Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America - Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln / Edition 2

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Notions of Christian love, or charity, strongly shaped the political thought of John Winthrop, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln as each presided over a foundational moment in the development of American democracy. Matthew Holland examines how each figure interpreted and appropriated charity, revealing both the problems and possibilities of making it a political ideal.

Holland first looks at early American literature and seminal speeches by Winthrop to show how the Puritan theology of this famed 17th century governor of the Massachusetts Colony (he who first envisioned America as a "City upon a Hill") galvanized an impressive sense of self-rule and a community of care in the early republic, even as its harsher aspects made something like Jefferson's Enlightenment faith in liberal democracy a welcome development. Holland then shows that between Jefferson's early rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and his First Inaugural Jefferson came to see some notion of charity as a necessary complement to modern political liberty.

However, Holland argues, it was Lincoln and his ingenious blend of Puritan and democratic insights who best fulfilled the promise of this nation's "bonds of affection." With his recognition of the imperfections of both North and South, his humility in the face of God's judgment on the Civil War, and his insistence on "charity for all," including the defeated Confederacy, Lincoln personified the possibilities of religious love turned civic virtue.

Weaving a rich tapestry of insights from political science and literature and American religious history and political theory, Bonds of Affection is a major contribution to the study of American political identity. Matthew Holland makes plain that civic charity, while commonly rejected as irrelevant or even harmful to political engagement, has been integral to our national character.

The book includes the full texts of Winthrop's speech "A Model of Christian Charity"; Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration and his First Inaugural; and Lincoln's Second Inaugural.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In a thoughtful and carefully crafted book, Holland (political science, Brigham Young Univ.) argues that civic charity is an important, if unappreciated, component of America's political culture. He meticulously traces the biblical tradition of Christian charity, agape, and how the idea or value of charity made its way into American political life. In charity's transition from a religious to a civic value, it becomes civic charity. Civic charity, Holland contends, calls for "a public recognition of and gratitude for a God of judgment and providence even as it respects and helps establish a constitutionally robust pluralism including a substantial degree of separation of church and state." To support his argument, he conducts a close contextual analysis of three of America's greatest and most influential speeches: John Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity," Jefferson's first inaugural address, and Lincoln's second inaugural address and traces the intellectual threads that connect them. Holland's command of the literature and critical analysis of the texts are truly impressive. Not a book that the average patron will select for casual reading, this work is recommended primarily for all academic libraries and larger public libraries that support academic research.
—Thomas J. Baldino

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589011830
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Religion and Politics Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew S. Holland is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Brigham Young University.

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Table of Contents


Prologue: "Bonds of Affection" -- Three Founding Moments

Part One: Winthrop and America's Point of Departure

Hawthorne's Suggestion

1 A Model of Christian Charity

2 Two Cities Upon a Hill

Part Two: Jefferson and the Founding

1776 -- The Other Document

3 A Model of Natural Liberty

4 "To Close The Circle of our Felicities"

Part Three: Lincoln and the Refounding of AmericaFrom Tom to Abe

5 "Hail Fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, All Hail!"

6 "This Nation Under God"

7 A Model of Civic Charity

Conclusion: Bonds of Freedom

Appendix A John Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity" Speech

Appendix B Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence

Appendix C Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural

Appendix D Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural


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