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How an obscure Puritan sermon came to be seen as a founding document of American identity and exceptionalism “For we mu

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As a City on a Hill: The Story of America's Most Famous Lay Sermon
 0691184372, 9780691184371

Table of contents :
INTRODUCTION “The Most Famous Lay Sermon in All of American History”
1 Writing “A Model of Christian Charity”
2 “We Shall Be as a City upon a Hill”
3 A Chosen People
4 New England in a World of Holy Experiments
5 Left All Alone in America
6 Love Is a Bond or Ligament
7 Moralizing the Market Economy
8 The Poor and the Boundaries of Obligation
9 Inventing Foundations
10 Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism
11 From the Top Mast
12 Constructing a City on a Hill in Africa
13 The Carnage of God’s Chosen Nations
14 The Historical Embarrassments of New England
15 Puritanism in an Existentialist Key
16 Arguing over the Puritans during the Cold War
17 Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill
18 Puritan Foundations of an “Exceptionalist” Nation
19 Ambivalent Evangelicals
EPILOGUE Disembarking from the Arbella
APPENDIX John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”: A Modern Transcription

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Figure 1. John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity,” p. 39: “for wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god . . .” can be made out in the last four lines. John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” 1630; from BV Winthrop, John; image #79597d, New-York Historical Society.

AS A CIT Y ON A HILL The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon

Daniel T. Rodgers

prince ton university press Princeton and Oxford

Copyright © 2018 by Princeton University Press Published by Princeton University Press 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540 6 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1TR All Rights Reserved LCCN 2018942281 ISBN 968-0-691-18159-2 British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available Editorial: Brigitta van Rheinberg and Amanda Peery Production Editorial: Debbie Tegarden Jacket design: Emily Weigel Jacket image: “A modell of [Chris]tian charity: Written on board [the] Arbella, on [the] Atlantic Ocean,” John Winthrop, 1630. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society Production: Jacquie Poirier Publicity: James Schneider This book has been composed in Adobe Caslon Pro and Arno Pro Printed on acid-free paper. ∞ Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To the memory of four of my teachers: William G. McLoughlin George W. Morgan Edmund S. Morgan C. Vann Woodward

Contents introduction “The Most Famous Lay Sermon in All of American History”


A Chosen People

44 58

New England in a World of Holy Experiments 5

Left All Alone in America

6 7 8


“We Shall Be as a City upon a Hill” 3



Writing “A Model of Christian Charity”


Love Is a Bond or Ligament


Moralizing the Market Economy

96 107

The Poor and the Boundaries of Obligation

PART II 9 10


Inventing Foundations 123

Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism 11

From the Top Mast




Constructing a City on a Hill in Africa



The Carnage of God’s Chosen Nations







The Historical Embarrassments of New England 189 15


Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


Arguing over the Puritans during the Cold War 17



Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill


Puritan Foundations of an “Exceptionalist” Nation Ambivalent Evangelicals


epilogue Disembarking from the Arbella



appendix John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”: A Modern Transcription 289 Notes


Acknowledgments Index



217 247



“ The Most Famous Lay Sermon in All of American History”


or the last sixty years, a story has been told about the origins of America. Like many historical stories, it is told as a parable: deep and timeless continuities flow out of the specifics of time and place. It is an uplifting story and a haunting one. And it is at least half wrong. The setting is a vessel in mid-passage on the Atlantic Ocean. The year is 1630. Fast-forward another decade and a half, and a revolution among those passengers’ countrymen would turn the political and religious order of absolutist England upside down. But the voyagers aboard the Arbella were seeking out a new place of settlement in part because they did not believe such a striking break in human affairs was possible. Balancing hope against despair, they were headed instead for North America. Somewhere in that mid-ocean passage, their elected governor, John Winthrop, confident and commanding in his presence, rose to deliver an address in which he outlined the purpose of their undertaking. “A Model of Christian Charity” Winthrop’s text would come to be titled. A “lay sermon,” historians since the middle of the 1



twentieth century have called it: “the most famous lay sermon in all of American history.”1 In it Winthrop confirmed these new Americans’ commitment to a new life of obedience, love, and mutual affections. He reminded them that they sailed not on their own whim or private ambitions but under a covenant with God: a commission as clear as God’s covenant with biblical Israel. Their responsibilities to each other were intense, and the risks of failure were, literally, terrifying. But in return, Winthrop offered a promise. If they should keep true to their purposes they would not only overcome the hardships the future held for them in New England. The eyes of all people would be upon them. They would be made “a praise and glory.” And they would be “as a city upon a hill” to the world. This story of John Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” has been repeated over and over in the history books and in the civic creed of Americans. It has been celebrated not only for its elements of drama— dangerous ocean passage, inspired words, and exalted sense of purpose—but as the origin story of the nation that the United States was to become. Ronald Reagan made a sentence-long extract from Winthrop’s Model—“we shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us”—into the signature line of his presidency. Preached to a “ little band of settlers” crowded onto the “tiny ship” bearing them across the Atlantic, as Reagan saw the event in his mind’s eye, the Model set the vision to which “our people always have held fast . . . since our first days as a nation”—that they were destined from their origins to be a beacon of hope and liberty to the world, a model to all nations. “It was right here, in the waters around us, where the American experiment began,” Barack Obama told the graduating class at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 2006 in the same vein. It was right here that the earliest settlers “dreamed of building a City upon a Hill . . . and the world watched waiting to see if this improbable idea called America would succeed.”2

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This origin story is so familiar that it barely seems to invite question. Virtually no modern high school or college textbook on American history or the American political tradition fails to mention Winthrop’s words or impress upon students their enduring importance. “A Model of Christian Charity” has been heralded as the nation’s “point of departure,” as the “founding text in American political rhetoric,” and the key script in the “founding moment” of American civic republicanism.3 “City on a hill” is now an instantly recognizable phrase in the vernacular of American nationalism. Thousands of other lay sermons preached in a future United States would outstrip the original circulation of “A Model of Christian Charity.” But Winthrop’s Model is the statement that we have made foundational to “the idea called America.” “In relation to the principal theme of the American mind,” the immensely influential Harvard historian Perry Miller declared in 1954, “Winthrop stands at the beginning of our consciousness.”4 There are powerful reasons behind these judgments. The sense of national mission that marks American civic-political culture, its confidence, and its fervent sense of exception from the lot of all other nations: From what source could these have flowed except from that first, origin moment, when a sense of acting on a special covenant with God became fused with the experience of America? Winthrop’s “we shall be as a city upon a hill” seems to hold in its grasp what the future would bring for the United States: its magnet status for a world of immigrants, its economic ascendancy, and its rise to world leadership. The nation’s moralism, its Wilsonian idealism, the endurance of its religious cultures, and its certainty that it had been granted a unique and special part in the unrolling of human history all seem presaged in Winthrop’s text. Critics see less attractive traits of American national culture embedded there as well: the self-righteousness with which the Americans would roll across the continent and project their



power throughout the world as if they and God were working hand in hand to expand the special promises of America. All this has been traced to the Puritan origins of America and the mission statement that John Winthrop wrote for it. No serious observer claims that “A Model of Christian Charity” holds all the elements of the nation the United States would become. There would be trial and error in the American future and furious contention as well. But since the middle of the twentieth century Winthrop’s Model has seemed to hold in embryo the nation’s most powerful and distinctive threads. To begin at the American beginning is to begin with a text in its mid-oceanic setting, just before its words and its promise to be a “city upon a hill” would begin to be etched on the land. Most of this is a modern invention and much of it is wrong. None of those who voyaged with John Winthrop to the Puritan settlement in New England left any record that they heard Winthrop’s words in mid-passage. Most likely “A Model of Christian Charity” was never delivered as a sermon at all. Although copies of Winthrop’s text circulated in England during his lifetime, by the end of the seventeenth century they had all literally vanished from memory. One of those long-forgotten copies was discovered in a bundle of old sermons and documents of New England history in 1809, but it was not put into print until 1838. And then it lapsed from sight again almost as completely. An occasional nineteenth-century historian mentioned Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity,” but most did not and none pulled it—or its “city upon a hill” line—out of the mass of other colonial American documents as especially important. Through the 1970s mention of “A Model of Christian Charity” was a hit-or-miss affair in standard histories of the United States. It was only in the decade of the 1980s, three hundred and fifty years after its writing, that the incongruously parallel work of a conservative Cold War president, Ronald Reagan, and a radical, immigrant literary scholar, Sacvan

“Most Famous Lay Sermon”


Bercovitch, combined to make Winthrop’s text and metaphor famous. “A Model of Christian Charity” is old, but its foundational status is a twentieth-century invention. The meanings we now grasp for so eagerly in Winthrop’s words are largely twentieth-century inventions as well. John Winthrop never doubted that he and his fellow New England Puritans sailed under the seal of a covenant with God. Of nothing was he more confident than that they had a key part to play in God’s scheme of history. But in its own time, the call to greatness in Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” line was vastly overshadowed by its reminder of the settlement project’s immense vulnerability. Caution saturated his “city upon a hill” metaphor. It did not promise these incipient Americans that they were destined to be a radiant light to the world but that they would need to work out their ambitions under the world’s most intense, critical scrutiny. The core theme that laced the Model’s words together, from its opening statement of the mutual relations between rich and poor to its fervent closing peroration, was not nationalistic but local and intense: an insistence on love and the obligations of social solidarity that would be often sharply at odds with what capitalist America would become. The conventional story of Winthrop’s “city on a hill” text is wrong in still other ways. Its current status as a founding statement of American “exceptionalism” to the contrary, almost none of the themes that circulated through Winthrop’s text were unique to the nation that would become the United States. Dreams of founding a new and purer Israel circulated all across the early modern Atlantic. During the long nineteenth-century era of economic and imperial expansion, conviction that a nation’s people had been uniquely commissioned to lead God’s forces of good and civilization played a bedrock role in patriotic cultures far beyond the United States. Even the idea that nations owed their essential character to a foundational moment, to a timeless and enduring origin statement, is far less unique to the United States than is typically acknowledged.



Most conspicuously of all, the phrase “city on a hill” was itself a borrowing, a repurposing for Winthrop’s occasion of the one of the Bible’s most familiar metaphors, which was to be repurposed hundreds of times again, in and far beyond the United States. The importance of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” is not that it broached ideas and themes exceptional to the history of the United States but that it was, from the beginning, so deeply enmeshed in the world around it. Above all, to read Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” seriously we need to disentangle ourselves from the lure of simple origin stories. Texts live in and through time. A certain kind of nationalism recoils against that assumption. It strains to fix the nation to a foundational moment or proposition or text as if the idea of the nation—whatever its actual missteps or temporary disruptions—could be held exempt from history itself. But no words or text can be insulated from time. Their occasions change, the possibilities others see in them change, sometimes radically. Every subsequent use is by necessity a rewriting, a reinvention for new hopes, new conditions, and new contentions. To take a key historical text seriously is not to shove these afterlives aside as a debris of misreadings. It is not merely to sketch a history of “reception,” “circulation,” or “influence,” important as these themes may be. Texts endure only through their continuous reappropriation for inescapably shifting times and purposes. The point is true of every document a nation holds sacred. The Declaration of Independence whose words reverberate through American culture now is not the Declaration of 1776. It is not the radically different Declaration that Thomas Jefferson’s political allies fashioned, taking his “all men are created equal” line out of the sidebar place it occupied in his original text and turning it into a political slogan. Nor is it the yet more sweeping Declaration that antislavery activists would make from a slaveholder’s words or rights activists would construct in the twentieth century. Into our own day the Dec-

“Most Famous Lay Sermon”


laration of Independence has been simultaneously an object of veneration and a site for fierce, vitally impor tant contention over the shapes and forms of justice. The “living Constitution” is, by the same token, not simply a phrase for loose constructionists. Even before its adoption, the U.S. Constitution was being reworked, its silences fleshed out, its ambiguities debated, and its elasticities contended for. Reinvention of their core texts is part of the work that nations do. There is potential chaos in this, of course. But without it there can hardly be any serious public life at all. Pushing back against the origin myths that have obscured it, this book tells the story of the lives of a text that many twentieth-century Americans would construct to be foundational to the “idea” of America. It is a story of disappearance and revival, long absence and neglect, and successive modern reinventions. Part I, “Text,” reconstructs the meanings of Winthrop’s words and metaphors in his own seventeenth-century setting. It begins with the occasion of Winthrop’s writing and the key terms he injected into “A Model of Christian Charity”—city upon a hill, chosen people, covenant, charity, and history. Set against the background of an Atlantic culture filled with model cities on a hill, scores of them more prominent in their time than New England, Winthrop’s phrases take on much less triumphant meanings than the standard Arbella story has it. “Charity” was the Model’s most important keyword. For Winthrop, it meant that the rule of love and mutual obligation must take precedence above mere calculus of price and market return whenever the public weal is at risk. From what occasion did that startling premise arise and how was it worked out in the day-to-day practice of economic life? In part II, “Nation,” a second phase of the story of “A Model of Christian Charity” begins. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the text itself was all but forgotten. But as nationalism swept across Europe and the Americas, some of the themes that had lodged



a century earlier in Winthrop’s text sprang into circulation all the more vigorously. Patriotic cultures fanned desires for origin stories and foundational texts. Empires were constructed on new convictions of divine-historical destiny. Critics turned the chosen people idea into a tool of dissent. African Americans carried the “city upon a hill” metaphor to the new black republic of Liberia. On the dying fields of World War I, where part II concludes, these globally circulating reverberations of the covenant idea played themselves out in a key of high tragedy. Finally, in part III, “Icon,” Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” and its “city upon a hill” phrase finally slips into the place that modern nationalism had already made for it: as an invented foundation for the new world colossus that the United States had become. Cold War American writers made the Model into the defining document we now take it to be. They did that in part by canonizing it and in part by unexpectedly remaking Winthrop’s New England Puritans, whose reputation had long been buried under the burdens of their religious intolerance and labyrinthine theology, as the nation’s true “Founders.” Then, in the 1980s, Winthrop’s text suddenly swept from the domains of the scholars into the White House and the rhetorical center of modern American politics. No presidents before Ronald Reagan had used the phrase “city on a hill” to define the very character of the American nation and its place in the world. After Reagan, virtually no serious political figure could escape the obligation to quote it. But the Model’s story had not reached an end. Social scientists attached a new term—exceptionalism—to Winthrop’s text, even as the exceptional post–World War II character of the United States was visibly eroding beneath them. Evangelical Protestants struggled to decide if the America to which they were so deeply attached and yet with which they were so deeply in quarrel was properly called a city on a hill. And in 2016, the nation elected to the presidency a man who did not like the phrase at all—who, turning the Model on its head,

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made not America’s shining example but rather the nation’s manifold “disasters” his signature trope. Through these shifts and turns in uses and meaning, the career of Winthrop’s text runs as a skein of threads through the American past. A forgotten document would arc, much later, toward iconic status. A biblical image would become a metaphor for a settlement project, a free-floating cliché, an element in the transnationally circulating vocabulary of civic patriotism, a statement of high Cold War purpose, and the creedal foundation of a truly “exceptional” nation. Even in Winthrop’s day, his “Model of Christian Charity” carried no single, stable message. “The American point of departure” would be what people would make of it. Braiding together three centuries of making and remaking, this book tells the story of a text that we think we know so well that we barely know it all it.



chapter 1

Writing “A Model of Christian Charity”


or all the historical weight that has been placed on John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity,” the text itself carries an unexpectedly modest, even mysterious appearance. No special rotunda exhibits it. Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” statement does not rise out of an underground vault each morning for display, honored by flags and guarded by soldiers, as the Declaration of Independence did in the years of the high Cold War. The only surviving copy is housed in the New-York Historical Society in a small archival box, barely five by seven inches. Bound as a pamphlet, it is the seventeenth-century version of a slim modern paperback. At first glance, Winthrop’s words seem barely touched by history’s passage. The National Archives’ copy of the Declaration of Independence, its ink faded with age, is now an almost completely illegible ghost of the parchment that its endorsers once signed. By contrast, “A Model of Christian Charity,” although almost a century and a half older, initially seems immune from change. The Model’s words flow over the pages in confident lines of loops and flourishes. The letters s and f blossom into extravagant swirls of form. The p’s shoot down below the line of text like daggers. The word the is condensed into a special symbol of its own, like a character in a modern 13


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text message. No special emphasis marks off its “city upon a hill” line, tucked into a sentence three pages from the end; but the h in hill soars and dives like an elegant bird in flight. All seems certain and dependable. But a second glance disrupts that first impression. Marks of time and alteration, in fact, lie all over the manuscript. None of this lettering is Winthrop’s own work. His handwriting was much less fluid than this and far harder to read. This is a copyist’s output: a product of the system of “scribal publication” through which handcopied editions of a seventeenth-century text were moved into circulation without the costly intermediation of a printing press.1 How many copies this or other copyists made or how widely they were distributed we will never know, just as we will never know what Winthrop’s original looked like. All these have disappeared. This is the only seventeenth-century version of the Model that has survived into our day. The copyist’s pen moves confidently across the page but then, suddenly, you see the copymaker stumble. There are places where, working too fast, the copyist left something out and came back with a caret mark to insert it. On one page most of a line is crossed out and corrected as if the copyist had momentarily mistaken his place or let her attention slip. A later hand corrects a word. Most striking of all, a whole word was washed out from the sentence just before the “city upon a hill” line. If we hold fast to our purposes, the text reads, the Lord “shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, the Lord make it like that of New England.” But “New England,” inked in by a much cruder hand, was written over top of something else. What had been blotted out so determinedly as to leave only the faintest traces? A set of scans reveal that the original word had been “Massachusetts.” Why did the alteration matter so much to whoever came along later to make it? Why the hurried corrections? Why the text’s blank spaces, as if the original’s words, even then, could not be fully deciphered? Why the nagging mysteries?

Writing the “Model”


Coming in search of origins and certainty, you find everything—text, identities, keywords, and meanings—in motion. Motion, of course, shaped every aspect of the composition of “A Model of Christian Charity.” The English in the early seventeenth century were a restlessly mobile people. London in the early modern era swelled with uprooted countryfolk. Scots and English migrants swarmed by the scores of thousands into Ireland. Across the course of the seventeenth century almost four hundred thousand English and Scots emigrants would embark for the new settlements of British North America, half of them headed for the mainland, half for the West Indies. John Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay Company took shape within this larger pattern of displacement. The Massachusetts colony was not the first deliberately planned English settlement in North America, but with almost a thousand voyagers under sail in 1630 under the moral and financial sponsorship of its godly Puritan organizers, it was the largest to date and the best organized. Over the next decade, another ten to twenty thousand English folk would follow them to raise new churches and villages and work to plow out new farms from the resistant soils of New England.2 There would be social and political turmoil to come, too, before John Winthrop’s dream of “a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical” would be solidified. Still, within this swirl of motion, what place did this text occupy? When and for what purposes was it written or spoken? What was its setting? We see the famous story in our mind’s eye: the ship, the piously gathered people, and their collective assent to the mission that their governor, John Winthrop, spelled out for them. In our inner ear, we already hear the repercussions echoing through the centuries. We see the story of America begin. But urgently as these images press on a reader’s mind, the copyist’s text gives no hint of them. The absence is striking. “Christian Charitie / A Modell hereof,” the text is headed. As it was originally copied out, it carried no author,


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date, or context. We know that the Model was in circulation among English Puritans as early as 1635, when a friend of Winthrop’s eldest son asked for a copy of “the Model of Charity” along with a half dozen other documents from the Massachusetts colony’s founding.3 We know the authorship of the “Model of Christian Charity,” too, for there are enough traces from Winthrop’s earlier writings to make us certain that the Model was his own work, even if it originally circulated anonymously. But for the occasion for its writing we have only the word of a second, later document, a cover sheet written in a different, much cruder hand than the copyist’s. It was the cover sheet writer who added, “Written on Board the Arrabella on the Atlantick Ocean By the Honorable John Winthrop Esq. In His passage with the great Company of Religious people of which he was the Governor, from the Island of Greate Brittaine to New-England in the North America. Anno 1630.” And when this did not seem sufficient, it was the cover sheet writer who went back later in parentheses and interlining to stress that these were “Christian Tribes” of which Winthrop was the “Brave leader and famous” governor. Though it is now bound into the copyist’s text, the original pamphlet did not carry this cover page. A bit of wax, the seventeenthcentury equivalent of a paper clip, Ted O’Reilly, head of the Manuscript Department at the New-York Historical Society explains, stained the first page. But there is no corresponding stain on the cover sheet. The cover sheet identifying the authorship of the now “famous” Winthrop, placing the composition of the Model in the Atlantic Ocean and setting the scene that has become all but inextricable from the Model’s story was the work—if not the fiction—of a later time.4 The first historians to take John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” seriously did not pause to question this setting of the Model’s composition. Knowing what they were looking for, they found it in the cover sheet writer’s “on the Atlantick Ocean” assertion. As Perry Miller, the leading mid-twentieth century scholar of New England

Writing the “Model”


Puritanism, taught generations of historians to read it, “A Model of Christian Charity” was a mission statement for the society that Winthrop and his fellow voyagers would build in their new world. It stood at a doorway between mental frames, at the threshold of a new consciousness that was no longer English but on its way to becoming American. The shores of a new historical destiny lay right over the horizon. Where else could it have been written and assented to but on the open, yet undefined space of the sea: “in the broad Atlantic, halfway between the Old World and the New, [where] nothing was settled”?5 Others writing after Miller would draw this origin scene even more vividly and push it still closer to the moment of American arrival. One of Ronald Reagan’s early speechwriters envisioned the Model delivered on the “tiny deck of the Arabella off the coast of Massachusetts” where a little band strained to hear, against “the stormy seas raging around them,” what their new life had in store for them.6 In the leading textbook account of American religious history, Jon Butler and his coauthors set the Model literally at the moment of the Winthrop fleet’s entry into their new world, preached while the Arbella lay at anchor off the Massachusetts coast, just before its passengers disembarked into their new tasks and new identities.7 More recently historians have grown skeptical of the literal truth of the Model’s “on the Atlantic ocean” setting. John Winthrop began writing his Journal, from which so much of what we know about Puritan New England derives, when he boarded the Arbella in the English Channel in late March  1630. Sketchy though Winthrop’s subsequent entries were, he made them faithfully virtually every day. He noted the sighting of a spouting whale and the case of a maidservant who drank so much “strong water” that she almost died. He noted days in which sermons were preached and other days when both minister and people were too sick for any sermons.8 But no hint of “A Model of Christian Charity” appears in any of Winthrop’s seaboard entries. The Model’s text is not wholly consistent in its allusions


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to time and place, but its reference to the sufferings experienced by some of our forefathers “ here in England,” historians now object, is hard to square with composition in the mid-Atlantic, much less just off the shores of New England.9 But even those who push the Model’s composition point back to England, just prior to the emigrants’ departure, have a hard time envisioning it as anything other than a publicly witnessed threshold utterance: the moment when, figuratively speaking, Winthrop’s company of New England–bound Puritans walked through the door to the America that the Model framed for them. John Winthrop’s most distinguished modern biographer candidly invents such a setting. Winthrop preached the Model, Francis Bremer writes, under the Gothic roof of the Holy Rood Church in Southampton, England, rising to do so right on the heels of John Cotton’s much more widely distributed farewell sermon—though Bremer admits there is no hard evidence that any such gathering took place there, much less that Winthrop had any such part in it.10 In all these imagined settings, whether on the sea or in sight or smell of oceans, “A Model of Christian Charity” marked a moment of social identity’s remaking. Its imagined setting, its “city upon a hill” line, and its message of a new-made people mirrored and reinforced each other. A people gather to hear a text, to embrace their mission in history, as some of their descendants would gather, almost a century and a half later, to hear a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. It is as close to a foundational scene as early American history possesses. So runs the myth. But, in fact, by the time of the Arbella’s sailing “A Model of Christian Charity” had already been months in composition. Parts of it had been framed in Winthrop’s mind during the fall and winter of 1629–30, well before the New England Puritans’ departure in March—before it was even certain that there would be a departure at all. The Model was not written all of a piece at the door-

Writing the “Model”


way to America. Different audiences had heard different pieces of it. Most of Winthrop’s fellow passengers to Massachusetts Bay almost certainly never heard it all. Modern readers yearn for it to lead us back to an origin point in the American experiment. But its words were not shaped in a single sitting, either at the English seaport of Southampton or in a liminal Atlantic. Evidence for the serial process by which the words and themes of “A Model of Christian Charity” came to Winthrop lies right in the text itself. The copyist’s determination not to waste paper on section breaks and section headings does not disguise the fact that the Model falls into four clearly distinct segments, only one of which looks explicitly toward America. The first and shortest of the Model’s parts is its opening premise, whose utter, uncompromising certainty almost inevitably jars on modern ears: “God almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.” From that unchangeable fact of human inequality, charity descends. The Model’s second part outlines the practice of that charity, drawing out of a cluster of biblical examples the demanding rules that a godly community must observe in lending, loan forgiveness, and generosity both in normal times and in times of peril. The third and longest part explains the engine of that charity: the love and sympathy that binds each one to others. It is in its fourth part that the Model shifts abruptly in tone and language to apply these rules of heart and practice to the project at hand. As a covenanted people in a new land, where subordination of “all private respects” to “the care of the public” will be all the more required, the emigrants will live under a stricter charge of unity and love than they had ever practiced before in England. The burden of their special covenant with God swells into prominence. The voyagers’ responsibilities are fearsome. They will stand, above the common lot of mankind “as a city upon a hill.” “The eyes of all people are upon us.”


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In the last part of the Model, Winthrop’s imagination leapt ahead to the settlement that he and his fellow colonizers would struggle to create. But the first three parts of the Model had already congealed in Winthrop’s mind months before the voyage to New England began. When John Winthrop wrote in the Model’s opening sentence that society was so disposed that “some must be rich, some poor,” he was writing as much from personal experience as from abstract social theory. That he himself belonged to the “high and eminent” fraction of humankind was beyond question. His grandfather had been a successful London clothing merchant who rose to become a master of the city’s Clothworkers’ Guild and, from there, had made his way into the English gentry by investing in manor properties in East Anglia. In his mid-twenties John assumed possession of his family’s landholdings at Groton, England, together with its tenants and servants, its church, and the responsibilities of presiding over the manor court that went with it. He studied at Cambridge’s Trinity College and at one of the Inns of Court in London. He would bring as many as eight servants with him to Massachusetts in 1630. Sometime before departure, he posed for an elegant oil portrait, his face framed by a high ruffed collar, his hand holding a silk glove.11 The great majority of those caught up in the currents of the new Protestant piety that swept over England in the 1610s and 1620s came from much humbler backgrounds than Winthrop. Small farmers, agricultural leaseholders, artisans, servants, and their wives and children formed the bulk of the English folk who would emigrate to New England in the 1630s. Some were drawn by promoters’ promises of abundant soils and fisheries. Some were recruited for their artisan skills. Many came through family and kinship ties. Those who set the dominant tone of the emigration yearned most of all for a more pious and godly community: its churches restored to what they imagined to be Christianity’s original practices, purged of the novelties of Catholic invention, and its mores purged of lawlessness and corruption.

Writing the “Model”


Within these ranks, Winthrop knew that he was among those whom God had designated for power and dignity. And except for some sharp, humbling occasions, his fellow New Englanders did too. They returned Winthrop to the Massachusetts governorship by annual election twelve times from 1630 to his death in 1649. Still, among the originators of the Massachusetts venture there were far wealthier figures than the country gentleman John Winthrop. At the social pinnacle of those who enlisted in the Puritan movement were merchants and titled aristocrats whose plans and ventures spread far beyond New England. Matthew Craddock, who preceded Winthrop as head of the Massachusetts Bay Company, had substantial investments not only in the Massachusetts project but in the Levant Company’s trading operations in the Near East, the East India Company’s trade with India, and the tobacco trade with the West Indies; he was to play a leading role in Parliament at the opening of the Puritan Revolution. Another Puritan grandee, the Earl of Warwick, who had been instrumental in obtaining the charter for New England, had deep investments in the East India Company and in colonization ventures in Bermuda, Virginia, and along the Nicaragua coast. He owned a fleet of West Indies–based privateering ships that regularly harassed Spain’s Atlantic trading routes. All these ventures of colonization, commerce, and empire were, in his and others’ minds, part of a common front against the power of global Catholicism. Winthrop’s advantage to the Massachusetts Bay Company was that, with his more modest land holdings and investments, he was willing to put all at risk and join the emigrant fleet himself. Winthrop’s election to governorship of the Massachusetts Bay Company coincided with the most momentous decision the company would make: to replace the standard model of an emigrant venture governed by its London-based officers with a chartered company located in North America itself. But recruiting almost a thousand emigrants and restructuring the company’s finances to match its new ambitions was an immense undertaking. Winthrop’s first task as governor while still


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in England was to oversee a long and tortuous series of negotiations between those who had pledged to emigrate and those who had invested heavily in shares of the project but, choosing to stay behind in England, were about to forfeit any direct say over the course of the colony. Without an agreement among the company shareholders to forgive a part of their initial investments and relinquish control over the rest, the Massachusetts project was merely a pipe dream, a paper design without the financial means for its realization. In the records of Winthrop’s drawn-out efforts to conciliate both sides in the fall and winter of 1629–30 we see, written in his own hand, the same distinctive ideas and phrases that would frame the first three parts of his “Model of Christian Charity.” Agreement of the major investors to forego a speedy return on their investments was the hinge of the compromise the company would reach. In early December, addressing a meeting of the company’s governing body in London, Winthrop argued eloquently for the investors’ concession. “What rule must we observe in lending?” the Model was soon to ask; if it be a matter of “necessity,” then “thou must lend him, though there be danger of losing it” (italics added). In his address to the company in December, Winthrop had urged the same point in virtually the same terms: “Why should we forbeare our money so long, etc. Answer: You have given it to God, and made such a protestation, as if God’s glory and the welfare of the plantation should require it, you would not only lend it, but lose it.”12 And all for what purpose? That we “might be all knit more nearly together in the bond of brotherly affection,” the Model declared. That “we might be knit together in a most firm bond of love and friendship,” Winthrop had pleaded in his December address.13 Still more, “the eyes of all people” was already on Winthrop’s mind. “The eyes of all people are upon us,” the Model declares. “Consider your reputation, the eyes of all the godly are upon you,” Winthrop

Writing the “Model”


had urged the nonemigrating investors in December. “What can you do more honorable for this city, and the Gospel which you profess, than to deny your own profit, that we may say Londoners can be willing to lose that the Gospel, etc.”14 Structure, syntax, and phrases—the rules of lending, the knitted bonds of love and affection, the critical eyes of the godly and of the world—all moved intact from Winthrop’s December plea to the company’s investors into “A Model of Christian Charity.” If this were not sufficient to show the extent to which the Model’s major themes were already written in Winthrop’s mind in the winter of 1629–30, an additional scrap of evidence leads in the same direction. On a back page of Winthrop’s journal, written upside down as if Winthrop had turned the book over before he began his day-to-day entries the next spring, the Journal’s modern editor, Richard Dunn, noticed a cryptic list of scriptural references. Though no date for the list is given, its setting is clearly the winter of 1629–30, for it is followed by notes of commercial transactions for hiring and provisioning the company’s flagship that Winthrop concluded in November and December. All but one of the scriptural passages Winthrop listed there enjoined the faithful to generosity in loans and in giving, which was the primary issue on Winthrop’s mind during the investors’ controversy in December. Four of those passages were incorporated directly into the Model’s text.15 Read “A Model of Christian Charity” closely, push aside our assumptions of what it must have announced and the setting in which it therefore must have announced it, and the dramatic scene of its mid-Atlantic conception evaporates. The bulk of the Model came to Winthrop as an inspiration neither at sea aboard the Arbella nor in a Southampton church but months earlier, amidst the commercial tensions of a London business meeting. The last part of the Model, as even a casual reader recognizes, strikes a significantly different tone from the sections that precede it. The first


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three sections work out a series of static problems. What purpose did God have in making some rich and many others poor? What rules must those with means follow in giving and lending? What is the nature of the love that knits both parts together? In the last section of the Model, its subjects are now, suddenly, a people in passage. The idea of a covenant with God, rehearsed in hundreds of Protestant sermons since Calvin helped inject it into the core of Reformation theology in Geneva, becomes a special commission that the New Englanders will take with them across the seas. Moses’s words as he stood in sight of the Jordan River become the emigrant Puritans’ words for their own journey to a new land. The preacherly tone intensifies: “Whatsoever we did, or ought to have done, when we lived in England, the same must we do, and more also, where we go,” Winthrop urged. “We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.” If we succeed in this, God will make us “a praise and glory.” And if we fail, “we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a going.” It is this section of “A Model of Christian Charity” that seems to cry out for a public setting. In our mind’s eye we see the Massachusettsbound emigrants, clustered on a ship’s deck or crowded into a church’s pews, gathered around their orator-governor to confirm the heavy commission they have undertaken. Ten years earlier a much smaller band of Pilgrims had, in fact, met in such a way aboard ship, the adult men putting their hands to the document we now know as the Mayflower Compact when it became clear that they were about to be set ashore where they had no legal patent to settle and no legal right to establish a self-governing community. But did the New

Writing the “Model”


England Puritans gather in any similar way around the last part of Winthrop’s Model? As the Model’s themes and elements were assembled in Winthrop’s mind over these months, did its full text ever have a public hearing or a public setting? The setting that comes most quickly to mind is the sermon. A “sermon” was what Perry Miller called the Model: a collective public affirmation of the errand that was to bring this fragment of Puritan England to America. That is the way collections of the key texts in American history almost universally describe the Model now. As befits the seriousness of the occasion, Winthrop stands, literally or figuratively, in the pulpit with the New England emigrants arrayed before him. Sermons were certainly the most common occasions for public oratory that most people encountered in early seventeenth-century England. Puritans heard a lot of them: two each Sunday, another each Wednesday evening, others on fast days and, in New England, on election days as well. Yearning for holy preaching, the Massachusettsbound voyagers might have gathered before Winthrop in that spirit. But by early seventeenth-century Puritan understandings, “A Model of Christian Charity” was not literally a sermon. By 1630 the forms of a sermon had been carefully set down by the leading English Puritan preachers. A Puritan sermon came in sections clearly enough punctuated that listeners could outline them, as Winthrop himself did in his notes on the sermons he heard in England. Some of those structures of reasons, objections, answers, and applications Winthrop would incorporate into the Model. But most important of all, Puritan preachers began by specifying and expounding on a specific biblical text.16 “Opening” a verse of scripture, the preachers called it. This was not a matter of aesthetics. Even more than others shaped by the Reformation, English Puritans were people of the Book. Their religious culture developed in tandem with the early modern print revolution, which for the first time poured vernacular translations of the


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Bible into the hands of lay readers. Moral homilies read from the pulpit were a fixture of the established English church. But in the eyes of those drawn to the Puritan revival of piety, the point of a true sermon was not to state a moral truism but to explicate God’s own authentic word. To launch that enterprise from any other ground than from an explicit text in the Bible itself would have been to fall headfirst into the pit of mere humanism.17 Yet “A Model of Christian Charity” opened with, and took its very frame from, a text that had no direct source in the Bible. Winthrop knew the Bible’s books intimately. Early in his adulthood he had aspired briefly to the ministry. He studded his written texts, the Model included, with scriptural references. He preached himself from time to time as well, as other laymen did in early modern Puritan circles when there was a temporary shortage of properly installed ministers. The opening text of the Model—“God almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection”—reiterated a commonplace of early seventeenth-century English commentary on society and morals. But an exposition of a text that was not drawn directly from the Bible, whatever it might have been, was not what Puritans gathered to hear as a sermon. There is a second problem with the “sermon” designation. If it was beyond the realm of possibilities for a Puritan preacher to draw his text from any source other than the Bible, it was almost equally beyond the bounds of Puritan practice to read one’s sermon from a written text. A few preachers did, of course, but the sermon guides were explicit in their criticism of the practice. Effective preaching, they insisted, must speak immediately to the souls and hearts of listeners, not issue from a dry text. Although some Puritan ministers went to great lengths to memorize their sermons, much more common was preaching from notes where careful preparation and the preacher’s spontaneously inspired voice could work together. The great

Writing the “Model”


majority of the printed sermons that are preserved from the early seventeenth century were based on sermon notes, either as the preacher offered them to a London printer or as one of his church members transcribed what she or he heard into notes to be reworked and expanded in a copyist’s or printer’s shop before being sent into circulation. It was an efficient process. But it means that almost none of the extant early seventeenth-century sermons are verbatim transcriptions of the preacher’s actual words.18 In the Model’s case, this leaves us in a quandary. If Winthrop read the text of “A Model of Christian Charity” word for carefully chosen word, it was a failure for a sacred setting. If he delivered it as a sermon was expected to be delivered, we have only an approximate record of what he actually said. But the greatest difficulty with the conventional image of the Model’s public setting is one of size and scale. The Mayflower brought a little over a hundred Pilgrims across the Atlantic in a boat so small that it was barely seaworthy. The Puritan emigrants of 1630, by contrast, sailed in sixteen different ships. Altogether almost a thousand persons, drawn from over twenty different counties in England, set out under the Massachusetts Bay Company’s auspices in 1630. Most sailed from Southampton, but migrants recruited from the West Country sailed separately from Plymouth. Arriving in Massachusetts where water supplies were scarce and disease a fearful threat, the New England Puritans dispersed again almost immediately. It is possible to imagine that Winthrop delivered the Model orally to some group of those bound for New England; but it impossible that the majority could have heard it. Where does this leave the riddle of the Model’s setting? Perhaps the Model was indeed delivered on board the Arbella. The ship carried the most prominent of the colony’s initial settlers. Perhaps disputes had arisen among them or between them and their poorer fellow passengers, and Winthrop rose to meet the occasion with words drawn from a conflict that had taken place months earlier. Perhaps instead


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Winthrop delivered an oral version of the text that we know as “A Model of Christian Charity” to a larger assembly of emigrants and others at Southampton, not as a sermon but as a lecture or discourse. In that case an outline of Winthrop’s words might well have been noted down by one of his listeners and sent to London for expansion and copying. We would not need then to imagine emigrants who hated the dry, reading preacher listening to their own governor reading to them with his head in his text. Still, it makes the link between spoken and copied word much less firm than we imagine it to be. And even then those who sailed with the “Western fleet” would not have heard it. But it is worth taking seriously the possibility that the cover sheet author’s verb choice was right after all. “Written” on board the Arabella, the cover sheet had it: not “preached” or “spoken.” The first historians to notice the Model did not call it a “sermon.” To them it was a “homily,” a “treatise,” a “booklet.” A “tract” was Samuel Eliot Morison’s term at the Model’s republication in 1916. The assumption that it was orally delivered is a mid-twentieth-century invention and perhaps a misleading one.19 Certainly the notion of a people gathered together at the brink of collectively assuming new identities as Americans is a fiction. Identity reconstruction was not the work of a moment. For the English who became New Englanders the process of supplanting old habits and self-understandings with new ones was a long and gradual one.20 Some of the emigrants never accomplished it. Some two hundred of those who embarked on the New England–bound ships in 1630 returned to England before the year was out, discouraged by the quality of the land and the first months’ devastating course of disease.21 Many more returned in the 1640s. Appealing though the scene may be of a people collected within the range of their governor’s voice, there is even better reason to suspect that the text we know was not delivered at a public occasion at all. Winthrop’s days before sailing were consumed with practical arrangements. But the week during which the Arbella lay off the English

Writing the “Model”


coast waiting for favorable winds and the next two months of ocean crossing gave Winthrop time he had not possessed once the hectic preparations for departure began. Did he spend some of those long hours and days at sea writing up from his own notes a compound of the arguments he had used during the tense weeks of negotiation over the expedition’s finances, together with the things he had felt or had said on the eve of embarking? Winthrop was an experienced writer who valued the written word. Two of his texts lodged quickly in the canon of Puritan writings: his treatise on arbitrary government and his “ little speech” on liberty. Both were devised in a series of versions over time. Winthrop wrote up his thoughts on arbitrary government first as a “model,” then “drew it up more at large,” only to find that his opponents had circulated a copy of it anonymously before he could present it properly.22 His little speech on liberty began as an extemporaneous address to the General Court that he subsequently revised as a “memorial” for entry into his journal. Something of the same serial process of creation might have shaped “A Model of Christian Charity.” Perhaps to satisfy his own mind Winthrop gathered together his thoughts about the Massachusetts venture that had been taking form since December, wrote them out in a legible copy, and sent them back to his contacts in England late that summer, as we know he sent a bundle of other writings.23 It would not diminish the importance of the text to Winthrop himself to admit the possibility that his fellow emigrants may never have heard the Model as we now know it. What we can know for sure from reading the text—reading rather than weaving stories around it—is that the Model’s words and themes took shape not all at once but over a span of months. They recorded not a sharp moment of clarified consciousness at a threshold to the New World, not the birth of “the idea of America,” but Winthrop’s response to a succession of closely packed events. From the beginning, like the copyist’s text, they were words in motion.


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In the course of those events the Model swept up not one motif and meaning but a cargo load of them, collected over time. The Model carried deep scars from the investors’ battles. It carried an accountant’s language of debt and the rules for loan forgiveness. It incorporated the language of love that early Puritan communities thought foreign to the formalistic churches’ rote and ritual and that they fostered so intensely in their own congregations. It carried a yearning for obedience—for lives that would “keep his [God’s] commandments and his ordinance and his laws”—and a sense of forward propulsion into a space where that obedience might be more possible to achieve. It was a text saturated with biblical language. It carried a powerful sense of collective identity and covenant bonds, language that came right to the brink of identifying Winthrop’s company with the chosen people of God. It was a document of multiple intentions and multiple sources, long before those who revived it poured their own meanings into it or appropriated it for new purposes. This much we know, even if we cannot know with certainty the setting of its composition or who might have read or heard it. In modern times we have taken “A Model of Christian Charity” as a statement of hope—which it was. Should we hold true to our part of the covenant, Winthrop’s Model promises, “we shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, the Lord make it like that of Massachusetts.” In the late twentieth century, that was the way Americans preferred to read it. But hope was not its only theme. In all its accreted baggage, the Model carried broad veins of doubt and caution as well.

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“ We Shall Be as a City upon a Hill”


oubt does not fit the standard picture of New England’s Puritans. Dogmatism came easily to them. They shared a zeal for contention and a powerful streak of intolerance. Contemporaries mocked them not for their uncertainty but for their rigidity and self-righteousness. Worried that they lived like the biblical Israelites in the “fleshpots” of their own English Egypt, the leaders of the New England project yearned for stricter social mores and tighter church discipline.1 They banished their most vocal dissenters without remorse. In portraits made of John Winthrop during his lifetime, with his steeply arched eyebrows and tightly compressed mouth, a viewer would be hard pressed to find any sign of doubt. The line that most readers know best from “A Model of Christian Charity” has come to radiate an indomitable sense of confidence. “We shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us,” Winthrop wrote as he neared the Model’s climax. This was the line that was to hold Ronald Reagan’s attention so vividly. A “shining” city on a hill, Reagan came to reimagine it. “In my mind,” his speechwriter Peggy Noonan had Reagan say as he left the White House in 1989, Winthrop’s city on a hill was “a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people 31


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of all kinds living in harmony and peace.” On her “granite ridge,” her light “steady” no matter how fierce the storm, that city, America, remained steadfast. It was “still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”2 In terms like these, “as a city on a hill” has morphed from a reference to the aspirations of the New England Puritans to a characterization of the American mission itself. A nation that in time would rivet the eyes of all people, that would claim a manifest destiny to subdue the continent and reform the world, seemed already formed in Winthrop’s imagination before it began. “As a city upon a hill” contains all that most Americans now know about “A Model of Christian Charity” because it seems, prophetically, to contain all that was to come afterward. In fact, the decision Winthrop’s contemporaries made to leave their home country for North America was as steeped in doubt as in ambition. Uncertainty hung over it. And uncertainty hung over the “city on a hill” phrase as well. A mixture of motives impelled Winthrop and his contemporaries to uproot themselves for North America. As early modern European settlements went, the Winthrop expedition was more homogenous than most. The Virginia settlement began with a hodgepodge of mutually jealous adventurers: gentlemen’s sons, soldiers of fortune, artisans, youths, and laborers. Among those who boarded the Mayflower for Plymouth in 1620, only half were Pilgrims, subscribers to the small dissenting church that had already tried exile in Holland. The other half were “strangers,” many with private interests of their own. In the Massachusetts Bay Company settlement there were strangers too, servants and indentured men who came in the employ of the company or of one of the wealthier Puritans, though they did not call the tune in the face of the leadership’s passion for control. In time there would also be slaves, captured in warfare with the native peoples or African-

“As a City upon a Hill”


born slaves purchased on commercial voyages to the Caribbean. Recruitment in England was regionally concentrated yet organizationally diffuse. Many of the emigrants of the 1630s came in kinship clusters or networks with a compelling preacher at their center; others were isolates drawn by word of mouth or by the company’s recruitment literature. No single purpose drew them all. Still, the motives of those who formed the core of the Massachusetts Bay project can be mapped with some certainty, along with the place of the “city on a hill” motif within them.3 From the first, there were both publicly announced motives and privately confided ones. Converting the native peoples of the continent to Christianity was a particularly loudly advertised goal, though in practice, except for John Eliot, very few of the New England Puritans pursued it seriously. Forming a bulwark against the Catholics, Jesuits, and their armies of “antichrist” whom the English feared were about to sweep the whole continent into their possession was another prominent theme in the public arguments for emigration—though New England was much too far away from any of the territories of Spanish America to make these more than abstract talking points. The abundance of the land and sea was a third theme, heavily underscored in the company’s recruitment materials. Salmon, cod, lobsters, eels, fowl, deer, fur, the cutting of masts and timber, the making of iron, fields ripe for hemp and flax, all lay waiting for settlers, it was claimed, in a cornucopia of plenty. Some certainly believed that; perhaps many hoped as much.4 The private reasons, however, were more agonizing and filled with doubt. The most striking remnant of these early decision-making documents is the lengthy, hand-copied “General Observations for the Plantation of New England” that circulated among the leading settlement organizers in the winter of 1629–30. Arguments and objections, followed by answers and more objections, pressed on one another. Would it not be a great wrong to strip the church and country of so many of its best people? Was it lawful to take the land that


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other sons of Adam possessed as their own? Was there a clear biblical warrant for the undertaking? Had it not gone badly with other, similar ventures, even where the soil and climate were more promising than in New England?5 The last point was a weighty one. The mortality rate at the first Virginia settlement effort had been devastating. Out of the 105 members of that expedition who arrived in the summer of 1607, only thirty-eight were still alive in January.6 The death rate among those who sailed with Winthrop in 1630, while less severe, would prove daunting enough. Some two hundred of the first year’s voyagers to Massachusetts were to die, mainly from malnutrition and disease, before their initial winter was over.7 Despite the leadership’s reassurances to themselves that there was land enough for all, and that the natives, in any case, did not hold proper title to any of it, the New Englanders would find themselves savagely prosecuting war with one of their native trade rivals before the decade was out. On all these grounds, there were ample reasons for doubt. Many of the counterarguments in favor of the New England project were themselves tinged with pessimism. Particularly prominent was the burden of economic distress that had overwhelmed England in the 1620s. Poor harvests and a collapse in the woolen export trade on which the economy of East Anglia depended produced ripple effects all through the regions from which the emigration to New England would draw. Towns reported an alarming rise in the numbers of poor and vagrant workers, far beyond what their reserved food stocks could sustain. Even after the worst of the crisis had passed at the decade’s end, the depression’s effects persisted. “Many of our people perish for want of sustenance and employment, many others live miserably,” John Winthrop wrote explaining his decision to join the emigration project in the fall of 1629. “The whole land of the kingdom as it is reckoned is scarce sufficient to give employment to one half of the people: all our towns complain of the burden of poor people and strive by all means to rid any such as they have, and to keep

“As a City upon a Hill”


off such as would come to them.” 8 “This land grows weary of its inhabitants,” the authors of the “Reasons to be Considered, and Objections and Answers” urged in the same vein; “all towns complain of the burden of their poor.” 9 Wishing the Winthrop fleet’s emigrants farewell, John Cotton offered a highly qualified assurance that “when the hive of the commonwealth is so full that tradesmen cannot live one by another but eat up one another” there was ample moral ground to leave.10 Winthrop’s own lot was not so hard, but he, too, felt the pinch of the economic depression of the 1620s. He had a family of eight children to support on a manor that, already shrunken by division among his three adult sons, seemed to him less and less capable of bearing the costs of his household. His sons were adrift; the second of them has just squandered money in a tobacco investment in Barbados. Winthrop himself had once thought of striking out for Ireland to see if he could do better by joining the settlement of other English emigrants there. Now when an opportunity opened to leave, he felt he could not refuse it. “When a man is to wade through a deep water, there is required tallness, and if he finds it past his depth, and God open a gap another way, he may take it,” he wrote.11 More adequate “tallness” in a time of economic distress was part of the new world’s promise. In the colonists’ minds, however, hard economic times could not be isolated from what many feared was England’s still more terrifying fall from God’s favor. Every sign of decay—the overpopulation of the countryside so that “the land groaneth under her inhabitants,” the “spectacles of misery in all our streets,” and the burdens of poor relief—pointed not merely to a vicious turn of the economic cycle. They were the outward marks of God’s growing anger at England.12 So were the outbreaks of plague in the English cities and the military defeats of England’s Protestant allies in Bohemia, Denmark, and the German Palatinate. So were the intemperance in display and consumption at home, dishonesty and corruption in the trades, and the


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“licentious government” of the schools and seminaries.13 God was leaving England, Thomas Hooker wrote on the eve of his own departure to the Netherlands in 1631. “God is packing up his Gospel, because none will buy his wares.” When the fires of God’s wrath at his disobedient nation should pour out upon England, Hooker warned, the Turks and infidels “shall have a cooler summer parlor in Hell than you.”14 In the face of impending catastrophe, New England offered an escape. Who could know, but that God had carved out a small place of safety there for his godly remnant? Wrestling with the decision to stay or to leave in the spring of 1629, Winthrop wrote his wife, Margaret: “I am verily persuaded, God will bring some heavy affliction upon this land, and that speedily.” But “if the Lord seeth it will be good for us, he will provide a shelter and a hiding place for us and ours as a Zoar for Lott, Sarephtah for his prophet, etc.”15 Richard Mather, the first in a family line of illustrious New England ministers, likened the move to New England to Noah, to Lot, and to the “woman” in Revelation who is given wings to fly into the wilderness “for a time” to safety.16 To uproot oneself for New England, for many of the leaders of the expedition, was not to move to America but to flee from England, to escape the train of disasters they thought was about to overrun their home country. Setting an ocean between themselves and England in itself promised no safety from God’s wrath, even if Winthrop might have imagined for a moment huddling out of God’s punishing notice in New England. God’s eyes were all-seeing for orthodox Puritans; the vials of his wrath knew no continental boundaries. The shelter that escape to New England offered in its leading figures’ minds was the chance to organize their worship and churches in what they imagined to be their original form and purity. They hoped to live within God’s true ordinances, out from under the heavy hand and Catholic tendencies of the established English church and its bishops. They did not come for religious liberty in the sense we now understand it. They

“As a City upon a Hill”


did not come to innovate. They had come, John Cotton, the strictest of them, wrote, to escape from innovation, to be “freed from the bondage of . . . human inventions.”17 If God’s punishing hand was to pass over New England, it would be because there, uncorrupted, his laws would rule private and public affairs with particular visibility. These impulses added up to no simple, unified rationale for emigration. Winthrop himself cycled through more than one of them: anxiety about his private fortunes, fear of God’s anger at a morally and spiritually decaying England, the need for men of stature to take a hand in the project if its success were to be insured, and the quest for shelter in the impending providential storm. Within this tangle of statements of motive and mission, these pleas for money and recruits, these questions, doubts, and reassurances, what place did a sense of being set as a beacon to the world occupy? The idea stands out, heavily underlined in our mind’s eye, in the closing pages of “A Model of Christian Charity”: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us.” No other scrap of Puritan rhetoric has been quoted more often in modern times than this. No other has been invested with such heavy sense of meaning. But scour the surviving texts from the first years of the New England settlement and you will be extremely hard pressed to find it mentioned again. Winthrop never used the “city upon a hill” phrase in any of his other surviving writings, private or public, before or after 1630. None of the others who emigrated in the 1630s cited the phrase among their motives for leaving England. Not until 1646, when the eyes of Protestants everywhere were glued not to the remote Puritan outpost in Massachusetts but to the momentous events of a tumultuous civil war between a Catholic-leaning king and a Puritan-dominated Parliament in England, did a New England writer use the phrase again.18 There was nothing remote about the words themselves. The origins of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” phrase lay at the very heart of


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biblical Christianity, engraved in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus had delivered early in his preaching. In the book of Matthew’s retelling of that sermon, it opened with a series of blessings: on the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure in heart, and the seekers of righteousness. From there Jesus’s words pivoted suddenly to a note of caution. Though they would have their ultimate reward in heaven, those who followed him would find themselves on earth reviled and persecuted. And then the sermon pivoted again to reassurances. Scorned and mocked though they might be, they should rejoice and be glad. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” And finally: encouragement. “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”19 The long list of injunctions that forms the heart of the Sermon on the Mount immediately followed. But to the first Christian generation, outcasts in a hostile world, the motifs that saturated the “city on a hill” phrase were the themes of encouragement and comfort. In the centuries of commentary on the Matthew text that were to follow, the “ye” in the sermon went through many metamorphoses. To most of the term’s explicators, it was the church itself that stood as a city on a hill. In the polemical contests of the Reformation, Roman Catholicism’s defenders would underline that institutional claim. The church of St.  Peter had been from Christendom’s beginning the publicly visible, earthly manifestation of the City of God, Catholic writers insisted. Rather than take refuge in man’s mercurial, private conscience, the true Catholic Church had remained prominently, continuously visible to all.20 Puritan writers countered that the “city on a hill” stood not for the church of the popes but for the community of the godly and, above all, for the godly ministry. William Perkins, the most promi-

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nent of the English Puritan theologians, was explicit in this regard. The “ye” of the Sermon on the Mount applied to believers generally, but most particularly to the clergy who were the direct descendants of the disciples at Jesus’s feet.21 Calvin had made the same point concerning the ministry: “The eyes of all are turned upon them as upon a beacon.”22 “True ministers are like a light that shineth to all the house,” the English Puritan theologian Richard Baxter wrote later in the century: they are “like a City on a Hill that cannot be hid.”23 Other uses joined these in the phrase’s circulation through Protestant England. Sometimes particularly pious places were singled out. Colchester, England, was described in the early years of the English Reformation as “like unto a city upon a hill, or as a candle upon a candlestick” for “the earnest profession of the Gospel” there. Rye was described in the 1650s as “as a city set on an hill.”24 John Milton wrote of England itself in 1641 as “holding up, as from a hill,” a “light to all Christendom.”25 A word of caution often accompanied Reformation uses of the “city on a hill” phrase. In his Exposition on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Perkins took pains to warn ministers that the simile was not given to them as title of praise “but to make them acquainted with their hard condition” of prominence and exposure. In consequence of their “great and weighty calling” they could not escape being a “spectacle to all the world.”26 Lay believers bore the same double burden of honor and exposure. “Men will take notice of you, as they do of a City seated upon a Hill; if your Lives are not according to the rules of my Gospel, your Christianity, and Discipleship will soon be seen through, and you will quickly betray your Hypocrisy,” Anthony Horneck preached on the Matthew text.27 But in the case of “A Model of Christian Charity,” the move from glorification to warning is vastly more abrupt and the stakes of failure vastly larger. The Model gives its “city upon a hill” phrase only a sentence’s pause before the voice of admonition breaks in. In one of the many jump cuts from the New to the Old Testament that occur


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throughout the Model, Matthew’s text is almost immediately interrupted by the harsh, terrifying warnings of the prophets. Pairing the lines of the Model with the texts they paraphrased illustrates the point vividly. “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.”

