Chapter 3 The Search for Reason
I. Introduction in
In the year of 1760 Britain under William Pitt and young King
George III had reached a zenith in their struggle for a
mercantile rule. The fourth French-British war of the century was
coming to a close. In 1759 British successes were unparalleled
with victories in India at Plassey, in Africa at Senegal, in the
West Indes at Guadelope, and in North America at Quebec. The
French had lost everywhere. Prime Minister Pitt's plans had added
to the British empire, however the cost had doubled their debts
and the realm was almost too big to govern.
In the American colonies the interest in the Great Awakening
was waning. The colonists had contributed to the English success
at Port Royal and Louisburg in all four wars. For the Englishmen
in North America the French threat was now eliminated. Only the
Indians stood in the way of western expansion. The colonial
population was nearing three million, and they were spilling
across the Appalachians.
There was no reason not to enjoy the blessings of the liberty
that they had outside the British Isles. The parliament had
permitted the policy of "salutary neglect" to free the
colonist for most of the century. An ocean and the Great
Awakening had deflected any expansion of Anglican or Popish
control. The variety of Christian groups just defused any
establishment of one dominant church.
At the closing of the colonial period there were an estimated
one thousand religious organizations in each of the three
sections of America. The Congregationalists had 658 mostly in New
England, and the Presbyterians had 543 mostly in the Middle
colonies. The others followed with Baptists 498, Anglicans 480,
Quakers 295, German and Dutch Reformed 251, Lutherans 151,
Catholics 50, and the Methodists with 37 circuits. Nine of the 13
colonies had "established" churches. In Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and New Hampshire the Congregational church was
supported by taxes and the law. In the five Southern colonies and
New York the Anglican Church was the established church.
By 1760 the spiritual interests and emotional fervor of the
revival were receding while political problems and rational
pursuits were rising. The Great Awakening had provided the first
common intercolonial experience, and leaders like Jonathan
Edwards, George Whitefield, and other itinerants had name
recognition in every colony. But in the future names like
Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Patrick Henry would join the
voices from New England to Georgia. Revival would be replaced by
II. Congregational and Republican Governments
The religious roots in America provided a platform for the
political direction that led to independence. In the
Congregational and Presbyterian churches the leadership and the
voice came from the lay people. Their church government was a
simple democracy with lay elders selected and problems solved in
open discussion by their members. In political terms it was a
representative democracy or a republic. The great Christian
Edmund Burke told Parliament that the American religious beliefs
and practices were far advanced in their Protestantism, and
Americans were accustomed to free debate on all religious
The parallel is seldom admitted, but the British-American form
of representative government with power from the people matches
with the Protestant lay elders' polity. The nations with a divine
right monarchy and power at the top correspond with the Roman
Catholic Church and the Pope in Rome making decrees throughout
the realm. Thus in each case the church and the state are
In reality a New England Congregational church meeting had an
open exchange of ideas; and when they went to the town meeting,
they practiced the same procedures in their political assembly.
Even the pulpit became a forum for subjects on the public good
like patriotism, tyranny, the causes of liberty, the right of
resistance, and eventually war. Back in the homeland they blamed
those descendants of John Knox for this sedition, and they
believed that those "sessions" of the Scotch-Irish
Presbyterians were the source of this rebellion and protest. The
change was disastrous to American spiritual life because revivals
were sporadic and localized.
III. Prelude to Independence
The prelude to colonial separation began when Britain ended
Walpole's policy of salutary neglect. Although the British
intentions were almost innocent at times and partially in
America's best interest, the English measures and taxes stumbled
into a position which resulted in a mutual antagonism. Their
attempts to regulate the western lands, the currency, the
smuggling, the sale of enumerated products, and to search and
quarter troops in their homes only provoked the colonists,
especially without their consent. However, the Americans quickly
learned of the power behind their economic boycotts.
The Stamp Act was the most direct and most unifying
provocation, and the colonial non-importation agreements resulted
in a repeal. When the Townshend duties renewed England's taxation
attempts, the colonists developed a propaganda network known as
the Committees of Correspondence. Samuel Adams was the founder of
a circular letter writing campaign that was given the unofficial
salutation "No King but King Jesus."
Samuel Adams, a devoutly religious man, held morning and
evening prayers with daily Bible readings in his home and revered
the Sabbath. Nevertheless the "Father of the American
Revolution" would be remember more for his Sons of Liberty
at the Boston Tea Party.
After a decade of British policies only the Tea tax survived,
and it was no more than a nuisance until the East India Company
was given a tax break. The colonists responded with the Boston
Tea Party by Adams' Sons of Liberty. Parliament retaliated with
the Intolerable Acts. One of the five measures closed the port of
Boston. Another part closed the West with the Quebec Act.
Earlier the Proclamation of 1763 was intended to prevent
conflicts between the settlers and Indians beyond the Appalachian
Mountains. But now the Quebec Act (1774) gave the Roman Catholics
free exercise of their religion in the future Northwest
Territories, and they could collect a tithe of the settlers. The
easterners were angered and they interpreted the policy to be an
"establishment" of a state religion. Most of the
colonies had western land claims.
