Front Page Titles (by Subject) Editor's Note - Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 1 (1730-1788)
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Editor’s Note - Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 1 (1730-1788) 
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). Vol. 1.
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The fundamental aim of this collection has been to print original, editorially unannotated editions of previously published, complete sermons that permit the authors to speak fully for themselves. The genre is the political sermon, but broadly construed so as to embrace certain essays and orations, pieces that are sermonic in sense and tone—that is, hortatory and relating politics to convictions about eternal verities. A second aim has been not to duplicate anything printed in John Wingate Thornton’s fine old collection, The Pulpit of the American Revolution (Boston, 1860), since that volume is available in a reprint edition. With one exception, John Leland’s Rights of Conscience Inalienable (no. 37), we also have avoided anything printed in Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, eds., American Political Writing during the Founding Era, 1760–1805 (Indianapolis, 1983), still available from Liberty Fund. Of other comparable collections known to us, that of Frank Moore, ed., The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution, published by subscription in 1860, overlaps this collection with two items, nos. 8 and 25, but the Moore book is rare and has not been reprinted. We also avoided publishing anything contained in the first volume of Bernard Bailyn’s Pamphlets of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1965); we have included several pieces (nos. 8, 9, 10, 15, and 17) announced for later volumes, but the series has been suspended for over twenty-five years and appears to be defunct.
A third aim has been to provide readable and accessible texts for these sermons—accurate modern versions that scrupulously honor the integrity of the originals. Modernization has never been done for its own sake or permitted to alter meaning, and much has been done to maintain even the look of the originals. To effect our purpose, modernization rules, or guidelines, were developed over the course of several months in which the sermons were editorially analyzed—and with the assistance of the book’s designer, as well. It became clear that some across-the-board standardization was needed to get the job done, but that inconsistencies between sermons were unavoidable and that homogenizing the texts was unthinkable. Applying our modernizing rules in an absolutely rigid manner, then, was impossible if we were to remain sensitive to the originals. Exceptions to the rules were made where the individual text passages cried out for them. The sermons herein remain trustworthy replicas of some unique and (at times) originally quirky texts from America’s founding era.
The original printings of the sermons, especially the earliest ones, presented us with some difficult decisions concerning the use of italics and, similarly, small capitals. To begin with, italics were used in certain texts for each proper name and for other words besides, but to say that they were used much of the time for emphasis would be incorrect. Rather, they seem to have been used for anything that might be construed as a key word as well as for emphasis, with the result that a large number of words appeared in italics. That this italicization could be related to oral delivery was not translatable into an editorial guideline. It was decided, then, that we would serve the reader best by not duplicating what strikes the modern eye as chaotic typography. Nevertheless, preserving the appearance of eighteenth-century typesetting also seemed desirable.
Much of the original typography was sacrificed to modern tastes, therefore, with some important exceptions. Phrases of three or four and more words in italics were kept that way, while single words and nearly all two- and three-word phrases in italic were set in roman type. With the understanding that some measure of the author’s emphasis could be thus lost, we made exceptions to the rule on a case-by-case basis. It proved surprising, though, how infrequently italics had to be retained as exceptions. The rhetorical training of all the sermon authors led them to syntactical constructions that made their points of emphasis emerge (commonly by a use of parallelism) unmistakably and gracefully. Of course, they were organizing their points for the ear as much as for the eye, so their repetitions, enumerations, and references to a controlling scriptural thought, as well as other structural devices, all served to make the typographic augmentation of meaning that had once been favored much less necessary than might now be supposed.
Occasionally an italicized phrase would have in it a word or two in roman. We elected to simplify this state of affairs and italicized these words. Otherwise, no italics were introduced into the texts for any reason.
Words and phrases that were printed in small and/or large capital letters were viewed as italicized and then treated accordingly, except in the case of God, Jesus, and Christ. Here it was decided that the flavor of the early printings could be preserved. These words, where they had been entirely in capitals in the original, were uniformly presented in the large-capital/small-capital style shown here. Nowhere did we introduce this style, however, where the words had not been entirely in capitals in the original. Thus we give “GOD” as “God”; but we reproduce “God” without change, and so on.
Just as italicization can seem to have been too popular with early writers and printers, capitalization appears in many of the sermons to have followed only individual writers’ standards. In all the texts, we have modernized capitalization as follows: If a capitalized word would be lower-cased in modern usage, we lower-cased it, but we did not capitalize any word that appeared lower-cased in the original. Thus, the reader will notice an abundant number of instances where frequently capitalized words appear lower-cased (contrary to modern usage) later on—christian, king George, parliament, for example—because in the later instances they had not been originally capitalized. We did retain the capitalizations of coinages for the Deity—”Great Benefactor,” “Supreme Ruler,” even “Divine Word,” etc.—including the adjective if it had been originally capitalized.
For some sermons, errata were printed, and we made the corrections so noted without a signal to the reader. Spelling was not modernized for this edition, and spelling errors were not always corrected. The reappearance of a word in a text cued us to correct some typographical errors silently, but the hunting down of such reappearances was not engaged in. The reader will therefore detect spellings that could be construed as distorted by the original typesetter but that were not tampered with by us. Some corrections, we felt, required us to place a word or letters in brackets to signal the reader, but even these might have been silently fixed by different editors. For the most part the original spellings are preserved unless the meaning was imperiled. In no. 3, we changed least to lest because the sense dictated it. In no. 15, precicious was corrected to precious, for the error could interrupt communication. But in the same sermon, tremenduous was allowed to stand; in no. 17, terrestial; in no. 27, impulsies; and so forth. Who is to say that these words were not pronounced from the pulpit as they were spelled by their authors or, at least, were published? Of interest to some readers will be the spelling errors in no. 44, by the estimable Noah Webster.
As this edition makes obvious, we did modernize the long esses of eighteenth-century typography. We retained ampersands (&) and refrained from inserting missing apostrophes.
The originals presented some interesting puzzles of punctuation. Because of the flaws in early type components and the bleed-through of inks on certain printing papers, spots and blobs occurred with frequency to seemingly alter punctuation marks, changing commas to semicolons and periods to commas, or adding commas and hyphens, and so on, wherever well-placed blobs might appear. Broken type could change a comma to a period or cause a hyphen to disappear. Many times, sentence construction pointed to the solution; other times, eighteenth-century punctuation habits made, let us say, a comma likely where an existing mark was illegible. Except in the case of some totally unintelligible words, our most difficult “calls” involved colons that looked like semicolons, for the colon then seemed to serve any number of purposes not clearly distinguishable from the semicolon’s. We simply made the best determination we could from a close examination of the printed symbol when we were in doubt.
Eighteenth-century writings tend to be rife with commas, by today’s standards; even so, some commas were certainly misplaced to begin with and were silently removed. In a very few instances, commas interfered with the sense and were deleted. Dashes were often used in combination with other marks,—commas, semicolons, even periods (as this sentence demonstrates). We deleted whichever mark that sense and/or syntax showed to be the extraneous one, by today’s standards.
In most of the sermons an old convention of punctuation was followed that placed a punctuation mark before a parenthesis, (as this sentence demonstrates;) we modernized the punctuation in these cases. The British custom of placing a period or comma after a closing quotation mark was similarly Americanized; it now precedes the closing quotation mark.
A number of longer quotations were printed as indented extract, where originally they had been “run in” as text and set off with quotation marks. As modern convention dictates, we deleted the quotation marks from these extracted passages. There was no attempt made to standardize the uses of quotation marks in the sermons. Each author had his own approach to this and other matters of style, and many inconsistencies will be evident to the reader from sermon to sermon and within individual sermons. Sometimes quotation marks set off hypothetical responses to the author’s main argument, for example, but frequently propositions of that type are merely signified by an initial capital letter in mid-sentence. These devices have not been tampered with, for in their own way they signal the reader clearly enough as to the author’s meaning and intent.
The reader may also note that some authors interpolate their own words into quotations without closing and reopening quotation marks. Since it was obvious enough that this was the case, we refrained from adding the marks. Wherever quotation marks or other punctuation marks did need insertion by us, we bracketed them.
biblical quotes and citations
Naturally, the sermons are replete with references to scripture. On occasion, editorial considerations led us to check on the wording of a quotation (and some few mistakes thereby detected were silently corrected, particularly in citations of chapter or verse numbers). However, no systematic checking of biblical material was done, and for all practical purposes the quotations and citations can be considered to be reproduced as they originally appeared, correct or incorrect.
All footnotes are the work of the sermon authors and have been edited along the same guidelines as for the sermon proper. Footnote symbols were changed as necessary to key the notes to the sermon as the material received a new paging arrangement in this edition.
Many other elements in the originals, ornamental, typographic, or idiosyncratic, have been dispensed with. Most often this involved modernizing odd arrangements of text and/or blank space.
The original pamphlets in which the sermons appeared also included announcements, legislative resolutions concerning publication, dedications, prefaces, opening prayers, and appendices that have been deleted from this volume, except where they could not be considered extraneous to the sermon’s message and significance.
Not all the sermons were assigned titles by their authors, as a look at the title-page facsimiles included with each sermon will reveal. In such cases, we extracted from the pamphlet copy what we deemed appropriate as a stand-in title.
The facsimiles, while they add a visual element to this collection, also serve as testaments to the erudition and civility of the age that produced these works. They shed light on the sermons in the information and in the epigraphs they provide, the latter being an embellishing convention from the days of the Renaissance.
The facsimiles often provide two dates: the date of the sermon’s delivery and that of its publication, and in many cases, these dates are not far apart. But some of the items, as previously stated, were never orally delivered though they are sermonic in tradition. The publication date was the most consistent key to the placement of the works in a time frame, therefore. We opted, then, to order the sermons according to the date of their dissemination in print. The reader may note that this results in our placing no. 20 at 1778, though apparently it was preached in 1775; moreover, no. 43 was preached in 1789, but we reprint the second edition from 1794, in which the author, David Osgood, updated his text, and which prompted a number of responses then and in 1795. Finally, no. 37 is placed with a conjectural publication date at 1791, when it was preached. Yet it may not have appeared in print until eleven years later, as indicated on the facsimile page included with it.