Cutterham, “Gentlemen Revolutionaries”

Here is an interesting looking new book from Princeton on the Framers’ generation, Gentlemen Revolutionaries: Power and Justice in the New American Republic, by historian Tom Cutterham (University of Birmingham). Among other things, Cutterham addresses the clash between conservative supporters of religious establishment, mostly from New England states, and populists who wished to use the Revolution as a tool to break the hold of traditional religious authority. Here’s the description from the Princeton website:

k11021In the years between the Revolutionary War and the drafting of the Constitution, American gentlemen—the merchants, lawyers, planters, and landowners who comprised the independent republic’s elite—worked hard to maintain their positions of power. Gentlemen Revolutionaries shows how their struggles over status, hierarchy, property, and control shaped the ideologies and institutions of the fledgling nation.

Tom Cutterham examines how, facing pressure from populist movements as well as the threat of foreign empires, these gentlemen argued among themselves to find new ways of justifying economic and political inequality in a republican society. At the heart of their ideology was a regime of property and contract rights derived from the norms of international commerce and eighteenth-century jurisprudence. But these gentlemen were not concerned with property alone. They also sought personal prestige and cultural preeminence. Cutterham describes how, painting the egalitarian freedom of the republic’s “lower sort” as dangerous licentiousness, they constructed a vision of proper social order around their own fantasies of power and justice. In pamphlets, speeches, letters, and poetry, they argued that the survival of the republican experiment in the United States depended on the leadership of worthy gentlemen and the obedience of everyone else.

Lively and elegantly written, Gentlemen Revolutionaries demonstrates how these elites, far from giving up their attachment to gentility and privilege, recast the new republic in their own image.

 

Bordewich, “The First Congress”

The Supreme Court has, on occasion, given the decisions of the First Congress great weight in interpreting the Establishment Clause. The Framers of the First Amendment sat in the First Congress, so it seems plausible to look to their decisions as indications of what the Amendment meant to people at the time. The Court has not strictly held to this approach–when it comes to the Establishment Clause, it doesn’t strictly hold to any approach–but it’s there in the cases.

A new book by author Fergus Bordewich, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government (Simon & Schuster), discusses the history. The publisher’s description follows.

the-first-congress-9781451692112_hrThis “fascinating” (Chicago Tribune), “lively” (The New York Times) history tells how the First Congress and the Washington administration created one of the most productive and far-reaching governments in American history—“gracefully written…and well worth reading” (The Wall Street Journal).

The First Congress may have been the most important in American history because it established how our government would work. The Constitution was a broad set of principles that left undefined the machinery of government. Fortunately, far-sighted, brilliant, and determined men such as Washington, Madison, Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson (and others less well known today) labored to create a functioning government.

In The First Congress, award-winning author Fergus Bordewich brings to life the achievements of the First Congress: it debated and passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we know as the Bill of Rights; admitted North Carolina and Rhode Island to the union when they belatedly ratified the Constitution, then admitted two new states, Kentucky and Vermont, establishing the procedure for admitting new states on equal terms with the original thirteen; chose the site of the national capital, a new city to be built on the Potomac; created a national bank to handle the infant republic’s finances; created the first cabinet positions and the federal court system; and many other achievements. But it avoided the subject of slavery, which was too contentious to resolve.

The First Congress takes us back to the days when the future of our country was by no means assured and makes “an intricate story clear and fascinating” (The Washington Post).

FitzGerald, “The Evangelicals”

This month, Simon & Schuster release “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” by Frances FitzGerald.  The publisher’s  description follows:

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

the-evangelicals-9781439131336_hrThe evangelical movement began in the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known in America as the Great Awakenings. A populist rebellion against the established churches, it became the dominant religious force in the country.

During the nineteenth century white evangelicals split apart dramatically, first North versus South, and then at the end of the century, modernist versus fundamentalist. After World War II, Billy Graham, the revivalist preacher, attracted enormous crowds and tried to gather all Protestants under his big tent, but the civil rights movement and the social revolution of the sixties drove them apart again. By the 1980s Jerry Falwell and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, had formed the Christian right. Protesting abortion and gay rights, they led the South into the Republican Party, and for thirty-five years they were the sole voice of evangelicals to be heard nationally. Eventually a younger generation of leaders protested the Christian right’s close ties with the Republican Party and proposed a broader agenda of issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and immigration reform.

Evangelicals have in many ways defined the nation. They have shaped our culture and our politics. Frances FitGerald’s narrative of this distinctively American movement is a major work of history, piecing together the centuries-long story for the first time. Evangelicals now constitute twenty-five percent of the American population, but they are no longer monolithic in their politics. They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive.

Call for Papers: Religion and Politics in Early America

The Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis is hosting a conference entitled “Religion and Politics in Early America.” The conference will take place on March 1-4, 2018. The organizers of the conference are seeking proposals for both panels and individual papers. Proposals are due by Friday, May 26, 2017. Those interested in organizing a panel or submitting a paper can find more information here. The Danforth Center’s description of the conference follows:

Danforth Center.pngThis conference will explore the intersections between religion and politics in early America from pre-contact through the early republic. All topics related to the way religion shapes politics or politics shapes religion—how the two conflict, collaborate, or otherwise configure each other—will be welcomed. We define the terms “religion” and “politics” broadly, including (for example) studies of secularity and doubt. This conference will have a broad temporal, geographic, and topical expanse. We intend to create a space for interdisciplinary conversation, though this does not mean that all panels will need be composed of multiple disciplines; we welcome both mixed panels and panels composed entirely of scholars from a single discipline.

“A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?” (Philpott & Anderson, eds.)

In June, the University of Notre Dame Press will release “A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from The Review of Politics,” edited by Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame) and Ryan T. Anderson is (Heritage Foundation).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume is the third in the “Perspectives from The Review of Politics” series, following The Crisis of Modern Times, edited by A. James McAdams (2007), andWar, p03317Peace, and International Political Realism, edited by Keir Lieber (2009). InA Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?, editors Daniel Philpott and Ryan Anderson chronicle the relationship between the Catholic Church and American liberalism as told through twenty-seven essays selected from the history of the Review of Politics, dating back to the journal’s founding in 1939. The primary subject addressed in these essays is the development of a Catholic political liberalism in response to the democratic environment of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Works by Jacques Maritain, Heinrich Rommen, and Yves R. Simon forge the case for the compatibility of Catholicism and American liberal institutions, including the civic right of religious freedom. The conversation continues through recent decades, when a number of Catholic philosophers called into question the partnership between Christianity and American liberalism and were debated by others who rejoined with a strenuous defense of the partnership. The book also covers a wide range of other topics, including democracy, free market economics, the common good, human rights, international politics, and the thought of John Henry Newman, John Courtney Murray, and Alasdair MacIntyre, as well as some of the most prominent Catholic thinkers of the last century, among them John Finnis, Michael Novak, and William T. Cavanaugh. This book will be of special interest to students and scholars of political science, journalists and policymakers, church leaders, and everyday Catholics trying to make sense of Christianity in modern society.

Manseau, “Objects of Devotion”

In May, Penguin Random House will release Objects of Devotion: Religion in Early America by Peter Manseau (Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History). The publisher’s description follows:

Curran, “Intestine Enemies”

In May, the Catholic University of America Press will release Intestine Enemies: Catholics in Protestant America, 1605-1791 by Robert Emmett Curran (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:

Intestine EnemiesIntestine Enemies: Catholics in Protestant America, 1605-1791, is a documentary survey of the experience of Roman Catholics in the British Atlantic world from Maryland to Barbados and Nova Scotia to Jamaica over the course of the two centuries that spanned colonization to independence. It covers the first faltering efforts of the British Catholic community to establish colonies in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; to their presence in the proprietary and royal colonies of the seventeenth century where policies of formal or practical toleration allowed Catholics some freedom for civic or religious participation; to their marginalization throughout the British Empire by the political revolution of 1688; to their transformation from aliens to citizens through their disproportionate contribution to the wars in the latter half of that century as a consequence of which half of the colonies of Britain’s American Empire gained their independence.

The volume organizes representative documents from a wide array of public and private records—broadsides, newspapers, and legislative acts to correspondence, diaries, and reports—into topical chapters bridged by contextualized introductions. It affords students and readers in general the opportunity to have first-hand access to history. It serves also as a complement to Papist Devils: Catholics in British America, 1574-1783 (The Catholic University of America Press, 2014), a narrative history of the same topic.

Jortner, “Blood from the Sky”

This month, the University of Virginia Press releases “Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic,” by Adam Jortner (Auburn University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In the decades following the Revolution, the supernatural exploded across the American landscape—fabulous reports of healings, exorcisms, magic, and angels 4828.jpgcrossed the nation. Under First Amendment protections, new sects based on such miracles proliferated. At the same time, Enlightenment philosophers and American founders explicitly denied the possibility of supernatural events, dismissing them as deliberate falsehoods—and, therefore, efforts to suborn the state. Many feared that belief in the supernatural itself was a danger to democracy. In this way, miracles became a political problem and prompted violent responses in the religious communities of Prophetstown, Turtle Creek, and Nauvoo.

In Blood from the Sky, Adam Jortner argues that the astonishing breadth and extent of American miracles and supernaturalism following independence derived from Enlightenment ideas about proof and sensory evidence, offering a chance at certain belief in an uncertain religious climate. Jortner breaks new ground in explaining the rise of radical religion in antebellum America, revisiting questions of disenchantment, modernity, and religious belief in a history of astounding events that—as early Americans would have said—needed to be seen to be believed.

Evans, “The Social Gospel in American Religion”

In April, New York University Press will release The Social Gospel in American Religion: A History by Christopher H. Evans (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows:

the-social-gospelA remarkable history of the powerful and influential social gospel movement.

The global crises of child labor, alcoholism and poverty were all brought to our attention through the social gospel movement. Its impact on American society makes it one of the most influential developments in American religious history.

Christopher H. Evans traces the development of the social gospel in American Protestantism, and illustrates how the religious idealism of the movement also rose up within Judaism and Catholicism.

Contrary to the works of previous historians, Evans demonstrates how the presence of the social gospel continued in American culture long after its alleged demise following World War I. Evans reveals the many aspects of the social gospel and their influence on a range of social movements during the twentieth century, culminating with the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It also explores the relationship between the liberal social gospel of the early twentieth century and later iterations of social reform in late twentieth century evangelicalism.

The Social Gospel in American Religion considers an impressive array of historical figures including Washington Gladden, Emil Hirsch, Frances Willard, Reverdy Ransom, Walter Rauschenbusch, Stephen Wise, John Ryan, Harry Emerson Fosdick, A.J. Muste, Georgia Harkness, and Benjamin Mays. It demonstrates how these figures contributed to the shape of the social gospel in America, while arguing that the movement’s legacy lies in its profound influence on broader traditions of liberal-progressive political reform in American history.

Warren, “God’s Red Son

In April, Hachette Book Group will release God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America by Louis S. Warren (University of California, Davis). The publisher’s description follows:

 gods-red-son-pnIn 1890, on Indian reservations across the West, followers of a new religion danced in circles until they collapsed into trances. In an attempt to suppress this new faith, the US Army killed over two hundred Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek. Louis Warren’s God’s Red Son offers a startling new view of the religion known as the Ghost Dance, from its origins in the visions of a Northern Paiute named Wovoka to the tragedy in South Dakota. To this day, the Ghost Dance remains widely mischaracterized as a primitive and failed effort by Indian militants to resist American conquest and return to traditional ways. In fact, followers of the Ghost Dance sought to thrive in modern America by working for wages, farming the land, and educating their children, tenets that helped the religion endure for decades after Wounded Knee. God’s Red Son powerfully reveals how Ghost Dance teachings helped Indians retain their identity and reshape the modern world.

%d bloggers like this: