The Marketplace of Religion in the Early Republic Eileen Luhr [email protected]
Methodological question for this four-part series: How can teachers integrate religious history into social, political, and intellectual history? Why study religious history? – ideas about human nature, equality, freedom, community – intersection with non-religious ideas in economics, politics, and culture – interactions between social groups; religion included groups who were excluded from the political process, including non-elites, white women, and slave men and women. – revival religion Problems for studying religious history - The “jack in the box” theory of religion 1
Content standards for presentation: 11.1 Students analyze the significant events in the founding of the nation and its attempts to realize the philosophy of government described in the Declaration of Independence. 1. Describe the Enlightenment and the rise of democratic ideas as the context in which the nation was founded. 2. Analyze the ideological origins of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers’ philosophy of divinely bestowed unalienable natural rights, the debates on the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and the addition of the Bill of Rights. 11.3 Students analyze the role religion played in the founding of America, its lasting moral, social, and political impacts, and issues regarding religious liberty. 1. Describe the contributions of various religious groups to American civic principles and social reform movements… 2. Analyze the great religious revivals and the leaders involved in them, including the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening.... 5. Describe the principles of religious liberty found in the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, including the debate on the issue of separation of church and state. 12.1 Students explain the fundamental principles and moral values of American democracy as expressed in the U.S. Constitution and other essential documents of American democracy. 2. Discuss the character of American democracy and its promise and perils as articulated by Alexis de Tocqueville. 12.2 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured. 1. Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, privacy). 12.5 Students summarize landmark U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution and its amendments. 1. Understand the changing interpretations of the Bill of Rights over time, including interpretations of the basic freedoms (religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly) articulated in the First Amendment and the due process and equal-protection-of-the- law clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills Chronological and Spatial Thinking 2. Students analyze how change happens at different rates at different times; understand that some aspects can change while others remain the same; and understand that change is complicated and affects not only technology and politics but also values and beliefs. Research, Evidence, and Point of View 4. Students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations. Historical Interpretation 1. Students show the connections, causal and otherwise between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments. 3
Focus questions for today’s presentation Four sub-questions and sections to presentation: 1. How did the "marketplace of religion" alter religious beliefs and institutions prior in the late 18th century? 2. How did the Enlightenment alter religious beliefs and institutions? a) Virginia Act for Religious Freedom b) the Constitution 3. How did disestablishment affect religion in the early Republic? a) Focus on universal “morality” over denominational identity b) Institutional proliferation 4. How did these issues carry forward into the late 20th century? a) American religious diversity b) school court cases 4
Four key concepts for today: 1.
The marketplace of ideas: Through case studies, we’ll examine the changes religious beliefs underwent in the 18th century, particularly during the Great Awakening & the Revolution. We’ll look at the role that religion played in the “cultural marketplace.” Individual autonomy, religion, and the Enlightenment: The Great Awakening, like the Enlightenment, “placed the individual at the center of the search for truth.” Both traditions encouraged colonists to question traditional authority (Lambert, 10). Consequences of disestablishment. Disestablishment created what historian Jonathan Butler has described as a “spiritual hothouse” for religion. The result was the proliferation of religious groups that were, for the first time, distinctly “American.” In the words of historian Nathan Hatch, the early republic witnessed the “democratization” of American Christianity. Believers’ enthusiasm led them to become involved in benevolent work that included home visits, temperance movement, and, in some cases, abolition. At the same time, religious disestablishment also meant that Americans worried about maintaining a “moral” citizenry. Both issues carried forward into the late twentieth century. Religion in the late 20th century. The first three issues discussed in today’s presentation—the marketplace of ideas; individual autonomy; religious diversity and concerns about morality—carry forward into the late 20th century. We can see these issues in Supreme Court decisions about the role of religion in primary and secondary schools.
