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American Political Sermons: A Bibliography

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Source: In Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). Vol. 1.

Bibliographic Note

No systematic bibliographic essay can be undertaken here, but some brief comments on the sources may be helpful to the reader.

A bibliography of generally relevant writings is included in Ellis Sandoz, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion and the American Founding (Baton Rouge, La., 1990), a study that is in many respects a companion to the present volume. Extensive bibliographic information on the religious writings of the period and on pertinent secondary works can be gleaned from the notes to Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York, 1986); and to Donald Weber, Rhetoric and History in Revolutionary New England (New York, 1988), a work attentive to the politics–religion issues.

The Great Awakening in America, its significance and aftermath, is best presented by Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind from the Great Awakening to the Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1966); and by Heimert and Perry Miller, eds., The Great Awakening: Documents Illustrating the Crisis and Its Consequences (Indianapolis, 1967); valuable also is William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (Boston, 1967) and the same author’s “The Great Awakening as the Key to the Revolution,” in Jack P. Greene and William G. McLoughlin, Preachers & Politicians: Two Essays on the Origins of the American Revolution (Worcester, Mass., 1977). Important also is Weber, Rhetoric and History, Chap. 1 and passim. Still fundamental is Herbert Osgood, The American Colonies in the Eighteenth Century, 4 vols. (New York, 1924) (see the third volume, especially at pp. 407–90); and Carl Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre: Transatlantic Faiths, Ideas, Personalities, and Politics, 1689–1775 (New York, 1962); and the same author’s The Spirit of ’76 (New York, 1976). Also, from the abundant literature on Jonathan Edwards, Sr., who was pivotal in the Awakening, may be mentioned Alan Heimert’s book cited above, and Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill, N. C., 1981); also Nathan O. Hatch and Harry S. Stout, eds., Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience (New York, 1988).

The key bibliographic works for early American history utilized in making this collection include the following standard works: Joseph Sabin, Wilberforce Eames, and R.W.G. Vail, Bibliotheca Americana. A Dictionary of Books relating to America from its Discovery to the Present Time, 29 vols. (New York, 1868–1936); Charles Evans and Clifford K. Shipton, American Bibliography. A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from the Genesis of Printing in 1639 down to and including the year 1820. With bibliographical and biographical notes, 14 vols. (Chicago, New York, and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959); Richard P. Bristol, Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography, 2 vols. (Charlottesville, Va., 1970). The some 50,000 items listed in the Evans and Shipton and Bristol works are revised and corrected in Clifford K. Shipton and James E. Mooney, National Index of American Imprints through 1800; the Short-title Evans, 2 vols. (Worcester, Mass., 1969). In turn, this work serves as the index for the vast Readex microprint edition: Clifford K. Shipton, ed., Early American Imprints, 1639–1800 (Worcester, Mass. and New York, 1955–1983), which provides copies of all extant American publications (except newspapers and broadsides) of between 1639 and 1800.

The principal sources for the biographical notes preceding each sermon are reference books which are not cited unless directly quoted. Since most of the authors included in the volume were clergymen of New England or the Middle Atlantic region and—with the notable exception of many Awakening evangelists such as the Baptists Isaac Backus and John Leland—graduates of one of the early colleges, the following reference works were relied upon especially: Frederick Lewis Weis, New England Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England (Lancaster, Mass., 1936); the same author’s Colonial Churches and the Colonial Clergy of the Middle and Southern Colonies, 1607–1776 (Lancaster, Mass., 1938); John L. Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17 vols. (Boston, 1873–1975); Franklin B. Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 6 vols. (New York, 1885–1912); William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 9 vols. (New York, 1857–1869); James McLachlan and Richard A. Harrison, Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 3 vols. to date (Princeton, N.J., 1976–1981).

