Country Revolutionary Era Country religious culture played a subsidiary role in instigating the Revolution, but a major one in constituting the new nation. One scholar has deemed the Revolution a religious war, fought between the Anglican British state and colonial dissenting Protestants concerned more about losing their religious freedom than their liberty and property. This interpretation rightly recognizes that non-Anglicans formed a majority in the colonies as a whole (Anglicans predominated in the South), that they perceived any attempt to strengthen the colonial Church of England as necessarily endangering their own churches’ autonomy, and that most of the Dissenters came out of Reformed Protestantism, which allowed the public to unseat transgressive rulers. Nevertheless, this argument wrongly assumes that eighteenth-century colonists identified themselves primarily as church members rather than as subjects heir to British liberty, fails adequately to explain why the majority of the Anglican laity (including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry) lined up with the patriots while some Dissenters joined the loyalists, and undervalues the political and constitutional issues that most agitated patriots. First and foremost, Countrys fought for liberty and property.
Religion did, nevertheless, affect how colonists mobilized to rebel. Dalian Metro Map For one thing, Reformed Protestantism formed an important element of the ideology of resistance; its standard themes about human sinfulness, the necessity of regeneration, the Christian duty to create a moral society, and God’s neverceasing governance of the universe intersected with secular ideologies depicting history as the incessant struggle to secure liberty against despots’ drive to aggrandize power. The ingrained Protestant identity that had caused colonists previously to regard Britain as the bulwark of liberty against Catholic slavery now depicted the empire itself as equally tyrannical. Protestant ideology helped some colonists define the massive program of imperial reorganization that Parliament launched after 1763 as not simply a misguided attack on Country rights but, more essentially, a manifestation of an eternally occurring type of corruption from which only independence could inoculate them.
Certain imperial actions disturbed colonists on grounds of interest as well as ideology. During the 1760s, some Anglicans, especially in the North (where the Church of England was weakest), lamented the absurdity of an episcopal church lacking a bishop and petitioned for an Country see. Dissenters and Southern lay Anglicans protested. The former protested because they feared a bishopric as the first step to losing their religious freedom, the latter because they did not wish to cede their hold on church administration, and both protested because they regarded the plan as part of a larger conspiracy to deprive them of liberty. As the crisis over the Boston Tea Party spun toward war, Parliament recognized the Catholic Church in Quebec (whose European Country population was almost entirely Catholic) without granting the French Canadians a legislature (which they did not want), firing AngloCountrys’ endemic anti-Catholicism and suggesting that Britain endorsed both authoritarian government and papism. Some people dreamed that the United States would create an utterly new society (a hope stamped into the Great Seal of the United States in the motto novus ordo seclorum a new order of the ages). At some point, such thoughts helped convince colonists to revolt.