“The Bond of Union” is intentionally multivalent. It is taken from an 1849 statement by Nathan Lewis Rice regarding the Old School position on slavery: “We regard the stand taken by our Church in 1845, as one of the most important acts ever performed by her, and as constituting her emphatically the bond of Union to these United States.” A similar sentiment was expressed by an anti-slavery ruling elder who emphasized the need for “the bond of union” to weigh lightly on both church and nation in order to maintain unity in the midst of hotly contested political and social differences. The phrase is also found in the Presbyterian church order, stating that the General Assembly should “constitute the bond of union, peace, correspondence, and mutual confidence, among all our churches.” Samuel Winchester, a leading Old School ruling elder argued at the 1834 General Assembly that “The Constitution of our Church is the bond of its union, and if this be intrenched upon, mutual confidence is destroyed, and that which professes to unite us, becomes itself the subject of protracted and angry discord.” Its covenantal roots (from the German bund) are essential to my usage of it, not to mention its convenient connection to the bonds of slavery as well.
This dissertation will not attempt to argue that Nathan Rice was literally correct. The Old School Presbyterian Church was not the bond of union that held the nation together. Unionists came from every religious and irreligious background imaginable. Instead, this dissertation will seek to examine the interplay between the various usages of “the bond of union” outlined above. How did a phrase from the Presbyterian constitution, describing the relationship of the Presbyterian General Assembly to Presbyterian congregations come to play such a central role in how Old Schoolers thought of their role in the civil Union?
The idea of the Union transcended that of government or national state and functioned as “a symbolic source of loyalty and a concrete instrument of political power.” While the “Union” originally had the aspect of an experiment, it gradually developed an absolute character that brooked no talk of dismemberment. Such orators as Daniel Webster declared the United States Constitution “the band which binds together twelve million of brothers.” Virtually all American politicians agreed that the Constitution preserved the Union in true liberty. But even as it attained a mystical status in political rhetoric, it revealed the inherent tensions within the Union. The festering sore of slavery created a fundamental divide between multiple visions of liberty and union. Even John C. Calhoun, the arch-secessionist when history is read backwards, attempted to save the Union through his proposal of concurrent majorities.
Rogan Kersh draws attention to the religious roots of the language of “union” in British American discourse regarding the unity of the church. Pointing to the “considerable influence of religious-union rhetoric on political talk” during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he argues that denominational conferences “served as an important early foundation of intercolonial unity.” Indeed, Kersh argues that in the 1770s the word union “was used to denote the whole American people in affective ways formerly reserved for religious relations.”
Thirty-four years ago, George Marsden published the first major study of New School Presbyterianism, attempting to illuminate the nineteenth-century roots of the evangelical ethos. While numerous essays and dissertations have covered various aspects of Old School Presbyterian history in the intervening years, no one has ventured a comprehensive interpretation. This dissertation does not claim to cover every aspect of Old School history, but rather attempts to explain the relationship between the Old School’s preoccupation with ecclesiology and its resolute Unionism.
In order to accomplish this task, there are several interwoven questions that this dissertation will seek to answer. One set of questions involves the problem of disestablishment: given that the United States rejected the concept of an established church, what would church/state relations look like? Presbyterian church order had originally been designed for the established Church of Scotland. As the common school movement unfolded, Old School Presbyterians frequently drew on their Scottish heritage to articulate an educational vision that would provide a Christian education in the context of the separation of church and state. Anti-Roman Catholic literature engaged the problem of religious and civil liberty in a disestablishment setting. Most American Presbyterians had come from Scotland through Northern Ireland, where they had experienced the establishment from a dissenter’s point of view. They willingly (and in most cases eagerly) gave up their inherited notions of an established religion by 1776. What were the effects of this transformation upon succeeding generations?
These questions can also be framed as the problem of denominationalism. The older Reformed and Presbyterian churches had all insisted upon the catholicity of the visible church, which usually entailed the organizational unity of the church in a given region. The American modifications to the Westminster Confession in 1789 included the first reference to denominations in any Reformed confession: “it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest.” The transformation in identity from “church” to “denomination” took time. The older understanding of the unity–or catholicity–of the visible church could not help but be eroded as “liberty of conscience” began to trump catholicity. But the older tradition could not be eliminated completely, and Old School Presbyterians sought to preserve some sense of catholicity even in the midst of the swirling chaos of a democratized conscience.
A second constellation of questions revolves around ethnicity and culture. An overwhelming proportion of Old School Presbyterians were of Scottish and Ulster descent. Virtually every debate spawned numerous appeals to Scottish Presbyterian beliefs and practices. But even non-Scottish Presbyterians seem to have adopted the Scottish heritage of their co-religionists. How much did this “ethnic” background play into the debates? For that matter, how possible is it to isolate the “ethnic” from the “religious,” or vice versa? Presbyterians did relatively little evangelism of non-Scots, but spent most of the antebellum era trying to keep up with the spread of “their own.” But these colonies of Presbyterians were located in larger communities, and outside western Pennsylvania, these communities were not dominated by Presbyterians. While most Scots delighted to be Americans, their ethnicity did not simply evaporate. Instead, Old School Presbyterians maintained a decidedly confessional identity in the midst of an increasingly anti-creedal environment–and a self-conscious appropriation of a sense of Scottish identity aided in maintaining this confessional identity.
Old School Presbyterians generally prided themselves on this insider/outsider status. As William Engles, editor of the largest Old School weekly, put it: “Our theology is ridiculed as antiquated; as a relic of the dark ages. . . . Our attachment to our peculiar Church polity is regarded with affected contempt as at once silly and ridiculous. On these topics the changes are ceaselessly rung, and every method is resorted to to make us thoroughly ashamed of our denominational strictness.” Nonetheless, for Engles this was precisely the reason why “at this present moment, when error is so rife, the Presbyterian Church of the Old-school stands before the world as the noblest witness for the truth, and as most conservative of the precious interests of that religion which Christ taught and his apostles promulgated.” Only through maintaining a distinctively Old School doctrine and polity would the Presbyterian church be of any real use to the American religious world. He warned that if leading ministers or seminary professors “do any thing to lower the tone of denominational feeling in our Church,” it will result in “denominational apostasy.”
But while often mocked for their “antiquated” theology, Old School Presbyterians were not an “outsider” ethnic group, like the German Reformed or Irish Catholics. Old School Presbyterians lived in the mainstream of social, economic, and political power. Living in a social context that was alternately friendly and hostile to the influence of religion, Presbyterians sought to influence the world around them. That world inevitably influenced them as well. As the debates surrounding the place of the ruling elder suggest, democratic pressures were unavoidable. Leo P. Hirrell has shown how the main reform movements of the day (e.g., temperance, anti-Catholicism, anti-slavery) were influenced by New School Calvinism, but Old School Calvinists were also concerned about the same issues. For example, in 1844-1845 Old School Presbyterians were involved in starting the publication of no less than five anti-catholic periodicals. In reform matters, the difference between Old and New School Calvinism was not so much in the goal desired, but in the means utilized to achieve that goal. Hence emancipationist Old School Presbyterians in Kentucky prepared a plan for the gradual emancipation of all slaves in 1849, which was supported by most prominent Kentucky Presbyterians. It failed, according to its proponents, due to the lack of support from other denominations.
A third array of issues probes the intellectual milieu. Several scholars have documented the ascendancy of common sense realism. Antebellum Americans believed that intellectual and moral reasoning should be conducted on the ground of universally accessible intuitive principles, inductively gathered from the data of human consciousness and experience. But still relatively unexplored are the ways in which antebellum Americans utilized texts, both biblical and otherwise, in marshaling their arguments. While the written word had become a chief means of persuasion, the art of rhetoric had not yet departed from oral argumentation. Most general assemblies could expect a handful of one to three hour speeches when crucial issues were debated on the floor. This dissertation will rely upon records of those oral debates more than many previous works.
The issues that prompted the most significant discussion were matters of constitutional theory and practice. As Old School Presbyterians engaged in the constitutional debates of the antebellum era, they also wrestled with their own ecclesiastical constitution. Morton J. Horwitz points to two legal developments in the early republic that are particularly relevant: 1) the dethronement of the common law tradition by 1810, which opened the way for 2) the development of an “instrumental perspective” in American law by which judges could “reason about the social consequences of particular legal rules.” The transformation of the common law tradition resulted in a greater emphasis on codifying statute law, and on allowing considerable judicial discretion. But together with this growing emphasis on constitutional and statute law came the gradual erosion of the older organic model of society. This older model declared that God had given authority to certain institutions (family, church, and state) and that constitutions functioned within that authority. For the newer federal model, authority was itself mediated through the constitution. Many of the constitutional debates within the Old School should be understood in the light of this development.
Orthodoxy was at the heart of the Old School. In the minds of those who organized the excision of the New School synods, traditional Presbyterian orthodoxy was at stake–and indeed, since they considered the opposition to have fallen prey to the ancient Pelagian heresy, Christian orthodoxy itself was on the line. Church polity also played a significant role, because Presbyterians generally considered the doctrine of the church to be an integral part of their theology.
