tv Lectures in History Salem Witch Trials and the Great Awakening CSPAN November 22, 2018 2:15pm-3:30pm EST
presidency, reflections on former first lady barbara bush. saturday at 8:p.m. eastern on lectures in history, how the pilgrims became part of america's founding story. and sunday at 9:00 a.m. constitutional scholars philip bobbitt and akeel reed omar talk about how the u.s. constitution defines impeachable offenses for the president. thanksgiving weekend on the c-span networks. up next on lectures in history, baylor university professor thomas kidd teaches a class on the the first great awakening a period in the 1850s of christian revitalization that spread through the colonies. he explains how the salem witch trials led to traveling preachers. his class is about 70 minutes. >> we have been talking about the founding of the american colonies, and we are getting now
into the 1700s today and this week. i want to focus mostly on religion in the late colonial period and the coming of the great awakening in the 1730s and '40s. i know it is on your mine since you have a paper coming up about that. we are going to give a background to religion in the colonial period, the leadup to the great awakening, the overview of what happens in the great awakening. hopefully that will set you up better for your papers. you can see here on the screen we have an iman of george whitfield who is the most famous preacher of the great awakening preaching in london there in the 1730s, 1740s. he is the sensation of the age. we will talk more about him when we get there. first i want to take a look at the background to what's happening in 18th sent century
america with regard to religion. we talked about some of this already before in class about the scope of religion and religious commitment across the colonies. if you look first at the southern colonies from maryland down to georgia, mostly what we have is a formal commitment to the church of england and the church of england of course is the national official church of england, of britain. and most of those colonies adopt what we would call a kind of formal establishment of the church of england. but the southern colonies overall are probably the least religious of all the colonial regions. which if you think about that for a second, you will ewhy that's a little weird, because we think of the south today as the bible belt, correctly. but in the colonial period it is
different. in the colonial period there is a kind of formal establishment at least of the church of england. but once you get out past the colonial cities, places like williamsburg and charleston and savanna, the rates of church going and commitment to the church of england is pretty limited. and part of the reason for that is, you remember going back to the founding of jamestown in 1607, these colonies are mostly being founded for business purposes. and it is a little difficult to set up churches in the back country where settlement is so scattered. and so people living in the rural south in the early 1700s, i mean they might have been christians for sure. i am sure most of them would have considered themselves to be christians. if they were literal they probably read the bible. maybe they had family devotions, but many, many of them did not
go to church. maybe the nearest church is 50 miles away f. that's the case, if you are going on a wagon, you are not going to go to church. right? so the south -- and people in the north -- in the northern colonies recognize this. this isn't just looking back as a historian. people in new england would talk about their worry for the south, and its relative godlessness, that there just weren't that many people going to church there, weren't enough churches, weren't enough pastors. so the south was really regarded as the least religious part of the colonies. the middle colonies -- here we are talking about new jersey, pennsylvania, new york, delaware -- is a real mix of different kind of christian denominations. you have -- and they are often connected to a particular ethnicity. so you have scottish
presbyterianians, you have dutch we form people, this is the group who founded new netherlands in the 1620s. german lutherans. there are quakers of course. we have seen that. there is different baptist groups in the middle colonies. so the milled colonies, i think is representative of the kind of diversity that you see in modern america, that there is just a lot of different kind of religious groups. a lot of kind of ethnicities. sometimes they don't get along with each other, they are competing for adherence, but it's kind of hard to tell the one single linear story of the south and slavery, new england and puritanism, the middle colonies is just more like that. and in new england when you get into the early 1700s, and when you are talking about the 18th century, we mean the 1700s. new england sees the decline of
puritanism. remember, they had been founded, massachusetts, connecticut especially, these kind of colonies are founded as puritan colonies. and puritanism, by the early 1700s, is in decline. we are now 70, 80 years past the time of the founding. and the puritan movement has started to fade away. historians debate about just how much puritanism is really declining. some of this may just be talk because you know that pastors especially, but lots of christians will talk about oh, you know, our founders were much more committed than we are. i don't know if you have ever heard that in a church service or something. but you know, it used to be so much better, but now we have fallen away. i mean that's a very common rhetorical move that you get in churches. you started the see that in the
new england churches, too, in the late 1:1600s, the early 1700s. it even breeds a type of sermon, a characteristic kind of new england sermon that you get in this period that historians call the jeremiahds. if you know your bible well enough, you will hear a name in there. that's from jeremiah, who was a very gloomy kind of prophet. he was the sort of prophet that said to israel, you have fallen away from god, you need to straighten up or else judgment is coming. and that kind of sermon became very common in new england, too, starting in the say 1670s. 168 s. early 1700s. the pastors would say you have fallen away from her first love, fallen away from the original mission of the founding puritan generation in the 1630s and you
need to turn around, turn back to god and renew your doe investigation to the lord. now, how reflective this is of actual reality on the -- i mean, had the people really turned away from god? it is sort of hard to know how to measure that. it is hard obviously to judge people's hearts. but there is some evidence that at least new england is becoming more diverse. not just exclusively puritan. you may remember that we talked about it then in the 1690s, england started requiring massachusetts to tolerate other kinds of protestants. not just puritans but now you have to tolerate quakers and baptists and other kinds of protestant groups. there are some intriguing pieces of evidence about rising at least access to sort of immorality and so forth. in the 168 0s it look like