Question #1 How did the "marketplace of religion" alter religious beliefs and institutions during the late 18th century? questions: • How did the First Great Awakening alter religious beliefs and attitudes about established religions? • How did new markets & people affect religious beliefs? • How did religious beliefs and practices influence the American Revolution? key concept: the marketplace of religion and the marketplace of ideas: In the early years of colonization, it was easier for religious authorities to maintain religious uniformity in their colony. The First Great Awakening occurred during a period when new ideas and markets challenged these religious beliefs. Historians now suggest that religions had to compete within the marketplace of ideas. This concept points toward disestablishment
How did the First Great Awakening alter religious beliefs and attitudes about established religions? A historian describes the process: “The original planters had vowed to keep divergent ideas out of their settlements, a task that became ever more difficult with a growing population pushing against town borders and an expanding commerce bringing hawkers and peddlers with their new goods and ideas. In the end, defenders of local institutions and traditions failed, as many within their communities eagerly embraced the newcomers and their wares. Insistent upon exercising choice, consumers, whether considering manufactured goods or religious notions, demanded the right to choose for themselves. The result was a new, more expansive definition of religious freedom, one characterized by religious competition among the sects. The world of the settled ministry was turned upside down. No longer able to count on a monopoly within their parishes, clergyman had to woo individuals who were now empowered to decide religious matters for themselves.” – Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (Princeton UP, 2003), p. 124. 7
marketplace of religion Peter Annet, A Discourse on Government and Religion (Boston, 1750)
“Religion, like Trade, ought to be free. It is best dealing at an open market; by that means we have a more reasonable rate…Why should not every man chuse for himself in spirituals, as well as in temporals, and buy those wares he likes best, or thinks he has most need of, seeing he must pay for them.” 8
Religion & the First Great Awakening “Forty years before the American Revolution, a religious revolution swept through the colonies in a spiritual revival known as the Great Awakening, and thousands of evangelical Dissenters embraced the radical notion that individual experience, not church dogma or government statute, was authoritative in religious matters. Salvation, they argued, occurred through the outpouring of God's grace in what they called spiritual “New Birth.” Thus empowered, converted men and women, called New Lights, challenged both church and state authority in matters of faith. Many left their own congregations and started Separate Churches or joined with such radical sects as Baptists. They insisted that religion was strictly voluntary, and that no government could compel an individual to subscribe to any belief or practice. The result was a new place for religion, a religious marketplace in which individual men and women chose among voluntary, competing sects.” (Lambert, 8)
Example 1: The Marketplace of Religion in Virginia
Christ Church, built c.1735
South Quay Baptist Church, built 1775
Interior of Anglican & Baptist churches
Interior, Christ Church
Interior, Mt. Shiloh Baptist, built c.1770s
Example 2: The Marketplace of Religion in New York New York, 1730
The Marketplace of Religion in New York New York, 1771
Example 3: George Whitefield, itinerant evangelist “trafficking in the Lord” (Lambert, 127)
Benjamin Franklin describes the preaching of George Whitefield in 1739: In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refus'd him their pulpits, and he was oblig'd to preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and bow much they admir'd and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem'd as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street. He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words and sentences so perfectly, that he might be heard and understood at a great distance, especially as his auditories, however numerous, observ'd the most exact silence. He preach'd one evening from the top of the Court-house steps, which are in the middle of Marketstreet, and on the west side of Second-street, which crosses it at right angles. Both streets were fill'd with his hearers to a considerable distance. Being among the hindmost in Market-street, I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by retiring backwards down the street towards the river; and I found his voice distinct till I came near Front-street, when some noise in that street obscur'd it. Imagining then a semi-circle, of which my distance should be the radius, and that it were fill'd with auditors, to each of whom I allow'd two square feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than thirty thousand. This reconcil'd me to the newspaper accounts of his having preach'd to twenty-five thousand people in the fields, and to the antient histories of generals haranguing whole armies, of which I had sometimes doubted. By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons newly compos'd, and those which he had often preach'd in the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so improv'd by frequent repetitions that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well turn'd and well plac'd, that, without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleas'd with the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind with that receiv'd from an excellent piece of musick. This is an advantage itinerant preachers have over those who are stationary, as the latter can not well improve their delivery of a sermon by so many rehearsals. source: Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New York: Collier & Son, 1909), pp.104-108. Originally published 1771-1788.