After the excision of the New School synods, the Old School continued its emphasis on orthodoxy. Throughout their debates in the church courts and in the periodical press, Old School ministers and elders recited exegetical, confessional, and historical arguments that were grounded in a long-standing tradition of Presbyterian orthodoxy. Even those that argued for new practices and different ways of thinking attempted to locate their views in previous apostolic, patristic, and/or Presbyterian and Reformed teaching. While innovation was generally deplored, most Old School Presbyterians prized fresh insight–the difference being that the former called orthodoxy into question while the latter sought to build upon it.
Frequently thinking of themselves as the only truly national church after 1846, the Old School Presbyterian church believed that it was a (if not the) bond of union that held the United States together. With Methodists and Baptists divided north and south, and the less numerous Episcopalians largely residing in urban areas, Old School Presbyterians were the only Protestant denomination with significant representation in every region of the nation. This dissertation will explain how this imagined self-concept influenced the Old School’s decision-making process in the major debates of the 1840s and 1850s. It will demonstrate that the constitutional issues underlying the ecclesiological disputes of the Old School are central for understanding why they took the positions that they did with respect to slavery, education and other social issues. At the same time, this dissertation will also demonstrate that Presbyterian polity did not remain the same through its encounters with antebellum culture.
2. The Geography of Old School Presbyterianism
This dissertation relies heavily upon the periodical literature of the Presbyterian Church. While most of the authors wrote anonymously, I have been able to uncover the identity of many authors. There are some non-ordained persons, including a few women, who contributed to the newspapers, but from editorial comments it is clear that most of the authors were ministers or ruling elders.
A second major resource is a database of Old School ministers and congregations that I have compiled over the last decade. It includes not only the biographical details for ministers, and membership statistics for congregations, but also voting patterns at General Assembly (and perhaps eventually at synod as well). While only around 90% complete (due to the time-consuming process of identifying obscure ministers), the statistics complement the anecdotal evidence of the newspapers.
A. The Presbyterian Location in the American Mainstream.
Most historians claim that the antebellum era witnessed the decline of the old established churches–Congregational, Episcopal and Presbyterian–and the rise of their more democratic counterparts–especially the Baptists and Methodists. Most historians acknowledge that Presbyterians were initially involved in the West, but since they were outstripped by the Methodists and Baptists, they are generally portrayed as falling “far behind.” It is certainly true that the Methodists and Baptists grew faster than the Presbyterians did, but Presbyterian growth itself was staggering. The old eighteenth-century colonial establishment (Congregational in New England and Episcopal in New York and the South) still had prestige among the elites in those regions, but found little sympathy in the West. Presbyterians, however, spread throughout the West and had significant influence in every portion of the country save New England. While the official rolls counted only around 200,000 communicants in 1850, one Presbyterian newspaper suggested that the Old School had nearly one million members (e.g., baptized persons under the general influence of the church). Therefore it would be more accurate to say that whereas Presbyterians had played second fiddle to the Congregationalists and Episcopalians in the colonial era, they continued to play second fiddle in the antebellum era–with Baptists and Methodists moving into the first chair–at least numerically.
But in spite of their numerical disadvantage, Old School Presbyterians believed that they were the most influential religious denomination in the country. While this sort of claim would be impossible to prove, it certainly affected the way they talked and acted. While never a majority in any state, Presbyterians had often been among the first settlers in the territories, and so had been able to establish themselves, their churches, and their educational institutions early in the old northwest and southwest. Old School laity (especially their ruling elders) were leaders in politics, business, and law. Old School ministers dominated education–especially in the South and West–even controlling ostensibly state colleges in South Carolina and Ohio. In spite of the fact that the Methodists had three times as many churches, the census of 1850 revealed that the value of their church property was virtually equal.
Any attempt to explain either the success or the failure of Old School Presbyterian growth in the antebellum era must take into account the Old School’s emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy and its ethnic character (which are woven together). In any chaotic environment, there will be those who desire the rootedness of a traditional religious community. As an example of lay commitment to orthodoxy, the Presbyterian Magazine reported in 1857 the endowment of a scholarship at Princeton Seminary by Robert and Marian Hall (brother and sister), who had been brought up in Scotland under the ministry of John Brown of Haddington. They had immigrated to Orange County, New York, and after decades of teaching school, they said in their bequest:
Whereas, after a life of nearly fourscore years, much of which has been spent in examining the Word of God, we are fully satisfied of the correctness of the doctrines of religion as laid down in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, drawn up by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and as held by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, we desire that the scholarship which is endowed by this our bequest of two thousand five hundred dollars, be called the ED Scholarship, as a witness between us and the Theological Seminary, that the Lord he is God, agreeable to the said Confession of Faith and Catechisms.
Farther, it is our will, that the Professors in said Seminary be careful, that no person holding sentiments inconsistent with the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, be ever admitted to the benefit of said Scholarship.
The lawyer who was drawing up the will was puzzled as to the meaning of the name “ED.” Marian Hall replied, “And dinna ye ken, young mon? E'en go and read your Bible.” “Well, I have read it, and still I do not recollect the meaning or use of ED.” After explaining its significance as the name of a monument in Joshua 22:34, the elderly lady summarized the heart of the issue–as far as she was concerned: “I dinna like your Hopkinsian. I believe in the doctrines of the Bible, as expressed in the Confession of Faith.” Orthodoxy was important not only for the pastors, but also for the laity as it gave them an anchor in the midst of the storm.
B. Presbyterian Ethnicity: From Scots to Americans (and back again)
The leaders of the Old School had few immigrants among them (with some notable exceptions). Most were second or third generation Americans who had been born between 1785-1820. The older leaders of the Old School, such as Ashbel Green of Philadelphia (1762-1848), Samuel Miller of New York and Princeton Seminary (1769-1850), Archibald Alexander of Virginia and Princeton Seminary (1772-1851), George A. Baxter of Virginia and Union Seminary (1771-1841), John A. Matthews of Virginia and New Albany Seminary (1772-1848), Joshua L. Wilson of Cincinnati (1774-1848), and Francis Herron of Pittsburgh (1777-1860), had grown up in the excitement of the early republic. Deism had been the challenge of their youth, and the Presbyterians had played a central role in overcoming it.
One implication of the rapid growth of the church that has rarely been mentioned, is that the Old School–together with other American denominations (and indeed, with the nation as a whole)–was a young church. In 1840, more than half of all Old School ministers had been ordained in the previous decade. Nearly 60% were under the age of forty. In contrast, twenty years later, in 1860, only around 40% were under the age of forty. The generation that came of age in the 1820s and 1830s came to positions of leadership at a relatively young age, and maintained their standing for nearly forty years. Older ministers were respected (and often were able to defeat the young turks), but generational politics cannot be ignored.
Joyce Appleby has called attention to the role of the “first generation” of Americans–born between 1776 and 1800. While that generation played a significant role in the formation of the Old School in 1837, it was the second generation that came to define the Old School during the 1840s. The younger generation had watched their fathers defeat the rising tide of deism–or were like the Breckinridge brothers who had a deist father. It is interesting to note that the fathers of the two most outspoken leaders of the Old School party, Ashbel Green and Robert J. Breckinridge (1800-1871), were not orthodox Presbyterians. Jacob Green (of New England descent), had departed from the Presbyterian Church with a handful of other ministers to form the Morris Presbytery in 1780 in order to practice his Edwardsean views of the sacraments. Ashbel himself was tempted by Deism during the Revolutionary war, through his contact with “infidel” army officers. His contemporary, John Breckinridge (1760-1808), however, fell prey to Deism and departed from the Presbyterian Church, serving eventually as Thomas Jefferson’s Attorney General. At least two of his sons, John Cabell and Robert Jefferson, initially followed in his steps, both politically and religiously. R. J. studied at the College of New Jersey with Ashbel Green in 1817-18, but Green’s influence appears to be minimal: R. J. was expelled from the college for fighting. After the death of John Cabell Breckinridge in 1823, R. J. took over the family’s financial affairs, since the second son, John, had entered the ministry.
A major flaw in the Jeffersonian agenda was that they did not sufficiently take women into account. How was a young man like R. J. Breckinridge supposed to maintain his Deist beliefs, when his Presbyterian mother had catechized him from his childhood, and his wife, Ann Sophonisba Preston, became a devout Christian? By 1835 the three surviving Breckinridge sons were orthodox Presbyterian ministers, and R. J., in his first pastorate in Baltimore, had already joined Ashbel Green of Philadelphia and Joshua L. Wilson of Cincinnati as a leader of the Old School movement.