boston probably gets its first brothel. characteristic of colonial cities of london and so forth at the time. but puritan boston gets a brothel, you know, a house of prostitution? this is horrifying to a lot of people. there occasionally are dancing classes being offered in boston in this era. i mean, you know, and the puritans were not keen on dancing, especially between unmarried couples. you know, so there are actually some pieces of evidence that you could look at and say, well, maybe this is becoming a sort of more diverse non-puritan society. maybe there issing? to that jeremiahad theme. probably something the most horrific for the pastors in the late 1600s salem witchcraft
crisis. we have a document on that if you want to pull that out and read it. the salem witchcraft crisis is significant for the leaders in new england first and foremost for them because they see it as a great attack of satan in their society. the puritans believed they had a very high calling from god and they said of course, what would you expect, that satan is going to break out in these attacks against us. that's how they saw what happened in 1692, satan raised up a cohort of witches to come and attack their people and try to disrupt new england society. so that's how they first and foremost interpreted what was going on in salem. so dozens of people start being accused of being witches. probably if you remember some of the sorry even from maybe reading something like the crucible by arthur miller, there
was a group of mostly teenage girls who probably had gotten involved in at least some kind of white magic type of practice trying to tell the future and so forth. and then those girls started to have signs of what the puritans would have considered to be sort of demonic attack, demonic oppression, and having convulsions and being tormented. and they would say that it was this woman, that woman who was coming, especially in the spirit realm, to attack them spiritually and to physically harm them. so ultimately -- by the way, it is mostly younger women accusing older women of being witches. so almost all of the accused are women. but almost all of the accuse remembers women, too.
so one interesting historical investigation that some historians have engaged in is was this a kind of, you know, what you would call a misogynistic episode, a woman-hating gender episode, loathing of women, especially these kind of older women who were difficult to deal with, maybe had gotten into altercations with their neighbors and so forth? and that's an interesting thesis. but one kind of problem with it is it is almost always women too who are accusing. it would be a little more convenient if it was men accusing women to read it as a misogynistic episode. but there are some men who get accused of being war locks. and it end up being hundreds of people who get accused across the region. it is not just in salem. but ultimately, some very elite people start getting accused.
and i think not coincidentally that's when the judges and other officials start thinking about closing the thing down because they can see that the accusations have started to just go completely viral, haywire -- they say wait a minute, it is too many people. and they start to doubt some aspects of the trials. now, everyone in salem, in new england i think approaching 100% of everybody believes that witches exist. so even the critics of the trials are saying, well, now, we know that witches exist, but their problems that we have with the way in a the trials are being run. okay? and we will talk about why in a minute. but that's a really important aspect to understand. this is not, you know, the puritans who in their religious
fervor believe in the existence of witches and then standing outside of that you have skeptics saying you fools, don't you realize -- no. everybody realizes or believes at the time that the super natural is real and that at least in isolated cases that people can make a covenant with the devil in order to have malevolent spiritual power so to be able to cast spellsan people and maybe to torment them in the spirit realm at least. let's take a look at this document. i will get you to give me some comments about this. on page 43 in your book, you see we have a woman who they call an indian woman. now it is debatable exactly who she was but she seems to have been maybe an indentured servant or slave in the household of one
of the pastors who is involved. when they say indian we think it may be native american, about it is more likely she is probably from the caribbean. you remember when columbus he came he said this is the inys. sometimes when they say an indian that meant somebody from the caribbean. we don't know a whole lot about this woman other than these testimonies. but she's being interrogated, and they start off on page 44. and they say, the judge says to her, woman, what evil spirit have you familiarity with? and she says none. why are you hurt hadding these children? i do not hurt them. who is it then? the devil for all i know. and so on and so forth like this. now, when you lead in like that in this trial what does that tell you about the way that
judicial proceedings went in the 1600s? do you want the bring the mike over? what does that tell you. >> it is very face value. there is no like evidence to back it up. it's just straight up asking and seeing if it happened. >> yeah. i mean it is very matter of fact, including about the spiritual dynamic, too. i mean they are very willing to take testimony about what the devil has done. what else does it tell you about judicial proceedings in the 1600s? >> based in this case that there isn't much of an innocent until proven guilty. >> that's right. >> they believe that she is guilty but they don't necessarily have the evidence to back the claim. so -- but they do believe she is guilty, without a doubt. >> yes. so there is no presumption of
innocence. and that is not unusual in the 1600s. i mean in english legal system at this time there is no guarantee you are going to be assumed to be innocent. the way they kbrogt these people is if you have been accused, you are -- the way they interrog ate these people is if you have been accused, we assume you are dpel. what they are trying to do is make her admit she is guilty. she says early on she didn't hurt them. but not long into the interrogations she admits she is a witch. whether she is doing this because she wants to be let off, because it becomes clear that the people who won't admit that they are witches are the most likely to get executed. so you are in kind of a catch 22 here about well should i go ahead and admit it even if you don't actually believe that you are a witch?
