Chapter 1: America’s Myth of Origin

The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial
by Robert N. Bellah

Chapter 1: America’s Myth of Origin

Once in each of the last three centuries America has faced a time of trial, a time of testing so severe that not only the form but even the existence of our nation have been called in question. Born out of the revolutionary crisis of the Atlantic world in the late 18th century, America’s first time of trial was our struggle for independence and the institution of liberty. The second time of trial came not long before the end of the nation’s first hundred years. At stake was the preservation of the union and the extension of equal protection of the laws to all members of society. We live at present in a third time of trial at least as severe as those of the Revolution and the Civil War. It is a test of whether our inherited institutions can be creatively adapted to meet the 20th-century crisis of justice and order at home and in the world. It is a test of whether republican liberty established in a remote agrarian backwater of the world in the 18th century shall prove able or willing to confront successfully the age of mass society and international revolution. It is a test of whether we can control the very economic and technical forces, which are our greatest achievement, before they destroy us.

In the beginning, and to some extent ever since, Americans have interpreted their history as having religious meaning. They saw themselves as being a "people" in the classical and biblical sense of the word. They hoped they were a people of God. They often found themselves to be a people of the devil. American history, like the history of any people, has within it archetypal patterns that reflect the general condition of human beings as pilgrims and wanderers on this earth. Founded in an experience of transcendent order, the new settlements habitually slipped away from their high calling and fell into idolatry, as the children of Israel had done before them. Time and again there have arisen prophets to recall this people to its original task, its errand into the wilderness. Significant accomplishments in building a just society have alternated with corruption and despair in America, as in other lands, because the struggle to institutionalize humane values is endless on this earth. But at times the issue grows acute. A period of history hangs in the balance. A people finds that it must decide whether its immediate future will be better or worse, and sometimes whether it will have a future at all.

I wish to examine the history of America’s religious self-understanding, the myths that have developed to help us interpret who and what we are in America and to inquire whether they may still have power to help us understand our present situation and know how to deal with it. The present situation has, therefore, influenced the selection I have made from the materials of the past. It has not, I hope, dictated the outcome of my inquiry. We need truth whether it is comforting or whether it is dismaying. While committed to the pursuit of how it has actually been in America, I am not uninvolved in the outcome. I am convinced that in these last years of the 20th century the republic is in danger. If we believe that it is worth saving, then we must know what it is that we wish to save, not holding with a deathly grip to an unchanging past but seeking the inspiration to undertake that reformation, reconstruction, and reconstitution which are necessary.

This book is not primarily about political theory or about ideology, though both are involved, but about religion and myth. In particular I will be reexamining the American civil religion1 and the mythological structure that supports it. By civil religion I refer to that religious dimension, found I think in the life of every people, through which it interprets its historical experience in the light of transcendent reality. I do not want, at this point, to argue abstractly the validity of the concept "civil religion." I hope to demonstrate its usefulness. In using the word "myth," I do not mean to suggest a story that is not true. Myth does not attempt to describe reality: that is the job of science. Myth seeks rather to transfigure reality so that it provides moral and spiritual meaning to individuals or societies. Myths, like scientific theories, may be true or false, but the test of truth or falsehood is different.


America’s myth of origin is a strategic point of departure because the comparative study of religion has found that where a people conceives itself to have started reveals much about its most basic self-conceptions. At first glance the problem of origin in America seems a relatively simple one. Unlike most historic peoples, America as a nation began on a definite date, July Fourth, 1776. Thus, in analyzing America’s myth of origin, close attention must be paid to the mythic significance of the Declaration of Independence, which is considerable. Or taking a less precise definition of beginning, one might consider the whole period, from the Declaration of Independence to the inauguration of Washington under the new Constitution, as the origin time of the American nation, America began as the result of a series of conscious decisions, The acts embodying those decisions have a kind of absolute meaning-creating significance. As Hannah Arendt says, "What saves the act of beginning from its own arbitrariness is that it carries its own principle within itself, or, to be more precise, that beginning and principle, principium and principle, are not only related to each other, but are coeval," 2 We will want to consider the act of conscious meaning-creation, or conscious taking responsibility for oneself and one’s society, as a central aspect of America’s myth of origin, an act that, by the very radicalness of its beginning, a beginning ex nihilo as it were, is redolent of the sacred. The sacredness of the Constitution, which is closely bound up with the existence of the American people, derives largely from that source since it does not, not explicitly at least (and in this it differs from the Declaration of Independence), call upon any source of sacredness higher than itself and its makers.3

And yet those datable acts of beginning, radical though they were, and archetypal for all later reflection about America, were themselves mythic gestures which could not but stir up, at the beginning and later, the images and symbols of earlier myths and mythically interpreted histories. In human affairs no beginning is absolutely new and every beginning takes meaning from some counterpoint of similarity to and difference from earlier events. Indeed when we look closely at the beginning time of the American republic we find not a simple unitary myth of origin but a complex and richly textured mythical structure with many inner tensions. One way to begin is to consider the profoundly mythic meaning of "America" long before the founding of the United States, a meaning that was by no means obliterated but in some ways reinforced by the establishment of the new nation.


The origin myth of America in this broader perspective is origin itself. According to John Locke "In the beginning all the world was America."4 America stood for the primordial state of the world and man and was indeed seen, by the first generations of Europeans to learn of it, to be the last remaining remnant of that earlier time. The newness which was so prominent an attribute of what was called the "new" world was taken not just as newness to its European discoverers and explorers but as newness in some pristine and absolute sense: newness from the hands of God. That sense of indelible newness, which has been a blessing and a curse throughout our history, has not evaporated even today. If it gives us a sense that we come from nowhere, that our past is inchoate and our tradition shallow, so that we begin to doubt our own identity and some of the sensitive among us flee to more ancient lands with more structured traditions, it also gives us our openness to the future, our sense of unbounded possibility, our willingness to start again in a new place, a new occupation, a new ideology. Santayana has spoken of "the moral emptiness of a settlement where men and even houses are easily moved about, and no one, almost, lives where he was born or believes what he has been taught."5 Yet other Europeans have envied our capacity to act without being immobilized by ancient institutions.

The newness of America, so prominent in the consciousness of the early European observers, and which we have still not entirely outgrown even though it is nearly 500 years since Columbus (from the point of view of Europe) "discovered" America, had another important consequence. For the early explorers, and certainly for those in Europe reading their first reports, the specificity and detail of America’s native flora and fauna, and even more, its aboriginal Indian cultures, which by 1492 had already completed a long and distinguished history in this hemisphere, were swallowed up in a generalized feeling of newness which replaced that specificity and detail with the blank screen of an alleged "state of nature." Upon that screen they projected certain fantasies, dreams, and nightmares long carried in the baggage of European tradition but seldom heretofore finding so vivid and concrete an objective correlative. Thus America came to be thought of as a paradise and a wilderness, with all of the rich associations of those terms in the Christian and biblical traditions, or, more simply, thus Europeans came to think of America as both a heaven and a hell.


Locke, who, as we have seen, tended to identify America with the state of nature, defined the latter as "a State of Peace, Goodwill, Mutual Assistance, and Preservation." And he goes on to say, "Men living together according to reason, without a common Superior on Earth, with Authority to judge between them, is properly the State of Nature." 6 This description conforms admirably with Columbus’s description of life in his newly discovered West Indies:

The people of this island, and of all the other islands which I have found and of which I have information, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, although some women cover a single place with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for the purpose. They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they fitted to use them, not because they are not well built and of handsome stature, but because they are very marvelously timorous. They have no other arms than weapons made of canes, cut in seeding time, to the ends of which they fix a small sharpened stick. . . . they are so guileless and so generous with all they possess, that no one would believe it who has not seen it. They never refuse anything which they possess, if it be asked of them; on the contrary, they invite anyone to share it, and display so much love as if they would give their hearts. . . . And they do not know any creed and are not idolators; only they all believe that power and good are in the heavens . . . not . . . because they are ignorant; on the contrary, they are of a very acute intelligence and are men who navigate all these seas.7

His description suggests the paradisic imagery which clearly lies just below the surface of this and many other early descriptions of the American Indians, descriptions that quickly catapulted them into the central representatives of Adamic man in the European imagination. The emphasis is, above all, on innocence as expressed in the Indians’ nakedness, so striking to the heavily clad Europeans; their freedom about sexual relations; their lack of any discernible government; their communal sharing of property; and their lack of either religious dogmas or priests. And to complete the Edenic picture was their total lack of aggression. Why indeed should anyone be aggressive in a land where fruit was to be had for the picking, game for the trapping, and all good things were abundantly at hand, even including gold?

Even when experience began to render a rather different picture of the land and its people, the search for a literal Eden went on, especially in Latin America. Already Columbus believed he had located the general site where the earthly paradise would be found and imagined that fresh-water currents in the sea off the northern coast of South America actually flowed from it.8 With literal-minded doggedness others would seek El Dorado, the Seven Cities of Cibola, or the Fountain of Eternal Youth. While the paradisic expectations of the English colonists were not so fully developed as those further South they were strong enough to cause early Maryland to be described as an "Earthly Paradise" and Georgia as "that promis’d Canaan."9 The Sicilian immigrants who arrived in New York expecting the streets to be paved with gold, or the little old ladies who invest their life savings in California land developers’ schemes to "make the desert blossom like the rose" are only late incarnations of an old dream about the New World.


But there was another picture of America, closer to Hobbes than to Locke, that is also present from the beginning. Unlike the paradisic view, it dwelt on scorching deserts and uncrossable mountains, hurricanes and floods, tropical heat and arctic cold. In accordance with this violent and extreme landscape, the second view found the native inhabitants anything but innocent. Instead they were depicted as "horrid savages" devoted to murder, rape, human sacrifice, and cannibalism and prepared to use every ruse of cunning and treachery. Led by cruel and despotic chieftains the Indians were described as spending the time left over from murder, plunder, and rapine in the barbaric worship of a vast array of demons, chief of whom was the devil himself. The Hobbesian of the American state of nature was not paradise but wilderness, in the most negative sense of that word: unfruitful desert, abode of death.

America was, when first discovered, and to some extent even today, a vast unknown to the Europeans who explored and settled it. It is not surprising that anything so vast, so significant, and so little known as the new world would arouse in those who contemplated it the deepest wishes and the darkest fears. The paradise theme has been more prominent and more conscious, but those who believe that the American dream, the paradisic hope, has but lately turned into a nightmare, suffer from illusion. The nightmare was there from the beginning. There is, of course, an inner affinity between dream and nightmare. It is an old story in history that a dream of paradise can motivate hellish actions, and each new-world El Dorado was won at the expense of nightmarish enslavement or extermination of Indians and often unspeakable internecine brutalities among Europeans.

For all the new European inhabitants of America the Christian and biblical tradition provided images and symbols with which to interpret the enormous hopes and fears aroused in them by their new situation, as I have already suggested in using the terms "paradise" and "wilderness." The English colonists, especially in New England, had a particular version of that interpretation, one that contained a dialectical relationship between wilderness and paradise. That dialectic must be seen against the background of a vast mythic scenario which began to unfold in Europe -- providentially, the Puritan fathers thought -- just after the discovery of the New World. That scenario was the Protestant Reformation, and it was an informing event in the background not only of the Puritans in New England but of most of the settlers in the middle and southern colonies as well.


The idea of reform10 is far older than the Reformation and is, in fact, central to Christianity itself. It is related to the idea of conversion, the turning from evil to good, from self to God, which is close to the heart of the biblical message in both testaments. Reformation is a kind of renovation of renewal, making new, particularly stressed in the letters of Paul. In II Corinthians 5:1-7 Paul writes, "If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold, all things are made new." The primary reference of the concept of reformation or renewal is the soul of the individual. Renewal is embodied in the sacramental life of the church in the sacrament of baptism, a kind of rebirth which brings the individual into the church, the communion of saints, who, because they are in Christ, share a provisional form of paradise. But the church itself may need renewal, and thus another meaning for the term developed. Monasticism was a kind of reform and could lead to movements of reform more generally in the church, as with Augustine, Benedict, or Bernard of Clairvaux.

Finally, always in the background and occasionally in the foreground, was the notion that the world itself is in need of reform and rebirth. The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, was the bearer of such ideas of millennial renewal, of an age of holiness when Christ would return and rule on earth, ideas that time and again broke out into movements of millennial expectation. The Reformation was a heightening and intensification of all these ideas. It began above all as a reform of the church, but it led to a more rigorous stress on the reform of the individual soul, particularly the lay soul, than had been common in the medieval church, and it also carried overtones of apocalyptic expectation. The Roman Church was identified with the Whore of Babylon and the Protestant Church with the New Jerusalem as they are described in Revelation. In this perspective the Reformation could be interpreted as an event presaging the end of times and the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.

The symbolic connections between the heightened consciousness of renewal and rebirth brought on by the Reformation and the discovery and settlement of a "new" world are obvious enough, but the connections are greatly intensified when we consider how closely the notion of "wilderness" in the Bible is tied in with the renewal theme. Christ’s forty days in the wilderness following his baptism by John the Baptist were often interpreted as symbolic of purification and renewal before beginning his ministry, and the monks who withdrew to the desert were in a sense following his example. Following the method of typological interpretation,11 which saw Old Testament events as prefiguring New Testament ones, the 40 years that the children of Israel spent wandering in the wilderness of Sinai were interpreted as a figure of Christ’s 40 days. The Israelites were being tested, purified, and renewed for entering into their inheritance of the Promised Land, as Christ was being prepared for his inheritance at the right hand of the Father.

The wilderness theme was also linked to the millenial imagery in an important passage of Revelation 12:6: "and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." The woman was interpreted to be God’s true Church which would have to flee to a prepared place in the wilderness just before the end of times.

Now all of these. references and quite a few more, including some in the Song of Songs and in several of the postexilic prophets, were use by the New England fathers to interpret their situation. They saw themselves on a divinely appointed "errand into the wilderness" with profound personal, ecclesiastical, and world-historical meaning. Under the circumstances, wilderness was by no means entirely a negative concept. It was a place of danger and temptation, but the "enclosed garden" that the saints were required to build up in the midst of the wilderness was itself a foretaste of paradise.12 And as Jonathan Edwards and others came to believe, it was precisely here, in the wilderness of the new world, that God was most likely to begin his new heaven and new earth. A precarious but fruitful balance between hope and fear had been struck.


The Bible was the one book that literate Americans in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries could be expected to know well. Biblical imagery provided the basic framework for imaginative thought in America up until quite recent times and, unconsciously, its control is still formidable. The typological or figural interpretation of the Puritans is neither higher biblical criticism nor scientific history. Both of these more recent endeavors have their uses but the mythical level of human consciousness cannot be satisfied by them. A tradition of living myth is always typological in this sense: it sees connections and analogies between many different elements in the tradition and it interprets current events and predicaments in terms of traditional motifs. When Protestant literalism and enlightenment rationalism became dominant in the late 18th and 19th centuries, typological interpretation was taken up covertly by the novelists and poets or began to operate at unconscious or semiconscious levels of popular culture and ideology. The split between rational and mythic discourse which has characterized our recent cultural history is very dangerous for it impoverishes both modes of thought.13 It is one of the possible benefits of the current new appreciation of the meaning and function of myth that we may be able to rescue it from the realm of unconscious fantasy where it always continues to operate, often in dark and devious ways, and restore it once again to its creative role in human consciousness. At any rate it is my purpose to suggest some of the ways in which biblical (and other) imagery has operated powerfully, consciously and unconsciously, to shape the American interpretation of reality and to some extent the actions of Americans in the world.


In our search for America’s myth of origin we have considered the function the new continent served in the European consciousness and the way in which biblical themes, particularly as heightened by the Reformation, shaped its meaning. We have set the scene and brought in the stage furniture but we have not begun the drama. A myth of origin for America must point to certain events in America, not only to their archetypal foreshadowings in biblical history.

Fortunately we have a document from the earliest period in American history which expresses beautifully the various ideas we have been ass. The document is a sermon preached by John Winthrop, the first leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, on board ship in 1630 even before landing in the new world. It defines the meaning of the new venture and its implications and obligations for the new settlers. Of it Perry Miller has written, ". . . in relation to the principal theme of the American mind, the necessity laid upon it for decision, Winthrop stands at the beginning of our consciousness." 14 The sermon is called "A Modell of Christian Charity."

Thus stands the cause betweene God and us. Wee are entered into Covenant with him for this worke, wee have taken out a Commission, the Lord hath given us leave to draw our owne Articles, wee have professed to enterprise these Accions upon these and these ends, wee have hereupon besought him of favour and blessing: Now if the Lord shall please to heare us, and bring us in peace to the place wee desire, then hath hee ratified this Covenant and sealed our Commission [and] will expect a strickt performance of the Articles contained in it, but if wee shall neglect the observacion of these Articles which are the ends wee have propounded, and dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnall intencions seekeing greate things for our selves and our posterity, the Lord will surely breake out in wrathe against us, be revenged of such a perjured people and make us knowe the price of the breache of such a Covenant.

Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God. For this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meeknes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in each other, make others Condicions our owne, rejoyce together, mourne together, labour and suffer together, allwayes haveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body, soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as his owne people and will commaund a blessing upon us in all our wayes, soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome, power, goodnes and truthe than formerly wee have beene acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of IsraelI is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when hee shall make us a prayse and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the lord make it like that of New England: for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us: soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whither wee are goeing: And to shutt upp this discourse with that exhortacion of Moses, that faithfull servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Isreall, Deut. 30. Beloved there is now sett before us life, and good, deathe and evil1 in that wee are Commaunded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walke in his wayes and to keepe his Commaundements and his Ordinance, and his lawes, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that wee may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whither we goe to possesse it: But if our heartes shall turne away soc that wee will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship... other Gods, our pleasures, and proffitts, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whither wee passe over this vast Sea to possesse it:

Therefore lett us choose life,

that wee, and our Seede,

may live; by obeyeing his

voyce, and cleaveing to him,

for hee is our life, and

our prosperity.15

The Deuteronomic formula of the blessing and the curse is John Winthrop’s way of summing up the meaning of the immense hopes and fears of the colonists in the face of the unknown land that lay ahead. He turned the ocean-crossing into a crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River and he held out the hope that Massachusetts Bay would be a promised land. Most of the colonists were men and women who had been profoundly converted, inwardly reformed and renewed, and who felt uneasy and unhappy about continuing to live in an England where they felt much was corrupt in church and state. But even before they had freed themselves from the bonds of English society they had undertaken an "Agreement" in Cambridge, England, the year before and bound themselves to a new covenant with obligations both to God and one another.16 The "Agreement" of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a beginning that contained its own principle, just as, as we have seen, the acts establishing the new republic did. But here the archetypes that the mythic gestures of beginning point to are much more explicit. Here too is one of those mythic precursors to which, explicitly or not, the act of the founding of the republic itself inevitably pointed.


In his contrast between charity and the worship of pleasure and profit Winthrop echoes Augustine’s great contrast of caritas as the principle of the City of God and cupiditas as the principle of the earthly city.17 Augustine in turn was elaborating the New Testament contrast between Babylon, the city of the beast, the principalities and powers of this world, and the New Jerusalem the Heavenly City where the saints would be gathered after the apocalypse. Of course neither in the New Testament nor in Augustine did the New Jerusalem appear as a political community in this world. For Augustine even the church was but a foreshadowing of the Heavenly City which remains invisible on this earth, since the visible church contains many who will in the end turn out not to be citizens of the Heavenly City. Political society he saw largely in negative terms, at best a punishment and correction of sin, at worst a nightmare of corruption in which the strong eat up the weak and the stronger eat up the strong. Although the Augustinian note is evident in Winthrop and the New England Puritans, and although Winthrop also saw the new colony not as the New Jerusalem itself, which would be brought about only by God’s direct intervention, but only as a foretaste of it, Winthrop was fundamentally more positive toward the political order than Augustine had been. Winthrop was, unlike Augustine, the leader of a total society in which church and state, though different, were closely connected and in which Christianity informed the political as well as the religious structure.

John Calvin, the great European predecessor of the New England Puritans, working carefully from a basically Augustinian starting point, had argued that a well-ordered nonmonarchical church could operate symbiotically with a well-ordered polity, namely the city-republic of Geneva, to create an ethical social order. He had managed to restore much of the dignity of the classical conception of political order and to combine Christian charity with civic virtue. The Calvinist Christian commonwealth would not be the City of God on earth but it could be a worthy harbinger of it. It was this conception that the New England Puritans brought to America where it was enhanced by the millennial expectations of which we have spoken.

There was, then, a strongly social, communal, or collective emphasis in early New England political thought. That collective emphasis, that understanding of man as fundamentally social, was derived from the classical conception of the polis as responsible for the education and the virtue of its citizens, from the Old Testament notion of the Covenant between God and a people held collectively responsible for its actions, and from the New Testament notion of a community based on charity or love and expressed in brotherly affection and fellow membership in one common body. This collective emphasis did not mean a denigration of the individual because the Calvinist synthesis of the older traditions maintained a strong sense of the dignity and responsibility of the individual and especially stressed voluntaristic individual action. But Calvinist "individualism" only made sense within the collective context. Individual action outside the bounds of religious and moral norms was seen in Augustinian terms as the very archetype of sin.


This dual emphasis on the individual and on society can be traced in the dialectic of conversion and covenant that was continuously worked over in the colonial Protestant Churches and came to provide a series of feelings, images, and concepts that would help shape the meaning of the new republic. To the early Puritans, conversion was an intensely personal and individual experience of salvation, and the prerequisite of church membership. A public account of such a personal experience, subject to inquiry and examination and the confirmation of goodly moral character, was required from each prospective member. While the Puritans were aware that members of the church, conceived as the Covenant of Grace, were ultimately known only to God and that it was almost certain that there were hypocrites in the visible church, they tried as far as possible to maintain a church of the converted. In addition to the inward covenant there was also the outward or national covenant to which all New Englanders were conceived of as belonging or at least to which they were subject. This was the basis of civil society. Ideally, individual conversion and external covenant should go together and there were those who tried to blur the distinction in practice as well, but there was also a long tradition of concern over the tension that usually exists between the two.

Conversion, following traditions deeply rooted in both testaments of the Bible, was felt to be a form of liberation. To be converted was to be freed from the bondage of sin and death, emancipated from slavery to the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Reformation emphasized that the converted man is a free man, in certain respects answerable only to God. Evangelical preachers in the 18th century often expatiated on the theme of the "sweets of liberty."18 But conversion as a liberating experience was always balanced by the coordinate concept of covenant, which implied a definite set of obligations between God and man and between man and man. Much of the controversy of colonial piety emerged from the effort to keep a balance between conversion and covenant. The long struggle over whether a conversion experience was essential for church membership was an argument over whether the unconverted could share in the covenant relation with the converted and attain at least some of the worldly and spiritual advantages of church membership. The Great Awakening, the wave of religious revivals that swept through all the colonies in the 1740s, aroused the passionate involvement of Jonathan Edwards and others who shared his opposition to a church based on the external covenant alone. They hoped the Awakening would serve as a channel of grace through which most or all of the community could be converted and thus share fully in the obligations and rewards of the covenant.

But the Awakening raised the specter of unbalance in the other direction. Some of those carried away by the emotional enthusiasm of the revival interpreted their new spiritual liberation as freedom from any law whatsoever. Others, less obvious than the open antinomians, interpreted their inner emotional experiences as guarantees of their salvation without any further need for action in the world. Edwards, in his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, 19 is at pains to counter both of these errors. He developed a scheme of 12 signs indicative of the genuineness of the conversion experience. Among the most important of them were: a genuine and permanent transformation in the nature of the convert, that is of his whole personality in relation to his environment; and the last and most fully described sign, the actual practice, both religious and ethical, which the genuine convert would show in his subsequent life. The strong note of social responsibility struck in Winthrop’s conception of the covenant continued in the line of Calvinist and evangelical thought in the i8th century. Conversion was not just an act of purely private piety. The liberty flowing from it did not mean escape from social obligations. Covenant liberty was seen as profoundly social as in the following quotation from the leading 18th-century Baptist Isaac Backus:

The true liberty of man is, to know, obey and enjoy his Creator, and to do all the good unto, and enjoy all the happiness with and in his fellow creatures that he is capable of; in order to which the law of love was written in his heart, which carries in it’s nature union and benevolence to Being in general, and to each being in particular, according to it’s nature and excellency, and to it’s relation and connexion with the supreme Being, and ourselves. Each rational soul, as he is part of the whole system of rational beings, so it was and is, both his duty and his liberty, to regard the good of the whole in all his actions.20