Having successfully blocked the infidel invasion through a cooperative arrangement with the Congregationalists, the first generation of Presbyterians had hoped that they could continue to reap the harvest of their triumph. But the issues of the 1830s were not as easy as the open threat of Deism. While most Presbyterians had fervently embraced the American Revolution, and repudiated the concept of ecclesiastical establishment, as the nineteenth century progressed many began to express concerns about the future of Presbyterianism in an increasingly democratic culture. Several factors combined in different ways to leave many Presbyterians (perhaps even most) increasingly ambivalent about their place in American culture. All but a tiny handful were enthusiastically patriotic and wholeheartedly approved of the American project, but most saw developments in the nineteenth century that threatened to marginalize them. Old School Presbyterians differed over which factors were the central causes for concern, and most embraced at least some of the them, but a whole array of issues were now before them:
1) the democratizing trends in antebellum religion
2) the Jacksonian turn in American politics
3) the secularization of education
4) the established power of northeastern business elites
5) the increasing Roman Catholic immigration
6) the rise of Romantic and Idealist thought
7) the “young West,” and especially the growing influence of the Northwest
8) the growing tension between abolition and proslavery advocates
Old School Presbyterians had enthusiastically embraced America and had not initially thought much about their Scottish identity as they sought to participate in the making of the new nation. But, as that new nation departed further and further from their imaginative vision of what it should be, they began to draw more and more consciously from their Scottish Presbyterian heritage. They were always selective, but when an Old School Presbyterian became unhappy with a certain aspect of American culture/religion, his first recourse was frequently to the mother Kirk.
This is particularly interesting because not all of these men were Scots. Samuel Miller, for instance, was of English descent, while Robert L. Dabney was of Huguenot origin, yet both fully embraced their Scottish heritage as Presbyterians. Further, some like Thomas Smyth, who had been born in Ulster, tended to be more enthusiastic about certain American ideals than others who were third or fourth generation Americans.
Hence, ethnicity appears to be almost as much a function of frustration with the American project as it is a matter of birth. Or, to put it differently, Presbyterian religion was the way in which Scottish ethnicity adopted non-Scots into its cultural patterns. It is not the case that American Presbyterians actually did things in a Scottish way, but that ideas and practices imagined and described as Scottish frequently carried significant weight.
In their own self-identification, Old School Presbyterians frequently remarked on their ethnic heritage. One correspondent wrote to the Presbyterian Herald that the General Assembly of 1857 “has a peculiarly Scotch-Irish cast of form and countenance. They look like men of firmness and decision who would be ready to do or die, the stuff of which martyrs, but not fanatics, might be made."
C. Presbyterian Conservatism
Both in its numerical growth and in its cultural place in the American mainstream, Old School Presbyterianism took a mediating stance between the democratic culture of the Baptists and Methodists and the more aristocratic Episcopalians. The general opinion in the Old School was that Presbyterianism was the best hope for America to avoid both the extremes of mobocracy or aristocracy. David McKinney, editor of the Presbyterian Banner, the Pittsburgh newspaper, offered a perspective that held true for most Old School Presbyterians. Presbyterian conservatism was not merely in favor of keeping things the same. The true conservative “acts from principle instead of impulse,” and therefore is also the true progressive. Presbyterian theology was inherently conservative, tending “to exalt God and humble man. It teaches that all are sinful and unworthy of favor, that God has a right to do as he will with his own, that he makes men to suffer according to his sovereign pleasure. It teaches that every one has his appointed work, with which he is to be content, and that he is to be clothed with humility.” One who lives by Presbyterian doctrines and principles “becomes an aggressive Conservative, from whom the world has much to hope and nothing to fear.”
Four years before Lyman Atwater had stated in the Princeton Review that the church needed to be both conservative and progressive. Unless she made “constant advances in her understanding, or consciousness of the import, the reach, the limits, the applications of this truth, especially to new and varying circumstances; and unless she makes unceasing efforts to bring men under its saving power, the truth itself will become stagnant and impotent, a dead orthodoxy.” The constant innovations of the radicals contradicted the slow but steady progress of the true conservative.
The Old School’s moderate stance may help explain its relative obscurity in antebellum historiography. As Peter B. Knupfer has said regarding political moderates more broadly, “they have not as a group received the attention that reformers, reactionaries, ideologues, and idealists have received.” This dissertation will attempt to cast some light on at least one institution that nourished the moderate stance.
D. Institutional Geography
The local cultures of the Old School were expressed institutionally in at least three ways: 1) educational institutions, 2) periodicals, and most importantly 3) a system of church courts.
1) Educational Institutions. Old School Presbyterian colleges, seminaries, and academies were some of the most advanced educational institutions outside of New England, and their academies, colleges and seminaries became centers of Presbyterian identity. Every Presbyterian minister was expected to have a college degree, and by 1840, around ninety per cent of newly ordained ministers had also attended seminary. In contrast, Finke and Starke report that in 1823 only 100 of the 2,000 Baptist clergy had a liberal education, while fewer than 50 of the more than 4,000 Methodist itinerants in 1844 had more than a grammar school education. Nearly every Old School synod either operated its own Presbyterian college, or had considerable influence in a private or state operated college.
Theological seminaries were influential in shaping the distinctive vision of a region, although since professors were chosen largely by the ministers and elders in the region, there is even greater reason for suggesting that the church shaped the seminary to perpetuate its own character. In both respects, the seminary was one of the most prized institutions in each region, and the boards of the seminaries generally consisted of the most influential ministers and elders in the region. As one editor pointed out, the seminaries were somewhat diverse due to various local influences. Echoing the Jeffersonian wariness of party, he warned that this boded ill, if “under those ever active outward causes, the Seminaries will partake more of the local spirit of the church, than will be consistent with either the great commission or the expansive spirit of the gospel.” Because behind the Jeffersonian fear of party lay a far older tradition: the catholicity of the church. The triumph of local spirit could only be counterproductive for the catholicity and orthodoxy of the church. “It is a fair conclusion, then, that if the church continue sound, her seminaries will also be sound; if she become corrupt, the infusion of her spirit into them would be but to pollute the fountains, and render the streams that issue from them more noxious.”
In the 1820s and 1830s most Old School candidates attended Princeton Seminary. By the 1850s this was no longer the case. While nearly half of all ministers attended Princeton Seminary, attending Princeton Seminary did not mean that men would agree with each other in later years; rather, it provided a common framework for discussion. The diversity of seminary training emerges not so much in the initial years (when the faculties were largely Princeton-trained) but as the regions develop their own character independent of (and often in opposition to) Princeton.
2) Periodicals. Antebellum Americans were inundated with periodicals. The 1860 census revealed 4,051 periodicals with a total circulation of over 927 million, more than half of which circulated in New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts alone. Eighty per cent were political, while only seven per cent were religious. For Old School editors, these statistics demonstrated the power of the periodical press and the need for religious periodicals to be more zealous in the work of spreading the gospel.
Each region maintained (at least sporadically) its own weekly newspaper, and the major centers produced at least one or two monthly and/or quarterly journals as well. I have been able to identify at least eighty distinct titles that were edited by and for Old School Presbyterians between the years 1837-1870. The subscription lists and editorials of these journals suggest that there was a general consensus that each region should have its own weekly Presbyterian paper, designed for a lay audience. Monthlies and quarterlies tended to be more specialized and thus sought to reach a narrower audience amidst a wider geographical scope.
I have not attempted to include every Old School paper in the following regional survey. Instead I have attempted to give a sense for how the newspapers became institutional centers for regional identity. The Old School sustained from eight to twelve weekly newspapers throughout its history (the New York Observer was formally a nondenominational paper, but after 1840 its editor was in the Old School, and it engaged more with Old School issues than any other denomination). The following is a list of those that lasted for at least a decade:
Figure Figure 1. Leading Old School Weeklies, 1840-1870
Location: Title(s): Dates:
New York, NY New York Observer 1823-1912
Philadelphia, PA Presbyterian 1831-1923
Pittsburgh, PA Presbyterian Advocate/Presbyterian Banner 1838-1937
Cincinnati, OH Presbyterian of the West/Presbyter 1841-69
St. Louis, MO Herald of Religious Liberty/St. Louis Pbn/Missouri Pbn 1844-62, 66-97
Louisville, KY Protestant & Herald/Presbyterian Herald 1836-62
Richmond, VA Watchman of the South/Watchman & Observer/Central Pbn 1837-1909
Fayetteville, NC North Carolina Presbyterian 1858-99
Charleston, SC Charleston Observer 1829-45
GA/SC Southern Presbyterian 1847-1909
New Orleans, LA NO Observer/NO Prot/NO Pbn/True Witness/Pbn Index 1837-40, 44-51, 54-62, 66-8
It is worth pointing out–as numerous Old School editors did–that despite the fact that two-thirds of the Old School resided in the north, of these ten papers (since the Southern Presbyterian is the geographical successor of the Charleston Observer), six were in the south. Northern editors generally suggested that this was due to southerners’ local pride, and noted that the northern papers had twice the circulation of the southern papers. Of course, both the Kentucky and Missouri papers had a significant circulation in the northwest, and the location of five of these papers along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers demonstrates the way in which Americans tended to think of the rivers as the center of the West–rather than the border between North and South.
3). Church Courts. The session consisted of the minister(s) and elders of the local congregation. The presbytery consisted of all of the ministers, and one ruling elder from each congregation in the presbytery, which could embrace anywhere from 3-60 congregations. The presbytery met at least twice a year, so most presbyteries sought a compact geographical range. The synod included 3-12 presbyteries, and its boundaries frequently (though not always) followed state lines. Every minister in the synod and one ruling elder from each congregation could vote in the synod’s annual meeting.
