God against the Revolution

The Loyalist Clergy's Case against the American Revolution

Gregg L. Frazer

Because, it’s said, history is written by the victors, we know plenty about the Patriots’ cause in the American Revolution. But what about the perhaps one-third of the population who opposed independence? They too were Americans who loved the land they lived in, but their position is largely missing from our understanding of Revolution-era American political thought. With God against the Revolution, the first comprehensive account of the political thought of the American Loyalists, Gregg L. Frazer seeks to close this gap.

Because the Loyalists’ position was most clearly expressed by clergymen, God against the Revolution investigates the biblical, philosophical, and legal arguments articulated in Loyalist ministers’ writings, pamphlets, and sermons. The Loyalist ministers Frazer consults were not blind apologists for Great Britain; they criticized British excesses. But they challenged the Patriots claiming rights as Englishmen to be subject to English law. This is one of the many instances identified by Frazer in which the Loyalist arguments mirrored or inverted those of the Patriots, who demanded natural and English rights while denying freedom of religion, expression, and assembly, and due process of law to those with opposing views. Similarly the Loyalist ministers’ biblical arguments against revolution and in favor of subjection to authority resonate oddly with still familiar notions of Bible-invoking patriotism.

God against the Revolution is a well-researched account of the published writings of Protestant Christian ministers who opposed the American Revolution. Frazer helpfully organizes the arguments of clerical Loyalists into five pertinent categories: arguments from Scripture, from reason, from law, from the contemporary situation, and in response to the actions of colonial patriots who promoted the revolution. The book argues persuasively that Loyalist appeals to these various authorities and in response to contemporary developments proceeded from learned, thoughtful, and morally upright spokesmen whose voices now deserve the hearing they were for the most part denied two centuries ago.”

—Mark Noll, author of In theBeginning Was the Word:The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783

“Because history is often a tale told by the winners, there have been many studies of Patriot clergymen who preached a blend of Protestantism and Whig republicanism to support the Revolutionary cause. There have been far fewer examinations of how they were answered from Loyalist pulpits. Frazer’s study offers the fullest and most systematic analysis of the Loyalist clergymen’s biblical, theoretical, legal, and rational arguments against the American rebellion. It is an important contribution to the religious and intellectual history of the Revolutionary era.”

—Christopher Grasso, professor of history, College of William and Mary

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For a revolution built on demands for liberty, equality, and fairness of representation, God against Revolution raises sobering questions—about whether the Patriots were rational, legitimate representatives of the people, working in the best interests of Americans. A critical amendment to the history of American political thought, the book also serves as a cautionary tale in the heated political atmosphere of our time.

About the Author

Gregg L. Frazer is professor of history and political studies and Dean of the School of Humanities at The Master’s University. He is the author of The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution, also from Kansas.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series