plantation……………………………………………………………127
2. Roger Williams……………………………………………….……….….….…130
3. The Antinomians……………………………………………………….……….135
4. The Quakers……………………………………………….….…………..……147
5. The Anabaptists ………………………………………….….………..…..……151
6. Conclusion……………………………………………….……….….…..……..163
Part III: The Founding Era
6. Reason and Revelation in the Founding Era: Natural Theology
1. Natural Theology in the 18th Century……………………………………………165
2. Sources for Divinity in the Founding Era……………………………………….168

3. Non-Orthodox Sources……………………………………………………….…171
4. Orthodox Sources………………………………………………………………177
5. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………..…201
7. Reason and Revelation in the Founding Era: Natural Law
1. Reformed Clergy and Political Sermons…………………………………….…202
2. John Jay and James Wilson on Reason and Revelation………..………………212
3. Religiously Ambiguous Founders…………………………………….………..219
4. Conclusion………………………………………………………….………..…220
8. Religion and Principled Discontinuity in the Founding Era
1. Principle and Tension…………………………………………………..………222
2. Puritan New England and Free Expression: A Recapitulation…….……………….225
3. Religious Liberty in the Founding Era………………………………..……..…226
4. Principled Discontinuity……………………………………………..…………229
5. Discontinuity in Principle? …………………………………………..…………238
6. Conclusion……………………………………………………………..….……252
9. The Founding as a Protestant Political Act
1. Natural Law and Happiness. ………………………………………….….….…253
2. The Moral Government of God…………………………………….….….…….257
3. Elizur Goodrich………………………………………….…….………..….……261
4. Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth………………………………….……….271
5. Summarizing the Argument…………………………………………….……….281
Bibliography…………………………………………………………………….……..284
Vita…………………………………………………………………………..….…..…296

Additional information

Author

Stephen Michael Wolfe

No of Chapters

9

No of Pages

304

Reference

YES

Format

PDF

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