Old School identity was closely bound up with this presbyterial and synodical structure. Educational institutions and periodicals were frequently supported by the synod–and the presbytery and the synod formed centers of activity. Meetings of college trustees or seminary directors were often called to synchronize with synods, and whenever the regional newspaper hit hard times, a special meeting would be held at synod in support of the editor. For that matter, editors often announced which synods they would attend, so that their readers could send their payments along with their pastor.
The synod coordinated regional missionary activity and provided a court of appeal to correct errors made by sessions and presbyteries. Synods frequently registered their approval or disapproval of General Assembly actions, and functioned as a forum for debate and discussion of controversial topics. When discontent over the policy of one of the General Assembly’s boards flared up in a region, the board would frequently send a representative to meet with the synod–hopefully dealing with the issue before it caused major problems for the Assembly.
Presbyterians prized openness and candor. “Confidence in our brethren” was crucial in such a large and growing church. The only way to remain united was to maintain open communication and to provide an outlet for discussion–and dissent, if need be.
E. Regional Geography
Some historians have mistakenly identified the Old School as a predominantly southern denomination. In fact, only one-third of the church resided in the south. By 1860 another third resided in the northwest. Most Old Schoolers recognized that while the south had some influence, the leading region remained the northeast–especially the Philadelphia-New York corridor. The regions were bound together by various institutions: colleges, seminaries, periodicals, and synods. The following regional definitions will be utilized in this dissertation:
Northeast (often called the East):
New York/New England: the synods of Albany, New York and Buffalo (all of New York and New England)
Mid-Atlantic: the synods of New Jersey, Philadelphia and Baltimore (New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland)
Northwest (sometimes called the West–with or without the Southwest):
Old Northwest: the synods of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Wheeling, Ohio and Sandusky (western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia)
New Northwest: the synods of Cincinnati, Indiana, Northern Indiana, Illinois, Chicago, Wisconsin, Iowa, Southern Iowa and St. Paul.
Southwest (sometimes with the Northwest called the West, or defined with the South):
Upper Southwest: the synods of Kentucky, Missouri, Upper Missouri and Kansas (including Nebraska)–sometimes included with the Northwest
Lower Southwest: the synods of Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas (including Oklahoma and Louisiana)
Southeast (often called the South):
Upper South: the synods of Virginia and North Carolina
Deep South: the synods of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama (including Florida)
While perhaps somewhat too neat, the rationale for these divisions is provided by the institutional connections that these synods shared. Certain synods had close working relationships with others around them. The synods of Virginia and North Carolina jointly controlled Union Theological Seminary in Prince Edward, Virginia, and until 1858 both patronized the Richmond newspaper. The synods of Wheeling and Allegheny remained close to their parent synod, Pittsburgh, in support of Western Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian Advocate (later the Presbyterian Banner), a relationship shared at a distance by the Synod of Ohio. South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama were united in their support for Columbia Seminary and the Charleston Observer (later the Southern Presbyterian). Other synods appear to have operated more or less independently from those around them. While their ministers and elders had regular contact with each other through the Boards of the church, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York (the three largest and wealthiest synods in the church) do not seem to have had much formal contact with each other. The main reason for distinguishing the New York synods from the Mid-Atlantic ones is due to the significant New England influence in New York. Baltimore was originally a part of the Synod of Philadelphia, and it continued to support Princeton Theological Seminary and the Philadelphia Presbyterian.
It should be noted, however, that “border” synods were frequently looking in two directions. North Carolina, for instance, had strong ties to Columbia Seminary, as well as Union, and members of the Tennessee synods of Memphis and Nashville could be drawn towards the Louisville newspaper as easily as New Orleans.
And of course, the influence of Princeton Seminary and the Philadelphia-New York corridor was felt everywhere. Princeton had trained nearly half of all Old School ministers, and they spread to every corner of the church. The Presbyterian and the New York Observer circulated widely in the South (a frequent source of complaint for southern editors), and the Home and Foreign Record (a monthly magazine devoted to reporting on the work of the boards of the church) was published in Philadelphia.
While regional and sectional distinctiveness was on the rise in the 1840s and 1850s, many regions maintained a strong national identity. Well into the 1850s, Georgia remained firmly connected to the national church. The Southern Presbyterian, a weekly newspaper founded in 1847, endorsed “all our institutions,” and not until the late 1850s did the paper endorse James H. Thornwell’s vision of the church.
F. The General Assembly
Only one institution brought these disparate institutions, and the regions they represented, together: the General Assembly. As the Presbyterian Form of Government put it, the General Assembly was to be the “bond of union, peace, correspondence, and mutual confidence among all our churches.” The Assembly consisted of one minister and one ruling elder from each presbytery. In order to prevent the unnecessary multiplication of presbyteries, the constitution allowed large presbyteries (those consisting of 25 or more ministers) to send two ministers and two ruling elders.Mathetes, “Representation,” Presbyterian 17.18 (May 1, 1847) 69.
The Assembly began each year on the third Thursday in May, and usually continued in session for at least two weeks. Including travel time, commissioners coming from a distance could expect to spend as much as two months (May and June) in this service. While this would be a considerable sacrifice for a minister to be away from his congregation for so long, it was often prohibitively expensive for ruling elders. Most presbyteries elected their commissioners based on their experience and wisdom, but some operated on a rotation plan that enabled all ministers to have the experience of going to General Assembly.He pointed to an article from the Watchman and Observer condemning the growing practice of sending ministers in rotation to the Assembly. The editors agreed that presbyteries should send only men of wisdom and discretion. From 1800-1843 it had met in Philadelphia every year except for 1835 and 1836 when it met in Pittsburgh. But from 1844 through the reunion of 1869 it began a wandering pilgrimage, visiting key cities from Charleston, SC, to Indianapolis, IN, and New Orleans, LA. This peripatetic approach communicated effectively the Old School’s desire to maintain the unity of the church and nation. By providing the opportunity for each region of the church to give hospitality, they hoped to cement the bonds of union between the regional churches. Ministers and elders could experience for themselves the various local cultures–which would hopefully bring understanding and trust.
Wherever it met, it dominated the local news, and frequently provided headlines for the national papers as well. After the divisions of the Methodist (1844) and Baptist (1845) churches, the Old School Presbyterians and the Protestant Episcopal Church were the only national protestant denominations that had not split over slavery. As the larger and more influential of the two bodies, the Old School prided itself on its “conservative” influence in society. As the 1850s progressed, many marveled at the harmony and peace of the Presbyterian General Assembly–in spite of the fact that its leading elders were diametrically opposed to each others’ political views. For instance, at the 1856 General Assembly, Judge Humphrey Leavitt of Ohio (a staunch Republican later known for his role in the Clement Vallandigham trial), worked side by side with Chancellor Kensey Johns of Delaware, and Judge D. C. Campbell of Georgia. As one observer put it: “It seemed almost incredible, among all the political strifes and fierce encounters of the day, to see a body of men from every section of the country. . . moving on from day to day in undisturbed tranquility of temper and harmony of sentiment. Where on earth shall we find another like it?” Another elder, Cyrus H. McCormick, the inventor of the reaper, even stated that the Old School Presbyterian General Assembly and the Democratic party were the two hoops that bound the Union together. And whether praising them or damning them, the American press agreed.
The New Orleans Picayune commented on the General Assembly that met in its city in 1858, that “Not only intellectual power, but a spirit of conservatism, admirably blended with that of progress, characterized the men who guided its deliberations. It was worthy of note that every thought, every sentiment uttered, was eminently national.” In a common comparison to one of the few other national assemblies, the author added that “The dignity of the deliberations of the Assembly, the courtesy exhibited in the debate, the directness of the speeches to the point at issue, and the regard to points of order, were such as might even furnish the Congress of the United States a happy example for imitation.” In spite of sectional differences, the unity of the Presbyterian Assembly should encourage New Orleans and the South in the hope of “the preservation of fraternal relations between opposing sections.”
Three years earlier the Nashville True Whig opined regarding the Assembly: “Indeed, in point of logical acumen, clearness, elegance of diction, and power of forensic eloquence, we have never seen them equalled.” Impressed by the collegiality and confidence that existed on both sides of the sectional divide, the author pointed out that while “eminently conservative” northerners might frankly state their own views, “yet there was no disposition to make these opinions an issue.”
A northern daily paper offered a different sort of tribute: “Of the large Protestant denominations, the only ones that retain a national organization are the old Calvinistic ironside Presbyterian and the Episcopal Churches. But the Methodist, Baptist, and New-school Presbyterian divisions represent in both sections of the Union a sufficient body of communicants to keep alive the slavery agitation North and South, as a religious element, whatever the compromises and adjustments of politicians and statesmen.”
But the Old School does not easily fit into political boxes. While many appear to be Democrats as Carwardine’s typology should make them, Old School Presbyterians seem to have been as divided as the nation in their political allegiances. Some liked Andrew Jackson, himself an Old School Presbyterian, but the Princeton Seminary faculty was Whig–though not as “cotton Whig” as Howe calls them, and both R. J. Breckinridge and James Henley Thornwell joined the Know-Nothings, but both Breckinridge and Hodge voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The sort of political monolith apparent in modern evangelical churches simply did not exist in the nineteenth century.
There were very few things upon which Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun agreed. But they agreed that the unity of the Old School Presbyterian Church boded well for the national union. Calhoun’s famous March 1850 speech (delivered by another due to his weakness) stated: “The cords that bind the states together are not only many but various in character. . . . The strongest of those of spiritual and ecclesiastical nature, consisted in the unity of the great religious denominations, all of which embraced the whole union.” But since the Methodists and Baptists had divided he feared that continued agitation would “finally snap every cord, when nothing will be left to hold the States together except force.” Likewise Clay in 1852 declared “this sundering of religious ties which have hitherto bound our people together, I consider the greatest source of danger to our country. If our religious men cannot live together in peace, what can be expected of us politicians, very few of whom profess to be governed by the great principles of love.”
In their own minds, this national service was an important part of the purpose of the General Assembly, but by no means the most important. As the church grew from one synod of 419 churches in 1788 to 33 synods of 3,592 churches in 1860, the General Assembly became more and more important as the place where Old School Presbyterians came together. By 1830 the PCUSA was larger than its parent Church of Scotland. Even after the excision of the New School synods, the Old School could claim more congregations than the Church of Scotland, and after the Free Church disruption of 1843, the Old School was in every category the largest Presbyterian denomination in the world.
For the sake of narrative coherence, I have used several General Assembly debates as windows into larger issues in the church and culture. I have attempted to select debates that were recognized as important in their own day. In some cases the debates were at the center of American culture (e.g., slavery or education), but in other instances the issues may seem rather parochial (e.g., whether a man could marry his deceased wife’s sister, or whether ruling elders could lay hands on ministers during ordination). But even seemingly trivial matters can reflect important transformations in thought and culture.
Besides the Congress of the United States, the Old School General Assembly appears to be the last major annual gathering that drew members from every part of the nation after 1845. Political parties only gathered their national constituencies every four years. The Episcopal General Convention met once every three years. Voluntary and literary societies might draw on a diverse regional base, but participation was frequently limited to regional auxiliaries. While only a small percentage of Old School ministers and elders could personally attend the Assembly, every speech was reported back home in all the weekly newspapers, and the major issues at the General Assembly usually became fodder for discussion in the newspaper for months. In this way the General Assembly truly functioned as “the bond of union” for the Presbyterian church.
The General Assembly executed its day-to-day work through the year by means of several boards. The boards of the church were the hands and feet of the Assembly in conducting the work of missions, education and publication. The northeast played a smaller role in the Old School than it had in the united church. While still providing 44% of the funds for the denominational boards throughout the era, that was considerably lower than the 55% in 1836. The most striking change in the funding of the boards came from the southwest. The presbyteries of Mississippi and New Orleans each provided over $22,000 for the boards in 1860, while St. Louis provided $41,000. Only New York ($82,000), Philadelphia ($36,000), and Rochester ($29,000) gave more than this. Meanwhile the entire northwest, still recovering from the Panic of 1857, could barely match the total contributions of New York Presbytery.
G. Intellectual Geography
The influence of the Scottish common sense philosophy and Baconianism on Old School Presbyterianism has been well-documented. Mark Noll has argued that the hermeneutic of most antebellum Reformed Protestants was identified by three classic features: sola Scriptura (the sole final authority of scripture against any other religious authorities), the regulative principle (that scripture regulates the entirety of Christian worship and practice), and the third use of the law (that the Old Testament law was not merely given to Israel, but was also given to direct Christians in their daily lives). But in addition he argues that there was an increasing movement toward a commonsense literalism that treated the Bible as though it was written directly to the modern reader. Noll explains the development of this hermeneutic by suggesting that “the engine that drove Reformed approaches to Scripture into uncharted American territory was social transformation. The revolution in American society from hereditary, deferential hierarchy to democratic, ideological antihierarchy. . . created a distinctly American form of biblicism.”
Eugene Genovese has taken this a step further, pointing out that “In North and South, the scriptural and constitutional arguments were of a piece.” He rightly argues that “The doctrine of strict construction began with Scripture and ended with the constitutional structure of the republic.” This dissertation will demonstrate that ecclesiastical constitutional debates were central to the shaping of the both northern and southern Presbyterian approaches to slavery.
Old School Presbyterians utilized these philosophical traditions because they appeared congenial to their confessional commitments. One author in the Danville Quarterly Review highlighted Lord Bacon’s commitment to divine revelation: “so as we ought not to attempt to draw down or submit the mysteries of God to our reason; but contrariwise to raise and advance our reason to the divine truth.” Revelation, he argued, is the standard by which all philosophies and sciences must be judged.
Old School Presbyterians generally objected when so-called evangelicals used reason to overturn revelation. When Edward Beecher claimed that
“If any alleged actions of God come into collision with the natural and intuitive judgments of the human mind concerning what is honorable and right, on the points specified,” [i.e., those which relate to human probation,] “there is better reason to call in question the alleged facts, than to suppose those principles false, which God has made the human mind intuitively to recognize as true.”
Such a claim astounded the Old School. Common sense moral reasoning could never trump divine revelation. Reason may not “sit in judgment upon the truth of the facts, to the verity of which God has confessedly testified.”
Throughout the three decades of Old School history, there were relatively few controversies over the doctrinal content of that revelation. Outside of their significant debates on ecclesiology, Old School Presbyterians rarely argued over important theological matters. There were some differences of opinion as to the nature of imputation (some Hopkinsians remained with the Old School), and sporadic debates about the timing of the millennium, but none of these debates came anywhere close to producing the sort of controversy that ecclesiological issues did. For the most part, Old School Presbyterians were content with the doctrines of the Westminster Confession.
The life of the church revolved around what they called the ordinary means of grace. The reading and preaching of the word, the sacraments, and prayer, formed the center of Old School Presbyterianism. While deploring what they considered the excesses of Charles Finney, they continued to delight in revival, which they viewed as seasons of refreshing where the baptized youth, as well as those outside the church, would be brought to saving faith through the preaching of the word. The 1849 General Assembly rejoiced that “The God of revivals has exerted that exceeding greatness of his power by which the dead in sin are made alive, and his own people are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” In its pastoral letter, which was published in all of the newspapers of the church, it exhorted the church that “they who would enjoy extensive and powerful revivals of religion must also put a high estimate on them.” Indeed, the old camp meetings, were encouraged by the 1849 General Assembly and continued in some places in the Old School well into the 1850s.
Historians have often portrayed the New School as more evangelistic than the Old School, but the growth patterns of the two denominations do not support their claim.
1840 1850 1859
Old School 126,583 207,254 259,335
New School 102,060 139,797 153,615
Figure 8. Old School and New School Membership, 1840-1859 (The New School numbers include the United Synod of the South in 1859)
Figure 8 shows that the two denominations were almost evenly matched in 1840, but the Old School more than doubled in the next twenty years, while the New School only saw 50% growth. And in the key statistic, members added on examination, the New School gained around 5,000‑6,000 per year, while the Old School averaged over 10,000. Indeed, even after both the Old and New Schools lost their southern wings, the northern Old School still outnumbered the northern New School 260,000 to 190,000 at the reunion in 1869.
Presbyterian worship was quite similar to that of other evangelical churches. Indeed one southern Presbyterian claimed that the only distinctive Presbyterian practice was that of standing for prayer, a practice that was in decline. By the 1840s there were only a few congregations that retained the traditional Presbyterian practice of singing only Psalms in worship. The General Assembly of 1849 even debated whether to say that “the sacred songs contained in the book of Psalms are every where suitable and proper for the purpose of singing in the churches.” Dr. Robert Steel, pastor at Abington, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia suggested that this be deleted. The Rev. John Munson, pastor of Centre Church in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, concurred, arguing that “there are some things, however suitable for Old Testament worship which I believe, and the Presbyterian Church at large believe, unsuitable to New Testament worship.” The Rev. Edwin H. Nevin, pastor at Mount Vernon, Ohio, also chimed in, claiming that a “spirit of catholicity” militated against the usage of the Psalms in worship. But others defended the usage of the Psalms and in the end the Assembly retained the sentence, largely because they hoped to attract the Associate and Reformed Presbyterians who maintained the traditional practice of exclusive psalmody.
The sermon was the climax of Old School Presbyterian worship, and much ink was spilt in discussions of sermon style and delivery. The chief question was whether it was permissible to preach from a written manuscript. After the 1849 Assembly had declared that it was “more scriptural” to preach without a manuscript, one southern writer protested that scripture did not prescribe a mode. The question was one of expediency. “All men are not equally endowed,” he argued. Some do not have the memory or powers of concentration to preach without a manuscript. Written sermons encouraged greater mental culture. The goal of preaching was to edify the congregation. “Some of the most animated and deeply impressive speakers we have ever heard were those who read and that closely. It is the fire of the soul, it is the power of the thought, that melts down or carries away an audience.” For this southern writer, the manner of delivery was the key. Others complained that extemporaneous preaching could be too easily disconnected from the text. One layman went so far as to suggest that he would rather hear a good commentary read from the pulpit than a lousy extemporaneous sermon. Nonetheless, the majority of Old School Presbyterians discouraged the practice of reading sermons.
There is a general chronological flow in the order of the chapters that follow, but the content of each chapter is largely topical. The sorts of arguments that worked in the 1830s and '40s were increasingly untenable in the '50s and especially the '60s. As the Old School became institutionally divided along sectional lines (both North/South and East/West), the sorts of networks or cultures that emerged over the years were increasingly separated from each other. Presbyterians had to make difficult decisions about regional and ideological loyalties. In the end, the General Assembly alone could not hold two nations together.
Editorial, Presbyterian of the West (PW) 5.5 (Nov 1, 1849).
A Ruling Elder, “Theological Seminary of the North West” PW 16.45 (July 30, 1857) 177.
“Form of Government” xii.4 in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Board of Publication, 1840) 430.
Quoted in Henry A. Boardman, The General Assembly of 1866 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1867) 19.
Rogan Kersh, Dreams of a More Perfect Union (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001) 10.
Paul C. Nagel, One Nation Indivisible: The Union in American Thought, 1776-1861 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964) chapter 1. Nagel sees the technological advances of the nineteenth century as indispensable agents in forming the image of the absolute Union.
Cited in Nagel, 55.
Kersh, 26-32, quotation from 31.
George M. Marsden, The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience: A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth‑Century America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970).
I do not claim that every Old School Presbyterian shared the same theological (or political) vision. Many exceptions to the Old School center will appear on the pages of this dissertation.
See chapter seven.
See chapter four.
Irish law stated that if a Presbyterian married a member of the Anglican church, the ceremony had to be performed by an Anglican priest. If a Presbyterian minister attempted to perform the ceremony, the marriage was considered illegal and any children of that union would be considered illegitimate. In practice this law was rarely enforced, but the early 1840s saw tensions arise on the subject. See “The Irish Presbyterian Marriage Question,” Charleston Observer (CO) 16.21 (May 21, 1842) 82-83. The paper later noted an Irish Presbyterian Marriage Bill which would give relief to the Irish Presbyterians. [CO (Oct 12, 1844)]
Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America 23.3. (Commonly called the “Westminster Confession of Faith,” but renamed after it was modified and adopted by the PCUSA in 1789. Whenever Old School Presbyterians refer to it as an official document they call it the “Confession of Faith (and catechisms) of the Presbyterian Church”).
While appeals to Ulster were fewer in number, not all forgot their Irish sojourn. See David N. Livingstone and Ronald A. Wells, Ulster-American Religion: Episodes in the History of a Cultural Connection (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999). The influence after 1850 tended to be from Princeton to Belfast. Also see Peter Wallace and Mark Noll, “The Students of Princeton Seminary, 1812-1929: A Research Note,” American Presbyterians 72:3 (1994) 203-215.
This is especially true in rural areas. In the cities the situation was somewhat different. Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963) 1:236, 353.
editorial, “Denominational Feeling” Presbyterian 22.10 (March 6, 1852) 38.
See chapter two.
Leo P. Hirrell, Children of Wrath: New School Calvinism and Antebellum Reform (Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1998).
William L. Breckinridge and E. P. Humphrey, True Catholic (Louisville, 1844-47); A. A. Campbell, Jackson Protestant (Jackson, TN, 1844-45); Nathan L. Rice, Western Protestant (Cincinnati, Feb-Nov, 1845); J. B. Warren, New Orleans Protestant (New Orleans, 1844-47); Hiram Chamberlain and Alexander Van Court, Herald of Religious Liberty (St. Louis, 1844-49). The latter two went on to become Presbyterian weeklies. See chapter four for further detail on Old School anti-Catholicism.
See chapter six.
Theodore Dwight Bozeman, Protestants in an Age of Science: The Baconian Ideal and Antebellum American Religious Thought (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Sydney Ahlstrom, “The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology,” Church History 24 (1955) 257-272; E. Brooks Holifield, The Gentleman Theologians: American Theology in Southern Culture, 1795-1860 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1978). Paul Kjoss Helseth has provided a useful critique of the rationalist interpretation of Princeton’s use of the common sense tradition, which should be applied to the Presbyterian thought more broadly. “‘Right Reason’ and the Princeton Mind: The Moral Context,” Journal of Presbyterian History (JPH) 77:1 (Spring 1999) 13-28. Cf. Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to America’s God (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 317-318, 414-415.
See also Henry May, The Enlightenment in America (New York, 1976); Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981). To see it in practice among Old School Presbyterians, see Mark A. Noll, ed., The Princeton Theology, 1812-1921 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001).
Morton J. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977).
Horwitz, 22. Horwitz suggests that by 1820, “Law was no longer conceived of as an eternal set of principles expressed in custom and derived from natural law. Nor was it regarded primarily as a body of rules designed to achieve justice only in the individual case. Instead, judges came to think of the common law as equally responsible with legislation for governing society and promoting socially desirable conduct.” (30)
For further discussion see Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant & Constitution: The Great Frontier and the Matrix of Federal Democracy (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1998) 3ff. Elazar suggests that the covenantal model of Reformed Protestantism was a significant influence in the formation of American society, but that the covenant idea had to be transformed by “the new science of politics” into a more secular theory in order to provide broad and free institutions. (10)
For a detailed examination of the theology of the leading southern Presbyterian theologians, see Morton H. Smith, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987/1962). Smith’s work is somewhat polemical, since he was trying to convince the southern Presbyterian church to recover its heritage, but it gives provides a one volume summary of the center of southern Old School theology.
Presbyterians generally viewed Roman Catholics as foreigners who needed to be assimilated to Protestant American culture. Of course, in fairness, Presbyterians had only a nominal presence in New England–fewer than twenty churches. But from New York west and south, Old School Presbyterians had a significant presence in every state and territory of the union.
The culture of deference remained intact in Old School Presbyterianism longer than in most of American society, and the newspapers remained the preserve of the clergy and ruling elders.
Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New York: Doubleday, 1975) I, 528; cf. Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 153, 167; Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977) 26. Finke and Starke acknowledge that Presbyterian growth managed to keep pace with the population, but suggest they could not keep up with the Methodists and Baptists due to their frequent divisions over doctrine and polity. Roger Finke and Rodney Starke, The Churching of America, 1776-1990 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992) 56, 74. This is not a very satisfying explanation, since Methodists and Baptists experienced at least as many divisions as the Presbyterians. The classic work on the growth of these traditions is Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988). Also see John Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Christine Heyrman has explored the growth of evangelicalism in the south prior to 1840 in Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
By 1850, only one county (Cuyahoga, OH) outside of the original thirteen states had more than five Episcopal churches. Congregationalists remained a New England denomination, with a small presence in the Western Reserve of Ohio, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Neither had any significant presence in the southwest. In comparison, Presbyterians had five or more churches in 50 Ohio counties, 17 Indiana counties, 16 Kentucky counties, and 12 Illinois counties (and 9 other counties in Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan). In the southwest Presbyterians had five or more churches in 31 Tennessee counties, 12 Alabama counties, 7 Mississippi counties, 4 Texas counties, and 1 Arkansas county. Since nearly half of all New School churches were in New York state, most of these churches were Old School. Edwin Scott Gaustad, Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1962) 60, 67, 89.
“Relative Position of the Roman Catholics and Protestants in the U. States in 1851,” Watchman & Observer 3.30 (March 4, 1852) 120. Roman Catholics claimed to have 1.6 million adherents, and the Watchman was replying that if Presbyterians counted adherents simply by counting baptisms, there would be as many Presbyterians (Old School and New School together) as Roman Catholics. The baptismal statistics of the Old School would seem to suggest that he was exaggerating, but only slightly–since the Old School baptized 10-15,000 infants and around 3-4,000 adults per year (and since dozens of congregations failed to report these statistics, the numbers are doubtless much higher). Finke and Starke suggest that there were around 909,000 baptized Presbyterians in 1850, as compared to 1.6 million Baptists, 2.7 million Methodists, and 1.1 million Roman Catholics. Finke and Starke, The Churching of America, 113. Christine Heyrman has argued that by 1835 close to two-thirds of southern whites were “adherents” to one of the three main evangelical churches. Heyrman, Southern Cross, 265.
From the New York Observer (NYO), "Wealth of the Different Denominations," Watchman & Observer 10.40 (May 10, 1855) 161. This chart was based upon the census of 1850. This is at a time when the giving to the churches matched the total budget of the federal government. See Robin Klay and John Lunn, “Protestants and the American Economy in the Postcolonial Period: An Overview,” God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 40.
“The ED Scholarship at Princeton Seminary,” Presbyterian Magazine 7.8 (August, 1857) 369-70.
The references to this generation in Old School literature are glowing with praise for their courageous stand for the gospel and their success at stemming the tide of Deism.
Examples include Robert J. Breckinridge (1800-1877), Charles Hodge (1797-1878), James Henley Thornwell (1812-1861), Nathan L. Rice (1807-1877), and William Swan Plumer (1802-1880), all of whom had gained national reputations by the age of thirty-five.
Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generations of Americans (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000).
Peter J. Wallace“Visible Saints and Notorious Sinners: Puritan and Presbyterian Sacramental Doctrine and Practice and the Vicissitudes of the Baptist Movement in New England and the Middle Colonies,” unpublished paper, 1999.
Ann Sophonisba Breckinridge (1803-1844) was the daughter of General Francis Preston, and granddaughter of Patrick Henry’s sister. She married Breckinridge in 1823, and the following year professed faith in McChord Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and was baptized with her first child by her husband’s brother, John Breckinridge. She bore eleven children, eight of whom survived her. Her grieving husband wrote in her obituary that she was “one whose life was as nearly perfect as that of a child of Adam could be.” Presbyterian 15.4 (January 25, 1845)
Mark Y. Hanley has offered a useful corrective to the normal portrait of the Protestant clergy as flag-waving patriots. Most Old School clergy and ruling elders would have considered themselves as patriotic, but that true love of country required a serious self-critique of national sins that might bring down the judgment of God if they were ignored. See Beyond a Christian Commonwealth: The Protestant Quarrel with the American Republic, 1830-1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).
Andrew Jackson was himself an Old School Presbyterian, but a large number of his fellow churchmen did not care for his politics. Richard J. Carwardine has attempted to provide something of a typology in his Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993). He sees Old School Presbyterians as largely Democratic, and New School Presbyterians as primarily Whig, but this typology breaks down as this dissertation will demonstrate. One example of how politics did not follow denominational lines is exemplified in James D. Bratt’s, “From Revivalism to Anti-Revivalism to Whig Politics: The Strange Career of Calvin Colton,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 52 (2001) 63-82.
“The General Assembly,” Presbyterian Herald (PH) (May 28, 1857). For more on the Scots-Irish, see Kenneth W. Keller, “The Origins of Ulster Scots Emigration to America: A Survey of Recent Research,” American Presbyterians 70:2 (Summer 1992) 71-80; James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish–A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962); David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Leroy V. Eid, “Irish, Scotch, and Scotch-Irish,” American Presbyterians 64 (1986) 211-225; M. Perceval-Maxwell, The Scottish Migration to Ulster in the Reign of James I (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973); Ian C. G. Graham, Colonists from Scotland: Emigration to North America, 1707-1783 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1956); R. J. Dickson, Ulster Emigration to Colonial America (Belfast: Ulster Heritage Foundation, 1988); Marilyn J. Westerkamp, The Triumph of the Laity: Scots-Irish Piety and the Great Awakening, 1625-1760 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Ned C. Landsman, Scotland and Its First American Colony, 1683-1765 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
Editorial, “Presbyterian Conservatism,” Presbyterian Banner (PB) (February 16, 1856). Cf. Eugene D. Genovese, The Slaveholders’ Dilemma: Freedom and Progress in Southern Conservative Thought, 1820-1860 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992) 11-12.
Lyman H. Atwater, “The True Progress of Society,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (BRPR) 24.1 (January, 1852) 24.
Peter B. Knupfer, The Union As It Is: Constitutional Unionism and Sectional Compromise, 1787-1861 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991) x. Ironically, Knupfer himself largely emphasizes the national political leaders, such as Henry Clay, and spends little time looking at the “group.”
For congressional networks, see David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).
Eugene D. Genovese has argued that southern intellectuals easily “matched their northern counterparts in learning and creativity.” The Slaveholders’ Dilemma, 2; cf. Drew Gilpin Faust, A Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South, 1840-1860 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).
See appendix 4 for details on seminary attendance.
Finke and Starke, The Churching of America, 76.
Editorial, “Theological Seminaries,” Southern Presbyterian (December 23, 1852) 66.
See appendix 4. Princeton Seminary is often remembered for being the last bastion of confessionalism in the early twentieth century. In the antebellum era it was unique among the Old School seminaries in its constant engagement with the intellectual and theological world of New England and Germany from the standpoint of confessional Presbyterianism. In contrast, most Old School seminaries tended to focus on their own tradition, at times falling into the very regionalism that the Southern Presbyterian feared. A comparison between the Princeton Review, the Southern Presbyterian Review and the Danville Quarterly Review reveals that Princeton was regularly engaged with issues in the broader church, while Columbia and Danville tended to focus on narrowly Presbyterian issues.
“The American Press,” Central Presbyterian (CP) 8.28 (July 2, 1863).
See appendix 2 for full list. Generally 90% of subscribers were laity, including 25% women.
The Presbyterian, however, did not appreciate the Observer’s rival influence. “What has been the influence of the Observer on the distinctive character of the Presbyterian Church? What are it s boastings in its recent article, but of its non-denominational character? Is not its influence in Pres byterian churches where it is to any extent circulated, gradually to neutralize the efforts of our pastors to identifiy their peope wiith the great enterprises of their own denomination?” Editorial, “The New York Observer,” Presbyterian 23.5 (January 29, 1853) 18.
The Southern Presbyterian was initially located in Milledgeville, Georgia. The original idea in 1847 was that since the region’s seminary and quarterly were in Columbia, South Carolina, the newspaper should join the college in Milledgeville. Charleston, the largest city in the region was then divided between two rival presbyteries. By 1853, after the Charleston Union Presbytery had returned to the Old School, the editor moved the paper to Charleston, in order to benefit from the resources of the larger city. “Public Meeting in Charleston,” Southern Presbyterian 6.19 (February 24, 1853) 74; “Change of Location,” ibid.
From a purely economic standpoint, a central location was important for getting papers out on time.
Geographical factors, like mountains or rivers, were initially more important than state lines in defining presbyteries and synods. Only after the Old School/New School reunion in 1870 did Presbyterians decide to follow state boundaries rigorously in defining synods.
See chapter eight for a vivid example.
Cf. John Patrick Daly, When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2002) 75-77.
“Prospectus,” Southern Presbyterian 1.4 (September 15, 1847) 16. The prospectus of the paper declared that its character would be “Southern in its designs and its spirit; decidedly Presbyterian in its principles–an exponent of our doctrines and order, a medium of communication for all our Churches, an advocate of all our institutions.” This was signed by a committee of the Synod of Georgia: A. M. Nisbet, Otis Childs, J. W. Baker, S. K. Talmage and D. C. Campbell.
“Form of Government” xii.4 in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Board of Publication, 1840) 430. The “Form of Government” had been ratified by the General Assembly and the presbyteries in 1821.
“Form of Government” xii.2. As the Assembly grew more unwieldy (due to the multiplication of presbyteries), various proposals were made to reduce it to a more manageable size. One proposal was to create a system of proportional representation. Suggesting that 120 members was the ideal size for a deliberative assembly, one author proposed a proportional system, in which each synod would have representation based on its communicant membership. Since the church was evenly divided between northeast, northwest, and south, it would have given each portion of the church equal representation.
One writer suggested that presbyteries should reimburse ruling elders for lost income in order to encourage them to attend General Assembly. Watchman and Observer (W&O) 10.1 (August 10, 1854) 1.
Editorial, “The Principle of Rotation,” Presbyterian 18.42 (October 14, 1848) 166.
Both Leavitt and Vallandigham were Old School Presbyterians. See chapter 10.
“The Late General Assembly,” PH 25.41 (June 12, 1856).
I have been unable to trace the quotation to its origin, but the press regularly attributes it to McCormick. Cf. Presbyter (June 9, 1859).
Quoted in “The General Assembly,” Presbyterian 28.23 (June 5, 1858) 90. Four years before, Mr. Swan, a ruling elder from Mississippi, wrote to the True Witness that the General Assembly was “a far, very far, better looking body of men (the writer, of course, excepted), than our Senate or House of Representatives at Washington. There is a gravity, mixed with hopeful cheerfulness--an easy dignity, without pretension--a serious thoughtfulness marked on every brow--a benignant expression in every eye--all well befitting a body of men believing in the Sovereignty of God, trusting in His grace, rejoicing in His salvation, and Laboring and planning for the restoration and conversion of the world to God. . . . I never knew my privileges before, as a member of the good old Presbyterian household, though the most unworthy of them all. I never saw the power of our church so fairly set before me--the faith, the zeal, the love, the solemn earnestness, the high consecration, the intellectual power, the burning eloquence, the resistless logic, the fraternal concord, the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace, which distinguish the ministry--saying nothing of her humbler eldership--they present a force which must, under God, take this world!” Cited in “The Late General Assembly,” W&O 9.47 (June 29, 1854) 186.
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 25.23 (June 9, 1855) 90.
Cited simply as “a secular paper,” in Presbyterian (November 3, 1855) 174.
Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution, 1815-1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). Daniel Walker Howe and Richard Carwardine have offered useful critiques of Sellers (especially regarding his antinomian/arminian polarity). See God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 54-98. Methodists had strong Jacksonian Democratic allegiances, seeing the Whigs as a Calvinist establishment party, but in the northwest they were largely Whig as they became cultural insiders. Carwardine, “Methodists and the Market Revolution,” God and Mammon 90-92.
Carwardine, Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
Daniel Walker Howe, “Charles Sellers, the market revolution, and the shaping of identity in Whig‑Jacksonian America,” God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Kimberly C. Shankman has argued that the brilliance of Clay’s political strategy was his ability to find compromises that “might require significant concessions of interest,” without requiring “any one to make an explicit repudiation of principle.” Compromise and the Constitution: The Political Thought of Henry Clay (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1999) 19. The Old School would attempt a number of similar compromises throughout the 1840s and 50s (and not just in matters related to slavery). Charles Hodge would articulate this view of the Presbyterian Confession in “Adoption of the Confession of Faith,” BRPR 30.4 (October 1858) 668-691.