but it could be that in some of these cases, maybe in this case, some of these people may have actually been engaged in what they thought of as at least magical practices. and there may be a few of them who actually did regard themselves as witches. so that makes it a real conundrum about how to run these things. i mean because if you have people who consider themselves to be witches, you know, in a society where everybody believes in witches, then that becomes a law enforcement matter, doesn't it? do you see what i mean? i mean it is tough for us to know in our kind of secular age how do you deal with these kind of issues? okay? so if you look on further, it says what is this appearance you see? and she says, sometimes it is like a hog. and sometimes like a great dog.
what did this animal, being say to you, they say. she says, the black dog said serve me. okay? but i said, i am afraid. and he said, if i did not, he would do worse to me. okay, now, who is the black dog? who do you think the black dog is? >> is it supposed to be satan? >> i think so. maybe a demon. but probably the devil who has taken on this kind of animal specter. now, when she's testifying about this, and lots of people testified along these lines, either this animal spirit attacked me, talked to me, or at the bottom of the page, she is talking about what else have you seen? two rats, a red rat and a black
rat. and then do you see who it is that torments these children now? yes it's goddy good, good wife good. she hurts them in her own shape. so she has come to them in the spirit and she's tormenting them in the spirit realm. but it can have physical consequences. so what do you think is going on here when this woman testifies to seeing these things sort of in the spirit realm? i mean like what do you think -- does she believe this? i mean this is speculative on our part. there is no wrong answer. did you have something. >> i don't think she believes in what she is saying. i think she is manipulating them because she doesn't want to be a slave anymore. >> maybe telling them what she thinks they want to hear. >> yeah. >> it is also bad news if you are goody good to get accused
like this. maybe they are people that they are trying to settle scores with. do you think that most of these accusations are people who are thinking consciously, i am going to lie about the accusations? again, this is -- there is no right answer on this. this is just speculative. or do you think that there are people who are so deeply convinced that witchcraft and -- i mean, this is a traditional christian bely, at least in demons, right? i mean like demons are in the bible and -- i mean, so, remember their mentality, 1600s, medieval mentality in effect. so do you think there are people who really do believe in these kinds of thing? or is it just a big sham? what do you think? hold on. >> i think there are probably are some people who generally do
believe in it. but i think the people who are being accused of it at that point in time they probably don't go into it thinking yeah i am going to lie about this but when they are put on the spot they probably get so desperate they don't want to get in trouble for something that didn't happen, that they didn't do. they probably end up pushing the blame onto someone else. >> yeah. i think we can verify that. and there are cases where late in the trials some people start recanting their testimony. and among the things they say is i was put under so much pressure -- i think some of them would say i even started kind of manning that things were happening to me. but now that i think about it, i am not sure i actually saw. but some people definitely say they were put under so much psychological duress they went ahead and admitted to things that they knew weren't really true. there were even a couple cases where we know that people were
physically torture, which they are also not supposed to be doing that in english law. you are not supposed to extract confessions from people by torture. but a couple people were. and so, you know, one of the thing with torture is you say whatever you think the people want you to say. but i think -- i think it is true. i think that there probably are some people. and it is hard to know exactly what their mentality is. you know, but they think something is happening to them spiritually like this. of course everybody involved pretty much believe has the devil was doing something in these trials, either making covenants with these witches or duping the people, deceiving the pulmowho are making the accusations. the opponents said how do you know that the devil isn't deceiving people into believing these attacks are real? it is tough to interpret this. but in the end, 19 people were
executed for being witches. most of them were executed by hanging. one poor man was pressed to death with boulders until he suffocated. they were trying to get him to -- there is an instance of torture. they were trying to get him to admit that he was a witch. and he wouldn't. so it is a tragic situation. a few dogs were executed under suspicion of being witches' familiars, because a witch has a little animal companion that goes along with the witch and does their bidding and so forth. so there were a few dogs that got executed as part of it. but by the end, most people involved, even some of the judges, realized that taking testimony about a person's
spirit, their specter, as they would call it -- taking testimony about this person's specter coming to me and encouraging me to sign the devil's book, their specter came to me and physically tormented me -- the judges -- even some of the judges said that's not enough to convict somebody of witchcraft. and so we need to take a step back from it. so they shut thing down. but by that point, 19 people had died. by far, the biggest outbreak of witchcraft in the controlian american period. most cases before and after this were just one person being accused. . there were witchcraft episodes after this. but they were kind of on their way out by the point. partly because of the embarrassment of salem.
