tv Bible in American Public Life CSPAN December 25, 2015 4:30pm-5:54pm EST
the white house and in the classroom. students were asked to tell us what issues they want to hear from the presidential candidates. follow c-span's road to the white house coverage and get all the details about our student cam contest at c-span.org. next on american history tv, mark noll discusses the bible's role in american public life between 1492 and 1783. in the talk, noll argues that americans frequently relied on the bible to support and oppose political ideas. the wilson center hosted this 90 minute program. >> thank you all for coming out on this overcast fall afternoon. it is my pleasure to introduce this afternoon's speaker, professor mark noll, who is the
francis a. mcani professor from notre dame. he's the author of many books including god and race, a short history, published in 2008. the civil war as a theological crisis, 2006. and america's god from jonathan edwards to abraham lincoln which appeared in 2002. recent essays are treatment of the bible in candidate, the 300th anniversary celebrations of the king james version of the bible and catholic uses of scripture in 19th century america. today he will be speaking on his new book which is available outside after our seminar. in the beginning was the word, the bible in american public life, 1492 to 1783. mark noll. >> thanks for the opportunity of being here, and thanks especially to the woodrow wilson center, the american association, the national history seminar, it's a pleasure to be in washington on a warm winter day. images you have on the screen is
is of the first english language -- complete english language bible published in north america. once the break had been made with britain where the monopoly for publishing the king james david had been held by the printers, there was the opportunity to publish in english the bible and now the new united states of america. what will be indicative of the history i'm going to talk about today is the procedure that led to the printing of this bible. robert aiken petitioned congress for permission to publish the bible. the continental congress men didn't know what to do in response to that petition, but they did authorize two clergymen to check the proof sheet to make sure that aikens bible was a completely certified and a good
representation of what had come from britain. that was a moment looking to the past, looking to the future was something quite different. during the era of the american revolution, the bible became a nearly indispensable resource for almost everyone who wanted to venture any kind of an opinion on the great controversies of the day. so it was in 1765 when john adams published the dissertation on the canon and feudal law. he talked about the priests who abuse their power throughout history and as he did that, he drew on a biblical vocabulary long known to protestants to explain this tendency to power to aggrandize. he said it personified the man of sin.
the whore of babylon and the inequities. a few years later on march 23, 1775, patrick henry riveted the delegates who gathered as they considered whether to join massachusetts in the fight against parliament. in his speech, memorably concluded give me liberty or give me death included at least ten distinct bible echos in the 20 clipped sentences that eclipsed the final declaration. tom payne's influential tract common sense said that the problem with british rule was not simply mistakes of parliament, but the very principle of governance by a king. at the heart of payne's argument
was his exposition of first samuel chapter 8 with the lord god and these prophet samuel had chastised for asking by a king like the nations around him. the heart of his argument as the scholars have shown quite rec t recently convinced many that scripture can be posed against rule. rebuttals followed. william smith an anglican wrote about payne's argument from first samuel. there never was a greater perversion of scripture. charles english from new york city, and later the first anglican bishop of nova scotia said i would have to renounce my bible if i were to believe this republican. in 1776, benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson were asked to propose images for the official seal of the new nation coming into existence.
as everyone here knows, neither franklin or jefferson could be considered orthodox paragons. they were not highly regarded by the religious establishment of their day. yet, their proposal for the official seal of the new united states depicted the israelites safe crossing of the red sea guided by a pillar of cloud and fire as described in the book of exodus. after the revolution, there was a same kind of memorializing what had taken place. mercy otis warren in verse described britain's commercial empire as a pharaoh who plagued israel's race and taxed them by a law. demanding brick when destitute of new law. the era influenced the history
of the bible and indeed to this present day, but the book itself is devoted to showing a much longer history going back to the start of the protestant reformation and that led to what happened in the revolutionary era. for almost all of colonial history and in colonial america, it's imperative to view what happened in two angles. it was a british story and it was a protestant story. keeping these two angles in view, i'm able to speak today about three carry away points from the book. first, concerning the strong connection between private religion and public life, second concerning the thoroughly political role that scripture played in colonial society. and then, concerning the intriguing instances when scripture escaped the direct force of political pressure.
colonial american history was protestant because almost all colonists who had all influence were self-conscious decendants who saw it as an important authority for every aspect of life in the world. and actually, in chronological terms, the bible in american history begins with catholics. in the 1490s, christopher columbus put together a large compendium of mostly religious research, some from the pa trystic period aimed at showing isabel what and ferdinand that he was god's person for the new world. his expertise was considerable. he looked like a puritan except he took his cues from medieval
catholics rather than what would come from the later periods. and those who spoke favorably of the native americans did the same thing. looking at the scriptures at length to defend his positions in opposition to much of the spanish colonial activity with native americans. the first archbishop of mexico also had a plan for translating the bible into native languages. a plan that had gone some distance before in the middle decades of the 16th century the spread of protestant attachment tightened the dissemination of the language of the bible in vernacular languages. so by the time the settlements began in north america, catholic use of scripture is present, but
highly contained in the institutional hierarchies of the church and it's a protestant story. protestant character of early american history leads me to the first carry away point. the bible plays a very large role in american public life, but only because it's so consistently and constantly shaped the private lives of many, many individuals. with this connection in mind, it's obvious why martin luther should be regarded as a hugely important figure in american history. he energized a form of christianity in which the individual's attention to words from scripture became a literal matter of life and death and thereby he said a pattern with great influence wherever protestantism was spread. this is columbus' book of
excerpts know translated. here is an older and a younger martin luther. as an old man, writing in the early 1540s, luther detailed the religious break through that occurred in his life 30 years before. he reported that he had been perplexed, confused and driven almost to despair by one phrase from the first chapter of paul's epistle to the romans. that phrase was in it, in the gospel t righteousness of god is revealed. luther was transfixed by the text because he took it to be an authoritative description of how far short sinful human beings fell from god's perfect standard of righteousness. hence came luther's anguish statement that i hated that word righteousness of god. but then luther reported that he experienced the mercy of god, which overturned his previous
understanding of this one particular biblical passage. now he saw that the gospel meant god giving his righteousness to needy centers of the gift. so as luther wrote, here i felt i was altogether born again and i had entered paradise through open gates. then came the sentences that made luther's experience paradig mattic including the history of the american colonies. he wrote, there are totally other face of the entire scripture showed itself to me. thereupon i ran through the scriptures in memories. i found an analogy as the work of god that is what god does in us. the power of god with which he makes us strong. the wisdom of god with which he makes us strong. the salvation of god, the glory of god.