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Matt. 5:14 (Geneva Bible)

“The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.”

“Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.” 2 Chron. 7:20 (King James Version)

“We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a going.”

“When ye shall transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and shall go and serve other gods, and bow yourselves to them; then shall the wrath of the Lord wax hot against you, and ye shall perish quickly out of the good land which he hath given you.” Josh. 23:16 (Geneva Bible)

The Model’s swerve from words of encouragement to visions of shame and disaster was less head-spinning to those steeped, like Winthrop and the New England ministerial elite, in the ineradicable sinfulness of human nature than it might now seem. Exaltation of one’s place in history and in the world was an invitation to moral collapse. Adam’s expulsion from Eden, Lucifer’s fall from heaven—tropes deeply etched in Puritan consciousness—witnessed as much. Imagining that the Puritan colony in New England might actually realize

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an image of perfection could not be unlinked from the anxiety of terrible failure. But there was something more immediate than the anxieties of pride at work in the Model’s reversals too: a sense that the project of emigration was a deeply precarious one, not only for those who undertook it but for those who remained behind. Launched under the scrutiny of the Puritan movement’s English critics, every misstep of the Puritan experiment in New England was sure to be magnified. Its errors would bear down in shame not only on its organizers but on every English Puritan. Its mistakes would become proverbs and stories: bywords in the mouths of their enemies. The “city upon a hill” image, as it steered Winthrop’s pen through these juxtapositions, was no mountaintop of faith, immune to time. Every thing was conditional. In the Sermon on the Mount, “light” surrounds the “city on a hill” phrase. “Ye are the light of the world. . . . Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” Winthrop’s mind had run right up to those words of exaltation, but the candlestick and light motifs occur nowhere in the Model. The Model’s “city upon a hill” was, before any of these, a place of exposure. Winthrop’s sense of living under the critical eyes of the world may have been heightened by his place at the head of the New England venture, but it was not his alone. In early 1632, John Winthrop Jr.’s friend Edward Howes wrote of his distress at hearing of the excessively cruel punishments that the magistrate John Endecott had imposed for scandalous speeches in Salem, Massachusetts. “If you endeavor in all mildness to do god’s work, he will preserve you from all the enemies of his truth,” Howes cautioned. But if not “there are here a thousand eyes watching over you to pick a hole in your coats.”28 William Fiennes, a prominent early backer of the Massachusetts Bay Company, cautioned John Cotton that he had heard more than he wished of its “rents and divisions.” “It behooveth you in that place who


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are a city set upon a hill to use all means to prevent his [the devil’s] slights and subtleties.”29 Much later at the seventeenth century’s end, a bawdy, anti-Puritan dictionary of English slang listed among the synonyms of “eminence”—“to be conspicuous, as a City set on a Hill cannot be hid.”30 It was the lot of the Puritans, and to some extent their desire as well, to live under the gaze of critics. The very name Puritan was a term of criticism that others imposed on them in critique of their excessive scrupulousness; they would have liked to have gone down in history simply as the “godly.”31 What Winthrop was reminding himself was that the New England venture might not provide a “hiding place” at all. It offered the emigrants no invulnerable refuge from their critics. It offered no refuge from their own self-scrutiny either, whose severity was to pour out from New England pulpits for the rest of the century in distress at the colony’s failures and backslidings. Finally, flight from England offered no respite from the judging gaze of God. To be as a city on a hill was to live, permanently and inescapably, in the conditional tense. Cutting the “city upon a hill” phrase down to size does not bring the motives with which the Massachusetts emigrants began their North Atlantic venture into any simple order. No people start out to live under what they imagine to be the purified ordinances of God without a prominent streak of pride—if not pride in their ability to hold themselves up to the task then, at least, pride in their ability to have discerned, better than others, what those rules required. Were the New Englanders to make good on their pledges to their God and keep his commandments and his laws, Winthrop would write in the sentences immediately preceding the Model’s “city upon a hill” line, “the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as his own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways.” He will strengthen our arms against our enemies. He “shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, the Lord make

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it like that of Massachusetts.” Succeeding plantations, Winthrop wrote, not nations: a model for future Puritan colonies. But in the context of 1630 that was ambition enough for a place in divine and human history. There were other ways in which the New England Puritans would give their cosmic confidence more expansive expression. But in 1630, confidence and doubt, visions of new world righteousness and vivid fear that if they slipped in their part, God’s anger could as easily break out in their new world hiding place as in decaying England—all these swirled together in the emigrant generation’s decisions and within Winthrop’s Model. They would not construct a city upon a hill in North America, in Winthrop’s words. They would be as a city upon a hill, whether they willed it or not. Repurposing the Matthew image, Winthrop drew from it a hauntingly sober moral. The eyes of all people would not be cast in simple wonder. The gaze of the Puritans’ religious and political enemies in England would be on them. The eyes of God would be unrelenting. Their own consciences would be under selfexamination. Out of this sense of nakedness the New England Puritans would strike out cruelly at their dissenters; their preachers would compulsively compile their sins and elaborate their faults. But they would also launch a project more open to self-criticism, even to a certain humility, than most in history’s annals. It is perhaps impossible now to put the “city upon a hill” line back into the place it occupied in Winthrop’s mind. A passing trope, a fleeting biblical extract among the dozens of others that scaffold the Model, it would never occur in his writings again. But to pull it into relief, nonetheless, is not to see the sense of radiance or invulnerability that later Americans would inject into the phrase. It was a phrase for a people living under a relentless sense of scrutiny.

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A Chosen People “


s a city upon a hill” was a line filled with ambiguity and anxiety. For a clearer measure of the pride that runs through “A Model of Christian Charity,” we must go back a dozen sentences earlier. “Thus stands the cause between God and us,” Winthrop had written there, as the Model moved from its opening themes to their application to the project at hand. God will expect more of us than before and more from us than from others; he will be all the more angry at our failings—all “in regard of the more near bond of marriage between him and us, wherein he hath taken us to be his after a most strict and peculiar manner.” “Taken us to be his” was no casual expression. It radiated confidence. Unlike Winthrop’s onetime use of the “city upon a hill” motif, his sense of a people bound in a special relationship with God saturated the Model as it was to saturate New England preaching for a century and more to come. Like Saul on the eve of his destruction of the Amalekites, God has given us a “special commission,” Winthrop wrote. “We are entered into covenant with him for this work.” “We have taken out a commission,” which by bringing us safely across the ocean God will “seal” and “ratify” and to which he will hold us strictly to account. To be as a city upon a hill was a condition from which there was no escape. To act on a commission from God, by contrast, was a choice: 44

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an act of the imagination weighted with self-importance. In claiming God’s “seal” on their work, the Model transfigured the New Englanders’ voyage from a flight to safety, as Winthrop had described it to his wife that spring, to an undertaking on God’s behalf. It was to conceive of that decision as fulfilling a covenant between themselves and their God. Holding the biblical parallels close to their hearts, it was to imagine themselves as stepping into the Old Testament part of God’s first chosen people. No other text from New England’s first decade ran the theme of pride as close to the limits of what a godly people could imagine. And yet here, too, the edge of anxiety could not be held out of sight. Ideas of contract and covenant were commonplace in early modern England. The great trading companies were products of contract, the Massachusetts Bay Company among them. Winthrop’s legal work had immersed him in a culture of contract. English Puritans had sealed their churches by a mutual pledge among their members when they could do so without attracting the hostility of their bishops. They would apply the covenant model even more thoroughly in New England. They formed their churches by mutual covenants. They chose their ministers and other public authorities by consent, joining in a covenant with each other to serve and to obey.1 In constructing the project for New England, Winthrop wrote in the Model, the New Englanders had drawn up the “articles” of their own intentions and pledged to hold each other to those obligations. Ladders of infinitely graded authority and status ascending from peasant to king controlled the symbolic system of orthodox England. The Puritans, by contrast, were people of contract. But in the social contracts that seventeenth-century Puritans made with each other, God was an essential partner. New England magistrates ruled by a three-part covenant, Winthrop would later write, between the colony’s freemen, the magistrates they elected, and the God whose laws they were pledged to serve. Similarly, in the


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covenant with which the emigrants had embarked on their project to New England, though the voyagers had drawn up their own terms, ultimately God was the empowering party. Obedience would be the rent that the emigrants would owe their divine “landlord,” as John Cotton put it.2 Joining mutually with one another, they had offered up to God the articles of their contract and received it back as their “sealed” commission. Biblical history offered the New Englanders a wealth of examples. God’s contract with Adam lay at their root, along with Adam’s example of the wages of disobedience. But the stories that riveted early modern Puritan imaginations most strongly were the stories of the Israelites: the people whom God had chosen as his own, to bind in a covenant of law and obedience apart from all other people of the world. Their travails, their struggles to keep up their end of the bargain and never-ending failures to do so, their pride, their lamentations, their sense of chosenness and their fears of abandonment lay at the very heart of the Puritan leadership’s understanding of history and themselves. The Puritans’ sense of living within the terms of their Bible’s Old Testament flowed in part from the high drama of its stories, broadcast now to every pious reader. But it was framed, even more, by a distinctive way of thinking about history and time. An idea of human history as in constant motion, propelled ceaselessly toward the new and unexpected, was not the world in which Winthrop’s contemporaries lived. They thought of historical time as a succession of already prefigured events, as a plot whose broad outlines had already been written in God’s mind and intentions. That was what Puritans meant by the “designs of providence.” In this reading of time and circumstances, every occurrence carried the marks of divine intention. A military victory or battlefield defeat, a stroke of good material fortune or a crippling loss, a plague or a recovery: however obscure their grounds might initially appear, all issued in one way or another from

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a larger cosmic purpose. Within this providentialist understanding of history, there were no accidents. Thus when a particularly profane sailor on the Arbella died or when Winthrop heard that a mouse had eaten through an Anglican prayer book but stopped gnawing when it reached the Gospels, he could be sure that God’s hand was at work.3 For those who worked within the circles of John Calvin’s massive influence on Reformation ways of thinking, as the English Puritans did, there was still more. The Bible, as they understood it, prefigured itself. The events of the Old Testament preenacted the events of the New; events of the present day had their prefigurements in both. To live within this sense of time, as Winthrop injected it into the Model, was to live within a nearly endless array of historical analogies. The technical name for this way of relating the Old and New Testaments was “typology.” It offered Bible-learned Protestants a technique for mapping the authority of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures onto each other as “types” and “antitypes” of the same divine script and intention. Jesus’s forty days of purification in the wilderness was the antitype of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the desert. Jonah’s emergence intact from the belly of a whale was the type of the resurrected Christ, rising from the tomb and the belly of the world to heaven.4 Typology was a way of joining the disparate books of the Bible into a single whole. When the same habits of analogical reasoning moved out into the secular world, its mappings of worldly events onto those events’ biblical foreshadowings were less exact. It would be more accurate to call this worldly application of typological reasoning a way of “thinking in biblical time.” But whatever we choose to call it, its impact on the experience of figures like Winthrop was foundational. Every event for those who lived in biblical time had its scriptural analogue. Straining to parse out their right to occupy the land of New England’s native inhabitants, the designers of the Massachusetts Bay project could barely get started on the question without appealing to


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analogies between themselves and the position of Abraham among the Sodomites, Joshua’s incursion on the Canaanites’ land, or Jacob’s bargain with Laban.5 To fly from a place of persecution to one of safety and potential future ser vice: Was that not analogous to Joseph’s flight from Judea or the flight of the “woman” in the book of Revelation into the wilderness?6 When the French Catholic royal governor of Acadia showed up unexpectedly and alarmingly in Boston in 1643 with his forty troops and accompanying friars, Winthrop’s journal shows a man desperately turning over the possible biblical analogues—Jehoshaphat’s entertainment of Ahazia, Josiah’s aid to the king of Babylon, Solomon’s presents to the queen of Sheba, and so on—to help discern the analogy that would show what the colony’s response should be.7 Within this context it was all but impossible to doubt that the chosen people of biblical Israel had their analogues somewhere in the modern world. The orthodox Christian interpretation held that all of Christendom was now the fulfillment of God’s election of ancient Israel. But in a world of rising nationalisms, it was hard for persons immersed in Bible-reading cultures to resist the idea that old Israel called out for a new Israel like itself. English nationalists were particularly possessed by the new Israel theme. Assertion that God had “tied himself to this whole nation” was “a commonplace of commonplaces,” the historian Michael McGiffert writes of early modern English literature. The late sixteenth-century English author and playwright John Lyly felt no blasphemy in praising God for taking special care of England “as of a new Israel, his chosen and peculiar people.” At the coronation of William and Mary, England’s new sovereigns were assured that “it may be affirmed without any arrogant preferring our own Nation to others, or any partiality for ourselves, in imagining that we are God’s favorite People; that within this last Age . . . we have had such a Series of Deliverances, as perhaps cannot be matched in History, since that of the Israelites coming out of Egypt.” 8 The same

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analogies saturated the language of Dutch nationalism. Dutch Calvinist preachers thanked God that you “have dealt kindly with us, even as you have led the Children of Israel from their Babylonian prison. . . . You brought us dry-footed even as the people of yore, with Moses and with Joshua, were brought to their Promised Land.”9 Acts of colony making, too, found themselves wrapped in biblical analogies. After reading about the prospect of English settlement in Newfoundland, the Rev. Richard Eburne wrote with inspired delight in 1624, “I do thereby after a sort, as blessed Moses from Mount Nebo . . . view and behold with the eyes of my mind those goodly countries which there God doth offer to give unto us and to our seed.”10 An advocate for the colonization of the Georgia coast could not resist pointing out that it lay on the same latitude as “that promised Canaan, which was pointed out by God’s own choice, to bless the labors of a favorite people.”11 If the natives should resist, another colonization advocate advised, the English should do as the Israelites had done in Canaan and expel them, for “every example in the scripture is a precept.”12 Moses searching out for more favorable lands for settlement, like Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, were to those living in biblical time, transportable events—precedent and authorization for the Europeans who were now beginning to swarm into the new world. All these were analogies and consciously held so. Press them too closely to literal truth, and one slid over the brink into blasphemy. For seventeenth-century Christian believers, there had been only one explicitly chosen people. Only the people of Moses had received their tablets of laws directly from God; only one nation had heard God’s voice in a burning bush or been led by a pillar of fire. All the other peoples who claimed a parallel place in providential history had to make do with similarities. The line between likeness and outright identity was thin but important. Indeed, a few of Winthrop’s contemporaries denied the parallels with biblical Israel altogether. There were no new, chosen nations of


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God in the modern world, Roger Williams, for one, objected: “The pattern of the national church of Israel was a non-such, unimitable by any civil state” in any of the nations of the present day.13 The Plymouth colony’s organizer, Robert Cushman, made the same point: “Neither is there any land or possession now, like unto the possession which the Jews had in Canaan. . . . We are in all places strangers and Pilgrims, travelers, and sojourners . . . our home is no where, but in the heavens.”14 But most pressed their analogies with God’s first chosen people right up to the breaking point. That number included John Winthrop. In the Model he did not explicitly declare that the New England Puritans were “chosen” by God for their part. Nowhere did he claim direct succession to the place of the biblical Israelites. Seventy-two years later, the most learned of the Boston ministers, Cotton Mather, would style Winthrop as New England’s “Nehemiah,” rebuilder of Jerusalem’s temple.15 But Winthrop himself never styled his New England a new Jerusalem or a New World Canaan. Winthrop did something else in the last pages of the Model: a claiming of the Bible’s words as his people’s own that was, in its own way, far more remarkable. In the first sections of the Model, Winthrop’s scriptural citations ranged widely through the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, with Paul’s injunctions to charity as their most frequent single source. But in the last pages on the “application” of these precepts to the project at hand, parallels with the chosen people of the Old Testament rushed into Winthrop’s mind and imagination. Saul’s failure to live up to the terms of the commission God had given him came to mind. So did God’s double-edged promise to Amos: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”16 If the New Englanders should keep the terms of their covenant, Winthrop wrote, “we shall find that the God of Israel is among us.” But if they failed, as the Bible’s chosen people

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had failed so often, God would make them know the price of disobedience: “We shall be made a story and a byword through the world.” The words and structure of that line were virtually a literal appropriation from Deuteronomy. There an angry Moses had warned his people that if they should defy God’s commandments yet again they would be cursed in their lands and bodies; they would be assailed with inflammation, pestilence, and mildews; rain would fall on them as powder and dust; locusts would consume their trees and crops; “and thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.”17 In the last three pages of the Model there is hardly a sentence that does not literally repeat or paraphrase, like this one, an Old Testament original. If Winthrop did not have all of these committed to memory, he surely had a Bible close at hand as he reached the Model’s climax. Its final peroration comes almost word for word from Deuteronomy’s record of Moses’s words to his people before they were finally to cross to their promised land beyond the banks of the River Jordan: “Behold, I have set before thee this day life and good, death and evil.” Almost word for word, but not quite. Into the biblical text Winthrop added phrases and substitutions that possessed the text for the New England Puritans even before they came close to possessing their promised land. Moses had commanded his people to keep the laws and commandments. Reiterating the Model’s central theme, Winthrop added another injunction: “to love one another.” Moses had cautioned his people not to be seduced by other gods; Winthrop raised the stakes by warning his people not to be seduced either by other gods or by “our pleasures and profits.” If they fell grievously short, Moses had warned his people that they would “surely perish . . . in the land whither thou passeth over Jordan to possess it.” Winthrop warned they would “surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it.”18


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The Jordan River’s transmutation into the Atlantic Ocean, casual as it may seem now, was no minor slip of the tongue. It was as if a minor player in a theater company had stepped forward to declaim Henry V’s lines, editing them so that the alteration better fit his character. The Puritans believed in the sacredness of words. Above all they treasured the biblical word. They distrusted wordplay and they despised the flowery, metaphorical preaching of their non-Calvinist rivals. All this makes the conscious word-slippage in the Model all the more remarkable. Winthrop did not announce there that the Puritans were the heirs to the exclusive relationship with God that Moses’s people had held. Close as he was to come in later moments, he never made that claim explicitly. God might hold multiple commissions, after all, and dwell simultaneously with many peoples. In “A Model of Christian Charity” Winthrop did something else that was, in its own way, just as hubristic. Letting the distinction between the emigrants to New England and the children of Abraham all but dissolve, he appropriated the words of the Bible’s chosen people as the Puritans’ own. He borrowed their speech. He voiced the part. In all these ways, pride saturated the Model’s closing section. But doubts and questions could not be left behind. For where, exactly, was the New Englanders’ new Israel? The question is rarely asked, as if the answer were self-evident: in America itself. But in the early years of the New England venture that was anything but clear. “Be not unmindful of our Jerusalem at home,” John Cotton had preached to the departing Winthrop fleet.19 Cotton’s own heart, for the moment, was still in England, but the plea was not merely a personal one. The issue of England’s place among the chosen people went to the core of the first New England generation’s identity problem. They were leaving England, Thomas Hooker preached in defense of emigration, because God had given up on England: “God is going. His glory is departed from England.” But that God had first chosen England as his special people was inextricable from the theme that

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God’s patience was being exhausted. Hooker’s progressive verbs (“God is packing up his Gospel”), like Winthrop’s (God is “turning” the “ bitter cup of tribulation” on us in England), spoke to a God who had still not rescinded England as his first choice among modern nations.20 In their formal statement of farewell to their English brethren, Winthrop and the project’s leaders professed themselves “a Church springing out of your own bowels,” a “weak colony from yourselves” like one of the small, distant churches Paul had planted. “Such hope and part as we have obtained in the common salvation, we have received in her [England’s] bosom, and sucked from her breasts.”21 It was safer to leave, of course, with assertions of common love than with a cleaner break. In other contexts, different terms would be more useful. Defending their invasion of Native Americans’ land, the New Englanders seized on analogies with Canaan. Had not Joshua fought his way into the promised land? Had not God decimated the Canaanites with a plague, precisely like the plague that was decimating the Native American population around them?22 Yet in still other contexts, the language of place shifted once more. New England Puritans dotted the land with settlements whose names looked back to those they left behind in England (Boston, Dorchester, Cambridge, Lynn, Weymouth), but they did not found any Canaans until the eighteenth century. And other terms were much less prideful. “Our Macedonia,” Thomas Dudley called New England in 1630; worse, the emigrants were “almost as the Egyptians” given the terrible death rate of the colony’s first year.23 Often New England writers described their land as a “wilderness”—though rarely did they mean by “wilderness” the place of purification and atonement through which Moses had led his people. Theirs was a “wilderness, where there are nothing but wild beasts and beastlike men,” Winthrop wrote at a low point in the colony’s fortunes.24 “A rude and unsubdued wilderness,” Richard Mather characterized Massachusetts.25 A place of “nothing but care


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and temptations.”26 In terms like these, the New England Puritans stressed not their central place in providential history but their distance from it. Writing in dismay at the prospect of a revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Company’s charter in 1646, the Massachusetts magistrates reminded the Commissioners for Foreign Plantations of the immense labor the New Englanders had expended in raising “these poor infant plantations” in “this remote part of the world.” They hoped their arguments would prevail even if they could only plead their case as “such poor rustics as a wilderness can breed up.”27 Every reference of this sort was a reference with a purpose. It was more strategic in petitioning the authorities at home for the New Englanders to present themselves as poor rustics than as founders of a new Israel. Winthrop came closest to equating the Massachusetts colony with God’s promised land when others disparaged or threatened to desert it. When the Puritan magnate Lord Saye and Sele undertook to divert English emigrants from New England to the rival venture in the West Indies in which Saye and Sele was deeply invested, Winthrop could barely contain his anger. “How evident it was,” he wrote Saye and Sele, “that God had chosen this country to plant his people in, and therefore how displeasing it would be to the Lord, and dangerous to himself, to hinder this work.”28 Saye and Sele wrote back in kind to warn Winthrop that he was verging on blasphemy by “misapply[ing] scriptures in this manner . . . by assuming . . . that there is the like call from God for your going to that part of America and fixing there, that there was for the Israelites going to the land of promise and fixing there” when good reason showed that there were better grounds for moving elsewhere. “I will grant you that God is with you, that you are glorious churches,” but what grounds in scripture was there to resist the conclusion that, now that they had been carried to safety in their wilderness and “sheltered by a gracious providence” until their strength and numbers increased, they should not now move to a place of better soil and less bitter coldness where they

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“might do more ser vice” than in the remote place in which they now found themselves?29 Winthrop’s counterthrust of biblical references has not been preserved. But he took his revenge in his journal by noting that one of those who left Massachusetts for the West Indies had all his hay burned by his discontented servants and that Lord Saye and Sele and his company had ultimately lost more than 60,000 pounds on their investment when a Spanish fleet overran their colony.30 Another scoffer, Winthrop reported with satisfaction, lost both his freedom and his fortune when, deserting Massachusetts to return home to England, he was seized as a slave by Turkish sailors.31 The New Englanders were as like as any others to the new Israelites of their times; at the same time they were a “people poor and contemptible” in their remote and distant wilderness. Theirs was a central act in divine and human history; theirs was an act among many in a church that was “universal without respect of countries” or “places.”32 That God was with them, those who stayed in New England did not doubt. But where else might he be? Jerusalem was also at home in England, John Cotton had reminded them. The boundaries of the territory they imagined God to have claimed for his own people were in constantly unsettled motion. All of these issues of geographical place and stability, in conscious play in the writings of the first New England generation, muddled the analogy with God’s chosen people that Winthrop’s echoes of Mosaic language seemed to make so plain. Still more, if place was less certain than we have been led to expect, so was the question of time and permanence. For if God chose a place and a people, could he unchoose them? Was the act of making a chosen people irrevocable? This was not an abstract question for the New Englanders. And their answer this time was unequivocal. They were leaving England because, having been elected by God as his own, the land’s mounting


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sins were driving God to abandon it. In the scriptural type that was biblical Israel, God had scourged and plagued and scolded his people, but he never got around to cutting them off fully. If there was no ease in being a chosen people, in Old Testament history there was at least a stubborn fixity in it. For the chosen people living in the modern antitype of biblical Israel, by contrast, there was only conditionality. God stayed as long as his covenant was kept. Break it, and he would choose another, better people. God could “cast off a People, and unchurch a Nation,” Connecticut’s founder Thomas Hooker preached. He could sue out “a bill of divorcement.” He could reduce his Jerusalems to rubble and leave his Protestant churches on the continent strewn with bodies of the dead. He could say, “Ye are not my people.”33 Somewhat less harrowingly, he could remove the candlesticks from those he had once chosen. This was what Concord’s minister Peter Bulkeley meant by his reference to a city upon a hill in 1646. Having pledged to be “a special people, an only people” so that there “were none like thee in all the earth,” neglect of the New Englanders’ covenant with God would bring all the more severe consequences. Take heed that God should not “remove thy candlestick out of the midst of thee,” Bulkeley wrote, that “being now as a City upon a hill, which many seek unto, thou be left like a Beacon on the top of a mountain, desolate and forsaken.”34 This acute sense of the conditionality of God’s promises ran as an abiding thread through Puritan preaching. God planted, John Cotton preached; but an angry and disappointed God could “root you out again.”35 Winthrop underscored the point in the Model: play falsely with God and “we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.” We shall “open the mouths of enemies,” their curses shall turn against us, and we will be “consumed out of the good land whither we are a going.” None of this should be taken to dismiss the force of the chosen people theme in “A Model of Christian Charity.” Winthrop’s seizure of

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Moses’s lines for the New Englanders’ purposes has to go down among the striking acts of the English Reformation. His appropriation of the language of God’s chosen people, his repurposing of the scriptural text for the New Englanders’ own circumstances, his reading of God’s providential hand in every detail of their venture, his confidence that he could pierce the analogies between modern and biblical time: these were all audacious acts. Roger Williams quailed at the hubris he saw in them. But in our certainty that we can read all the rest of the modern American nation in the closing section of the Model, we have not read it nearly as seriously as we should. To fold the history of biblical Israel into the history of New England was striking enough. But nothing in that act clarified exactly where the territory of a chosen people, now spread across an ocean, might lie. Nothing guaranteed its permanence. Nothing assured its future. Conditionality, not assurance, governed the modern life of a chosen people. And Winthrop’s colony was not alone. There were chosen peoples and sacred projects, bigger and still more confident than New England of their place in God’s plan for history, all over the early modern Atlantic world.

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New England in a World of Holy Experiments


he impulse to set up a new, purer society as an example to a misshapen world is a dream as old as humankind. Folklores have reverberated with the theme. All religious revitalization movements have been touched by it, including the Puritans’. The standing obstacle to the work of constructing new model worlds is not the limits of mind but space enough—geographical, cultural, and political—to allow the work of imagination to be put into practice. The sudden expansion of European ambitions across the Atlantic Ocean in the century and a half before the writing of “A Model of Christian Charity” was, in that regard, a transformative event. It did not inaugurate the dream of building cities on a hill for humankind to emulate. But it accelerated that impulse and scattered its products far from the remote shores of New England. The Europeans’ “discovery” of the Americas, as it is still conventionally called, does not do justice to the immense consequences of one continent’s people’s sudden intrusion on another. Within a generation of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, awareness that Europeans had stumbled on a hemisphere as vast as the one they thought they had already mapped and understood worked a profound 58

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impact on European consciousness. As the environmental historian Donald Worster writes, it was as if a “second earth” had floated in from outer space to embrace and suddenly double the world the Europeans knew.1 The shock changed everything they understood about the limits of material possibilities. A radically new belief in the inexhaustible resources of the earth rushed in with profound and lasting consequences. So, still more, did a sense of the possibilities of power. For the early modern nations with seagoing capacity and experience, the dimensions across which economic and political domination could be projected expanded dramatically. The conceivable bounds of conquest, extraction, exploitation, and trade multiplied overnight. Empires were to be made in the “second earth.” Populations, both slave and free, were set in global motion on a scale unknown before. Consciousness of the sudden arrival of a second earth changed religious and historical imaginations as well. If the Americas quickly evolved into a site of war and devastating disease, gold and resource extraction, forced labor and imperial rivalry, the new American hemisphere offered an outlet for spiritual ambitions as well. The Americas became a screen for the projection of European longings: for biblical prophecies, millennial visions, utopian experiments, and models of social perfection. There had been cities on a hill in Europe before: holy undertakings, as their founders imagined them, closer to the social templates that God had mandated than the world had yet seen. But after 1492 the scale of those ambitions dramatically expanded.2 Reset within this context, Winthrop’s Model reads differently than it does within a carefully trimmed ensemble of U.S.-focused texts or the nationalist formulas of political oratory. In an Atlantic world saturated with spiritual visions, rife with projected biblical analogues, and dotted with godly experiments, what is most striking is not the audacity of the New England project but how much more common its impulse was than exceptionalist American history has portrayed


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it—and how much more distant from the attention of the world it lay than the prouder and more visible Zions elsewhere. In this cascade of holy experiments, the Spanish seized the promise of the second earth first. For the first two centuries after Columbus’s landfall, the preponderance of power was theirs. Appropriating the continents’ main sources of human and material wealth early, they were soon extracting resources from the Americas on a scale virtually no empire had enjoyed before them. Greed, cruelty, and violence shaped those processes from the very beginning. Gold, sugar, and slaves were packed aboard the ships sailing to and from Spanish America, along with armies of mercenary soldiers and imperial administrators. But partly because of their amazement at Spain’s providential turn of fortune, annalists of the Spanish conquest almost immediately saturated it with scriptural and prophetic meaning. Like the New England elite over a century later, they could barely understand the new hemisphere outside the types and prophecies of the Bible. For some, the Americas were the new Canaan that had been promised to God’s chosen people. For others, they held out hopes of fallen man’s return to paradise. Still others imagined the Americas were destined to be the site of the world’s last, apocalyptic battle between the forces of God and Satan at the terrifying end of which New Jerusalem might descend from the heavens into its midst.3 Through speculative analogies like these, John Phelan writes, Spanish publicists enveloped their overseas empire with a “huge corpus of political-ecclesiastical theory.”4 Columbus was one of the first to see holy visions in the New World. He was a man whose mind was drenched with gold fever, though never solely for riches’ sake. “In carrying out the enterprise of the Indies, I was served neither by reason, nor by mathematics, nor by world map; simply, what Isaiah said was fulfilled,” he would later (and only partly disingenuously) justify his work.5 With the riches he hoped would flow from the Americas, Columbus urged, the

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crusaders’ dream of conquering Jerusalem could at last succeed and the millennium brought that much closer at hand. When that first vision failed, Columbus imagined on his last voyage an even more startling one: that he had seen off the coast of the Americas the waters of paradise itself, flowing from Eden’s gates into the sea. “To venture into the attitudinal dimensions” of Columbus’s life, Leonard Sweet wrote years ago, “is to take a medieval journey into mysticisms, dreams, visions, poetry, monasticism, crusading ideology, prophecies, messianic illusions, apocalypticism, and millennialism.” 6 Modern scholars would add heavy doses of economic ambition, technological skill, and Renaissance rationality to that jumble as well. But they were not Columbus’s alone. Sacred and secular ambitions swirled together in mixtures whose ingredients circulated across the hemispheres. The Franciscan friars, who first arrived in 1524, were particularly fervent carriers of biblical ambitions into the Americas. Like the English Puritans a century later, they lived in a world of scriptural analogies and providential anticipations, where sacred and human history flowed interchangeably into each other. The Americas gave them an extraordinary new field of ambition. Encountering an unexpected hemisphere of persons outside the bounds of Christian faith, early Franciscan missionaries swelled with visions of a mass conversion of the continent’s native peoples, at whose climax the rush to sacred end-time would surely begin. At their high point, the Franciscans claimed to be converting forty thousand persons a week in the “new Canaan” of America. “Oh Mexico! . . . Your fame will rightly fly abroad,” the Franciscans’ most ardent publicist enthused. “Then you were a Babylon, full of confusion and evil; now you are another Jerusalem, mother of provinces and kingdoms.”7 Others dreamed of rebuilding the physical outlines of Jerusalem in the Americas. The Spanish conquerors planted four-square, gridded cities across their New World empire, in part because their rectilinear order made land easier to survey, allot, and defend, but


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also because, in the minds of many Spanish American city designers, their checkerboard layouts were thought to mirror the biblical “type” of Moses’s army’s encampments in the wilderness. With similar analogues in mind, the most ambitious of the Spanish American church builders took their plans from models that they imagined replicated, with pious precision, the scale and proportions of the temple Ezekiel had envisioned for Jerusalem itself.8 This sense of anticipating or recapitulating sacred history was not an alternative vision to the greed and enormously destructive violence that these same conquerors brought to the Americas. All it took to condone massive violence against the natives was a slip of the imagination so that the native people, who were the continent’s most puzzling anomaly since the Bible writers seemed to have so little inkling of them, could shift from being potential Christian converts to rebel tribes that had been tossed out of God’s covenant, or, worse, devils: armies of Satan whom it was a glory and a pleasure to murder. Even William Bradford of the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, far less full of providential self-confidence than Winthrop, could write of the massacre of four hundred Pequod natives, burned, slain with swords, or hacked to pieces: “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire . . . horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they [the Pilgrims] gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.” 9 There was nothing inherently gentle in imagining oneself in the vanguard of sacred time and space. What was all but inescapable was the colonizers’ sense of acting a pivotal part in providential history, where the sacred and the secular melded into one. Along with visions of holy place and time came ambitions to construct model societies in miniature: templates for a better world. These experiments in godly social engineering found their niche in the peripheries of Spanish America rather than its urban centers, its silver-mining cores, or its great agricultural encomiendas—just as the

World of Holy Experiments


New England Puritans found their niche on an outer edge of the British Atlantic. But the seriousness of these ambitions to set a new pattern for human society cannot be discounted. A particularly welldocumented case was the work of Vasco de Quiroga, bishop of Michoacán in sixteenth-century Mexico. A prominent figure in the judiciary establishment in New Spain who had read Thomas More’s Utopia, de Quiroga set out to construct Utopia’s real-world analogues with Native American inhabitants. Communally owned property, rotation between farm and urban labor, simple clothing, and a limited form of representative government formed its ingredients. The still more famous Dominican defender of Native Americans against Spanish American slave raiders, Bartolomé de las Casas, constructed a similar venture in what is now present-day Guatemala in the mid-sixteenth century. First burning the existing native dwellings and sacred sites to cleanse the way, he replaced them with a plan far closer to a holy ideal than the straggling villages that would characterize New England until the eighteenth century: church and community buildings, straight streets, and central plaza looking straight up to the heavens.10 The most famous of these New World Zions was the work of the Jesuits in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Paraguay. Begun almost contemporaneously with the Puritan settlement of New England, the Jesuit missionaries constructed a network of some thirty precisely planned villages for Native American converts. The “Guarani republic,” some of its admirers called it. The Jesuit missions were laid out, all on the same model, on a grid with a church and huge public plaza at their center. Within them, their Native American inhabitants were not only to be converted to Christianity but disciplined to European-style civilization. Mills, granaries, butcher shops, foundries, and common fields for the production of livestock, cotton, wool, and tea undergirded their economies. Hospitals, printing presses, and schools for trade education and literacy reeducated bodies and minds. Discipline was intensive and inescapable. Drummers awakened the mission populations each morning. Medical aides checked each


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household every day for signs of sickness. Daily attendance at Mass was mandatory. Sunday afternoons were punctuated by dances, games, theatrical performances, or a parade.11 The scale of the Jesuits’ project in Paraguay was as striking as the elaborate cords of discipline it wrapped around its inhabitants. The largest of the missions held a population one and a half times the size of Boston in the 1680s. All told 140,000 persons, six times the total population of New England at the time of Winthrop’s death, lived in one of the Paraguay missions at the system’s height. Their central churches grew increasingly grand and ornate, covered with gold leaf and ornament, the largest capable of holding up to six thousand persons. Except for the Guarani language, which the Jesuit administrators assiduously preserved, the project was premised on a deliberate destruction of Native American culture. At the same time, it offered highly vulnerable native populations (“this nation of Israel,” one of the mission superintendents called them) a refuge from the slavers and labor-greedy encomenderos who preyed on them.12 The Jesuits did not advertise their Guarani settlements with the phrase “cities on a hill.” But like las Casas and de Quiroga they advertised their sacred and moral ambitions far more aggressively than the New England Puritans. Voltaire knew and wrote admiringly of them. So did other prominent writers of the day.13 Ultimately the Spanish Crown’s expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish America in 1767 broke the system the Paraguay missionaries had labored to create. But in terms of reputation, they were the most prominent examples of the impulse to create new world models of piety and virtue that John Winthrop’s day contained. There was a second godly experiment much better known in New England and even more visible to the early modern world. That was the Dutch Republic, the most gloriously successful combination of

World of Holy Experiments


wealth, power, and Calvinist-Puritan piety that the seventeenth century afforded. The Massachusetts colony paled in comparison. The Dutch Republic was not a New World entity, but the New World was key to its fortunes. Dutch merchants drew their wealth from the sea, tapping the long-distance trade of Asia and the Americas. By the end of the seventeenth century, the commercial ship tonnage owned by Dutch investors exceeded that of all of its European competitors combined.14 Dutch vessels reached out to India, China, Africa, the West Indies, and Brazil carrying spices, sugar, slaves, and other trade goods. In turn, the riches that poured into the Netherlands from these enterprises underwrote one of the most striking flowerings of art, science, and learning in early modern Europe. The Dutch bourgeoisie built not only a world of wealth and culture but one of the most open societies in Europe. In a world where monarchy was the nearly unbroken rule, mid-seventeenth century Holland was a republic. Although Catholics still suffered church and civil liabilities under the United Provinces’ proudly Protestant civic culture, the Dutch Republic came closer to a working model of religious toleration in the early seventeenth century than any other major power of its day. The New England partisan Edward Johnson might deride the Dutch confusion of sects and churches as a “hods-podge, the great mingle-mangle of Religion,” but Holland’s openness to religious nonconformity made it a magnet for Protestant dissenters.15 The Pilgrims’ flight to New England after their unhappy stay in Holland in 1607–1620 was an exception to the larger pattern. During a single six-month period in 1637, twice as many English emigrants left the port of Yarmouth, the principal doorway from Puritan-dominated East Anglia, for the Netherlands as left for New England.16 And nowhere else, in either the old hemisphere or the new, did the Calvinistic language of a chosen people in covenant with their God reverberate so strongly. “Every Sunday (at least) a cascade of rhetoric would crash down from the pulpit, invoking the destiny of


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the Hebrews as though the congregation were itself a tribe of Israel,” the chronicler of the Dutch Republic’s golden age Simon Schama writes. God had brought them out of their captivity to the Spanish Crown, “even as the people of yore, with Moses and with Joshua, were brought to their Promised land . . . even as you have led the Children of Israel from their Babylonian prison.” Now to the world the Dutch Republic offered a model. “Lines dividing history and scripture dissolved as the meaning of Dutch independence and power was attributed to the providential selection of a new people to be as a light unto the nations,” Schama writes.17 Ordeal, exodus, and redemption: the covenantal promise of a chosen people and the providential blessings of wealth, power, and civilization—these were the themes of seventeenth-century Dutch republican culture, broadcast loudly and unabashedly to the world. Like most such experiments, the Dutch experiment in godly republicanism was not ultimately to last. Caught up in war and the imperial rivalries that its prominence on the global stage made all but inescapable, the United Provinces found itself saddled with an imposed, de facto monarch in the 1670s and saw its wealth and power slip in the decades afterward. But in Winthrop’s generation of the early seventeenth century, the Calvinist Netherlands was the most luminous and important Protestant “city on a hill” in the early modern world. On a continent riddled with privilege, intolerance, and violence, Schama writes, “the Dutch Republic was the Great SeventeenthCentury Exception.”18 Still nearer at hand by the end of the seventeenth century was William Penn’s “holy experiment” three hundred miles to the south of Boston. Fond as Quakers were of the “city on a hill” motif in their own writing as a constant reminder to themselves that their faith should be a model to others, Penn did not use the phrase in his advertisements for his colony along the Delaware River. Nor did he employ the New Jerusalem motif. But that Penn hoped that from his design

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would emerge not only a refuge for his fellow Quakers but a more perfect society than the world had ever seen brought to practical realization before was not in doubt. Penn’s hope for his colony was nothing less than that there, as he put it, “an example may be set up to the nations” of the world.19 At its material base Pennsylvania was an economic venture. Dependent on recouping his costs through land sales, Penn dispatched agents throughout Britain, Ireland, and the Protestant German states to find hard-working husbandmen and craftsmen seeking the “improvement of their own happiness.” Fertile soil and “sober and free men,” Penn promised, would together produce a diffused general wealth unknown anywhere in Europe. To England, Pennsylvania offered an advantage as well, Penn urged, as a safety valve against the influx of country folk into the already swarming English cities. None of the other colony founders worked in an idiom of market rationality as direct as Penn’s.20 But the model-society theme was as fully present in Penn’s project as in the gilded churches of Jesuit Paraguay. By the colony’s founding in the 1680s, the religious radicalism of Quakerism’s early days had begun to wane. The zeal for disruption that had landed Penn in an English jail for open-air preaching and that sealed Mary Dyer’s hanging in Boston in 1660 for defiance of the authorities had begun to give way to a more ordered imperative of inner self-control. A peaceable, tolerant beacon to a strife-ridden world was the Penn colony’s promise. Pennsylvania’s holiness was not to be measured in religious orthodoxy but its fostering of a more “brotherly” way of life than any society had realized before it. Nowhere else in greater Britain and its empire were the ideals we now associate with the promise of contemporary America as strongly or clearly pronounced as in Penn’s colony: self-government, economic self-advancement, the rewards of hard work and honest trade, eagerness for new immigrants, truthfulness in commerce, fair dealings with the native peoples, widely diffused education, and religious toleration.


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It was Penn’s vision, not Winthrop’s, that carried the promise of British America to its most ardent European admirers. Voltaire knew of Penn’s work and wrote glowingly of it as a “new spectacle to the world.”21 Popular versions of that same reputation made Pennsylvania a magnet for the economically ambitious and for religious nonconformists throughout northern Europe. Where New England’s inmigration flows stagnated after 1640, Pennsylvania swelled with immigrants. Between 1700 and 1760, the colony’s population grew at a rate four and a half times that of Massachusetts’.22 Not even the Dutch Republic opened the gates of religious and ethnic toleration wider than did Penn’s Pennsylvania. The bourgeois society that the Quaker merchant elite erected on Penn’s initial plan was not to everyone’s taste. Although armored by their plain dress, plain manners, and not-so-plain sense of moral superiority, the Quakers’ ability to set the moral and political tone of their colony proved, in the end, insufficient. Class and ethnic divisions opened up in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania as they did elsewhere. Penn himself soon lost control of his colony and, ultimately, his fortune in the manipulations of some of those around him. Still, however imperfectly realized, Penn’s vision of the moral possibilities of America cast a light far broader through the eighteenth century than any of the other English-speaking outposts in the Atlantic world. Between these models of piety there were profound differences. Early seventeenth-century Franciscans saw their mission as hastening history to its divinely appointed end. However much they looked backward to Canaan and Jerusalem they were, still more, agents of the millennium. The Jesuit creators of the Guarani republic understood their core mission differently. Skeptical of the Franciscans’ theater of mass conversion, they saw their part in history’s providential design as the painstaking reshaping of the bodies and souls of others. The Dutch made their republic into a glorious advertisement of the material and cultural rewards that God could give his specially chosen

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people. Quaker Pennsylvania was an experiment in precisely the premise that John Winthrop had set out to refute in the opening line of “A Model of Christian Charity”: that God had intended a far greater equality between peoples than humans had tried yet. The New England Puritan elite projected its sense of mission, above all, inward: into management of its people’s own inner weaknesses. Keeping the ordinances of faith and church practice as God had commanded them was, in New England’s first half century, the ministerial and magisterial elite’s overriding task. What these ventures held in common was hope that they stood on the rim of new sacred and human possibilities, that they might offer the world a new template for religious and social life. There were good reasons for the New England Puritans to be more guarded in their self-advertisement than other builders of new Zions in the Americas. Presiding over an anomaly in English law and church order, the leaders of the Massachusetts colony could not escape the fear that conspicuousness might be their downfall. They had jury-rigged a commercial company charter into a grant of selfgovernment. They had rewritten long-standing English liberties. Radically remaking the governance of their churches to give their congregations roles that in England only bishops wielded, it was all the more important for them to insist that they had not actually broken with the English church at all. Too much advertisement of their separate way risked having all this pulled out from under them. Better to carry themselves circumspectly than to flaunt their innovations too boldly, particularly in the first, fragile decades of the Massachusetts venture. Still, read in these contexts, the words Winthrop chose for the Model take on a sharply qualified meaning. New England might set the pattern for “succeeding plantations,” as the Model put it, but not, as the phrase tacitly admitted, a pattern for the world. The eyes of all people would be upon the New England Puritans’ project, but less in admiration than in skeptical anticipation of its missteps. The God at whose call they were undertaking their venture was, at the same


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time, the God whose power to punish, to make them a story and a byword, could never be expelled from mind. Pride, too, undergirded the New England experiment. The New Englanders were the people of Exodus and Isaiah as well as persons in search of a sheltered cove in a world at storm. But in an era of holy visions and on a continent dotted with chosen peoples’ cities upon a hill, there is no missing the relative modesty of the Model’s claims. In a new world full of social-religious ambitions, the Model offered an American Zion not more bold—as American histories typically portray it—but more timid and inward-looking than many.

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Left All Alone in America


n 1640, ten years after Boston’s founding, a new wave of enthusiasm flooded in on Puritans in Old and New England. Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” had reflected a mood of deep discouragement about England’s future. A new monarch openly hostile to further Protestant innovations, a new bishop of London determined to force dissenting clergy into line, and a steady reimposition of Catholic liturgical practices into the churches had made “godly” Protestants less and less confident that the Reformation could be sustained in England. To persons of this persuasion, New England in the 1630s had offered a double refuge: shelter from the growing pressure on religious dissidents in England, and, still more, a hiding place from the terrible punishments they were sure that God would rain down on England in fury at his once chosen people. Then in the 1640s the circumstances in which the Model had been written dramatically changed. In England, the Puritans’ sense of despair suddenly lifted. Charles I, forced to call a Parliament to raise funds to suppress resistance in Scotland, suddenly found himself overwhelmed by rebellion at home. Within a year, Parliament had clapped the Puritans’ chief nemesis, Archbishop Laud, in the Tower of London. Outright civil war broke out between rival armies of the Crown, the English Parliament, and the Scots. The underground debates of the 1630s over the proper organization of the church and 71


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liturgy erupted into open, continuous, and searching dispute. By 1646 the office of bishop had been abolished outright. Charles I, his military forces routed and his own attempt at escape foiled, was tried for treason in early 1649. Within a month he had followed Laud under the executioner’s axe. For the next eleven years a godly commonwealth ruled in England. The Puritan-dominated Parliament seized the reins of power first and then, when it faltered, lost them to the Puritan-dominated army, led by its military hero and the nation’s Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Prayer-book-reading ministers were rooted out of their offices. A corps of major-generals was dispatched to try to bring English popular culture to heel by suppressing drunkenness, idleness, gambling, cock-fighting, unlicensed alehouse keeping, and every form of Sabbath breaking. A rhetoric of providential destiny now reverberated with a force unmatched in colonial Boston from English pulpits. “If a stranger ask, what news in England?,” Thomas Coleman preached to the Westminster Assembly of ministers in 1643, “why the best news that ever was, God had established Sion . . . and as for his people, there is a new world with them.”1 Cromwell a decade later described England in the same way: “A People that are to God as ‘the apple of His eye’ . . . a People under His safety and protection. . . . You have of this no parallel; no, not in all the world.”2 A new and purified Israel seemed close at hand in England with ambitions that eclipsed anything that Winthrop’s New Englanders had dreamed of. Cromwell’s military forces crushed Catholic Ireland and launched an ambitious attack on Catholic Spain’s trade routes through the West Indies. And then it all fell apart in war and factionalism. A new king was installed; the old church forms were restored. The “godly” abandoned their bid to dictate the terms of English politics and popular culture and much of their ambition to do so. But for twenty years the drama of the English Revolution riveted the attention of Protestants everywhere.

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Under the impact of these events, New England slipped, by contrast, almost completely into irrelevance. A sense of acting a specially chosen part in history had pervaded Winthrop’s Model. He had written with certainty of his people’s special commission from God for the work they were undertaking. He had allowed himself to come right to the brink of conflating their history with the history of biblical Israel. He had sensed the “eyes of all people” upon them. But now the eyes of the world were elsewhere. In a world of revolutionary ambitions, New England had become by the 1660s a backwater. Even the efforts of its elite to hold firm the bounds of religious orthodoxy were increasingly out of step with the New Englanders’ closest allies in England. And yet one would have barely discerned the region’s shifts in status from the tropes of self-importance that swelled into prominence in the pulpit literature of late seventeenth-century New England. The biblical analogies that the Model had implied now poured as certainties from the New England pulpits. Talk of a New Israel in their midst slipped into more and more of the ministers’ texts. The irony of the rhetoric of a chosen people illuminating the world now linked so strongly with Winthrop and his “Model of Christian Charity” was that it flourished not when the New England project was new. It blossomed most exuberantly when the region found itself most isolated from the world. A sense that New England’s fate was intertwined with the international fate of Reformed Protestantism had marked the colony’s elite from the beginning. In the 1630s English friends kept John Winthrop’s eldest son steadily supplied with news as the armies of rival Catholic and Protestant powers maneuvered across continental Europe. The Massachusetts General Court declared a day of public thanksgiving in 1632 to celebrate the Swedish army’s success in bringing relief to the embattled Protestants in Germany and the


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Palatinate. A general fast was held in early 1637 in public sorrow for the “miserable estate” of the German Protestants and a thanksgiving day in September to give thanks that their military situation had improved.3 International reports flowed into New England through a constant stream of exiles.4 But none of this compared with the dramatic consequences of the convening of the English Parliament in 1640. The first and most disruptive result was the almost immediate cessation of the flow of new immigrants to New England. At a minimum, some eleven thousand English folk had emigrated to New England in the 1630s. Less than half that number came in the 1640s and even fewer in the 1650s.5 In the New England port towns, whose economies had essentially been sustained by the new money for supplies and land that a steady stream of newcomers provided, disruption of in-migration triggered a quick and severe economic depression. Cash and credit dried up. Prices soared. More striking still was the backflow of migration to England. Some of those who left New England for home were pushed by the economic hardships of the 1640s. But the surge of returning emigrants after the surrender of the king in 1646 points to a different cause: a sense that there was now more room for personal and political ambition in England than in its New English outpost. Susan Moore, who has studied the question most closely, has estimated that perhaps one out of every five New Englanders pulled up stakes for England between 1640 and 1660. Among the ministerial and merchant elite the proportions were even higher. One in three of the ministers who had sailed to New England in the 1630s returned home in the 1640s and 1650s. Of the nine graduates of Harvard College’s first class of 1642, seven soon made their way to England. Out of the Harvard class of 1647, all but one left for England.6 Some of these back migrants leapt quickly into prominent roles in the English Revolution. Hugh Peter, one of the original investors in the Massachusetts colonization venture and minister at Salem,

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vaulted to influence as a charismatic army chaplain and a member of Cromwell’s inner circle. Sir Henry Vane, who had replaced Winthrop for a year as the Massachusetts Bay colony’s governor, quickly emerged as a leading figure in the Puritan-dominated Parliament. Three other former New Englanders served in the revolutionary Parliaments. At least ten former New Englanders earned the rank of major or higher in the parliamentary armies. One of Winthrop’s own sons, who had sailed with his father on the Arbella, rose to the rank of colonel.7 Winthrop bemoaned the desertions. “Ask thy conscience,” he pleaded in his journal in 1642, “if thou wouldst have plucked up thy stakes, and brought thy family 3000 miles, if thou hadst expected that all, or most, would have forsaken thee there. Ask again, what liberty thou hast towards others . . . for if one may go, another may, and so the greater part, and so church and commonwealth may be left destitute in a wilderness, exposed to misery and reproach, and all for thy ease and pleasure.” 8 But even Winthrop did not deny that the main stage of providential drama had moved to England. When his son Stephen wrote that he felt “a clear providence” for staying in England where he had “found a way of Advancing God’s Kingdom,” his father did not rebut him.9 As far as most English Puritans were concerned, there was no question of the relative importance of New England and newest England. The dramatic shrinkage of new arrivals was material proof of that. Oliver Cromwell, for his part, thought the New England venture had been rendered wholly useless by the turn of events. It had been from the beginning mistakenly sited, he thought, in a place too cold, too barren, and, most importantly, too far from the front lines of the Protestant-Catholic struggle for domination. He tried hard to persuade New England’s leading ministers to turn their ambitions, instead, to Ireland where there was a far more important people to subdue and colony to plant. For the rest, Cromwell would have had them move to the West Indies where there were richer crops to bring


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out of the soil and where a Puritan colony, astride the trade routes funneling the wealth of Spanish America into the supply of Catholic armies in Europe, could be an effective base for harassment and interception.10 We should not be surprised that many stayed behind. They had lands and established livelihoods in New England. The abrupt and unanticipated spinoff of events in revolutionary England was disturbing to many. War was never far from hand. Even at its height the English Puritans’ efforts to discipline unruly English popular culture never enjoyed more than localized success.11 If an orderly society was one’s first priority, its realization was much closer in New England, where the structures of authority remained intact, than in England. England after 1640 was for risk-takers. The conservative course was to stay in America. Still we might expect the New Englanders to have bombarded their English brethren with advice. “A Model of Christian Charity” seemed to have promised as much. Winthrop’s generation had amassed a decade of practical experience in the organization of church and state polity. Fresh from the expulsion of their latest dissenters, their leadership was not wanting in its sense of righteousness. In one of the most famous essays ever written about the New England Puritans, the historian Perry Miller argued that ambition to remake England in its image had been the key impulse behind the New England project from the beginning. In their secret heart, Miller wrote in his influential essay “Errand into the Wilderness” in 1952, Winthrop and his colleagues knew that theirs was “an essential maneuver in the drama of Christendom.” Their New England was not merely a place of regroupment and refuge. The Bay Company was not a battered remnant of suffering Separatists thrown up on a rocky shore; it was an organized task force of Christians, executing a flank attack on the corruptions of Chris-

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tendom. These Puritans did not flee to America; they went in order to work out that complete reformation which was not yet accomplished in England and Europe, but which would quickly be accomplished if only the saints back there had a working model to guide them. . . . This was the large unspoken assumption in the errand of 1630: if the conscious intention were realized, not only would a federated Jehovah bless the new land, but He would bring back these temporary colonials to govern England.12

Most of the evidence for an “errand” this grand was the work of Miller’s imagination, but it was true that New England’s leading ministers initially hoped that they might advise and shape the course of the events in England. They dispatched letters, treatises, and sermons. They offered rafts of public prayers. They held official fast days for England’s sake. They quarreled heatedly in print with English Puritan advocates of alternative forms of church order to theirs. In 1641, on the receipt of news of the imprisonment of Archbishop Laud (“our great enemy”), the Massachusetts General Court ordered that a threeperson delegation of ministers and merchants be sent to England to congratulate it on the “happy success” of events there, to plead the reasons why the colony had fallen so badly behind in its debt payments, and to offer any advice “as it should be required, for the settling the right form of church discipline there.”13 Through the first half of the 1640s, there is good evidence that many English Puritans were willing to look to New England for advice. In 1642 thirty-nine members of Parliament wrote to urge New England’s three leading ministers to come over to help influence the framing of English church governance on New English lines. Although none of them ultimately made the journey, in the pages of English pamphlets and sermons the New England model was extensively scrutinized.14 But if New Englanders had hoped to remake England on their own model, they did not sustain that ambition long. In the revolutionary Parliament of the 1640s, the Presbyterian party had far more supporters than did advocates of New England-style


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congregational autonomy. The invited New England preachers pressed the congregationalist case in writing but, sensing themselves badly outnumbered, they were reluctant to enter in person into a contest over church organization that they thought they could only lose. Compounding the New Englanders’ growing sense of isolation was the still more vexed question of the allowable limits of religious dissent. At the Puritan Revolution’s outset, toleration was not its object. The project was to purify and reorganize the English church, not to let it splinter into pieces. But the very intensity of the politicalspiritual struggle was not easily held in bounds. By the end of the 1640s, the “godly” were spinning off a bewildering variety of dissenting sects: baptists and anabaptists, Quakers who thought the clergy superfluous to the inner light of faith, ranters, Fifth Monarchy believers in an impending apocalypse, and more. Punishment was their lot. But within the army, where the New Englanders had their strongest allies on the church organization question, a grudging sense that a broad-tent Protestant alliance was a political necessity—perhaps even, within limits, a concession to conscience—gathered increasing strength. In 1650 Parliament acknowledged that there might be plural religious communities within each parish. In the Instrument of Government that established the Protectorate in 1653, all those “such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ” were to be protected “in the profession of the Faith and the exercise of their religion.” Catholics and blasphemers stood outside that tent. Mass imprisonment of Quakers for defiance of authority persisted. Still, modest though it was, a measure of tolerance for religious pluralism had arrived in Puritan England.15 The New England elite resisted. By 1645 Winthrop was already complaining in his journal about the margins of toleration that the latest books from England were defending. In the English pamphlet wars, Roger Williams held up the Massachusetts magistrates to shame for their harsh and rigid treatment of dissenters. But the “vast liberty”

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of the churches coming into practice in England, as Winthrop called it, did not sit well with the Model’s purposes of establishing an obedient and conforming society.16 In this collision of goals, the New Englanders’ possibilities of influence quickly narrowed. In 1648, at the invitation of some of their congregationalist English allies, the New England churches sent over a systematic statement of their principles of church and state organization, prefaced by the hope that “the example of such poor outcasts as ourselves, might prevail if not with all . . . yet with some or other of our brethren in England.”17 They could not have been terribly surprised that it did not. Isolated and criticized, those who stayed behind in New England tacitly surrendered whatever hope they might have had to turn the course of English history. Prayers and fastings would be their “deadly” battle weapons, Taunton’s minister William Hooke advised as early as 1645. “I know that we [in New England] are little dreamt of at this time in any part of Christendom,” Hooke acknowledged, but they would wait like “bands of soldiers lying in ambush here under the fern and brushet of the Wilderness,” wielding swords invisible to the eye.18 Nowhere in these exchanges did the New England Puritans claim that they had an exclusive and especially chosen place in God’s designs that was bigger and more important than England’s or that of Protestant Europe generally. Nowhere did they argue that preservation of the New England way was the fulcrum on which the political and religious fate of a tumult-filled world would turn. In 1648, distressed by the growing calls for toleration, Thomas Shepard wondered if God was about “to remove the Candlesticks” from the old England and transfer them to the new. Shepard’s colleague in the New England ministry, Nathaniel Ward, wrote with more typical modesty that the New Englanders’ place in the English struggle was to abide “beyond Jordan” and send over their “Armies of prayers” to God— and presumably to those closer to Canaan than themselves.19 The New Englanders conceived themselves within—not detached—


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from the life struggles of international Protestantism. But at a moment in the providential drama fraught with so much destiny, they had barely a foothold on the main historical stage. With the revival of the monarchy in 1660, visions of a new Zion in England collapsed. The deflation of Puritan ambitions in England, however, brought no corresponding revival to their New English offshoot. The 1660s brought a momentary return of earlier levels of in-migration to New England; but for the next ten decades after that the net migration into New England was negative. Ambitious English emigrants streamed by the hundreds of thousands into Ireland, the West Indian sugar and slave islands, and the colonies of the Southern mainland. But New England essentially disappeared from their horizon of possibilities.20 New England’s cherished autonomy eroded as well as the restored monarchy slowly brought New English law into conformity with English law and procedures. Though persecution of dissenters initially increased in England with the Restoration in 1660, in time pressure from a changing England overwhelmed what the founding New England generation had taken to be the essential core of its mission: to establish by its collective, undivided will, as Winthrop had put it, “a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical.” The new charter imposed by the Crown on the Massachusetts colony in 1691 ended the monopoly that church members had held since 1630 on the liberty to vote in colony-wide elections. It extended liberty of conscience to all Christians—“Papists” excluded. Over the resistance of the ministerial and magisterial elite, a limited form of religious toleration had found its way into Winthrop’s covenanted community. But insularity nonetheless remained New England’s more prominent feature. Later, in the eighteenth century, New England merchants, extending their trading routes across the seas, were to knit New England back into the Atlantic world of commerce and market cul-

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ture. In the late seventeenth century, however, closed in on its own peculiar political and religious order, far from the immigration routes that were each decade bringing more and more European migrants into North America, New England’s marginal place in the world could not be missed even by its most articulate defenders. And yet one would barely have gathered as much from the words of pride and compensation that poured from New England’s late seventeenth-century preachers. For it was in this age of New England’s isolation and obscurity that the “city on a hill” and New Israel motifs flourished most exuberantly. The terms were common enough in the language of biblical Protestantism. Typological thinking encouraged them. Looking back on New England’s own history, Edward Johnson in 1654 had written of Winthrop’s generation as “lights upon a hill, more obvious than the highest mountain in the world.” But it was after 1660 that the terms came into their own in New England. “Let us remember (I do beseech you) that the Eyes of the World are now upon us more than ever,” Increase Mather preached in 1680. “The eyes of the whole Christian world” are upon you; yea what is more, the eyes of God,” Cambridge’s minister, Jonathan Mitchell, extended the theme. “God forbid that, after New England has shined twenty years and more, like a light upon an hill, it should at last go out,” overwhelmed by greed, trade, and blasphemy, John Norton warned.21 Talk of a New English “Israel” rose even more strongly in volume. “Just as God had assigned Canaan to the children of Israel,” Urian Oakes maintained in 1673, so “this Wilderness was the place which God decreed to make a Canaan to you.” “Here the Lord hath caused as it were New Jerusalem to come down from Heaven; he dwells in this place,” Increase Mather assured his listeners. New England stands “in like circumstances before the Lord as Jerusalem then did: A parallel people with them, both in respect of privilege and provocation, profession and prevarication,” Samuel Wakeman preached in an election-day sermon in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1685.22


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Wakeman’s last words—“provocation” and “prevarication”— were not casual add-ons. There was hardly a reference to the “New English Israel” that did not begin by tightening up the parallel between the new and old Israels as closely as possible only to drive the moral home all the more insistently: the punishments that God had poured out on his first chosen people were surely to consume New England unless its people reformed thoroughly and quickly. “That faithful City” of Jerusalem “became a harlot,” Wakeman plunged ahead in his simile. And so, if our revolt from God continues, will we. “What is Jerusalem at this day, but a Miserable Town, in which there are no inhabitants but Infidels and Idolaters?” Increase Mather warned. “If the Glory has been removed from Jerusalem . . . [and] if from so many places of Europe? Is it not possible that it may be removed from New-England also?”23 In sermons like these, the point of emphasis in the covenant relationship was not its glory but its special demands—and the special fierceness with which failure on a chosen people’s part would be punished. A covenant with God was “a covenant with conditions.” “We are under a divine probation,” Increase Mather preached. If a people did not return to him, “the Lord can easily remove the candlestick.” Or “break” it.24 The price of New England’s special place was its special vulnerability. The greater the visibility, the greater the shame of its lapses into sin and irreligion. Historians of New England have called this form of sermonizing the “Jeremiad.” Repetition made its forms utterly familiar. New England’s likeness to a new Israel (“Was there ever a place so like unto a new Jerusalem as New England hath been?”)25 and its special place in the eyes of the world opened into an agonizingly long catalogue of the sins that beset it on every side before the preachers called their people back, for one last chance, from scourge and destruction. The Jeremiad was not only the ministers’ platform for reaffirming ethical and theological doctrine. It was not only their response to the devastating impact of renewed native warfare in the 1670s. It was

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their disciplinary instrument, their tool of popular control, the wrecking hook with which they tried, season in and season out in late seventeenth-century New England, to haul their people out of the sloughs of sin and into compliance with the increasingly isolated political and religious ordinances of New England. Within the Jeremiad, the New England preachers’ hopes for New England’s enduring importance and their recognition of its practical obscurity hung in an increasingly delicate balance. “You have been as a City upon a hill (though in a remote and obscure Wilderness),” Urian Oakes preached on election day in Boston in 1673. Guided as by a pillar of cloud and fire, New Englanders had come to a place both prominent and obscure: remote from that “dear Nation [i.e., England] of which you are a part” as England had become embroiled in “distractions,” war, and “alterations.” In these “Chambers of Secrecy and Safety . . . in this place of Retirement and Hiding,” you have endeavored to keep the purity of the faith from error, from excess liberty, and the “abomination” of toleration. We in New England have exhibited nothing less than “a little model of the Kingdom of Christ upon Earth,” Oakes told his listeners.26 But that was not a boast of influence. New England’s exemplary task in the contest for God’s kingdom was to keep itself apart. It was to mind its own purity lest its candle, too, go out in the gale of destruction that might yet come. Oakes’s most prominent successor in the third generation of New England preachers, Cotton Mather, shows the strain of these circumstances most acutely. The most highly educated man in his New England, an avid reader of science and contemporary English learning, Cotton Mather knew more acutely than any of his fellow preachers the marginal place of his culture in the larger world of ideas and Protestant culture. Among his hundreds of books and pamphlets, his history of New England stands out for the way he threaded the term “New English Israel” so densely through it. In his portraits New England’s founders were the typological twins of biblical Israel’s patriarchs. Winthrop was New England’s Nehemiah, Edward Hopkins


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was its Solomon, Theophilus Eaton and John Davenport were as Moses and Aaron to the New Haven colony. The Pilgrims had “as plain a command of Heaven” to leave for New England “as ever their father Abraham had for his leaving the Caldean territories.”27 Evidences of divine providence, as abundant as the children of biblical Israel had ever enjoyed, marked virtually every one of Cotton Mather’s pages. But Cotton Mather could not write a history of “New-EnglishIsrael” without stirring in an almost equally vivid strain of apology. “This little Israel,” he called his people: inhabitants of “poor little New-England.” He wrote for English readers situated in “the best Island of the universe” to tell them of “wonders” that had occurred on the edges of the Protestant world. He brought news from “the American strand,” from “the utmost parts of the earth,” from an “Indian Wilderness,” from “that little country NEW-ENGLAND,” from a country that might have already fulfilled the purpose it was planted for and now, its foundations “shaking,” might “come to nothing” more. Perhaps all that remained would be the memories that he hoped his history might preserve.28 Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana was, for the moment, the resting place of the language of destiny that Winthrop had written into “A Model of Christian Charity.” The sense of living in biblical types and time endured. References to a new Israel in America had become more frequent and overt. By Cotton Mather’s generation, some New England writers had begun to hope that just before the world’s great scourging a literal New Jerusalem might be let down from heaven in their midst. But millennial images of the world’s end were an evasion of the New Englanders’ increasingly isolated present. In truth, those who had stayed in New England had missed their moment to make a difference. They had kept themselves on the sidelines of history— closer to the purity of the first Christians, as they imagined it, but farther from the sight of any but themselves.

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For those who stayed behind, reassurance that they still mattered, that they still stood, somehow, as a “city on a hill,” had become a ritual of compensation. They yearned for the attention of their God; they hoped for his corrective punishment. They wielded the obligations of a visible people as a scourge against their countrymen who, they worried more and more, might be growing “sermon proof.”29 But in sober fact, they now found themselves alone in America. They talked still of their hope to be a beacon to the world. But by the end of the century, no one was watching.

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Love Is a Bond or Ligament


ad he lived into the 1660s, John Winthrop would probably have been disappointed by the newly marginal place of his colony on the larger Atlantic scene. But he might not have been surprised. Influence had not been foremost on Winthrop’s mind as he drafted “A Model of Christian Charity.” That he yearned to find his proper place in the course of providential history was patently clear. His writings on the eve of departure are filled with concern to read God’s intentions in history. He longed to decipher God’s plan for England, for Reformed churches all across Europe, and for the remnant that was putting in motion a voyage of escape across the Atlantic. But that he intended by sailing west to change England and the world requires a reading of the Model’s words that they do not sustain. Even the theme of a chosen people freighted with the awful responsibility of their covenant with God sweeps into the Model only at its very end. For readers who have been taught to anticipate the theme of mission as the great, overarching motif of “A Model of Christian Charity,” this displacement of the expected point until the text’s very end still comes as a shock. Nowhere in the Model’s first thirty pages is the idea of an errand into destiny anywhere anticipated. From Winthrop’s opening sentence until the “application of this discourse to the present design,” nine pages from the end, the Model’s theme is the right ordering of social and economic relationships. Eager to get on to the 86

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Puritans’ sense of their world-historical task, modern editors routinely cut out the first three-quarters of the Model in their abridgments, as if the text had arrived at its proper destination only after an extraordinary digression on inequality, charity, and love. But Winthrop was not an indirect writer. He wrote for occasions: to lay out with care his reasons for joining the New England venture in the summer of 1629, for example, or to refute the contentions of the religious dissenters who so profoundly shook the political and social unity of the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1636–37.1 His celebrated speech to the General Court on the true bounds of liberty and authority went straight to its point: rulers might be chosen by the people but their authority had “the image of God eminently stamped upon it.”2 The rest was an elaboration of that opening premise. If mission and destiny were the key themes of the Model, why the long detour to get to the heart of the matter? The answer lies not in the Model but in the preconceptions with which we have surrounded it in modern times. Too sure of the providentialist section as the essential motif and rhetorical climax of the text, we have plucked out only one of the core themes it carried. There was a second text within “A Model of Christian Charity,” as close to Winthrop’s heart and intentions as the covenant idea. Its controlling theme was not mission or pride. Its theme was love. Its journey was not across space but across social relations. There was nothing hidden about Winthrop’s “second” text. “Christian Charitie / A Modell hereof ” the seventeenth-century copyist headed the first page in a bold and clear hand. We know from Henry Jessey’s request for a copy of the Massachusetts colony’s “Model of Charity” in 1635 that the title was part of the original text, not a later addition.3 To take the Model seriously, we must refocus our attention from an “America” to come to something more immediately at hand: the idea and practice of charity in a society where some were rich in power, dignity, and wealth and others were poor.


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The term “model” in Winthrop’s text held more than one meaning in the seventeenth century. A model might be a smaller-scale embodiment of a thing, in the way that an architect’s model was a miniature of a building, or a child the model of its father. A model might be an especially perfect example to be imitated, in the way that an especially well-made contrivance might forge the standard for later designs. Seventeenth-century English print shops published reams of “models” for the better ordering of church government, poor relief, customs collection, governments, and the like. Oliver Cromwell’s “New Modelled Army,” organized on a new pattern of professional soldiery, was a particularly prominent linkage of the term with the English Puritans’ zeal for social invention. But “model” could mean something else: a condensation, the marrow and principle of the thing being outlined. This was John Yates’s meaning of the term in his Modell of Divinitie of 1622 and the meaning behind James Harrington’s “models” of his conception of a radically more egalitarian society.4 Winthrop would use the term “model” in exactly that fashion himself in 1645, noting that he had first tendered his thesis about arbitrary government “in a model” to the colony’s deputies and then later “drew it up more at large” in a written copy afterward.5 In this sense, “Christian Charity / A Model hereof ” was a digest—not a mission statement for a colony but a summation of all that Winthrop was sure must lie at the kernel of charity. In Winthrop’s mind, as his opening sentence made clear, charity was rooted not in human likenesses but in the intractable inequality of persons. The world’s contrasts between rich and poor, between those with power and those in subjection, Winthrop explained in the Model’s opening paragraphs, flowed first from God’s delight in diversity. Secondly, inequality gave God all the more occasions to show his hand, by restraining the greed of those with wealth and moderating the resentments of the poor. But most importantly, inequality insured that “every man might have need of others,” that through

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acts of charity “they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection.” In practice, Winthrop went on to elaborate, charity followed rules. There was a law of justice and a law of mercy; there was a law of nature and a law of the gospel. None of these were easy to fulfill. To follow Winthrop through the Model’s densely packed scriptural quotations is to be led into the most demanding injunctions of the Puritans’ Bible. The laws of debt-forgiveness laid down by Moses, the scolding of the angry Hebrew prophets, and some of the most uncompromisingly antimaterialist lines of Jesus’s parables—“A Model of Christian Charity” drew them all together in a pattern that allowed for little relaxation. What rule shall a man observe in giving to another who stood in need? As much as his prudence and abundance afforded but in extraordinary times far more; as much as he can, even to his own discomfort. What rule must we observe in lending? By way of commerce, as much as one might prudently expect to be repaid, but by the law of mercy, as much as one’s brethren may need, even at the risk that the loans would never return. And in cases of a “community of peril,” all of this “but with [still] more enlargement towards others and less respect towards ourselves and our own right.” These were familiar sentiments to the biblically literate. For righteousness to return to the people of Israel, they must break every yoke and let the oppressed go free, Isaiah had warned with a prophet’s moral thunder. They must deal out their bread to the hungry. Only when they had done all that, when they had brought the wandering poor into their houses and clothed their nakedness, would finally “thy light break forth as the morning.” Mosaic law had expressed the point more concisely: “If one of thy brethren with thee be poor . . . thou shalt open thine hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need.” 6 The New Testament writers put the same words in Jesus’s mouth: “From him that would borrow of thee turn not away.” From the letter of Saint John: “He who hath this world’s goods, and


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seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”7 Centuries of biblical gloss and compromise, however, had softened most of the passages toward which Winthrop’s mind ran. Excessive charity might be imprudent. It might risk the well-being of one’s own family; it might not take sufficient heed of the misfortunes one might face in the future. Better than through an extravagant gift, charity’s obligations might be satisfied with a tithe or with a coin in the alms box. Lending might be divided into prudent commerce and the outright grinding of the poor, for staying clear of the sin of usury was no necessary call to lend soft-headedly, to throw money where repayment was at risk. Interrupting his discourse with objections and answers in the dialectic Puritans knew so well, Winthrop acknowledged all of this only to sweep moderation and prudence aside. When practiced according to the law of justice, charity might be corralled in relatively modest bounds. But when practiced according to the law of mercy, the most striking mark of charity, as Winthrop modeled it, lay in its ultimately uncompromising demands. If the rules of charity were demanding, as the Model outlined them, the “affections” that powered its practice were more demanding still. For charity, the Model went on to make clear, did not run by mere law or the force of its own habits. Just as a clock had a main wheel, a prime mover that set all its hands and gears in common motion, so charity had a power that sustained it. And that was love. In Winthrop’s vocabulary, love was not a private, individual feeling. Love was the “ligament” of the social body. It was the “sensibleness and sympathy of each others conditions [that] will necessarily infuse into each part a native desire and endeavor to strengthen, defend, preserve and comfort the other.” In the central section of the Model, the language of sentiment pours out of Winthrop’s description of the good society, knitted together not only by mutual benefit but by love itself.

Love Is a Bond or Ligament


Love, Winthrop wrote, was the bond between Jonathan and David within which an injury to one could not be told from an injury to the other. Love was like the mutual nourishment and pleasure of the mouth and the body in which there was no advantage or gain but “a most equal and sweet kind of commerce.” Love was the bond that made a mother recognize herself in her child, or Eve find her being in Adam, so that should they be separated “she is still looking towards the place where she left her beloved. If she hear it groan, she is with it presently. If she find it sad and disconsolate, she sighs and mourns with it.” The bonds of love overcame the awful estrangement that Adam’s disobedience had brought into the world: the propensity to “love and seek himself only.” Love meant the rebirth of the “sociable nature” of the soul. Here at the inner heart of the Model, before any hint of mission across space was broached, was a description of the first voyage it heralded: not an ocean passage but a passage from self to others. In its course, love would create a new “habit in a soul,” from which would “naturally” flow the power to fulfill even the most demanding rules of charity. Generations of historians have sought to cushion the force of these passages by suggesting how ordinary and expected they were in their day. “None of this would have sounded exceptional to Winthrop’s audience,” Winthrop’s most closely informed biographer writes. The significance of the Model “lies in its typicality, its commonplace culling together of basic Puritan and early modern beliefs,” a particularly acute, recent study of Puritan sympathy contends.8 But that is not the case. It is true that virtually none of the ideas and phrases, the yearnings and injunctions that Winthrop injected into the Model, were distinctive to him, nor did he mean them to be. That God had ordered the universe so that some would be rich and others in need, “some are in high degree, some in low, some kings and


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princes, some inferiors and subjects, priests and laymen, masters and servants, fathers and children, husbands and wives, rich and poor,” so that “there be some order among us” (as John Calvin put it) and so that they might have more need of each other, was a commonplace of early modern social thought. So was the need to “tear from our inward parts this most deadly pestilence . . . of love of self,” as Calvin remonstrated his beleaguered community in Geneva, so that we all “should be embraced in one feeling of love.” 9 Practical ventures of peril sparked similar sentiments. Thirty years ago Edmund Morgan pointed out the parallel between Winthrop’s language and a different set of stock injunctions that early modern European expedition commanders often gave their crew and company as they launched into the unknown. Thus Sebastian Cabot instructed his officers in 1553 to “be so knit and accorded in unitie, love, conformity, and obedience in every degree on all sides, that no dissention, variance, or contention may rise or spring betwixt them and the mariners of this companie.”10 Thus Sir Thomas Smith, on the eve of his diplomatic mission to Russia in 1603, urged those who accompanied him to “love and delight in each other,” especially in time of distress.11 Like so many other texts of its time, the Model was a work of recombinations, a sampler of phrases already many times reused. But that did not make it a commonplace document or make its phrases and argument banal. Winthrop was not setting the tone for a shortterm venture like Cabot or Smith. Most important, the Model did not rush past the day-to-day practices of charity to focus its audience’s attention on the still more perfect love that was the love of God. That was the expected structure of a religious meditation on love in Winthrop’s time and culture. The ultimate destination of virtually every early modern sermon on charity was faith itself. The great Puritan theologian William Ames, elaborating on the Sermon on the Mount, described the innermost core of charity as “a virtue whereby we love God as the chief good.”12 In Jonathan Edwards’s fourteen sermons in Charity and Its Fruits in 1738, the spiritual linkages of love between

Love Is a Bond or Ligament


God and his human creatures subsumed every worldly act. “If a man possessed the richest kingdom, and should give all, if a wealthy prince should make himself a poor beggar” and, giving all his goods away, clothe himself in rags, but did so without sufficient faith and sincerity, Edwards preached, it would not be charity.13 Without faith, none of this would bring pleasure to God. In contrast, the Model’s last section does not swirl up to the love of God. It swings back, earthward, to the “work” at hand. The task on which the New England emigrants were setting out—to seek a place of cohabitation and consortship under a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical—was “extraordinary,” Winthrop warned. It could not succeed by the “usual, ordinary means.” Self-regard would not suffice. “In cases such as this, the care of the public must oversway all private respects.” For even the strongest claims to private property—to our “particular estates”—“cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.” The covenant into which the New Englanders had entered, the covenant that they could only break at the risk of God’s fury, was not separate from the practices and affections of charity. For their extraordinary work to succeed, confidence, even faith, would not be enough. It demanded a social ethic as well. We must be knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality [i.e., generosity]. We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.

“A Model of Christian Charity” envisioned not one voyage but two: the first a journey beyond egotism, the second a journey across space. In the last pages of the Model, its two texts merge. The voyage


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to America and the voyage into mutual sympathy turn out to be one and the same. Winthrop’s Model was only one of the many statements of intention that English Puritans wrote or circulated in the late 1620s and 1630s. The covenant that the leaders of the New England–bound emigrants forged on the eve of their Atlantic voyage was a covenant to purge the rituals of the English Protestant church of all that they found so noxious and corrupt. Theirs was a mission of escape from the ills and destruction about to overtake England. It was an extravagant act of imagining themselves stepping into the place of God’s first chosen people. It was a commercial venture: the work of an investment company and its shareholders. There was a codicil, too, to Winthrop’s account of charity, which partially mitigated the Model’s running critique of economic individualism, a concession that cannot be discounted. That the strongest injunctions to charity and love applied “especially” to those within “the household of faith” his biblical quotations left no doubt. Lawyer though he was, Winthrop did not clearly parse out his rules of giving and lending between those concerning the “brethren” of the church and all others. It would not take long, however, for distinctions between insiders and outsiders to intensify as the settlement grew. But if we read “A Model of Christian Charity” without putting the demands of charity at its inner heart, we miss the assumptions within which all the rest of it was held in place. Much later, a Cold War generation of readers would see the Model as a call to destiny and greatness. Others would read it as mapping a flight to freedom. Those later lives of Winthrop’s Model cannot be dismissed. But the Model of 1630 began with themes of obligation. It ended with obligations. For in New England, too, some would be rich and some poor, some (like Winthrop himself) high in power and eminence, others lowly, mean, and in subjection. The Puritans never imagined escaping

Love Is a Bond or Ligament


that core condition of humankind. But if we take seriously the task Winthrop outlined in 1630, a central test of the success of the colony was not going to be measured in its global influence. It was going to be worked out not only in the realms of faith and governance but on the grounds of economic practice. It was going to be seen in the ways the New England–bound emigrants would deal with the culture of markets and self-interest that they could not escape bringing with them to their city on a hill.

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Moralizing the Market Economy


as Amer ica born capitalist? it is often asked. Ever since Max Weber proposed a causal relationship between early Protestants’ longing for order and rational control and the spirit of modern capitalism, the question has consumed the attention of generations of sociologists and historians. Weber’s ideal types were too abstract, it is now clear. The careful accounting and control of the self that the Puritans so conspicuously valued was only one of the cultural traits on which capitalist economies have thrived. Others, like the risk-taking and labor exploitation on which the tobacco and slave economy of early Virginia was founded, could be successfully capitalgenerative as well. Capitalism’s identifying features lie as much in its institutions of trade, property law, and labor as in the inner ethos that captured Weber’s imagination. Measured in these ways, there can be no doubt that Puritan New England was a by-product of capitalism in its expansive, early modern phase. Winthrop’s settlement arose within one of the great commercial empires of the early modern world. Unlike the Spanish conquest a century earlier, in which arms, expropriation of easily obtained wealth, and missionary zeal took the vanguard roles, the English colonization of the Americas was a merchants’ endeavor. Trading corporations—the 96

Moralizing the Market Economy


Virginia Company, the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Providence Island Company, the Plymouth Company—undertook the work of settlement throughout British America, capitalized by investors’ purchase of their joint stock.1 Economic transactions saturated the daily life of Winthrop’s New England as well. Private property in land was relatively easily sold and purchased. Production was primarily for markets: local markets for most New England farmers, long-distance markets in timber, fish, and grain for others. Debt, too, left its mark all across these money-scarce economies. Debt cases pervade the early records of the Massachusetts General Court, just as they saturated early modern English society, etching the economy with complex lines of trust, reputation, and obligation. The rules of lending, repayment, and loan forgiveness that Winthrop outlined in the long second section of his “Model of Christian Charity” were, in the context of New England’s everyday economic life, anything but abstract.2 Finally, the world the New England Puritans made was not only a world of trade and commerce but a world in which wealth was a sign of value. Wealthier men like Winthrop played a vastly outsized role in public affairs in the Massachusetts colony. Land distribution was sharply skewed in favor of the wealthy as well. A society without ranks and order, as the Model made clear, was no dream of the New England Puritans. And yet, deep as their immersion in market institutions and presumptions was, early New England Puritans did not accept market morals whole. “A Model of Christian Charity” itself was born at a moment of high tension between commercial interests and social ends, when an investors’ quarrel over risk and lending had threatened to undo the Massachusetts settlement project before it had truly begun. Disputes over buying and selling erupted aboard the ships during the ocean voyage, and they did not go away thereafter. The concerns with self-love that Winthrop poured into his model of charity spilled over into every aspect of colonial New England life. To the extent that the


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Model stands at one of the foundation points of the American story, Winthrop’s concern to establish the proper place of markets within the moral imperatives of charity must be recognized to stand there, just as prominently, too.3 Matters of price and commerce weighed heavily on John Winthrop in the winter and spring of 1629–30 as many of the key phrases that he would rework in “A Model of Christian Charity” began to crystallize in his mind. Recruited as the Massachusetts Bay Company’s governor in late October as the head of a yet-unfunded expedition scheduled to sail on the first of March, he was immediately sucked into a whirlwind of business concerns. There were emigrants to be recruited if the project was to realize its envisioned scale. There were ministers who had to be persuaded to leave their settled parishes for a church order that was, as yet, anything but clearly defined. Artisans of many different sorts were needed. There were persons of wealth to recruit as well. There were ships to be hired and stocked with the beer, water, biscuits, and dried meat that the ocean voyage would require. Arrangements for the sale of his own lands had to be made. “Our business comes so fast upon us here” in London, Winthrop found himself apologizing to his wife Margaret all through the winter, that he could scarcely predict when the occasions for the trips home that he longed for would arise. “In regard of business, which so take up my time and thoughts,” he wrote, he could not express his love “so largely to thee as I was wont to do.” He had six more letters to write that evening, he apologized to his “most sweet wife” on another occasion.4 The most pressing point of business was the challenge of finding adequate capital for the enterprise. Like all the other English colonization ventures in the Americas, the Massachusetts Bay Company was organized as an investment corporation. Merchants with wealth and a special degree of tolerance for risk, both for God’s sake and for their

Moralizing the Market Economy


own, had invested sums on which they anticipated return. For the first two years after its organization in 1628, the company had managed the work of a small community of settlers at Salem, supplying them with clothing, tools, provisions, arms, and the ser vices of a resident governor, minister, and doctor, in expectation that trade in fish, timber, and beaver skins would repay their investments and allow the settlement to prosper. But the first two years’ trial had not been a success. By the time that serious consideration began of reorganizing the company as a self-governing colony in New England, managed by its emigrants rather than its London-based investors, its capital stock was deeply in debt. Some of the supplies and cattle sent over had miscarried. Many of the servants (transported at extraordinary charge, a company report complained) had not proved as useful as expected. Trade had not been as profitable as expected. Not all those who had pledged to participate in the share offerings had actually done so. Altogether, an accounting in late 1629 concluded, fully one-third of the initial capital had been lost. The company’s governor alone was owed 1,200 pounds; other primary investors were in similar straits. Before the seat of the company’s government could move to New England, separating its English investors from the management of their investments, some sort of reckoning would have to be made.5 To read the minutes of the company’s meetings through the fall and winter of 1629–30 is to find oneself tugged into a deeply contentious debate over what the initial investors were owed and how those debts might be made whole. A “labyrinth,” Winthrop would call it, that “infolded” them all. “The further we waded, the more difficulties we encountered.” 6 Committees appointed to represent the interest of the company’s initial investors and the interest of those intending to emigrate wrote up position papers and debated at length. Tickets were sent to those who had fallen behind in their stock subscriptions imploring them to send their payments in. Panels of ministers were recruited as arbiters.


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Finally, with the matter at a standstill, three options were placed before the company’s members. The first was that every shareholder agree to double his original investment—a fantastical scheme, given the risks, that was quickly rejected. The second was that the company fold up its affairs, selling off all its property, distributing what it could realize among its shareholders, and essentially abandoning the colony project. The third proposal was more realistic than the other two, but to many individual investors it was much more painful. It proposed that the capital stock of the company be reorganized, that the value of all existing shares be written down by two-thirds, and that a smaller group of undertakers assume control, pledging to pay the original shareholders back on their now sharply reduced value at the end of seven years. Without that debt forgiveness, without some act of self-sacrifice, the settlement venture would not move forward. The matter was judged too weighty for an immediate decision. Three trusted ministers were summoned to the next meeting to help bring clarity to the deliberations. Finally on December 1, after “long debate,” the write-down of the shareholders’ stock values was approved.7 There would be more contentions and modifications before the fleet sailed in March. Land grants were authorized to help defray some of the losses of the original investors; wrangles over the claims of particularly aggrieved shareholders were given over to arbitration after yet another “large discussion” in the company as a whole. But the agreement of December 1 was the turning point, when the investors agreed to forgive a significant part of the sums they had pledged for the sake of the larger good. It fell to Winthrop, as the company’s new governor, to introduce the compromise proposal and, with it, the key phrases he would use again at the core of “A Model of Christian Charity.” He knew the debt-satisfaction proposal would “startle” some of those present, as Moses himself (Winthrop said) had sometimes been startled by things proposed to him. But he urged the reluctant investors that in sacrificing their claims to full repayment they would reenact, in

Moralizing the Market Economy


modern time, the part that God himself had taken when he had fed and clothed the people of Israel as they journeyed into Canaan. You are the “root” of this project, the “family” from which it was derived, Winthrop urged. You are “the City, the greatest Church, etc.” The emigrants were only a “hopeful plantation.” But with this sacrifice on the investors’ part, the two would be “knit together in a most firm bond of love” and “affection.” You have already given your money to God, Winthrop counseled the company’s members in his December 1 address. Of what advantage would it be to haggle over 100 pence or 50 pounds? For the sake of God’s glory and the plantation’s welfare, you should be ready “not only [to] lend it, but lose it.” And then came the line that Winthrop would rework just after the “city upon a hill” sentence in “A Model of Christian Charity”: “Consider your reputation, the eyes of all the godly are upon you, what can you do more honorable for this City, and the Gospel which you profess, than to deny your own profit, that we may say Londoners can be willing to lose that the Gospel etc.” 8 This pattern of reuses from Winthrop’s appeal to the colony’s investors gives no clear-cut answer as to when Winthrop found the time for the Model’s final composition, but it leaves no doubt about the moral issue that initially stood at its center. Whatever else the Model would become, its initial occasion was commerce and, more pointedly, the pyramids of debt and obligation that a market economy opened up. Triggered by a deeply fraught meeting in London, its subject was the labyrinth where commerce and morality cut across, blurred, and confronted each another. Winthrop’s fellow voyagers carried all these concerns with markets and morals, self-interest and the public good, directly into their new settlement. They absorbed the energy of the colony from the beginning. The prices men began to ask for labor were a particularly tender issue. From the beginning, the colony’s governing bodies followed their fluctuations with concern. Alarmed that carpenters, sawyers,


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bricklayers, and thatchers were taking advantage of the first summer’s building boom by inflating their wage expectations, the colony’s General Court ordered a ceiling on house builders’ charges in August 1630; it set them free again the next March, only to reimpose a maximum price per board on sawyers again in September. When wages surged once more in the fall of 1633, the General Court imposed a general scale of wages on artisans, agricultural workers, and common laborers before letting this, too, lapse when the demand for labor subsided.9 Unexpected fluctuations in the prices of goods brought a similar response. Price legislation was a repeated reaction to sharp swings from the norm. Corn and beer were subject to price controls from time to time. In 1638 a committee of twenty-nine of the colony’s leading figures was tasked with sorting out the general problem of “oppression” in wages and prices, though it failed to bring in the report it had been mandated to make. A more pointed order in 1640, when the emigration stream from England suddenly came to a halt and cash dried up in response, decreed that corn, wheat, and rye might pass as money at specified rates until accustomed conditions returned. In the meantime, when debts were to be satisfied, their no longer realistic nominal values would be subject to third-party arbitration, lest “a great part of the people in the country be undone.”10 The arrival of ships with goods to sell, like the arrival of new emigrants with shelter and goods to contract for, added to the economic instability. In the general clamor of purchasers, prices inevitably shot far beyond their norms. At one point the General Court proposed that ship masters be required to lie at anchor until their goods were inspected and put up for sale to the local authorities as they were “judged to be useful for the country” before the rest were offered to the public.11 At yet another point, one of the colony’s prominent ministers raised the capital to purchase the entire provision load of an incoming ship for resale to the towns and thereby circumvent excessive profit-taking.12 John White, the prominent Puritan minister at

Moralizing the Market Economy


Dorchester, urged Winthrop to make the practice general.13 Even though resistance from the merchants and ship masters frustrated most of these proposals, public concern with unfairly inflated prices persisted. The notion that each good had a “just price”—a value divorced from the commercial relations in which it was embedded—was rarely enunciated in these debates. Even John Cotton, the most prominent of the early settlement’s clergy, thought the issue was not the abstract value of the thing but the sale of a good “above the current price, i.e. such price as is usual in the time and place.”14 But distortion of the customary price by uneven market power or distress posed a deep and pressing concern. A General Court decision on the proper rules for appraising cattle in 1641 made it clear that value was not to be judged by the “market price” by “which some are forced by urgent necessity to sell a beast for.” The source of a cow’s value lay in the expected return from the milk or calves she might produce minus the cost of hay “etc.”15 To charge more than that in the face of one party’s necessity or weaker market power, as we might now put it, was not exchange but “oppression” and “extortion.” “Covetousness” and “self-love,” Winthrop fumed in his journal, were being allowed to rule the terms of trade.16 Buying, selling, and lending that trespassed into self-love were hardly distant matters for Winthrop. The second year of settlement was not over before Winthrop accused his deputy governor, Thomas Dudley, of “oppressing usury” by selling seven and a half bushels of corn to some of his poorer co-settlers in exchange for ten bushels to be received after the fall harvest.17 Three years later, Winthrop himself was accused of mixing up his own goods and profits with the commodities he had received as governor from the common stock. Winthrop successfully defended his accounts, but in 1638 the General Court was still lamenting “novelties, oppression, atheism, excess, superfluity, idleness, contempt of authority, and troubles in other parts to be remembered.”18


Chapter 7

The most celebrated case of commercial oppression in the early years of the Puritan colony was that of Robert Keayne. A London merchant tailor who had settled in the new colony as a general trader in 1635, Keayne was not a man whom many of his Boston neighbors liked. He was a prodigiously pious Puritan. At his death he left behind not only the copious records of a lifetime of sermon note-taking but also his own four “great writing books” intended as an exposition of the whole of the Bible and its prophecies. He also left behind a considerable fortune, made in commercial trades of all sorts that many thought skirted the edge of oppression. Indeed in 1639 Keayne was formally charged in court with overpricing, taking a 50  percent markup on one sale and a 75  percent markup on another.19 He had not done more than others, Keayne protested. He had never forced a purchaser to pay more than she or he agreed to. If he had sometimes set off losses he faced on some trades by higher margins on others, if he had bought the button or bridle in question himself for far less than he sold it for, was that not the custom of trade? Was selling 6 penny nails for 8 pennies a pound “such a crying and oppressing sin” that he should have been censored by the Boston church and fined the stupendous sum of 200 pounds by the General Court? Winthrop took the side of leniency toward Keayne. Because some others had done as much as he did and because, “though much labor had been bestowed upon it,” the General Court had not been able to construct a clear and certain rule on the matter, an admonition against covetousness would have been the wiser course, Winthrop thought.20 But Winthrop meticulously recorded the rules of commerce that John Cotton laid out in the public sermon that Cotton preached in the immediate aftermath of Keayne’s trial. A person must not sell above the customary price; that is, “such a price as is usual in the time and place,” Cotton admonished. If there were no specific regulation against it, merchants could raise their prices in the face of scarcity, Cotton admitted, for scarcity must necessarily

Moralizing the Market Economy


come from the providence of God. But if a merchant faced losses due to his own clumsiness in trade, or because he had not turned a profit on other transactions, he could not charge beyond an item’s current worth without stepping over the line from a shrewd bargain into usury. That “a man might sell as dear as he can, and buy as cheap as he can”—the maxim that would become fixed centuries later in the idea of efficient, self-balancing markets—was a “false principle.”21 Adam’s sin, his temptation “to love and seek himself only,” as Winthrop put it in “A Model of Christian Charity,” cast its shadow all across the Puritans’ efforts to deal with the practical ethics of their economic life. Facilitated by men like Robert Keayne, commercial exchange formed a vital part of early New England economic life. Buying, selling, and lending were everyday actions. Puritans did not resist these. But deep as their immersion in market institutions and presumptions was, they did not accept market morals whole. They refused to accept that trade should run along any natural course it took, that voluntary exchange was always an ethical act regardless of the power relations that stood behind it. By fixing prices and then, when the results disappointed, setting them free again; by looking to custom to unknot questions of price and excessive profit-taking; by exhorting their fellows against usury and oppression; and by scapegoating an unpopular trader like Keayne, they kept up a running quarrel with the market relations in which they lived. Over the course of the seventeenth century, these efforts to set moral bounds on economic relations weakened.22 Suits against economic oppression grew rarer in New England courts in the second half of that century. Looking farther outward for markets, Boston’s merchants immersed themselves more and more deeply in the Atlantic economy. Many proved highly successful overseas traders, whose ships fanned out across the North American coast, the Caribbean Islands, Africa, and Europe carrying goods and, in time, highly profitable cargos of human slaves.23 Boston’s learned ministers gradually


Chapter 7

softened their censorship of money lent purely for a contracted amount of interest without any productive object at its base. By the nineteenth century, to those outside New England, the term “Yankee” was more likely to denote an especially shrewd and clever trader than an honest and socially minded one. But, attenuated though they were, the injunctions against covetousness and economic oppression did not wholly disappear. Nor, hemmed in and qualified though they became, did the demands of charity that had preoccupied Winthrop in 1630. To read “A Model of Christian Charity” seriously is to see it as rooted in an effort to enlist the power of capital in a venture for which profit, alone, was not incentive enough. It is to find self-interest in constant tension with the demands of the larger social good. It is to find oneself in a culture in which market relations, though they impinged on every aspect of life, were not to be fully trusted. Finally, it is to see within the lines of Winthrop’s Model not only early New England’s familiar characters, its merchants and farmers, ministers and church members, but others: the poor who lived among them.

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The Poor and the Boundaries of Obligation


e know the trials of Robert Keayne as intimately as we do because he himself could not stop thinking about them. Fourteen years after his conviction, a wealthy man once more, Keayne began a will whose writing was ultimately to consume five obsessive months and occupy 158 pages in the county court records. Over and over the details of his transactions Keayne went, repeating and refuting the charges of those who had cried out against him, defending his trade practices as nothing other than what was common “in every shop and warehouse.” Had offering gold buttons at the price he asked amounted to “such a heinous sin”? Or marking up the cost of a bridle as steeply as he had? Had following the customs of the trade warranted the “deep and sharp censure that was laid upon me”? “Out of the grief and trouble of my heart” he defended his acts, still rankling at the shame his townsfolk had imposed on him.1 Now at the end of his life, not out of a guilty conscience but to show that the clamor against him had never been warranted, he gave away a munificent bundle of public bequests. Out of an estate he valued at 4,000 pounds, he willed 300 pounds for the erection of a new 107


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town house for Boston where the courts and ministers might meet, a library might be housed, the town’s supply of arms might be stored, a new water conduit might be run, and where country folk bringing goods to sell might rest and store their stock against the weather. He willed another 10 pounds to improve the equipment of the artillery company. He provided for his widow and family. And finally he willed the income from 100 pounds to be spent on the Boston poor: for assistance to the poor of his church, for the education of the ablest and most “hopeful” of the town’s poor children, and the provisioning of a town granary where a common stock might be stored against emergencies and where the “poorer sort” might purchase grain at cost during times of need. He had not made significant charitable gifts before, he admitted. But he would now, and the poor of Boston would receive a significant fraction of it.2 The poor do not occupy a prominent place in most popular histories of America. They live on the margins of the stories of success and enterprise we like to tell about American society and culture. But they were not the least invisible in their time. Traces of the life struggles of the poor run all through the early New England town records. “A Model of Christian Charity” announced their presence in its very first sentence. If rules for lending gave the Model its propulsive force, Winthrop left no doubt that the poor, the needy, and those in distress held a special claim on a community dedicated to the godly life. “Curse” he who “shutteth his ears from hearing the cry of the poor,” reads the Model. “If thy brother be in want and thou canst help him, thou needst not make doubt what thou shouldst do; if thou lovest God thou must help him.” The mission to America, as it took shape in Winthrop’s mind in early 1630, would not only require a passage from self-love to an ethic of social affection. It would not only call into question accustomed rules of commerce. Their voyage would force them to confront a still deeper knot of social ethics: what the fortunate owed to

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those who struggled to construct their lives under the burdens of poverty. That the world had too many poor, early modern Puritans were certain. They “swarmed” over England. “Why do we meet so many wandering ghosts in shape of men?” Winthrop himself wrote on the eve of his decision to cast in his lot with the Massachusetts Bay Company venture. Why “so many spectacles of misery in all our streets, our houses full of victuals and our entries of hunger-starved Christians?”3 Those who emigrated to New England were eager to leave behind the roving beggars of the English countryside and the squalor of London’s streets and alleys—portents, as they interpreted the signs, of God’s coming fury. They saw no true charity in the medieval Christian church’s sanctification of holy alms and barefoot friars. A coin dropped in a beggar’s hand was a wasted gesture, not an act of piety. Still, they could not abandon the poor in their moral imaginations. The telltale mark of Puritan policy was the poor’s “improvement.” Their temptation to idleness needed to be scrubbed out of them. Their beggary needed to be curbed. Their inner self-discipline needed to be radically strengthened. To this end, the poor in the “godly cities” whose administration Puritans and Puritan sympathizers began to control in early seventeenth-century England formed the objects of some of the most ambitious programs of social discipline and management to be found in the early modern world. In Puritan strongholds like Dorchester and Norwich, poor vagabond children were swept into the cities’ new municipal workhouses; beggary was banned; vagrant men without work or means were whipped out of town. Overseers of the poor went house to house to assess the needs and moral conditions of poor families. In some notable instances those who accepted parish or public relief were “badged” with initials sewn in their clothing so that their status would be visible to all.4


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But hand in hand with tighter regimes of social discipline, Puritan reformers simultaneously embraced broader and more systematic obligations of public support. The mandate of the Elizabethan Poor Laws of 1597 and 1601 that each English town and parish support its resident poor through public tax funds came only slowly into practice. By 1660, thirty years after the Winthrop fleet’s sailing, only a third of all English parishes are estimated to have regularly raised taxes for relief of the poor.5 But in the permeation of the idea of a public responsibility toward the poor, the “godly cities” of early seventeenthcentury England took the lead. Workhouses and schools were established to shelter as well as to discipline the poor. Public granaries distributed food stocks at cost to the poor in times of dearth. In slack times the well-to-do were urged to grant interest-free loans to poor artisans who could not afford to purchase stock to employ themselves. The most notable of the English Puritan urban strongholds in this regard was Dorchester where, in the wake of a disastrous town fire in 1613, a civic revival swept through the town. A new hospital was constructed where poor children could be catechized and set to work; a municipal fuel house was established to sell fuel below cost to the poor; prices of basic goods were regulated in times of shortage; special collections were solicited for the support of both the local poor and distant causes. To help finance this outburst of civic provision, the city established a municipal brew house whose ale profits were plowed back into the town’s poor relief efforts. In addition, Dorchester’s leading preacher, John White, boasted that the town had doubled its poor law tax levies.6 If this combination of ambitious institution building, poor relief taxation, and heavy-handed moral reform seems to our modern temperaments a mash-up of contradictory impulses, it did not seem so to its architects. To rid these English “cities on a hill” of Sabbath breaking, begging, and swearing, to pipe them with better water supplies, to inspect their households, to provide public support for

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their poor, and set the idle and abandoned to work: all this was of a piece. The “voracious appetites” of these godly civic reformers, as historian Paul Slack termed it, embraced a full-scale assault on traditional, hard-drinking, riotous popular culture as the quid pro quo for more systematic, sustained support of the needy poor.7 All these enterprises were ultimately fragile. During the Puritan Revolution, a newly established London Corporation for the Poor undertook a systematic survey of the city’s needy, built a string of new workhouses for poor children and youth, and provided employment to up to a thousand adults, many in their own homes, only to see their effort to eradicate traditional poverty collapse in the strains of civil war.8 And yet, its fragility and harshness notwithstanding, the moral impulse behind this early modern welfare state should not be dismissed out of hand. English Puritan reformers made a central place for the poor— in all their need and unruliness—within the bounds of their moral imagination. Dorchester’s John White himself reminded Winthrop of the point in a letter in which White chided New Englanders for failing to provide for a public storehouse from which “needful” goods could be reasonably purchased and, instead, letting shop-keeping grow so quickly among them. “The good which ought to be respected is Bonum publicum not Privatum Commodum. . . . I would fain know what the General [i.e., the common good of all] shall gain by making half a dozen rich by pinching more than so many thousands.” 9 With their unusually young population, New Englanders did not immediately face the questions of poverty that “A Model of Christian Charity” posed in the abstract and that absorbed their “godly” counterparts in England. The issue barely comes up in the early records of the colony’s General Court. In 1640, the General Court granted thirty bushels of corn to Thomas Buckmaster, “being in distress.” In 1646, it exempted “such as are poor, by sickness, lameness, or other infirmity” from colony-wide taxation. The same year, the


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General Court remitted the fines levied on five Hingham men provided they could prove to an impartial observer that they were poor.10 At the local level, however, where responsibility for the poor soon descended, the record of activity is much denser. Though the English Poor Laws did not formally apply in the Massachusetts Bay colony until the 1690s, New England’s emigrants brought with them from the colony’s beginning the principle of local responsibility to care for those in distress. The towns’ forms of assistance varied. Elaborate poor relief regimes on the scale of London or Dorchester involved capital expenses far too great for early New England towns. Even almshouses were rare until the eighteenth century. Instead, New England towns chose simpler forms of relief. Abatement of taxes for poorer town residents was a common practice. Destitute families might be granted permission to cut wood from the town’s common lands. At other times towns authorized direct grants of grain or firewood or called for voluntary contributions to help relieve a family in distress.11 In 1653 the town of Dorchester, Massachusetts, paid Goodman Mosely 12 shillings for attending to “old Bartholmy” at his time of sickness. In 1679 the town distributed a bequest specifically designated to assist the town’s poor among its sixteen neediest families.12 Families played a central role in these matters. Poverty meant both the breakup of poor families and the public use of other families as a means of relief. Parents who bore more children than the town’s selectmen thought they could afford were an object of particularly assiduous scrutiny. Their newborn children were regularly apprenticed out to other families, the town paying the expenses for the first few years until the child could become an economic asset to its surrogate family. In the cases of deepest need, the town put the care of its impoverished in the hands of another household to board and feed in return for a set rate of payments from the town’s treasury.