okay? so salem is definitely feeding into a broader sense in the late 1600s, early 1700s of religious crisis in the colonies, especially in new england and new england again is kind of the easiest story to tell about the come of the great awakening because there is such a lineal colonial story in new england of the puritan founding the decline of puritanism, a sense of building religious crisis in the early 1700s, and then in the 1730s and '40s an outburst of new religious commitment, as signaled in the great awakening. so a lot of what i am going to talk about about the back beyond to the great awakening is really tracing the story most specifically of colonial new england, which is the epicenter of the great awakening in
america. but the other colonies are definitely affected by the great awakening. okay? owe why -- why do they have a sense of religious crisis? well, one reason you see here is a rise, apparently, in agreed, immorality, we have already talked about this, about the signs that people were falling away from their puritan commitment. the pastors are talking all the time about how people are consumed with business affairs and are forgetting about their love for god. they are worried that society is becoming dominated by agreed, business, and the kinds of immorality that they see coming along with that. another reason for the sense of religious crisis is the rye of when we call enlightenment thought. and a related trend which is the
rise of rational theology, quote, unquote. the enlightenment term i am sure you have come across before in other classes, is a controversial term among historians. historians are -- these days are not necessarily so keen on talking about the enlightenment that it is the one thing, capital e that works the same way everywhere. we know for sure there are different kinds of enlightenment depending whether you are in say france, in scotland or you are in, he ma. some parts of the enlightenment are a lot more anti-christian. and then, say in america, the enlightenment tend to be fairly friendly to christianity. it is just that we will have maybe a little bit of an updated version of christianity, a little more modern version of christianity but most of the advocates of the enlightenment would say of course we are christian.
christianity is the best religion of all and it accord with rationality and modern learning. so they wouldn't have seen a tension between those things. one of the ways that this plays out is there is a growing tendency to explain things naturally. and for sure when you compare the mentality of americans from, say, 1692 when the salem witchcraft trials happened, to say 1800 and the years after the american revolution, something has definitely changed on a popular level. then there are still people who believe in strong super naturalism, even in thing like witchcraft. but if you go from 1692 to 1700, to 1750, to 1800, there is a declining tendency to see things in exclusively super natural terms. so say your cow dies
unexpectedly. your cow is fine one day, and then the next day the cow is frothing at the mouth and keels over and dies. what do you think has happened? right? in 1692, you might think, especially if you have had a recent art with sort of a spooky neighbor, that a spell has been cast on your cow. and you don't -- you know, it is reflexive. that's the world you live in. it is a world of wonders and magic and these kinds of things. so you might just think, maybe it is a malevolent, you know, spiritual attack on me and my livestock. in 1800, some people might still think that. but it is more likely people will think oh, well they just -- they got a disease, these things happen. there is a medical reason for it. you may not still have a very good medical explanation for it, but you tend to think about it not in terms of spiritual
powers, but just the natural world. these things happen. there is not really any explanation for it. not that god is getting us or witches are getting us or who not, just the cow got sick and died. that's a very important mental change, though, isn't it? you see in that the beginnings of the modern secular world. even today many devout religious people, if something bad happens to them they don't naturally think it is a spiritual attack on them. some people might, but most people go well, what can you do? bad things happen. okay? in theology, there is a related tendency to say, we still study theology, we still want to understand god as best we can, but anything we believe bibliocally about god must accord with rationality. okay? and so you take something like the doctrine of predestination
custom we talked about with the puritans, where god elects only certain people to be saved and leaves everybody else to their own devices, which means judgment and dam nation. well, the rational theologians say, the my mind that doesn't make sense. i don't think god would act like that. i think god would give people all the freedom to decide for themselves whether to blev or not. that accords with normal standards of rationality. but you can see what's -- i'm sure some of you may agree with that. but you can see what you have done is there is a little step towards a kind of human centered type of theology because god must be understandable, god must be accessible, god must live up to cane of our standards of rationality. and that starts to influence the way that you interpret the
bible. okay? now that sort of theology, rational theology, had become dominant at harvard college by the early 1700s. harvard had been founded, the first american college, founded almost exclusively for training puritan pastors in the 1630s. and by the early 1700s, it had become captured by -- still absolutely christian theology, but this kind of rational non-predestinaryian -- in some byes non-puritan type of theology. so new englanders start a new college as a more conservative alternative that will kind of go back more to sort of puritan type theology. and that college was yale. yale was sort of the conservative bible college. there are only 1700s. so we can have an alternative to
harvard. okay? almost all the colonial american colleges, the ivy league schools, most of them were founded in the colonial period and they are almost all founded as colleges for the training of pastors. and almost nobody else went to college. no women went to college. almost no men went to college in those days. if you were a man who went to college it was almost always in the colonial period to become a pastor. okay? so what they saw as a rise in immorality, enlightenment thought, more modern kind of philosophy and theology. then a third reason for this sense of crisis is ongoing war with catholic france and spain and their native american allies. starting in the 169 0s, the colonies, especially new england, go through a couple of generations of imperial war
between britain and the british colonies and either frns or spain. and in new england the main issue is fighting against the b there. if you think about it. england and france are fighting in the same time period, too, but the english channel separates them and for the colonists in new england there's no natural barrier and so the french and they had more native american allies than the british did and so you would have attacks from the french on frontier villages, and native american raids on frontier villages and sometimes when britain and france weren't technically at war, you would have new england and new france fighting these low level, but vicious wars with one another. 1720. there is a war on the eve of the great awakening. there's a new france and new
england that is inspired by a french catholic missionary who is operating in maine and he's telling the indians, stick up for your rights against the english. don't let them take your land. and they have this war and the new englanders commission a bounty against this priest in maine. this catholic priest who is encouraging the native americans and they send out a war party against them and they'd shoot them and kill them and scalp them, the missionaries. they would scalp them and bring their scalp back to boston. traditionally we talk about the native americans are barbaric. who's barbaric? the english are commissioning scalping against the catholic missionaries. it's a vicious time all of the way around. so if you've got these kind of troubling intellectual changes, you've got social changes. you've got war that's such a
contributing factor by the fear of the judgment of god. if we don't stick close to god, we may be overrun by the french or maybe overrun by native americans, and all these things are feeding into salem witchcraft trials and the memory of that horror are feeding into a sense of religious crisis through the colonies, i think in general, but especially in new england. 1720s, 1730s and then, guess what? you get the great awakening. now, i mean, most people, i think, feel like the time they live in is a time of crisis, but there's no doubt that the colonists felt that crisis in the 1730s and culturally, religiously that set them up for a new religious awakening and the first great awakening in the
1730s and 40s is kind of the main event, although cascading effects of the revivals keep on going through the revolutionary period in the 1770s and it's hard to explain why did the great awakening happen exactly? you could look at social and cultural factors. you could look at the history of the decline of pure tanniity and you would look at spiritual factors and still today people would say that there are spiritual divine reasons why god made this happen and in history class we don't spend much time on that and there's no question that in the 1720s, 1730s, you find evidence of pastors across the colonies and in new england telling their people that they need to pray for revival which is a term that's occasionally
termed in the bible, in the songs that you revive us again and what they're talking about is that they want for the people to be praying for an outpouring of the holy spirit, third person of the trinity, to be poured out so that people will come back to god, that lots of people will convert to christianity for the first time even though basically all of these people were phenomenally christian. so they'll have a conversion experience and maybe people who had fallen away from god will return to god and return to their commitment to god, and so in the jeremiahs, the message had been we need to straighten up and start living right and doing what we know god wants us to do. in the 1720s and 30s, they tweaked the message just a little bit and they say we're so
far gone that what we need is divine rescue, right? it's not about morality anymore. what we need is a revival created by god through the holy spirit. we need that to change our society and so i think we can reasonably expect that if pastors are calling on people to pray on this, that some people were responding to the pastor's call and praying for revival and in the 1730s and 40s, revival comes in a big way and what you think about that has everything to do with what your belief is about prayer and does prayer do anything, and a lot of christians would for sure say, well, people prayed and god responded to their prayers to a significant extent and it could be if you were more skeptical, the more they talk about revival the more likely that it's going to happen and actually, i think
those two explanations probably can work together. so what's different about the first great awakening? one is an outbreak of great religious intensity and fervor and individual passion, conversion and life-changing events and people's autobiographies, but another thing that's different is the role of the itinerant preachers in the great awakening. before this point, the standard model for a pastor and this is most of the time in church history is that you have a pastor who pastors his congregation and doesn't do much traveling around speaking. i mean, your parish, your church. that's who you speak to, but in the first awakening, you start to see a critical role for traveling preachers who cause a sensation everywhere that they
go and their brilliant preachers, george whitfield is number one on the list and there are brilliant preachers who travel around and they become famous, at least regionally, if not internationally and whitfield becomes famous internationally, having a reputation of being this brilliant preacher and you can't wait for them to get there, and they're laser focused these itinnerants do that you need to accept christ, free offer salvation and you need to be born again. born again. and if you remember, jesus talks about the born again experience in the gospel of john, chapter 3 in order to see the kingdom of god must be born again and they're not inventing this kind of experience out of nowhere. it's a long time biblical message and people in the past have had different
understandings of what born again meant. people in the first great awakening are real clear, that you have to understand that you're a sinner and your sin has caused a serious problem between you and god. god is offering you forgiveness through christ and what christ has done on the cross and that you need to personally accept that offer of forgiveness in order to be in right standing with god and when you do that, usually, at a time at least of short spiritual crisis for you. when you do that, that is your moment of being born again and that everybody needs to have this experience, okay? so the parish minister and the parish pastor is talking week to week about the bible and the
itinnerants are really focused on you need to be born again and they travel and tell people in these impassioned sermons that you need to be born again. that's the center of their message. sometimes they don't talk about much else. the greatest mind, the greatest theologian of the great awakening is jonathan edwards who we have a picture of in the upper right-hand corner. edwards is best known for his sermon in the hands of an angry god, 1741 and edwards is a minister in north hampton, massachusetts. he does a little bit of traveling. most of the time he just sticks his church like most average pastors do, but sinners in the
hands of an angry god he gives in a nearby village in connecticut while he's traveling around in the summer of 1741. so edwards is not the most famous pastor, preacher at the time, but edwards has come down to us as the greatest intellectual figure as the first great awakening and arguably the greatest intellect of the whole colonial american period. i mean, we could do a whole class on just jonathan edwards because he wrote a ton and is interele intellectually and sophisticated and he is known for sinners in the hands of an angry god and it gets anthologized and people read it and it's a good news/bad
news kind of thing and it's an absolutely brilliant sermon and it's frightening, if you've ever read it and i'll read an excerpt from it in a second, but we should not mistake edwards for some kind of this screaming, you know, crazy, someone you see on late-night tv or someone yelling about you're all going to hell and this kind of thing. he is a titanic intellect. the last job he had was the college of new jersey and he was the president of princeton college because he had that kind of intellectual reputation, and he also, when he preechd including sinners in the hands of an angry god. when he preached he had a manuscript in front of him that he had handwritten out and he read the manuscript. i think he would try to give it some feeling, but the power of his sermons is in the content.
it's not in the rhetorical fireworks, when he gave sinners in the hands of an angry god in 1941 it got an intense reaction from the people who were there and some of the people at the meeting when he gave it started crying out for mercy and what can i do to be saved, right? they were terrified of the judgment of god and some of them falling out into the aisles and crying and this sort of thing and when edwards saw what was happening and it was getting noisier and noisier in the meeting room he closed up his sermon and said i think we don't need to get this crazy, right? he's not necessarily looking for, you know, this outlandish response, but he gets it because of the power of the rhetoric that he uses and even secular scholars of the colonial period of edwards and people who don't believe in christianity and so
forth. they know that edwards is intellectually brilliant and that his rhetoric is just stunning and that's one of the reasons why people today still study sinners in the hands of an angry god is because of the rhetoric of it and especially if you've ever read it, you'll never forget the image of the spider hanging over the fire. do you remember this? have you read it in an anthology i'll read a couple of paragraphs. your wickedness makes you, as it were, heavy as lead and to ten downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell and if god should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and then he says the god who holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds the spider or some loathsome insect over the fire abhors you and is dreadfully
provoked. his wrath burps you like fire and to be cast into the fire. he is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight. you are 10,000 times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours. you offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince and yet, and yet is nothing, but his hands that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. so you see the contrast between god's judgment and god's grace. both very intense and he says how dreadful is the state of those that is in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery, but this is the dismal case of
every soul in this congregation that has not been born again? you see what i'm saying? so we lay out people's desperate case because of their sins and you say the rescue is available to you through being born again. that's the basic content of virtually every great awakening sermon. laser focused. you need to be born again. okay. and you can imagine. it's frightening, isn't it? the pit of hell and the insect over the fire and what if he lets you go? what if he lets you go? you can imagine people falling out and they're as sure about this as we're sure about the sun coming up in the morning. this is absolutely no doubt this is true to them and they don't have any doubt and they want to make sure they're right with
god. so edwards is the great defender of the great awakening and he gets stereotyped as a fire and brimstone preacher and most of his sermons are not like this. he preaches a lot more about the love of god than he does about the judgment of god. i think his most representative sermon, if i'd recommend one sermon for people to read by edwards it's called "heaven is a word of love." maybe you'd find it on the internet and that's the core of edwards, but if he's on the topic he'll also preach about the judgment of god and he can put it in terrifying terms, okay? but he's incredible. i mean, i can't tell you everything -- edwards is writing about -- definitely about predestination and he's writing about original sin, and he's writing about enlightenment challenges to the traditional christian faith and so he
becomes, he's definitely one of america's greatest theologians ever. if you care about this sort of thing you definitely have to read edwards and he matches enlightenment and thought with traditional christianity and we know this from john locke, but this is how it works with traditional christianity. he's read everything. he's using it to show, and even in traditional christianity still is the most compelling, theological system. it's absolutely brilliant, but what he gets known for is this one sermon. not saying he's a bad sermon, but there's a lot more to edwards. okay? edwards is not the most famous preacher at the time. he's more famous today. the most famous preacher at the time for sure is george whitfield.
and i know the way it's spelled it looks like it would be whitefield, but on good authority, i am told it was pronounced whitfield. he is, by far, the most famous preacher of the 1740s and it's even more than that, he is the most famous person in britain in america in his time. the only competitor that he has is king george and maybe more people know king george's name, but a lot more people have seen whitefield in person and have read whitefield's stuff, his journals and his sermons. we think by the end of his career. he dies in 1770, that probably like three-quarters of everybody that lived in america had heard
him preach. he's a bigger celebrity in his time than anybody we have in our culture today because in our culture, oh, we live in a celebrity-driven culture. you know that. but we disperse, right? some people like justin bieber. some people don't like justin bieber. i won't do a poll, right, but you know what i'm saying. everybody knows whitefield. even if you're a critic you've had to deal with whitefield. he is arguably the first modern celebrity. i didn't say religious celebrity. i said first modern celebrity. when he shows up in a town he
draws crowds often that are bigger than the population of the town itself. so he gives a farewell sermon in boston in the early 1740s, say 25,000 people show up when there's been 17,000 people living in boston at the time. soe so effectively the whole population of the town plus people from the hinterlands. when he preaches in london, they say 60, 70, 80,000 people are coming to hear him and you'll remember, this is pre-electricity. so he does not have, what? a microphone, and if you've ever read ben franklin's autobiography, he and franklin were close.