Focus question #2 How did the Enlightenment alter religious beliefs and institutions? Key Concept: Both the Great Awakening & the Enlightenment “placed the individual at the center of the search for truth.” Both traditions encouraged colonists to question traditional authority (Lambert, 10). Historians describe this process: Gordon Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” New York History (October 1980): 358-86: “Once ordinary people found that they could change traditional religion as completely as they were changing traditional politics, they had no need for deism or infidelity…Evangelical Christianity and the democracy of these years, the very democracy with which Jefferson rode to power and destroyed Federalism, emerged together and were interrelated. Historians R. Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick describe a “Godless constitution”: they argue that the founders envisioned a nation with a “godless Constitution and a godless politics.” Religion’s influence was to rest in directing “the customs of the community” and in “regulating domestic life” without subjecting it to the fortunes of a political faction (22). The liberal state’s function was to protect rights, not establish truths. As Frank Lambert suggests, the founders believed that “true religion” was located through “free rational inquiry” rather than church doctrine or government fiat (3). Finally, as Moore and Kramnick point out, for nearly two hundred years religious critics complained that the Constitution failed to use the word “God.” 16
John Locke, Letter Concern Toleration (1689) • [the state] seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests. Civil interest I call life, liberty, health, and indolence of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like. It is the duty of the civil magistrate, by the impartial execution of equal laws, to secure unto all the people in general, and to every one of his subjects in particular the just possession of these things belonging to this life….Every man has commission to admonish, exhort, convince another of error, and, by reasoning, to draw him into truth; but to give laws, receive obedience, and compel with the sword, belongs to none but the magistrate. And upon this ground, I affirm that the magistrate’s power extends not to the establishing of any articles of faith, or form of worship, by the force of his laws.” Excerpted from Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution, pp. 75-6 Oliver Ellsworth, delegate to Constitutional Convention (1787) • “To come to the true principal…The business of civil government is to protect the citizen in his rights…civil government has no business to meddle with the private concerns of the people…I am accountable not to man, but to God, for the religious opinions which I embrace…A test law is…the offspring of error and the spirit of persecution. Legislatures have no right to set up an inquisition and examine into the private opinions of men.” (source: Kramnick and Moore, p. 42). Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII (1781) • “(O)ur rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only.” 17
Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786) (excerpt) Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time... that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right...
[be it enacted by the general assembly that] no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. 18
Religion in the Constitution Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – Comparison to the Declaration of Independence? Article VI: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. - Oath or Affirmation: some may object to oaths or invoking the name of a deity they did not believe in; no religious test for federal office First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. – Establishment Clause AND free exercise clause 19
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776) “Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Instruction of People of all Ages” The interested and active zeal of religious teachers can be dangerous and troublesome only where there is, either but one sect tolerated in the society, or where the whole of a large society is divided into two or three great sects; the teachers of each acting by concert, and under a regular discipline and subordination. But that zeal must be altogether innocent where the society is divided into two or three hundred, or perhaps into as many thousand small sects, of which no one could be considerable enough to disturb the public tranquillity. The teachers of each sect, seeing themselves surrounded on all sides with more adversaries than friends, would be obliged to learn that candour and moderation which is so seldom to be found among the teachers of those great sects, whose tenets, being supported by the civil magistrate, are held in veneration by almost all the inhabitants of extensive kingdoms and empires, and who therefore see nothing round them but followers, disciples, and humble admirers. The teachers of each little sect, finding themselves almost alone, would be obliged to respect those of almost every other sect, and the concessions which they would mutually find it both convenient and agreeable to make to one another, might in time probably reduce the doctrine of the greater part of them to that pure and rational religion, free from every mixture of absurdity, imposture, and fanaticism, such as wise men have in all ages of the world wished to see established; but such as positive law has perhaps never yet established, and probably never will establish in any country: because, with regard to religion, positive law always has been, and probably always will be, more or less influenced by popular superstition and enthusiasm.
The origins of the secular tradition: Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1794) I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life...
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church... It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him. When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention. 21
Focus question #3
How did disestablishment affect religion in the early Republic? key concept Institutional proliferation and creating a “moral” citizenry. Disestablishment created what historian Jonathan Butler has described as a “spiritual hothouse” for religion. The result was the proliferation of religious groups that were, for the first time, distinctly “American.” In the words of historian Nathan Hatch, the early republic witnessed the “democratization” of American Christianity. Moreover, believers’ enthusiasm led them to become involved in benevolent work that included home visits, temperance movement, and, in some cases, abolition. At the same time, religious disestablishment also meant that Americans worried about creating “moral” citizens.
