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During the eighteenth century Presbyterians of the Middle Colonies were separated by divergent allegiances, mostly associated with groups migrating from New England with an English Puritan background and from northern Ireland with a Scotch-lrish tradition. Those differences led first to a fiery ordeal of ecclesiastical controversy and then to a spiritual awakening and a blending of diversity into a new order, American Presbyterianism. Several men stand out not only for having been tested by this ordeal but also for having made real contributions to the new order that arose from the controversy. The most important of these was Jonathan Dickinson.

Bryan Le Beau has written the first book on Dickinson, whom historians have called "the most powerful mind in his generation of American divines." One of the founders of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and its first president, Dickinson was a central figure during the First Great Awakening and one of the leading lights of colonial religious life.

Le Beau examines Dickinson's writings and actions, showing him to have been a driving force in forming the American Presbyterian Church, accommodating diverse traditions in the early church, and resolving the classic dilemma of American religious history—the simultaneous longing for freedom of conscience and the need for order. This account of Dickinson's life and writings provides a rare window into a time of intense turmoil and creativity in American religious history.

Bryan F. LeBeau, chair of the Department of History and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Creighton University, is the author of Frederic Henry Hedge: Nineteenth-Century American Transcendentalist.

"Le Beau has carefully blended Dickinson into both the spirit and the substance of his times to produce a much-needed study of a key figure."—Journal of American History

"A welcome addition to the literature, not only because Le Beau has produced a solid biography but because he also explores the broader intellectual milieu of Dickenson and provides a context for Dickinson's effort to guide Presbyterianism through a series of religious and theological controversies."—Journal of American History

"Both an intellectual biography of Dickinson as well as an intellectual history of some of the most important disputes in colonial religious life."—Journal of Religious History

"LeBeau's judicious appraisals of this issues will serve to enlighten scholars regarding the role of Jonathan Dickinson in the history of the Presbyterian Church. . . . an invaluable resource."—Journal of the Early Republic

"A substantial contribution to scholarship on American Presbyterianism and, more generally, to the intellectual history of American religion."—Joyce D. Goodfriend

"An intellectual biography of one of the most important but overlooked figures in colonial American religious and intellectual history."—Religious Studies Review

"A solid, illuminating account of Dickinson's ministry and intellectual pilgrimage. . . . a good biography if a consequential colonial divine who is past due for this careful attention."—William and Mary Quarterly

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Jonathan Dickinson, Presbyterian Church, Great Awakening


History of Religion

Jonathan Dickinson and the Formative Years of American Presbyterianism
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