franklin, when whitefield first came to philadelphia, franklin did an experiment. fra franklin goes around to the edges of the crowd to see how many people can hear him at one time. he said i think 25 to 30,000 people can hear him speaking at one time. so that tells you whitefield had a background in the theater as a teenager and he was a play actor before his conversion. he knew thou how to project his voice, and i think he must have been enormously loud, okay? and when a lot of the portraits we have about whitefield is old and kind of sick, and i like portraits like this one when he's a young man, relatively young. they thought he was good looking. you can tell for yourself what you think about that, but a
young man, very dynamic and unlike edwards, whitefield's presentations were without a manuscript. he would pretty much memorize his sermons and he had a repertoire of, you know, a selection of ten or 15 sermons that he would rotate through because all he did was itinerant and he didn't have a con graeg asian and he could short polish a short list of sermons and he had them memorized and on the ply he would see what people are reactioning to and he's moving around the stage and he would, in effect act out if he's talking about say the story of the prod gal son of the gospels and he would put himself in the character of the father waiting
for the prodigal son coming back and i see the father waiting for the son to come back. he would act out the part of the son there in the pig pen eating the stuff that they threw out, only fit for the pigs to eat. he's acting these things and sometimes they would even be weeping the way that an actor weeps and not because it's fake, but because he's into the story. it was very powerful. if i could just have a youtube plug of anybody besides maybe jesus, right? i would love to have a youtube plug of george whitefield because you would see what it was like. the people were just blown away when they would hear him speak. this might be my favorite painting of whitefield and it's because of the woman.
not so much -- i like it that it's young whitefield, and i love the woman. she's, like, i can't believe i'm in the front row of a whitefield meeting. she's smitten. i mean, we think this may be a portrait of whitefield's wife. he was married and they weren't together very often because he was always on the road. but she's smitten. i mean, this is the first british sensation. it's not trivializing to say this is like the beatles in a much lighter electronic age, but that's the kind of effect that whitefield had on people. obviously a very different message, but this is revival for sure, but there's a celebrity sensation that it creates. so huge response, huge crowds,
reports that he's coming months in advance and they would tell people park your horses at the margins of the crowd so that more people can get in. it's a mosh pit, right? being up front. it's packed together, as close as you can get. if you were on the margins of the crowd, and you want to be just off in the distance you can hear him preach, but hey, it's whitefield. britain, america had never seen anything like this before. the reason why whitefield is not more famous today -- i mean, he's known in the christian devotees of whitefield is because his brilliance was encapsulated in the sermon as delivered. you had to be there.
to really get it. i read a book on whitefield and i have the sense that i don't get it because i don't have my youtube club where edwards' brilliance is captured on the printed page, you didn't have to be there for edwards because it's ideas and they're captured on the page. okay? so the first great awakening is obviously this renewal of religious fervor and to people who are not into this sort of thing, people who are not christian and not religious, not devout themselves and it may seem like it's this great thing that happened in the 1730s and 40s, worth knowing about, but interesting to people on the outside, but i would say that
the great awakening is also significant because of the count t controversy, it is extraordinarily controversial and disruptive in colonial society. it is the biggest upheaval in the british colonies before the american revolution happening 30 years before the american revolution. it's the biggest social upheaval in the colonies before the american revolution. so even from secular perspectives, this is a big deal. part of the reason for this is because during the great awakening, pastors are getting challenged like they never have before. of course, in the 1730s and the 1740s, being a pastor is a socially respected office and if you have a state church and established religion, then the
pastor is on the government payroll and he's a representative of the government as well as the church, and so if you attack the pastor, you're attacking a representative of this faith and that just never was done, at least not very often before the great awakening, but some of the itinnerants and whitefield from time to time, especially early on would suggest that incredibly controversial things about the official ministers and he would say, you know, your pastor is not very supportive, is he? he's uncomfortable with this new work of god that's broken up. do you know why that might be? i think it's because your pastor himself may not actually be a converted christian.
now that's a rude thing to say about a pastor, isn't it? and the pastor does not like this. the pastor is extremely offended to have these touring itinerants come into town and maybe stand up in the pulpit of your church and say i think your pastor may not even be converted and that's why he's not sufficiently supportive of the revival. no one's ever spoke bn about pastors this way about. extremely controversial and the radical preachers and the ones who are really inflammatory and an example is james davenport who you all would have read about. he's the most radical controversial preacher in new england. he goes into churches early on and he starts naming names. i've got a list here of all of the pastors in boston who are not converted.