the sacred book which had been a puzzle and an obsession, and an academic challenge and a distress had now become the pathway to life. for luther, very soon thereafter the bible became also a political book when the peasants revolted against the masters and quoted a lot of the bible and quoted a lot of martin luther to justify their rebellion, luther said you've quoted the bible incorrectly. you have applied the text wrongly in this situation. and after actually fairly seriously chastising the princes in principle, backed the serious violent crackdown that took many lives of the peasants. this connection between a book that was alive in personal spiritual life and then used also to determine public policy would continue through the
history of britain in the 16th and 17th century and early american history and passing through important and interesting things for how the bible came to new england and had such an influence on the society there. but the 18th century, the continuing influence of the bible read for personal religion explains why it always remained ready to hand in the american colonies for public purposes. for many number of examples, here is one particularly telling example. the year was 1755. sarah osbourne, a much respected middle aged woman in new port, rhode island, published a book. perhaps the first publication by a woman in colonial america. it was entitled the nature, certainty and evidence of true christianity. as documented in the splendid
recent study, susan osborn's book presented to the public what she had penned throughout her life in extensive diaries in a far flung correspondence. osborn had been a participant, and had attracted such widespread attention. her book fleshed out in practice what revival preachers had proclaimed in their sermons. it recorded a long and difficult spiritual journey. but a journey that eventually took her from a place of despair about her personal sinfulness to grateful trust in god's mercy. the way she described her personal journey was characteristic of almost everything she ever expressed in public. spiritual rest cues she reported came after she in despair as a young widow opened the bible at
random and then read these words from the prophet isaiah. thou shall forget the shame of their youth and not remember the widowhood anymore. the lord of host is his name and thy redeemer the holy one of israel. the god of the whole earth shall he be called. the same text from isaiah is what whitfield preached in scotland in the summer of 1742 after a festive scottish communion season, crowds reliably estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 hanging on every word of whitfield the preacher as he proclaimed thy maker is thy husband. for sarah osborn, she remains though thoroughly immersed in the king james david that hardly
a sentenced passed in anything she wrote or uttered without a scriptual phrase or allusion. it was exemplary. her life fleshed out in practice what was in the bible drenched language of the sermons. her personal religion based so securely on the bible seemed so perfectly to fulfill the ideal of evangelical devotion. so sarah osborne held meetings of the religious nature at home and then attracted men as well as women. there were meetings in which black people and white people met together. which was extraordinary for the period. and in disputes in her local congregational church as well as a social and religious institution, she and one or two other widows were the deciding factors though none had vote, because they were looked to for
the sanctity of their lives. throughout the colonial period and far beyond, the ideal of personal redemption experience in the close attention to the bible was a fixed element and a regular feature of the religion on the ground. now shift attention to virginia in the same year that osborne published her results. in order to have a second one about colonial history. history was always -- also a british -- a british protestant story, because religious development and most developments not so explicitly religious took place in the christian dom. as difficult as its can be to imagine how you experience life before the separation of church and state, that imaginative leap is essential for understanding this earlier history. by christian dom i mean what is succinctly defined as a society
where there are close ties between leaders of the church and secular elite, for the laws purport to be based on christian principles where apart from clearly defined outsider communities everyone is assumed to be christian. christianity provides a common language for the devout and the lukewarm. because the colonies represented an extension of british christian dom, religion remained in colonial life. with the interweaving of social, political and religious political concerns. in 1755, virginians quailed in their homes because of the seven years war and the colonies, the french and indian war. in july of that year, a force of british regulars led by general edward braddock with assistance in virginia militia by a young colonel, george washington, had been destroyed near present day pittsburgh by native americans
allied with france, britain's bitter imperial enemy. that defeat left the colonial frontier including the back country exposed to french troops and even more their indian thei. at the same time that revival impulses were deepening personal attachment to scripture military conflict once again turned the bible into a servant of empire. as one historian has written from the opening of the french and indian war with squirmishes on the virginia frontier to the treaty of paris in 1763 and sermon after sermon the new england clergy lifted up the standard of british liberty against the aggressive tyranny of roman catholic france. the noted sermons of a leading presbyterian indicates this contrasting of liberty and tyranny extended far beyond new england. davies, delaware born and a product of a presbyterian
academy in pennsylvania, played the key role in winning civil rights for his fellow presbyterians staunchly anglican virginia. he was also a moderate but determined promoter of evangelical revival. his successful advocacy for presbyterians in virginia came in large part because of his success at rallying public support for battle against france and their indian -- its indian allies. . . beginning in august 1755, one month after the british disaster on the pennsylvania frontier, davies began a remarkable series of sermons that gave full scope to his renowned oratory. they also demonstrated the power of scriptural usage to repel threats against virginia in particular and britain as a whole. in the sermons davies did pause to drive home the same evangelical imperatives that
