"Patriotism and Piety": Orthodox Religion and Federalist Political Culture

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation argues that orthodox Protestantism played a significant role in the political culture of the northern federalist party during the early American republic. It demonstrates that religion both fueled the intensity of federalist politics in the 1790s and ironically contributed to the party’s decline in the early nineteenth century. The study brings together two sub-fields–the new political history of the early republic and religious history–to produce an interdisciplinary work which advances historical scholarship on a seminal period in American history. Confronted with religious inheritances from New England’s colonial experience and the politicization of religion during the American Revolution, federalists sought to define religion’s place in the republican experiment and apply it for political advantage. The interplay of orthodox religion with federalist politics changed both the party’s political culture and the practice of religion in America. The study employs a biographical approach–using case studies of seven individuals to understand larger themes and trends–as a narrative strategy. It begins with John Jay, whose belief in a providentially-ordered national destiny for America expressed a “Republican” view of religion and politics, an optimistic approach which broke down under the partisan conflicts of the 1790s. The dissertation then traces how other federalists, including Timothy Dwight, Jedidiah Morse, Caleb Strong, and Elias Boudinot, responded to the shifting environment by enlisting the public in support of political and social stability. They opposed “infidelity,” the militant unbelief which they believed was undermining both belief and government. In so doing, they created a “Federalist” expression of religion, in which orthodox religionists rallied to defend what they perceived as their embattled faith and endangered republic. The dissertation concludes with a consideration of John Jay’s two sons, who illustrate the transformation of a religiously-inflected federalism into attitudes which reflected an “Antebellum” view of religion’s place in society: an individualized, issues-oriented religion with a greater stress on morality but less emphasis on politics.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07042006-163021

Author Jonathan J. Den Hartog
Advisor Dr. George Marsden
Contributor Dr. George Marsden, Committee Chair
Contributor Dr. Daniel Walker Howe, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. Linda Przybyszewski, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. James Turner, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2006-06-06

Submission Date 2006-07-04
  • United States of America

  • evangelicalism

  • political culture

  • religion

  • federalist party

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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