Breckinridge was one of the leaders of the American Party in Kentucky. See Albert D. Kirwan, John J. Crittenden: The Struggle for the Union (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1962) 298. Crittenden’s daughter, Cordelia, married the Rev. John C. Young, president of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky (160). Edward Bates, Lincoln’s Attorney General, was an Old School ruling elder from Missouri–and a life-long Whig. David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976) 418.
David Murchie, “Charles Hodge and Jacksonian Economics,” JPH 61:2 (Summer 1983) 248-256. Murchie draws on Hodge’s letters to his brother to demonstrate Hodge’s concern with the Jacksonian agenda in the 1830s and 1840s; Edward R. Crowther, Southern Evangelicals and the Coming of the Civil War (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000) 151. James Pollock, the Whig governor of Pennsylvania (though he joined the Know-Nothings after his election in 1854) was “a devout Presbyterian of Scotch-Irish ancestry.” He was also responsible for suggesting the addition of “In God We Trust” as Director of the Mint during the Civil War. Tyler Anbinder, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) 58. See also William E. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). Gienapp has attempted to identify the denominational voting trends in various states, and suggests that in 1854 Pennsylvania Presbyterians (which were overwhelmingly Old School) voted decidedly for the Whig Party (while Lutherans went Democratic, and Baptists and Methodists went American). (508) In 1856 he estimates that 91% of Pennsylvania Presbyterians voted Republican along with 76% in Ohio, but only 22% in Indiana and 47% in Illinois. (He suggests 44% of Indiana Presbyterians voted for Buchanan, while Illinois Presbyterians were split between the Democrats and the Know-Nothings). (541-542)
Quoted in David B. Chesebrough, Clergy Dissent in the Old South, 1830-1865 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996) 5. On Calhoun see Irving H. Bartlett, John C. Calhoun: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993); John Niven, John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988). While reared in a Presbyterian home, Calhoun himself was a Unitarian (104). On Clay, see Maurice G. Baxter, Henry Clay and the American System (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1995); Kimberly C. Shankman, Compromise and the Constitution: The Political Thought of Henry Clay (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1999); Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991). Clay’s biographers have not paid as much attention to Clay’s religious views as his contemporaries did. Cf. “The Synod of Pittsburgh and the Richmond Whig,” Watchman and Observer 6.15 (November 21, 1850) 58; Presbyterian of the West 2.42 (July 22, 1847) 166.
Andrew L. Drummond and James Bulloch, The Church in Victorian Scotland, 1843-1874 (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1975) chapter 5. Minutes of the GA of the PCUSA (Philadelphia, 1851) 156, compared with corrected statistical records of 1850 (see below).
David Paul Nord has pointed out that the first Bible and tract societies were charity organizations designed to provide literature for the poor, but as their distribution systems flourished in the age of the market, there was an increasing trend toward retail sales. David Paul Nord, “Benevolent Capital: Financing Evangelical Book Publishing in Early Nineteenth-Century America,” God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 147-170. Nord argues that the 1840s saw “the creation of centrally administered national distribution systems.” (148) The Presbyterian Board of Publication was created in 1838. The corporate form of the early voluntary societies was reproduced by the church boards in order to “accumulate, manage, and perpetuate capital.” (149).
This played a significant role first in the location of the Committee on Church Extension in St. Louis in 1855, and then also in the failed attempt to relocate the Board of Domestic Missions in the west in the late 1850s. See Appendix six for more on church finance.
Theodore Dwight Bozeman, Protestants in an Age of Science: The Baconian Ideal and Antebellum American Religious Thought (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Sydney Ahlstrom, “The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology,” Church History 24 (1955) 257-272; Mark A. Noll, ed., The Princeton Theology, 1812-1921 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001).
Mark A. Noll, “The Bible and Slavery,” Religion and the Civil War edited by Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout and Charles Reagan Wilson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 47-48. Noll cites Robert Wiebe, Nathan Hatch, and Gordon Wood as the best historians of this transformation.
Eugene Genovese, “Religion in the Collapse of the American Union,” Religion and the Civil War edited by Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout and Charles Reagan Wilson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 83, 84.
For constitutional political debates during the antebellum era, see Don E. Fehrenbacher, Sectional Crisis and Southern Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995). Fehrenbacher points out that “States-rights constitutionalism. . . was a logical defensive posture for a minority section conscious of its growing vulnerability as a slaveholding society.” The development of the idea of a concurrent majority also functioned to neutralize “the tyrannical strength of the majority by investing constituent communities or interests with some kind of veto power.” (xix) He argues that southern constitutional theory, as exhibited in the Confederate Constitution, reveals certain regional concerns, such as “a clause limiting the president’s power of appointment” and other antiparty features. (xx) Southern state constitutions restricted the power of the governor, and preferred direct election of judges and either direct or legislative election of attorneys general, state treasurers, etc. (96) Several southern state supreme courts had acted on the principle of judicial review before Marbury v. Madison (1803), though they regularly emphasized their reluctance to overturn significant legislation (99-100).
“The Relation which Reason and Philosophy sustain to the Theology of Revelation,” Danville Quarterly Review (DQR) 1.1 (March, 1861) 40, quoting Bacon, Advancement of Learning, in Works (London, 1838) I. 34. The author claimed that “The notion of the sufficiency of unaided human reason, or the light of nature, as a guide to the attainment of theological truth, never seems to have entered the mind of the Pagan world; and is met with only since the publication of Revelation itself. It is avowed only by those who having become acquainted, at least to some extent, with the announcements of Revelation, have availed themselves of the light which it imparts, for the purpose of disproving its necessity.” (24)
Edward Beecher, Conflict of Ages, p 29, quoted in “The Relation which Reason and Philosophy sustain to the Theology of Revelation,” DQR 1.1 (March, 1861) 46. Brackets original.
“The Relation which Reason and Philosophy sustain to the Theology of Revelation,” DQR 1.1 (March, 1861) 49-50.
There is a considerable literature on the millennial discussion. See Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); Robert Whalen, “Calvinism and Chiliasm: The Sociology of Nineteenth Century American Millenarianism,” American Presbyterians 70:3 (Fall 1992) 163-172. Whalen lists J. J. Janeway, John Lillie, and Willis Lord among his lists of prominent Old School premillennialists, along with ruling elder Joel Jones. Unfortunately, his lack of attention to the south and west leads him to conclude that chiliasm was a product of Calvinistic New England. For another perspective on the question see Carl E. Sanders II, The Premillennial Faith of James Brookes: Reexamining the Roots of American Dispensationalism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001).
“Narrative of the State of Religion,” Minutes (1849) 389. Every year’s narrative includes a statement of the presbyteries which claimed to have experienced significant revivals (from a low of 20 in 1846, which they attributed to the Mexican War to a high of over 70 in 1858, during the great revival). For Presbyterian attitudes to revival, see Philip N. Mulder, A Controversial Spirit: Evangelical Awakenings in the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Anne C. Loveland, “Presbyterians and Revivalism in the Old South,” JPH 57:1 (Spring 1979) 36-49.
“Pastoral Letter on Revivals of Religion,” Minutes (1849) 427. The Southern Presbyterian makes frequent references to camp meetings in the 1850s, such as 7.43 (August 10, 1854) 171. An example of the southern attitude to the 1858 revivals is J. O. Lindsay, “The Religious Awakening of 1858,” Southern Presbyterian Review 11.2 (July 1858) 246-263. Lindsay pointed to “the commercial panic, the efforts of the YMCA, the ordinary labors of the ministry, the activities of private Christians, and other things” as the instruments of a revival that had spread through both urban and rural churches throughout the country.
See the statistical tables in Minutes (1840-1870). The northern Old School tripled in size between 1840 and 1870 (from around 85,000 to 260,000), while the northern New School only doubled (from around 95,000 to 190,000). This was largely due to the New School’s constant hemorrhage of congregational churches that departed from their ranks during the 1840s and 1850s.
Bucer, “Presbyterianism,” Southern Presbyterian 1.4 (September 15, 1847) 15. The importance of worship in the life of the Presbyterian laity is documented by Julius Melton, “A View from the Pew: Nineteenth-Century Elders and Presbyterian Worship,” American Presbyterians 71:3 (Fall 1993) 161-174. Among other things, Melton details the importance of Levi A. Ward, ruling elder in Rochester, New York, in 1852 in the formation of St. Peter’s Church, the most liturgical congregation in the Old School. Ward was mayor of Rochester at the time.
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 19.22 (June 2, 1849) 85. Due to the focus of the dissertation, I have chosen not to include a chapter on the frequent discussions and debates between Old School Presbyterians and their seceder and covenanter brethren over psalmody.
Editorial, “Written and Unwritten,” Southern Presbyterian 3.7 (October 12, 1849) 26. Cf. Scriptor, “Written or Extempore,” Southern Presbyterian 5.19 (Jan 8, 1852) 73.
Elihu, “A Layman’s Homily” Presbyterian (March 29, 1845).