A historian describes this process: “The ideology of the Revolution aggravated this social disintegration but at the same time helped make it meaningful. The egalitarianism of the Revolution explained and justified for common people their new independence and distance from one another. The change and disruptions were offset by the Revolutionary promise for the future of the country…Traditional structures of authority crumbled under the momentum of the Revolution, and common people increasingly discovered that they no longer had to accept the old distinctions that had separated them from the upper ranks of the gentry. As the traditional connections of people fell away, many Americans found themselves in a marginal or what anthropologists call a liminal state of transition and were driven to find or fabricate new ways of relating to one another…People were urged to transcend their parochial folk and kin loyalties and to reach out to embrace even distant strangers. The Enlightenment’s stress on modern civility came together with the traditional message of Christian charity to make the entire period from the Revolution to the Age of Jackson a great era of benevolence and communitarianism. The Enlightenment was not repudiated but popularized. The great democratic revolution of the period forged a new popular amalgam out of traditional folk beliefs and the literary culture of the gentry...Like the culture as a whole, religion was powerfully affected by these popularizing developments. Subterranean folk beliefs and fetishes emerged into the open and blended with traditional Christian practices to created a wildly spreading evangelical enthusiasm. Ordinary people cut off from traditional social relationships were freer than ever before to express publicly hitherto repressed or vulgar emotions… The American Revolution itself was invoked by this evangelical challenge to existing authority, and Christianity for some radicals became republicanized. As in government so in religion. The people were their own theologians and could no longer rely on others to tell them what to believe…” (Gordon Wood, 366-74)
Concerns about “moral” citizens example 1: Alexis de Tocqueville discusses the role of religion Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1831), chapter XVII
“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God. If it be of the highest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be true, it is not so to society. Society has no future life to hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the peculiar tenets of that religion are of little importance to its interests. Moreover, all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. It may fairly be believed that a certain number of Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship from habit more than from conviction. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth. I have remarked that the American clergy in general, without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are all in favor of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular political system. They keep aloof from parties and from public affairs. In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the customs of the community, and, by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state.”
Concerns about “moral” citizens example 2: Catharine Beecher discusses women’s role in a democracy
Catharine E. Beecher, A Treatise On Domestic Economy (1843) “...The success of democratic institutions, as is conceded by all, depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the mass of the people. If they are intelligent and virtuous, democracy is a blessing; but if they are ignorant and wicked, it is only a curse, and as much more dreadful than any other form of civil government, as a thousand tyrants are more to be dreaded than one. It is equally conceded, that the formation of the moral and intellectual character of the young is committed mainly to the female hand. The mother forms the character of the future man; the sister bends the fibres that are hereafter to be the forest tree; the wife sways the heart, whose energies may turn for good or for evil the destinies of a nation. Let the women of a country be made virtuous and intelligent, and the men will certainly be the same. The proper education of a man decides the welfare of an individual; but educate a woman, and the interests of a whole family are secured. If this be so, as none will deny, then to American women, more than to any others on earth, is committed the exalted privilege of extending over the world those blessed influences, which are to renovate degraded man, and "clothe all climes with beauty."
institutional proliferation: the camp meeting source: P.S. Duval, ca. 1801, from Joseph Smith, Old Redstone
other religious sects and traditions that originated or grew during the Second Great Awakening Existing religions that grew: • Baptists (origins of Southern Baptists) • Methodists New religions: • Mormons • Disciples of Christ • Millerites (Seventh-Day Adventists) • Communitarian groups • Finneyite revivals • Transcendentalism & Unitarianism 26
Focus question #4: How did these issues carry forward into the late 20th century? key concept Religion in the late 20th century. The first three issues discussed in today’s presentation—the marketplace of ideas; individual autonomy; and religious diversity and concerns about morality— carry forward into the late 20th century. We can see these issues in Supreme Court decisions about the role of religion in primary and secondary schools.
American religious diversity: the eight leading church bodies in the United States by County, 2000 * (measures church membership, not belief)
the marketplace of religion Long Beach, 2008
Long Beach, 2010
Religion in the schools Establishment cases 1960s-90s - Engele v. Vitale (1962) - Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) - Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) - Lee v. Weisman (1992) Free exercise cases1980s/00s - Westside Community Board of Ed. v. Mergens (1990) - Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of UVA (1995) - Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001)
Primary Sources on the web: Divining America: http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/tserve/divam.htm Religion and the Founding of the American Republic: http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/ African American Odyssey: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aointro.html Selected secondary sources: Patricia Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America (Oxford UP, 1986). Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (Princeton UP, 2003) Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 (University of North Carolina Press, 1982). Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State (W. W. Norton & Company, 1996). R. Laurence Moore, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture (Oxford UP, 1994).