Of considerable help also were James A. Levernier and Douglas R. Wilmes, eds., American Writers Before 1800, 3 vols. (Westport, Ct., 1983); A.W. Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons, 1670–1775 (Minneapolis, 1968); Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea, 2d ed. (Austin and New Haven, 1980); the same author’s The American Controversy, 2 vols. (Providence and New York, 1980); Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 vols. (Chicago, 1969); Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, et al., eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 22 vols. (New York, 1928–1958); Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols. (Oxford, 1917–1950); and Frederick Barton, ed., Pulpit Power and Eloquence: Or, 100 Best Sermons of the Nineteenth Century, 3 vols. (Cleveland, 1901).

Of value for understanding the New England election sermons is the introductory and other editorial material in Thornton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution; also, editorial material in Plumstead, The Wall and the Garden. In Chapter 2 of Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (1953; rpr. Boston, 1961), and throughout, the election sermons as jeremiads are the focus of the study. Miller is critiqued and his argument much expanded in Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison, Wis., 1978). These sermons, and their evolution over time as a distinctive rhetorical form, are analyzed in Teresa Toulouse, The Art of Prophesying: New England Sermons and the Shaping of Belief (Athens, Ga., 1987). The anthology of telling extracts from the election sermons previously published by Liberty Fund is indicative of this mass of material: Franklin P. Cole, ed., They Preached Liberty (Indianapolis, 1976). For specific identifications see R.W.G. Vail, “A Check List of New England Election Sermons,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (Oct. 1935; rpr. Worcester, Mass, 1936), 3–36; Lindsay Swift, “The Massachusetts Election Sermons,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 1: Transactions, 1892–1894, 388–451; Harry H. Edes, “Appendix: List of Preachers of Election Sermons,” in Charles E. Grinnell, Fanaticism: A Sermon Delivered Before the Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government of Massachusetts at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 4, 1871 (Boston, 1871), 33–61.

In the following, keyed by number to various sermons, are sources that are supplemental to the information given in the biographical notes:

No. 1. Benjamin Colman is the subject of analysis in Toulouse, The Art of Prophesying, Chap. 2.

No. 3. Besides Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants, only two published sermons by Elisha Williams have survived: Death the Advantage of the Godly and Divine Grace Illustrious, both dated 1728.

No. 4. The writings of George Whitefield were gathered in an incomplete edition by John Gillies in The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, 6 vols. (London, 1770–72).

No. 8. Jonathan Mayhew’s famous early sermon, Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750) is reprinted with a valuable introduction and notes in Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets of the American Revolution and in Thornton, ed., Pulpit of the American Revolution; seven sermons by Mayhew are available in a reprinted collection, Mayhew, Sermons (New York, 1969).

No. 9. A number of John Zubly’s writings are reprinted in Randall Miller, ed., “A Warm and Zealous Spirit . . .” (Macon, Ga., 1982); see also the valuable biography by M. Jimmie Killingworth in American Writers Before 1800, 1666–69.

No. 10. A facsimile reprint of John Allen’s An Oration Upon the Beauties of Liberty, along with an introduction by Reta A. Gilbert, can be found in G.J. Gravlee and J.E. Irvine, eds., Pamphlets and the American Revolution: Rhetoric, Politics, Literature, and the Popular Press; Commemorative Edition, 1776–1976 (Delmar, N.Y., 1976). For the sermon’s publication history, see Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea (New Haven, Ct., 1980), 68–70.

No. 11. Isaac Backus’s An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty is hailed as the most important of his thirty-seven published tracts and as “central to the whole movement for separation of Church and State in America” by William G. McLoughlin in Isaac Backus, 123; it is reprinted with valuable editorial matter in the same author’s Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754–1789 (Cambridge, Mass., 1968).

No. 13. John Wesley’s A Calm Address, its impact and the surrounding controversy, are analyzed in two articles by Frank Baker and by Donald H. Kirkham in Methodist History, 14 (Oct. 1975), 3–23.