filled his week by week preaching the need to confess sins before god, the eagerness of christ to welcome repet ent sinners and the righteous standards true believers should uphold. as davies quoted, paraphrased, mimicked and alluded to the scriptures he appealed to the mind in our own times. at most salient in this addresses and by a long mar begin, for political purposes the identification of britain and israel and complete absorption of specifically protestant theology into the ideals of british liberty. the text for davies' sermons all came from the hebrew scriptures he then immediately applied to current events. for example, amos chapter 3, hear this word that lord has spoken against you o children of israel you only have i known of all the families of the earth therefore i will punish you for all your innic whichties,
jeremiah 48. cursed be here that do the work of the lord deceitfully and keep back his sword from blood and second samuel 10, 12, be of good courage and let us play the man for our people and for the cities of our god. and the lord do that which seem him good. davies virginia auditors were first inserted into the story of david fighting against the numerical superior ammites or beleagued israel oppressed by some other old testament narrative. then they heard that turning to god offered the only hope of rescue. that rescue in turn secured treasures described almost exclusively in terms of british colonial safety. scripture came into the picture explicitly when davies spelled out the larger meaning of the conflict. greedy vultures, indians, priests, friars, and hungry
slaves stood poised against your religion the purest religion of jesus streaming uncorporated from the say cret fountain of the scriptures the most excellent rationale and divine religion that ever was made known to the sons of man. mostly, the sermons moved from the biblical text to fervent imperial rhetoric. on one side stood the spirit of patriotism, the best of kings, and the blessings of liberty, british liberty. on the other were gathered the host of darknesses, these are all phrases from the sermons, the french, those eternal enemies of liberty, the powerful of france, merciless savages, the acts of indian torture, barbarians, blood thirsty savages, the scalps, clouded with gore, the mangled limbs, ripped up women, hearts and
bowels still palpitating with life smoking on the ground, furries in human shape, arbitrary gallic power, tyranny and massacre, oppression and tyranny of arbitrary power, chains of french slavery. for samuel davies during the crisis of the french and indian war biblical religion came fully alive although that religion gestured toward eternalenity. the larger point is that davies' sermons like sarah osbourne's personal religion maintained a long established tradition and pointed to much that would follow. the first english language bible with official royal approval was published in england in 1539. although the later king james version has been called the authorized version of this 1539 great bible was the only one ever officially authorized by
parliament. when readers opened up the bible the 1539 bible the first thing they saw was this elaborate etched title page dominated by an image of henry r8 shown handing scriptures to the archbishop and the second in command thomas cromwell. you can't probably read it but crowds of or nary people appear at the bottom of the page shouting out viva t-rex and gre god save the king. and most quoting biblical passages that underscored the authority of kings to command the people. similarly in 1611, when the king james version appeared the title page bore a similar message moses and aaron, what we today call church and state, were the largest figures to greet this version's eager readers. and so it continued in the era of samuel osbourne -- sorry, it
so continued in the era of sarahs osbourne and samuel davies. every advance in bible translation, every new stage in biblical interpretation, every new era in biblical preaching, involves scripture in a political story as well as in a religious story. in other words, to understand why the bible is so prominent in the era of the american revolution, it's necessary to grasp the central role that occupied in british politics from the era of henry viii and then in british colonial history as soon as british colonies came into existence. because the bibles that accompanied colonies to america came out of a political history, they also came with a strong protestant tradition of vigorous anti-catholicism. f for centuries positive belief the scriptures were able to make these faith in christ jesus 2nd
timothy would be matched by a negative conviction that catholic corruptions of scripture eviscerated true christianity. this combination of foundational commitments scripture and salvation, scripture and politics, scripture and anti-catholicism, grounded the protestant christian faith in england and scotland. it then became a grounding principle of american public life into the revolutionary era and beyond. the instinctive anti-catholicism a british attachment to scripture meant when protestant bibles faced off against catholic france, the bible grew more important as one of the great prizes in imperial conflict and the bible grew much less important as merely one of the prizes of imperial conflict.
third major development in many ways the most important development represented a striking counter-point. the religion of the evangelical bible spread the structures of christian dom experienced a definite weakening. the revivalist stressed an internal change of hearted. you must be born again. led by george whitfield they paid far less attention to the exterms of religious practice that had earlier protestant leaders. the revivalists did not attack christian dom directly, led by whitfield many leading 18th centuries became active champions of the british empire. trying to drive a biblical message of salvation deeper and without much attention to the fabric, revivalist prot stentism led to inadvertent developments.
