‘For Christ’s crown and covenant’: an historical interpretation of Scottish Covenanting political theology and its contribution to the American Revolution in the backcountry of North Carolina
Griggs, Michael Shane
This project examines the Covenanters’ political thought and considers its transmission in Scotland and throughout the American Colonies with a focus particularly on the backcountry of North Carolina. By seeing the development of beliefs and political cultures, this study revises our understanding of the political implications of Scottish Covenantalism in colonial America. Through the social network and correspondence of clergymen, Covenantalism became a driving force in religious orthodoxy among theologians and pastors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and interjected itself throughout diverse Atlantic political cultures. This thesis examines how ‘radical’ Presbyterians of the southern colonies used their pulpits not only for conversions, but also as lecterns for the articulation of political ideas. This project brings together the intellectual and the ecclesiastical for a more inclusive understanding of the political thought and strategies within several colonies that later supported and became active participants in the American Revolution. This thesis illustrates the link between Scottish covenanting tradition and the American Revolution, thus further demonstrating that the religious stories of the Revolution were not just a New England story, nor were the ideological origins of the Revolution just ‘English’. The political theology of the Covenanters demonstrates that their behaviour and methods for participating in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the period preceding it were in fact intentional and deliberate. The evidence shows that the Covenanters did not separate their theology from their politics but used their theology to promote their politics. A secondary outcome expands our understanding of the intellectual history of the American Revolution to properly include more of the thirteen colonies and not limit the so-called enlightenment narrative to New England as others have contended. This thesis thus contributes to knowledge by further illuminating the religious dimensions of political thought and action in the Atlantic world by shifting focus from the religious sinews of revolutionary thought and action in the northern colonies during the American Revolution to the lower southern colonies.