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The total amount spent in all these ways is not easy to measure. By one estimate, Boston in the late 1640s spent only a little over 5  percent of its total budget on poor relief, not counting tax abatements. But as New England’s population aged, the cost of maintaining the towns’ poor increased. A sharply higher estimate for Watertown in 1661 put poor relief expenses at 20–30 percent of the town’s budget. By 1700 Boston was spending perhaps a quarter of its budget on poor relief.13 With rising expenditures, pressures for cost controls increased. Watertown in 1727 publicly solicited bids from householders offering to take in poor children at lowest cost to the town, an early instance of the pauper “auctions” that became notorious in New England in the early nineteenth century.14 But grudging as it often was, public, tax-supported responsibility for the poor was a fixture of New England town life. None of these measures of relief made the life of the poor easy. We can see this poignantly in the case of Dorchester, Massachusetts, where an unusually complete record of the town meetings survives for the 1660s and 1670s. Certain figures cycled through them, persons whom their neighbors certainly knew well. Robert Stiles showed up in the town records first in 1671 to answer for the idleness of himself and his wife and to be publicly shamed for not having “improved their time to the advantage of their family.” And yet, two years later the town granted Stiles 20 shillings of corn “for his present relief” and, not long afterward, another pound for the same ends. In 1673, the town ordered Stiles to “dispose” of one of his children, although it is not clear that he did so. In 1678 Stiles was in trouble once more for failing to improve his time and ordered again “to look out for a place for one of his children at least,” or else the selectmen would do it, as they finally did three years later.15 Frances Bale, ordered to dispose of two of his children whom the selectmen judged he could not afford, demurred because his wife was not willing to do so. The “selectmen


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persuaded him to persuade his wife to it.”16 Still, men like Stiles and Bale could not simply be brushed aside. Both were among the recipients of the bequest for the poor the Dorchester selectmen received in 1679.17 Joseph Birch was admonished for failing to come to church and, on another occasion, put in the stocks for egregious drunkenness, but he was nonetheless granted the town’s liberty to cut trees in the common woods or swamps to “make coals for his calling.”18 Frances Bacon’s was a harder case. “Being destitute of a habitation,” she threw herself and her young child on the town’s charity in 1674. In response, the Dorchester selectmen ordered that a list be drawn up of families that might take her and her child into their households in return for the town’s payment of 3 shillings a week, plus a little more for bedding and clothing. For the next eight years at least, Frances Bacon was passed from one family to another. Thomas Modesley took her for a while, Nicholas Clap for a five-week stretch, Captain Foster for two weeks. William Sumner “tabled” her for a time. In 1676 her child was apprenticed to James Foster, who promised support and employment until the child reached age twenty-one. In the meantime expenses for “keeping Frances,” sometimes for six weeks, more often for two, dot the town’s accounts record. The last mention of her name in the town meeting records that survive was a payment to Daniel Preston of 13 shillings “for killing a wolf and for francis.”19 No one would call this generous. Impossible as it is to enter Frances’s thoughts across this wide an expanse of time, it would be hard to imagine that her mind was settled, or even grateful. But she found herself wrapped in a deeply stubborn sense of charity nonetheless. An unmarried mother, without relations or friends to take her in but with settlement rights in the town, the townspeople did not slough her off. Like Robert Stiles, she was one of their poor. Her distress—however grudgingly relieved—was their public responsibility. The Dorchester townsfolk certainly did not love Frances Bacon,

Boundaries of Obligation


as Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” might seem to have required. But the Model’s injunctions to relieve those in need found in her case, nonetheless, real, practical traction. Beyond each town’s borders, however, the rules of obligation changed abruptly. To cross from one town to another was to traverse a massive ethical and legal boundary. In law and practice, the corollary of each New England town’s responsibility for its poor was its release from responsibility for any of the poor who belonged elsewhere. Fear that this line might be violated by an invasion of outsiders who might end up throwing themselves on the town’s poor relief expenses was a fierce preoccupation of New England town life. Towns required permission for newcomers to settle in their midst. Those who did not attend to that formality could expect to receive legal notice that they would be ineligible for any relief or legal “settlement” rights from the town. “Warning out” notices, these were called, often followed by orders of outright expulsion. Persons without a trade, laborers on temporary employment, poorer folk generally, and pregnant women about to bear a child whose birth in the town might give it settlement rights were particularly acute objects of towns’ suspicion. They were not only “strangers” to the town but objects of potentially heavy burden on the town’s tax rate. Warning out notices regularly punctuated the Dorchester, Massachusetts, town records. In 1670 the selectmen warned Henry Merrifield, whose married daughter had been living with him for about a week, that he must either get a notice from her own town that it had assumed full responsibility for her, or send her away. When the Merrifield family ultimately demurred, stating “that she was their daughter and [they] could not turn her out of door this winter time,” the town ordered him to do so anyway. In another case, when Mercy Chubb, being pregnant, left her husband to move back in with her birth family, “contrary to good order and hazarding of a charge upon the town,” as the record put it, she was ordered be gone within six or eight


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days.20 Like the charity of other New England towns, Dorchester’s sense of its “own” and its poor relief responsibilities stopped abruptly at its village edge. In eighteenth-century Rhode Island, as Ruth Herndon has shown, expulsion of strangers who might be a charge on the towns’ poor rates was even more systemic and harrowingly thorough. Neighbors who sensed a family’s need or illness typically filed the complaint that triggered warning out orders. Visible signs of strangerhood had the same effect. Blacks, Indians, and mulattoes were far more likely to be warned out in early eighteenth-century Rhode Island than persons of European descent. More women than men were warned out, particularly women who might give birth to a child within the town’s limits. In one case a whole family was removed because one of its daughters had become visibly pregnant. In another, the town officials were in the very act of removal when the woman they had seized fell into labor.21 The rule of responsibility only for the poor relief of those legally “settled” in the town was an English import. Still, the practice of locally limited responsibility was carried out in colonial New England with particular intensity. The towns shouldered their local obligations seriously but kept the horizons of responsibility strictly limited. They practiced a public charity that was, at one and the same time, intrusive, strong-willed, exacting, and fiercely bounded. By the end of the eighteenth century, as labor mobility increased and town populations grew, new poor relief practices arose that exaggerated these earlier tensions. Boarding out the poor to neighboring families became a less and less adequate means of relief in the region’s larger towns. Workhouses on the English model began to supplant family-based support. There, New England poor reformers hoped, by living within the structured discipline of an institution and laboring regularly at a repetitive task—spinning, weaving, or, more typically, picking strands from castoff rope for reuse as oakum caulking—those

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unable to support themselves could be more efficiently housed, more gainfully employed, and, in theory, morally remade.22 Boston had built a municipal workhouse by 1738. By the 1780s it formed part of a cluster of welfare institutions on the edge of the built-up city: a municipal almshouse for the infirm and elderly poor, a bridewell for the punishment of minor criminals, a municipal granary where the poor could purchase grain below the prices that storekeepers asked, and the workhouse. Isolation, discipline, and habitinstilling labor were the reciprocal obligations Boston’s poor now gave in return for public support.23 The cruelties that were to overcome the poorhouses by the nineteenth century have been abundantly documented. But it is too easy to read the movement from boarding-out to institutionalization as simply a callous abandonment of the principles of charity that Winthrop had tried so hard to lay out. The idea of making over the character of the poor on more disciplined, work-capable lines, however flawed in practice, was not a small moral ideal. In Philadelphia, the new civic vision of poor relief had its most ambitious trial. There, in 1766, the city’s Quaker merchants persuaded the legislature to take management of the city’s poor away from its public overseers and place it under their own elite direction. A nonprofit association would set the city’s poor tax rate and direct the use of its proceeds. To that end, the newly formed contributors’ corporation undertook to build and staff the largest and most carefully administered Almshouse and House of Employment that the colonies had seen. Inmates were sorted out by gender, race, and estimates of their moral ability and set to a steady regime of work, reflection, and religious instruction, all with the hope of making new persons of them. The “Bettering House,” it was dubbed, in reflection of the scope of the Quaker merchants’ ambition. If its managers had had their way, they would have cut off every other form of public poor support in the city to funnel the poor through its door and reformatory influences. That project ultimately proved too large and too


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costly for them to manage. By 1788 the merchants had given the task of poor relief management back to the city, but not before they had built at the city’s edge the largest and one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in English North America. Wealthy Philadelphians visited the Bettering House’s gardens; travelers took note of it in their diaries.24 Boston’s elite did not act on quite the same scale. But when the property around the city’s charitable institutions began rapidly to gentrify in the 1790s, the city government undertook the construction of a new and larger institution at a more distant unbuilt edge of the city. For its design they commissioned the young Charles Bulfinch, already New England’s most celebrated architect. With the Massachusetts and Connecticut State Houses, churches, banks, and elegant Boston town houses to his credit, Bulfinch was a master of Federalera elegance. When it was completed in 1801, his New Almshouse dwarfed every other building in the city. Three stories high and 270 feet long, its commanding feature was a dramatically tall central pavilion, its windows outlined in marble and topped by a broad marble pediment. High brick walls and a large ornamented gate encircled the Almshouse grounds. As in the case of Philadelphia’s Bettering House, this was public charity made not only efficient but visible, proud, and monumental.25 The mixed messages in these new expressions of civic charity cannot be unspooled along any single thread. They isolated the poor behind their new institutional walls. They extracted the recipients of public poor relief from the temptations of the city but also from the bonds of family. They set them at the city’s margins. In hopes of cutting the mounting costs of more promiscuous forms of relief, they imposed far stricter regimes of moral and physical discipline than the poor in colonial America had ever experienced before. They hoped for far more moral reformation than had been expected before. But they also broadcast—with whatever mixture of vanity and self-

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importance—the public and moral benevolence of their builders. The same structures that stored the poor away celebrated the obligations of rich and poor, each to the other. Had Winthrop’s concept of charity been broader? Did a sense of boundaries not run through his own text as well? Winthrop never specified that only those in good moral and religious standing deserved the love and sacrifice of others. Until “there be no poor with thee,” he wrote, the obligations of charity persisted. But the Model’s stress on care for one’s “brethren” in distress, on the need to do good to all but “especially to the household of faith,” suggests an implicit sense of limits. Winthrop wrote the Model with those in mind who intended to sail for New England and whose financial sacrifice that enterprise required. The ethical community in his imagination was essentially homogenous. The diversity of opinions that so quickly erupted in New England caught him by alarm. That a population in need might emerge outside the fold of church membership he most likely did not anticipate. The “we” of his “we shall be as a city upon a hill” was partial, not universal. His “we” was not, in any meaning of the term, “America.” Winthrop’s community of the godly was both intense and, in a literal sense, parochial. The “we” that emerged in social and political practice in early New England was, in some ways, broader than the “we” of Winthrop’s text. It reached out to the poor without regard to their full membership in the church. It gave, however harshly or begrudgingly, to backsliders and the reprobate as well as to the pious. It secularized the imperative of charity and made the welfare of the poor a legal, civic, tax-supported obligation. Like the monumental almshouses on Boston’s and Philadelphia’s outer edges, the practice of early New England charity kept the poor at a distance. But it had not yet given way before the full-scale economization of economic life and contempt for the indigent that would sweep through the nation in the nineteenth century.


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Nor had John Winthrop’s Model itself made its peace with market individualism. Winthrop’s “we” was fervent: “We must love brotherly without dissimulation. We must love one another with a pure heart fervently. . . . We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren.” If Winthrop’s sense of the social whole did not stretch as far as we might like, the Model’s economic message was clear: market price and ordinary market relations would not suffice for a moral community. The kernel of “charity,” as he turned it over in his mind in 1630, lay precisely in that lesson. But no text remains stable. When after centuries of neglect “A Model of Christian Charity” was plucked out of Winthrop’s context to be reimagined as something quite different—as a founding document for the nation itself—the moral question Winthrop had placed at the core of his text would no longer be the part of the Model that mattered.



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Inventing Foundations


he distance from Philadelphia’s Bettering House in July 1776 to the building we now know as Independence Hall was barely three-quarters of a mile. To imagine it, you have to whisk the modern city out of your mind’s eye. Setting off from the Bettering House across the rural buffer that separated the morally quarantined poor from the city that supported them, your walk would have started out through open fields and farmsteads. Abutting the Bettering House’s grounds you might have paused to admire a second monumental institution of the city’s philanthropic elite, the Pennsylvania Hospital for the free care of the city’s sick poor. Reaching Sixth Street where the commercial city began, you would have passed yet a third charitable institution, the Loganian Library, the gift of one of William Penn’s secretaries who had devoted a part of his merchant-made fortune to accruing one of the largest book collections in British North America. Although it did not turn out quite as James Logan had originally hoped, he had intended to bequeath his collection for public use, free to any ambitious reader who wanted to use it. Finally, swinging around the corner of Chestnut Street you would have come up on the Pennsylvania State House, known in our day as Independence Hall. In all, the walk would have taken you less than fifteen minutes.1 123


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But in historical distance, that journey would have taken you from a cultural-political world whose links to Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” were still discernible to a world in which he would have been radically out of place. In Philadelphia’s great charitable institutions, Winthrop would have recognized the bonds of assistance between unequals whose importance his Model had so insistently underscored. When Winthrop wrote that “we shall be as a city upon a hill,” the “we” in his mind was a people held together by their acts of common faith and mutual obligation. However quickly dissension would shake its covenant claims, the society Winthrop’s Model envisioned was, at root, a consensual rather than a legal-political one: a voluntary company of “godly” English Protestants in search of a place of settlement, purity, obedience, and exile. The “we” that was under construction in Independence Hall in June and July of 1776 was part of an altogether different global experiment in nation making. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” the Declaration of Independence boldly announced. The agent of that new collective purpose was not simply the delegates who signed the document. It was not a cluster of refugees on an unfamiliar shore. It was a political entity that Winthrop and his peers had never remotely anticipated: a newly invented nation. Ultimately, conscription into that nationalist project would change everything about the ways in which “A Model of Christian Charity” was read and understood. Nation making fostered a new search for foundations: for texts and founders who could be imagined to stand at the very beginning point of a nation’s history. It encouraged a radical foreshortening of time so that a nation’s origins and future could be imagined as seamlessly connected. It held out a special place for each nation in the designs of providence and of history; it imbued nations with missions that far exceeded their borders and their mere self-interest. It was in this context that “A Model of Christian Charity” would, much later, be rediscovered and remade, and that its status

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as a foundational text in the American civic canon—indeed its foundational place in the story of the nation itself—would be invented and broadcast. It is routinely suggested that Winthrop’s words impressed their mark all across the emergent culture of American nationalism: that the providential themes he articulated in his last pages poured into the new nation to articulate its deepest, inchoate ambitions. But that misreads the history of both the text and the nation. For three centuries after its writing, except for scattered references to its charity theme, “A Model of Christian Charity” lay out of sight, virtually invisible as a cultural reference point. Its “we” was almost never identified with the ideas of nation swelling in volume around it. Most attempts to identify direct echoes of Winthrop’s words in documents written before the twentieth century are false sightings, in which phrases that Winthrop had lifted directly from the Bible or nationalist tropes constructed independently of Winthrop’s uses are mistaken for evidence of the Model’s influence. “Chosen people,” “city on a hill,” “manifest destiny,” and “mission” to the world: all across the world’s new nationalist cultures, key phrases the Model is said to have set in motion proliferated. Fueled by desires to wrap nations in language grander than that of mere contrivances, they were passed from one nation to another in circuits that swept both through and far beyond the United States. This transnational production of cultures of patriotism should not startle us. Paradoxical as it may seem, nationalism was an international project. Reworking borrowed material, nationalism’s articulators across Europe and the Americas filled the political air with variations on claims to special destiny and visibility. Ultimately those claims would absorb “A Model of Christian Charity” in their embrace. When Winthrop’s words finally came into general circulation in the second half of the twentieth century, they would be read in the light of assumptions and desires that the constructors of the idea of the nation had prearticulated for them.


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As in Winthrop’s day, moreover, the formula of a chosen people, set as a city upon a hill, could not be held within any single meaning. With a twist of setting, the words could be turned from celebration into dissent. They could become critical. They could be carried elsewhere for replanting to an alternative nation, farther from the sins of the one in which they originated. They could be hurled like grenades across the most savage fields of war. Following some of these instances of reappropriated words and ideas, partial resemblances, and radically proliferating employments will almost never bring us directly to Winthrop’s text until the twentieth century. But if “A Model of Christian Charity” all but vanishes from center stage during the long nineteenth, its larger story does not. The era’s burgeoning culture of nationalism, filled with new hungers for identities, history, and foundations: this, too, braids into the lives of Winthrop’s city upon a hill. For those who live within the claims of nations now, it takes some effort to imagine their novelty when they burst onto the scene. The architects of modern nationalism were not only inventors of new devices for governance; they were fashioners of a new form of political identity, underwritten by the new rituals, historical myths, and practices of belonging. The more loosely constructed polities that preceded them in Europe and its empires were, in comparison, patchworks of authorities, customs, laws, and regions. Stitched together by dynastic alliances, accretion, or conquest, they rarely tried to impose a uniform law or political culture across their quilts of difference. Loyalties were typically local or regional. Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay colony had been part of a distended empire of this sort: a patchwork of allied states, globally dispersed “plantations,” voluntary ventures like Penn’s and the New England colonies, and quasi-public commercial companies on the East India Company model. Although one can find premonitions of modern forms of nationalism in the seventeenth century, it was not until the last decades of

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the eighteenth century that a new figure, the citizen, loyal in the first instance not to a locale or a distant crown but to the nation, stepped out of the French and American Revolutions onto the political stage.2 States that succeeded in joining their citizens into new phalanxes of loyalty turned out to be political entities of extraordinary power. Late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century nations learned to tax, to legislate, to conscript, to punish, and to wage war still more energetically than the realms they displaced. But to make all this possible, nations needed to enlist the allegiance of their subjects in deliberately new ways. It was not enough simply to burnish older bonds of ethnic or social affinity. “More than a sentiment,” David Bell writes, “nationalism is a political program, which has as its goal not merely to praise, or defend, or strengthen a nation, but actively to construct one [by] casting its human raw material into a fundamentally new form.”3 If nations were to succeed, their leaders had to will their citizens into a new collective sense of themselves, their history, and their solidarity. Construction of the new nationalist cultures of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was no easy task. Nations often failed. They split apart into fragments; they collapsed in civil war; counterrevolutionary backlash overwhelmed them; they fell prey to stronger powers greedy for expansion; they sank into global insignificance. In the breakaway nations of Latin America that emerged out of the implosion of the Spanish empire, the strains of nation making were particularly pronounced as coups and countercoups, war and rebellion, civil uprisings and the militias’ dissolution into the private forces of rival caudillos kept much of the region in turmoil for decades.4 In the United States, too, the success of the nationalist project was a much less certain thing than the dominant line of American history books commonly acknowledges. Neither the formal declaration of independence nor the ensuring war immediately knitted the peoples of British America together. The revolutionary armies had difficulty recruiting; militias often refused to fight beyond their home grounds. Slaves


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fled by the thousands across the patriot lines to the freedom the British authorities promised them. Backcountry Southern whites, divided by long-standing grievances from their wealthier seaboard cousins, often chose the loyalist cause. In Philadelphia, as elsewhere, many of the elite sided with the familiar British order rather than with the rough crowds and their haranguers in the streets.5 Caught in pressures like these, proponents of the new nationalisms everywhere intensified their efforts to shore up their popular foundations. Symbols proliferated to condense the newly imagined nations into tangible forms. Consciously engineered “technologies” of modern nationalism circulated between the new regimes. By the 1790s the red Phrygian cap and red cockade of the French Revolutionaries had become badges of identity for American nationalists, too, who feared their revolution was being hijacked by forces of reaction. Liberty trees and liberty poles became ubiquitous parts of the nationalist landscape. National anthems on the British model of 1740 gathered popularity; Southern Confederates would enthusiastically take up “La Marseillaise” as their own in 1861. Heroes were singled out for honor, or dragged out of obscurity, or invented altogether. In the United States, George Washington was recast as the new American nation’s patriotic saint. The French poured their sense of nation into the figure of Marianne and the goddess of liberty.6 In this invented riot of symbols and practices, history held a particularly important place. Ancient traditions were exhumed, generalized, or created anew to bind nations to deep, imagined pasts. Scots authors reinvented the Highland kilt as if it ran back to the beginnings of Scottish history. French nationalists donned the costumes of republican Rome. Folklorists found a German Volk far older and more foundational than the new German nation. Southern Confederates invented a Norman heritage for themselves, radically different from the overbearing Anglo- Saxonism of Northern Unionists. Historical pageants re-created dramatic versions of the past. Schoolbooks

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broadcast narratives of patriotic history. Historical societies spread to collect, honor, and valorize the texts that would give nations a sense of depth and lineage.7 Through means such as these, Mona Ozouf writes, the “the new social bond was made to be manifest, eternal, and untouchable.” 8 Integral to all these projects was a reconstruction of time. The older logic of typological history in which Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” had been immersed did not wholly disappear. To live within the tropes of Old Testament time, to believe that contemporary history unfolded on patterns prefigured in the Bible, to read the signs of the moment through a screen of preset analogies— all this persisted in the new era of nation making. Even patriotic phrase makers who had themselves shaken off the core of Christian beliefs knew the rhetorical utility of biblically prefigured history. Thus Deist Tom Paine could liken George III to the Pharaoh of the book of Exodus. Thus Benjamin Franklin’s proposed design for the Great Seal of the new nation could show the Red Sea’s waters engulfing the Egyptian army. Jefferson’s Great Seal design would have depicted the Israelites being led through the wilderness by a cloud and pillar of fire. Providentialist readings of contemporary events endured. So did the Jeremiad’s explanation of each national setback as God’s punishment of a morally inadequate people.9 But increasingly these ways of reading time and history were displaced by others. One powerful axis of nationalist time leapt forward to the promises of the future. One can hardly begin to read through the patriotic literature of the American Revolution without being struck by the force of the future tense. America had hardly been born but that it was bent on future glory, the Fourth of July orators insisted. Its liberty, the virtue of its citizens, the genius of its commerce and agriculture, and the sheer size of its territory all surely destined it to be one of the great powers of the world. “It may seem presumptuous for us, who are a nation of but yesterday, to arrogate to ourselves the merit of having enlightened mankind in the art of


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government,” David Ramsey declared in an Independence Day oration in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1794. But where else, he went on, were rights so fully secured and happiness so widely diffused? Where else were a nation’s people so orderly, peaceable, and virtuous? “To what height of national greatness may we not aspire?” he continued. A “golden age” was around the corner, Samuel Stillman urged in the same vein in Boston in 1789, when American “science, arts, industry, religion, freedom, and public happiness, shall exalt her to the most distinguished eminence among the nations of the world.” John L. O’Sullivan was to put it more tersely in 1839: America was “the great nation of futurity.”10 A second axis of nationalist time, especially prominent in invented nations like the United States, celebrated the nation’s heroic break with the past. Destruction of the symbols of the ancien régime— the street crowds’ toppling of statues and trampling of coats of arms; the cartoonists’ and pamphleteers’ vicious libeling of former rulers—were not only acts of political defiance. They were assertions that the new nation had shattered history’s chains and encagements: that time itself was starting anew. “The birthday of a new world is at hand,” Tom Paine urged Americans in 1776—if only they would cut their ties with a rotten and tyrannical king and seize the new world’s promise. Asserting that time’s restart had already begun, the Jacobin Convention declared in 1793 that henceforth the beginning year of the French Revolution would be known as Year I. But a nation suspended only in predictions of future greatness or a moment of radical break with the past could not fully command the affections of those on whose loyalty it depended. Consciously or half-consciously, the architects of nationalism were driven not only to pronounce their nation’s novelty but, just as urgently, to disguise it. Whether in the case of the scattered British settlements in North America, or the political patchworks of late nineteenth-century Italy and Germany, the legitimacy of new nations was made to rest, in part, on a sense that they had always existed. Traditions and texts invented

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for particular occasions were taken out of time as if their roots ran back to the unchanging foundations of the nation itself. An early example of the effort to enshrine written words with meanings that could transcend their contingency-strewn, politically fraught, and hasty circumstances was the exhuming of the Magna Carta as the very foundation stone of English liberty. A royal concession that had been all but forgotten by the fifteenth century, the Magna Carta was revived in the seventeenth century by parliamentary opponents of the Stuart kings, who inserted it into British nationalist tradition as if it had been, all along, the keystone of England’s “ancient constitution.”11 The French did the same after 1848 with the slogan of the modern French nation, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” Liberté and égalité had been quickly codified during the Revolution. But the word fraternité had carried too many associations with Jacobin social radicalism for conservatives and centrists (who much preferred “order” or “property”) to accept until decades later—but then to present it as if it had been the nation’s birth cry from its beginnings.12 This was to be the way the Declaration of Independence was absorbed into the history of the American nation as well. It was not at the beginning a timeless text. Once its purpose of declaring independence to the nation and the world had been accomplished, the historian Pauline Maier writes, the Declaration of Independence was “all but forgotten.” When the text came back into currency in the 1790s it was as a partisan document: a polarizing manifesto in a newly polarized political culture. Democratic-Republican Party rallies made the Declaration of Independence’s reading the centerpiece of their Independence Day celebrations, all the more enthusiastically once the hand in its authorship of Thomas Jefferson, their party hero, became more publicly known. Federalist newspaper editors, by contrast, deemed its philosophically central sentence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .”) too abstract, too French, and too alien to American circumstances. Federalist newspaper editors disdained to


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print it in their Independence Day issues; Federalist rally organizers almost never read it. Not until the tensions of the first party system eased a half century after independence did the “sacralization” of the Declaration of Independence begin.13 Nations needed to promise newness; they needed to display their break with a senescent past. But to manufacture the citizens’ consciousness that nationalist loyalty depended upon, they needed to appear to be timeless as well. The past needed to be reinjected into the present. If the nation did not possess foundational documents— and, in sober fact, few did—the impulse to invent them or to remake others for that purpose ran too hard to dismiss. As Drew Faust writes of Confederate nationalism, the new nations’ proponents everywhere worked hard to help their citizens see that “their new departure was, in reality, no departure at all.”14 In this ser vice history needed to be folded over upon itself. This reworking of history would in time fundamentally remake the meaning of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” In the twentieth century the Model would not only be enshrined in the canon of American foundational texts, it would be reimagined as having been there all along. The historical distance between past and present would be foreshortened. Winthrop’s words would be made to seem, like the Magna Carta, impervious to time.

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Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism


or the moment, however, the silence that enveloped Winthrop’s words was profound. A single reference to “A Model of Christian Charity” survives from the seventeenth century. The Model’s next sighting, after a gap of almost two centuries, dates from 1809. Almost thirty years later it was given its first printing. Exactly where the text had been in the interim years—how many copies in handwritten circulation had been lost to fire or decay or disinterest—we will never know. All we do know is that the text now preserved in the New-York Historical Society somehow ended up in a cache of family papers possessed by John Winthrop’s greatgreat-grandson and New York City merchant Francis Bayard Winthrop in 1809. Francis Bayard Winthrop received them from one eldest son to another in the way most intergenerational property was transferred in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Historical documents were conventionally treated as family possessions in that era, passed on as inheritances, sometimes intact, in many cases parceled out among family heirs. Only rarely were they made accessible to others. John Winthrop’s journal, the indispensable source on which every history of early New England depends, had been one of the 133


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earliest American manuscripts to escape this private property vortex. Loaned out by his descendants from time to time, Winthrop’s journal temporarily ended up in the hands of Connecticut’s governor Jonathan Trumbull in the late eighteenth century. Catching wind of Trumbull’s copy, the young Noah Webster, whose flood of American spellers, grammars, histories, dictionaries, and readers was to impress so strong a nationalist signature on the early republic’s culture, arranged for a Connecticut printer to bring out an edition in 1790.1 But this was an exception. Most historical manuscripts were routinely squirreled away among a family’s treasures only to be turned up by chance and accident. An alternative to the custom of private property in historical texts in the early nineteenth century was the newly invented historical society. The nation’s first was organized by Boston’s ministerial-merchant elite in 1791 as a repository where books and manuscripts that might “conduce to mark the genius, delineate the manners, and trace the progress of society in the United States” could be preserved from private ignorance and neglect. Begun as a small, select association akin to a subscription library, the Massachusetts Historical Society within a year had begun printing collections of the most accessible of its documents for broader circulation.2 Francis Bayard Winthrop’s brother, Thomas Lindall Winthrop— Boston merchant, bibliophile, and insatiable institution-joiner— became an early supporter of the historical society movement. By the end of his life, he could boast not only of his past presidency of the Massachusetts Historical Society but also his membership in a half dozen others from Maine to Georgia.3 In 1803 he convinced his brother Francis to donate the two volumes of John Winthrop’s journal still in the family’s hands together with a “large trunk” of old books and manuscripts to the Massachusetts society.4 Six years later, Francis Winthrop, who had caught the historical society enthusiasm himself, offered the newly organized New-York Historical Society a

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bundle of twenty-two more historical manuscripts. The last on his list was “A Modell of Christian Charity.”5 In the safekeeping of the New-York Historical Society, however, the Model sat for almost thirty more years, inert and unremarked upon. In early 1838 one of the Society’s members, George Folsom, a lawyer and amateur historian who was just about to marry into the Winthrop lineage, wrote to the Massachusetts Historical Society to ask if it would be interested in publishing the Model in its Collections. Though Folsom apologized that he was “unable to furnish any additional information relative to the interesting relic,” the answer came back positive. Later that year, after a disappearance that had lasted more than two centuries, “A Model of Christian Charity” was finally published.6 Eclecticism governed the volume of the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections in which the Model appeared. It opened with an account of the Society, two poetic odes to New England, “rescued,” the editors proudly wrote, from more than 160 years of obscurity, and what was said to be an equally ancient song: If fresh meat be wanting, to fill up our dish, We have carrots and turnips as much as we wish; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies, Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies; We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon; If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone.

Bracketing the Model on the other side was a painstakingly detailed history of the origins of the postal ser vice. Attempting to elevate the Model above its companion relics, the editors exalted Winthrop and his peers for “founding deeply and broadly the edifice


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of such an empire” as the United States had now achieved, “whose whole and true glory was all within their prophetic vision.”7 But from this promising send-off, the Model almost immediately sank into almost complete obscurity again. It was only reprinted twice before the century’s end. The first reprinting, in 1840, was in the newsletter of the American Education Society, a Boston association offering financial assistance to young men from poor families seeking to study for the ministry. Seeing a fellow spirit in Winthrop, the Society passed over the Model’s “city upon a hill” and chosen people motifs to single out the document for its “correct views . . . in respect to charitable contributions.” 8 With ten volumes to fill out, Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson’s Library of American Literature reprinted about a third of the Model’s text in 1888.9 That was all. A handful of historians noted the existence of the Model or, more rarely, extracted a line or two from it—though almost never the “city upon a hill” line. George Bancroft, with his own ten volumes to occupy, quoted generously from it in his History of the United States in 1858. John Gorham Palfrey gave it a half a paragraph that same year in his History of New England, noting that it “breathes the noblest spirit of philanthropy.” Charles F. Richardson’s American Literature, 1607– 1885, on the other hand, told its readers in 1889 that “the industrious Winthrop beguiled the tedium of the voyage by writing a booklet called “A Model of Christian Charity” but that “it need not long detain the literary student.”10 The most widely used school history texts—Noah Webster’s History of the United States in 1841, Charles A. Goodrich’s History of the United States of America on a Plan Adapted to the Capacity of Youth in 1852, Edward Eggleston’s A History of the United States and Its People for the Use of Schools in 1889, Edward Channing’s A Students’ History of the United States in 1904, through David Saville Muzzey’s extraordinary textbook success, An American History in 1911—gave no mention of the Model’s existence. Neither did Woodrow Wilson’s A History of the American People in 1902.11

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Beyond the history books, the Model simply didn’t exist in public consciousness at all. New England’s foremost nineteenth-century champion, Daniel Webster, from whom oratory flowed in awesome volume, never mentioned the text.12 For the national centennial of 1876, the Massachusetts legislature was asked to commission two statues for the National Statutory Hall being inaugurated in Washington, DC. The legislature nominated Samuel Adams and (after a tussle with those who preferred the less harsh and autocratic governor of the Plymouth colony, William Bradford) John Winthrop. The Winthrop statue shows a dignified, bearded, and heavily beruffled figure with a Bible in one hand and the colony’s charter in the other. Nowhere in the commission’s report or in the raft of dedicatory speeches was Winthrop’s Model thought to be worth mentioning.13 The era of the first print publication of “A Model of Christian Charity” should have been an auspicious one. In 1820 New England patriots had turned the two hundredth year of the Plymouth colony’s beginnings into a major celebration: an occasion for parades, toasts, a public dinner and ball, and an instantly celebrated one-and-threequarter-hour oration by Daniel Webster. The fiftieth anniversary of the independence struggle ignited still more enthusiastic memorializations of the nation’s past. The first stone of the Bunker Hill Monument (whose completion Daniel Webster was to celebrate with another epically long and stirring oration) was laid in 1825. A decade later, Bostonians rediscovered their Tea Party, an event whose memory had been largely shunted aside by the city’s elite who had watched it spin out of their control in 1773—shoving forward one of the crowd’s aging survivors for a long-delayed hero’s acclamation.14 But no comparable attention was paid to John Winthrop’s Model. Part of the reason for the document’s neglect stemmed from its competition with other print representations of New England’s seventeenth-century mission. William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, which had come to light in the 1850s, gave a much more


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emotionally empathetic account of the earliest New England immigrants’ sufferings. Winthrop’s own Journal gave detail to the Massachusetts colonists’ struggles to find a stable political and ecclesiastical order. A still deeper liability of the Model was its immersion in assumptions of immutably hierarchical class relations at a time when those premises had come under increasingly vocal attack in American society. “God almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection” restated a seventeenth-century moral truism. But by 1838 when the Model was first put into print, a year after Andrew Jackson concluded his tumultuous popular remaking of the presidency, that opening sentence could not but seem a relic: jarring and out of place even in the political culture of anti-Jackson New England. But the most important reason why “A Model of Christian Charity” faded so quickly from sight was that the words and phrases that we now so strongly identify with it and imagine to have drawn the culture’s attention to it like a magnet were already, independently, in the air. In an age of nationalism, they had become too ubiquitous, too easily available wholly apart from Winthrop’s text for the Model to make any serious impression. Too foreign in parts, it was, in this second respect, too familiar. Phrases on which Winthrop had drawn had become portable, malleable particles of nationalist consciousness that traveled, not only through the oral and print cultures of the United States but far beyond. “City on a hill” was a particularly placeless, almost infinitely malleable phrase. Every Bible-reading Christian knew its place in the book of Matthew from which Winthrop had drawn it. By the nineteenth century, “city on a hill” had been used in homilies virtually beyond counting. The most common reference of the phrase was to the body of Christian believers, the “visible” church that they composed, their

Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism


obligation to illuminate the world, and their special vulnerability if they fell short. Into the twentieth century, no secular uses came close to matching this in frequency. But no simile stays easily within bounds. As the technologies of nationalism multiplied in the nineteenth century, the political possibilities in the motif quickly expanded. To describe the nation as a city on a hill was still rare in the United States in the first years of nation making. In none of the records of the early Congress does the simile appear, nor in the ratification conventions called to debate the Constitution.15 John Adams used the phrase once in a letter from Paris in 1780 admonishing General Nathaniel Greene that the movements of his army were being intensely watched all over Europe. There were more “lies” in circulation there about the fortunes of the war and the course of the American Congress, Adams, warned, than about any royal court on the continent.16 Beyond Adams, however, none of the other figures who were to assume leadership in the early republic used the phrase at all. By the 1820s, in a more confident nationalist political culture, orators began to employ the “city on a hill” phrase to expand on a much grander theme. “Our American Republic exists not for herself alone,” William Plummer told a July 4th audience in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1828. “She is a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid: a beacon kindled upon the mountain top, to which the nations look for light and guidance, through the storms of revolution, and the thick night of ignorance and despotism, with which so large a portion of mankind is still enveloped. To the broad light of our bright example, the longing eyes of millions are turned, from every quarter of this benighted globe.” In a similar vein Paul Dean preached in a Massachusetts Election Day sermon in 1832 that we should view “this vast and mighty republic as a beautiful city set upon an hill seen and admired by the kingdoms of the world, and risen as a sun in the firmament of glory, shedding light and liberty on every region on earth.”17


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Our national unity would not be frayed by annexation of still more territory in the West, Lewis Cass insisted in Congress in 1846: “Our Jerusalem is neither beleaguered nor in danger. It is yet the city upon a hill, glorious in what it is, still more glorious, by the blessing of God, in what it is to be—a landmark, inviting the nations of the world, struggling upon the stormy ocean of political oppression, to follow us to a haven of safety and of rational liberty.”18 In the “golden age” of Independence Day oratory, as some have called the decades between 1820 and 1860, speakers’ hunger for the apt metaphor, joined with the Bibles by their inkstands or in their memories, combined to set the simile in political motion. But none of these evoked Winthrop’s text or New England’s early history. And from the beginning these patriotic uses of the “city on a hill” phrase jostled with a crowd of others. The nation might be like a city set upon a hill, but every missionary family and every pious college student was a city upon a hill too, the church journals advised. Every member of the Masonic Order and every Oddfellow was a city on a hill. Farmers who practiced scientific agriculture were like a city on a hill, whose powerful example to their neighbors “cannot be hid.”19 New York City’s intensely developed commerce made it a city upon a hill. Brooklyn, Denver, Baltimore, Akron, and Virginia City, Nevada, were all heralded as cities on a hill as well.20 Temperance societies were cities on a hill. But by the same token, so were breweries, visible everywhere, for evil could be as conspicuous as virtue.21 The proslavery platform of the New Hampshire Democratic Party was “a city set on a hill,” William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator fumed. It was “a mountain, a volcano, whose belchings gleam up against the Northern sky, by day and night, and whose devouring lava desolates and withers wherever it flows.”22 In a dime novel western published in 1849, just as the melodrama’s villain starts to burn one of his victims alive, he stops to boast, “We shall have light now—like a city set upon a hill—won’t we?”23

Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism


The most flexible of metaphors, it could go most everywhere. English patriots declared that “truly” the English people were “a city upon a hill,” a “bright beacon . . . to the surrounding world.”24 Robespierre told the National Convention at the French Revolution’s height in 1794 that the mission of France was to “accomplish the destiny of humanity,” to be “the model to the nations” of the world. “The moral ideal of the world” the historian Jules Michelet heralded France’s position in the early 1830s. France was “the pilot ship of humanity” down the “road of the future,” destined to “help every nation be born to liberty.”25 Mid-nineteenth-century Latin American Liberals, momentarily regaining their confidence after the disappointments of the early postindependence years, proclaimed their republics as visible models to the world that were “every day moving closer to the apex of civilization.” “All nations are watching us,” another writer in the same vein declared. “The cause of Mexico is the cause of the American continent; what’s more, it is the cause of humanity.”26 None of these uses of the “city on a hill” phrase depended on any familiarity with Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” The words traveled across all of Bible-reading Christendom and from there, unlinked to their scriptural text, deep into secular and political culture. By the nineteenth century, the act of imagining one’s own nation to be a beacon to others, a light illuminating the world’s darkness, an example set upon a hill, came with the very rhetoric of nationalism. If “as a city on a hill” was a mobile metaphor across the transnational rhetorics of civic patriotism, the notion of a chosen people swelled even more quickly and consequentially in the new nationalist cultures. During the Revolutionary War, New England preachers had heralded the new nation as God’s “American Israel.” They stressed the remarkable “favours of heaven” that gave “incontestable evidence that God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side.” 27 New


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Englanders’ conflation of the religious and the national was so stock a part of the region’s patriotic culture that Harriet Beecher Stowe incorporated a gentle but sharp-eyed parody of it in her description of “Dolly’s ‘Fourth’ ” in small town New England. Between a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which Dolly found deeply stirring, an elaborate Fourth of July oration in which “the bird of our nation . . . flew upward and sunward, waved his pinions, gazed with undaunted eye on the brightness, and did all the other things appointed for the American Eagle to do on the Fourth of July,” between the cannonshot-filled battle reenactment that her brothers had come for and the barely veiled jabs at political opponents in the day’s opening prayers, Dolly heard the village minister deliver a fervent “recounting of God’s mercies to New England from the beginning, and of his deliverances from her enemies, and of petitions for the glorious future of the United States of America—that they might be chosen vessels, commissioned to bear the light of liberty and religion through all the earth.”28 Much as the New Englanders cherished the chosen people motif, however, they had no special ownership of it. Andrew Jackson bid the nation farewell in 1837 with the reminder that “Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number, and has chosen you, as the guardians of freedom, to preserve it for the benefit of the human race.”29 Later that year, Sam Houston reassured the new Republic of Texas that God would govern them “as a chosen people.” “Who will, what can, set limits on our onward march?” the Irish American immigrant editor and coiner of the “manifest destiny” phrase, John L. O’Sullivan, asked rhetorically in 1839. “For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the lifegiving light of truth, America has been chosen.” We are not just a people, a South Carolina writer, far from New England, took up the theme in 1845: “We are a peculiar people, chosen of the Lord . . . to keep burning the vestal flame of Liberty, as a light unto the feet and a lamp unto the path of the benighted nations, who yet slumber or

Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism


groan under the bondage of tyranny.”30 By 1862, their loyalties having slid from one nation to another, the editors of the Christian Observer in 1862 were sure that the Confederacy “will be the Lord’s peculiar people.”31 None of this was unique to Americans. British nationalists, steeped in a similarly covenantal language, used the same tropes for themselves. Victory over France in the Seven Years War had been celebrated with thanks for God’s deliverance of “our Jerusalem . . . [our] British Israel.” Providence “was no less watchful, for the preservation of the British nation, than it was of old, for the Jewish,” Bishop William Warburton celebrated the armies’ success. “What I propose to prove,” Thomas Lewis declared in 1793, “is that we of this nation are blessed above the rest of the world. . . . There are no people under Heaven who have seen clearer instances of the interposition of Providence on their behalf.”32 Dutch patriots embraced their own variation on the theme of “our Dutch Zion.” “Truly never has there been a people, and it is possible there will never be one, which has so much similarity and resemblance with Israel than the people of the Netherlands.”33 Cultures with a Calvinist past found the idea of a covenant with God easy to imagine, but a Calvinist legacy was not required for a nation to be imagined as God’s favored people, chosen (as John Milton had put it) “before any other.” “Oh Russia,” a nineteenth-century Slavophile writer proclaimed. “You, you are chosen to consummate, to crown the development of humanity, to embody all the various human achievements in one great synthesis.”34 “We Germans are a chosen people which represents mankind and makes every thing a universal concern,” Friedrich Christoph Perthes enthused to a friend in 1807. “We never were a mere nation.” A French writer in Articles de l’avenir countered in 1831: “In the new universe formed by Christianity, one people, among all others appears visibly chosen to carry forward the universal emancipation within this temporal state. It is the Frankish people.”35


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The language of divine election was a language of simile. To be chosen was to be especially favored. It was to experience more of the protection of providence from natural disaster and military defeat than any other people elsewhere. It was to be given an especially momentous task in the unfolding of human history. It was to enjoy the special “smiles” of providence. It was to be chosen as a “theater for the display of some of the most astonishing dispensations” of God’s favor. To laud the appearance of God’s “new Israel” was to ratchet up almost to the breaking point the power of metaphor. But to narrow the space between likeness and fact, to try to make their nations not only engines of public order and happiness but instruments of sacred design—all this raced through the traveling rhetoric of nationalism both within and far beyond the United States. The point has been made many times. Nationalism slipped into the clothes of a civil religion. But to hitch the special destiny of the nation to the language of a chosen people was, at the same time, to hitch it to no simple, glorious future. The history of Old Testament Israel had fluctuated across every register from triumph to exile and tribulation, from exaltation to the ashes of defeat. Punishments had rained down continually upon it. Taken literally there was no simple reassurance to be found in the claim of chosenness.36 Not surprisingly, uses of the phrase splayed all across the spectrum from pride to anger. Thomas Jefferson in 1801 praised the good fortune of “possessing a chosen country,” a broad ocean away from the “exterminating havoc” of Europe, “with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation.” An older and more disillusioned John Adams took the opposite tack, lamenting that “we are not a Chosen People, that I know of. . . . We must and we shall go the Way of all the Earth.” Robert C. Winthrop, serving as a Whig congressman from Massachusetts during the manifest destiny debates in Congress, scoffed at his opponents in the Democratic Party who professed to find the “finger of God” pointing straight to the an-

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nexation of Oregon. Abraham Lincoln, speaking briefly in Trenton in 1861 on his way to his inaugural in Washington, DC, used the chosen people phrase for his first and only time: “I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people.”37 In this history of recirculating fragments of biblical quotation and repurposed technologies of nationalism, all vastly more distant from the still half-buried text of 1630 than we have conventionally imagined, the variety of these uses is important. Jefferson seized on the celebratory possibilities of the chosen people motif. Adams used it in lament, Robert Winthrop in sarcasm. But the critical edge that the words of apparent self-congratulation disguised is no less important. Lincoln’s phrase, in particular, has been repeated too often and far too glibly. It is worth pausing longer over Lincoln’s haunting word: “almost.”

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From the Top Mast


ow does a critic speak within the self-reaffirming echo chambers of a nationalist culture? Sometimes in direct confrontation. Sometimes in disguise. But often by repurposing one of the circulating commonplaces so that a platitude turns suddenly into a barb and provocation. John Winthrop was no stranger to twists of language of this kind. Inverting the accustomed meaning of “city upon a hill,” he had taken a biblical line of encouragement and reworked it into a phrase of high anxiety. To dwell as in a city upon a hill, he had reminded himself and his fellows, was not to dwell on a mountain top of confidence but under the eyes of relentless scrutiny. Anxiety was the price of their chosenness. Break their covenant with themselves and God and the world would never forget their falseness. There was terror beneath the confidence of “A Model of Christian Charity,” and warning beneath its benedictions. In the nineteenth-century age of nationalism, a great deal of Winthrop’s conditionality gave way before the inflowing tides of patriotism. Spread-eagle rhetoric set the standard for nationalist oratory. Giants of the age like Daniel Webster learned to make its cadences into anthems of self-congratulation. But the critical impulse did not go away. Some of it was clothed in the terms Winthrop had placed, for very different purposes, in the Model itself. 146

From the Top Mast


The double-edged potential within these movable metaphors has often been hard to perceive. The impulse to cut up the literature of American nationalism into truncated, quotable fragments, to thread them along a continuous string so that each of the extracts, from the Puritans to the present, amplifies and reinforces the others, has softened and repolished the words. But amidst the din of selfcongratulation, critical turns on the theme of a chosen people dwelling in a city on a hill were never far from sight. One of the now most celebrated nineteenth-century odes to the new chosen people of modern American times was a passage that Herman Melville injected into his novel of life aboard an American Navy frigate, a book he titled White-Jacket. The Americans bear “the ark of the liberties of the world,” Melville wrote impassionedly there. They were the world’s “predestinated” pioneers: “the Israel of our time.” Melville picked up the words from the currents of fervent affirmation around him. What is not so often noticed is that he put them into the top-mast musings of one of American fiction’s most striking, critical misfits. Certainly in the literature of nineteenth-century American nationalism there is no stranger figure than the sailor Melville named “White-Jacket.” He took his name from the jacket he had stitched together himself when no proper sailor’s pea jacket could be had. Stiffly darned and quilted, with a “Quakerish amplitude” and “tumbledown collar,” patched with every kind of pocket for books, biscuits, an extra shirt or two, and other gear, all it needed was waterproofing.1 But the keeper of the ship’s paint room insisted that there was no more paint or tar to be had. So alone among his thousand other blackcoated fellow crew members, White-Jacket stood out as conspicuously as a ghost in his sodden, homemade, albino outfit. In this garb, White-Jacket worked the top-most sails of the U.S. naval frigate Neversink. A hundred feet above the ship’s main deck and


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its cannons below, he manned the stays of the royal mainsail. His brethren on the main top, if Melville is to be believed, were an elite cadre of sailors. They read Ulysses and Macbeth, Byron’s poetry and Scott’s romances. They carried Shakespeare in their pockets. They ribbed lesser sailors who knew only whaling ships and blubber. If they slipped at their tasks they fell in a horrifying instant to splinter their bones on brass and wood below or, like the luckier White-Jacket himself, to crash into the sea with a thunder-boom in his ears and the sensation of death flooding over him in billows, yet still alive. But at other times, White-Jacket would mount the mainmast not for conversation or for ship’s duty but, in a “meditative humor,” would wrap his strange costume around him and “muse.” He was, aloft, the ship’s loner, its detached conscience, its aerial ghost, its albatross. One of White-Jacket’s extended monologues was to become one of the widely quoted expressions of what is routinely described as the optimistic, future-confident nationalism of the mid-nineteenthcentury United States. “Let us leave the Past,” Melville has WhiteJacket say. “The Past is the text-book of tyrants; the Future the Bible of the Free.” The Future was the proper realm for America. Escaped from the house of bondage, Israel of old did not follow after the ways of the Egyptians. To her was given an express dispensation; to her were given new things under the sun. And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people—the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. . . . God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. . . . Long enough have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us, if we would but give utterance to his promptings. And let us always remember that with ourselves, almost for the first time in the history of earth,

From the Top Mast


national selfishness is unbounded philanthropy; for we can not do a good to America but we give alms to the world.2

Among the most eloquent passages Melville ever wrote, this hymn to the new chosen people, the American “Israel of our time,” quickly went into a circulation wider than the book itself. During the late nineteenth century, when Melville’s literary reputation had receded to a low ebb, White-Jacket’s lines celebrating the Future were imbedded in the quotation books that circulated in both England and the United States for ministers in need of sermon materials. It did not seem to jar on readers that they were there unlinked from American references and attributed to a different sea-yarn spinner, the British novelist Frederick Marryat. Detached from any American referents, they showed up as Marryat’s words in the early twentieth century as American newspaper quotation box filler as well.3 In the mid-twentieth-century flowering of American studies, the words came back into circulation not merely as Melville’s own but as the apotheosis of an emergent national optimism. Here, scores of commentators agreed, was the American Idea distilled to its essence. Here one heard the myth of America, the American creed, the distinctive terms of a nationalism that ran back to the Puritan past and forward to an unbounded future. White-Jacket did not carry much in the way of a plot. Written in a headlong rush between April and September 1849 (“by the job, as a woodsawyer saws wood,” Melville apologized to his friends), the book was a pastiche made up of memories of Melville’s own naval shipboard experiences six years before, generously larded with vignettes taken from other writers. Reviewers praised it for its vividly penned glimpses into the social life aboard a man-of-war. Seamen’s quirks and habits, the strains and dangers under which they lived, the rituals of the deck and mess hall, the exaggerated character traits a ship’s environment incubated, the maelstrom of a sea storm and the dullness of life at anchor: all this Melville offered up with a skilled hand.4


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But if White-Jacket did not have a plot, it had a theme that ran insistently through its pages. That theme was the barbaric exercise of authority in the American naval fleet. The “chosen people” passage that was to be so often extracted as distilling the extraordinary promise of America came at the culmination of three of the angriest chapters Melville would ever write: a condemnation of flogging in the U.S. Navy from which he would not let his readers avert their eyes. Tied and “stripped like a slave,” in full sight of the ship’s officers and entire crew who were required to witness it, the sailors whom the captain’s orders had condemned to punishment were whipped until their backs ran with blood, their bodies leaping and writhing under the cat-of-nine-tails’ dozen blows. Still worse was the punishment of being flogged “through the fleet,” by which an American sailor could be whipped a dozen times at each flogging station from warship to warship. These savage, body-breaking beatings were not only crimes against the Law of Nature, Melville insisted. They were the barbaric remnants of a feudal order, “monstrous graftings of tyranny” upon a nominally free people. Though flogging remained lawful in the English navy, some of England’s most admired naval heroes had proved that the governance of sailors did not require it.5 But in the U.S. Navy, Melville wrote in anger, the grip of the past was unyielding. Captains behaved like petty kings and tyrants, fortressed behind the “immutable ceremonies and iron etiquette of a man-of war.” The fleet’s commodore domineered over his ships’ crews as if he were an ancient emperor or sultan, “far more regal than any descendant of Charlemagne, more haughty than any Mogul of the East.” 6 The Past wasn’t elsewhere. It lorded its sway over the American navy; it saturated the world White-Jacket lived in. The Future—the dream of escaping the Past’s house of bondage to become the ark of the liberties of the world—was not a celebratory report on an emergent American culture, as it has too often been read. It was a dissent from America: a countervision in Mel-

From the Top Mast


ville’s and White-Jacket’s outraged imaginations of what America ought to have stood for. It turned the rhetoric of a New Israel on its head to flay the America of fact with the ideals it so blatantly failed to live up to. Flogging on U.S. naval ships would, in fact, be abolished in the same year that White-Jacket was published. But nothing in the heat of Melville’s impassioned prose and the sense of betrayal that he vested in the “ark of the liberties of the world” passage suggests he anticipated that step. America, in its barbaric cruelties, was being acted out in the ship far below White-Jacket’s feet. The idea of America that Melville implored readers to believe in lay elsewhere, in a realm at cross-purposes to the institutionalized barbarism Melville himself had witnessed: in the dreams of a lonely top-mast man, America’s whitecoated misfit, its detached critic, its ghostly albatross. An edge of discomfort had always been part of the chosen people idea. But Melville’s dissent from the top mast differed from Winthrop’s call to a life of self-scrutiny. It differed, too, from the generalized laments with which later New England preachers would scourge their people’s moral and spiritual failings. The Jeremiad’s form was enveloping and yet, ultimately, redemptive. It amassed every sign of a chosen people’s accumulating weaknesses, every mark of moral and spiritual failure, every reason why God should lose patience and cut his people off entirely—before offering them one last chance at reform. Critical nationalism of the sort Melville employed was different. It pressed the gulf between ideal and practice into a deeply cutting contradiction. Its power was dialectical, not merely hortatory. It used the rhetoric of nationalism to try to pierce the billowing conceits of national greatness. To wield the term “chosen people” in nineteenthcentury America was, typically, to heap still more timbers on the celebratory bonfires of pride. A nation more blessed than any other was no mean object of affection. But with a different, critical turn of the


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words, the idea of a chosen people, blind to the hypocrisy of their conceits, could be wielded as a stinging critique. Neither in his earlier, more celebratory pieces nor in his later, darker writings did Melville use these phrases to take up more broadly the cause of reform. But it should not be surprising that some of the most vivid uses of the “chosen people” motif in nineteenth-century America were penned by those who wielded it against what they took to be the nation’s most shameful contradictions. “The Birth-day of Freedom,” not merely for this country “but for the world, for man universally,” the freelance radical Orestes Brownson called the day of American independence in a Fourth of July address in 1834. “There was more in that revolution than the American and British armies. The past and the future were there. The spirit of immobility and the spirit of progress met there in terrible conflict; humanity all entire was there.” But what had come of that struggle for freedom and the “soul-kindling truth” of equal human rights? Brownson went on. What did equality mean when some lived in luxury and idleness while others were riveted to the chains of labor, when starvation faced the working man, when the gap grew ever wider between “those who produce and are poor and those who produce not and are rich?” The promise of America—“Freedom’s chosen land,” he would call it in 1840—was the rhetorical set-up. The critical knife came in naming “the worm gnawing into the very heart of that tree of liberty which our fathers have planted.”7 The radical journalist Margaret Fuller proclaimed the greatness of America in the same double-edged way. “We doubt not the destiny of our country—that she is to accomplish great things for human nature, and be the mother of a nobler race than the world has yet known. . . . But she has been so false to that scheme made out at her nativity, that it is now hard to say which way that destiny points.” 8 “What might she be?” a correspondent to the abolitionist Liberator echoed the theme. “But for this foul blot [of slavery] . . . she would

From the Top Mast


be as a city on a hill for the admiring gaze of the whole world. Alas! alas! that she is . . . blind to the elements of greatness within her.” 9 There was a still more radical stance for antebellum America’s critics to take, of course, which was to dissociate themselves from the city on a hill theme altogether. This was William Lloyd Garrison’s position well before, in dramatic fury, he publicly burned the Constitution that he called a covenant of death with slavery. “What is there in the character of this American Nation that they should be the especial charge of the Most High? Is it that we have extirpated the races He had planted here at first, with fire-water and sword? . . . Is it that we have promoted this System [of slavery] by blood and this fraud to the utmost of our power, and spread it where it did not exist, and still sigh for new worlds for its fatal victories? . . . And yet, to judge from the words of priests and politicians, we are His chosen people, on whom depend all the hopes of mankind!”10 Frederick Douglass, the most eloquent African American orator and writer of his day, took the same line, even after he had broken with Garrison on the efficacy of political action under a blood-stained Constitution. When fugitive slave hunters tracked down Anthony Burns in Boston and tried to force his return to slavery in Virginia, Douglass wrote with irony-dripping anger, “Now let all true patriotic Christian Republicans rejoice and be glad! . . . Let the churches be flung open and the pulpit resound with thanksgiving, that our beloved country has been saved, and that Republican Liberty is still secure, and the example of the model republic still shines refulgently, to the confusion of tyrants and oppressors in Europe.”11 And yet, even Douglass knew the critical potential of the chosen nation theme. He refused to think that the North could save its virtue simply by dissociating itself from the slave South. That would be akin to a pirate imagining that he could clear his crime by leaping into a longboat and leaving his crewmates and their tormented prisoners behind. Sooner or later, “by fair means or foul means, in quiet or in tumult, in peace or in blood, in judgment or in mercy, slavery is


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doomed to cease out of this otherwise goodly land, and liberty is destined to become the settled law of this Republic.”12 This stance was not a sign of passive resignation to the tides of history; it was not the voice of a writer unwittingly entangled in the “myth of America,” as Sacvan Bercovitch was to put it.13 To embrace the nationalist promise and insist that only when the nation’s deepest flaw had been excised would that promise be realized was a tool of powerful edge and potency. When Abraham Lincoln came as close as he ever would to the chosen people trope, there is no evidence that he had read Douglass’s appeal to “this other wise goodly land.” “This almost chosen people” was a phrase of Lincoln’s own improvisation. In the long, ceremonial train ride in early 1861 from Springfield, Illinois, to his inaugural in Washington, DC, during which Lincoln was called on to speak at every stop, even after his voice had grown hoarse and failed, he never used the phrase other than in his impromptu remarks at Trenton. You can read through the entire record of Lincoln’s writings, speeches, and remarks, public and private, without ever finding a variation on “chosen people” again.14 Of all the ways in which Lincoln made his own distinctive course through the crisis of war and disunion, his refusal to join the chorus of those who were certain they knew God’s intentions for the nation was one of the most striking. The “chosen people” phrase and its halo of patriotic sentiments erupted with the secession crisis itself, both in the North and the South. The rhetoric of a redemptive war thundered from pulpits on both sides. “Government is now become Providential,” Horace Bushnell declared. “If there ever was a war undertaken in the name of God in his ser vice, at his command, under his approbation,” a Rhode Island clergyman greeted the coming of the war, this was surely it. “Our national deliverance has been wrought out for us, as a world-historical act, by God himself,” another Northern preacher heralded the final, bloody end of the war.15

From the Top Mast


In the states of the Southern Confederacy a mirror rhetoric ran just as strongly. The constitution of the Confederate States of America invoked the favor and guidance of almighty God in its very first sentence. “This is a holy war,” Southern preachers and politicians declared. The theme of chosenness swelled. “The analogy between the Confederacy and the chosen Hebrew nation was invoked so often as to be transformed into a figure of everyday speech,” Drew Faust writes.16 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” was the “God of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson,” a Confederate camp revivalist exhorted the troops. In both the North and the South, preachers searched the daily war news for signs of God’s providential hand at work. A sense of living in Old Testament time, amidst its typological emblems and signs, returned in force.17 This was surely God’s cause, Lincoln’s allies insisted. And yet Lincoln himself was never as certain as they. He believed unyieldingly in the imperative of preserving the union. He refused to compromise on secession or on the demand to open still more room for slavery in the territories, the knotted issues over which the politicians wrangled futilely in the interregnum months between his election and inauguration. When the war came, Lincoln prosecuted it with all the vigor at his disposal, egging on his generals to more aggressive action, wringing his hands at their caution, mourning the bodies that soon piled up in the tens of thousands on the battlefields, but never flinching from adding more. But that this was God’s war, Lincoln was never convinced with the simplicity that others preached. Could one be sure that God was on either side? he confided to those closest to him. Could one know that he willed either side victory? Could anyone be certain that this immense catastrophe, this carnage, was not intended for some still more distant purpose? Could one be sure that these rivers of blood were not God’s punishment for the sin of slavery, in which both North and South had been so deeply complicit?


