Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Gregg L. Frazer's "God Against the Revolution"

Gregg L. Frazer is professor of history and political studies and Dean of the School of Humanities at The Master’s University. He is the author of The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution.

Frazer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, God Against the Revolution: The Loyalist Clergy's Case against the American Revolution, and reported the following:
God Against the Revolution is a study of the arguments made by prominent clergymen who remained loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution. Those arguments had a significant influence in some parts of America until the revolutionaries or “Patriots” mounted a very successful campaign to silence their opposition and suppress their message. Their case has largely been unknown since then because the victors write the history.

God Against the Revolution relies heavily on the actual words and phrasing of the pamphlets and sermons of the Loyalist ministers. Ideally, the reader can assume the role of a typical American in 1776-1783, set aside hindsight, and decide whether or not to support the American Revolution based on the evidence available at the time. The contest of ideas that was cut short by Patriot censorship resumes two hundred years later; and, as Mark Noll notes on the book jacket, the Loyalists receive “the hearing they were for the most part denied two centuries ago.”

There is a sense in which page 99 is noteworthy. One might wonder why this study centers on the work of clergymen. The five clergymen highlighted here are generally recognized as leading spokesmen for the Loyalist cause (along with a lawyer or two), but previous surveys have omitted the biblical arguments against revolution in general and this revolution in particular that many found compelling. Page 99 marks a sort of demarcation between the biblical and theoretical arguments of those ministers and their “facts on the ground” arguments. Specifically, page 99 is the first page of the chapter on legal arguments. From this point on, the emphasis is on British law, the relationship between the colonies and the mother country, the colonial charters, and the actions taken by the Patriots.

In eighteenth-century America, clergymen were leaders of their communities, well-educated and respected scholars, and public opinion pacesetters. They were equipped to address issues from a broad-ranging perspective and effective at doing so. Had they been allowed to compete in the battle of ideas, the American Revolution might well have failed to materialize.

The question for the reader is: do they persuade you?
Learn more about God Against the Revolution at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue