Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel Blake Smith

Abstract

The study of southern evangelicals during the late colonial and revolutionary eras of American history has focused primarily on the social antagonisms that separated evangelicals from southern elites and has concluded that the rapid growth of post-war evangelicalism came as a result of evangelical acquiescence to southern gentry mores. Most study of southern evangelicals has concentrated on the upper South missing important developments in the Deep South which contradict historical assumptions of Separate triumph and the subsequent subversion of radical evangelicalism by evangelical leaders eager for societal acceptance. Evangelicals were not a monolithic movement. Key doctrines, primarily the need for conversion, united them, but the social range of evangelical groups included outcast Separate Baptists to elite members of Charleston and Savannah society. Because evangelicals have been viewed as outside the mainstream of southern society, evangelical contributions to the revolutionary cause have gone mostly unnoticed. This work seeks to illuminate the contributions of evangelicals to the American Revolution by examining the roles of evangelicals in the Imperial Crisis and in the war itself. Evangelical leaders were strong proponents of American rights. Far from being outcasts, many evangelicals enjoyed positions of prominence in southern society and several served in the governments of South Carolina and Georgia. Almost all evangelicals in this region supported the American cause and were viewed by many elite revolutionaries as indispensable to solidifying the unity necessary to fight Great Britain. Evangelicals and Anglican elites worked together to cement support for provincial government and bring about the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Evangelicals also served an important role in winning the American Revolution in the South. Evangelicals, particularly New Light Presbyterians and Regular Baptists, formed a major portion of the militia that rose to bedevil Lord Cornwallis‟s attempts to implement British strategic goals. His failure in South Carolina led to his ultimate downfall at Yorktown. In the final chapter, this work examines the proud, if divided, republicanism of southern evangelicals, highlights their political activity, and explores the beginning of the evangelical ascent to religious dominance in the Deep South.

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