they're going to hell. can you imagine? e? shally in the colonial world, someone is showing up and saying that sort of thing. they start passing laws against i tin errants like this, telling them they cannot go uninvited into a pastor's pulpit. they'll be arrested if they do. so this is becoming a legal, political controversy, okay? another reason it's controversial is because you start to see some common people, usually men, but even occasionally women who believe that they should be able to preach without a formal education. they say i know i'm converted. i know i'm born again and i know weath when it happened. i'm full of the holy spirit. i'm not even sure he's a
converted christian. i should be able to preach. it doesn't matter whether i've gone to harvard or yale or oxford. that doesn't matter. what matters is that you are filled with the holy spirit and that you're supportive of the work of god. so farmers who don't go to college, for sure, occasionally native americans who are converted in the revivals. occasionally slaves start standing up in the meeting and saying i have a word from god for you. and pastors like james davenport say listen to this brother. listen to this sister. she has something to say to us that's from the lord. there are no social settings anywhere else in colonial america, where you will see women, slaves, native americans,
standing up and addressing in a somewhat authoritative way, white men, you just don't see it and it doesn't happen anywhere else but these kind of revival meetings. so you can understand, the critics say this is crazy. you all are nuts. this is socially disruptive, okay? moving out from beyond the simple religious mess, this is socially disruptive and the critics say this is just a bunch of frenzy, it's what you would call enthusiasm at the time and it's bad in the 1700s to be enthusiastic. that means you're half crazy, and that's what the critics said this was. just -- it's just a bunch of
hooey, but it doesn't really mean anything, and these people were getting wiped up into emotion, but it's not actually doing anything to them spiritually. what we need is love, charity, devotion to your pastor. all right. what difference does a great awakening make? one of the most obvious differences is the great awakening brings about a sea change in which churches are the most popular and prominent. this is a change that continues on into the 1800s as part of the second great awakening. in the colonial period, the most prominent churches are the church of england, and the
congregationalist church which is the church of the pure tans a and the other denominations like that. in the great awakening you start to see the emergence of new denominations that are eventually going to become the largest products in churches in america especially and most notably the baptist churches which have been around for a while, but they're small and isolated and they start to become more popular because of the great awakening and evangelistic and one of the places where the baptists send missionaries coming out of the great awakening is -- guess where? the south. the great awakening starts to begin the process by which the south would become much more heavily christian and some of the most popular churches, of
course, in the south are going to be the baptist and then the methodists. the methodists are a movement first within the church of england with the methodist. you may know the name john wesley who has become the founding father of methodism and he's almost always in britain, but wesley's missionaries and pastors start to become active in the first great awakening and especially after the american revolution, the methodists go out on the frontier and establish, eventually thousands of new churches so that by the time of the civil war the methodists have gone from being non-existent in the beginning of the first great awakening to by the time of the civil war, they're the largest protestant denomination in america. so the congregationalists and the church of england, and the
anglican church which has come to be known as the episcopal church and the baptists and methodists come to the fore. obviously, for baylor that is a significant baptist and get as far out as central texas by the 1840s and are establishing not only churches, but a college, baylor. okay? so that's pretty important to us, and the revivals and you can see in new jersey and pennsylvania heavily affected by the revivals and slowly spread into the southern colonies by the 1750s. they're also happening in britain and in continental europe, and the great awakening i've talked exclusively about america today, but it is an international phenomena. okay? it is a transatlantic event.
seen most obviously in the person of whitefield who is from britain, but he comes to america seven times, okay? what's the importance of the great awakening? some historians have argued that it's an important prelude to the american revolution. it's debatable. it's a debatable issue because of the way the argument goes, if it's this big, social upheaval and it's 30 years before the american revolution, doesn't it kind of have a conditioning effect on culture to get it ready for the american revolution, and i would say, yeah, probably in an indirect way, it does, but we also have to remember that britain has its great awakening, too, and britain is our permanent american revolution, so it's not quite as simple as, and i
wouldn't want to say that it doesn't influence the american revolution. i think so. for sure you're on more solid ground if you say well, the great american inaugurated this evangelical movement within christianity which remains in some kind of different forms that have taken twists and turns in the 20th century and different formats and really whitfield is the sort of evangelical movement within christianity and especially when you look at it in global context and it's enormously significant today and shows no sign of slowing down and many parts of the world continues to be growing and some of the leaders
in sub saharan africa they look to them as examples and it's a continuity of the evangelical movement of at least the 1730s and 40s right on through today. so for sure, that's the reason why the great american is significant. that's all i have for today. thank you and let me know if you have any questions about your paper, okay? >> this weekend on real america on american history tv, the 1967 special news series, a cbs news inquiry, the warren report anchored by walter cronkite, investigating unanswered questions into president john f. kennedy's assassination. >> sunday november 24th, the mob scene continues as oswald is brought into the basement of the police building for transport to
the jail and then in full sight of millions of television viewers, a man named jack ruby surges through the crowd and shoots lee oswald dead. >> watch real america saturday night at 10:00 eastern on american history tv on c-span3. >> on september 18, 1793, free masons including president george washington placed the cornerstone for the u.s. capitol building in a masonic virtual that included corn, oil and wine. next, the u.s. capitol historical society hosts the ceremonial re-enactment in honor of the 225th anniversary. this is about 50 minutes. >> ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the presentation of the colors by the color guard and the performance of the national anthem by the army brass quintet.