Presbyterians and the American War for Indepedence

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Puritan Board Sophomore
This is an Excerpt taken from Lorraine Boettner's book Calvinism in History.

With this background we shall not be surprised to find that the Presbyterians took a very prominent part in the American Revolution. Our own historian Bancroft says: "The Revolution of 1776, so far as it was affected by religion, was a Presbyterian measure. It was the natural outgrowth of the principles which the Presbyterianism of the Old World planted in her sons, the English Puritans, the Scotch Covenanters, the French Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, and the Presbyterians of Ulster." So intense, universal, and aggressive were the Presbyterians in their zeal for liberty that the war was spoken of in England as "The Presbyterian Rebellion." An ardent colonial supporter of King George III wrote home: "I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchial spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere."2 When the news of "these extraordinary proceedings" reached England, Prime Minister Horace Walpole said in Parliament, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson" (John Witherspoon, president of Princeton, signer of Declaration of Independence).

History is eloquent in declaring that American democracy was born of Christianity and that that Christianity was Calvinism. The great Revolutionary conflict which resulted in the formation of the American nation, was carried out mainly by Calvinists, many of whom had been trained in the rigidly Presbyterian College at Princeton, and this nation is their gift to all liberty loving people.

The opening of the Revolutionary struggle found the Presbyterian ministers and churches lined up solidly on the side of the colonists, and Bancroft accredits them with having made the first bold move toward independence.9 The synod which assembled in Philadelphia in 1775 was the first religious body to declare openly and publicly for a separation from England. It urged the people under its jurisdiction to leave nothing undone that would promote the end in view, and called upon them to pray for the Congress which was then in session.

All this has been thoroughly understood and candidly acknowledged by such penetrating and philosophic historians as Bancroft, who far though he was from being Calvinistic in his own personal convictions, simply calls Calvin "the father of America," and adds: "He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty."

When we remember that two-thirds of the population at the time of the Revolution had been trained in the school of Calvin, and when we remember how unitedly and enthusiastically the Calvinists labored for the cause of independence, we readily see how true are the above testimonies.

Happy Fourth of July!

[Edited on 7-5-2005 by Irishcat922]


Puritanboard Clerk

If I may quote a portion of a Joe Morecraft sermon on Presbyterianism,

"In a society where the Christian church is a strong, ecclesiastical republic, tyranny in the state is impossible. It is true. It can be documented historically. When King Charles Stuart I declared a war on Parliament to extend his tyranny over Church and State, that war was called "The Episcopal War." Likewise, when the colonies of America fought to maintain a Christian moral order against the tyranny of King George III that war was called "The Presbyterian Rebellion." They knew what representative government was in Church and State. They were willing to die for it. They knew that without a strong, ecclesiastical republic, you can't have true freedom. And so the state of Virginia has as its state moment, "Sic, Semper, Tyrannus."*

*Sadly, not everybody there believes but a few do and that is enough to work with.
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