untils the era of the great awakening african-americans were slow to accept christian teachings for themselves muches else was involved when at first a trickle and then a steady stream of black converts embraced christianity. one factor fairly shouts from the public record left by slaves and former slaves was the scripture, but now operating by itself, largely separate from the structures of christian dom. for this population, revivalistic evangelicalism with an all or nothing concentration on the new birth led to a deeper influence for scripture at mid-century and beyond. once lucent from mediation of christian dom, the bible produced striking even revolutionary results for those on the social margins whom christian dom empire and much of organized protestantism had silenced ignored or actively enslaved. number of recent historians led
by vincent coretta published standing works explaining why the era of the great awakening represented a religious water shed for african-americans. earlier ministers like france's who worked sacrificially amongst south carolina slaves in the first years of the 18th century found his labors blocked by planters who feared converted slaves would agitate for their freedom and show themselves after decades of trying to communicate the christian faith to slaves and battling against planters who were nervous about his activity amongst the slaves himself came to wonder about the goals and methods he was pursuing and his wonderment came about because of his best slave student who learned to read and then began quoting through his master from joel chapter 2, there would be a dismal time in
the moon would be turned into blood and there would be death and darkness and before the darkness went away. consequences of such experiences he scaled back his own teaching efforts with this conclusion. it had been better if those that run too the search after curious matters had never seen a book. with the coming of revival attitudes changed. to be sure the most successful preachers to slave as well as to free blacks and native americans were not abolitionists. none of the major revivalists attacked slavery and some of you know that george whitfield after the first burst of his fame as a revivalist became an active promoter of allowing slavery to come into georgia where it had been excluded by the original charter. yet in their preachings the major revivalists urged those responding to read the bible for themselves. it made no difference who these
converts were as with sarah osbourne in newport. after enthusiastic forms had take an route a presbyterian colleague of davies reported with pleasure in the three hanover county churches he oversaw, hundreds of knee grows beside white people can read and spell who a few years since did not know one letter. this pastor john todd went on to say that sacred hours of the sabbath that used to be spent in frolicking, dancing and other profane courses are employed in intending upon public ordinances learning to read at home or in praying together and singing the praises of god and the lamb. publications by colonial blacks began only in the year 1760, in the midst of an empire caught in war fever but when slaves and ex-slaves took advantage of print they testified to the effects of a very different
fever. one of the first two publications by an african-american came from britain hammond. a massachusetts slave who published a short account of his adventures that included capture at sea, service in the british navy and a whole lot of other interesting stuff. his spirited pamphlet concluded with biblical virtuety by mingling the story of the boy shepherd david and the gospel story of jesus exercising the gathering of carefully selected quotations from two different psalms how he ended the first publication ever by an african-american. now in the providence of that god who delivered his servant david out of the paw of the lion and bear, i am freed from a long and dreadful captivity among worst savages than they and in return to my own native land to show how great things the lord has done for me i would call upon all men and say, o magnify
the lord with me and exalt his name together oh, that men would praise the lord for his goodness and wonderful works to the children of men. in this first ever published work from an african-american or african britain, the author drew on the scriptures but not a bible cushioned within the super structures of christian dom. the same biblical orientation marked the next african-american publication 88 line poem from christmas day by jupiter hammond and slave man on long island. this broadside began with the word salvation which is then repeated 20 more times in the poem, and with a direct scripture specifying the origin nature and availability of that salvation. here's how the poem started. salvation comes by jesus christ alone the only son of god. redemption now to everyone that
love his holy word. the poem is a whole overflowed with scripture phrases employed to describe the gift of salvation that supplied the poem with the grand theme and there's a paraphrase from john chapter 6 lord unto whom shall now we go. an echo of isiah 55, everyone that hunger hath illusion to psalm 23, salvation be thigh leading staff. our hearts and souls to meet again to magnify thy name and echo of luke 2, glory be to god on high. with britain hammond's narrative jupiter hammond's poem kept its focus on a message of personal salvation rather than anything overtly imperial military cultural or political. this is the actually a rare copy of a later poem that hammond publisheded in honor of it
phyllis wheatley. a little bit of an exception to this early african and britain writing because of phyllis wheatly knew the bible very well she also wrote about other things. she used quite a bit of classical imagery in her poem. the poem by jupiter hammond for phyllis wheatley, however, is in the style of the some of the older puritan writing. every stanza of the poem has a biblical reference beside it that is -- provides some kind of a clue to why britain hammond thinks that phyllis wheatley was an important person for african-americans and for good literature and for the causes of the late 18th century. again the poem is remarkably politics-free. and so it continued through the biblical black atlantic with the publication of the great works
that now have been discussed and published anew. so 1774, a narrative of the most remarkable particulars in the life of james albert. and then in 1785, a narrative of the lord's wonderful dealing with john mirrant a black. now going to preach the gospel in nova scotia. i think it's in his work he takes up the american revolution and half of a sentence in a fairly long word. then david george's account of his remarkable experience as a slave in south carolina. a liberated loyalist in nova scotia and pioneering settler in sierra leone. david george's memoir is interesting because he, too, was a biblically drenched bibically infused person who applied standard metaphors but in the reverse order. britain was moses. the new america was egypt from which he had been liberated. and then in the best known work
of the period the interesting life of the african published in 1789 relating the life of the preceding 30 years, my wife and i counted that the bible references more than one a page and there is, again, about a half paragraph on the american revolution. only with the poems that phyllis wheatley did the pattern deviate but then only a little. the great majority these narratives described how a word or words from scripture brought spiritual life healing and hope in this emphasis they shared a great deal with their white evangelical counterparts the difference came in that the bible for african-americans did not become a bible for british empire. it was book communicating spiritual power not imperial power. now just a brief conclusion. the great complexity of the late colonial era comes from the fact that bible in support of british christian dom and the bible