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“The Almighty has His own purposes,” Lincoln confessed in his second inaugural address. “If God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,” that will would be done. Lincoln was immovable. But his God—“omnipotent, inscrutable, and mysterious,” in Richard Carwardine’s words—was no cosmic nationalist, no covenant maker, no straightforward chooser of sides.18 Holding to this lonely combination of certainty and doubt amidst the eruption of providential nationalism around him, Lincoln went through the war in a kind of a top mast of his own. But of one thing he was certain, that the promises of liberty embedded in the Declaration of Independence were the nation’s birthright. He was thinking about the Declaration as he made his way from New York City through Trenton to Philadelphia where he was to speak the next day at Independence Hall. “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence,” he told a cheering crowd there.19 He was thinking, as he had since his turn to the Republican Party began, about slavery. We have too often read Lincoln’s “almost chosen people” phrase too naively. We have not seen clearly the difference between Winthrop’s anxious hopes of realizing God’s providential scheme and the patriotic certainties of the Civil War preachers, and the distance between both these uses of the chosen people trope and Lincoln’s strikingly different, critical nationalism. By “almost chosen” as the crisis began to unfold in 1861 he did not mean “not quite.” He did not mean that, step by step, the nation might reach that favored place. He did not mean a nation that had been chosen once and then fell away from its promise. Across a century and a half, we cannot read Lincoln’s mind any better than those who fretted and strained to do so at the time. Later, acquiescing in the pressures on his abolitionist flank to weaken the

From the Top Mast


Confederacy by directly undermining the system of slavery, he seems to have regained momentarily a clearer sense of God’s providence in the unexpected maelstrom of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation—Lincoln’s pivot to an “emancipation war,” as Frederick Douglass called it—seems to have brought a certain catharsis. But in February 1861, none of this was legible in the future: not open war, certainly not a war this grindingly long and consuming of lives, and certainly not abolition of the regime of slave labor. In 1861, what he seems to have meant by “almost chosen” was something much more critical and, even now, more sobering. He meant a nation that might have been chosen—but for the deep, original sin of slavery.

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Constructing a City on a Hill in Africa


n all these variations—fervently celebratory or sharply critical, patriotically enlisted or splattered across a mass of other references—“city on a hill” and “chosen people” circulated through the nations of the nineteenth century. Unrelated to their employment in “A Model of Christian Charity” centuries before, they formed a part of the stock vocabulary of a nationalist age. There was one event, however, around which something especially close to Winthrop’s original use of the “city on a hill” motif cohered. That was not the U.S. Civil War, fraught though it was with attempts to read the hand of God’s providence in human events. It was not the Great War for civilization’s defense in 1914–18, saturated with talk of divine destiny. It was in discussions of a new, Americanmade, black republic in Africa: Liberia. Not only did the “city on a hill” phrase flourish with particular exuberance in Liberia, but there, more clearly than anywhere else in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Winthrop’s sense of living under the world’s scrutiny had its modern parallel. Liberia did not begin as a nation-making project. It began as a means to offload onto the West African coast those black Americans whom 158

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other Americans wanted to be rid of. Although there were some African Americans in the early nineteenth century who envisioned returning to the continent from which their forebears had been stolen, the origins of the American colony in Liberia came from white Americans with, at best, deeply paternalistic relationships with those whom they hoped to colonize. Free Negroes were the primary point of concern for the Liberia project’s originators. An anomalous people in a biracial society, confounding notions that some were naturally suited for mastership and the others for slavery, free blacks raised nightmares of racial discontent and social disorganization among many early nineteenth-century white Americans. Southern slaveholders worried that if free blacks did not themselves ignite resentment and revolt among the region’s slaves, their example could not but fuel dangerous ambitions and discontents. Slaveholders in the upper South, where slave labor’s profits were diminishing and where some had grown morally queasy about slave ownership itself, were particularly drawn to the colonization idea. For them, the project of establishing a charitable organization that would transport free blacks and emancipated slaves to distant Africa had both a self-exculpatory and self-preservationist appeal. Southern slaveholders were joined in the colonization project by Northern philanthropists who saw free, poor blacks as in need of aid but who could not imagine them thriving in the cities of the early United States. “A people which are as injurious and dangerous to our social interests, as they are ignorant, vicious and unhappy,” the first secretary of the American Colonization Society called them. In the colonizationists’ eyes, free blacks constituted “a degraded, despised and oppressed” underclass in the nation’s midst. They would do better, the Society organizers insisted, if their return to Africa were organized, underwritten, and managed by those who had their best interests at heart.1 On this mission, the American Colonization Society’s first shipload of emigrants departed from New York City in 1820. Skirting past


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the settlements at Sierra Leone that British philanthropists had established for London’s black poor and for the slaves who had fled across the British lines during the war for American independence, searching the West African coast for a usable anchorage and a native chiefdom that would tolerate their disembarking, eighty-odd colonizers under the direction of their three white, American Colonization Society agents established a tiny coastal settlement. Within three months, a quarter of them had died of disease. Relocating the project further south to a site they would rename Providence Island, the Society tried again. This time they soon faced not only disease but an alliance of West African chiefs and an army of several thousand warriors determined to drive the strangers out. Only the unexpected effectiveness of the colonizers’ cannon against the tightly massed ranks of the native African warriors, whose use of human walls of fighters proved deadly vulnerable to cannon fire, turned the effort back. But survival was still a close thing. Twenty years later, of the 4,500 emigrants the Society had succeeded in transporting to its Liberian colony to try their luck against disease, hunger, and recurrent war with the native peoples of the coast, fewer than two thousand remained.2 Yet in the reports of the American Colonization Society, dismay and disappointment were overwhelmed by a sense of realizing God’s promise both for the United States and for Africa. Surely God’s hand must have been at work in the ability of so few to cut down so many and send the native armies hurling back. New England’s earlier years, Society speakers reminded each other, had been full of trials and disease as well. Above all, the promise of bringing Christianity to Africa was not to be retreated from. Emerging out of the Society’s other goals, the task of converting pagan and heathen Africa to Protestant Christianity quickly became its principal rationale. And with it flourished the mission of being a “city on a hill”—not simply an example to the natives beyond the colony’s small string of settlements on the

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West African coast, but a lighthouse that would illuminate the whole of the African continent. Tiny though the Liberian venture might be, its destiny could not have been more grandly exalted. By the “wisdom of God’s providence,” an American Colonization Society speaker expanded on the theme in 1827, a people who could only be a source of malignancy at home were transformed into “a glorious beacon, beaming with broad, and vivid, and constant splendor, indefinitely into the interior of an extensive continent overspread with the darkness of heathenism.” They were to be “the means of kindling up on that wide and benighted continent, the beacon lights of science and Christianity.”3 Their moral example would defeat “the night of witchcraft and superstition” that enveloped Africa. It would stamp out the international traffic in slaves at its source. The project had not only proved “a blessed asylum for a wretched people,” the Society’s publications insisted. It was “already to the African tribes, like ‘a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid.’ A thousand barbarians, who have long made merchandise of their brethren, and been regarded themselves, as the objects of a bloody and accursed traffick, come within its gates, and are taught the doctrine of immortality. . . . Heaven forbid that this Colony should perish; for its influence to the most abject, injured and miserable of our race, will be cheering as ‘the day-spring from on high,’ and salutary as the waters of life.”4 The first Puritan generation in New England had never raised visions this fervent or this expansive. On the ground, the Liberian venture scarcely lived up to its organizers’ high promises. Between the mid-1830s and a brief upward spike of interest in the 1850s, few already free American blacks joined the emigrant boats to Liberia. More and more often the American Colonization Society’s vessels carried newly freed slaves who, by the tightening laws of most U.S. slave states, could not be emancipated unless


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their owners promised to transport them elsewhere. Discouraged by the difficulties of raising funds and controlling at a distance the often autocratic actions of its agents, the American Colonization Society engineered Liberia’s reorganization in 1847 as an independent state—the first free black republic in Africa. But independence did not bring prosperity to Liberia. Its population hardly grew after the 1850s; by the turn of the twentieth century, there were barely twelve thousand Libero Americans clustered in a coastal string of towns on the fringe of the continent. Visions of evangelizing the native masses came to very little effect. The two million or more African peoples living in the territory the Libero Americans claimed as their own had no citizenship rights in the Liberian republic. Only the self-cancelling effects of their internal rivalries kept West Africans from driving the black American colonizers back into the sea—that and the assistance of British and U.S. naval vessels at timely moments. Economically, Liberia struggled to find a footing in the global economy. Visions of a nation where onetime slaves could become free-standing land cultivators quickly evaporated. Trade in native export goods and government salaries sustained a political and economic elite—prideful and insular, fiercely protective of the race privileges of its lighter-skinned ruling families, and scornful of those over whom they claimed nominal sovereignty. In the capital city, Monrovia, a starkly divided double settlement quickly grew up: on the one side, a Libero American town of broad streets and woodframed, veranda houses, and, right next door, a much poorer, segregated native town of narrow alleyways and tightly packed bamboo dwellings. Geopolitically Liberia sank quickly into insignificance. A loan for internal improvements negotiated in London through unscrupulous middlemen in 1871 turned out to carry disastrous economic consequences. Into the early twentieth century, Liberian governments were still going hat in hand to European and U.S. creditors hoping for debt relief.

A City on a Hill in Africa


Virtually from the first, moreover, the Liberian venture had been a lightning rod for critics. In 1831 the fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison had decided that the removal of free blacks to Africa was nothing other than a ploy to perpetuate the regime of slavery and had turned in fury against it. “This is our home, and this our country,” a free black convention resolved in the same mood early that year. “Here we were born, here we will die.” The colonization idea was a fraud and a foe to every American colored man, Frederick Douglass added with his powerful voice. “Our right to stay here is as good as that of . . . any manstealer in the land.” “We say to every colored man, be a man where you are. . . . You must be a man here, and force your way to intelligence, wealth, and respectability. If you can’t do that here, you can’t do it there.”5 When in the 1850s the aggressiveness of Southern slaveholders’ designs for the expansion of slave territory and the tightening fetters of racial restrictions in the North caused some free blacks to think of finding a refuge elsewhere, Douglass insisted that Africa held nothing for American-born people of color but impoverishment and exile. “If we go anywhere,” he wrote discouragedly in early 1861, just before war broke out, “let us go to Hayti”—to the black revolutionary republic that had overthrown its slave owners and had successfully defended itself against the best armies Napoleon could muster. Haiti was close enough to the shores of the United States that it could continue to vex and disturb American slavery. We can “plant ourselves at the very portals of slavery” and perhaps around that germ organize all twelve million Negroes in the Americas, from the Caribbean islands to the mountain tops of South America. If there was a “city set on an hill” for African Americans, Douglass wrote, it was there, in “this modern land of Canaan,” where a free black republic stood as a rebuke to the racist contention that blacks were unfit to administer a government on their own.6 But in Liberia itself, despite the nation’s critics and setbacks, the “city on a hill” motif flourished extravagantly. There is no evidence that any


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of the project’s founders had read John Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” Nowhere else in the nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury United States and its dependencies, however, did the “city on a hill” phrase so heavily saturate the rhetoric of politics. To the colonization project’s organizers the mission of a new black America in Africa was that, in a sea of African paganism and immorality, it would bring the light of Protestant Christian religion. To the Libero Americans who made the trope their own, the mission of Liberia was that, in a world awash in racial prejudices, their new, black-led nation would demonstrate to the world the Negro’s political capacities for self-government. The notion that a small, economically precarious nation in Africa could refute the assumption that only Europeans and their imperial administrators had the racial capacities for rule may seem quixotic now. But there is no missing the intensity with which the Libero American elite embraced the idea of a New Jerusalem and repurposed it in Africa. God’s “special providence has been as unmistakably manifest in Liberia . . . as ever were the pillars of cloud by day and of fire by night to direct Israel’s course to the land of promise,” Stephen Allen Benson, Liberia’s second president, declaimed in 1858. Edward James Roye refurbished the theme in 1870: “God has planted us here, and through all the vicissitudes of our existence, his hand has been plainly, visibly directing our affairs. God has set Liberia, as it were, upon an hill on this continent.” William David Coleman, assuming the presidential office in 1900, affirmed: “Our fathers, with the blessing of an all-wise Providence, have laid on these shores the foundation of a great Negro nationality that may in [the] future be the hope of the race and admiration of the world.”7 Liberia’s most celebrated writer in this vein, Edward Blyden, did not have an easy relationship with the Liberian merchant and political elite. A migrant from the Danish West Indies, he spent a brief sojourn in the United States in 1850, long enough to be turned away from the theological seminaries to which he sought enrollment on the

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grounds that no person of African descent could possibly possess the abilities a theological education required and also to catch wind of the Liberian project. A thorn in the side of the mulatto elite whose color prejudices he felt personally and acutely, he was driven out of Liberia by a lynch mob in 1871 at the height of a political party feud. But for Blyden, too, the natural language of Liberia was providential. As he told American audiences during a recruiting trip in 1862: “In a sense that is not merely constructive and figurative, but truly literal, God says to the black men of this country, with reference to Africa: ‘behold, I set the land before you, go up and possess it.’ ” Theirs was not to be a conquest but a return, an exodus out of captivity, a reclaiming of “consecrated ground.” 8 Most striking of all in the rhetoric of Liberian nationalism was not the Exodus motif but its echo of the Model’s theme: that the success or failure of the Liberian nation makers’ work could not escape the world’s scrutiny. “The eyes of the whole civilized world are upon her, critically observing every step she takes,” Liberia’s first president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, warned. “We are more eagerly watched than we have any idea of,” Blyden wrote. “The nations are looking to see whether ‘order and law, religion and morality, the rights of conscience, the rights of persons, the rights of property, may all be secured’ by a government controlled entirely and purely by Negroes.” 9 Liberia might be on the margins of the world, but there, Liberian orators told each other, the very basis of the idea of white racial superiority lay exposed to scrutiny. There as nowhere else, assumptions “of the incapacity of the colored race for self-government” were brought to a test. “Fellow citizens! we stand now on ground never occupied by a people before,” Hilary Teage told a Monrovia audience on the eve of Liberian independence, whose declaration he was soon to write. However insignificant we may regard ourselves, the eyes of Europe and America are upon us, as a germ destined to burst from its


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enclosure in the earth . . . and swell to the dimensions of the fullgrown tree, or (inglorious fate!) to shrivel, to die, and be buried in oblivion. . . . Upon you, rely upon it, depends, in a measure you can hardly conceive, the future destiny of your race. You are to give the answer whether the African race is doomed to interminable degradation—a hideous blot on the fair face of creation, a libel upon the dignity of human nature, or incapable to take an honorable rank amongst the great family of nations!

“The experiment we are now making concerns the entire Negro race,” others wrote. It would either prove “the old calumnies against the Negro” or be the foundation upon which “an abiding Negro Nationality” would take its rightful place in a racially hostile world.10 The Liberian republic was to be a beacon to others. But to dwell in that city upon a hill was to dwell in a site of intense visibility and vulnerability. Each step would be taken under the skeptical eye of its race-demeaning critics. The theme of trial and vulnerability that ran so palpably through Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” had no clearer expression in the greater America of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than in the nation that a handful of its racial castoffs endeavored to make. Liberia was a small and distant place. But by the turn of the twentieth century, a sense that the future of the black “race” might turn on its success had begun to infect the imaginations of a new generation of African Americans in the United States as well. Perhaps it was no surprise that Booker T. Washington should have found the project congenial to his conviction that in a prejudiced world the “Negro” must pull himself up by his bootstraps through work, education, and self-help. His own Tuskegee Institute for industrial and agricultural education was often described as a “city on a hill,” beaming a gospel of self-reliance far beyond its Alabama setting.11 By the turn of the twentieth century Tuskegee Institute had begun to dispatch small

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teams of students and faculty to colonial Africa to help train native Africans in more efficient cotton production techniques. When debt crisis broke over Liberia once again in 1908, Booker T. Washington himself intervened with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft to help broker a new loan on much less avaricious terms than the British bankers had granted, secured by what essentially amounted to protectorate status for Liberia: U.S. government control over Liberia’s customs revenues and U.S. control over appointments to its army officer corps. Fittingly, not long after Washington’s death a clone of his Tuskegee Institute, the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute, was established by his admirers in Liberia.12 Marcus Garvey’s vision for a new Liberia was far more flamboyant. Garvey cut a meteoric arc through African America between 1919 and 1923. Preaching a separatist version of Booker T. Washington’s gospel of self-help, he drew tens of thousands to the rallies of his Universal Negro Improvement Association. Through chains of factories, publishing houses, retail stores, and steamship lines, the movement promised to create a black-owned economy within an economy that had systematically suppressed and exploited the descendants of Africa. At the apex of this project, Garvey envisioned a massive return to Africa via a recolonization of Liberia. The Liberia that Garvey promised was a nation teaming with new race pride, new emigrants from American racial injustice, and capital raised from the black American masses. “We are coming four hundred million strong” from the United States, South America, and the West Indies, Garvey promised: to reclaim Africa for its people, to reunite a people in exile, and to build “a great state in Africa which . . . will make the Negro race as respectable as the others.”13 But the most unexpected of those who caught the sense that African Americans’ future might, in some critically important way, lie in Liberia’s possession was W.E.B. Du Bois. Booker T. Washington’s rival, Marcus Garvey’s nemesis, the National Association for the


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Advancement of Colored People’s most eloquent voice for African Americans’ claims not simply to a side economy of their own but for full, equal rights within the U.S. nation, Du Bois was an odd figure to enlist in the cause of Pan-Africanism, and he came late to it. It was in watching the First World War spill over Europe in a contest for the spoils of the world’s resources that the importance of the global “color line,” as Du Bois called it, began to press itself on his acute and restless consciousness. He helped engineer the first Pan-African Congresses in London and Paris and to write into their manifestos the imperative that Negroes everywhere be recognized as potentially fully civilized peoples. Imperialism needed to be recognized for what it was: a system of monopolization of the world’s wealth and resources and exploitation of its black, brown, and yellow labor, all justified by the cant of the impossibility of self-government by people of color. It was with that global struggle in mind that Du Bois sailed for his first glimpse of Africa in 1923. His destination was Liberia.14 The breathless reports that Du Bois filed from his four-week stay make a mass of contradictory reading now. Enchanted by the colors, the bare limbs, the sinuous, muscled bodies, the leisure and languor of African life, the deep silences and “great gold globules” of sunlight that enveloped the landscape, Du Bois seemed to have slipped on the robe and slippers of the purest bohemian aesthete. When “primitive men” outpaced those who now thought themselves fittest to rule, he wrote, “there will spring in Africa a civilization without coal, without noise, where machinery will sing and never rush and roar, and where men will sleep and think and dance and lie prone before the rising sons and women will be happy.” In this alternative to modern commercial-industrial society, “We shall dream the day away and in cool dawns, in little swift hours, do all our work.” This was a view of Liberia from the hammock of a beguiled tourist.15 In the meantime, Du Bois was working hard to help arrange the massive rubber plantation investment that was to make Liberia for the next fifty years what

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some critics would call a wholly owned subsidiary of the Firestone Rubber Company. “The spell of Africa is upon me,” Du Bois confessed in the midst of these contradictions. Africa “is a great black bosom where the Spirit longs to die. It is life so burning, so fire encircled that one bursts with terrible soul inflaming life.” Can one blame Du Bois for being a little dizzy under its effects? In his circle of New Negro artists and writers, the allure of negritude was powerfully at work in the early 1920s in paint, dance, and prose. Langston Hughes, sailing down the west coast of the African “motherland” in 1923, could not shake from his mind the same images that overpowered Du Bois: the “market flashing with colors, the dark girls in bright bandannas . . . blue green twilight. . . . The hot, heavy African night studded with stars.” The ancient “witchery” of Africa, Du Bois wrote, was “burning” in his Massachusettsborn, Harvard-educated blood.16 But of one thing Du Bois was certain. Every power in Europe and every white supremacist at home was vitally interested in the failure of Liberia. In Liberia, he wrote, in a soberer mood, “political power has tried to resist the power of modern capital.” The outcome was not yet clear. But “if Liberia fails this justifies slavery, serfdom, autocracy and exploitation of a race ‘incapable’ of self-rule. If Liberia succeeds why should not the Negro succeed in self rule and democratic development and decent industrial organization in Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, French Africa, South Africa, East Africa, Kenya, the Sudan and Abyssinia?”17 The eyes of a scornful world were upon Liberia, eager for its every misstep. Du Bois did not need to read “A Model of Christian Charity” to share, more intensely than any of the drum-beating patriots at home, what Winthrop meant by the anxiety of being made “a story and a byword through the world.” For all its contradictions and failures, Liberia was an experiment in black political capacity perched on a mountain peak of visibility and vulnerability. The “city upon a hill” language flowed unforced out of his pen. “We fall down, down to the burning equator, past Guinea and


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Gambia, to where the Lion Mountain glares, toward the vast gulf whose sides are lined with silver and gold and ivory,” Du Bois wrote. “And now we stand before Liberia—Liberia that is a little thing set upon a hill—thirty or forty thousand square miles and two million folk. But it represents to me the world.”18

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The Carnage of God’s Chosen Nations


y the time W.E.B. Du Bois set foot in Africa, the consequences of nineteenth-century hypernationalism were already marked across the globe. European nation-state consolidation had exploded in 1914 in a war more deliberately and devastatingly organized than any before it. As Du Bois journeyed through France in late 1923, the last of the millions of the war dead were still being dug out of the killing fields. Africa and southern Asia had been carved up virtually to the last acre by the imperial powers. The nations that emerged after 1919 with their empires intact rearranged the losers’ spoils, but the new “mandates” they authorized did not fundamentally change the character of an empire-dominated world. Liberia, as Du Bois celebrated it, was an exception to the new imperial order: the sole black republic on the African continent. But at the same time, and in ways far deeper than Du Bois could bring himself to admit, Liberia, too, had been a pawn in the project of empire from its very beginning. Its African American settler colonists had imposed their land claims on the African native populations by force, justifying their right to rule the native populations, like imperialists everywhere, by their higher level of civilization and more fully developed benevolence. Though formally unrecognized by the 171


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U.S. government until the Civil War, Liberia by the early twentieth century had become for all practical purposes a U.S. overseas colony: an open field for Firestone Rubber and other American investments protected by the U.S. Navy. The United States’ position in the global fields of power had changed radically over the same years as well. At the Liberia colony’s founding in 1820, the United States was still an Atlantic-facing nation; its center of population lay just 130 miles west of the national capital at Washington, DC. By the end of the nineteenth century, the territorial limits of the United States had not only reached the Pacific Ocean but were pressing into new locations overseas. Acquisition of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii had been secured; de facto protectorates over Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti were about to be put in place. The United States, far less scathed by World War I than the other combatants, came to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 as the strongest of the Great Powers, both economically and militarily. It was this accomplished geopolitical reality that made Woodrow Wilson confident that the United States could set the terms of the postwar world order. From a new nation still clinging to the Atlantic rim in 1776, the ascent to global power a century and a third later had been remarkable. In explaining the dramatic expansion across space of American power in the nineteenth century, historians routinely point to the sense of mission injected into the nation’s consciousness by its early Puritan settlers, with Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” as its clearest articulation. One of the leading textbooks of the 1970s put the claim succinctly: “This sense of destiny, so eloquently expressed by Winthrop at the dawn of the New World’s history, infused and shaped the perception that Americans have ever since had of themselves and their role in the world, a perception apparent in Thomas Jefferson’s belief that Americans were the chosen people of a new Israel, in Woodrow Wilson’s phrase that the world must be made safe for democracy, and in John F. Kennedy’s alarm, sounded in 1961, that

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‘a new generation of Americans’ must be prepared to fight the worldwide battle of ‘freedom versus tyranny.’ ” College students now find the same equation of American great-power ascent with the Puritan past in the widely used Major Problems in American Foreign Relations. Placing the “city upon a hill” passage from Winthrop’s Model as the very first of the historical documents their readers will encounter, the editors explain that students will find there “the American doctrine of mission and God-favored destiny that the Puritans had etched on American memory.”1 Other explanations for the dramatic expansion of global ambitions and power, to be sure, quickly supplement the theme of a destiny and mission inherited from the Puritan past. The rivalries for empire on the North American continent, the Southern slaveholders’ drive for new soil and territory, Northern industrialists’ quest for wider and wider markets, settler hunger for land and property, the racist assumptions that gave Anglo-Americans a sense of their “manifest” right to the continent, and the ideology of endlessly expanding liberty all propelled the expansion of power across space. In these accounts, the nature of the Puritan contribution is not always clear. Some American foreign relations experts take the Model’s call to act as a moral example to the world as sharply opposed to the impulse to subdue and civilize it; others, to the contrary, point to the cruel self-righteousness with which the Puritans waged war against their Native American enemies as a legacy that Americans would carry all the way into the wars of the present.2 None of these amendments, however, have fully displaced the sense that Winthrop’s text—whether literally present or not, whether through its words or its unspoken assumptions—somehow imbued a sense of God’s chosenness into the distinctive cultural DNA of imperially expansive America. From Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity,” to John L. O’Sullivan’s rhetoric of “manifest destiny,” to Albert J. Beveridge’s celebration of the Americans’ “divine mission” to bring civilization to the Philippines, to Woodrow Wilson’s profound


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sense of America’s righteous place in the world of global affairs— strung one after another like unalterable station stops on history’s rail line—the story proceeds.3 The Puritan sense of a nation endowed with a sacred calling, as Perry Anderson put it, helped ease the “seamless passage to an American imperialism.” 4 What difference it might make to realize that almost none of the writers in this succession had read—or could have read—Winthrop’s Model, or that the analytical terms themselves—“etched on American memory,” “infused” into the self-perception of Americans, “afforded seamless passage”—are extremely difficult to pin down, is rarely explored. In fact, the course of American expansion was carried far less by its distinctive texts than by circumstances. The colonial American settlements were, from the beginning, parts of an imperial project, born as projections of English power and linked by commerce to the engine of English economic growth. The first movements toward intracolonial solidarity in British North America took place during the Seven Years War, a decade before the first anticolonial protests, when a sense of their common Protestant Englishness, vis-à-vis the designs of the “papist” French and their “savage” Native American allies, drew the geographically scattered British colonists together. The first empire New England’s preachers celebrated was the British empire. The fall of Quebec and Montreal to English, Scots, and American soldiers in 1759–60 brought forth a spate of sermons praising the blessings of providence on “the British Israel”—“the wonder and envy of all the world.”5 Thomas Jefferson’s prediction of “an empire of liberty” unrolling across the continent was an appropriation of imperial sentiments already in circulation long before the Revolution itself. To this, still more importantly, were added the dynamics of nationalism itself. There were a few nations in the nineteenth century that rested content within their borders, but most did not. Even as the loosely joined early modern empires gave way before the competition of more tightly organized nation-states, the expansive im-

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pulses continued. To press the nation’s power outward, to expand its political influence and territorial reach, was part of the very project of nationalism. The ambitions of nations that we think of now as small and tidy sprawled across space not long ago: the Dutch Republic (a global maritime force in the seventeenth century), Belgium (whose king claimed a thirteenth of the African land mass as his personal possession at the end of the nineteenth century), Denmark (with colonies and treaty ports across Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean). Other nations were made by spatial aggrandizement, in the way that Prussia aggregated the German empire to itself in the last quarter of the nineteenth century or the role that Piedmont-Sardinia played in the construction of modern Italy. By war, treaty, and population displacement nations pushed across the boundaries of weaker neighbors. The English pressed into Ireland with particularly callous and bloody determination, the French pressed into Alsace, the Germans into Poland, and the Russians deeper into the Caucasus and central Asia. The new nations of the Americas locked each other in territorial wars. In Latin America as in the United States, frontiers between settlers and native peoples were sites of massive land expropriation, population displacement, and endemic violence, punctuated by revolt and campaigns of military “pacification.” 6 The neat conceptual lines that analysts have tried to draw between expansion (the annexation of spatially contiguous territory) and empire (annexation across more distant, discontinuous space) all but dissolve under closer examination. In both, the pressure for territorial enlargement was foundational: to force open new territories for population, to acquire new economic resources, to bid for membership in the ranks of the great powers. Not all nations’ projects succeeded in this restless competition for space; there were inevitably more losers than winners. But ambitions for expansion ran hard through the nations of the nineteenth century. In all this, the American case was no exception. The language with which we still explain the project of expansion—as a


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great westward “movement” of families, possessions, hopes, and institutions—disguises the forces principally at work. There were, indeed, massive population movements; the trains of Conestoga wagons on the trek west are not a historical fiction, nor were the westward-driven gangs of coffled slaves. But the underlying technologies of nationalist expansion mirrored those of nationalist expansion elsewhere: treaty, purchase, war and threatened war, population infiltration across contested borders, and violent subjection of the native populations. The same processes would have carried Americans into the Caribbean before the Civil War if Southern expansionists’ longings for Cuba had not been blocked by Northerners’ opposition to the addition of more territory for slavery.7 Over all these projects of expansion the voice of providence and “destiny” rang. Russian expansionists talked of their nation’s destiny in Asia. French expansionists celebrated their destiny in northern Africa. British writers heralded the “imperial destiny” that beckoned them to India, Africa, and beyond. Not interests or power, they claimed, but the manifest designs of history itself called them, irresistibly, to their new geographic destinies. What distinguished the case of the United States was not the uniqueness of the expansionists’ sense of mission but the weakness of the resistance they faced. The older empires that might have precluded the Americans’ race across the continent ceded their claims with unexpectedly little cost to the upstart Americans. Facing slave rebellion and military defeat in France’s prize sugar colony in the Caribbean and beleaguered by renewed war with Britain, Napoleon undertook a strategic retreat from the North American continent leaving an initially perplexed President Thomas Jefferson and his openly hostile Federalist opponents with a huge, unexpected gift of western territory.8 After defeating American efforts to seize the St. Lawrence waterway in the War of 1812, the British were content to let the Americans turn their ambitions elsewhere. Severely weakened by internal revolts and seemingly irresolvable political strife,

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1840s Mexico was no match for the U.S. expansionists; its claims to the sparsely populated territory north of the Rio Grande dissolved in decisive military defeat. This retreat of powers capable of effectively mounting modern technological warfare against U.S. territorial ambitions effectively doomed the Native American peoples, their numbers and resources already massively thinned by the invasion of European diseases. Without the possibility of tactical alliance with one or another of the competing imperial powers, the “middle ground” of potential negotiation and compromise dissolved. Rebellion and resistance continued, but they could not hold off deeper and deeper invasion of Native America, all the more so as the military forces organized in the Civil War were redeployed to subdue the West. Not even the powerful Comanche military presence could stave off the ultimate dispossession of the native population, the expropriation of their land for Euro-American farming, ranching, and mining interests, and the forced relocation of those who resisted.9 Each of these campaigns faced resistance from Americans who feared that distance and dispersal would undermine the social basis on which the nation rested. None spoke more forcefully to that point in the first part of the nineteenth century than the New Englanders, where, if anywhere, the Puritan sense of destiny might have been assumed to run most strongly. But there was destiny enough in the system of cultural nationalism to make up for it. By the time the territorial ambitions of American expansionists had turned to Asia and then back once more to the Caribbean and to Central America, the globe was much more crowded than before and the opportunities more limited. The last phase of imperial expansion, from the slicing up of Africa at the Berlin Conference in 1884 to the First World War, more closely resembled a zero-sum game than the phases before. But the very scarceness of opportunity now made possession of imperial territory an even more prized marker of


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power and status. If in the early and mid-nineteenth century American policy makers were acting on an impulse deep in a nationalist project that they shared with many others, by the turn of the century they were consciously playing catch-up: trying their best to put down stakes of their own on an imperial board game already teeming with players. The proponents of American overseas empire were acutely aware of their latecomer’s status. “There are points of resemblance in our work to the work which is being done by the British in India and Egypt, by the French in Algiers, by the Dutch in Java, by the Russians in Turkestan, by the Japanese in Formosa,” Theodore Roosevelt candidly defended the United States’ administration of the Philippines in 1904. There were many reasons to stay in the Philippines, he told Congress, but “our chief reason for continuing to hold them must be that we ought in good faith to try to do our share of the world’s work, and this particular piece of work has been imposed upon us.” The mission of the United States was not unique; it was to shoulder the duty that a great and civilized power’s destiny demanded.10 There were distinctions within the practices of empire, to be sure, and there were differences in the terms by which imperial domination was justified. Not all imperial cultures were the same. French defenders of empire emphasized the universality of their mission civilisatrice to civilize the world. The Germans tended to talk more particularly of the special gifts of the German peoples for elevating and improving those they ruled. The blood of governance ran in their Teutonic veins and spirit, they reminded each other.11 American proponents of empire at the end of the nineteenth century borrowed from both, celebrating “the divine mission of America” for “the civilization of the world,” and at the same time the special capacities of “our race,” the “Teutonic” and “Anglo-Saxon” peoples “in whose blood resided the genius of administration.” “Behold” the work of the Dutch in Java, imperialism’s gifted orator Senator Albert Beveridge exhorted his

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countrymen during the great national debate over Philippine annexation in 1900. “Behold” the work of the Germans in the “fields of world-regeneration and administration.” Behold the English and “their work all around the world.” “Every progressive nation of Europe to-day is seeking lands to colonize and governments to administer,” he stressed. “The high ordinances of universal and racial morality” called the United States to that same end.12 American proponents of overseas empire, stitching their arguments together out of the rhetoric and rationalizations already in the air, insisted that they were, at no small cost to themselves, shouldering their moral duty to mankind: that they were bringing elevation, improvement, civilization, education, and religion to a world that no longer imagined that those gifts should only be the possession of the privileged few. To claim to be “the trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world,” to be called to “our saving, regenerating, and uplifting work,” as Beveridge put it, was to latch onto sentiments circulating through all the imperial cultures.13 To Americans coming late to the game of overseas empire, the rhetoric of imperial duty and obligation was a derivative discourse. All the talk of mission they needed, all the high reminders of destiny and providential responsibility, of their obligations to elevate and civilize their allotment of the world’s people for the world’s good, lay ready for the borrowing from the language of empire burgeoning around them. The historian of American foreign relations Robert Schulzinger puts the comparative point acutely: “It is a mistake to think that ideas such as Manifest Destiny . . . [were] derived from seventeenthcentury theologians like Cotton Mather or Jonathan Edwards. Instead it makes more sense to consider American messianism a form of nationalist exuberance which afflicted all of the great powers by the end of the nineteenth century.”14 In a context this saturated with nationalist mission, there was no need to reach for Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” Reworked into mobile metaphors of destiny,


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everything the empire makers might have wanted from it was already at hand. Perhaps it was all but inevitable that nationalist sentiments screwed to so high a pitch and backed by the massive new organizational efficiencies of the early twentieth-century nation-states should have sheered into war. Perhaps the Great War’s origin lay, rather, in a series of catastrophic miscalculations as a chain reaction of alliances, threats, and military mobilizations combusted into war. No one anticipated the catastrophes of the First World War: the cascade of war declarations, the mobilization of armies and war materials and the scale of the battles into which they locked themselves, the melting away of hopes of quick victory into the mud-and-death-soaked hell of trench warfare. What remains most astonishing about the war is not the ability of the belligerent powers to rise to its massive organizational challenges. It is the willingness of the peoples to carry it on so long. From every side the marshals of war patriotism brought to bear the cultural resources of nationalist righteousness. They were called not simply to their country’s defense, the war propagandists thundered, but to “holy war”—“the holiest war in history,” the voice of British political liberalism, the Manchester Guardian declared. “In August  1914, God called in a voice like thunder,” the British army chaplain and popular author Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy insisted: “He called to England. . . . ‘Come out! Come out! Come out from home and comfort. Come out to right the wrong. Come out to share my sorrow and help to save the world.’ ” German pulpits echoed the same call to their fellow countrymen to leave behind the ordinary affairs of the day, to set their petty differences aside, and together shoulder their “awesome duty to destroy every embodiment of evil.” The “cause of Germany and the cause of God are synonymous.” French war propagandists played the war as a stupendous conflict between

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“civilization” on the one hand and “savagery,” “barbarism,” and “beastliness” on the other.15 None of the nations at war described their cause in terms of narrow national interest. From every side, the war nations carried a sense of divine necessity into the battlefields. The British insisted that they were not defending themselves only but the rule of international law and rights of weaker nations. “I do not think any nation entered into a great conflict . . . with a stronger conviction that it is fighting not for aggression, not the maintenance of its own selfish ends, but in defense of principles, the maintenance of which is vital to the civilisation of the world,” Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith put it at the war’s eruption in August 1914. The French declared their obligation to join in a “sacred union” for civilization’s defense. The Germans insisted to the world that they had entered the war as a “sacred duty” in defense of Christianity and culture. Every German act was an act of “ser vice” to God and to justice.16 It is not clear how deep these words of destiny penetrated the ranks of the soldiers, whose broken limbs and bodies so quickly piled up across what the poet Wilfred Owen would call a “Titan’s grave” a thousand miles long that “crossed all Europe like a mystic road.”17 The heavily laden soldiers who fought the war carried more immediate burdens of survival. But a sense of duty, mission, and destiny was not simply a mystification for home-front consumption. It played an inextricable part in the recruitment machinery that fed the war’s awesome appetite for soldiers and sustained the rationing and war material production that kept the conflict going so long. In the midst of this world struggle, in 1916, Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” received its first pamphlet publication—indeed, its first full reprinting since 1840. Edited by the Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison, it came out as the 207th leaflet in Boston’s Old South Church series of historical documents, bound together with


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the New England Puritans’ “Humble Request” of 1630. Morison put the “Humble Request” first. A “ little gem of Puritan literature,” he called it; it “breathes a spirit of sweetness and humility that was altogether too rare in the early history of Massachusetts.” Most of Winthrop’s Model, by contrast, was “rather dull reading.” But it was “the clearest statement we have of the principles that guided the Puritan leaders” in their venture. It showed their “emphasis on collectivism rather than individualism.” It “explains,” he cautioned, “much of the rigor and intolerance in the early history of New England.”18 It would be convenient to imagine that Woodrow Wilson read Winthrop’s Model in this form, but he did not. He had already passed over it with only an excerpted line about the Puritans’ intentions to establish “a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical” in his five-volume History of the American People in 1903. ( John Fiske and Henry Cabot Lodge, two of the fiercest advocates of American cultural imperialism, had passed over it altogether in their own histories as well.)19 In an address to the New Jersey Historical Society in 1895, Wilson had criticized the historical profession as a whole for concentrating too much of its attention on the history of New England. Better to focus the history books on the westward population thrust across the Appalachian Mountains where Wilson, like Frederick Jackson Turner, thought the nation’s history had really begun.20 Wilson believed deeply in the historical destiny of the American nation. But neither Winthrop’s text nor Winthrop’s dream of finding a refuge from the world was the wellspring from which he drew it. The hopeful, idealist presence that Wilson brought to the Peace Conference at the war’s end was a point of comment for all the more tired and more deeply war-scarred figures who convened there. The U.S. military forces had come into the war late and from a nation itself barely marked by the war’s brutality. They were stronger, younger, and much better fed than the veterans they joined. They were more optimistic, as was Wilson himself. “The eyes of all

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the world will be upon you,” Wilson instructed the first embarkment of U.S. troops in 1917, “ because you are in some special sense the soldiers of freedom.” “The mere sight of our men,” he was later to say, the sight “of their vigor, of the confidence that showed itself in every movement of their stalwart figures and every turn of their swinging march,” made everyone know that “a great moral force had flung itself into the struggle.”21 He brought to the Peace Conference a conviction that the United States had entered the war on a basis unlike that of any of the other combatants, solely on behalf of “high disinterested purpose,” as a “servant” to the world in the cause of Christianity, civilization, and democracy, as “an instrument in the hands of God to see that liberty is made secure for mankind.”22 In fact, variations of the League of Nations idea into which Wilson would ultimately vest these hopes were already in circulation on both sides of the Atlantic well before 1919. Some looked to the formation of a League to Enforce Peace with arbitration of international disputes as its capstone—as Wilson’s rival in the 1912 election, William Howard Taft, did. Others, most articulately organized on the British left, proposed scrapping the secret treaty-making system that had helped precipitate the war for a broader international forum for foreign policy discussion and armaments controls. Wilson, who kept a file on all these emerging proposals, was not an original thinker on any of these matters, historian Thomas Knock notes. “League of Nations” was a British coinage. Refusing to be pinned down prematurely on the League’s details, Wilson left most of the original draft of its scope and organization to the British ministries’ making. His task was to help synthesize these initiatives and, in the end, to champion the result with striking intensity and stubbornness.23 The special place of the United States in the world’s escape from the barbarism of its war-strewn past was a fixed point in Wilson’s thinking. “I cannot be deprived of the hope that is in me,” he had told a campaign rally as early as 1912, “that we are chosen, and prominently chosen, to show the way to the nations of the world how they


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shall walk in the paths of liberty.” He told a skeptical U.S. Senate in submitting the Treaty of Versailles to them in 1919 that the nation’s new responsibility in world affairs had come through the force of “destiny,” “by no plan of our conceiving, but by the hand of God, who led us into this way.” In his cross-country speaking trip on the treaty’s behalf Wilson told the crowds who came to hear him, “It was America—never let anybody forget this—it was America that saved the world.” Now it was America’s task to save the peace as well, “to lead the world in the paths of liberty and justice and of right.” “For nothing less depends upon us, nothing less than the liberation and salvation of the world.”24 These were deeply held sentiments, but they fit almost seamlessly into the chosen people rhetoric that already floated above the trenches, the battlefields, and the recruitment rallies. “In the mysterious calling and election of God, Britain is the elect nation of the world to-day,” the British war publicist J. Patterson-Smith asserted. “We are God’s chosen people, his inheritance, the salt of the earth, His loved ones, His glory, the people He delights in,” a fellow writer for the English war cause urged. “Our German God” and “Gott mit uns!” were the capsule German phrases. Nothing was clearer in this war, the Berlin preacher, Otto Dibelius, declared, than that “the Lord God had given the German spirit a special and holy mission.”25 In this context of mass-produced nationalism, Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” was irrelevant. Declarations of holy sacrifice and chosenness were everywhere. They saturated the wartime air, productions of the same nationalist forces that were pumping out bombs, shells, and gas masks. They rained down on the battlefields over the dead and mangled and exhausted bodies. Mary Borden was among the handful of Americans who threw herself into the war at its very outbreak. She poured her family’s Chicago-made wealth into the establishment of a field hospital just back of the battle lines in northern France, where she served both as nurse and director. Later, like others who attempted to put the un-

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speakable experiences of the war into words, she tried to do so in poetry. She began “Where Is Jehovah?” not with an assertion but the question that hung so heavily in the air: Where is Jehovah, the God of Israel, with his Ark and his Tabernacle and his Pillars of Fire? He ought to be here—This place would suit him. Here is a people pouring through a wilderness— Here are armies camping in a desert— . . . It’s all in the style of the God of Israel. . . . What a chance for His prophets! What a playground for miracles! A host of men at the end of their strength, fighting death, fighting terror, with no one to worship— He need but lift his finger— Here are his pet properties ready to hand, the thunder, the lightning, the clouds and the fire—26

But he did not. How could he when, if the cries and prayers and war appeals were right, he was on every battalion’s side? How could he act on behalf of any empire or nation when, in the formulas of nationalism that were on hand in the crisis, God had chosen them all?



