"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)



"Americans in 1776 had a long way to go before making themselves strongly Christian or strongly anything else relating to a religious persuasion."

- Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore in The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State, a fascinating book I'm reading right now.


Blogger administrator said...

Have you read Democracy In America by Tocqueville? A great primary source from the 1840s perhaps suggesting otherwise. Granted, the 1840s were a long way from 1776, but a close reading sees Tocqueville connect some very interesting points.

It's true that Christianity was in many ways at low tide in America in 1776 after the highs of the colonizing era and the First Great Awakening. Many historians talk about the age of declension following these periods.

A Religious History Of The American People by Sydney Ahlstrom is also a classic. His study of the First and Second Great Awakenings sheds much light on these issues. Harry Stout is also good. Jon Butler offers some opposing views.

Friday, August 18, 2006 2:49:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Yes, I've read de Tocqueville. I'm not necessarily agreeing with Kramnick and Moore (although they're correct that it's a ridiculous manipulation of history to argue that Thomas Jefferson believed anything akin to what modern evangelical Protestants believed). De Tocqueville visited America towards the end of the Second Great Awakening, which surely had an impact on his perceptions, and on the American people as a whole. Of course he would have seen connections between that and the First, which is a good point, but I think the central argument that America was founded as a secular state with religious freedom and protection for all is the basis for that quote in Kramnick and Moore's analysis.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

Friday, August 18, 2006 8:58:00 AM


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