moving away from the structures of christian dom became increasingly important at the same time. for some, christian dom is scripture closer together. for others they moved apart. and for still others, the bond between christian dom and scripture grew stronger and weaker at the same time, thus even as clonists impolicely took for granted the character of many features of british society some were also being spiritually transfixed by an explicit and potentially disruptive biblical message ignoring christian dom. the pairing of the bible for personal religion and the bible for empire continued to shape the history of scripture for a very long time. especially as the bible for the colonies, the bible pulsing at the heart of the british empire, became the bible for a few nation, the bible pulsing at the heart of the united states of america. thank you. [ applause ]
>> we now get to our discussion section. we have a few ground rules. the first of which is, please wait until the microphone reaches you before speaking and secondly, please identify yourself as you talk. start over here. >> my name is ste ven shore. a question i can't help but ask having denounced the french and catholicism during the french and indian war how did many of the same writers respond to the french alliance? was this as problematic for them as the nazi soviet pact for communists in 1939? >> no, because necessity dictated it had to take place, although charles whom i quoted against tom payne had a field day after the alliance. he maintained the traditional
trope of anti-catholicism to say what kind of fraudulent defense of liberty do we have now where supposedly the sons of liberty have applied themselves with those of popish tyranny. isn't it obvious the whole movement for an independence is a fraud and it wasn't, of course, but that was his argument. >> yes. >> john witty, fan of mark noll. two questions, one about the beginning and one about the end of your lecture. the beginning part when you talked about the 1781 approval of the continental congress for the addition of the american addition of the bible i'm interested in some of the politics there. because the revolutionary war had spent a great deal of time talking about freedom of press, freedom of speech earlier state constitutions were very sternly against licensing of any books including spiritual books, and what motivated the printers of
the american edition of the bible to go to the continental congress? just reflex or something more afoot? and then i'm interested at the -- about the last part of your lecture, and the use of the bible as a narrative of liberty, liberty from the monarchy and liberty from slavery, and you have a lot of wonderful quotes and a lot of echos and paraphrases of scripture, but the scripture does speak fairly firmly about monarchy and does speak firmly about slavery and so beyond the echos and phraseology that bible provides, what gave the late colonists to use the bible as an anti-slavery and anti-monarchy document. thank you. >> on the first matter, the -- i believe you john supplied the right word. it was a reflex.
the continent congress itself did not ever authorize the bible printing by an official act because of the rising tide against notions of alsoing though it did appoint these two ministers to make sure the text was all right. my sewn sense is that even as the founders of the new american nation were shaking off much that they thought represented an abuse of british power, the instincts of more than a millennium that saw public and religious life intertwined were difficult to shape. in fact, i think what you could say is in much of american history that followed an informal christian dom replaced the formal. with informality would come the separation of church and state, laws against needing to license religious works but there would be other ways, voluntary ways, of establishing that kind of maintaining that type of connection. on the narratives of exodus and
narratives of liberation i should mention a book by john coffee called something like exodus which traced the ek owe does themes in zscripture to th american civil rights movement as a powerful set of texts and scripture not just the liberation of the children of israel from egypt but the passage about setting the prisoners free and giving sight to the blind or giving added residence by being picked up by jesus in the new testament, the use of liberation language drawn from the scriptures in the 1760s and 70s has to be a problem for anyone who is serious about moral reflection in general, and a special problem for people like myself who believe the bible is a direct revelation
from god. there is not -- there is very little attention to bible message regarding slavery for -- regarding freedom for the enslaved from the first decade of the 18th century until 1770. four quakers who in the middle decades of the 18th century wrote against slavery drawing heavily on the scriptures, whom are never studied although works published by benjamin franklin, and anthony who did have a wider influence in their works but no one paid attention. beginning, however, with the defense of liberty, politically, 1769, 71, 72, there begins to be what will continue in the united states into the 1860s a debate on whether the bible legitimated
slavery. from the very first tracks published like this it was a divided defenders of slavery particularly in the british caribbean trotted out the passages about abraham, book, instructions to saves obeying their masters and said what could be more obvious that bible recognizes slavery led by grandville sharp works published in america before britain, benjamin rush, it was the opposite word and then by the 17 -- mid 1770s on to 1780s a lot of bible oriented libertarian argument against slavery. that's a different story that needs to be spun out. but it was a contested matter. the language of political liberty is more complicated because most of the bible use is as i gave it in the early
illustrations of the talk, restorecle rather than argumentive. tom payne is argumentive, but not real good [ inaudible ] and the passages from first peter, love god, honor the emperor, you can imagine, were thrown in payne's face by his loyalist opponents as long as they could have access to the printing press, that was a problem for loyalists from 1777/1778. there was -- there were however serious works by patriots particularly on romans chapter 13, john than had one of the earlier extensive ones, there were several that came through the middle colonies in the south saying, yes, romans 13 looks like a blanket christian necessity to obey the emperor,
the king, but we know that the apostle paul challenged authority when the authority abused itself. and that was an argument. there were other arguments from the other side. again, there was a printing problem for the loyalists. the most extensive loyalist on galatians chapter 5 stand fast in the liberty where with christ have made you free was first preached and then published by jonathan busher, preached in 1775 but not published until 19 1792 or 1793 and had to wait to publish in great britain. the use of biblical rhetoric gave a tremendous sacred or ra to arguments for the revolution, but that rhetoric was a lot stronger than the arguments for the same. >> thank you.
