The Faiths of the Founding Fathers

Submitted by TWIRIMaster on Sun, 11/20/2016 - 00:18

"Against the Religious Right's insistence that the Founding Fathers were conventional Christians, Holmes pits facts about religion and religious language in late colonial and early republican America. He doesn't consider all the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution, and he concedes that private convictions are ultimately unknowable. Hence, his evidence is partial and circumstantial. Yet his argument is very persuasive. After precis of religion in the colonies circa 1770, the Anglican tradition in America, and deism, which was then at the height of its influence, he turns to Franklin and the first five presidents, inspecting their church attendance, observance of sacraments, and the terms they used to refer to the deity and religion. All six seem more deistic than orthodox; that is, they inclined against the Trinity and other supernatural concepts. To point up their practical deism, Holmes invokes the contrasting orthodoxy of the presidents' wives and daughters (Abigail Adams, however, was as deistic as John) and three other founders (Samuel Adams, Elias Boudinot, and John Jay). A modest but definite triumph of temperate historical argumentation. Ray Olson"

David L. Holmes
Oxford University Press
Year Published