Spencer W. McBride

Historian of Early America

Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America

In Pulpit and Nation, Spencer W. McBride highlights the importance of Protestant clergymen in early American political culture, elucidating the actual role of religion in the founding era. Beginning with colonial precedents for clerical involvement in politics and concluding with false rumors of Thomas Jefferson's conversion to Christianity in 1817, this book reveals the ways in which the clergy's political activism--and early Americans' general use of religious language and symbols in their political discourse--expanded and evolved an integral piece in the invention of an American national identity. Offering a fresh examination of some of the key junctures in the development of the American political system--the Revolution, the ratification debates of 1787-88, and the formation of political parties in the 1790s--McBride shows how religious arguments, sentiments, and motivations were subtly interwoven with political ones in the creation of the early American republic. Ultimately, Pulpit and Nation reveals that while religious expression was common in t he political culture of the Revolutionary era, it was as much the calculated design of ambitious men seeking power as it was the natural outgrowth of a devoutly religious people.


Praise for Pulpit & Nation

"Pulpit and Nation significantly advances discussion of the relationship between religion and politics in the American Revolutionary and early republican periods. The evidence McBride mounts in support of his thesis reflects extensive research. His argument is original and convincing."

--Amanda Porterfield, Florida State University, author of Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation


"Pulpit and Nation's examination of the mutual and often manipulative exchanges between elite clergy and politicians in the founding era illuminates how deeply questions of church and state animated American political culture then--and bedevil us still."

--Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America


"...the book as a whole forms a bridge between academic studies of early American political culture and a much wider contemporary conversation about the nature of the American founding...an accessible scholarly countermeasure to certain unscholarly polemics."

--Jonathan Wilson, The Junto


"As Americans re-imagine the role of religion in electoral politics over the next decade, this is a text that could serve as an important primer."

--Benjamin E. Park, Sam Houston State University, author of American Nationalisms: Imagining Union in an Age of Revolutions


"This work is an indispensable addition to the study of religion in the Revolutionary and early national periods."


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