The Intolerable or Coercive Acts generated a surprising and
unifying response by the colonists. They took a page from
Cromwell's day. On June 1, 1774 Great Britain closed the port of
Boston. Many colonists followed the example in Williamsburg. They
held a day of prayer and fasting by attending church, and to
"implore divine intervention to avert a calamity."
George Washington recorded in his diary that he went to Bruton
Parish Church and fasted all that day.
In Sept. the First Continental Congress met at Carpenter's
Hall in Philadelphia. They unanimously agreed to open in prayer
which was led by Reverend Jacob Duche. The famous stained-glass
picture of the event was called the "Liberty Window" at
Christ Church in Philadelphia. The famous Episcopalian Church
where so many forefathers worshipped, also, had the equally
famous "Patriot's Window" installed in 1861.
The intercolonial assembly agreed to suspend all trade with
Great Britain, and to petition King George III, and to convene
again the next spring. Before they could meet a second time
bloodshed occurred at Lexington and Concord. It was the British
who initiated the attack and fired the first shots after the
famous partial ride of Paul Revere. In fact throughout the war it
was the British who attacked. The "alleged" colonial
revolutionaries mostly "rebelled" from a defensive
For the next 15 months everyone debated the relationship
between Britain and the colonies, and The King and his subjects.
John Dickinson called "the penman of the Revolution"
had written in his Pennsylvania letter, "we are united by
religion, liberty, laws, affections, relation, language, and
commerce.." Dr. Samuel Langdon, the Harvard President, said,
"We have rebelled against God..let us repent and implore the
divine mercy." Patrick Henry said to the House of Burgesses,
"There is no longer room for hope. If we wish to be free, we
must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that
is left for us!"
The Second Continental Congress decreed July 20, 1775 as the
First National Day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. They
again petitioned The King. Meanwhile in Parliament, Edmund Burke
made has famous "Conciliation with the colonies" speech.
He was joined in sympathy for the colonials by William Pitt, Fox,
John Wilkes, Conway, Amherst, and some other famous Englishmen.
Tensions and struggles escalated, however there was no consensus
on the issues of reconciliation or independence.
IV. Year One: The New England Phase
From the outset any oddsmaker would have given the mother
country a huge advantage over her colonist. How could there be an
American Revolution when never in the history of the world had a
colony successfully broken away? The British army was nearly 60,000
well-trained and well-financed redcoats. The British navy, the
finest in the world, started the war with 80 men-of-war and 22,000
men against a colonial fleet of four ships. King George III also
hired 20,000 Hessian mercenaries. How could three million
scattered colonists stretching over a 1500 mile coastline win a
war of independence? In early 1776 only four delegations favored
independence and possibly three Southern colonies favored re-joining
Britain. The Second Continental Congress was indecisive, inept at
financing the war, and bankrupt by 1779. Generals were selected
out of sectional jealousies. The Colonial Blue and Whites served
only for short-term enlistments. They were ill-clothed, ill-trained,
and the worst paid lot. Regardless a Lexington-Concord mentality
existed. All that was needed was a call to arms and the minutemen
could be gathered from the countryside at a moments notice. The
riflemen would show up with that bloody weapon the Pennsylvania
flintlock with rifling. In spite of this, the wisest decision was
to accept John Adams' nomination of George Washington as the
Commander of the colonial army.
Phase One of the undeclared war was in New England. Captain
Parker gave his famous command against Pitcairn's Royal Marines.
The first bloodshed was spilled over a 16 mile gauntlet between
Charlestown and Concord. On Day One the Massachusetts militia
gained confidence for harrying the Redcoats back to Boston.
The next month a bold strategic move was made on Fort
Ticonderoga by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen. To their
astonishment the front gate was wide open. At daylight 6'4"
Ethan Allen made a flying tackle on the lone sentry, whose weapon
mis-fired at point blank range. Allen demanded that the commander
Delaplace wake up and surrender, "in the name of the great
Jehovah and the Continental Congress." In ten bloodless
minutes without firing a shot the Americans were miraculously
delivered 60 tons of artillery and 30,000 flints.
The final and most glorious battle in New England was Bunker
Hill. General William Howe order three frontal assaults on the
American redoubt at Breed's Hill. The Americans defended against
Europe's best army in European styled-combat and inflicted heavy
casualties on nearly half the enemy's force. The Yankees
gracefully retreated with a morale victory, when Prescott's
patriots ran out of powder. The only failure in New England was
the expedition on Canada. Everything went wrong. The maps were
inaccurate, their boats capsized, supplies were lost, and the
force was exhausted by the time they reached Quebec. The first
commander Schuyler got sick, his replacement Richard Montgomery
was killed, Morgan was captured, and Benedict Arnold was wounded.
The attack on the final night of the year was in a blinding
snowstorm. By springtime a surviving remnant limped home under
Arnold's command. They believed that Divine Providence was
against the invasion of Canada.
As the first year came to a close only Boston remained in
British hands. During the winter Henry Knox took advantage of the
snow to drag some fifty pieces of Fort Ticonderoga's artillery on
a 42-sled oxen train to Boston. General Washington selected the
sixth anniversary of the Boston Massacre to fortify Dorchester
Heights that overlooked Boston. The work party was blessed with a
full moon on the high ground. Meanwhile unusual weather
conditions existed around Boston. A northeasterly breeze brought
a dense fog to Boston harbor and a noise barrier to the moonlit,
nighttime, American activities on the hill.
In the morning Howe and Burgoyne were awed at the single
night's accomplishment as they looked up at the Ticonderoga's
cannons. Days later they sent an assault force to the high
ground, but a wild storm soaked the powder and repulsed the
attack without a shot. With over 40 weapons pointed at Boston
Howe chose to evacuate the 7,000 troops and over a thousand
Tories to Canada. The City of Boston was returned to American
control without the loss of a single life on either side.
One sidelight to the northern events in 1776 was Charleston,
South Carolina. Postwar appraisers have admonished the English
for not first taking advantage of the numerous Tories in the
South. But before the Declaration of Independence on June 28th a
combined attack by Sir Peter Parker's fleet and Henry Clinton's
ground forces was made on Fort Sullivan in Charleston harbor.
Parker's 11-ships had ten times the 26-gun fire power of the
American fort. William Moultrie's defenses gathered behind a 16-foot
pile of palmetto logs and sand. The British misjudged the
vulnerability of the earthenwork fort. Three British naval
vessels ran aground on the Charleston shoal. The British fleet
fired 7,000 cannonballs which were absorbed by the mud fort and
killed on 12 Americans. Clinton's ground force was unable to
traverse the water to Sullivan's Island. When their attack
appeared ineffective, the British over-charged their cannons
causing some to explode and damage their own ships.
After nightfall Parker abandoned the invasion. Major Barnard
Elliot, the American artillery officer, said, "So
wonderfully did God work in our behalf, that the men-of-war cut
their cables in the dead of night and stole away." At that
point none of the 13 colonies was occupied by one British redcoat
V. Declaration of Independence
The drift toward independence was slow and reasoned out.
Historically, the thought of rebellion against a divine right
king was paralleled to rebellion against God. But English history
was on their side. The English had beheaded Charles I and ousted
James II without bloodshed. In the 17th Century John Locke had
theorized that Christians had the right of revolution against
tyrannical kings. Samuel Rutherford in Lex Rex rationalized that
the Bible was the final authority not the king or the law.
Furthermore these Hanover kings were Germans anyway, and the
first two didn't use much English.
In March 1775 Ben Franklin confessed that he had not heard one
person, drunk or sober, suggest breaking with the mother country.
Although Britain voted for a state of war in late 1775, the tone
in America was conciliation not separation.
In January 1776 Thomas Paine argued in Common Sense," In
no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its
primary planet." He said, "I rejected the hardened,
sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England forever," and he urged,
"Tis time to part." Paine's reasons were so widely read
and seemed to align with John Locke's logic that people began
leaning toward independence.
On May 17, 1776, Congress declared the second national day of
fasting, humiliation, and prayer. Abigail Adams reported that the
clergy of every denomination in large numbers seemed to have
turned from gospel to revolution.
Later they were referred to as the "black regiments"
and the "fighting parsons" as especially the
Congregational and Presbyterian clergymen, who admonished,
recruited, and even marched their laymen to the battlefield. One
spiritual leader exhorted, "cleanse yourself, then shoot the
Redcoats." Spiritually the war was disastrous because
churches were pastorless; the buildings became hospitals,
barracks, and stables; and worship was neglected. Thus immorality
and unbelief grew.
While the revival churches supported the revolution, the
"peace sects" the Quakers, the Mennonites, and
Moravians suffered rejection as "Conscientious Objectors."
As for the Methodists John Wesley recalled all the English
preachers and only Francis Asbury remained in America.
In June after Howe withdrew from Boston and word came that
George III was hiring Hessian mercenaries, Richard Henry Lee
proposed that a resolution for independence be drawn up by a five-man
committee. Although at that time only four colonies supported
independence, the Second Continental Congress agreed to recess
and solicit their constituents' opinions.
The task of drafting the document was left to Thomas Jefferson.
The talented writer in 18 days penned the American birth
certificate. His proposal was altered 26 times by the committee
and the Congress. By his own admission Jefferson said that it was
not written with any new principles or on things never said
before, but to express the common spirit of the American mind of
that time for that occasion. Some historians have charged
Jefferson and the Declaration with deist and Enlightenment
principles, but the document expresses the Christian view of
Locke, Rutherford, and the mostly Christian signers in the
After the three-week June adjournment the mood in Congress
changed. Word arrived that Maryland and New Jersey now favored
independence. The famous Dickinson-Adams debate was climaxed by
the arrival of the New Jersey delegation led by John Witherspoon,
President of Princeton and the only clergyman in the Congress.
