Review Of "The Politics Of Revelation And Reason: Religion And Civic Life In The New Nation" By J. G. West

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West (political science, Seattle Pacific Univ.) argues that the political activities of evangelicals between 1800 and 1835 operated within a framework established by the Founding Fathers--nine of whose thoughts on religion and politics are perceptively analyzed. These men saw religion as creating the virtuous citizenry necessary for a successful republic and believed that the diversity of sects and separation of church from state would provide a safeguard against ecclesiastical tyranny. The evangelical clergy agreed with the Fathers that moral precepts were the same, whether derived from reason or revelation, and should be applied to civic life. Neither group sought to legislate dogma or establish any religion, but both wanted to create a moral society. Because they believed in a common moral order shared by all, there was no need to create a Christian republic. Eschewing party politics and claiming to be moral preceptors, Presbyterian/Reformed clergymen like Lyman Beecher led a successful movement against dueling but failed in campaigns to prevent mail on Sunday and removal of the Cherokees from Georgia. The most original portion of the book deals with these crusades. West makes a compelling case for evangelical restraint at the national level; however, his focus on the federal government in a carefully limited period ignores the evangelical policies within individual states, which at this time had primary responsibility for religious liberty issues. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates; graduates; professionals.


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