The juncture of liberty and duty in Backus’s last sentence is the key to the Protestant conception of liberty in relation to conversion and covenant. Opposed to external compulsion in religion and, as the decades passed, ever more explicitly in politics as well, they retained a profound sense of obligation both to higher law and to "the good of the whole." Edwards noted with disapproval the common "notion of liberty" as "a person’s having the opportunity of doing as he pleases." And Isaac Backus noted that all government "in the imagination of many, interferes with such liberty."21 But if the evangelical leaders recoiled from antinomianism and anarchy, they recoiled equally from a cold "external covenant." Genuine covenant obligations to God and other men were to be joyfully accepted in the warm hearts of the converted. The restraint of a purely exterior law involving no inner assent was to them not much better than no law at all. And indeed they stood ready to exhort their fellows to throw off such involuntary external constraint when the hour came to do so.


So far we have confined our investigation to biblical events and images, elaborated in the colonial experience, and how they came to provide a structure of mythic meaning for the great founding events of the republic. But the Bible was not the only source of myth and symbol for the new nation.

The English political tradition was the major influence on colonial thought and institutions, and references to it were copious. In the mounting controversy that preceded the Revolution references to the British Constitution and "the rights of Englishmen" were innumerable. In many respects the unprecedented degree of self-government existing in the colonies almost from the beginning was due to specifically English political and constitutional developments and would not have been tolerated by any other major colonial power. And yet there is remarkably little to show of English influence in the new republic at the level of myth and symbol. Even granted that this is mainly due to hostility toward Britain generated by the Revolution itself ("The British," said Jefferson, "are in our bowels and we must expel them."),22 it might well have been possible to turn to some earlier period in English history -- Magna Carta, say, or the Protectorate under Cromwell -- to provide a body of legitimating symbols for the new nation. But the only major body of nonbiblical symbols that we find in the words and acts of the founding fathers is not English but Roman.

For several centuries before the American Revolution the history of the Roman republic had figured prominently in the imagination of educated Europe. Modern political theory from Machiavelli to Montesquieu had been preoccupied with understanding its greatness and its decline. Latin literature was at the core of humanistic education in America as well as Europe. Virgil’s Aeneid even fitfully rivaled the Exodus of the Children of Israel as an archetypal story of flight into the wilderness in order to found a new city. Just as Winthrop thought of Moses so Captain John Smith thought of Aeneas in what Howard Mumford Jones calls the "prose Aeneid" that he composed to recount his establishment of the English Colony in Virginia.23 But it was not so much Latin myth or legend that dominated the minds of educated Americans in the late i8th century as it was the history of Roman liberty. It was this history which served as both archetype and warning. As Joseph Warren wrote in 1772 in commemorating the second anniversary of the Boston massacre: "It was this noble attachment to a free constitution, which raised ancient Rome from the smallest beginnings to that bright summit of happiness and glory to which she arrived; and it was the loss of this which plunged her from that summit into the black gulph of infamy and slavery."24

It is not surprising then that Roman classicism dominated the surface symbolism of the new republic. Its very terminology was latinate, the words "republic," "president," "congress," and "senate," being Latin in origin and clearly distinct from the terminology for their British counterparts. The great seal of the United States bears two Latin mottos, E pluribus unum and Novus ordo saeclorum (new order of the ages), though even the Virgilian reference of the latter should not blind us to the biblical level of meaning that it also carries. George Washington, the Cincinnatus of the West, went to his inauguration by passing under arches of laurel. Greco-Roman classicism dominated the architecture and much of the art of the early republican period.25

At a deeper level, the Roman attribute that preoccupied the imagination of the founders of the new nation was republican virtue, especially as it was interpreted by Montesquieu, the great forerunner of modern sociology and one of the political thinkers most influential on late 18th century America. According to Montesquieu, in his tripartite scheme of despotism, monarchy, and republic, each type of society has its own principle of social life which provides the spring of action for its members. For despotism that principle is fear. For monarchy it is honor: the spirit of emulation, what today we might call status seeking. For a republic, and especially for its democratic rather than aristocratic form, the principle of social life is virtue, which James Sellers has recently paraphrased in more modern language as "willed initiative."

In a democracy there is no prince furnished with an army to maintain the laws by force. And since the people are established on the basis of parity, there is no pride of rank to exploit. If there is any will or motivation to see that the laws are obeyed and that justice is done, it must come out of the hearts of the citizenry, from the will and ability of the people to act on behalf of the greater community. It is this quality, rather than fear or ambition, that makes things work in a democracy. This quality is la vertu . . . It conveys the idea that the citizen of a republic finds the beginning of his participation in governance in his own inner spirit, but that this spirit takes the form of action, and especially that kind of action that expresses willingness: initiative.26

In Montesquieu’s analysis, a republic will stand only so long as its citizens love it. If it needs external coercion its principle is lost. And Montesquieu, echoing many a hero of the early Roman republic, tells us that only frugality and the absence of luxury can keep the public interest in the minds of the citizens and make possible that renunciation of self which is so difficult but without which no republic can long survive. The agrarian ideal of Jefferson and others in the early republic -- the ideal of a nation of frugal independent husbandmen ready to serve at their community’s call -- owes much to this notion of republican virtue. Although from a different starting point, the evangelical version of the Protestant Ethic led to an identical conclusion.

In the end the Roman archetypes proved less profound and less lasting than the biblical ones for Latin culture was more confined to the elite than biblical culture. The great image for the founding of the nation was Exodus, not Aeneid. Even the classicist Jefferson proposed a picture of Moses leading Israel across the Red Sea for the Great Seal of the United States. And in his second inaugural address he said, "I need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power."27

We might wonder at the choice of Israel and Rome as the archetypes of the new nation, in view of the long history of suffering of the former and the decline and fall of the latter. We may wonder that our ancestors overlooked the darker days of those earlier nations. They did not. They hoped to construct a republic on principles so sound that it might avoid their fate. But they were certain that if we should decline in piety and public virtue we would meet the inexorable fate of the nations, which are as but dust in the hands of God.


But there was another tradition of political thought also beginning to seep into the American colonies in the early 18th century, one related to Calvinist theology and classical philosophy in curious patterns of attraction and repulsion. This was a relatively new trend of thought originating in the first attempt to apply the attitudes and orientations of natural science to the social and political sphere when, in the 17th century, natural science began to take on the prestige that it has characteristically maintained ever since. The truly innovative figure here was Thomas Hobbes although it was the more modest and conciliatory thought of Hobbes’s follower and critic, John Locke, that had most influence in America. As many scholars have pointed out there is a remarkable resemblance between Hobbes’s state of nature and Augustine’s civitas terrena. Both assume that natural man is fundamentally selfish and greedy, eager to satisfy his own desires and ready to dominate or destroy any who stand in his way. The bellum omnium contra omnes is Hobbes’s phrase, but it is an apt description of Augustine’s picture of man without God, Just as Augustine’s cupiditas as the principle of the earthly city is an appropriate term for Hobbes’s conception of fundamental human motivation. The critical difference between the two theorists -- and it is important because it will distinguish Calvinist from utilitarian in 18th-century America -- becomes evident when we consider how each of them explained such order and peace as does prevail in worldly society.

For both Augustine and Hobbes the bellum omnium is a marginal case, illustrative of certain truths about human nature but not, except in situations of exceptional breakdown, actually descriptive of normal human existence. For Augustine, of course, God is lord of the earthly city as well as the heavenly one. His providence, even though inscrutable, orders human history. Among other things, he often chooses to send kings and tyrants, including unjust ones, as a scourge to the wicked and a trial to the saints, and such kings maintain a semblance of peace. But essential to Augustine’s political thought is the idea that even fallen men retain some "image" or "impression" of divine truth and justice, without which there could be no political order.28

What distinguishes Hobbes from the classical and Christian traditions and their modern continuers is the absence of any notion of God or the Good and a corresponding radical theoretical individualism. For Hobbes the marginal case of the war of all against all is not escaped through any semblance or trace of divine justice but through a social compact made by individuals to maximize their self-interest. In order to evade the natural state of anxiety, fear, and suffering, men appoint a monarch over themselves to whom they cede their natural liberty in return for peace and security. But for Hobbes, and here Locke is his true disciple, social concord is still based not on divine Justice, not even on a shadow of caritas, but on self-interest, on cupiditas alone. The idea that society could be based on a mere coagulation of individual interests, that the pursuit of private vice could result in public virtue, was a radically new idea in the 17th and 18th centuries and one that did not sit well with other still powerful traditions.


The remarkable coherence of the American revolutionary movement and its successful conclusion in the constitution of a new civil order are due in considerable part to the convergence of the Puritan covenant pattern and the Montesquieuan republican pattern. The former was represented above all by New England, the latter by Virginia, but both were widely diffused in the consciousness of the colonial population. Both patterns saw society resting on the deep inner commitment of its members, the former through conversion, the latter through republican virtue. Both saw government as resting on law, which, in its positive form, was created by the active participation of those subject to it, yet ultimately derives from some higher source, either God or Nature. When Jefferson evoked at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence the "laws of nature and of nature’s God" he was able to fuse the ultimate legitimating principles of both traditions. And when in concluding it he wrote, "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," he was not only invoking a republican formula for the establishment of a civil compact but echoing the formula of the Puritan covenant. Only the confluence of these two patterns can help us understand the fusion of passion and reason that, with such consistency, seems to have motivated the major actors in the revolutionary drama.

Liberty was the great theme of American revolutionary emotion. As early as 1770 one observer noted that "the minds of the people are wrought up into as high a degree of Enthusiasm by the word liberty, as could have been expected had Religion been the cause."29 Liberty meant liberation from British tyranny and from the rule of kings. It is hard for us to realize the psychological exhilaration of the overthrow of monarchy in that day when, except for a few small and declining republics, monarchy was universal. In view of the fact that Parliament more than George III was tyrannizing over the Americans it is remarkable that it was George who became the very symbol and incarnation of the restraint the Americans were overthrowing. In the imagination of some New England preachers George even became the Antichrist, the "horrible wild beast" of the 13th Book of Revelation.30 The intensity of the rejection of the king, considering the fact that he was a constitutional monarch and, in any dispassionate use of the term, no tyrant, is only to be explained as the rejection of a whole conception of authority, that is of authority as external, arbitrary constraint, for which a king is a much better image than a parliament.

In the first months of the war a spontaneous unity swept through the colonies. David Ramsay in his history of the revolution published in 1791 looked back at the spirit of 1775 as one that "calmer seasons can scarcely credit." He wrote:

The Governor of the Universe, by a sacred influence on their minds, disposed them to union. From whatever cause it proceeded, it is certain, that a disposition to do, to suffer, and to accommodate, spread from breast to breast, and from colony to colony, beyond the reach of human calculation.31

The "brotherly affection," the willingness to "abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities," that Winthrop spoke of in the early Puritan covenant seemed again to live in the revolutionary ranks. The liberation from external restraint and the emergence of "the blessed unison of the whole American harpsichord, as now set to the tune of liberty," as it was described in 1775, must indeed have inspired the millenial expectations that were never very far below the surface in colonial America.32

Yet the difficult years of 1777 and 1778 saw much falling away, doubting, and hardness of heart. One Calvinist minister was led to produce a sermon called "The American States Acting Over the Part of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness and Thereby Impeding Their Entrance into Canaan’s Rest."33

The spirit of 1775 that Alan Heimert has compared so convincingly to that of the Great Awakening, had not been able to survive genuine adversity or overcome the selfish proclivities or inordinate demands of individuals. Even in 1775, John Adams recounted, ". . . a common horse jockey . . . who was always in the law, and had been sued in many actions at almost every court," came up to him and said, "Oh, Mr. Adams what great things have you and your colleagues done for us! We can never be grateful enough to you. There are no courts of justice now in the province, and I hope there never will another."34 Adams’s distress at this homegrown anarchism that Edwards and Backus had noticed earlier was motivated at least in part by class anxieties and concern for the protection of property, though he was also moved by larger purposes. But the dissenting Protestants of all classes were equally alarmed after 1776 about the absence of governmental regularity. They repeatedly requested the Massachusetts General Court, for example, to establish a constitution so that the people of the commonwealth would not be left "in a state of nature," by which they meant, with Jonathan Edwards, "Hobbs state of war," where men "would act as the wild beast of the desert; prey upon and destroy one another,"35 We are not surprised to learn that Alexander Hamilton said, "We may preach till we are tired of the theme the necessity of disinterestedness in republics, without making a single proselyte." But Jefferson did not much disagree when he wrote at the end of the war, "They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights."36


To some extent this tension between concern for the common cause and concern for one’s selfish interest was reflected at the theoretical level in the tension between utilitarians and those who held the traditional religious and philosophical views. There were some Americans in the 18th century fully aware of the underlying conflict. In his Two Discourses on Liberty of 1774, Nathaniel Niles, the Calvinist preacher and follower of Jonathan Edwards, attacked Locke’s view of the origin and purpose of government. The notion that government arises out of a contract for the mutual defense of private property "is the maxim on which pirates and gangs of robbers live in a kind of unity," he wrote. He correctly pointed out that the utilitarian conception of society, lacking even the Augustinian trace of divine order, would inevitably collapse into chaos:

God cements mankind into society for their greater good, while each, consenting to submit his exercise of the several powers with which he is vested to the cognizance of the whole body, agrees to deny himself such gratifications as are deemed incompatible with the felicity of the rest. . . . Just so far as his affection is turned on private interest, he will become regardless of the common good, and when he is detached from the community in heart, his services will be very precarious at best, and those will not be expected at all which imply self-denial.37

The conscious conflict between the civil (Calvinist classical) and utilitarian views came to a head, then, over the issue of whether virtue or interest was to be the effective basis of the new American polity In the 1770s most articulate Americans chose virtue. In arguing against a property qualification for holding office, an anonymous tract of 1776 argued:

So sure as we make interest necessary in this case, as sure we root out virtue; and what will then become of the genuine principle of freedom. This notion of an interest has the directest tendency to set up the avaricious over the head of the poor, though the latter are ever so virtuous.38

Samuel Adams, who hoped America would be a "Christian Sparta," expressed the general view when he wrote:

We may look up to Armies for our Defence, but Virtue is our best Security. It is not possible that any State shd long remain free, where Virtue is not supremely honord.39

But by the 1790s, as Gordon S. Wood has shown, quite other views were beginning to prevail. Instead of lamenting the fact that Americans seemed to be more intent on individual happiness than upon public good, some began to argue that just such a principle was the basis of the new American system The new Constitution, it was felt, harnessed individual acquisitiveness to public order. As James Wilson wrote, in America there was introduced "into the very form of government, such particular checks and controls, as to make it advantageous even for bad men to act for the public good." Wood sums up these views as follows:

America would remain free not because of any quality in its citizens of spartan self-sacrifice to some nebulous public good, but in the last analysis because of the concern each individual would have in his own self-interest and personal freedom40

Wilson and others entranced with the new system argued that it would be immune to the corruptions of the classical republics and that it would not suffer a collapse into tyranny. John Adams, who believed virtue was essential in a republic but saw awfully little of it in his countrymen, adopted a very somber view of America’s future and interpreted the Constitution largely in negative terms as an effort to slow the inevitable descent.41 Just as Locke did not displace Calvin in the 17th century so the newer view did not eliminate the older one in the late 18th century. Washington’s Farewell Address, published in 1796, restated the older moral position when he argued that Providence connects "the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue," and the early 19th century would see a revival of those sentiments in both religious and political form. The struggle of the two positions has never ceased and the conflict between them is a central theme of this book.42

The founding fathers as they moved from heroic acts of liberation to the constituting of liberty were aware of the difficulty of maintaining revolutionary zeal as the basis for civil responsibility. Revolution and constitution are as necessarily interlinked as are conversion and covenant, their lineal predecessors, but the tension between them seems as inevitable in the one case as in the other. The Constitution could not take for granted that its citizens would all be motivated by civic virtue and so its concern was as much to protect individuals and groups from abuse at the hands of the government and their fellow citizens as it was to involve all its citizens in genuine participation. Indeed many delegates at the Constitutional Convention feared the active participation of the ordinary citizens far more than their lack of zeal. The Constitution, therefore, was a kind of "external covenant" uniting convinced republicans with the lukewarm -- as perhaps it had to be.

The men who consciously felt themselves to be "founding fathers" had a profound conviction of the solemnity and significance of their role as lawgivers. John Adams wrote that he was grateful to have "been sent into life at a time when the greatest lawgivers of antiquity would have wished to live."43 The time, care, and enormous intelligence expended on the process of producing the Constitution expressed not only the traditional culture of a covenant- and compact-making people, perhaps unique in that respect in human history, but also a sense of the meaning of their act on the world stage. John Adams, even ten years before the Revolution, could write: "I always consider the settlement of America as the opening of a grand scheme and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth."44 At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries Americans had wavered about claiming to be a city set on a hill with the eyes of the world upon it. But by the end of the 18th they were certain once more. In Washington’s first inaugural address, occurring at the event that completed, as it were, the constituting of the new nation, he said: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people." They created a structure that, within limits we will have to consider, did protect the liberty of the people and did provide a space for popular initiative. In that, the founding fathers were not deluded in their conviction of the importance of their acts.

Perhaps it would be well to make more explicit the analogy between revolution and constitution on the one hand and conversion and covenant on the other that underlies this whole discussion. Revolution, like conversion, is an act of liberation, a leaving of old structures, a movement away from constraint. Both revolution and conversion open up the deepest levels of the psyche, touch the springs of our deepest hopes and fears. If these acts of liberation did not contain elements of antinomianism and anarchism they would not be genuine, for the old authority must be radically broken before the new order can be born. But unless the free act of liberation moves rapidly toward an act of institution or constitution, an act not of throwing off the past but of establishing the future, then even the liberation itself turns into its opposite. Conversion that does not move toward covenant becomes a new hardness of heart. Revolution that does not move toward constitution quickly becomes a new despotism, as we have seen with so many 19th and 20th-century "revolutions." It is in this sense that the American Revolution succeeded, where so many others failed.

And yet the success it had was at best partial. The Constitution was after all an external covenant. To Jefferson and the evangelicals, perhaps those most concerned that the element of liberation not be lost in the act of institution, the establishment of the Constitution was only the beginning instead of the end of the struggle. Jefferson, as is well known, believed that every generation had the right "to begin the world over again, and that: "Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man," and it was he that felt it would be a good thing to have a revolution every 20 years.45 He was contemptuous of those who "look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched."46 The evangelicals, in the revival of 1800 that was intimately connected with the electoral victory of Jeffersonian republicanism called for a "SECOND REVOLUTION, which is inward and spiritual." 46 Like Edwards they wanted everyone in a full covenant and would be satisfied with nothing less. For the Jeffersonians and evangelicals a constitution too quickly becomes cold and external, a shell for the pursuit of self-interest rather than a space for the exercise of free initiative in the public interest.

Thus the tensions that had long operated in America’s religious life were transferred into American political life. A structure of liberty, necessary as it is to prevent liberation from destroying itself, nevertheless contains within it new forms of external constraint and new bulwarks for private interest. It requires therefore, again and again, just as religious life requires reformation and revival, a new birth of freedom.



1. See also the following articles of mine on this subject: "Civil Religion in America," Daedalus, Winter, 1967; "Evil and the American Ethos," in Sanctions for Evil, Nevitt Sanford and Craig Comstock (eds.). Jossey-Bass, 1971; "American Civil Religion in the 1970s, Anglican Theological Review, Supplementary Series, No. 1 July, 1973; "Reflections on Reality in America," Radical Religion, Vol. I, No. 3, 1974; "Religion and Polity in America," Andover Newton Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1974. Portions of "Religion and Polity" appear in Chapter and a portion of "Reflections" appears in Chapter 6 of this book.

2. Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, Viking Compass, 1965, p. 214.

3. On this point Hannah Arendt has the following to say: "The great measure of success the American founders could book for themselves, the simple fact that the revolution here succeeded where all others were to fail, namely in founding a new body politic stable enough to survive the onslaught of centuries to come, one is tempted to think, was decided the very moment when the Constitution began to be ‘worshiped,’ even though it had hardly begun to operate." Ibid., p. 199.

4. John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government 49. 1.

5. Quoted in James Sellers, Public Ethics, Harper and Row, 1970, p. 169. It is interesting to note, in passing, that Santayana described in 1920 as a permanent feature of the American character what some observers today mistakenly believe is only characteristic of the current younger generation.

6. John Locke, Second Treatise, 2, 4-9.

7. Howard Mumford Jones, 0 Strange New World, Viking Compass, 1967, pp. 15-16

8. George H. Williams, Wilderness and Paradise in Christian Thought, Harper Bros., 1962. p. 101.

9. Mircea Eliade, The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion, University of Chicago Press, 1969. p. 94.

10. In this section I am very much dependent on Gerhart B. Ladner, The Idea of Reform, Harper Torchbook, 1967 (Harvard University Press 1959).

11. On typological interpretation in early Christianity and the Middle Ages see the classic article of Erich Auerbach, "Figura," first published in German in 1944 and available in English in Erich Auerbach, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature, Meridian Books, 1959, pp. 11-76. For the Puritan use of this mode of interpretation see Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers, Oxford, 1971, pp. 106-111. A contemporary use of the method with effervescent results is Norman 0. Brown’s Love’s Body, Random House, 1966.

12. See George H. Williams, op. cit.

13. For an extraordinarily suggestive effort to link symbol, myth, and reflective thought see Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, Harper and Row, 1967. See also Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols, Sheed and Ward, 1969; and my forthcoming The Roots of Religious Consciousness,

14. Perry Miller, Natures Nation, Harvard University Press. 1967, p. 6.

15. Winthrop Papers, Vol. II, The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1931 pp. 294-295.

16. For a discussion of Winthrop’s covenant theory see Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, Harvard University Press, 1956, pp. 148-149.

17. There are many places in Augustine’s writings where this contrast appears. One of the most central is City of God, XIV, 28.

18. Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind, Harvard University Press, 1966, p. 454.

19. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. II, Yale University Press, 1959.

20. Heimert, op. cit., p. 459. On this interesting figure see William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition, Little, Brown, 1967.

21. Heimert. op. cit., P. 458.

22. Quoted in Erik Erikson, Dimensions of a New Identity (Jefferson Lectures l973), Norton, 1974, p. 89.

23. Jones, op. cit., p. 238.

24. Ibid., p. 254.

25. Ibid., pp. 251-265.

26. Sellers, op. cit., pp. 72-73.

27. Saul K. Padover (ed.), The Complete Jefferson, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1943, p.414.

28. "If the image of God and the law of God were completely obliterated from man’s soul by sin, if no ‘faint outlines’ of the original remained, men would have no conception of justice, righteousness, or peace to use as the foundation of the human standards of equity. fair-dealing, and order that are the pillars of civilized society. Herbert A. Deane. The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine. Columbia University Press, 1963, p. 96.

29. Heimert, op. cit., p. 21.

30. Ibid., p.411.

31. Ibid., p.401.

32. Ruth Bloch in an unpublished paper, "Millennial Thought in the American Revolutionary Movement," 1973, has provided copious evidence for a connection I had only surmised.

33. In Conrad Cherry, God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny. Prentice-Hall, 1971, p. 67.

34. Arendt. op. cit., p. 300.

35. Heimert, 0p. cit., pp. 303-304.

36. Ibid., pp. 518-519.

37. Ibid., pp. 516-517.

38. Ibid., p. 521.

39. Clinton Rossiter, The Political Thought of the American Revolution, Harvest Books, 1963, p. 200.

40. Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. Norton, 1972, p. 612.

41. On Adams see Wood, op. cit., chapter 14, and Paul K. Conkin, Puritans and Pragmatists, Dodd, Mead. i968, chapter 4.

42. A long, reflective, and in my opinion profound essay on the basic tension in American culture that was published too recently to be taken fully into account in this book is Wilson Carey McWilliams, The Idea of Fraternity in America, University of California Press, 1973.

43. Arendt, op. cit., p. 204.

44. Heimert, op. cit., p. 15.

45. Erikson comments on Jefferson’s words, "God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without . . . a rebellion," as follows: "Why twenty years? Did he, maybe, refer not only to history but also to the life cycle: God forbid anybody should be twenty years old without having rebelled?" Op. cit., p. 72.

46. Arendt op. cit., p. 235.

47. Heimert, op. cit., p. 548.