>> name. >> so as someone who's not at all familiar with religious history, or much american history either, i'm dane kennedy director of the national history center, i wonder if you could contextize your talk and say a little bit more about how you're trying to frame this book and this talk in the larger debates about the role offed bible, religion, early american history and where you see your argument sort of diverging perhaps from some others that have been made in recent years and more generally, how that speaks to our contemporary understanding of religion and the bible in
american politics and american life. you think that's enough? >> many of us become historians because we like dealing with dead people who can't speak back. cowardly folks. well, intervention i would like to make in the book i do try to explain in the preface for people who aren't particularly interested in religion, i hope it can bring a sense to how thoroughly ril been was a part of the moral framing of the american nation not just the revolutionary years but coming out of a lang tradition not just british protestant but defense of liberty. so parliament in the 1620s, 18th century, the political ideology that most american patriots accepted, the american
presentation, all of these things came with the biblical address. by no means was -- by no means wa not every argument, but most were. for anyone wanting to understand anything about the moral dimensions of american public life, some understanding of the bible is required. for people who are -- to honor other scriptures not the christian scriptures which there are more and more in the united states and have been since the late 19th century, i hope the book will be a lesson in how to -- how to apply a sacred text to a public space and not to apply a say cret text cred text space. for christian people who have
attachments, various ways of being attached to the bible, for christian people being attached to the bible is a divine book, i hope there is a very sober assessment of where scripture has enabled people to act all truistically, charitably, some measure in accord with biblicals principles like god is made of all -- god is made of all peoples of one race, one blood, and people that share my belief that the bible is a sacred book will take to heart the mistakes that have been made. samuel davies out of control when he went after the french. there may have been ap argument for mobilizing virginia against frontier mir raudsing french and
indian allies but set in the context of the imperial wars of the 18th century this was not a situation of all good and all liberty against all evil and tyranny. using the absolutes of a sacred volume to advance temporal means, was and remains a problem. >> if i could follow up on that. it seems to me that the rebels, the revolutionaries and the republic are using scripture to advance their political cause. you will have loyalists attempting to do the same thing. this notion that mistakes are made, i mean, looking back you can say given our views today, this doesn't work but that feels just a touch ahistorical, or am i mishearing something? >> certainly not ahistorical to say mistakes were made because
they are continually. what i take from the biblical particularly the revolutionary period is the overwhelming, nearly overwhelming tendency the nearly overwhelming pressure once a crisis occurs, to gather everything that you're able to gather to support your side. and christian people are supposed to have an organization, a priority of an agenda of loyalties, is in which loyalty of the nation is very important but not the ultimate loyalty. and i do think there actually were examples, i try to provide as many of these as possible in the book, of people who while being patriotic, being loyal, kept the prioritization of
loyalty somewhere in balance. what i would take away from the rhetoric of the seven years war, the rhetoric of the american revolution is not that some kind of a quiet religious passivism is appropriate, but that putting sacred warrants to the purpose of temporal goals is a process fraught with danger partly to the temporal product, but more to the religious actors who make those claims. mistakes were made, is it possible to learn from mistakes. what i think people can learn from mistakes is not that they should forget about religion when it comes to public life, but that they should be cautious and as cautious as possible about how religion is applied to the great crises of public life.
>> thank you. >> anita jones. american historical association. i'm curious and maybe it's a little outside the scope of what you're talking about, but if you compare say the english-speaking world with the rest of europe, how different was it? >> there is a biblical overlay and a biblical rhetoric that's applied consistently in the spanish empires in america, tends to come from the top down, tends to be bishops and not always monarchs but officials around the imperial court, i think a difference in the english speaking world because of protestantism is that the use of the bible is propelled as much from the mid-levels of
society and even sometimes the lower level of society as above. i spent a fair bit of time on the 1640s and 1650s in england because this is the time when earnest bible believers had an opportunity to implement what they considered to be biblical norms of public life and ended unable do that because they were conflicting with themselves but also in the colonies because of the ending of restrictions on what can be published you get signal works like roger williams plea for religious freedom but actually just as a pa ren this nobody else ever paid attention until the 1770s and no one else paid attention to the 1970s. it wasn't an influential work but indicative work and his argument was that the puritan effort to constrain people to live by the bible was a mistake because it violated bible
teaching. that aspect of the english speaking world was different in that arguments using the authority of scripture were coming at least every place on the political spectrum and social spectrum and then though it's not like in the 19th century with anyone with a little money and printing press can publish anything. over in the 18th century and the colonies you begin to hear more and more nonauthorized voices trying to explain to the public how the bible should be interpreted. these early quakers that i mentioned, sandford and layer are interesting people, quite eccentric, both had experience in the caribbean, made them fierce anti-slave people, one of them, not remembering which, began to re-enact some of the quaker early days of disrupting services and he came into quaker service with a book, a bible
inside which he se created a bladder full of beat juice and said to the quakers you are killing the scriptures. he hacked at the bible. blood spewed everywhere. and no one paid attention, but benjamin franklin had published his book. it's there now on the early american imprints to see what was happening. that was very much a voice from below empowered by the notion of the priest of all believers, the protestant ideal not really worked out very well in protestant practice until you get to the 19th century. >> [ inaudible ]. >> yes. the answer shortly, that the christian dom meant a lot of restrictions on the expression of the bible. >> thank you. gentleman up here. then we'll go to you.
>> hi, i'm joe slaughter. i'm a doctoral candidate, the university of maryland and early american history. i think the question about what the intervention is is probably a good question, especially for people that are not real versed in historiography. that sort of thing. since i'm graduate student, i can sum mar rise several hundred years of history, since that's kind of what we do. if i can clarify and maybe for people left, i think what you're saying your intervention is a little bit in the lines of there's this sort of narrative out there that we know people are pretty religious and concerned about the bible in the 1600s particularly in new england. then it's all starting to go downhill. maybe the great awakening which some people don't believe happens. then that kind of stems the tide temporarily. then by the time we get to the revolution, you know, people aren't really that concerned about religion anymore. but i think that what you're
saying is that it's more complicated than that. and particularly by stressing payne's work, saying there's a vocab larry out there and that the people know and the bible stories resonate with them for good reason. and maybe you can clarify this, i think you're joining other people that are now kind of challenging that narrative. james byrds comes to mind. is that fair to say you're kind of complicating that narrative and saying that it still is really important, even by the time of the revolution? >> all right. in reference to james byrd, the book -- on the bible and revolutionary america, did a lot of trolling through published and unpublished things and found what others have indicated before. that there just is no comparison in authoritative references to older literature, scripture is -- there's just no comparison. daniel greecebalk has done the
same sort of thing. the book by aaron is "american zion" which carries the story into the 19th century showing particularly for first three or four decades of national history, the image of the united states is a new israel is almost everywhere. not quite everybody, but almost everywhere. now i actually happen to think for contemporary purposes this very good scholarship poses a question more than answers a question. and poses a question what should be thought about, national history in which sacred text -- the christian sacred text played such a large role. and i think i would like to say pause and think about an answer before responding. is it a good thing from the christian angle that there's a
lot of bible or a bad thing because there was so much abuse of the bible? you it a good thing from a secular point of view that moral values remain prominent in public life. and not -- wasn't just the market. it wasn't just personal satisfaction. it wasn't what i could get, but some kind of a moral language inflected public debate in the united states. so sort of glib references to christian america or glib references to the godless constitutional era just don't -- they can't cut it. >> thank you. first of all, i think you had a question. then we'll go with amanda. >> the national history center. you just said you thought you would want to think about the question of whether or not it's a good thing that christianity is part of a national history or religion is a part of a national
history. but before you ask that question, do you need to ask whether the bible is part of -- whether it's a national history or is the history of the bible a transnational history? a transatlantic history. americans' religious activity and knowledge and communities were heavily transatlantic in this era. >> yes. good question. actually, nice advertisement for the book because the bible in american public life it's about page 150 before we get to america and the united states. so, yes, i think it's important to see for the purposes of understanding american history that the christian bible, then later other scriptures have been very important. it is also important for the history of the bible to realize that this is never a strictly national story. so robert aiken bible is the first english language bible
completely -- complete english bible published in north america, but several german language editions from the christopher sower press publiced in the 1750ss and 60s that brought to the colonial british empire not just text, but debates on how texts should be used and printed from the central part of europe which is not germany yet. but the german speaking parts of -- and then the translation of the bible into indian languages which was the first complete bible published in north america. john elliott's algonquin translation is also a story that has we would say today mexican and canadian and american residence and when we get to the second half of the 19th century, the beginning of globalization of christian faith, the story of
the bible today is far far more than just an american story. >> right here. >> hi. steve lipson. i'm asking more about how african-americans view the bible? when you talk about they were interested in like the salvation of the empire, does that mean that they were an exception to your broader point of america -- point of the spiritual life, but not to public life implication? like did african-americans join in the -- any of these anti-slave ry debates or even empire debates when each side was trying to win african americans to their side? and the final thing is, to the extent that it's -- i mean, sometimes published sources could potentially be misleading compared to what people as a whole thought. so anyway -- >> the last points, i'm glad you mentioned this. because this is the public use
of the bible. this book was supposed to be like a 75-page introduction to the 19th century where things get really interesting. it just grew and grew and it's 300 pages now. still only the public use or virtually only whereas the african-american story is always more -- all of the different strands are always more than just public stories but you do begin to see in the mid decades in the 18th century print from african-americans that is exceptional for being mostly nonpolitical and actually mostly not arguing about slavery. he has a few paragraphs in 1780s, the first african-american full-scale attack on slavery comes relatively late, late 1780s, 1790s. there's effective publication by
haynes in the 19th century, by daniel coker in the 19th century, but it really is quite a bit later when public african-american use of the bible takes on the explicit arguments for and against slavery. now, i think what's obvious from what's published very early on and from the continuous chain of publication is that life as enslaved people sets up some for being very open to a message of spiritual liberation and for those ones that message of spiritual liberation doesn't stop with spiritual liberation. so britain hammond and do the first works. in 1760. both remain slaves but it's clear that there was -- there was a -- there was a use of not just the bible, but the use of the personal voice that was
pushing against slavery. phyllis wheatley is purchased by a boston owner in 1770, '71, and he eventually is willing to manument her, partly because she reads the bible so fast and partly because she's an effective voice for what you might call a bibly sized consciousness that by the 1770s is beginning to move against slavery. the story of the bible and slavery is complicated and takes a lot of twists and turns later on. early on it's english quaker and rich anglicans are moaning the public attack. it's hard to place him religiously. he's all over the map. he is one of the first americans who makes that a biblical anti-slave case, 1772, 1773. >> thank you. don?
clear in the back. all the way in the back. we'll get to you. >> i'm don wolf from the wilson center. i'm curious in the run up to the revolution whether the historical record shows sermons being delivered in the church of england here in the u.s. by the clerics, the priests. was there a uniform take on how the bible was being interpreted as america became, you know, fomenting more revolutionary rhetoric generally? >> there wasn't. ministers who came with the gospel society for the promotion of christian knowledge most directly from england tended to be conventional loyalists relying on passages like romans and peter 2 to encourage loyalty to the monarchy.
there were anglican ministers, jacob boucher was the chaplain of the congress. preached sermons that looked like he was a patriot of -- once the british occupied philadelphia, new york, anyway, 1777, 78, he went back to britain and ended up as a loyalist exile. there were anglican ministers who either supported the patriot cause or were neutral. and as should be obvious from vestry men from jefferson and washington there are anglican lay leaders who didn't think anything of the loyalist arguments. interestingly enough, the division in britain did probably fall closer along denominational
lines. most anglicans in britain supported the king. many congregationalists, presbyterians, baptists, quakers in england leaned in the other direction. although there were exceptions in both sides too. english anglicans urging the parliament to be more conciliatory towards the colonies and some dissenters who thought the monarchy was acting correctly in trying to put down the rebellion. >> now jim. >> james banner. mark, you made a distinction in passing that i'd like to ask you to pursue. as a skeptic, i have to be deeply troubled by the application of any sacred text to public affairs, whether it's the koran or the talmud or the bible. and it's always puzzling to me
how i interpret the application of the bible to public affairs. you made the distinction between rhetorical and argumentative application. can you tell us what you mean by that? because it may actually help me not as a historian but as someone who is living in our day and age. >> well, i hope it helps you first as a historian, because this is one of the clearest distinctions to be found in actually not just the revolutionary period but most of the 18th century. so by rhetoric, i mean the use of biblical illusions and analogies, examples, applied to the current situation. so i would call the sermons that i quoted from samuel davies
rhetorical. so the text, wherever it was here from -- is this the davies' one? from first samuel is pretty hard to get an anti-french or anti-papal message out of that text argumentatively. it was easy for davies to get one out by saying our position is like the children of israel who are threatened by their enemies. we are threatened by our enemies. they trusted in the lord, so should we we may be rescued. by argumentative text, i mean like the occasions beginning in the 1750s when colonial ministers tried to exgy to explain why that categorical imperative, the powers that be ordained by god, if you disobey the monarch, you're disobeying god, why that passage is not
considered categorical, universe, and there was a lot of recourse to other parts of the bible, some recourse to learned people in the past,. those type of performances were not as common as analogy, example, typology. but did take place. during the late -- mid 1770s, some of the best argument in terms of skillful deployment of reason, learning, had to do with whether a bishop was necessary for a well running church. really nice book that's now probably 50 years old by brightenbalm explains there was really good theological reasoning about how to interpret the new testament in particular,
with respect to bishops. were they necessary. if this was necessary, then it was pure prejudice that kept the colon nists from not receiving an anglican bishop. if they were required it made more sense to think of the anglican appeal of the bishops to be a political ploy to get more top down power. and these tracts on that subject tended to be a lot less dependent upon mere evocation of bible language. now, does that do anything for a skeptic? i don't know. i mean, you have -- you'd have to look, for example, at the sermons of jonathan boucher who argued against -- who argues for the sinfulness of rebellion against your rightful emperor. and i'm not sure a skeptic
would be necessarily swayed by those arguments because they're made under the assumption that the bible has a determinative authority and it's the duty of christian people to discover what that authority is. i think a person who had no stake in the bible could make a judgment as to who was making the sounder arguments, but not necessarily applying them to themselves. what we do not get very much of, or at least i certainly vice president found it in the american situation, even for people who are referencing kato and john locke, you don't get a lot of straightforward political argument where the bible is introduced that doesn't make more of a rhetorical than an expository case. i think what you're looking for will come later in american
history once there's a broader public -- so the response is the payne's age of reason, did generate a tremendous amount of counterargument. most of this i wouldn't recommend to a skeptic, but there are a few pieces that were not too bad. >> very quickly coming to the end of our time here. any final comments or questions? right behind you. >> i'm curious what roman catholic opinion was as the revolution approached both in the colonies and in the u.k. >> at most 25,000 catholics in what will become the united states, and the wealthier families in maryland that were catholic tended to move in the patriotic direction.
the question about what happens when there is an alliance with france does implicate some colonial catholics as well. colonial catholics as well. britain catholics knew then that the colonial alliance with france proved that this breakaway movement was morally bankrupt. in the coloniecolonies, it's a different because there were -- new england -- people that took part in the american invasion of canada under benedict arnold who actually came back from new france feeling a little bit better about what they encountered. they were devils. they ernt eating their children. they seemed to be semidecent folks. there's a nice book by a man named hanson who argue that that experience of the invaders
actually cushioned some of the anti-catholicism that had been so prevalent rhetorically and ideologically in england leading to the first -- get the date exactly right -- the first recognized catholic congregation in boston, 1789, 1790. so the anti-catholic ideology was still there, but when real catholics showed up on the ground, things were a little less strident. on the anti-catholic element that the language and also the argumentative edge particularly to the mid-18th century onward is anti-papal. it is the pope as an exemplar as top-down tyranny, very little discussion of transsubstantiation or the virgin mary, much more focus on the abuse of power as in john adams canons and secular law.
>> thank you to our audience. thank you to mark knoll. this holiday weekend, american history tv on c-span3 has three days of featured progr programming this evening at 6:30 eastern to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of president dwight david eisenhower, his granddaughters, susan, ann and mary eisenhower gather for a rare family discussion at gettysburg college to talk about his military and political career as well as his legacy and relevance for 21st century americans. then on saturday afternoon at 1:00, 60 years ago rosa parks defied a city ordinance for blacks to leave their seats on a sfe bus to make room for white passengers. her stand helped instigate the montgomery bus boycott. we'll reflect on the boycott and see what role lawyers played in that protest and the civil
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