Children of Wrath: New School Calvinism and Antebellum Reform

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In an exciting reinterpretation of the early nineteenth century, Leo Hirrel demonstrates the importance of religious ideas by exploring the relationship between religion and reform efforts during a crucial period in American history. The result is a work that moves the history of antebellum reform to a higher level of sophistication.

Hirrel focuses upon New School Congregationalists and Presbyterians who served at the forefront of reform efforts and provided critical leadership to anti-Catholic, temperance, antislavery, and missionary movements. Their religion was an attempt to reconcile traditional Calvinist language with the prevalent intellectual trends of the time. New School theologians preserved Calvinist language about depravity, but they incorporated an assertion of nominal human ability to overcome sin and a belief in the fixed, immutable nature of truth.

Describing both the origins of New School Calvinism and the specific reform activities that grew out of these beliefs, Hirrel provides a fresh perspective on the historical background of religious controversies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Represents an expanding concept of religious history in which theology can become an important analytical perspective as historians attempt to understand and explain American society." — American Religious Experience

"A clearly written history of New School Calvinism in the Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions." — Choice

"Hirrel's argument that theology grows out of a historical context is wisdom itself." — Church History

"Shows how theological ideas provided the intellectual grounding and moral motivation for powerful reform movements in antebellum America.... A significant contribution that scholars of American religion and culture cannot afford to ignore." — Curtis D. Johnson

"A lucid description of a central strand in antebellum American culture, of value to students of both religion and history." — Daniel Walker Howe

"A significant contribution to our understanding of antebellum religion and reform. Hirrel has succeeded in showing that New School Calvinism was a primary motivating force for a number of leading antebellum reformers." — H-Net Book Review

"A cast study of Protestant benevolence and moral reform that explores interactions of religion and republicanism, not in the new nation where we have been accustomed to looking, but during the antebellum generation." — Journal of the Early Republic

"Bringing fresh insight to 19th-century intellectual and religious history, Hirrel clearly explains the beliefs of the New School Calvinists and demonstrates their place in the history of religious controversies in America." — McCormick (SC) Messenger

"Explores the connections between New School Calvinism in the Congressional and Presbyterian churches and certain antebellum reforms: sabbatarianism, antiCatholicism, temperance, antislavery, and the missionary activities sponsored by the so-called benevolent empire." — New England Quarterly

"Hirrel here carefully and cautiously analyzes the public rhetoric and published writings of New School Presbyterians." — American Historical Review

Explores how the New School Presbyterians and Congregationalists who were at the forefront of social reform movements before the Civil War retained much of traditional Calvinist terminology but revised the beliefs in order to provide a moral framework for their reform efforts. Focuses on how such leaders as Nathaniel William Taylor and Lyman Beecher applied their altered faith in the temperance, antislavery, and other movements. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813120614
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 0.90 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Leo Hirrel holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Religion 7
1 The Challenge to Orthodoxy 9
2 Theology at New Haven 26
3 Theology at Princeton and Oberlin 41
4 The Antebellum Congregational and Presbyterian Communities 54
5 The Role of Religion in the Republic 74
Pt. 2 Reform 91
6 The Catholic Church and the Whore of Babylon 93
7 The Temperance Crusade 117
8 Chattel Slavery 134
9 Benevolence, the Social Order, and the Kingdom of God 155
10 The Closing Years of Antebellum Reform 170
In Retrospect 182
Notes 185
Bibliography 220
Index 243
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