No. 16. On Samuel Sherwood’s The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness, the reader is referred to Melvin B. Endy, Jr., “Just War, Holy War, and Millennialism in Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 42 (Jan. 1985), 3–25 at 16; a thorough analysis of the sermon is given in Stephen J. Stein, “An Apocalyptic Rationale for the American Revolution,” Early American Literature, 9 (1975), 211–25. Regarding the Appendix to this sermon, see Evans, American Bibliography, No. 13614.

No. 17. John Witherspoon’s The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men is reprinted from the third volume of The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon, 2d ed., 4 vols. (Philadelphia, 1802). See also the annotated edition of Witherspoon’s important Lectures on Moral Philosophy, ed. Jack Scott (Newark, N. J., 1982); also Garry Wills, Explaining America (New York, 1981); B. J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York, 1848); and David C. Whitney and David S. Lovejoy, Founders of Freedom in America (Chicago, 1964).

No. 18. John Fletcher’s A Vindication of the Rev. Mr. Wesley’s “Calm Address” . . . (1776) may be found in Works, 7 vols. (London, 1774–87), reprinted in a London edition in 1815 and a New York edition in 1849.

No. 21. A chapter is devoted to Samuel Cooper in Weber, Rhetoric and History, 113–32; and there is a biography: Charles W. Akers, The Divine Politician: Samuel Cooper and the American Revolution in Boston (Boston, 1982). Some 146 sermons by Cooper are extant, the bulk of them in the Cooper Papers at the Huntington Library.

No. 30. A great many of Nathanael Emmons’s sermons were collected with his theological writings and published in Jacob Ide, ed., Works of Nathanael Emmons, D.D., 6 vols. (n.p., 1842–50; 2d ed., 1861–63). Ide was Emmons’s son-in-law and both editions include memoirs by him and E. A. Park.

No. 32. Samuel Langdon’s election sermon of 1775, entitled Government Corrupted by Vice, and Recovered by Righteousness, is reprinted with an introduction and editorial annotation in Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden, 347–73.

No. 34. On the American pamphlets of Richard Price, see the annotated volume by Bernard Peach, ed., Richard Price and the Ethical Foundations of the American Revolution (Durham, N.C., 1979). On the debate with Edmund Burke triggered by the sermon here reprinted, see Robert B. Dishman, ed., Burke and Paine on Revolution and the Rights of Man (New York, 1971).

No. 36. On Israel Evans, see John Calvin Thorne, A Monograph on the Reverend Israel Evans (1902; rpr. New York, 1907).

No. 37. John Leland was the supposed author of The Yankee Spy (1794), which is reprinted in Hyneman and Lutz, eds., American Political Writing, II: 971–89. A collection of his works, including the present piece, is L.F. Greene, ed., Writings of Elder John Leland (1845; rpr. New York, 1969). Important correspondence passed between the Baptist leader and James Madison, bearing on the genesis of both the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the First Amendment liberties in the Bill of Rights; see William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison, 17 vols. to date (Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962– ), VIII: 295–96; X: 516, 540–42; XI: 185, 304, 386, 408, 414, 415, 424, 442–43.

No. 42. Jonathan Edwards, Jr., is the subject of a chapter in Weber, Rhetoric and History.

No. 44. An excellent bibliography for Noah Webster is provided at the end of the article on him by William Vartorella in American Writers Before 1800. The Webster Bible is available in a recent reprint of the New Haven, 1833 edition (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1987).

No. 47. John Thayer’s autobiographical An Account of the Conversion of the Reverend John Thayer, lately a Protestant minister, who embraced the Roman Catholic Religion at Rome, on the 25th of May, 1783 (6th ed.: Wilmington, N.C., 1789) is of considerable interest and aroused widespread comment.

No. 52. Tunis Wortman’s publications also include An Oration on the Influence of Social Institutions Upon Human Morals and Happiness, Delivered Before the Tammany Society (1796) and An Address to the Republican Citizens of New York on the Inauguration of Thomas Jefferson (1801). A good sketch of his life is given by Nelson S. Dearmont in American Writers Before 1800.

Last modified April 13, 2016