The next day the final vote was dramatically disrupted by
Caesar Rodney, who had ridden all night through a storm, to cast
the tie-breaking vote in the Delaware deadlock. The final vote
was unanimous: twelve colonies for independence and New York
Now after fifteen months of fighting without a national cause,
they had a reason for the war. It was Independence. On July 4th
they adopted as their as their official seal for the revolution a
picture depicting the Exodus with Moses and Pharaoh at the Red
Sea. The inscription read "Rebellion against tyranny is
Obedience to God." After listing 27 grievances against King
George III, they closed the document with this line: "with a
firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually
pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred
VI. The War for Independence:
Now that the confederation of the United States had declared
its will to be a free and independent people, phase two of the
war followed. England responded with William Howe's invasion of
New York and with the largest army of the century over 30,000
troops. The Americans were outnumbered three to one and George
Washington defended with a series of retreats. Washington's
reputation for miraculous escapes continued in the New York
The first week of the Long Island invasion found Washington's
force dwindling and defending Brooklyn's Heights. On August 27th
an imminent defeat was delayed by a northeastern thunderstorm.
That night Washington evacuated his 9,000 troops across the East
River. Another miracle was claimed when an all night breeze aided
the 13-hour ferry service by Massachusetts marbleheaders, who
ironically arrived as Washington gave his evacuation orders. The
last boats were covered by a morning fog as the British
discovered the retreat and fired on the General in the last boat.
Howe's invasion at Kips Bay again nearly trapped Washington at
the battle of Harlem Heights. But the cautious Howe feared over-extending
his lines so the Americans slipped away. Washington escaped
again, when the first heroine of the war a Quaker patriot Mrs.
Robert Murray, who had dated Howe in England, delayed the British
officers with an afternoon of cake and wine on the Murray Hill
Howe's pursuit up Manhattan Island was interrupted at the
battle of Pelham by John Glover's rear-guard action. Howe decided
to retire at what was called Throg's Neck. But it was really a
peninsula and when Westchester flooded around the British
encampment, they were trapped for six days.
Washington's flight continued with losses at White Plains and
Fort Washington, the last American foothold in New York. A second
escape was cooked up by Mrs. Murray again from the west side of
the Hudson. The ragged remnant limped into New Jersey depleted by
expired enlistments and desertions. Howe retired for the winter
in New York City and left a line of outposts in New Jersey.
Thomas Paine would write in The Crisis, "These are the times
that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot
will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country."
By Christmas time the flame of liberty was barely flickering
on the darkest days. The end of US history seemed to be only one
Washington defeat away. However, the boldest strike of the war
and another peculiar fluke happened at Trenton. It was the famous
crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, which ironically
Emanuel Leutze painted in 1851 on the Rhine River in Germany.
The Trenton barracks was made up of over a thousand Hessian
soldiers under the command of Johann Ralls. Undercover of a
snowstorm the attack surprised the Germans and resulted in a
victory, while not one American soldier killed in the battle.
However, in the spoils of victory in the dead commander Ralls'
pocket was an unopened Tory note. The message was intended to
expose Washington's plan to re-cross the Delaware and attack
Trenton, but it remained unread. Luck again?
Rather than return with a victory Washington took the
offensive again and attacked Princeton. His charmed protection
continued when he fearlessly rode into the midst of his
retreating army at Stony Brook Bridge. His mounted figure was
engulfed in a savage crossfire. Waving his hat, he called to his
men, "Bring up the troops, the day is ours!" Washington
had turned defeat into victory. In the heat of the battle a
dramatic aura surrounded him, as if death and danger had no power
to touch him. In the brilliant ten-day reversal he had mauled the
New Jersey outposts and rekindled a hope for victory
The next summer of 1777 the British devised a comprehensive
three-pronged offensive in New York to finish off the American
malcontents. It would split the colonies through the Hudson
Valley by linking up Burgoyne from the north, St. Leger from the
west, and Howe from the south. Howbeit that Howe was never
involved in the plan? Did Prime Minister Germain not inform him
of the grandiose scheme? Or did Howe just use make a command
decision that he would not go? It was the biggest blunder of the
Howe engaged Washington at Brandywine and the took
Philadelphia. St. Leger was turned back along the Mohawk by
Herkimer and that early-on hero Benedict Arnold. Gentleman Johnny
Burgoyne with a cumbersome baggage lumbered toward Saratoga.
Because of the success at Bennington and the propaganda of the
Jane McCrea massacre the American forces increased daily. The
four-month British invasion was swallowed up by a makeshift
Saratoga was the turning point of the war. At the climatic
fighting around Bemus Heights Benedict Arnold was omnipresent as
he galloped throughout the fighting. Britain's battlefield
commander Simon Fraser was killed by one of Morgan's riflemen. A
cold rain flooded Burgoyne's camp as he parlayed for a convention.
On the evening of his surrender Henry Clinton's re-enforcement's
arrived too late, as Gentleman Johnny kept his word and laid down
Europe was astonished at the new Republic's success. France
and other enemies of Britain sided with the American cause. Ben
Franklin negotiated the Treaty of Alliance with France. And Ezra
Stiles, President of Yale, observed that unusually contrary winds
on the Atlantic had prevented British logistics from reaching
Meanwhile Washington lost to Howe at Germantown in a blind fog.
Then suffered through Valley Forge the next winter. And was
nearly replaced by the bankrupt Continental Congress in the
Conway Cabal. After a near victory at Monmouth, the last great
battle in the North, only New York City remained in British hands.
A campaign of almost little concern proved to by the most
visionary action of the war. George Rogers Clark led 175 Kentucky
"long knives" to the Illinois frontier. He captured
five forts and eventually the "infamous" Hairbuyer
Henry Hamilton. Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, Cahokia, Vincennes,
and Fort Sackville all fell without a shot or an American lost
through enemy action. This phenomenal endeavor added a territory
half the size of the original thirteen colonies. It also
established a precedent to inherit the eastern half of America
from the Atlantic to the Mississippi at the Paris peace
During the final 18-months fighting was conducted in the South.
For the patriots a 45-day siege of Charleston ended with British
control of the city. "Butcher" Tarleton earned
notoriety for a massacre in the Waxhaws. Horatio Gates of
Saratoga fame was given an ignominious defeat at Camden. Benedict
Arnold, who was overlooked for the southern command, shocked the
nation with his treason at West Point.
Nathaniel Greene, who replaced Gates, began a guerrilla
strategy against the superior forces of Cornwallis. His fight,
lose, rise, and fight again tactics wore away at the British.
Greene lost all four battles so he could hang on and win the
South. Only the all-American battle at King's Mountain where the
white-flag slaughter occurred was an patriot victory.
A favorable timing of events sealed Cornwallis' final and
decisive surrender at Yorktown. Washington expressed the need for
a "lucky coincidence of naval superiority" in the
Chesapeake Bay. It happened when Count de Grasse's French fleet
arrived from the Caribbean to engaged the Royal Navy under the
command of Thomas Graves. The four day battle of the Virginia
Capes ended when a violent storm scattered the two fleets. But
deGrasse had control of the Bay entrance and Cornwallis was
bottled up in Yorktown.
While the Marquis Lafayette with a smaller force opposed
Cornwallis at Yorktown, Washington and Rochambeau occupied
Clinton in New York City. In August Washington began a ruse with
Rochambeau heading to Yorktown, while his army kept enough
campfires to give an appearance of two armies. When Washington's
main body was ferried to Yorktown the maneuver succeeded in
On the night before the surrender Cornwallis attempted an over
night evacuation. It would take three trips across the York River
to Gloucester Point a la Washington's Brooklyn Heights maneuver.
But when the first ferries landed a gale force storm struck and
his forces were severed. The next day Lord Cornwallis surrendered
nearly 8,000 troops and the band struck up "The World Turned
Fighting continued among the Europeans for the next two years
before The Peace of Paris treaty and the British troops were
removed from New York. Great Britain had lost the war to the
Americans. The world was stunned.
The successful war for independence gave US orators the
opportunity to rejoice in victory, praise God for the triumph,
and proclaim the US's destiny. In the most lengthy discourse Ezra
Stiles, President of Yale, gave a 100-page sermon to the
Connecticut legislature. It was titled "The US Elevated to
Glory and Honor." He reviewed the history of Israel's
theocracy and drew parallels to the US position. He venerated the
saintly George Washington as the American Joshua, who was
divinely chosen and providentially inspired to another impossible
victory. Stiles, also, surveyed the events of the war while
generalizing an Almighty hand on the victory. Finally, President
Stiles purposed that God's reason for elevating the United States
was to propagate religious liberty to all Christendom. And to
present the gospel of Christ to the heathen world which Stiles
estimated at three quarters of mankind, and had not in his
opinion changed for nine centuries. This glorious vision for the
US was given in 1783.
Historians offer three general reasons for the US victory in
the War for Independence or as they generally call it "The
American Revolution." Mainly three foreign powers distracted
Britain's effort against the colonies as France, Spain, and
Holland retaliated worldwide for past defeats. Some historians
believe that French money, supplies, and leaders like Lafayette,
Rochambeau, and de Grasse plainly swung the balance to the
Americans. Notwithstanding the other fine foreign officers like
Von Steuben, Pulaski, and Kosciuszko so admirably performed for
the American cause.
Secondly, American leadership and determination just
persevered. The greatest American force was George Washington,
who retreated, delayed, and prevented an American defeat. He
cemented inexperience commanders and marginal troops with a
fierce admiration and loyalty to follow him anyplace. They also
had confidence in his tactics of hanging around and avoiding an
allout conflict which was unfamiliar and frustrating to the
Finally, Britain just outright lost the war. Their King's
obstinate behavior forced the two groups of Englishmen into
irreconcilable positions, and separated by a chasm that widened
as the war lengthened. The British made mistakes in time,
distance, and communication. The biggest blunder of the war was
Howe not going to Saratoga to link up with Burgoyne. The British
were wearied by the war and public opinion. It became an
unpopular cause with respected leaders like William Pitt, Edmund
Burke, Charles James Fox, John Wilkes, and heroes of the Seven
Years War: Conway and Amherst, who all opposed the war against
If every event of history was designed by God to show His
continuous care for His people, then the American Revolution must
certainly reveal His divine footprints. Secular historians will
not honor God's rule of history or His control of nature.
Nevertheless, when military insights are lacking by the most
powerful nation on earth, and victories are won without firing a
shot, and unusual weather finalizes the conclusion, and un-opened
messages determine the outcome; this becomes no scenario of luck.
This statement is almost too big to make, but the Americans
won the biggest catch of artillery (Fort Ticonderoga), the
largest New England city (Boston), the most crucial victory of
the war (Trenton), and the largest territorial claim (the West)
all without a single loss of an American life in battle and in
three of the four instances without firing a shot. What greater
evidence can expose an unseen hand directing the conclusion of
the War for Independence?
VII. Articles of Confederation:
The war had been won by the military, but the peace and unity
now had to be maintained by the federal government. The
organization that was selected by the Second Continental Congress
to achieve this purpose was the Articles of Confederation. This
much maligned government made major achievements during what has
been called the "Critical Period." They established
federal control over the 13 states. They negotiated a peace
treaty to officially end the war. They set up the fabulous
ordinances of 1784 and 1787 on what to do with the western lands,
which had been received from the British, and from the former
claims of the eastern states.
In a world being run by monarchs and despots the United States
was developing a republic by the "will of the people."
They were also granting territories the unheard of opportunity
for equal status as full states for the first time in the history
of the world. And they were protecting individual rights in a
pattern that only the English had attempted.
The postwar decade has been criticized for the weak government
that could not control Shay's Rebellion. It was reproved for the
inability to carry on foreign trade or respected relations with
the older European nations. The general populous was condemned
for the rising practices of drunkenness, lawlessness, and
skepticism. Religion in America was considered to be at a
standstill or decline.
In the 18th Century the Enlightenment Age grew out of the
Renaissance, and was expressed in letters and thoughts that
stressed the ability of the human mind to solve the problems of
mankind. The French philosophers Rosseau and Voltaire emphasized
reason, nature, and the freedom and happiness of the individual.
They tried moving away from the Bible and Christianity as a basis
for law and government, and toward an Age of Reason with Deism as
their religion. Voltaire said that Christianity would be
forgotten within 30 years. He was dead by 1778.
In America Thomas Paine, Franklin, and Jefferson were accused
of being deists, and other founding fathers were alleged of
having Enlightenment leanings. In 1783 the societies of the
Illuminati were organizing the infidel and revolutionary ideas in
the US. College faculties and student bodies throughout the
nation were being enticed by the French skepticism.
VIII The Northwest Ordinance and The Federal Convention:
In the midst of these circumstances in 1787 the Confederation
in New York City and a federal convention in Philadelphia
simultaneously wrote two of the three greatest documents in
American history: the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution.
Only the Declaration of Independence rivals their importance.
Historians have admired the foresight in the Northwest
Ordinance to establish a framework for statehood. But in reality
the document was the first federal Bill of Rights. The six
articles of this law would astonish the separation of church and
state advocates today. Article One said, "No person,
demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall be
molested on account of his mode of worship." Clause Three
said, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to
good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the
means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Two human rights issues were included in the legislation.
Article Three guaranteed, "the utmost good faith shall
always be observed toward the Indians ... their lands, property...rights
and liberty... preserving peace and friendship." the slaves
were included in Article Six which said, "There shall be
neither slavery or involuntary servitude in the said territory."
How many court cases would have been avoided, if the government
had followed the founding fathers' laws? Religion in schools and
freedom for Indians and slaves, why we would have missed the
Civil War and the 30-year Indian Wars in the West.
The Northwest Ordinance was passed July 13, 1787 in New York.
It was also approved by the Republic under the Constitution.
Rufus King, the author of the anti- slavery clause, was the only
representative to sign it and the Constitution. Thirty-one of the
next 33 states except Texas and California were admitted to the
Union on this basis.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia at the Old State House the same
location, where the Declaration of Independence was signed eleven
years earlier, fifty-five delegates from 12 states met with a vow
of secrecy to revise the Articles of Confederation. They quickly
decided to form a new and stronger federal government which
protected the economic interests of particularly the land owners
and limited the powers of the state governments.
The Convention with its prestigious delegates attracted much
interest. With George Washington presiding most were willing to
follow his leadership. Over half had served in the Revolutionary
War so they respected "The General." James Madison
became the "father of the Constitution" for his
advanced preparation and detailed record of the proceedings. The
81-year old Ben Franklin added respect and credibility to the
delegation. Most were well-educated and all had served at some
level of government.
Two of the first three Presidents John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson were in Europe as ambassadors. Jefferson did send books
with French theories on the subject. Samuel Adams and Patrick
Henry stayed home as did the State of Rhode Island. Several other
prominent leaders like John Hancock and John Jay were serving in
Ben Franklin suggested that they open in prayer "imploring
the assistance of heaven," but they lacked the funds to pay
a chaplain. The proceedings featured much discussion, debate,
compromise, resolution, and passion. When an impasse seemed
inevitable Franklin appealed, "I have lived, Sir, a long
time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of
this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men, And if a
sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it
probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"
Much has been written about the debates over powers,
representatives, terms, and the relationship of the federal and
state governments. The ideas expressed by Gouveneur Morris, James
Wilson, Roger Sherman, Alexander Hamilton, Edmund Randolph, and
each delegate were sealed in Madison's journal until 1840.
Less has been written about the original sources of their
ideas. Montesquieu always get credit for the separation of three
branches in The Spirit of Laws. The background on his reasoning
is seldom mentioned. It is Christian: that all men are sinners
and they need checks and balances. Montesquieu believed that
Christianity fostered good laws and good government. He was the
most quoted person at the convention.
The second most quoted writer was Sir William Blackstone. His
idea was that natural law was made up of two parts: physical or
the laws of nature, and the revealed or divine laws of the Holy
Scriptures. John Locke's ideas on: inalienable rights, consent of
the governed, separation of powers, and the right of revolution
are familiar to most Americans, but the Scriptures he quoted to
back up his opinions are hardly ever mentioned.
Finally, the most quoted source used by the founding fathers
at the Constitutional Convention and made up 34 percent of all
quotes was: The Bible. However, the labors of Donald S. Lutz,
Charles S. Hyneman, and David Barton of Wallbuilders have
recorded the acts of this convention and what the founding
fathers did, better than what is written here.
After 124 days the 4,000 word instrument of US government was
finished. It was signed by 39 members. Three refused to sign it.
On September 17th, what was formerly called "I am An
American Day" and is now called "Citizenship Day,"
the Constitution was presented to the States for ratification. In
1788 eleven of the 13 states ratified the document.
A wide variety of criticism followed their achievement. Their
opening line "We the People" has been reproved when
only five percent of the white men voted in the subsequent
elections. The writers also omitted a Bill of Rights, and the
rights of victims, women, slaves, and Indians. The "people"
did not even get to elect their Senators or the President.
However, the most awesome chronicle of their ideas was
presented in the newspapers and called The Federalist Papers. A
series of 80-some essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison,
and John Jay under the signature of "Publius" answered
the critics and argued for ratification.
When these words are read today, students and teachers think
that they have a reading comprehension level beyond advanced
college work. One must ask what kind of education system and
literacy rate enabled the common person to be expected to
participate in this great public debate?
One of the impressive arguments for unity was II by Publius,
James Madison, when he wrote, "With equal pleasure I have so
often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this
one connected country to one united people - a people descended
from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing
the same religion, attached to the same principles, very similar
in their manners and customs and who, by their joint counsels,
arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and
bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and
With ratification of the Constitution and the election of
George Washington the first modern revolution was complete and
the oldest successful Constitution was put into action. The
United States would be the model for others that followed. The
same ancestors that Madison had referred to were western European
and mainly from the British Isles. The same language was English.
And the same religion was almost entirely Christian and
IX. Comparison to the French Revolution:
The first nation to follow in the path of the American
Revolution was France. Some historians have revised the truth and
mistakenly credited the French Revolution with the birth of
modern democracy. The two Revolutions had many differences and
the results were diametrically opposite. Their Revolution was
within the same country. They had no legislative experience; the
Estates-General had not met in 175 years. France had a absolute
monarchy. Most of all France tried to base their revolution on
man-made laws and Enlightenment theories where the American
Revolution was Christian based and biblically supported for a
change in government.
The French abolished Christianity and set up Year One of The
French Republic with a non-Christian calendar and a Feast of
Reason. The goddess of reason was raised up in the Cathedral of
Notre Dame, and the churches were desecrated. France was one
nation under the law, while America tried to be one nation under
God as a final authority.
The French Revolution resulted in the Reign of Terror with 40,000
guillotined including the King and Queen. Lafayette and Thomas
Paine barely escaped with their lives. When Thomas Jefferson
observed the "bread riots" and he called it "Great
Fear." In the end the French Revolution produced the
military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered most
of Europe. The legacies that follows the French bloodbath is the
Russian Revolution and their attempt at a godless society, and
the repressive totalitarian societies of the 20th Century.
John Wesley Bready summarized their events best, "in the
Reign of Terror when Paris gutters ran red with human blood; when
a prostitute was crowned Goddess of Reason; when each new
champion of freedom, crying "Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity," rushed his fellow champions to the guillotine,
lest they rush him there first. So ended the first French
Republic, denying all spiritual values and mocking God."
But nevertheless, the American Revolution can not stand alone
and self- righteously claim their greatness without thanking
their English examples. The Magna Carta and Petition of Rights
established a pattern of democracy in the colonies. The bloodless
change of power to William and Mary in 1688 was certainly an
inspiration for the right of revolution. And likewise the
bloodlines of our independence gave birth to Haiti and the South
American's overthrow of the Spanish Empire. They must thank the
US for lighting a way in the Western Hemisphere.
One other issue of French influence that must be dealt with is
Deism. It was French rationalism that God had created the
universe, and he only observes what takes place like a clockmaker.
God is silent, he does not reveal any truth, he is impersonal,
and does not intervene in the affairs of men.
Some founding fathers are charged with being Deists, and
writing Enlightenment philosophies in our documents. Jefferson,
Paine, and Franklin were almost expost facto deists when
historians look back on their ideas. Other insinuate that
Washington, Witherspoon, and John Adams belong to the French
Both sides used similar terms, and the Christian and
Enlightenment writers interchanged the catch-words of the day.
The bottom line is the final authority of a personal God. Deists
would never accept that God would intervene in history to die for
the sins of mankind as Jesus Christ claims. God would not give
His word like the Bible claims. And most assuredly a deist should
not waste his time calling for an answer to prayer by a god of
This evidence condemns some deist claims on Jefferson and
especially Ben Franklin. As for Thomas Paine I find him a
religious seeker, who never settled on a final opinion and
probably would have espoused Unitarianism, if he had lived long
enough. I appreciate the evaluation of Catherine Millard, who
said that Jefferson didn't show evidence of a born-again
Christian, but he did use a Christian value system.
William Johnstone's George Washington: The Christian dispels
any deist rumors about the "father of our country." A
deist would never get baptized or kneel in prayer at Valley Forge
or say as he said to the Delaware Indians, "You do well to
wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the
religion of Jesus Christ."
It is almost a historical insult to put the two revolutions in
the same ball park. The epitome of their differences is two
deaths. While some Frenchmen were jumping out of windows,
Maximilien Robespierre, the leader of the Reign of Terror, had
his friend Danton executed. Danton predicted that Robespierre
would follow him to the guillotine. When Robespierre was
arrested, he cried out, "I demand speech!" and began to
cough and sputter. Someone said, "The blood of Danton chokes
him." Robespierre died on the guillotine with 19 of his
friends. The next day 80 more Jacobians were executed and the
Reign of Terror ended on July 29, 1794.
On the other hand the most famous death in the American
Revolution was a spy on Long Island and a little known
schoolteacher named Nathan Hale. His last dying words were,
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There
is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is faith in
Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them one
shilling, they would be rich; and if I had not given them that,
and had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed. I
only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."
There was a huge difference between the two revolutions.
W.A. Candler in his classic Great Revivals and the Great
Republic offers the very strong opinion "The history of
modern France emphasizes the lesson taught by the records of the
world's earlier governments. French governments have lacked
steadiness and stability because they are not rooted in the
depths of religion." Lamartine lamented.. the French people
have been the least religious of all the nations of Europe...The
republic of these men without a God was quickly stranded. The
liberty..did not find in France a conscience to shelter it, a God
to avenge it, a people to defend it, against that atheism which
was called glory."
X. The Postwar Church:
While these military and political events were happening to
the nation, the churches were having similar experiences during
the postwar period. Most of the American churches were separating
from their Old World organizations. The only indigenous churches
the Congregational and the Baptists already had independence from
The churches were also uniting into national organizations
with Constitutions. The Methodists were the first denomination to
nationalize, after they accepted Thomas Coke as Superintendent in
1784. The Presbyterians in 1788 and the Episcopalians in 1789
established national lines, too. The pre-Revolution consideration
for an American "Episcopacy" was revived and a joint
Congregational-Presbyterian venture was discussed.
The decline of the tax-supported, established churches began,
when the only religious words in the Constitution forbid "religious
tests" in article VI, and the First Amendment in the Bill of
Rights included "Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof." The tax advantage of the Congregational and the
Anglican churches ended state-by-state until Massachusetts was
the last in 1833. This still did not prevent the first two
Presidents from proclaiming national days of fasting and prayer
or "thanksgiving" days.
During the Federalist Era of the 1790's the Washington
administration successfully addressed every problem the new
government faced. The nation was financially sound thanks to
Hamilton's plan and the bureaucracy was operating in New York
City. The western Indians problem was addressed. Pinckney had
obtained Florida from the Spanish, and the US remained somewhat
neutral in another British-French war. A strong central
government was at peace and getting on its feet.
But spiritually it was the lowest since the first settler had
arrived. Rationalism from Europe permeated the nation in all
endeavors including the churches, colleges, and the culture.
Among college students it was a fashion to call each other Tom
Paine, Rousseau, or Voltaire. Friends of the French ideas greeted
each as "citizen" and "citizeness."
Profanity in the classrooms of hallowed Princeton was
considered not uncommon. A poll claimed only two believers in the
student body. Lyman Beecher, who was a college student at Yale in
1795, said, "The College is a most ungodly state. The
college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were
skeptical, and rowdies were plenty. Wine and liquors were kept in
many rooms: intemperance, profanity, gambling, and licentiousness
Estimates of church membership were as low as one in twenty
persons. Most denominations were losing more members than they
were gaining. The Methodists in the mid-90's were declining at a
rate of 4,000 a year. Devereaux Jarrat wrote to the Episcopalians
that, "The state of religion is gloomy and distressing; the
church of Christ seems to be sunk very low." The predominant
sentiment of the people seemed to be: "We will not have God
reign over us."
Emigrants were flowing to the West, and the
reputation for lawlessness was widespread. For all the problems
in the eastern churches, they at least seemed better than the
West. They regarded the West as a mission field. When conditions
seemed to be at their worst, Baptist preacher Isaac Backus
addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of
every Christian denomination in the United States. Many of them
followed the example of the British churches and set aside the
first Monday of each month to pray. They were called Concerts of
Prayer, and revival would begin at the end of the century.
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