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The Historical Embarrassments of New England


n the three hundredth anniversary of the Winthrop expedition’s landing in Boston, the city threw itself a mammoth birthday party. The celebration climaxed on September  17, 1930, with a parade of over forty thousand marchers that took almost six hours to pass the million persons who were said to have lined the streets, some of them peering through showers of ticker tape for a glimpse of the spectacle. Rank upon rank of war veterans, some of them survivors of the brutal trench warfare in France, led off the procession. They were followed by scores of school children’s groups, rafts of women’s and men’s fraternal club members, church and civic associations, immigrant and ethnic societies, factory and department store employee groups, police and public servants. Carefully prepared historical floats depicted Winthrop’s Arbella, the Puritans’ landing on the Boston peninsula, Puritan home life and customs, an early town meeting, the Boston Tea Party, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts’s ratification of the Constitution, and the founding of the nation’s first free public school. From the grand ceremony’s tributes to its Puritan founders to its displays of the latest in traffic lights, 189


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up-to-date commercial buildings, and modern oil refinery methods, the Boston Day parade made a bid for recognition of the city’s importance all across the nation’s past and future.1 The day before, in a smaller but equally impressive ceremony, the city had dedicated a new “Founders Memorial” on the Boston Common. Charles Francis Adams, great-great-grandson of the nation’s second president, gave the dedicatory oration. A direct descendant of the Winthrops pulled the cord to release the flag draping the monument. The sculptor was one of Boston’s favorite sons who had already given the city monuments to Lafayette and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The “people’s poet” Edwin Markham composed an ode for the occasion: “Thus the new epic of the world began / Where there was room for a man to be a man. . . . ‘Not a new country only—a new mind!’ ”2 In the focal center of John Francis Paramino’s bronze relief, John Winthrop and Boston’s first minister, John Wilson, strode confidently up from the shore to shake the hand of the lone-living earlier arrival, William Blaxton, who had agreed to let a part of the 1630 expedition settle around his land and freshwater spring. On the reverse side, fronting Beacon Street, the memorials committee inscribed a line from William Bradford’s History and these now-famous words of Winthrop’s: “For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us, soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke we have undertaken, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world.”3 It was the first occasion on which any piece of “A Model of Christian Charity” had escaped the history books’ and literary anthologies’ extracts, the obscure journal and the antiquarian pamphlet. On the Boston Common what is now the most quoted fragment of the text went public, visible to any casual passerby. In the hoopla of that “Boston Week,” amidst the skirling bagpipes and marching bands, the three thousand Knights of Columbus paraders, the special radio link that allowed Mayor James Curley to share an amplified real-time con-

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versation with his counterpart in Boston, England, and amidst the other dozen memorial plaques being mounted across the state and the city, it is hard to know how many Bostonians paid attention to Winthrop’s words or tried to imagine their meaning. What we do know is that in 1930 Boston’s political and cultural elite bid to give them iconic status in their—and the nation’s—history. The Boston tercentennial was not the first time that New Englanders had staged a pageant for themselves or undertaken to fix their place as Founding Fathers of the nation. Cultivation of the region’s heritage had been a major project of New England’s cultural and literary elite for over a century. Celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth had been an important undertaking in 1820. Five years later, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle that had opened the War for Independence at Bunker Hill had been an even grander affair. Five thousand persons marched in the great parade; 4,400 sat down for dinner afterward under a field of tents; some 15,000 were said to have strained to hear Daniel Webster’s address. The monument that New England’s boosters completed near the battle site in 1843 was the nation’s tallest and most imposing historical marker until the Washington Monument was finally finished some forty years later.4 Still more lasting than parades and monuments were the New Englanders’ celebrations of their history in print and speeches. Oration-filled observances of Forefathers’ Day on the anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing were sustained annually from 1798 on. Starting with the founding of the New England Society of New York in 1805, elite out-migrants from the region met regularly to congratulate themselves and the exceptional virtues of New England. Most consequential of all was the capture of history-book writing by New England authors and publishers who stamped New England historical self-consciousness into primers and schoolbooks sold across the country.5


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An essential part of the New England elite’s project lay in celebrating the region’s distinctiveness and superiority. Writers and artists broadcast idyllic scenes of New England’s compact towns, with their village greens and arching elms, steepled churches and whitewashed fences. A pious and orderly folk, conscience-driven and hardworking, transacting their public business in the simple democracy of their town meetings, scornful of pretense but committed to high ideals and widespread learning: part-fiction though it was, this picture of regional distinctiveness spread as far as New England emissaries could carry it. But these efforts to carve out a place of clearly defined regional character comprised only half the project. The other half, already in full gear by the 1820s, was to insist that the nation itself—or at least its best and most important characteristics—had been formed from seeds planted first in New England. Theirs was not a sectional project only but, in Harlow Sheidley’s words, a project of “sectional nationalism”—a bid for Founders’ status, for cultural ownership of the American past and leadership of its future. The notion that any nation has a distinct site of its foundation is a selfserving myth, of course—especially so in the case of a nation as plural and complex in its origins as the United States. The most obvious obstacle to the New Englanders’ efforts to write themselves into the role of the nation’s founders was that the Virginia settlement had been established first.6 Planters and profit seekers, indentured laborers, and the first of what was to be the importation of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans—all had a better historical claim to Founders’ status than the New Englanders. Not all New England orators denied the point. Neither did they deny the way in which the unexpected strength of the alliance between Northern and Southern colonists, thwarting the British hopes to drive the rebellious Americans into fragmented regional camps, had been instrumental in securing the struggle for independence. The New England–born historian George

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Bancroft was among the celebrators of that transregionalism theme. The establishment of the Virginia General Assembly in 1619 and the Massachusetts Bay Company’s reorganization as a general assembly of the colony’s freemen in 1634 flowed equally from the same germ of civic republican instincts, Bancroft wrote. “Thus early did the freemen of Massachusetts unconsciously echo back the voice of the people of Virginia; like the solitary mountain, replying to the thunder, or like deep, calling unto deep.” Thus did “the epidemic of America break out.”7 But much more common among New England writers was to dismiss the Virginia project as a false start, an illegitimate line of descent. The Virginia settlement had its origins not in ideals but in mere self-interest, they emphasized. Dominated by rogues and adventurers, “idle and dissolute persons” with illusions of immediately gotten riches, it was no wonder that Virginia had so quickly descended into “disorder” and “anarchy,” that only by accident had its first colonists been intercepted on the brink of abandoning the venture altogether and sailing back to England.8 It was not just empty coincidence, in their eyes, that in 1820, as New England’s boosters descended on Plymouth Rock to celebrate their past, there was nothing left of Jamestown; burned in a rebellion in 1676, then rebuilt, it had been all but abandoned by1699. The true foundations of the American republic, New England publicists insisted, were laid by the first New Englanders. The American model for constitutional self-government had originated among them. Travel to the nation’s capital, H. A. Scudder declared in 1853, and you would “there behold her noblest institutions based upon the principles of that compact originally signed . . . in the cabin of the Mayflower.” The struggles that coalesced into the Revolution had begun there as well. “I presume it will be admitted by every philosopher, every honest and judicious politician,” the New England Society of Charleston, South Carolina, orator for 1835 affirmed, “that from the character of the first settlers of Virginia and New-York, we


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should never have existed as an independent nation.” Robert  C. Winthrop echoed the point in 1839. The influences of Plymouth and New England have “pervaded our Continent. . . . The seeds of the Mayflower . . . have sprung up in every latitude . . . and though so often struck down and crushed beneath the iron tread of arbitrary Power, they are still ineradicably imbedded in every soil.” It was the great boon of America that “the corner-stone of our Republican edifice” was quarried out of the old, original, New England rock.9 One of the New England elite’s prized catches in their desire to insert themselves into American history as the template on which the republic had been built was the young visiting Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville. Taken in by Boston’s Harvard-educated ministerial and merchant class, Tocqueville concluded after a month in New England that he had discovered, finally, the secret of American democracy. It lay in New England’s institutions of town governance. A suggestion given to him by the Boston historian Jared Sparks, it made all the more powerful an impression on an observer used to the political authority of much more highly centralized France. Not in the much-vaunted constitutional system established in 1789 but the institutions of local township deliberation, carried to New England by its earliest Puritan settlers, Tocqueville was sure, lay the seeds of a political democracy inoculated against the excesses that had run riot in Revolutionary France.10 From these beginnings, “the principles of New England spread first into neighboring states; then, one by one, they reached the most distant states and finished, if I can express myself in this way, by penetrating the entire confederation. . . . The civilization of New England has been like those fires kindled on the hilltops that, after spreading warmth around them, light the farthest bounds of the horizon with their brightness.” “The whole destiny of America,” Tocqueville summed up what he thought he had learned, was “contained in the first Puritan who reached its shores.”11 The term “Founding Fathers” was not to be invented until the twentieth century.12 But the yearning of the nineteenth-century New

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England elite for Founders’ status can hardly be exaggerated. They had a stock of stories and myths at hand. They had the local institutions that Tocqueville idealized and admired. They had the Mayflower Compact and the Battle of Bunker Hill. They had “A Model of Christian Charity,” too, if anyone cared to notice. But assertion of Founders’ status by the New Englanders, however fervently they hungered for it, was not the same thing as achieving it. There were deep embarrassments along the path. The first of those embarrassments was that the place of New England in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British America was much more marginal than its boosters chose to imagine it. Virginia may have been a colony on the verge of anarchy in its first years, preserved only by imposition of authoritarian rule in the 1610s, but it grew to be the single most important engine of colonial North American economic and demographic growth. By 1775 its capitalintensive, labor-exploiting economy had made it the wealthiest and most populous of the colonies of the nascent United States. The per capita wealth of free white persons in the colonial American South was more than twice that in the middle colonies or New England. Estimates of the relative living standards of common, small farmers are harder to make, but Virginian military recruits were taller on average than New Englanders by the end of the eighteenth century, presumably an indicator that they were better fed. Whatever the case, the disparity in immigrants’ destinations is clear. Immigrants looking for opportunities in colonial America sailed for Pennsylvania or, in still greater numbers, the slave South or the West Indies; these were the New World’s magnets. After the initial Puritan exodus, they rarely chose New England.13 In time, New England’s turn to the sea for wealth, through cod fishing, whale oil hunting, shipbuilding, food exports to the West Indian slave and sugar islands and, later, direct traffic in Africancaptured slaves, revived the region’s economy. But on the eve of the


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American Revolution, Philadelphia had eclipsed Boston as the colonies’ leading seaport. If diversity, toleration, and eagerness for ambitious immigrant populations held the key to the nation’s future, its foundations were laid in Penn’s colony, not in the thin soils and culturally insular towns of New England.14 Political dynamics were more volatile than demographic or economic trends. Had it not been for the quickness of Boston’s artisan and sailor crowds to mobilize against new tax impositions, the tacit approval that many of the merchants gave to the eruption of street politics, and the anger in the New England towns over the heavyhanded measures by which the British tried to subdue the protests, the Revolution would not have unrolled in the 1760s and 1770s as it did. New Englanders played a leading role in pressing for resistance and ultimately for independence. But despite the influence of John Adams’s writings on the principles of constitutional design, New Englanders did not take a vanguard part in the framing of the Constitution in 1787, whose impetus had come far more strongly from the middle and southern colonies than from New England. In the decades to come, moreover, the region’s devotion to the new government was much less firm than the later New England historians would acknowledge. During “Mr. Madison’s War” with Britain in 1812–15, New England authorities not only sharply criticized federal policy as highly injurious to the region’s interest but they also publicly discouraged enlistments in the army, refused direct requisitions of their state militias by the War Department, and urged the withholding of taxes and loans to the national government. Representatives from New England were meeting in a secret convention at Hartford to debate outright nullification, perhaps even secession, when the war officially came to an end. But that did not prevent them from presenting a series of constitutional amendments that would have required a two-thirds majority in Congress (that is to say, the assent of New England’s representatives) to authorize any future war,

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any future embargo, and admission of any future state from the territories. In the wake of the embarrassments of the Hartford affair, the New England elite undertook to make themselves over as if they had been, all along, the nation’s cultural bedrock. But the conditionality of New England loyalty did not go away. With the White House locked in a virtually unbroken dynasty of Southern slave holders, with Southern expansionists pressing relentlessly for more territory for slave-labor production, with New England’s influence in Congress undergoing steady dilution, and with mounting fears of a “slave power conspiracy” that would ultimately make them “enslaved” to slavery, talk of resistance, even of disunion, ran almost as hard in sectors of New England as in the South right up to the opening shots of the Civil War. Northern victory in that war brought discussion of a breakup of the nation to a close, but the prickly, independent, self-righteous streak in New England politics, and what seemed to others a blatant preference for self- and regional interests over the national good, added further embarrassments to New Englanders’ quest for recognition as the nation’s Founders.15 And then there were the witches, the banished Antinomians, and the Quakers stripped and flogged and hanged in Boston. Witch-hunting frenzies of the sort that so famously consumed Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692–93 were in no way unique to the New England Puritans. Far more persons were executed in spasms of witchcraft accusations in Catholic Salzburg and in Lutheran Sweden in the late seventeenth century than in Massachusetts. In Geneva, public authorities had burned and executed heretics who mistakenly imagined that Calvin’s “city of refuge” might be a refuge for them. Still, by the nineteenth century, intolerant, prosecutorial zeal was the skeleton in New England’s closet. Critics from other regions knew it, and pressed its embarrassments home. New England writers knew it as well. From


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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s angry sketch of Puritan zealotry in The Scarlet Letter through New England’s critical historians of the 1880s and 1890s, whose detailed documentation of their ancestors’ religious persecution grew into a literature of apology and purgation, the fierce intolerance of the Puritans was a fixed a point in the public imagination.16 In 1883 one of the late nineteenth-century’s leading American sculptors, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was commissioned to cast a statue of one of the prominent early settlers of Springfield, Massachusetts. Reproduced many times over, the sculpture quickly became known simply as “The Puritan.” His steepled hat and the great Bible under his arm were not the telltale clues to his identity as much as the “unbending and militant force of the Puritan” that Saint-Gaudens was praised for capturing. A writer in the Century declared: “Surely those old searchers for a ‘liberty of conscience’ that should not include the liberty to differ from themselves could not fail to recognize in this swift-striding, stern-looking old man, clasping his Bible as Moses clasped the tablets of the law, and holding his peaceful walking-stick with as firm a grip as the handle of a sword—surely they could not fail to recognize in him a man after their own hearts.”17 By the middle years of the nineteenth century, a major flowering of learning and literature had begun to be born from New England’s cultural soil. But to the region’s critics, the scars of its older mores endured in its unbending rigidity, self-righteousness, and self-repression. New England’s founders were a people of “negation,” William Carlos Williams put the critical case most vividly as the early twentieth century’s culture wars over prohibition and artistic censorship escalated: a people empty and terrorized by the world who, in response, “praised a zero in themselves.”18 The competing stereotypes gained force from their very exaggerations. But however one cut through the storm over the Puritans, by the 1920s their mantle as bearers of liberty to the New World had been severely undermined.

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It was left to Samuel Eliot Morison, the young Harvard historian of early America, to sum up the balance. The New England Puritans, he wrote in 1931, were not democrats; they did not believe in religious liberty as later Americans would come to understand it. At root, they were persons who still lived in the Middle Ages, closer in their religious ambitions to St. Augustine than to modern Protestants. It was “moonshine” to think they brought ideas of market price or economic ambition with them. Although they valued the principle of election, they took “heavy precautions . . . against the popular will’s having a chance to express itself.” They had no faith in the average person’s capacity for government. “Even the vaunted town meeting was almost always controlled by the squire, the shipowner, or the money lender.” They brought many things of value to their foothold in New England: public spirit, respect for learning and popular education, an aesthetic of usefulness and the fitness of objects to their tasks. But the germs of modern America that nineteenth-century New England historians had emphasized had seeped into the country despite them. “These stern founders had a faith that is not ours.”19 On all these counts, John Winthrop himself was a particular embarrassment. More vigorously than any of his peers in the colony’s early leadership, he had labored to preserve religious orthodoxy in early Massachusetts. He had articulated more clearly than any of the others the closed character of the colony and bounded nature of what the Puritans imagined by liberty. He had spoken more articulately than any other early New Englander in defense of status and authority. In the New Englanders’ quest to be recognized as laying the cultural and political foundations of the nation, Winthrop was a liability. In Winthrop’s place New England boosters thrust other figures from the region’s past. The Pilgrims, the Massachusetts Bay colony’s much smaller and weaker neighbors to the southeast, were early candidates. Less powerful, less prideful, and less self-righteous than the Puritans, the Pilgrims had occupied a side venue in early Puritan


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history writing. The agreement they signed, after first pledging their loyalty to the British crown, to “combine ourselves into a civil body politic” was not singled out for particular attention until the late eighteenth century. But by the early nineteenth century, the Mayflower Compact was being celebrated by New England historians as the formative act of self-government in American history. An outlier like John Lothrop Motley might dismiss it as an agreement “among a very few individuals.” But the much stronger tendency was to see the Constitution, the nation, and the principle of representative government itself as already foreshadowed in that shipboard action.20 More striking than the history schoolbooks’ singling out of the Pilgrims for a devotion to liberty far stronger than the dogmatic founders of Boston was the rehabilitation of the Puritan colony’s most outspoken dissidents. Roger Williams, whose challenges to the ecclesiastical and political orthodox kept Massachusetts Bay in continuous turmoil throughout the early 1630s, was the most prominent case in point. Seeking first to cut his Salem church off from association with all those whom he did not see as truly Christian, Williams finally gave up hope of finding purity this side of heaven and opened his Rhode Island colony to persons of all sorts of religious opinions. Williams himself never relented in his search for truth, but the idea of a New Israel, a state good enough to police the religious opinions of its people, seemed to him the deeper heresy than doctrinal heterodoxy itself. A “turbulent” spirit Williams’s critics called him at his trial and banishment in 1635. By the early nineteenth century, however, Williams was already beginning to be set off from his Boston prosecutors as a truly heroic figure in early American history: the first and clearest American articulator of the liberty of conscience.21 A later sign of the same tendency was the redemption of Anne Hutchinson, whose religious turbulence Winthrop had found even more dangerous to the colony’s safety and good order. Hutchinson was not a clergyman like the Cambridge-educated Roger Williams. She taught private gatherings of other pious New England women.

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But when she told the General Court that she knew by an immediate, inner voice which of the ministers and magistrates were truly Christian enough to be honored with obedience and which were not, Winthrop could not contain his outrage. “It overthrows all.” The court banished Hutchinson and disarmed her supporters not only to censor her opinions, as Winthrop and others saw it, but to preserve their very covenant from being rent in pieces by anarchy. But in time Anne Hutchinson, too, was raised to a status morally higher than Winthrop’s. Charles Francis Adams, whose account of the affair in 1892 was a model of the new, balanced, scientific history, did not warm to Anne Hutchinson’s inner religious certainties. She was “an ambitious woman, with her head full of Deborahs and the like, and with a genius for making trouble,” Adams wrote. But her trial was “no trial at all, but a mockery of justice rather,—a bare-faced inquisitorial proceeding.”22 A generation later, Hutchinson’s elevation to martyrdom in the cause of free speech and women’s status was complete. Funded by the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, a statue of Anne Hutchinson was erected just outside the Massachusetts State House in 1922. “Courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration,” the inscription ran. The city’s only statue of John Winthrop, by contrast, erected in 1880 not far from the State House, had already been shunted into a less conspicuous site to open more room for subway construction.23 To understand the development of “American thought,” the literary historian Vernon Louis Parrington wrote in his canonical history of American ideas and literature in 1927, there was no alternative but to begin with the Puritans. But it was with New England’s dissenters, not its “stewards of theocracy,” that “the promise of the [American] future” was to be found. Given the colony’s leaders’ “patriarchal” social philosophy, their “extreme jealousy of popular power,” and their inability to adjust to new conditions, “New England democracy owes no debt to her godly magistrates.”24 For Parrington, Winthrop stood at the beginnings of American history


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not as a Founding Father but as a man determined to stave off what America was to become. Boston’s tercentenary celebration of 1930 pulled Winthrop out from these shrouds of embarrassment. Its organizers gave an extract from “A Model of Christian Charity,” for the first time, a prominent public place. But they did all this only to celebrate a city vastly more secular and more multicultural than Winthrop had ever imagined. Boston of 1930 was in the hands of its new immigrants. Mayor James Curley, who spearheaded the summer’s celebration plans and who presided enthusiastically over its events, was a product of the city’s Irish political machine and its mass politics. Corrupt enough to go to jail for helping two of his constituents to cheat on their civil ser vice exams, he was beloved enough to be elected mayor on four different occasions. The tercentenary celebration over which he presided placed the city’s new immigrants on full display. The organizers’ “racial groups committee” arranged programs by the city’s Greek, Syrian, Polish, Armenian, Finn, Ukrainian, and other populations. A Lithuanian group did some “clever tumbling” as they marched in the grand parade, the Daily Boston Globe reported. The Chinese built a “wonderfully picturesque float” that stopped the show. The music and steps of the African American marching bands riveted the reporters’ eyes. Replicas of the Arbella and Puritan home life were swept along in this spectacle of twentieth-century Boston’s diversity, tolerance, and modernity.25 In the course of celebrating Winthrop as Boston’s founder, the tercentenary’s organizers remade him into a figure that they would have liked far better than the governor of 1630. In Paramino’s bronze relief, Winthrop strides up the hill to shake William Blaxton’s hand, while a pair of Indians give silent blessing to the scene. Paramino’s Winthrop carries no Bible. A young woman helps lead the way. No “steward of theocracy,” this was a generous, open-handed Winthrop,

Embarrassments of New England


tacitly stripped of his religious convictions, a Winthrop who could have presided comfortably over James Curley’s immigrant city. Paramino credited the leaders of the Massachusetts Art Commission, all of them from old-stock Puritan families, with suggesting the quoted lines from the Model for the memorial’s street-facing side.26 Though they included Winthrop’s warning of peril “if we deal falsely in this work,” the Model’s extracted words no longer evoked a pious English remnant, anxious to make God’s purposes visible in a strange world and fearful of their ability to do so. It did not signify a people convinced of their divine chosenness. In the context of the city’s grand parade—the Lithuanian American gymnasts, the Syrian American swordsmen, the Irish American organizers, and the orators—the “city upon a hill” phrase meant something much more literal and much closer at hand. Many of the physical hills of Winthrop’s Boston had been cut down and redeposited as fill for urban expansion, but Boston remained in literal fact a city of hills. “City upon a hill” in 1930 was a bid to boost the City of Boston’s fortunes. It was a bid to release New England from its accumulated embarrassments. It was a slogan for a city admiring itself. The first, small steps toward iconic status for “A Model of Christian Charity” had begun. But for the New England elite’s ambition to be seen as the nation’s Founders to be realized—and for Winthrop’s text to take on still more weight than the Boston tercentennial’s celebrators gave it—it would take other hands and contexts than these.

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Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


he decades that finally saw the release of the Puritans from the embarrassments of their past were the crisis decades of the Depression and war. And the figure who, more than any other, accomplished this came from Chicago, not Boston. Though he was a commanding presence in Harvard’s lecture halls for thirty years, Perry Miller never imagined that he fit into New England manners or Boston civic pride. He entered the field of Puritan studies as an outsider, writing books that initially bewildered his fellow historians and literature scholars. He cultivated a sense of heroic intellectualism and existentialist drama that roiled many of his academic peers. But by his death in 1963, he had written the Puritans into the core story of the development of the “American mind” and had begun, for the first time, to single out Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” as one of the central statements in its unfolding.1 Perry Miller was a man of poses as well as a scholar of enormous erudition and writerly force. Some of what he said about his own past worked far better as story than as literal truth. Born into a physician’s family on Chicago’s West Side, he dropped out of the University of Chicago in 1923 to try to soak up some of the real-life experience he felt he had missed by being too young to enlist in World War I. He 204

Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


acted for a while with a theater company in Paterson, New Jersey, wrote a bit for pulp magazines, and then enlisted as a merchant sailor.2 It was in Africa, unloading American oil drums for export to the Congo, he would later claim, that he caught a “vision” of his life’s task: “the mission of expounding what I took to be the innermost propulsion of the United States.” There was “a kind of truth” in that story, his widow would patiently explain, mixed with a great deal of fiction— though for decades historians preferred to take Miller’s fib as literal fact.3 What he did decide in the Congo was to go back to college, then to graduate school, and finally to immerse himself in the literature and history of early America. There was a kind of truth, and a kind of fiction as well, to his subsequent claim that he went on to read every piece of writing produced in colonial New England. But he did read massively across three centuries of American thought and literature. He brought an insatiable appetite to the history of American ideas and a passion for making ideas the fulcrum point of history itself. Pious, disciplined John Winthrop and the gifted, unruly, atheist historian who began Winthrop’s incorporation into the center of American history were an oddly matched couple. But between Winthrop’s heroic sense of acting on a commission from God and Miller’s sense of the heroic act by which Winthrop’s Puritans had held up the assumptions of that commission by sheer force of will there turned out to be a powerful synergy. Out of that unlikely pairing the modern life of “A Model of Christian Charity” began. Perry Miller arrived at Harvard as a visiting graduate student in 1930 at the peak of Boston’s tercentenary celebration whose “horrors” of self-congratulatory excesses he thought the city had “barely survived.” He had already decided that to fathom the American mind he needed to start at “the beginning of the beginning,” where the earliest surviving sources were richest and deepest.4 That meant starting not with the Virginia project but with New England. And not with Bostonians’


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mythmaking but with the massive sermon literature generated in Puritan New England whose legacy, he was soon sure, had coursed through virtually all American thought and literature thereafter. Among “the elements that have gone into the making of the ‘American mind,’ ” Miller was writing by the end of the 1930s, the New England inputs were “the most conspicuous, the most sustained, and the most fecund.” “Without some understanding of the Puritans, it may safely be said, there is no understanding of America.”5 In the early 1930s when Miller undertook this task, there was nothing fashionable in studying the history of “mind,” much less the obscure byways of Puritan theology. For most historians in the 1920s and 1930s, the serious engines of historical change were the pressures of material experience. Frederick Jackson Turner had insisted on the massive significance of the frontier in American history. Charles Beard had stressed the determinative force of economic interests. Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought had breasted much of this trend in 1927, but even Parrington had launched his chapter on Puritan thought by warning that “unless one keeps in mind the social forces that found it convenient to array themselves in Puritan garb, the clear meaning of it all will be lost in the fogs of Biblical disputation.” 6 In the face of all this the young Miller took to the challenge of explicating the intellectual structure of the New England mind with the exuberant sense of climbing an unconquered mountain peak. The indispensable tool the historian needed was to set aside every temptation to translate Puritan social and theological ideas into modern terms. Those who imagined that democracy had arrived on the first Pilgrim vessels were wrong, Miller was certain; so were those who saw only the hand of an oligarchical theocracy in New England’s history. The Boston tercentenary’s portrait of bland conviviality distorted the past most severely of all. To begin at the beginning was, for Miller, to plunge into a radically foreign frame of thought that ultimately, but only through a series of wrenching dialectical twists and turns, would

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become the template on which the cultures of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America would be forged. No corner of human thought went unexamined by the Puritans, Miller wrote. Reason, rhetoric, psychology, nature, piety, knowledge, and cosmology all had intricately connecting rooms in the intellectual edifice the Puritan divines constructed. But at the core of the Puritan mind was the idea of the covenant. “We are entered into covenant” in this work, Winthrop had deployed the idea in the Model’s closing passages. By covenant, Miller insisted, neither Winthrop nor any of the ministerial elite meant simply “agreement.” To argue about how far New England politics fell short of modern democratic standards was to begin from premises that were thoroughly inadequate to understanding the New England Puritans’ intentions. A covenant-framed world was not the social contract society John Locke had imagined. A covenant was a pact in which consent and the demands of obedience fused into virtually a single thought and gesture. The template of covenant thought was stamped across every aspect of early New Englanders’ assumptions about their faith, their polity, and their place in history, Miller was arguing by the mid-1930s. God’s relationship with the fallible people he had created began with a covenant with Adam. For disobeying God, Adam and all his offspring had been branded with sin. Mercifully, God had recovenanted to bring salvation to those who believed—though without his arbitrary gift of grace at work within their deeply polluted selves they were powerless to enter into any such state. Collectively the New Englanders had made a social covenant with each other to live a moral life of love and obedience, and a political covenant between themselves and the magistrates they elected to rule and lead them. At the pinnacle of this ladder of covenants, God made a covenant with his special peoples, to treat them as his own, rewarding their efforts toward virtue and scourging their failures and backslidings, all the while holding the script of the drama in his own hands.7


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Worked out by English Puritan writers long before the notion of a Puritan settlement in North America was seriously entertained in anyone’s mind, the idea of the covenant’s myriad, interlocked faces went on to be elaborated in scores of New England sermons. With its imperatives of liberty of will and obedience to law, human ability and human helplessness, all balanced on the sharpest of knife edges, it commanded the heart of the New England orthodoxy, Miller argued, for over a century. In Miller’s first description of the “marrow” of covenant theology, Winthrop’s Model barely figured at all. Like other historians of New England, Miller put his emphasis, rather, on John Winthrop’s speech to the General Court on the identity of obedience and liberty, already quoted and anthologized many times over. Miller slipped about a third of the Model’s text into his own anthology of New England Puritan writings in 1938, but he did so without any special emphasis or comment.8 But in the darkening world context of 1939, Miller found a more arresting “genius” in Winthrop’s text. The “greatness of Winthrop’s address aboard the Arbella, the daring flight of his imagination,” Miller now emphasized, lay in the audacious way in which Winthrop there had fused the New England migration with the demands at the very core of covenant theology. The New England venture would not be a mere test of the migrants’ practicality. It would not be an escape into an unsettled frontier: a space to do with as they chose. “A Covenant People are not left at their Liberty, whether they will Love, Fear, Serve, and Obey the Voice of God in his Commands, or not,” a New England sermon writer had expressed Miller’s point. “They are under the highest, and most awful Obligations imaginable to the whole of Covenant duty.” In the Model, Miller wrote, Winthrop had urged the same point even more strongly: the emigration to New England would not be flight into freedom but a flight into obligation.9

Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


In the context of the late 1930s, it is hard to miss the contemporary references in passages like this. The illusion of remaining free from the catastrophes overcoming Europe was a pipe dream for a culture born in a deep sense of obligation, Miller implied. But there was also a profoundly new dimension to “A Model of Christian Charity.” Winthrop’s text was not simply a programmatic statement. It was not merely a call to charitable action or the sympathies of love. Within it was encapsulated the very core of covenant theology. By yoking the terms of the New Englanders’ settlement to the deepest assumptions of the “Puritan mind,” from its understandings of piety and reason, its rules of logic and rhetoric, its anthropology and politics, and its ladders of authority and covenants, as Miller urged his readers to understand it, Winthrop had poured the whole of a culture’s aspirations into his text. With the Model’s words, Winthrop literally “tied heaven and earth to his enterprise.”10 Miller was thirty-four years old when he completed this much. But what was more audacious still was Miller’s claim that the New England Puritans had built this cathedral of assumptions not out of confidence or dogmatic certainty, but, rather, the reverse: that they had constructed this remarkable synthesis of thought in the face of deepest anxiety about themselves and the capacities of human reason. Miller opened his magnum opus, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, not with New England’s preachers speaking confidently from their pulpits but with the terrors of human beings in the face of the “absolute, incomprehensible, and transcendent sovereignty of God.”11 As old as Augustine, this strain of doubt and sinfulness, this urgent sense of the human predicament and hunger for escape, had marked Christianity for ages. In the Calvinist phase of the Reformation, however, it had erupted again, and in starker terms. The Puritans’ God was not unreasonable in his own being. But to human understandings he was beyond grasp. He was “hidden, unknowable, and unpredictable,”


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“the ultimate secret, the awful mystery,” “entirely incomprehensible to man.”12 He was not fully revealed in his scriptures, not even in the inner experience of conversion and regeneration for which the Puritan faithful yearned—for that was always imperfect, dispensed or withheld by God for his own inscrutable reasons. This sense of an ineradicable gulf between God and his faithful, this sense of homelessness and of disharmony with the world in which they lived, was the starting point of Puritan religiosity. And yet, as Miller portrayed it, New England’s elite could not resist the obligation to try to apprehend what they knew could not be apprehended. They tried to pin the mystery of God down to attributes humans might try to understand. They strained to discern the outlines of orderliness in a nature that only God’s will ultimately held in place. They tried to anatomize the stages of the overwhelmingly mysterious experience of conversion. They tried to read the divine course of justice in the willfulness and outward chaos of human history. They built their elegantly nested structure of covenants within a universe they knew to be more arbitrarily ruled than they hoped it might be. They wrote God’s part as well as their own into the “commission” that framed their flight to North America, even though they could only guess, in anxious hope, that they understood what God’s part might be. They imagined that across the awful gulf between divine and human reason they and God might have actually made a covenant, binding on both sides. As Miller told the story of New England’s first three generations, its most gripping drama lay in their efforts to bring as much reason to bear on the “implacable mystery” of God as they could devise. None of the writers of the eighteenth-century Age of Reason would work harder at this than they. Pride in their achievement, though they knew it to be a sin, was built into their circumstances. Still they “could never banish from their minds the consciousness of something mysterious and terrible in life, of something that leaped when least expected, that upset all the regularities of [science] and circumvented

Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


the laws of logic, that cut across the rules of justice, of something behind appearances that could not be tamed and brought to heel.” They could not forget that behind the covenants, including the one whose terms Winthrop had presumed to state, there “loomed the inconceivable being about whom no man could confidently predict anything, who was not to be relied upon or perfectly trusted, who might day in and day out deal with men in stated forms, and then suddenly strike without warning, scatter the world into fragments with a casual sweep of His hand.”13 This was Puritanism in a starkly existentialist mood. Its heroism was the heroism of persons who dared to try to bridge the gap between the certainties they longed for and the hubris and potential failure they knew their task invited. Miller did not put the point explicitly in the existentialist philosophers’ terms. But like many other midtwentieth-century intellectuals in Europe and the United States, he participated in the mood of disenchantment that we call, in retrospect, existentialism. A generation before, young rebellious writers had taken their revenge on their culture’s dominant conventions by breaking its rules, scoffing at its philistines and moralists, and decamping for the freedoms of artistic bohemia. The attack on the puritanical strain in American culture had been a product of that rebellion. But for many of those who followed in the next generation, for whom the senseless waste and destruction of World War I and then the catastrophic economic and political implosions of the 1930s were formative experiences, personal liberation no longer seemed sufficient. What an honest person needed to realize was that the myth of history as a march toward greater and greater progress and freedom, with God as its optimist in chief, was an illusion. And a dangerous one at that. Miller’s own father had been deeply invested in the prewar social gospel hope of more and more perfect realization of God’s designs. But God stood not within history but outside it, Reinhold


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Niebuhr was writing in the late 1920s; societies needed to make their way toward justice without the crutch of cosmic reassurance or the conceit of believing they knew God’s inner mind. The first Englishlanguage translations of Søren Kierkegaard’s works began to circulate in the United States in the 1930s, carrying with them their message that “angst,” anguish, and anxiety lay far deeper in the structures of the human condition than the steady improvement in faith and circumstances that nineteenth-century writers had heralded.14 The Puritan sense of divine predestination was different from our modern “sense of things being ordered by blind forces,” Miller himself wrote in 1938. “Yet even with this momentous difference in our imagination of the controlling power, the human problem today has more in common with the Puritan understanding of it than at any time for two centuries: how can man live by the lights of humanity in a universe that appears indifferent or even hostile to them?”15 Perry Miller resisted the full force of Niebuhr’s political and philosophical conclusions.16 But his students could not miss the existentialist strain in Miller’s own teaching. It was through his Harvard mentor, Miller, that historian Arthur Schlesinger  Jr. discovered Niebuhr and, through him, what Schlesinger thought to be the foundations for a chastened, less utopian project than the American political left had yet constructed. For Robert Coles, the social psychologist, biographer of America’s children of crises, and, in time, a charismatic Harvard lecturer in his own right, the most memorable part of Miller’s late 1940s course in the Classics of the Christian Tradition were its readings: Niebuhr, Blaise Pascal, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, and the newly translated Kierkegaard texts Miller assigned. Decades later, Coles was still telling interviewers about the power they cast on him.17 Above all, Perry Miller etched the existentialist mood not only into his syllabi but into the Puritans themselves. His portrait of God’s “supreme and awful” essence, beyond any human comprehension, was, as his later critics would point out, as much his own invention

Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


as the creation of John Calvin, to whom he attributed it. The work of the existentialist writers was to convince their naive fellow voyagers through the mid-twentieth century that history and optimism could not be counted on; that the world was much less reasonable that they imagined and courage far harder to find. As Miller described them, the Puritans had begun at the opposite philosophical pole; in the midst of what they knew to be life’s ultimate incomprehensibility, they had struggled to build in enough handholds for reason and logic for their society to survive. The heroism of the Puritans was not to be found in their efforts at system building, monumental as they were. It lay in their determination to construct as rational a picture of life as they dared without ever forgetting the universe’s ultimate impenetrability. Perry Miller came back from World War II ser vice to stow his military boots and a captured Nazi flag in his Harvard office, to resume his teaching, and to push his histories of the American mind deeper and deeper into the nineteenth century. He plunged into the worlds of Jonathan Edwards, Henry Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson; Herman Melville and Margaret Fuller; nineteenth-century literary institutions; and the history of the law. But though he spurned any temptation to glue these all to a common theme, he never wholly dropped the existentialist strain. More and more he saw it written into the very text of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” In what was to become the single most-cited piece he would write, “Errand into the Wilderness,” Miller reminded his readers that historical “errands” like those Winthrop and his generation had undertaken came in two sorts. Some were errands that one undertakes for one’s self. Others were missions on which one is sent as someone else’s errand boy.18 Winthrop and his peers knew how much self-determination and will they had poured into their own efforts. But they yearned to be on an errand that God, not they, had dictated. They worked as hard as they could to


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remind each other of the terms of the commission on which they had been dispatched, to read God’s mind and purposes in sending them so far from home and England. But being the sorts of Puritans Miller imagined, they could never be fully sure that they had read their commission right. They could never be entirely confident that their city on a hill was not a product of their own mistake or illusion. Even when they felt the hand of God in their good fortune, Miller argued—or, equally, when they felt the hand of God in a disaster that they hoped was proof God still cared enough to chastise them—they could find no certainty. “In fear and trembling” they had decided to emigrate, temporarily at least, to America.19 They had publicly declared the terms of their project; they had made their settlement in a conscious act of decision. But who among them could dare to be certain that the grounds on which they had acted were not merely a castle of vanities? Then and since, many readers of Miller’s “Errand” essay have seen it simply as an amplification of the Cold War culture into which it was published in 1956. Miller had always imagined a kind of crusading aspect to the New England project, as if the voyage to America were best perceived as international Calvinism’s flank attack on Catholicism itself. By the 1950s the military metaphors had become more insistent. In the New Englanders’ inner mind, he began to speculate, perhaps God intended to finally sweep their home country clear of its desperate corruptions and “bring back these temporary colonials to govern England.”20 In that sense, the America of the 1950s seemed never to have left its Puritan starting point. A conviction of acting on a global errand for God appeared to join Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Winthrop in a common, all but timeless, project. What could one imagine of a nation so conceived in righteousness but that it should still be trying to save the world? But Miller was never a thoroughgoing Cold Warrior and certainly not a spokesman for the business civilization he saw ascendant in Eisenhower’s America.21 Toward the end of “Errand into the

Puritanism in an Existentialist Key


Wilderness,” Miller retold the story of a classic circus act. It featured two clowns, one with an ample skirt and the other, hidden underneath, as the first clown’s bustle. They race around the stage as one, and then, suddenly, as the first clown veers right, the bustle, heading straight, makes off with a mind of its own. The story told its own moral. America enters history, dispatched on a mission, only to discover that it can’t remember anymore what that mission was, or whether it was, like a head-and-bodiless-clown act, just a fool’s errand to begin with. After 1660, with the Puritan Revolution in England overthrown and Puritanism’s offshoot in America orphaned as a result, the international dimensions of the New England project suddenly became irrelevant. It had become historically irrelevant as well, like a soldier dispatched on a task that his superiors had forgotten. Its ideas “had served their purpose and died.”22 What is a society to do in such a pinch but to make its purpose up all over again? That was the pattern of American history, Miller wrote in 1954. At some deep level it was discontinuous, glued to no “pre-existing” design, bound only to the necessity of inventing itself anew in a universe that gave it no prefurnished home. It was a “frantic,” futile gesture on the historian’s part to try “to preserve, just as he at the moment understands it, the distinctive American essence.” Indeterminacy and choice were the ground pattern of history. This “complexity is worrisome, imparts not serenity, only anxiety. It keeps us wondering whether we might now be something other, and probably better, than we are had we in the past decided other wise, and this in turn makes decision in the present even more nerve-wracking.” But from that anxiety there was no escape.23 How that story worked itself out from Winthrop’s first enunciation of its terms forward, Miller himself was never ultimately able to say. His teaching remained as electrifying and terrifying as before. He wrote prolifically, but the comprehensive History of the American Mind he mapped out for his publisher eluded him. In the end he had aspired


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to far too much, he had fought too many inner contradictions, and he was drinking too heavily to complete it. He died of a heart attack at age fifty-eight. But Miller’s part in shaping the lives of “A Model of Christian Charity” was indelible. No other figure before him had done as much to pull that text out of a later culture’s forgetfulness and insert it into the nation’s beginnings. He put the “city upon a hill” phrase at the core of historians’ understanding of Puritanism and put Puritanism, for the first time, at the core of the American story itself. “I am sure,” Miller told an audience in 1954, that Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” “is known to all of you.”24 To the extent that there was as yet any truth to that claim beyond the specialists in religious history to whom Miller was speaking—to the extent that excavation of the Model from its decades on the margins of American history and its elevation into the status of a foundational text, perhaps the foundational text for the nation, had begun—the first steps were largely Perry Miller’s work. But what was foundational about Miller’s Model was not its solidity. The Model’s achievement, as Miller understood it, was to put on display the extent to which the American covenant was held up by will and aspirations alone. It was a heroic act of mind: an attempt to make reasonable a purpose and a mission about which its own participants could never be entirely confident. In the midst of Eisenhower’s America, when one might have thought that Winthrop’s Model might fit easily into the certainties of Cold War conversation around it, irony, not certainty, was Miller’s passion. Among his most lasting achievements was to begin to put at the foundations of American history a text that, as he urged others to read it, had under its anxieties and aspirations no bedrock foundations at all.

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Arguing over the Puritans during the Cold War


mood of crisis shaped Perry Miller’s portrait of the Puritans. The disillusionments of the generation that had seen the idealism of World War I soar and then disintegrate, that had then seen the nations they thought at the heart of European civilization spiral into an even crueler vortex of war and inhumanity, and finally witnessed peace turn virtually overnight into the armed and hostile standoff that by 1947 was being called the Cold War all left their mark on Miller’s work. The Cold War left its marks on the others, too, who, after Miller, began to find their own threads of importance in Winthrop’s long-unnoticed text. None of them read “A Model of Christian Charity” as simply a piece of ammunition in a new sort of global and ideological war. But the crises of the Cold War would be imprinted, in one way or another, on virtually every one of the Model’s reappropriations for the rest of the century. These reinventions of the Model were the work of many hands, acting on many different intentions, and they took time to emerge. There is a simpler story, frequently retold, in which John Kennedy’s use of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” in a speech in 1961 shot directly into the phrase book of another man of burgeoning political aspirations, Ronald Reagan; but that simplified tale will not stand serious 217


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examination. Even Kennedy and his speechwriters did not initially recognize the potential of the Model’s story. A sense of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” phrase as encapsulating the very core of the nation’s mission to spread its ideas, its alliance networks, and its way of life across the Cold War world seeped, rather, out of many sources in post1945 American political culture. Some was the work of that culture’s boosters, some the work of its fiercest critics. Desire for a usable national past hung heavily over Cold War America. The project of rediscovering the nation’s enduring character had accelerated during World War II, most intensely among the social scientists drawn into the study of human morale. To “know” the enemy not as faceless “beasts” but as products of specific cultural, historical, and anthropological forces took on urgency as an essential tool of modern warfare. So, by the same token, did a deeper knowledge of the values, character, and culture that would keep Americans in the fight. Socioanthropological studies of “the American character” spilled out of World War II. New programs in American studies proliferated in the postwar colleges and universities. In literature departments, specialists in American writing began to assert themselves to shape a canon of American literary works whose depth could rival those of any European nation. The search for foundational texts and foundational ideas accelerated. Colgate University launched a compulsory American studies course for its seniors in 1949. Entitled “The American Idea in the Modern World,” its goal was explicitly nationalist: to examine the “American credo, what strengths and weaknesses are inherent in it, and whether it has any value as an example to other countries.”1 Offshoots of these programs quickly carried the American studies project abroad. The Voice of America did its best to blanket the shortwave radio bands with positive images of American society and culture. The Fulbright program’s grants for travel and scholarly ex-

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change were explicitly designed to counteract stereotypes abroad of a culturally superficial, commercially absorbed American society. Perry Miller, who traveled on lectureships to Europe and Japan in 1949–52, came back to worry about “the deep and ubiquitous anti-Americanism” that he had sensed there, a “settled and frozen image of America” that discounted the possibility that it might have any serious ideas or historical lessons for others.2 When in 1950 Connecticut’s U.S. senator William Benton raised a plea for “a Marshall plan of ideas,” an understanding that the struggle with the Soviet Union had drawn Americans not only into a political and military contest but an ideological battle for world opinion was fully formed.3 Words for that struggle lay already at hand. “You have summoned me on behalf of millions of your fellow Americans to lead a great crusade—for Freedom in America and Freedom in the world,” Dwight  D. Eisenhower opened his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1952  in the cadence of Cold War politics.4 “On America almost alone has fallen the awful responsibility of holding open the door of history against the forces of evil until freedom is born anew all over the world,” Life magazine’s lead editorial writer had put the charge the year before. The “American Proposition” was precious not because it was unique, John Jessup urged, but because it was universal: because “it belongs to all mankind.”5 In these early Cold War articulations of the American task Winthrop and his Model did not yet have a place. Surveying the history of the American idea of mission in 1950, the Cornell University historian Clinton Rossiter opened with the New England Puritans, but he did not mention “A Model of Christian Charity.” Harvey Wish’s widely read Society and Thought in America in 1950 titled its section on the Puritans not after Winthrop but the New Englanders’ radical dissenter, Roger Williams. Virtually none of the popular American


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history textbooks of the early and mid-1950s thought it important to include a reference to the Model. As late as 1957, Edward M. Burns’s The American Idea of Mission passed it by without mention.6 In most Americans’ minds their usable past began with the documents of the Revolution. There, in John Jessup’s terms, was where the “American Proposition” was enunciated. There, not in the scattered social experiments of the earlier period, was where an exportable American history began. But a new reckoning with a deeper history was soon to come. The publication of the second volume of Perry Miller’s monumental The New England Mind in 1953 and his collection of shorter pieces, Errand into the Wilderness, in 1956 helped tilt some of the Cold War quest for a usable past toward New England. Puritan studies after Miller gained an important new foothold in university history and literature departments in ways that southern and middle-colony studies did not begin to match. But at first the Model’s sense of mission was not central to it. What caught 1950s historians’ attention, rather, was the New England Puritans’ example of the responsible exercise of power in a dangerous world. In 1958, in what quickly became one of the most widely assigned college history books of its generation, Perry Miller’s student, Edmund Morgan, published a markedly sympathetic portrait of John Winthrop not as the stubborn theocrat of 1920s and 1930s scholarship but as a man struggling to balance the responsibilities of governance against the eruptive social and religious passions around him. Morgan made very little of “A Model of Christian Charity,” but between his lines Morgan made a great deal of the model of Winthrop’s life as a lesson in the ethical responsibilities of power. Morally chastened but unwilling to simply flee from the world’s burdens and dangers, Morgan’s Winthrop emerged from the past as a vital example for the Cold War present.7

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The year 1958 saw the publication of a second book on early American history, even more widely read than Morgan’s. This was Daniel Boorstin’s Bancroft Prize–winning The Americans: The Colonial Experience. The first in a three-volume sweep through all of American history, it opened not with the Virginia expedition, or the Spanish conquest, or the lives of the continent’s native peoples, all of which had much better claims as origin points than Winthrop’s venture, but with the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony. The book’s first sentence placed its readers aboard the Arbella. By its fifth sentence it was quoting the “eyes of all people” passage from the Model. The book’s opening chapter was entitled “A City upon a Hill”—but not with the meaning that phrase was to take on later.8 Boorstin was a University of Chicago historian, political critic, and by the 1950s a centrist, pragmatic conservative. As he told the American story, it began not with the American Revolution but with a series of “visions,” each of which turned out to be a partial mistake: the New Englanders’ vision of a “city upon a hill” where a purified faith might reign; William Penn’s vision of a “holy experiment” in peace, toleration, and social harmony in Pennsylvania; and eighteenthcentury English philanthropists’ vision of a charity colony in Georgia where, with land and discipline, the outcast English poor might flourish. In the founding of each of these, Boorstin wrote, the planners had tried to work too hard against the grain of practical human nature. In each case, experience had overwhelmed the designers’ blueprints. America began as visions, as idealized “cities upon a hill”; it concluded, in Boorstin’s view, as sobered experience. This was a line down which Boorstin had already been thinking since the late 1930s. He had graduated from Harvard in 1934 to spend a year at Oxford University amidst the ferment of the British political left. He joined the American Communist Party in 1938 and then left it, shaken, in 1939 when the Soviet Union joined with the Nazi regime in the invasion and dismemberment of Poland.


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That experience of being tricked by illusions of perfection stayed with Boorstin for the rest of his career. “Ideology” was the utopianism of modern times, a chastened Boorstin concluded. The “genius” of American politics—if it were wise enough to hang on to it—was its resistance to the dreams of social perfection with which ideologies lured their victims. In The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson in 1948 Boorstin had set out to rescue Jefferson from his own abstractions and the generalities of the Declaration of Independence’s opening paragraph and recast him as an empiricist, a man of practical science and political experience. Boorstin was unrelentingly critical of the notion that centuries of national experience could be repackaged as the “American idea” and exported to the rest of the world. “To tell people what institution they must have, whether we tell them with the Voice of America or with the Money of America, is the thorough denial of our American heritage,” he wrote at the height of the early Cold War. It was to play into the game of tyrannizing abstractions that the ideologues on the other side would surely win.9 Boorstin believed his own moral to be simple: the bedrock story of the Americans was the consistency with which they had resisted the temptations of Utopia. In truth, the story he told was more complicated. Had history only been about the pragmatic strain in American culture, he might have begun the documents collection he compiled to supplement The Americans with the thoroughly practical example of Benjamin Franklin. But he did not.10 He read Perry Miller’s work with great seriousness. He recognized the utility of Winthrop’s strenuous calls for public virtue as essential to a colony’s infant years when practical instrumentalism alone would have broken it apart on its fault lines of interest. The story of Boorstin’s America was not the story of an insatiably practical people but of a people whose character it was to search for utopias but never to fall wholly under their spell. It was the story of Europeans who imagined they might offer the world profoundly new possibilities for society

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and then learned to temper their visions in practice. Despite their political differences, Boorstin’s moral was not totally unlike Morgan’s: a chastened model of practice was the New England Puritans’— and now the nation’s—gift to an ideology-wracked world. The story of John Kennedy’s part in injecting a more strenuous reading of “A Model of Christian Charity” into the rhetoric of American politics was different—in part because identification of Winthrop’s words with Cold War America was not Kennedy’s original intention at all. The occasion was Kennedy’s farewell to the state of Massachusetts on the eve of his assumption of the presidency in January 1961. His principal speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, had much more important projects on his agenda during the months between Kennedy’s election and his installation in the White House. The deadline loomed for Kennedy’s inaugural address, for which Sorensen would write the instantly famous Cold War pledge: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”11 Kennedy’s speech to the Massachusetts legislature was much more quickly and casually drafted. Faced with the need to say something uplifting to a legislature that had been mired in perpetual corruption scandals since the James Curley era, Sorensen chose to admonish its members with the words of their own colony’s founder. “I have been guided,” Sorensen had Kennedy say, “by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella 331 years ago. . . . ‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’ Today, the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.”12


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Asked much later for his inspiration for these words, Sorensen could no longer remember. Sorensen was a serious reader of history. His Profiles in Courage, which was issued under Kennedy’s name in 1956 and helped catapult the junior Massachusetts senator to national fame, was a roster of courageous dissenting figures in the American past who had stood for conscience against mere popularity. It is possible that the suggestion to use Winthrop’s words was passed on to Sorensen, in a blizzard of other suggestions, by one of the Harvard historians who circled around the Kennedy campaign, though the most active of them, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., had proposed a different Winthrop quotation than the one Sorensen chose. He might have taken it from a speech, “The Progressive Spirit in an Age of Conformity,” that Illinois senator Paul Douglas had given at a Roosevelt Day dinner in New York City in 1957. An uncowed political progressive in Eisenhower’s America, Douglas had used Winthrop’s “eyes of all people” phrase to urge upon the Democratic Party the need for a second New Deal: to protect consumers from the exactions of big oil and big business, to democratize an economy in which power and control were excessively concentrated, to eliminate the slums, and to “eradicate” racial and religious discrimination. But if Douglas had been his source, Sorensen left Douglas’s progressive political agenda altogether out of what he borrowed. Most likely Sorensen had picked up Winthrop’s “eyes of all people” passage from the monument on the Boston Common that Curley himself had helped install in 1930 and by which Sorensen must often have passed.13 Whatever its source, Kennedy’s referent for Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” was not the nation. It was the scandal-enmeshed Boston legislature. “Call for Moral Uplift in Bay State,” the Boston Globe headlined its account of Kennedy’s speech. “Offers a Strict Moral Code for Presidency,” the New York Times reported it. “Dirty Money in Boston” was the Atlantic Monthly story’s title.14 Sorensen used the Model’s words only once again, in Kennedy’s talk to the Big Brothers of America later in 1961. This time, the context was broader: “Now, I

Arguing over the Puritans


feel that we are a city on a hill and that one of our great responsibilities during these days is to make sure that we in this country set an example to the world . . . [by] demonstrating what a free people can do.” Still, the practical upshot was narrow: take on responsibility for two or three underprivileged boys or girls; reach out to them so that their lives do not go to waste.15 Others, however, wanted more out of Winthrop’s words than Kennedy and Sorensen understood them to contain. From Kennedy’s address of early 1961 they moved by a kind of folk process into the stock phrases of other speechwriters, acquiring more urgent weight along the way. Cold War culture by then had taken a more strenuous turn. In 1956 the United States had found itself a helpless observer of the Soviet army’s suppression of revolt in Hungary, stalemated by the atomic superpowers’ sudden new capacity for mutual destruction. The next year the Soviet Union launched the Cold War’s first space satellite, setting off alarms that the United States had fallen permanently behind in the race for military superiority. In 1957, with the eyes of the Third World’s peoples intent on the United States’ handling of its intensifying race “problem,” federal troops and the elected state governor had gone face to face in Little Rock, Arkansas, over the Supreme Court’s school integration decision. In the face of these events the mass-circulation Life magazine launched a series of essays in May 1960 to promote a wide-ranging debate on the “national purpose.” “In this strange era of Communism, megaton weaponry, fractured empires, mushrooming sovereignties and continuing moral, social and technical revolution,” its opening statement asked, what explained Americans’ apparent retreat into private pursuits of happiness? What would be required to fill the era’s “vacuum in the national will?”16 Kennedy himself contributed an essay to the series, saturated with a sense of destiny and mission, but he did not invoke the Puritans.17 It was left, later in 1961, to the director of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department’s regional operations in the West,


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Albert H. Rosenthal, to make the connection between the mission of modern America and the deep historical ballast of Winthrop’s text. “You are graduating into a world of crisis,” Rosenthal told the commencement class at Colorado State College at Greeley. In the ongoing struggle for the minds of the world’s majority, Rosenthal urged, citing Winthrop through Kennedy, we in the United States “are as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.” In this global “war of ideas,” if we let our commitments to democracy, to the freedom and dignity of all persons “play their music to the world”—if we show that liberty and a positive program of social welfare can be effectively combined—they will resound more loudly than the “tallest rocket or the biggest bomb.”18 The speech that John Kennedy might have been expected to give, Rosenthal gave for him. From there the formula spread to others. Lyndon Johnson’s speechwriters seized on the Winthrop reference in 1964. “America tonight is a city upon a hill” to which the world looks “uncertainly and hopefully” to see “the brightness of nobility which is in man.” Richard Nixon retold the Arbella story as a more general rhetorical question in 1971: at this moment of the free world’s testing, “do we have the character, the richness in spirit, and the strength in spirit that a nation needs?” George McGovern, running as the conscience candidate against the Johnson-Nixon War in Vietnam, put the question in essentially the same way in 1972.19 Some of the voices in this Cold War chorus of Winthrop references amplified the charity themes at the Model’s heart. “As long as millions of Americans suffer indignity and punishment and deprivation because of their color, their poverty, and our inaction,” Robert Kennedy urged in 1965, “we know that we are only halfway . . . to the city upon the hill.” Hubert Humphrey defended Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the same way during the “War on Poverty” debates of the mid-1960s.20 But for most of those who revived the public life of Winthrop’s words during the years of the high Cold War, the core issue was not

Arguing over the Puritans


the enduring gap between rich and poor or what obligations charity might take in a new era of economic abundance. It was the need for a national civic renewal at a time of unprecedented global challenge. In these explicit reuses of the Model’s language, the “city upon a hill” was the United States as a nation. The “eyes of all people” were the hearts and minds of the nonaligned world. From “A Model of Christian Charity” the speechwriters drew proof that a sense of worldhistorical mission ran back to the imagined beginning point of American history, that seamless bands of time welded the summons of the present to deep resources in the past. Scholars followed in the same tracks. Editing the Life magazine “National Purpose” series for book publication in 1961, the Harvard historian Oscar Handlin organized it around a series of themes that defined the American way of life: “material well-being,” “success and individualism,” “the culture of the common man,” “democracy,” “equality,” “freedom.” But it was with the “The American Mission” that the book opened; its first document consisted of the final, “city upon a hill” paragraphs of Winthrop’s Model.21 Merle Curti’s magisterial The Growth of American Thought had not mentioned the Model in 1943. Now in 1966, Daniel Boorstin’s American Primer for a general audience and Loren Baritz’s Sources of the American Mind for college students both included generous extracts from the Model. By 1973 the Model had come to lodge firmly in the most influential American literature anthology of its generation, Cleanth Brooks, R.W.B. Lewis, and Robert Penn Warren’s American Literature.22 The sociologist Robert Bellah had coined the term “civil religion” in 1967; eight years later, he pitched his anguished report on the broken state of civic culture in terms of the need to make Winthrop’s sense of covenant central to Americans’ understanding of themselves once more.23 Still, increasingly common as encounter with Winthrop’s words and story now was, readers might be forgiven a degree of uncertainty about the Model’s exact place in the American past. Most one-volume


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college textbooks through the 1970s still did not squeeze out room to mention it. As late as 1979, the D. C. Heath and John Wiley & Sons U.S. history textbooks ignored Winthrop’s Model to give their extended attention to Winthrop’s nemesis, Anne Hutchinson.24 Hutchinson’s dissent from Puritan orthodoxy had, in fact, compelled John Kennedy’s and Ted Sorensen’s attention as well. Asked by McCall’s magazine in 1958 to expand the sketches in Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage to include women, they had responded with three vividly told vignettes of women who had refused to bend to the pressures of conformity around them. One of these women of courage was Prudence Crandall, who faced down court orders and the violent, racist mobs that demanded she close the school for the education of free black young women that she had launched in 1830s Connecticut. Their second figure was Jeannette Rankin, the feminist and peace activist who, in the face of intense pressure, had chosen to cast the sole vote in the House of Representatives against war in December 1941 rather than violate the call of her conscience. Their third example of women’s heroism was Anne Hutchinson, who, “ruthlessly and unfairly cross-examined” by Winthrop and his fellow magistrates, had stood courageous and unbowed against the wrath of Puritan authority.25 The incongruities could seem head spinning. No other early American had demonstrated as fully as Winthrop the courage to use power responsibly, readers of Edmund Morgan’s book learned; but in the history textbooks American courage was embodied in Anne Hutchinson’s defiance of everything Winthrop stood for, too. The usable American past was encapsulated in the universality of American ideas; it was not to be found in ideas at all, if Daniel Boorstin was to be believed, but in the everyday practice of Americans. “At the heart of our tradition is a spiritual reality,” a Pennsylvania Lutheran preacher declared in his Fourth of July sermon in 1973, in a wild conflation of detached and reassembled pieces from the past. “ ‘We the people . . . ,’ wrote one of the Founding Fathers, ‘are as a city set upon a hill, in the open view of all the earth, the eyes of the world are upon us, because

Arguing over the Puritans


we profess to be a people in covenant with God.”26 In this yearning for consensus and continuity, the deist Jefferson and the Calvinist Winthrop, the war of ideas with Communism, the seventeenthcentury settlement of New England, and the revolutionary Declaration of Independence all collapsed into pretty much the same thing. It was at this entry point that the figure who succeeded Perry Miller as the most closely watched critic and explicator of American literature of his time, and of Winthrop’s Model in particular, came onto the scene to declare that “A Model of Christian Charity” had set a trap, a consensual cage from which there was no escape. Even more than Miller, who let others imagine that he had discovered America on the banks of the Congo, Sacvan Bercovitch came to Puritan studies as an outsider. Born in Montreal into a Yiddish-speaking family of left-wing Russian-born Jews, he made his way by a series of zigzags through the disjoined cultural patchworks of twentieth-century immigrant society. He tried the New School for Social Research in New York City and Reed College in Oregon briefly, took an extensive detour to live and work in a socialist kibbutz in Israel, and then returned to graduate from a Montreal night school. Coming again to the United States for graduate work in 1961, he was overwhelmed by the experience of a nation in the grips of Cold War consensus.27 By the time Bercovitch’s deeply learned and intricately woven readings of American Puritan literature began to appear in the late 1960s, the tenets of that consensus were already under challenge. By the late 1970s, when Bercovitch’s reputation was at its peak, any sense of a singular American “national character” seemed to most observers to have fragmented in the upheavals on college campuses, the mass political demonstrations over civil rights and the Vietnam War, and the smoldering anger of black urban neighborhoods. The American studies project was already beginning its disaggregation into a multitude of competing projects: African American and Latino/a


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studies, women’s and gender studies, Native American studies, environmental studies, cultural studies, and more.28 But Sacvan Bercovitch never lost his initial sense of a nation organized as no other around its own proposition of itself. In a culture where Martin Luther King Jr.’s severest criticism of America was that it had violated its own ideals, where its anarchist Yippies could dress themselves in flags and Uncle Sam hats, where bringing America back to its senses shaped the deepest passions of its critics, Bercovitch insisted, consensus could hardly be said to have disintegrated. Others in the 1970s were beginning to probe the social and institutional mechanisms through which cultural consensus might be imposed and perpetuated. But for Bercovitch the “America” that both critics and defenders seemed so intent on possessing had always been a rhetorical, not a sociological, construct: a symbolic field, a ritually repeated trope that, by its very nature, remained immune from the flaws of the society and nation it stood for. For the origins of that enduring “myth of America” you needed only to look at Winthrop’s Model, Bercovitch was claiming by the late 1970s. The key part of it was not the “city upon a hill” sentence. It was Winthrop’s caution, right on the heels of that promise, that failure to live up to their covenant would bring God’s special wrath upon his New England people. For that very promise of God’s enduring attention carried reassurance that New England’s proto-Americans would not be left to the ordinary forces of history. Every act of censure after Winthrop’s sermon, every lament, every twinge of anxiety, could thereafter be construed as reassertion that the American errand was still intact, that their God was still watching out for America. From the sermons of anguish and lament that soon began to pour out of seventeenth-century New England pulpits, to the refusals of Thoreau’s Walden or the dark, foreboding vision of Melville’s Moby Dick, to the upheavals shaking Bercovitch’s own society and times, dissent in a culture organized rhetorically in this way could only reinforce that

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culture’s original premises. “America” was not a nation like other nations but a “totalistic” symbolic system that co-opted every imagination, that locked its defenders of order and its anguished, radical dissenters in the same embrace.29 For Bercovitch, Winthrop’s Model not only stood at the beginnings of the unshakable consensus that he had felt so strongly in Cold War America. It stood also for the insatiable appetite he sensed around him to expand the Americans’ “imperialism of the word.” Winthrop and his cohort, in wrapping their mission in the language of Exodus, had not simply tried to orient themselves by analogy to the history they knew best. They had swallowed the history of the Jews wholly into themselves. “I followed the process of usurpation with ‘wild amaze,’ ” Bercovitch wrote later. “Through a kind of imperialism by interpretation, one scriptural story had been made the colony of another. A wondrous [ Jewish] textual world of chronicle and prophesy—of wisdom literature, poetry, legal and moral commandment, heroic saga, even the erotic Song of Songs—had been appropriated from start to end” by a new chosen people.30 It was no wonder that a nation consumed by an appetite to engorge the history of others should have been so irresistibly drawn into the Cold War, even into the quagmires of Vietnam. It was not in their wish to be a model to others but in their urge to swallow every world within their reach that the enduring hubris of the Puritans was manifest. From Winthrop on, Bercovitch wrote, “the rhetoric of expansion was prefigured in the American Puritan imagination.”31 It is hard now to recover the power and authority that Bercovitch cast over the American studies project in the late years of the Cold War, fusing the American Puritans with European theories of cultural hegemony and welding both to an enduring American present. The intellectual virtuosity with which Bercovitch extracted these themes from the Model cannot be discounted. Since Miller there had been nothing comparable in force and imagination. But


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where Miller’s Puritans lived in the face of uncertainty, yearning for connection with the sacred that they knew could never fully be given, Bercovitch’s Puritans swelled with self-absorbed, selfimprisoning confidence. Nonetheless, Bercovitch did perceive, as Miller did not, how Cold War American culture could hold its contradictions together.32 America could be John Winthrop’s nation and Anne Hutchinson’s nation because, in the dialectical heart of Winthrop’s Model, the language of hegemony and the language of dissent were all but inseparable. The very anxieties of Cold War America were the products of the culture’s exaggerated confidence. Most of these readings of Winthrop’s text were in place by the time Ronald Reagan began his drive toward the presidency with Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” as a key note in his speeches. The Cold War had driven the Model out of the scholarly cloisters and injected it into public speech, catapulting it into a prominence that Winthrop’s text had never enjoyed in its first life. The stage for Winthrop’s words was no longer the Puritans’ quarrel with God. They were lines for America now. They encapsulated the very heart of the “proposition” of America. But, in truth, not one but a whole raft of Models had been broached for late twentieth-century America. Some offered reassurance to a Cold War nation. Others issued a challenge to more strenuous, mission-imbued action. Still others explained why the nation’s blundering action in the world could never be remedied. A few tried to use the Model’s example to encourage the responses to poverty that the modern world demanded; most left that aspect of Winthrop’s text out altogether. The work of Ronald Reagan and his speechwriters was not only to canonize the “city upon a hill” lines of the Model—which they did with spectacular success. Their task was also to distill and focus this new, late-arriving, long-orphaned addition to the nation’s imagined past.

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Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill


y the end of the 1970s, the transit of “A Model of Christian Charity” from a regional New England text to a foundational document for America itself was already well under way. The Puritans had begun their remarkable movement from one of history’s side theaters into their center-stage role as articulators of the “myth of America.” The “city upon a hill” line, employed now with explicit reference to Winthrop’s Arbella text, had been added to the stock phrases of American presidential rhetoric. But it was Ronald Reagan who gave the Model its modern public life. Reinventing Winthrop’s words for the late twentieth century, he seized on two of its sentences, inserted them into the very “beginnings” of U.S. history, and made them parts of a script that virtually every American would be taught by the end of the century. The result was an extraordinary act of simplification. Miller’s notion of a people severely tested by the demands of their covenant, like Bercovitch’s sense of a people swallowed whole by a totalizing vision of themselves, was put aside for scholars to worry over. The social ethic at the heart of the Model’s plea for charity was left on the cutting room floor. The Winthrop whom Reagan gave to his listeners—detached from the Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams controversies, detached 233


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from Winthrop’s contemporaries’ disputes over the proper bounds of liberty and authority, detached from every historical context except the “tiny” pitching ship carry ing him and his small band across the Atlantic—was the founding articulator of the American promise. The Model came into the Reagan White House through the chains of happenstance, neglect, and reappropriation that, as we have seen, shaped its history from the first. A four-word snippet of it came out of the Reagan White House as patriotic icon: a foundation stone in the American canon. Ronald Reagan accomplished all of this in part by sheer repetition of the elements in Winthrop’s text and story that had caught his imagination. Reagan was a man familiar with scripts and more skilled than any other president of his century in working with them. He knew how to make their cadences into a kind of verbal music. He did not mind the endless loops of repetition by which certain keywords became deeply attached to his political beliefs and persona. From his first ventures into public speaking in the late 1940s through his “Farewell Address” almost half a century later, certain cherished phrases were to echo continuously through his speeches: verbal signatures that he would occupy like comfortable old clothes. But Reagan did not make an extract from Winthrop’s words and story familiar by repetition only. He and his speechwriters did so through a series of reinventions by which Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” phrase slowly morphed from a call to battle into a line of reassurance for a kind of cinematic nationalism. Those unsettled by Reagan’s transformation from a messenger of Cold War apocalypse to the bland cheerleader of a nation where “it’s a sunrise every day”—where at every new moment “something wonderful can happen to you”— often found the move dismaying.1 But it was a fitting capstone to the Model’s story. Even at the height of its public reputation, its ingredients did not stay stable. Ronald Reagan liked a good historical tale. As a college student, he was later candid enough to admit, he had not cared much for his

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


classes.2 He had essentially majored in football at small, Disciples of Christ–affiliated Eureka College, not the economics major in which he was officially enrolled. In his middle age, however, he began to read more and more voraciously in history and politics. Eclectic in his choices, he proved an easy mark for the dramatic quotation and fictionalized historical event that circulated through the conservative magazines, speakers’ handbooks, and newspapers clippings he devoured. Blood-thirsty, false quotations from Lenin, more savage than anything Lenin ever actually said, put into circulation by witnesses before the congressional committees on un-American activities, struck a powerful chord with Reagan. One of those false quotations still strikes awe in visitors to the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley, California, though its fabrication was pointed out years ago.3 Reagan loved to retell the story that he thought Jefferson himself had written about the climactic moment at Independence Hall in July 1776. As the members of the Continental Congress were still fretting about the act of signing the Declaration, an old man had risen in the balcony, shaken his bony finger at the delegates, and called out: “Sign that parchment! . . . Sign, sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, sign if the hall is ringing with the sound of headman’s axe, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.” An invention of the gothic fiction writer George Leppard in 1847, nothing like this ever happened.4 Reagan was equally fond of a pledge that John Adams was said to have made on the same occasion—“sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote”—which was also an invention of the nineteenth century.5 He mistook scenes from the World War II movies that he loved for the war’s real events.6 Much later, on Reagan’s entry into the White House, an unidentified staff member assigned to squeeze some of these fabrications out of the new president’s speeches, borrowed a copy of the 1838 Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society from the Library of Congress to check out Reagan’s “city upon a hill” quotation.7 But Reagan’s


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version of the Arbella story was, except for his shrinking of the ship down to the dimensions of a “tiny” vessel, an accurate rendition of what historians were writing at the time. And the note card extract he made in his own handwriting was accurate virtually word for word: “We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken & so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story & a byword throughout the world.” 8 It is a commonplace assumption that someone other than Reagan himself must have injected that passage into Reagan’s speeches. At some point, it is supposed, a speechwriter fed him the text that he was, by force of repetition, to make iconic of himself and America. But that is not at all likely. After leaving his Hollywood acting career in 1954, Reagan had earned his living for the next ten years as a public speaker, writing out his own material in longhand. In 1969–70, when the “city upon a hill” phrase first showed up in his speeches on four tightly clustered occasions, Reagan was in the California governor’s office assisted by a professional speechwriting staff. Its head, Jerry Martin, remembered their collaboration this way: “We would sit down and we would talk.” He would pull something out of his full briefcase; he would say “I want to say this.” Then “I would write it and he would edit it . . . and [sometimes] put a lot more into it than we had already put in.” 9 Pages of these handwritten inserts can still be found in the Reagan archives.10 The apocryphal “speech from the balcony” story was one of Reagan’s own additions, as Martin’s accompanying memo to his 1974 American Conservative Union speech draft noted. Martin did not say who put the Arbella story and its “city upon a hill” lines into that same speech. But they were not in Martin’s first draft. Almost certainly they had come out of Reagan’s briefcase as well.11 By the time Ronald Reagan opened his campaign for the 1980 presidential election, his signature phrases were being more carefully polished by those who knew the arts of public relations. But even then

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


his speechwriting staff did not know the power of the “city on a hill” line as fully as Reagan himself. From 1981 to 1989, Reagan’s principal speechwriter was Anthony Dolan. A former journalist like Martin, Dolan authored Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire” speech excoriating the Soviet Union in 1983, and he helped shape hundreds of others. It was Dolan who appropriated the phrase from Isaiah to promise that the United States would become not only a city on a hill but, like biblical Israel itself, “a light unto the nations.”12 By contrast, John Winthrop was a much vaguer presence in Dolan’s mind. In his first draft of Reagan’s much admired speech at the relighting of the Statue of Liberty torch in 1986, Dolan still did not know the “city upon a hill” quotation by heart.13 In a draft for an earlier speech in 1983, Dolan confused John Winthrop with Joseph Warren, hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill, whose words Reagan also loved to quote, so they came out as quotations from Joseph Warren and “Joseph” Winthrop. Unnoticed by the White House staff, the two Josephs mistake persisted into the final version.14 At another point, as a speech was in rewriting, Dolan made a note to be sure to include “the quote from John Wordsworth about the city upon a hill.”15 Modern speechwriters are almost inconceivably busy people, who cannot be expected to keep every thing straight. But “city on a hill” was not Dolan’s invention. Nor was it the invention of the other speechwriters who during Reagan’s presidency honed the motif with great rhetorical skill. Peggy Noonan, the most gifted of them in this regard, had Reagan confess to the nation in his farewell address in 1989 that just in the past few days “I’ve been at that window upstairs, [and] I’ve thought a bit of the ‘shining city on a hill’ ” and what John Winthrop must have meant in using it “to describe the America he imagined.” From that launching point Noonan’s imagery took flight, from the “ little wooden boat,” the Arbella, to the giant aircraft carrier Midway, from the Normandy beaches to the “granite ridge” on which the nation stood.16 But the core story and its extracted phrase was one that


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Reagan’s principal writers had been given to work with, not one they owned. In a radio address that Reagan had written out by hand in 1978, he told his listeners that sorting through his bundles of note cards looking for quotations that spoke most powerfully to the current state of the world, he had chosen three that went to the heart of the American promise: Emma Lazarus’s words at the base of the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson’s commitments to small government and the broadest possible sphere for liberty, and Winthrop’s words from “A Model of Christian Charity.”17 Where had Ronald Reagan found the “city upon a hill” lines? The record gives no clear answer. It was certainly not a borrowing from John Kennedy, as scores of accounts have suggested. In the 1960s Reagan did reach eagerly for Kennedy’s words and political mantle. He had been deeply moved by Kennedy’s pledge that the nation would pay any price for freedom, a phrase Reagan turned back sharply on the Democratic Party’s second thoughts on Kennedy’s war in Vietnam. In the same vein, Reagan attached himself proudly to Franklin Roosevelt’s line from the 1936 Democratic National Convention, that his generation had “a rendezvous with destiny.”18 In 1979 Reagan would put that signature New Deal phrase into his own speech announcing his candidacy for the presidency.19 But in the farewell address that Kennedy had delivered to the Massachusetts legislature in 1961, Sorensen had used only the first of the Winthrop phrases that Reagan would initially make his own. “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us,” Sorensen had Kennedy say.20 But Sorensen had cut off the quotation before the phrase that initially meant even more to Reagan: “so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken & so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story & a byword through the world.” Reagan could not have copied that from Kennedy.

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


The most likely source was Daniel Boorstin’s The Americans, whose first volume had been published in 1958. Reagan was then General Electric’s principal goodwill spokesman, making hundreds of speeches a year on behalf of his employer and corporate capitalism generally. Actively on the lookout for usable material, he would copy out a treasured joke and or a quotation that had caught his imagination onto the note cards from which he spoke. On page three of The Americans, where it would have been hard for even a casual reader to miss it, Boorstin had printed the full two-sentence Winthrop quotation that Reagan wrote out on his note card. The passage’s spelling and punctuation were modernized, but the words were virtually intact.21 In Reagan’s early uses of Winthrop’s words, the second sentence—“if we shall deal falsely with our God”—was every bit as essential as the first one. From Reagan’s first recorded use of Winthrop’s story through his election eve television address in 1980, the two tightly linked sentences—the claim of world-historical importance and the warning that the promise might turn, overnight, to ashes—were virtually undetachable from one another in Reagan’s mind. The frame that united them was a deeply Manichaean reading of the Cold War that Reagan, in his turn from New Deal Democrat to Barry Goldwater Republican in the late 1950s and early 1960s, had imbibed from the anti-Communist calls to arms around him. Reagan’s core theme was the nearness of a tragic misstep from the destiny that Winthrop’s words had laid out for America. Threatened by arms and revolutions abroad and sapped from within by the ever-expansive reach of government, liberty itself was under siege. Reagan embraced every prediction of freedom’s vulnerability with fearful eagerness. “Freedom has never been so fragile, so near to slipping from our grasp, as it is at this moment,” he declared in his celebrated “A Time for Choosing” speech in 1964.22 A fall as catastrophic as the fall of Rome and Athens threatened to overwhelm the nation.


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The clock of history was running out. Time now stood at “high noon,” the shoot-out hour. “Where shall we be at five minutes after Twelve?”23 Reagan loved to grimly repeat the words of an “Ohio doctor” that rattled through the conservative press: “For one shining glorious moment in history, we had the key and open door and the way was there before us. And men threw off the yoke of centuries and thrust forward along that way with such brilliance that for a little while we were the light and the inspiration of the world. And now the key has been thrown away, the door is closing and we are losing the way.”24 Reagan was in no manner a Calvinist. But a sense of standing at a rendezvous with destiny, at a division point between starkly divergent futures, made Winthrop’s “story and a byword” warning intensely real for him. Betray their mission, Reagan warned his audiences, and their ideals would turn to “ashes.”25 One false choice and the United States might be consigned to a “sterile footnote in history.”26 These forces of stark opposition came home for Reagan in the eruptive political battles of the late 1960s. He had made forceful crackdown on campus protests a centerpiece of his campaign for the California governorship, together with brakes on runaway government spending and mounting welfare budgets. In May 1969 he had sent California Highway Patrol forces into a bloody confrontation with students at the University of California at Berkeley who had tried to turn an occupied piece of university land into an open “People’s Park.” A campaign television ad script written the previous year had already sketched out Reagan’s basic plot. “Speakers . . . mouths open, impassioned speeches . . . professor on strike . . . bearded ‘student leader’ . . . quick cut of [the Black Panthers’ George] Murray putting down the flag, the Constitution, the American people,” and then a quick cut again to Governor Reagan at his desk, soberly reminding voters that “for one tick of history’s clock we gave the world a shining, golden hope.”27 Reagan’s very first recorded use of the Model’s words came in a speech to a fund-raising dinner for the association of Independent

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


Colleges of Southern California a month after the People’s Park occupation began. He repeated the same speech essentially unchanged on three other college fund-raising occasions over the next year on behalf of the newly founded Eisenhower College in upstate New York, his own Eureka College, and the Churches of Christ–sponsored Pepperdine College in 1970. In each case, Reagan began with the tumult on college campuses. There, he warned his audiences, scenes from the fall of Rome into barbarism were replaying before one’s eyes. Looting, vandalism, arson, drug use, and demonstrations in the streets ran rampant. Students were demanding an immediate peace in Vietnam, a peace that could bring “a thousand years of darkness for generations yet unborn.” Ages of wisdom were being heaved aside. “The jungle seems to be closing in on this plot we’ve been trying to civilize for 6,000 years.”28 But Reagan concluded each of these speeches in the same way. Not all college students had descended into University of California at Berkeley–style anarchy. At places like Eisenhower College, or Pepperdine College, or the independent colleges of Southern California deeper commitments to learning and teaching persisted. Against the chaos whipped up by Black Power advocates and free-speech anarchists, each of these institutions stood, as Winthrop’s “shining dream” had promised, as a “city upon a hill.” Give to their annual appeals, Reagan pleaded, and John Winthrop’s vision might be preserved from turning to “ashes” in our lifetime. When in the mid-1970s Reagan took a version of that formula into the arena of national politics, the structure remained the same. Moral and patriotic feelings were decaying. Inflation was on the rise. Government growth was out of control. Capitalism was being blamed for everything from despoiling the environment to “seducing, if not outright raping, the customer.”29 “Ideological fanaticism” was running hard. Abroad, the “terrifying, enormous blackness” of totalitarianism grew larger every day.30 At home, “ghosts from the riotous, hate-filled ’60s are stalking the land.”31 But there was a saving remnant who knew


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the stark choices that the nation faced. There were Americans who were not ready to let the vision of a city on a hill go: Americans who knew (as he put it to the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1975) that “if we fail to keep our rendezvous with destiny or, as John Winthrop said in 1630, ‘Deal falsely with our God,’ we shall be made ‘a story and byword throughout the world.’ ”32 As in every act of reappropriation, Reagan altered the meaning of Winthrop’s words in the very act of possessing them. Winthrop never spelled out the scenario of failure with the vividness that Reagan invested in the “byword” line. Winthrop wrote for a company that had already cast its choice; his deepest fear was that under the scrutiny of their detractors the Puritans might not show that they could live up to the tasks of faith, love, and discipline that their covenant demanded. Reagan urged Americans to make a choice, and having made it, stand as a beacon for the world to see. What joined Reagan’s and Winthrop’s cities on a hill across this chasm of difference was their sense of embattlement—their sense of a people living under probation at a profoundly urgent moment in history. On the strength of his personal charm and alarmist message, abetted by Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy woes and economic failures, Reagan swept into the White House, carry ing Winthrop’s words with him. “I know I have told before of the moment when the tiny ship Arabella bearing settlers to the New World lay off the Massachusetts coast,” Reagan reminded the nation in his election eve speech in November 1980.33 He would tell or refer to that story repeatedly thereafter. But already a repackaging of Reagan’s signature extract from the Model was under way. Perhaps Reagan’s public relations managers sensed that a doomsayer president would not have the same political staying power as an alarm-sounding insurgent candidate. Perhaps they recognized that the widely criticized speech on the crisis of morale haunting the land that Jimmy Carter had delivered just the summer before Reagan an-

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


nounced his candidacy for president had given them an opportunity to reposition him as a figure of strength and confidence.34 Perhaps Reagan’s very election had begun to alter the mood within his speechwriting staff. The fervidly Manichaean tone of Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech was still to come. But gradually the Winthrop-quoting candidate who entered the White House began to be replaced by a more reassuring, measured, Winthrop-quoting president. The most striking sign of that transformation was the way in which the “story and a byword” line all but disappeared from Reagan’s version of Winthrop’s words after the election. Reagan used the “byword” sentence in his election eve speech in 1980. In his more than thirty references to the “city on a hill” afterward, however, he used or paraphrased the Model’s “byword” sentence on only two occasions, once in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1983 and again in his final radio address to the nation in 1989.35 But that was all. The imminence of potential failure, once so prominent in Reagan’s mind, silently fell away. Just as striking was the manner in which the “city on a hill” image shifted in his speeches as well. Reagan had been drawn to the word “shining” for a long while. Could the nation stave off the threats it faced at every hand, he had asked a television audience in 1968: “Can we hold open the door to that shining golden tomorrow?”36 In his Independent Colleges of Southern California speech in 1969 he had evoked that “shining dream of John Winthrop’s.” You must take up the task to restore America as a “shining city on a hill”—“a golden hope for all mankind,” he told a college audience in 1973.37 But if “shining” was an old usage, in his White House speechwriters’ hands images of light now burst out everywhere. What flashed through Tony Dolan’s mind at the thought of a “city on a hill” was the scene that caught visitors’ eyes when they glimpsed the floodlights bathing the monuments in Washington, DC. The “city on a hill” was the halls of Congress, the monuments and cemeteries of heroes, and “those lights on the Potomac.” Let us resolve, Dolan wrote for Reagan, that future


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generations of visitors to that “city on a hill” would still find those Potomac lights burning.38 Dolan was responsible for the addition of another softening line to Reagan’s stock phrases. “This kindly, pleasant, greening land we call America,” he had Reagan say, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was a paraphrase extracted from William Blake’s epic appeal for a new “Jerusalem” to be built “in England’s green and pleasant land,” set to music as Britain’s unofficial national anthem during World War I, and known to the rest of the world as a foundation stone in English rhetorical nationalism.39 Blake’s line, Winthrop’s words, and Isaiah’s “light unto the nations” were all essentially the same for Dolan, sometimes yoked together virtually in the same sentence. For others, intent on surrounding the city on a hill with auras of adjectives, “hope” became the hinge word. Reagan’s America, they wrote, was “a city of hope,” “a land of wonders,” a “beacon of hope to oppressed peoples everywhere,” a nation whose “future is bright again with collective glow,” a “shining city on a hill where all things are possible.” “How can anyone in the United States of America in the world today, be scared of anything?” Reagan’s speechwriters had him tell the Texas Bar Association in 1984; “we are truly a shining city on a hill.”40 In these variations, any sense of contingency virtually fell away. Let us go to the American people and remind them of “America’s destiny,” he told the Republican National Convention in 1988. Let us help them to see, rising through the “dark but dispersing clouds of twentieth-century tragedy . . . that shining city we have seen and labored for and loved so long, a city aglow with the light of human freedom, a light that someday will cast its glow on every dark corner of the world and on every age and generation to come.” “Twilight? Twilight?” he told the cheering delegates the next day. “Not in America. . . . That’s not possible.” “In this springtime of hope,” he promised in 1984, “some lights seem eternal; America’s is.”41 It was left to Reagan’s most cinematic of speechwriters to complete the transformation of the “city on a hill” line from fragile

Ronald Reagan’s Shining City


possibility to an enduring fact. “I’ve spoken of the shining city on a hill all my political life,” Peggy Noonan had Reagan say in his farewell address to the nation, “but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. . . . In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get there. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”42 But that movie-set city, flooded in light and harmony, was not the way Reagan had seen the “city on a hill” all his political life. It had no resemblance to the “city upon a hill” of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” A rhetoric veined with choice and danger when it caught Reagan’s imagination had morphed into a celebration of what already existed. If in their first instantiation in his rhetoric Reagan had wielded Winthrop’s lines as a sword, in their second, pared of their embarrassing “story” and “byword” lines, they became a rhetoric of reassurance. “U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!,” the delegates to the 1984 Republican National Convention chanted.43 “America is back,” Reagan’s campaign ads declared. Threading that theme through all of the American past from the Puritan “Founders” to the present was part of the work the rhetoric did. Hope, Reagan’s public-image makers began to realize, was his best selling point. The Jeremiah holding aloft the ticking clock of history had yielded the stage to a cheerleader. Divesting “A Model of Christian Charity” of its early, more ambivalent lives, Reagan’s 1980s speechwriters remade it as a foundational text for a nation eager for reassurance of its power and greatness. Nationalism feeds on the continuous invention of timeless-appearing texts. By the end of the 1980s Reagan’s use and reuse had made “a city on a hill” into one of the most widely recognized building blocks in the culture of American nationalism. In a single verbal gesture it


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stretched the usable history of the nation back three and a half centuries into the mists of nationalist time. “We who are privileged to be Americans have had a rendezvous with destiny since the moment in 1630 when John Winthrop, standing on the deck of the tiny Arbella off the coast of Massachusetts, told the little band of Pilgrims, ‘We shall be a city upon a hill,’ ” Reagan declared at the outset of his 1980 presidential campaign. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution became not dramatic punctuation marks in history but confirmations of a story and a destiny articulated long before.44 And yet, even in constructing Winthrop’s words as timeless, Reagan and his writers had changed them not merely once but twice. The lights and shadows of Cold War Manichaeism were out; contingency was out; the steady glow of hopefulness was in. “We Americans are keepers of the miracles,” Reagan promised in his last radio speech. “May it ever be so.”45

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Puritan Foundations of an “Exceptionalist” Nation


n normal times, the work of speechwriters leaves only a shallow mark on history. Phrases swell into currency—“new frontier,” “Great Society,” or “compassionate conservatism”—and then fade from use. But the impact of Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters’ labors was different. Within a decade their “shining” version of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” had moved from their storage files of usable quotations into a virtually ubiquitous, mandatory piece of the American civic creed. Equally striking, although it took time to emerge, was the pairing of Winthrop’s phrase with another term of unexpectedly rising importance: “exceptionalism.” Reagan’s speechwriters had helped Americans to imagine Winthrop as present at the very origin moment of American history. Now in post-Reagan America Winthrop moved into modernity as the man whose “city upon a hill” phrase had caught, for all time, the difference between the United States and every other nation. In the words of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity,” it was now said, lay the promise of the nation’s enduring uniqueness— its exemption not only from the dynamics that shaped the course of other nations but from the rules of history itself. 247


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This was a remarkable apotheosis for a document so deeply embedded in its times and circumstances. But this unexpected conjunction of themes—one wrenched from New England’s seventeenth-century past, the other from the theoretical jargon of early twentieth-century Marxism—also revealed something else: a fear that, with the end of the Cold War, the United States might be becoming a more ordinary nation after all. The first and most striking sign of the new status of “A Model of Christian Charity” was the speed with which Reagan’s speechwriters’ extracts from it began to appear everywhere: in political rhetoric, op-ed pieces, academic debates, history books, and everyday speech. Before Ronald Reagan arrived in the White House in 1981, presidents and presidential aspirants had invoked Winthrop and his words in a half-dozen instances. Now those gestures became a rhetorical mandate. One might invert the meaning of the “city upon a hill” phrase or transpose its politics. But as almost all presidential aspirants after Reagan learned, one could not do without it. From 1980 to 2016 virtually every candidate for the presidency found a way to attach his or her prospects to the “city on a hill” phrase. Speechwriters for Democratic candidates initially searched for a critical edge to the words. In his keynote speech to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Mario Cuomo scored Reagan’s tax and social policies for turning the “shining city on a hill” into a tragedy of two starkly divided cities, one for the lucky rich, the other where Americans struggled with lost mortgages, unstable work, and unstable lives. Michael Dukakis in 1988 placed his emphasis on the Model’s theme of a community knit together by love and mutual responsibility, as did Bill Clinton in 1997. Al Gore in 2000 urged that the “city on a hill” lay still farther ahead, at the end of a march toward true justice and equality.1 Republican presidential candidates were more Reaganesque in their appropriations of “city upon a hill.” John McCain, Sarah Palin,

An “Exceptionalist” Nation


Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all leaned heavily on the phrase as if it were a straightforward synonym for patriotic pride. Newt Gingrich hosted a patriotism-boosting video called A City upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism. George W. Bush told a Simon Wiesenthal Center audience in 2000, “I believe our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world.”2 By then Democrats, abandoning their stress on the self-critical strain in the “city on a hill” phrase, were falling into the same patriotic formulas. John Kerry boasted that he was John Winthrop’s lineal descendant. Barack Obama evoked the “improbable idea called America” that the Puritan dream of building a “city on a hill” had set in motion. Hillary Clinton in 2016 channeled Reagan’s Winthrop directly: “The United States is an exceptional nation. I believe we are still Lincoln’s last, best hope of Earth. We’re still Reagan’s shining city on a hill.”3 As the politicians burnished these extracts from the Model, historians rushed to keep pace with the election results. In the 1970s, mention of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” had been a hit or miss affair in the textbooks that commanded the college historyteaching market. After 1980 textbook formulas quickly began to change. By 1990 it was a very rare U.S. history college textbook that did not include an account of the Model’s delivery aboard the Arbella. The principal author of the Harcourt Brace textbook of 1996, John Murrin, cautioned that the “city upon a hill” theme “seldom appears in the writings of the other founders.” Nonetheless, he and his fellow authors found room to elaborate on it. In 2012, in a miniature gem of narrative compression which managed to survey almost four centuries of history within its 138 pages, Paul S. Boyer’s American History: A Very Short Introduction allotted almost a half page to a description of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” and its legacy. Anne Hutchinson, the dissenting heroine of pre-1970s U.S. history textbooks, received two sentences.4 Outside the college textbook industry, readjustments to the historical narrative were more fiercely contested. Since the Reagan years,


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conservative critics had worried about the increasingly critical tone they saw in the American history taught to school children. The new prominence of slavery as a foundational (rather than accidental or aberrational) part of colonial and early national American history formed a par ticular point of alarm. So did the schoolbook writers’ new emphases on social history, microhistory, and global history at the expense of politics and statecraft. Revision of the accepted canon of great American texts, as the voices of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and south and central Europe crowded in, added to conservatives’ distress. In 2010 the Texas State Board of Education moved to revise the state’s high school curricular standards to stress, in place of the social and multicultural emphases of the school history textbooks, the nation’s timelessly enduring commitment to liberty, the “free enterprise system,” the principles of a “constitutional republic,” and the concept of “American exceptionalism.”5 Four years later, in 2014, Winthrop’s Model was pulled into these ongoing “history wars.” In a public letter, amplified by the Heartland Institute and other conservative institutions, a retired high school teacher and advanced placement test guide author, Larry Krieger, charged that the revisions proposed by the Advanced Placement exam’s administrators threatened fundamentally to undermine the story that high school students had traditionally learned about American history. The flaws of the nation were magnified, Krieger and those who rallied to his position charged. Stories of oppression were given exaggerated prominence. “Internationalists” on the College Board’s team of experts had rewritten American history to make it the story not of a special nation but simply a nation like every other. Flaws were in; “American exceptionalism” was out as a test subject. Symbolic of this stealth attack on the American story, they charged, was that John Winthrop and his vision of a “city upon a hill” had been struck from the list of things serious high school students needed to know about the American past.6

An “Exceptionalist” Nation


The College Board denied that Winthrop and the “city upon a hill” line had been scrubbed from its expectations for an Advanced Placement history course, and it quickly put American “exceptionalism” explicitly back into the list of concepts its test takers would need to know. Unsatisfied, the Republican National Committee issued a public rebuke to the new exam guidelines. In Oklahoma, the legislature’s Education Committee authored a mandate that all high school U.S. history courses introduce students to a wide array of primary source documents, specifically including Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.”7 Controversy quickly killed the Oklahoma bill. But what almost no one in these fiercely polemical debates bothered to notice was how recently Winthrop’s Model had entered into the history curriculum at all. The Winthrop that the conservatives wanted to make sure that high school history students remembered had barely been part of the core narrative thirty-five years earlier. The Mayflower Compact, the persecution of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, and the strains of building a life in cold and barren New England: these were stories with many decades’ telling behind them. The idea that the most important thing those New Englanders had brought with them was a dream of being a model of freedom to the world was new: a construction made within the lifetime of those who now fought so fiercely over its place in the history books. The second phrase at the crux of the history wars, “American exceptionalism,” was an even more recent entrant into the politicalrhetorical fray. Every school child should know the meaning and root of the term, the leading conservative protagonist in the Advanced Placement exam controversy, Peter Wood, insisted. “Exceptionalism” was the assertion that America was a wholly new kind of nation, founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence but “harkening back to Governor Winthrop’s 1630 sermon calling on the colonists of Massachusetts Bay to create a community that would be


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‘a city on a hill’ for all mankind.” Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” was “the rock on which the notion of American exceptionalism was built” and from which it had echoed through American political rhetoric ever since, author and columnist Terry Golway put the now-conventional wisdom in 2012.8 By then the seventeenthcentury New England Puritans and the twentieth-century term “exceptionalism” were locked in tight embrace. But it was an extremely recent marriage and an incongruous one at that. “Exceptionalism,” as its ring of jargon might have led one to suspect, began its life not in the context of American nationalism but as a word in the vocabulary of international Marxism. For Marx himself, uncovering the “laws of historical motion” that swept through economics, society, and politics had been a lifetime preoccupation. The Marxist-Leninists of the twentieth century who invented the term “exceptionalism” inherited from Marx not only the idea of universal laws of historical motion but the tactical task of locating each national economy’s place in history’s long march toward more intense forms of capital accumulation, proletarianization, and class conflict. In the late 1920s, when the Moscow-based Comintern concluded that international capitalism’s “third period” of “collapsing stabilization” had begun, some of the leaders of the U.S. Communist Party objected that circumstances in the United States did not yet mirror the general rule. Worse, in light of the temporary divergence of the United States from the norm, they asked for more autonomy from the central party’s tactical directives. Summoned to Moscow where their claim of “American exceptionalism” was branded as heresy, the dissidents were ejected from the Comintern. Rule was rule; in history there were no national exceptions.9 The term “exceptionalism,” coined in this political-historical squabble, quickly vanished from American politics. But in the 1960s it was taken up by a cohort of American sociologists who had had enough exposure to radical politics in the 1930s to know the idea and to sense its new possibilities for a quite different era. Why had the

An “Exceptionalist” Nation


United States, alone among the tightly interconnected economies in the North Atlantic world, emerged from the catastrophes of the Great Depression and World War II without a strong socialist or labor party? How had it managed to skate past the destructive inner turmoil of other nations and maintain (at least since the Civil War) the conditions for a stable democracy? These were the problems “of what was once known in the Marxist literature as ‘American exceptionalism,’ ” Seymour Martin Lipset wrote in 1963, made newly pressing in the anxieties of the Cold War.10 Uncovering the special conditions that had governed U.S. historical development was not a wholly new task, as Lipset and others recognized. Frederick Jackson Turner had famously singled out the frontier as the Americans’ temporary escape hatch from the political and economic inequalities etched on other nations’ histories; as long as relatively open land had staved off pressure toward urban concentrations of power, wealth, and poverty, settlement on the North American continent had been able to take its own, more fortunate course. The German economic sociologist Werner Sombart had suggested the role of high wages in buying off American workers from the attractions of socialism. Lipset, writing in the 1960s, maintained that the answer lay in the long-term persistence of a distinctive value structure, an enduring American “creed” as Samuel Huntington was to expand the point.11 These and other variations on the (European) rule and (U.S.) exception scheme oversimplified dramatically. But in their postwar moment they offered a novel term and a new array of explanations for the fortunate fate of the United States vis-à-vis the world that the war had shattered so profoundly. Still more, they offered hope that that historical exemption would endure into the future. An awkward taint of foreignness, however, hung over the word “exceptionalism.” Indeed the very project of discerning the general rules of history from which the United States might be exempt was not easily naturalized in either scholarly or political discourse. Some of the prominent early participants in these debates thought they had


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found a use of the term more closely rooted in the American past in the work of the French visitor to 1830s America, Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville had not used the noun “exceptionalism” but he had used the adjective “exceptional” to emphasize the “entirely exceptional situation” of the Americans. “No democratic people will ever be put in the same situation.”12 Those words, cut and repasted so often that their context became utterly lost, were to be recycled hundreds of times in the exceptionalism debates. In fact, Tocqueville had meant them as no compliment. The “exceptional” character of American society appeared only once in Democracy in America’s two volumes, in a chapter explaining why the Americans had not yet produced any serious works of art or science, and yet why that failure should not reflect on the possibilities of democracy itself. Being compelled by the “exceptional” circumstances of their settlement to concentrate on purely material necessities, they had not yet had the leisure to pursue other things. But those conditions and early habits would change. In time, Tocqueville wrote, Americans would find themselves “less preoccupied by the material cares of life” and in that liberation from an overwhelming “pursuit of wealth” they would show that democracies as well as aristocracies could enlarge their appreciation of “the human mind” to embrace the sciences and arts.13 Tocqueville’s exceptionalism was not a fixed thing but a characteristic in motion. Still, outside the scholarly literature, even with Tocqueville’s authority enlisted behind it, the term had little traction in twentiethcentury public rhetoric. Woodrow Wilson had not known the term “exceptionalism.” Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters never paired it with his “city on a hill” theme. Newt Gingrich listed “unique” among the positive words in politics in his “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” in 1993, but “exceptionalism” did not make his list. None of the social scientists who revived the term “exceptionalism” in the 1960s and 1970s had associated Winthrop or the New England Puritans with it at all. Daniel Bell penned his acutely perceptive

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Public Interest essay of 1975, “The End of American Exceptionalism,” as an epitaph for the idea. The “peculiar and unrepeatable combination of historical circumstances” that had made the American economy and politics “unique” was gone, Bell wrote. “Our mortality now lies before us.”14 The George W. Bush administration’s response to the fiery destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 by militarily overwhelming Afghanistan and, soon thereafter, Iraq, without waiting for any of the agencies of international law to act, caused a sharp spike in uses of the term “exceptionalism.” Here was a fitting word for a newly assertive, go-it-alone turn in U.S. foreign policy. The term seeped into the election of 2008, as John McCain pressed home the contrast between his foreign policy and Barack Obama’s more cautious, consultative impulses. It was in this context, three months into Obama’s first term, that Time magazine’s White House correspondent, fresh from coverage of the McCain campaign, arranged to pose a question to the president at a news conference in Strasbourg, France. Do “you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?” Obama was clear: “I am enormously proud of my country. . . . [We] remain the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional.” But he didn’t get to that response before musing: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”15 Conservative critics pounced gleefully on that sentence, elated at the opportunity to sharpen the distinction between themselves and the first African American to be elected president, the first modern


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president to have spent part of his childhood outside the United States. “This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” Sarah Palin had already charged during the 2008 campaign. “We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.” After the Strasbourg news conference, those terms of attack became ubiquitous. Mitt Romney opened his presidential bid in 2010 with explicit dissent from Obama’s anti-exceptionalism. Newt Gingrich weighed into the Republican Party primary contest with a new book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters.16 Are we still Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill?” each Republican presidential nomination seeker at the Palmetto Forum in 2011 was asked. Proudly they all answered yes. “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation,” Mike Huckabee told an interviewer in 2012 with an explicit swipe at Obama.17 That year, the Republican Party for the first time in any American political party’s history, put a plank on “American exceptionalism” into its platform. In 2016 the Republican Party led off its whole platform with a declaration of faith: “We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.”18 In some ways these were the familiar sounds of nationalism under pressure. To claim that one’s country was different from every other country and better than them all comes with the very culture of nationalism. To believe that one’s nation has been appointed by history and destiny to follow a path all its own flows almost inevitably from great power status.19 What was new in the term “exceptionalism” was not its boast of uniqueness. It was not its claim to dispensation from the rules that others nations’ delegations to the institutions of international law and justice might decide. It was a claim of exemption from the general rules of history themselves. It was an insistence that departure from the dynamics of every other people’s histories flowed through the very core of the nation. In the wake of Obama’s Strasbourg news conference, John Bolton, the Bush administration’s

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hawkish undersecretary of state, weighed into the controversy. Obama is “our first post-American president,” Bolton claimed. “I said ‘postAmerican’ because he is beyond all that patriotism stuff. . . . He’s a citizen of the world and he’s a citizen of the world in large part because he doesn’t believe as we do in American exceptionalism.” He doesn’t understand that “it started really with Gov. John Winthrop of the Plymouth Bay [sic] Colony.”20 All words grow more inflamed in a superheated political climate. U.S. political polarization intensified extremely sharply during the Bush-Obama years, and the rhetoric of public argument boiled up to match. Still, only part of the matter was the speed and intensity with which “exceptionalism” was injected into the center of political debate, strapped to Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” as if to a booster rocket. What was more remarkable was that this new explosion of talk about the nation’s exception from the general rules of change came at a time when the United States was, by almost every measure, becoming more like other, more “normal” nations, not less. Were one to ask, stepping back from the events of the moment, during what periods America was most different from the rest of the world, three would stand out. Winthrop’s seventeenth century would not be one of them. The seventeenth-century Atlantic world was dotted with experiments in settler colonialism, many with a sense of mission as intense as anything preached in Puritan New England. Visitors to Winthrop’s Boston would have found a simpler economy and a much more foreshortened social and political hierarchy than in England. But whether their attention had turned to the theology preached from New England’s pulpits, to the delicate balance between liberty, conformity, and authority instantiated in its political institutions, to its treatment of the poor, or to the techniques of farming, fishing, and trade on which its economy depended, they would have recognized themselves instantly within a variation on the familiar landscapes of seventeenth-century England.21


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The Americans’ break with British imperial rule in the late eighteenth century marked a much more momentous departure from history’s norms. Its hinge point lay not in the Americans’ founding of a nation on the basis of a mission or an “idea.” The English Puritan Revolution and the French Revolution were much more deeply saturated with foundational ideas and convictions of world-historical mission than the American. The American Revolution’s point of departure from the rules of history was that, in a world where nations without monarchs and established social hierarchies were assumed to be inherently unstable, the nascent United States managed to survive intact for most of a century as a republican outlier in a world of monarchs, revolutionary violence, and recurrent civil wars. “A new order of the ages,” the phrase Congress ultimately adopted for the new Great Seal, was a statement of aspiration. But by the first decades of the nineteenth century the American republic had become a new and exceptional political fact in the world around it.22 A second era in which one could say that the United States was a highly visible outlier among other nations remains a much less comfortable one to remember. These were the middle years of the nineteenth century when the United States stood out against almost all the rest of the world in the depth of its institutionalization of human slavery. Slavery had pervaded the world economy in the late eighteenth century when American independence had been achieved. But by the mid-1850s, the United States was virtually alone not only in preserving a system of plantation slavery that was vitally important in its national economy but in the ambitions of those who dominated American political life to expand it: west through Texas and (when the time should be ripe) Mexico or southeast into a new U.S.controlled Caribbean. Cuba and Brazil remained slave major powers as well. But everywhere else revulsion against the idea of outright ownership of human beings had brought statutes of abolition or gradual emancipation into force. Wage labor or contract ser vice had

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become the rule; slavery in the United States, so firmly entrenched that only an appallingly costly war could ultimately destroy its legal foundations, was the exception.23 The great leap to world power status between 1865 and World War I might seem a third era in which the nation broke out of history’s rules. The speed of American economic growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries astonished much of the world. The United States overtook Britain as the world’s leading producer of manufactured goods in the 1880s; on the eve of World War I, its economy was more than twice the size of its nearest rival.24 But the processes of more and more intense industrial and capital development that swept through the United States during this era were not unique to it. Capital for railroad and industrial development was internationally mobile, much of it borrowed from the world’s financial center, Britain. The world’s new armies of uprooted peasants and farm laborers migrated everywhere that labor was in demand. Tens of millions passed by the Statue of Liberty on their way into the United States before World War I and the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 sharply reduced that flow. But, taking the world’s migration patterns as a whole, just as many others made their way to Argentina, Brazil, and Canada, or abandoned their peasant plots in Poland or southern Italy for the swelling industrial and commercial complexes of the Ruhr and the Italian north, or left southern China for agricultural and construction labor in Southeast Asia, or, having made the stake they hoped for in the United States, passed the Statue of Liberty the other way to return home.25 By the eve of World War I, widespread suffrage was no longer an American peculiarity. Throughout Europe and the Americas, the bourgeoisie was moving into ascendance. Great nations now routinely had empires of one sort or another. All had incipient welfarestate structures in place, constructed of ingredients they were now beginning more and more rapidly to borrow from one another. In


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terms of sheer economic size, the U.S. economy outstripped all the others. It was a remarkable testament to the expansive tendencies of the new global economy. But it was not an exception to it.26 The twenty years after 1945 were different. In the aftermath of the second “suicide” of Europe, the United States suddenly found itself the sole great power survivor in a war-devastated world. Almost half of all the world’s manufactured goods flowed out of U.S. factories. No other nation—not even the still reeling Soviet Union— strode so large on the world scene either as a military force or a model for human progress. The postwar institutions of world governance, economic stabilization, and human rights enforcement, however inadequate to their tasks they might prove to be, were essentially the Americans’ undertaking. The United States operated as the keeper of many of the world’s ambitions, the generator of consumer goods and desires that seemed to have almost no limit, and the armed policeman self-appointed to keep the world in order. One can exaggerate the point. There were large regions of the globe outside the American sphere: the Soviet Union, China, and much of the decolonizing world. Still, at no other time in twentieth-century world history had the asymmetry of one nation from all the rest been so evident. It was no accident that American social scientists should have first plucked the term “exceptionalism” out of obscurity in this moment.27 By the turn of the twenty-first century, when “exceptionalism” went viral, by contrast, the hegemony the United States had commanded fifty years before was visibly diminishing. The U.S. economy was still the world’s largest, but the unchallenged economic supremacy it had enjoyed in 1950 was a thing of the past. With the collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989, the military capacity of the United States overshadowed every other nation’s. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the United States accounted for over half the world’s military spending, but in a newly multipolar world it could no longer impose its terms on the scale it once could.28 As it did a century ago, the United States draws more immigrants than any other

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single country, but the magnetic power of America has sharply defined limits. When respondents in a sixteen-nation global survey in 2005 were asked to name the country where they thought a young person would have the best chance for a good life, the United States did not head the great majority of their lists.29 By the time the exceptionalism debate exploded, the bookstores were filled with titles describing the declining cultural, economic, and geopolitical hegemony of the United States: Andrew Bacevich’s The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World, Edward Luce’s Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent.30 The social scientists who probed more closely into the differences between the United States and other nations found a checkerboard of similarities and contrasts, not a pattern of rule and exception.31 In the late seventeenth century, when it became clear that history had stranded the New Englanders in a backwater of international Protestantism, the region’s ministry began to talk all the more fervently of a “New Israel” in America. When the United States’ disproportionately massive share of global power and resources began to recede at the turn of the twenty-first century, the political speechwriters began to talk more and more fervently of American “exceptionalism.” Rhetorics of confidence, they were also rhetorics of compensation. But to insist on the “exceptionalist” character of the nation was not only to resist, by an act of will, these signs of relative decline. It was not only to rebuke those who foresaw a more “normal” United States in the world’s future. To declare one’s enduring faith in exceptionalism was to resist altogether the idea that a nation might tack back and forth between eras of normality and eras of exception. It was to imagine that American history could be straightened out into a single, continuous line. For that task of historical reconstruction, one needed precedents: earlier figures who had seen a parallel thread of exceptionalism


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running through their own times. Those who shaped the eighteenthcentury American republic were not a good match. For every figure of the revolutionary generation who believed that independence had shattered the very rules and fetters of the past, there were others watching anxiously to see if the Americans had virtue enough to resist the luxury, corruption, and decay that had overwhelmed republics in the past. Would history catch up with the new nation? Would it fall like other nations from the high moral plane that self-government demanded? The question haunted the new nation’s makers. To reach back to Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” as the origins of the American exceptionalist faith was to imagine oneself boring still deeper into the bedrocks of time. Handbook writers on American political culture now routinely did so. ABC-CLIO’s three-volume encyclopedia of American political culture ran the idea of “American exceptionalism” in a straight line from Winthrop through Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to George W. Bush. The legal “originalist,” Steven G. Calabresi, opened his case for the exclusion of foreign precedents from U.S. courts’ consideration with the “city upon a hill” quotation from Winthrop.32 Asked by a National Public Radio interviewer where the idea of American exceptionalism was born, law professor Peter Schuck replied: “Well, it goes back to the eighteenth century, at the very least, and perhaps the earlier colonists: the ‘City on a Hill’ idea, John Winthrop.”33 The best-selling author Eric Metaxas crystallized those assumptions in 2016: The idea of a singular destiny was “the principal idea of America, the idea that existed before the nation, that gave birth to the nation. . . . We may trace the seed of what we think of as American exceptionalism to the summer of 1630.”34 Nothing was more deeply on Winthrop’s mind in that summer, as we know, than the downward drag of time and his anxiety that the rules of sinful human nature would overwhelm the effort to build an experiment in religious purity on New England soil. Covenanted people had sinned before. Before the second autumn had set in, the Massachusetts authorities had whipped and banished two of their

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number for foul and slanderous invectives against their government and church order, whipped and fined three others for stealing corn from the native people in whose midst they lived, and a fourth for sexual assault on a native woman. Winthrop carefully noted each instance in his journal. The preachers took up the themes of fallibility and failure with still more earnestness. Drunkenness, worldliness, idleness, and profanity had come in the same boats and in the same human nature as piety. To be a New England Puritan was not to live outside history but within it, within the possibility that the New Englanders would prove that they were no different than others. The idea of American exceptionalism as it was wielded in the political battles of the Bush-Obama years, by contrast, was an assertion of timelessness: a claim of title to an idea that had always been present in the very soul of America. There was no greater irony in the way in which the “city on a hill” phrase swept into everyday language in early twenty-first-century America than that John Winthrop, steeped in a deep sense of history’s power over human events, should have been conscripted into contemporary politics as reassurance that America would be somehow immune from history after all.

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Ambivalent Evangelicals


nter “City on a Hill” into an internet search, and one trail of referents leads you to “exceptionalism” and discussions of the place of the United States in world affairs and history. Another takes you to Ronald Reagan’s policies and speeches. A third pulls you back still deeper in time to John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay colony. But by far the most heavily trafficked hyperlinks that spread out from “City on a Hill” sweep you into the culture of twenty-first-century American evangelical Protestantism. “City on the Hill” is the name of a Christian contemporary pop music series1 and a new Christian right radio show.2 In Louisville, Kentucky, the “City on a Hill” studio produces a stream of Christian books and videos, Bible stories and study guides, films, and sermon aids that are said to have already reached 1.3 million people.3 In Zeeland, Michigan, a former hospital has been renamed “City on a Hill” and repurposed as a hub of evangelical Protestant social organizations: a family social ser vice center, medical clinic, secondhand clothing store, start-up church, and café for fellowship and Bible study.4 There is a “City on the Hill” music festival in Duluth, Minnesota,5 a faith-based “City on a Hill” substance abuse recovery center in Garden City, Kansas,6 and a faith-based “City on a Hill” health clinic and youth center for poor families in central Milwaukee.7 More than a dozen congregations calling themselves “City on a 264

Ambivalent Evangelicals


Hill Church” dot contemporary America from Brookline, Massachusetts, to Provo, Utah. Institutions like these mirror the broader landscape of contemporary American evangelical Protestantism. Religion in evangelical Protestant America is spirit led, Gospel driven, biblically centered, and salvation focused. Gospel music and high-energy preaching pump through many of its churches. The faces of young families shine out from their websites. Missions, adult Bible study groups, youth camps, and charity and ser vice projects absorb and refuel their energies. The reference point of the “city on a hill” for most evangelical Protestants is not Winthrop or Reagan. It is Matthew 5:14. It marks their claim to be the direct heirs of Jesus’s disciples: the salt of the earth, the light of the world, believers who build on rock rather than on sand and whose faith rises above the troubles of a fallen world as a city upon a hill. They are far closer to the biblical roots of the phrase than the political and presidential speechwriters. They form clumps of believers within America, consciously apart from much of the America around them. In this sense they parallel many of those who joined Winthrop’s project, imagining themselves as misfits in a society they thought had gone astray.8 “City on a hill” imbues these Americans with a sense of direct, unmediated relationship to God. But they cannot escape the power of the nation either. Patriotism saturates most of the cultures of American evangelical Protestants. It comes through their preachers and, still more, through the televangelists who dominate Christian television. It comes through the explicitly Christian histories of the United States stocked by online Christian book stores and through the history and social studies texts that dominate the Christian homeschooling market. It comes through the “City on a Hill” summer camps where young people can learn how to lobby their state governments on the issues of sexuality, marriage, and public prayer that ignite the political passions of conservative evangelical Christians.9 It comes through the God and country rallies many evangelical


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church members flock to. It comes through the Republican Party, to which they have become cemented as a powerfully coherent voting bloc. Still, the relationship of evangelical Protestants to the nation and to the text that for others had come to sum up the special hope and promise of America is more complicated than one might first expect. With a burst of publicity in 2011, Newt and Callista Gingrich joined forces with Citizens United, the conservative political lobby, to release a film entitled As a City upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism.10 But many American evangelical Protestants are not so sure that Winthrop’s text stands, in the same way, as a patriotic icon for them. In the story of “A Model of Christian Charity”—its long neglect, its sudden, unexpected arc into prominence, the dismantlement of the text into independently circulating phrases, and the continuous remaking of their meanings—the place of the Model in contemporary evangelical America is, in some ways, the story’s most surprising chapter. Hunger for history and heritage runs strongly through the cultures of American evangelical Protestantism. Since the last quarter of the twentieth century, an ever-expanding genre of explicitly Christian histories of the United States has grown up to meet that desire. Selfhelp books on faith, family, and personal relationships vastly outsell works of history in Christian book stores. Scenarios of the end of the world sell vastly more copies than backward-looking history books. But providence-saturated histories of the United States form an important niche in the Christian book market.11 The first to tap this need was Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory, which the evangelical publishing house Fleming H. Revell brought out in 1977. Neither Marshall nor Manuel was a professional historian when they were struck dumb (as they told it) by the idea that there might be a providential mission for America running all through its history. Their first moment of revelation came

Ambivalent Evangelicals


in reading Columbus’s assertion that “it was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me)” the idea of sailing west to the Indies. What if that were literally true? What if God had used Columbus to bring Christianity to the Americas, but then had saved that part of the continent that would become the United States for something even grander? What if “God knew what the twentieth century would hold in store?” What if he knew “the totalitarian darkness that would arise out of Europe and Asia, and knew that England alone would never have the spiritual power to stop them?” What if in seventeenth-century New England he had “planted the seeds of light that would make a difference early in the twentieth century,” guiding the new nation through the “definite and extremely demanding plan” he had in mind? Writing with the infectious energy of men unearthing a history that they were sure secular culture had deliberately hidden from them, they shaped a providentialist story of colonial and early nineteenth-century America for evangelical readers.12 The Light and the Glory was the first modern, best-selling, explicitly Christian history of the United States, but others soon followed. The Virginia preacher Mark Beliles parlayed the success of his America’s Providential History (1989) into an accompanying study guide and video, a dozen more books, a Providence Foundation to publish them, a Providential Perspective newsletter to publicize them, and online classes at his Biblical Worldview University.13 Another amateur historian, David Barton, launched an even larger empire in the late 1980s dedicated to setting the history of the nation’s founding on biblical and providentialist foundations. His books and videos were already “ubiquitous” in politically conservative evangelical households, a sociologist found in the 1990s. The new Christian right’s 2008 presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, heralded Barton as “America’s greatest historian.”14 Barton’s website in early 2017 claimed that he spoke on the biblical origins of the U.S. Constitution to over four hundred audiences a year. History texts for Christian homeschoolers drum home the same message. “Who, knowing the facts of our


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history, can doubt that the United States of America has been a thought in the mind of God from all eternity?” the American Republic for Christian Schools declares.15 The seriousness of the quest for a Christian history of the United States can be sensed by hefting The American Patriot’s Bible, first published in 2009, off any Christian bookstore’s shelves. Bound in paper, four choices of leather binding, or army camouflage covers, it contains the whole of the King James Version of the Old and New Testaments, prefaced with a call to action to bring the nation home to its “biblical foundations” and profusely illustrated with figures and events from American history. Exodus 3:10 is paired with a full-page paean to America’s Moses, George Washington. Leviticus 25:37 is paired with a long extract from the U.S. Supreme Court judgment upholding released time programs in public schools for religious instruction. Genesis 14:14 (“Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants”) is paired with a full-page celebration of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Deuteronomy 20:4 is illustrated by Franklin Roosevelt’s passages on the importance of religion from his 1939 State of the Union Address. Colossians 3:17 is explained as a warning against any temptation to let others “simply exist on handouts from a government agency.” Literally hundreds of American figures make cameo appearances in The American Patriot’s Bible—Grover Cleveland and Andrew Jackson, Irving Berlin and Charlton Heston, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr., Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee—each linked to a specific scriptural text, as if prefigured in the Bible itself. An extended passage from Winthrop’s Model leads off the book of Micah, with which Winthrop’s Model had concluded. The melding of sacred and secular—biblical word, conservative politics, and American history—is complete and seamless.16 A year after The American Patriot’s Bible’s publication, a still more striking expression of the unity of patriotism, faith, and history erupted into Protestant religious culture in the God and country

Ambivalent Evangelicals


rallies launched by the television and talk radio megastar, Glenn Beck, between 2010 and 2012. A longtime figure on the airwaves, Beck catapulted into fame during the 2008–9 financial meltdown as the Tea Party movement’s most visible talking head. Operatic and uninhibited, an unrelenting foe of active government, of the “cancer” of progressive politics and of Barack Obama in particular, a font of tears and bizarre conspiracy theories, he was the enormously successful public face of furious, modern-day, right-wing populism. In 2010, however, he claimed he had had an epiphany. He would stage a mega-rally not to promote his next book (The Plan, a manual for resisting the coils of socialism strangling America, he had envisioned it) but to celebrate patriotism, faith, and American history. In the first of his rallies, “Restoring Honor,” some hundred thousand persons converged on the site where Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech almost fifty years before to witness Beck (“America’s history professor,” his radio cohost introduced him), a battalion of preachers, and a corps of honored military veterans celebrate the nation. Some evangelical Protestant preachers grumbled that a Mormon like Beck had no business presiding over a faith-and-nation camp meeting. But those who came by the busload didn’t care. “There was piety—endless piety, as speaker after speaker demanded that Americans rededicate themselves to God,” Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times. “There was patriotism”; there were “encomiums to the founding fathers.” As another observer noted, there were references to “more American historical figures than it’s possible to count.”17 Two years later, in a Dallas stadium, Beck presided over the third of his “Restoring” rallies, this one a three-hour extravaganza dedicated to “Restoring Love.” Beck brought to the Dallas Cowboys’ arena a desk once used by Abraham Lincoln, one of the first Bibles to be printed at the encouragement of the Continental Congress, a stage full of musicians, and a program of one-day voluntary, governmentfree ser vice projects for those who came early. There was ugliness in American history as well as glory, Beck admitted. “Manifest destiny”


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had worked terrible consequences for the continent’s native peoples. The billy clubs and water cannons wielded at Selma, Alabama, against African Americans seeking justice were a betrayal of the American promise. But with courage, love, and a sense of history, faithful Americans could join together to “make a shelter from the storm.”18 To drum home that lesson, Beck’s film studio produced a short, accompanying docudrama of Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity.” The studio budget for the video production was not high. Winthrop, with the tangled hair and the piercing eyes of a man transfixed by his faith, sits below the Arbella’s decks facing two other Puritans. He has no text in front of him other than a huge Bible. He declaims from memory or perhaps from spontaneous inspiration. “If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword,” he begins, as the camera whirls through a sudden jumble of dystopic images: a gallows, a sketch of John Brown at the head of a slave insurrection, fields strewn with the bodies of men killed in combat. To avoid this fate we must be knit together as one man. For if we keep the covenant with our Lord—Winthrop is on his feet now, shouting, his voice a full, impassioned fortissimo—ten of us shall withstand a thousand of our enemies. The Lord will make other plantations like New England. Then, suddenly seated and sotto voce: “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us.” A second, longer barrage of dystopic images suddenly breaks in: more soldiers’ corpses, images of war, Depression-era soup lines. These cut abruptly to photos of the Statue of Liberty, the sublime beauty of Niagara Falls, and the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. “Have we kept the covenant?” Winthrop asks as the video ends.19 The impassioned visual melodrama of Glenn Beck’s rendition of “A Model of Christian Charity” is only part of what makes it significant. Beck’s Winthrop script put on vivid display the emotional dualism that cuts through the world he and his fans inhabit. A

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stark collision of moods, a vertiginous oscillation between a sense of power and a sense of paranoia: this was the theme that Beck’s filmmakers drew from the Model’s story, not the shining optimism of a Ronald Reagan or the certainties of American exceptionalism. Jagged, scene-cutting, emotional contradictions form Beck’s retelling of Winthrop’s story. In the larger context of efforts to write a Christian history of the United States, Beck’s explicit investment in Winthrop’s text and story is not the norm. Marshall and Manuel, eager readers of Perry Miller’s essays in Puritan history, had given Puritan New England a central stage in God’s drama in America. But by far the larger number of writers who followed Marshall and Manuel in the production of explicitly Christian histories of America quietly eased Winthrop off to the margins of their stories. Evangelist and presidential candidate Pat Robertson gave Winthrop no mention at all in his America’s Dates with Destiny in 1986. Neither did the best-selling Christian books author Tim LaHaye in his Faith of Our Founding Fathers: A Comprehensive Study of America’s Christian Foundations in 1987. Mark Beliles’s America’s Providential History in 1989 gave Winthrop only a tiny, cameo role. Gary DeMar’s America’s Christian History: The Untold Story pulled five key dates out of the history of “the early Christian colonies.” The year of the Model’s writing and the New England Puritans’ landing, 1630, was not among them. William Federer’s sevenhundred page America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations in 1994 gave Winthrop a little over two pages, much of that devoted to a long quotation from “A Model of Christian Charity.” But William Bradford and William Penn each received three times as much; John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson each received five times the space Federer’s Encyclopedia gave to Winthrop. In the intensely crowded canvas of The American Patriot’s Bible, Winthrop got a portrait, but no one could have picked him out from the rest as a truly foundational architect of American national consciousness.20


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The contrast is arresting. In secular histories of the United States and analyses of American political culture, John Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” occupies an indispensably central place. In explicitly Christian histories it does not. The marginal location of the Model on history’s sidelines is not the result of doubts about the religious character of the nation. “Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world,” George W. Bush, the modern evangelical Protestant movement’s representative in the White House, declared in a campaign speech in 2000. “God is not on the side of any nation,” Bush pulled back his rhetoric in 2004. But that “our part, our calling, is to align our hearts and action with God’s plan,” he had no doubt.21 John McCain, positioning himself for the presidential election of 2008 was less qualified: “The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”22 But “A Model of Christian Charity” was not central to these convictions. Part of the reason that evangelical Protestant writers have kept their distance from Winthrop is their concern with governmentwielded power. Evangelical Protestants yearn for the state to repress the moral ills they think bedevil their America: pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and the like. Many look to the government to preserve the “Judeo-Christian” character of the nation from those immigrant groups they fear will undermine it. But the thoroughgoing interfusion of church and state power that had been the hallmark of Puritan Massachusetts is not their ideal. Evangelical Protestant Americans’ views of the public welfare functions of governments mirror that concern. Messages of Christian charity permeate the preaching of modern “city on a hill” churches. They sponsor hunger drives and food pantries. Their members respond to general poll questions concerning the poor with still greater sympathy than do their counterparts in white, mainstream Protestant churches. But when it comes to government assistance to the poor, their resistance grows sharper. More than other Americans, they worry about the effects of public welfare on the poor. They would

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prefer to see many of its functions taken from government and performed by private, voluntary hands. The system of local, tax-supported public assistance that prevailed in Winthrop’s Massachusetts incorporates too strong a hand of public obligation to match their ideal of charity’s reach.23 Reflecting evangelical Protestants’ concerns that a too active state already intrudes too much on them, evangelical historians find the simpler voluntarism of the tiny Plymouth colony much more to their liking than the religious authoritarianism of the Massachusetts Puritans. They lavish attention on the Pilgrims. Beliles titled his chapter on Plymouth “The Pilgrims: A Model of Christian Character.” William Federer’s encyclopedia of God and country quotations gave the colony’s William Bradford more than twice the space of its Winthrop entry.24 Mike Huckabee helped produce a DVD on the Mayflower landing and the first Thanksgiving; the conservative Regnery Press markets a book of eyewitness accounts from the Pilgrim colony. Neither has issued anything comparable for the New England Puritans.25 A second, and still more important, reason why John Winthrop and “A Model of Christian Charity” do not figure more strongly in evangelical Protestants’ accounts of the American past is that their histories have a more important goal to pursue: and that is control over the historical interpretation of the era of the Revolution and the writing of the Constitution. Constitutional law matters intensely in modern evangelical Protestant politics. It was a series of Supreme Court decisions between 1962 and 1973 that shocked the apolitical subcultures of modern evangelical Protestantism into political alarm and action. In Engel (1962) and Abington (1963) the court had barred state-written prayers and Bible readings from public school classrooms. Starting in 1970 and upheld thirteen years later in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bob Jones University judgment, a series of Internal Revenue Service rulings qualified the autonomy of churches in choosing and excluding persons for membership by holding that private, religious associations that discriminated on racial lines would forfeit


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their tax-exempt status. Roe v. Wade (1973) outlawed blanket criminalization of abortion. All these decisions rested on expansive Bill of Rights grounds. Demonstrate that the Constitution and Bill of Rights’ drafters understood the nation they were making as an explicitly Christian one, prove that its founding documents ultimately rested not on secular but on Bible-infused ethical principles, and all those decisions might be brought down at once. This was the cause into which David Barton rushed with his arsenal of lectures, books, and videos aimed at rewriting the religious culture within which the nation’s late eighteenth-century Founders had worked. Claiming a library of tens of thousands of original documents and an encyclopedic knowledge of the religious ideas of the Constitution’s framers, Barton put together a case for the essentially Christian character of the Constitution and its early amendments that had an enormous resonance in conservative Protestant America. His books and videos endure as a staple of the Christian book market. Glenn Beck gave him copious airtime. Strings of quotations, often wrenched from context, misreadings of texts, by which even the firmest eighteenth-century deist could be made to appear a theologically orthodox Protestant, unevidenced historical anecdotes, and sometimes the retailing of outright fabrications build a powerfully convincing edifice for those alarmed by the Supreme Court’s church and state rulings. The evangelical Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson pulled Barton’s Jefferson’s Lies from publication after scholars began to list its most striking errors, but not before it had climbed onto the New York Times’ best-seller list and into the consciousness of millions of believers.26 For Americans who think themselves under siege in an increasingly secular society, taking hold of the history of the Revolution and the early republic is the project that matters. Succeed in that, and the edifice of liberal Supreme Court judgments affecting faith and morals might fall and the Christian America of their imagination be restored. In this context, the earlier political cul-

Ambivalent Evangelicals


ture of Puritan Massachusetts and Winthrop’s Model is beside the point. But the deepest reason why “A Model of Christian Charity,” after its reputational apogee in Cold War and Ronald Reagan’s America, has come to occupy so minor a place in Christian rewritings of U.S. history points to the tension between the optimism into which the Model has been enlisted and the sense of history that dominates the subcultures of evangelical Protestant America. Reagan and his speechwriters made the Model into an icon of hope for the nation. To the scholars and writers who worked within the framework of American exceptionalism, the specialness of the United States was a fixed presumption. For both groups, the referent of the “city on a hill” was an America that beamed its virtues, its unmatched wealth of freedoms and possibilities confidently out to the world. But many contemporary evangelical Protestants are not so sure those premises hold. They relish the idea that they are part of a God-driven history. “God has blessed this land,” evangelical American writers proclaim. “He has loved America unlike He has loved any nation of the world.” Yet profound pessimism runs just beneath this streak of pride. More than secular Americans or members of other religious groups, they see themselves and the nation under attack in contemporary America. Thus the evangelical Protestant political project: not to live out their religious lives in a good and faithful land but to live in resistance to the dominant culture, “to bring this nation back to God.”27 An acute sense of sin and the world’s defects has always run hard through Protestant America. But this sense of sin complicates more acutely than before the notion of being a model to the world. “Our society is crumbling,” Jerry Falwell wrote in Listen America! in 1980, when the new Christian right was just moving into high gear. “America, our beloved country, is indeed sick.” Our “exceptionalism” is being cast into “the dustbin of history,” former congressman Tom Tancredo restated the same mood in 2013. “The case for a weary


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pessimism grows stronger each day.” “We were set up to . . . be a light to the world,” a speaker told an Operation Save America rally in Wichita, Kansas, in 2016. “But we got drunk with all of the wealth, drunk with all of the prosperity, and we’ve forgotten who we are.”28 Evangelical Protestants tell interviewers their worries that America will go the way of the Roman Empire, consumed in hedonism and self-pleasure. They struggle to find their way in “this pluralistic, humanistic, no-name, noGod, no-nothing nation” they see around them. “Christians are aliens in America,” the director of the antiabortion National Christian Action Council declared. “This world is not our home.”29 Where this sense of being pilgrims in a radically imperfect world comes to its most thoughtful expression, one finds some of the most acute critiques of the assumption that John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” ever had anything to do with the modern, secular U.S. nation. Hillsdale College’s Richard Gamble, whose In Search of the City on a Hill in 2012 did more than any historical account before it to cut Winthrop’s text down to size, to show its “insignificance” throughout most of American history and to demonstrate the adventitious way in which it became, long after the fact and at cross-purposes to Winthrop’s own intentions, a symbol of the American nation, wrote both as a professional historian and a committed evangelical Protestant. “In Christian theology, it is simply not true that America is the city on a hill, not now, not ever,” Gamble writes. To take the words of Matthew 5:14 seriously is to refuse their political appropriation.30 The idea of a “Christian nation” as a whole, other evangelical Protestant historians have written, sets a trap for Christian believers. To imagine a national-providential history in which the United States is born as an idea in God’s mind, and through which God’s hand is to be found in every turn of its fortunes, is to fall into “idolatry of our nation,” the most distinguished of modern evangelical Protestant historians, Mark Noll, writes. The God of the New Testament does not choose nations or especially favor one above another, Noll, Gamble, and others insist. The true city on a hill lies outside the fallen world of human history.31

Ambivalent Evangelicals


At the other end of the evangelical Protestant spectrum and among its much more widely popular writers and preachers, this strain of historical pessimism runs headlong toward visions of worldending catastrophe. Apocalyptic visions of history, though their sources run deep in Christianity, have multiplied manyfold in the last half century.32 Modern evangelical writers have charted the stages of the Apocalypse, mapped it into phases and dispensations, and visualized its drama in film and fiction. It is not a pretty sight. “New pagan hordes . . . are on the verge of obliterating the last strongholds of civilized humanity,” the author and filmmaker Frank Schaeffer warned at the height of his end times prophecy phase. “God has granted America—though she doesn’t deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism,” Bob Jones III wrote in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s reelection. But still the end remains near for many evangelical Protestants. “I really believe that the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America . . . I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen,’ ” Jerry Falwell stated two days after the World Trade Center’s destruction on September 11, 2001.33 End times novels, movies, and videos, Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series the most successful among scores of imitators, put the agonies of the world’s end in cataclysmic prose and images. On my hotel television screen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Donnie Swaggart, heir to the pulpit of his famous televangelist father, is striding in fury across the television stage set. “God hates the idol worship” that has consumed America. He hates the freeloaders and homosexuals and the immigrants who steal Americans’ jobs. This nation has become an “insane asylum,” Swaggart shouts. God hates the people we have become.34 In the complexly compartmentalized world of contemporary American evangelical Protestantism, the foretellers of a divine catastrophe


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that will swallow up the nation in waves of divine fury are not the only voices. There are churches where optimism is much the stronger message, where purpose and hope are the controlling themes. There are prosperity churches where God is poised to drop riches in your lap. There are churches that put loving ser vice to others first. There are “postmillennial” churches where the end of the world does not come in consuming fury but in gradual, step-by-step realization of God’s ultimate grace and justice. Nor is pessimism new to American Christianity. Dilations on the sinfulness of man poured forth from New England Puritan pulpits. The preachers’ Jeremiads held the acts of God’s people up for relentless examination, listed their failings in detail, and warned that, were his hand not stayed by mercy, an angry God would, in full justice, cast them off. The Jeremiad was a warning, however, not a map of history’s inevitable destination. It was a reminder that the New Englanders lay under the close scrutiny of a God whose very strictness, paradoxically, gave reassurance to New England Puritans that they were still an especially chosen people. There was spiritual anxiety aplenty in Winthrop’s world. But the mood swings within contemporary evangelical Protestantism are sharper and more exaggerated. The utopic and the dystopic intercut one another, not only in the images of Glenn Beck’s Winthrop video but in the religious cultures that most evangelical Protestants inhabit. Messianic hopes for a sacred America and apocalyptic images of its destruction, a sense of virtuous power and a sense of helplessness—all lie closely intertwined in evangelical Protestant imaginations. Modern evangelical Protestants cling proudly to the “city on a hill” phrase. They have, to a considerable extent, taken it back from the political speechwriters and rerouted its meanings once more. Although they have largely marginalized Winthrop in their histories of “Christian America,” many evangelical Protestants know that Winthrop had used the words before them. In their sense of living as quasi-exiles in their own land, indeed, modern evangelical Protestants

Ambivalent Evangelicals


echo the mood of many of the early seventeenth-century English Puritans who struck out for New England. But the Puritans’ counterparts in contemporary America have no land into which to flee the divine wrath that they fear may be closing in. Their sense of their special place in God’s providence and their fear of God’s abandonment of the nation in which they live are locked in an antagonistic embrace from which there is no easy escape. In their heightened sense of fear and beleagueredness, they have recast the Model’s words once more, this time on far more ambivalent and pessimistic lines than the secular culture that surrounds them.


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hat makes a text “timeless”? The answer cannot be that it endures, unchanged through the passage of time. No text ends up as it began. None escapes history. The point is not simply that the meaning of a text erodes. In the very act of reading a text, cherishing, possessing or rejecting it, its meaning is remade. It is, inescapably, always under construction. The exaggerated swings of the Model’s reputation offer a particularly vivid lesson in the ways in which the lives of a text proceed through time. As it took shape in Winthrop’s mind, “A Model of Christian Charity” was a reflection on the ways in which social inequality and love might be imagined as fulfilling each other’s necessities. It was a plea to Winthrop’s fellows in the New England emigration project to set aside prudence and price, to step outside the bounds of market rules and customs when social necessity demanded it. It was a claim to their special place in divine favor and history. It was a stark reminder that their work would proceed under the relentless scrutiny of God and others. It was an intensely personal document whose themes were forged during a critically important span of months in John Winthrop’s life. It was a string of extracted quotations and rhetorical commonplaces. It was important enough to copy, correct, and 280

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retitle at different times during the seventeenth century. But on the whole, it was quickly forgotten. A quite different “Model of Christian Charity”—reconceived as the founding statement of an enduring American civic creed—was a twentieth-century invention. That centuries-delayed injection of the Model into the national canon was the product of many different hands and intentions. For Perry Miller, who stood at the head of that enterprise, the Model articulated, above all, the Puritans’ heroic gamble with the odds of providential history. For others, the Model set the trap for the nation’s enthrallment in an idea of its cosmic selfimportance. Ronald Reagan wielded a two-sentence extract from the Model as a weapon in Cold War politics before, quietly abandoning one of those sentences, he turned it into a line of nationalist reassurance. Scholars of American civil religion reimagined the Model as the republic’s defining text. Op-ed writers found it a virtually indispensable reference point. In the evangelical Protestant subcultures of modern America, however, contemporaries are not so sure of its relevance to them. This is not simply a history of rival readings of “A Model of Christian Charity”: not simply a cacophony of interpretations. The Model is inseparable from its history. It is the shifting arguments, uses, angers, and aspirations that, from Winthrop forward, persons have poured into it. Similar lives of continuous reinvention mark every “timeless” text. The Declaration of Independence holds its greatness because over time it became the touchstone of so many aspirations, far beyond those that Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration’s drafting committee envisioned. A literally interpreted statement of grievances against the English Crown and government, prefaced by a quickly controversial opening paragraph of Enlightenment abstractions, would have had no staying power beyond the moment of its enunciation. Legal “originalists” dream of bringing the untainted text of the original Constitution back to life. But the Constitutional document of 1787, its very words saturated with unresolved disputes and papered-over



compromises, was already in motion from the moment of its transmission to Congress. Take away the lives of a text and you take away the very histories that give them meaning. A sense of “timelessness” helps to give ballast against the buffeting of events. There is reassurance in its folded sense of time—in the “traditions” and continuities that have poured with such fertility out of the imaginations of nationalism’s articulators. But the deep, enduring cultures that were said to propel nations down their distinctive ways were inventions: constructions for their time and moment. Nations and political cultures, too, have complex lives. They have multiple, not singular origin points. They emerge not only out of agreements but out of clashes of ideas. They are always in the making. They are products of a continuing argument and a continuous reinvention for new contexts and circumstances. “America is a constant work in progress,” Barack Obama put the point, speaking at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where one of those moments of remaking took place.1 Without continuous renewal through deliberation and imagination, nations dissipate. They crack up. Or, like texts, they disappear. Certainly the disappearance of texts is a common enough occurrence. Who now practices the arts of political persuasion by declaiming the once-electrifying lines of Daniel Webster? Or memorizes the “cross of gold” speech of William Jennings Bryan? Who in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries paused for more than a moment over “A Model of Christian Charity”? “The afterlife of a document is vagrant, unpredictable, and often astonishing,” Daniel Boorstin once observed. “The disproportion between the circumstances of the inspiration and the reach of the product is remarkable and sometimes bizarre.”2 “A Model of Christian Charity,” exhumed from obscurity in the 1930s, reached the peak of its public recognition in Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric and the post-Reagan celebrations of American “exception-

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alist” history. In contemporary America, its presence may already be beginning to wane. In the run-up to the presidential election of 2016, Ronald Reagan’s reworking of the Model’s “city upon a hill” line seemed still as strong as it had been in the 1980s. Hillary Clinton declared that “if there’s one core belief that has guided and inspired me every step of the way, it is this. The United States is an exceptional nation. I believe we are still Lincoln’s last, best hope of Earth. We’re still Reagan’s shining city on a hill. We’re still Robert Kennedy’s great, unselfish, compassionate country.” Marco Rubio launched his bid for the national political stage by ringing the changes on the “city on a hill” line. Ted Cruz pledged to uphold “the American exceptionalism that has made this nation a clarion voice for freedom in the world, a shining city on a hill.” Ben Carson and Chris Christie appealed to the enduring truth of the “city on a hill” phrase. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney defended its timeless relevance. Even Rudy Giuliani, in a convention speech laced with grim, catastrophestrewn descriptions of a crime-ridden America, concluded with the “city on a hill” line.3 The one candidate who consistently refused the phrase, even when his rivals taunted him for his demurral, was the candidate who won: Donald Trump. His preferred term was “disaster.” The Democratic Congress’s Affordable Health Care Act was a “disaster.” The federal budget was a “disaster.” Banking reform was a “disaster.” The Common Core curriculum was a “disaster.” U.S. foreign policy was “a complete and total disaster.” In the Middle East, despite the lives and money expended, “we have nothing . . . we have nothing.” The gross domestic product’s growth was “below zero.” “We don’t have victories anymore.” Reagan’s America had been a “shining city on a hill,” George W. Bush’s speechwriter, Peter Wehner, observed; Trump’s America was a “dumpster fire.” “ We’re dying. We’re dying,” Trump told his rallies. “The American dream is dead.”4



Donald Trump’s grimly apocalyptic rhetoric, amplified and secularized for the occasion, echoed a pessimism already strong in the minds of conservative values voters. It made many evangelical Protestant voters feel as if they were on familiar terms with even as flamboyant an outsider to their ways of faith as Trump. More importantly, the rhetoric of disaster was the prelude to a promise of a heroic, nearsuperhuman action. “I” will repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump promised in his campaign speeches. “I” will build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. “Nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.” “I” will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. “I’ll be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” “I will bring [the American dream] back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” “Nobody can do that like me.” “I am your voice!” Trump declared.5 There was a “we,” too, at the end of Trump’s standard stump speech. “We will make American strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. We will make American great again.” 6 But the agent of change, the man who in this time of disaster was going to turn things around, faster than you would believe possible, was Donald Trump himself. Many accidents of history combined to bring Donald Trump’s exaggerated sense of self into the White House. But he may ultimately signal a broad, new turn in American political culture. His is the language of modern, swift-moving, transactional capitalism. He talks the talk of the “deal”—the promise of the turnaround artist who can spin a broken enterprise back to profitability overnight. Historical references—the sinews of earlier political rhetoric—are virtually nonexistent in the language of the corporate dealmaker. In Trump’s world there are no historic enemies, only leaders who, if you are naive at the game, can outsmart and outmaneuver you. At home, “greatness” is promised, but heroes are rare. Trump mentioned Reagan far less often than any of his Republican opponents. In his campaign speeches Trump never paused to mention the Founding Fathers, or James Madison, or Thomas Jefferson, or the Declaration of Indepen-

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dence. He rarely mentioned the Constitution except in his pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices in the tradition of Antonin Scalia. The power of American “exceptionalism,” the American “idea,” or the American political “tradition” never worked their way into his campaign speeches. In the Republican presidential candidates’ debates, Chris Christie was moved to say, “I love this country. It’s the most exceptional country the world has ever known.” Jeb Bush took up the theme: “Look, America still is an exceptional country.”7 Donald Trump did not rise to the bait.8 As for the Puritans, in the language of purely transactional politics they belong to a past that has no relevance for the present. The “mystic chords of memory,” to which Abraham Lincoln had appealed so eloquently in 1861, were silent in Trump’s speeches. Even the note cards of historical quotes and snippets that Ronald Reagan had written out so assiduously by hand were, in this context, relics from another time. Donald Trump may be the United States’ first posthistorical president, the first inhabitant of that office to live fully and completely in the present moment of the transaction and the deal. The formulas of nationalism that bound time together in seamless webs of continuity, which enlisted a deep past, however exaggerated or fictive, may have run their course in the patriotism of the present. The point should not be exaggerated. In the month of Donald Trump’s inaugural, Harvard University announced the imminent reopening of its one of its undergraduate colleges, named for John Winthrop. Around the frieze of Winthrop House’s common room, not far from the site where John F. Kennedy once lodged, students will now read, elegantly stylized and lifted out of every relevant context: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” 9 Others know the words as well. “We remain—as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill,” James Comey declared in testimony on his dismissal by Donald Trump as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.10 These may be harbingers of continuing lives for Winthrop’s text. Or they may be a set



of receding echoes as “A Model of Christian Charity” drifts toward an antiquarian oddity once more, a companion for poetry about pumpkins and parsnips. The disappearance of the Model from the canon of foundational American texts would not be a complete loss. There is no doubt that “A Model of Christian Charity” has been overused and its historical force overestimated. It has been routinely stripped from context. It has been employed to explain too much, to weld the contemporary American nation to a fragment of its past with too much imagined continuity. The theme of a chosen people, selected out from humankind for a task apart from that of all other peoples, which Winthrop plucked out of his seventeenth-century surroundings, is strewn with tragic consequences. The hubris that endures into the early twenty-first century’s clashes of nations and cultures haunts our times still. The Puritans are not to be blamed for this. But a more tempered reckoning with the complex and multiple aspirations that flow into the project of nation making would make us better readers of history than does fixation on an ur-text, a singular core idea, or the imagined “beginning of our consciousness.” But there are two takeaway points from the thoughts that came to Winthrop’s mind in the winter and spring of 1630 that are worth saving before we reconsign “A Model of Christian Charity” to the obscurity that surrounded it so long. One is the aching tension in the Model’s opening pages between the social fact of inequality and Winthrop’s yearnings for a community rooted in love. The New England Puritans never succeeded in working that tension out in ways that satisfied them. But they did not dismiss it. They groped their way through the moral knots and difficulties of dealing with questions of wealth and poverty with a conscious effort that we might let unsettle our own confidence that, in the era of the deal, the incentivized bargain, and widening inequality, we have got the answer right.

Disembarking from the Arbella


The second theme we might take away from the Model is the theme that controls its closing section. Winthrop stitched together the promise and the warning of the Model’s “city upon a hill” section from widely separated parts of the Bible, each differently intended. But his borrowing of Old and New Testament voices made no random conflation in Winthrop’s mind. Exposure was their common theme. To aspire to be a covenanted people could not be unlinked, the Model warned, from the burdens of visibility. To live not in a permanently shining city, its floodlights guaranteed by God and exceptionalist history, nor in a fortress of unshakable greatness, but to live as if one’s society was under the moral scrutiny of the world, as if the eyes of all people were trained on it: What responsibility could be heavier? The invented texts and stories that nations lay over their messier origins cannot shoulder that burden. Without an honest and searching account of their pasts, nations are at peril. But the “model” a nation makes in the critical eyes of the world, the actions it takes or foregoes, the ideals on which it acts or fails to act, and the people it imagines itself to be: all are made in the present tense. As a small step toward that realization we might do worse than to take a text onto which so many modern yearnings have been projected, from which so many malleable bits of rhetoric have been extracted, around which so many myths have been woven and conflicts waged and put it back, more wisely and humbly, into history.

appendix John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”: A Modern Transcription Note on the text: This modern transcription of “A Model of Christian Charity” attempts to balance faithfulness to the surviving text against a desire to ease modern readers’ way through the unfamiliar language of the seventeenth century. The text follows the transcription of the NewYork Historical Society with the silent correction of a few minor errors. The copyist’s mistakes are left intact, even where the copyist clearly omitted a word, misidentified a biblical text, or, miscounting, ran two passages headed “secondly” right after each other. The original grammar has not been altered. To guide modern readers through the unfamiliar underbrush of seventeenth-century spelling, run-on paragraphing, and inconsistent punctuation, however, this transcription intervenes in three significant ways. The text has been repunctuated and reparagraphed throughout to make its logic and meaning easier to follow. Spellings have been modernized. The section breaks are my own, as discussed in chapter 1. A digital image of the New-York Historical Society’s text can be accessed at https://cdm16694.content For assistance in transcription, I am grateful to Sarah Matherly and Spencer Weinreich. Discovery of the word “Massachusetts” hidden under the partially erased and overwritten “New England” was the work of Edward O’Reilly, Curator and Head of the Manuscript Department, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society.


Figure 2. Cover sheet to the only surviving copy of “A Modell of Christian Charity,” written sometime after the copy itself was made, with additional words interlined still later. John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” 1630; from BV Winthrop, John; image #79597d, New-York Historical Society.


Christian Charity A Model hereof [I] God almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.

The Reason hereof 1 Reason: First, to hold conformity with the rest of his works, being delighted to show forth the glory of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures and the glory of his power in ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of the whole and the glory of his greatness. That as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, so this great king will have many stewards, counting himself more honored in dispensing his gifts to man by man than if he did it by his own immediate hand. 2 Reason: Secondly, that he might have the more occasion to manifest the work of his spirit. First upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them; so that the rich and mighty should not eat up the poor, nor the poor and despised rise up against their superiors and shake off their yoke. 2ly, in the regenerate in exercising his graces in them, as in the great ones, their love, mercy, gentleness, temperance, &c, in the poor and inferior sort, their faith, patience, obedience, &c. 3 Reason: Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bond of brotherly affection.


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From hence it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy &c. out of any particular and singular respect to himself but for the glory of his creator and the common good of the creature, man. Therefore God still reserves the property of these gifts to himself as Ezek. 16.17. He there calls wealth his gold and his silver, and Prov. 3.9, he claims their service as his due: honor the Lord with thy riches &c.

[II] All men being thus (by divine providence) ranked into two sorts, rich and poor; under the first are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by their own means duly improved; and all others are poor according to the former distribution. There are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: Justice and Mercy. These are always distinguished in their act and in their object, yet may they both concur in the same subject in each respect: as sometimes there may be an occasion of showing mercy to a rich man in some sudden danger or distress, and also doing of mere justice to a poor man in regard of some particular contract &c. There is likewise a double law by which we are regulated in our conversation one towards another in both the former respects: the law of nature and the law of grace, or the moral law or the law of the gospel, to omit the rule of justice as not properly belonging to this purpose otherwise than it may fall into consideration in some particular cases. By the first of these laws man as he was enabled so withal is commanded to love his neighbor as himself. Upon this ground stands all the precepts of the moral law, which concerns our dealings with men. To apply this to the works of mercy, this law requires two things: first, that every man afford his help to another in every want or distress. Secondly, that he

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perform this out of the same affection which makes him careful of his own goods. According to that of our savior, Matth: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you. This was practiced by Abraham and Lot in entertaining the angels and the old man of Gibeah. The law of grace or the gospel hath some difference from the former as in these respects: First, the law of nature was given to man in the estate of innocency; this of the gospel in the estate of regeneracy. 2ly, the former propounds one man to another as the same flesh and image of God, this as a brother in Christ also and in the communion of the same spirit, and so teacheth us to put a difference between Christians and others. Do good to all especially to the household of faith. Upon this ground the Israelites were to put a difference between the brethren of such as were strangers, though not of the Canaanites. 3ly, the law of nature could give no rules for dealing with enemies for all are to be considered as friends in the estate of innocency, but the gospel commands love to an enemy. Proof: If thine enemy hunger, feed him; love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Matth. 5.44. This law of the gospel propounds likewise a difference of seasons and occasions. There is a time when a Christian must sell all and give to the poor as they did in the apostles’ times. There is a time also when a Christian (though they give not all yet) must give beyond their ability, as they of Macedonia: Cor. 2.6. Likewise, community of perils calls for extraordinary liberality, and so doth community in some special service for the church. Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our Christian brother may be relieved in this distress, we must help him beyond our ability rather than tempt God in putting him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary means. This duty of mercy is exercised in the kinds: giving, lending and forgiving.


A Modern Transcription

Question: What rule shall a man observe in giving in respect of the measure? Answer: If the time and occasion be ordinary, he is to give out of his abundance. Let him lay aside as God hath blessed him. If the time and occasion be extraordinary, he must be ruled by them, taking this withal, that then a man cannot likely do too much, especially if he may leave himself and his family under probable means of comfortable subsistence. Objection: A man must lay up for posterity. The fathers lay up for posterity and children, and he is worse than an infidel that provideth not for his own. Answer: For the first, it is plain that it being spoken by way of comparison it must be meant of the ordinary and usual course of fathers and cannot extend to times and occasions extraordinary. For the other place, the apostle speaks against such as walked inordinately; and it is without question, that he is worse than an infidel who through his own sloth and voluptuousness shall neglect to provide for his family. Objection: The wise man’s eyes are in his head (sayeth Solomon) and foreseeth the plague. Therefore we must forecast and lay up against evil times when he or his may stand in need of all he can gather. Answer: This very argument Solomon useth to persuade to liberality. Eccle: Cast thy bread upon the waters &c., for thou knowest not what evil may come upon the land. Luke 16: Make you friends of the riches of iniquity. You will ask how this shall be? Very well. For first, he that gives to the poor lends to the Lord and he will repay him even in this life an hundred fold to him or his. The righteous is ever merciful and lendeth, and his seed enjoyeth the blessing. And besides we know what advantage it will be to us in the day of account when many such witnesses shall stand forth for us to witness the improvement of our talent.

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And I would know of those who plead so much for laying up for time to come, whether they hold that to be gospel. Matth. 6:19: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth &c. If they acknowledge it, what extent will they allow it? If only to those primitive times, let them consider the reason whereupon our saviour grounds it. The first is that they are subject to the moth, the rust, the thief. Secondly, they will steal away the heart; where the treasure is, there will the heart be also. The reasons are of like force at all times. Therefore the exhortation must be general and perpetual, which always in respect of the love and affection to riches and in regard of the things themselves, when any special service for the church or particular distress of our brother do call for the use of them. Otherwise it is not only lawful but necessary to lay up as Joseph did to have ready upon such occasions as the Lord (whose stewards we are of them) shall call for them from us. Christ gives us an instance of the first, when he sent his disciples for the ass, and bids them answer the owner thus: the Lord hath need of him. So when the tabernacle was to be built, he sends to his people to call for their silver and gold, &c.; and yields them no other reason but that it was for his work. When Elijah comes to the widow of Sarepta and finds her preparing to make ready her pittance for herself and family, he bids her first provide for him. He challengeth first God’s part which she must first give before she must serve her own family. All these teach us that the Lord looks that when he is pleased to call for his right in any thing we have, our own interest we have must stand aside till his turn be served. For the other, we need look no further than to that of John 1: He who hath this world’s goods and seeth his brother to need and shuts up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Which comes punctually to this conclusion: if thy brother be in want


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and thou canst help him, thou needst not make doubt what thou shouldst do; if thou lovest God thou must help him. Question: What rule must we observe in lending? Answer: Thou must observe whether thy brother hath present or probable or possible means of repaying thee. If there be none of these, thou must give him according to his necessity rather than lend him as he requires. If he hath present means of repaying thee, thou art to look at him, not as an act of mercy, but by way of commerce, wherein thou art to walk by the rule of justice. But, if his means of repaying thee be only probable or possible, then is he an object of thy mercy. Thou must lend him, though there be danger of losing it. Deut. 15.7: If any of thy brethren be poor &c. thou shalt lend him sufficient. That men might not shift off this duty by the apparent hazard, he tells them that though the year of jubilee were at hand (when he must remit it, if he were not able to repay it before) yet he must lend him and that cheerfully. It may not grieve thee to give him (sayeth he) and because some might object, why so I should soon impoverish myself and my family? he adds with all thy work, &c. For our savior, Matth. 5.42: From him that would borrow of thee, turn not away. Question: What rule must we observe in forgiving? Answer: Whether thou didst lend by way of commerce or in mercy, if he have nothing to pay, thee must forgive him (except in cause where thou hast a surety or a lawful pledge). Deut. 15.2. Every seventh year the creditor was to quit that which he lent to his brother if he were poor, as appears ver. 8: Save when there shall be no poor with thee. In all these and like cases Christ was a general rule, Matth. 7.22: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye the same to them also.

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Question: What rule must we observe and walk by in cause of community of peril? Answer: The same as before, but with more enlargement towards others and less respect towards ourselves and our own right. Hence it was that in the primitive church they sold all, had all things in common; neither did any man say that that which he possessed was his own. Likewise in their return out of the captivity, because the work was great for the restoring of the church and the danger of enemies was common to all, Nehemiah exhorts the Jews to liberality and readiness in remitting their debts to their brethren, and disposeth liberally of his own to such as wanted and stands not upon his own due which he might have demanded of them. Thus did some of our forefathers in times of persecution here in England, and so did many of the faithful in other churches whereof we keep an honorable remembrance of them. And it is to be observed that both in scriptures and latter stories of the churches that such as have been most bountiful to the poor saints, especially in these extraordinary times and occasions, God hath left them highly commended to posterity: as Zacheus, Cornelius, Dorcas, Bishop Hooper, the Cuttler of Brussells and diverse others. Observe again that the scripture gives no caution to restrain any from being over liberal this way; but all men to the liberal and cheerful practice hereof by the sweetest promises. As to instance one for many. Isaiah 58.6: Is not this the fast that I have chosen to loose the bonds of wickedness, to take off the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke, to deal thy bread to the hungry and to bring the poor that wander into thy house; when thou seest the naked to cover them, &c. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall grow speedily, thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall embrace thee. Then thou shalt call and the Lord shall answer thee &c.


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2.10. If thou power out thy soul to the hungry, then shall thy light spring out in darkness, and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones. Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and they shall be of thee that shall build the old waste places &c. On the contrary, most heavy curses are laid upon such as are straightened towards the Lord and his people. Judg. 5: Curse ye Meroshe because ye came not to help the Lord, &c. Pro: He who shutteth his ears from hearing the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard. Matth. 25: Go ye cursed into everlasting fire, &c. I was hungry and ye fed me not. Cor. 2.9.16: He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.

[III] Having already set forth the practice of mercy according to the rule of God’s law, it will be useful to lay open the grounds of it also being the other part of the commandment: and that is the affection from which this exercise of mercy must arise. The apostle tells us that this love is the fulfilling of the law. Not that it is enough to love our brother and so no further, but in regard of the excellency of his parts giving any motion to the other, as the soul to the body and the power it hath to set all the faculties on work in the outward exercise of this duty. As when we bid one make the clock strike, he doth not lay hand on the hammer which is the immediate instrument of the sound but sets on work the first mover or main wheel, knowing that will certainly produce the sound which he intends. So the way to draw men to the works of mercy is not by force of argument from the goodness or necessity of the work: for though this course may enforce a rational mind to some present act of mercy as is frequent in experience, yet it cannot work such a habit in a soul as shall make it prompt upon all occasions to produce the same effect;

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but by framing these affections of love in the heart which will as naturally bring forth the other as any cause doth produce the effect. The definition which the scripture gives us of love is this: love is the bond of perfection. First, it is a bond or ligament. Secondly, it makes the work perfect. There is no body but consists of parts. And that which knits these parts together gives the body its perfection, because it makes each part so contiguous to other as thereby they do mutually participate with each other, both in strength and infirmity, in pleasure and pain. To instance in the most perfect of all bodies: Christ and his church make one body. The several parts of this body considered apart before they were united were as disproportionate and as much disordering as so many contrary qualities or elements. But when Christ comes and by his spirit and love knits all those parts to himself and each to other, it is become the most perfect and best proportioned body in the world. Eph. 4.16: Christ by whom all the body being knit together by every joint for the furniture thereof according to the effectual power which is in the measure of every perfection of parts a glorious body without spot or wrinkle; the ligaments hereof being Christ or his love. For Christ is love. 1 John 4. 8. So this definition is right: love is the bond of perfection. From hence we may frame these conclusions. 1.

First of all true Christians are of one body in Christ 1 Cor. Ye are the body of Christ and members of your part.

2ly. The ligaments of this body which knit together are love. 3ly. No body can be perfect which wants its proper ligament. 4ly. All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each others strength and infirmity, joy and sorrow, weal and woe. 1 Cor. 12.26: If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one be in honor, all rejoice with it.


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5ly. This sensibleness and sympathy of each others conditions will necessarily infuse into each part a native desire and endeavor to strengthen, defend, preserve, and comfort the other. To insist a little on this conclusion being the product of all the former, the truth hereof will appear both by precept and pattern. 1 John 3.10: Ye ought to lay down your lives for the brethren. Gal. 6.2: Bear ye one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For patterns we have that first of our savior who, out of his good will in obedience to his father, becoming a part of this body and, being knit with it in the bond of love, found such a native sensibleness of our infirmities and sorrows as he willingly yielded himself to death to ease the infirmities of the rest of his body and so heal their sorrows. From the like sympathy of parts did the apostles and many thousands of the saints lay down their lives for Christ again. The like we may see in the members of this body among themselves. 1 Rom. 9. Paul could have been contented to have been separated from Christ that the Jews might not be cut off from the body. It is very observable which he professeth of his affectionate parting with every member: Who is weak (sayeth he) and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not? And again, 2 Cor. 7.13: Therefore we are comforted because ye were comforted (of Epaphroditus he speaketh). Phil. 2.30: That he regarded not his own life to him service. So Phoebe and others are called the servants of the church. Now it is apparent that they served not for wages or by constraint but out of love. The like we shall find in the histories of the church in all ages: the sweet sympathy of affections which was in the members of this body one towards another, their cheerfulness in serving and suffering together, how liberal they were without repining, harborers without grudging, and helpful without reproaching. And all from hence: they had fervent love amongst them which only make the practice of mercy constant and easy.

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The next consideration is how this love comes to be wrought. Adam in his first estate was a perfect model of mankind in all their generations, and in him this love was perfected in regard of the habit. But Adam rent in himself from his creator, rent all his posterity also one from another. Whence it comes that every man is born with this principle in him: to love and seek himself only. And thus a man continueth til Christ comes and takes possession of the soul, and infuseth another principle: love to God and our brother. And this latter having continual supply from Christ, as the head and root by which he is united, get the predominency in the soul, so by little and little expels the former. 1 John. 4.7: Love cometh of God and every one that loveth is born of God. So that this love is the fruit of the new birth, and none can have it but the new creature. Now when this quality is thus formed in the souls of men it works like the spirit upon the dry bones. Ezek. 37: Bone came to bone. It gathers together the scattered bones or perfect old man Adam and knits them into one body again in Christ, whereby a man is become again a living soul. The third consideration is concerning the exercise of this love, which is twofold, inward or outward. The outward hath been handled in the former preface of this discourse. For unfolding the other we must take in our way that maxim of philosophy, Simile simili gaudet, or like will to like. For as it is things which are carved with disaffection to each other, the ground of it is from a dissimilitude or [  ] arising from the contrary or different nature of the things themselves, so the ground of love is an apprehension of some resemblance in the things loved to that which affects it. This is the cause why the Lord loves the creature, so far as it hath any of his image in it. He loves his elect because they are like himself. He beholds them in his beloved son. So a mother loves her child, because she thoroughly conceives a resemblance of herself in it. Thus it is between the members of Christ: each discerns by the work of the spirit his own image and


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resemblance in another, and therefore cannot but love him as he loves himself. Now when the soul, which is of a sociable nature, finds any thing like to itself, it is like Adam when Eve was brought to him. She must have it one with herself. This is flesh of my flesh (sayeth she) and bone of my bone. She conceives a great delight in it; therefore she desires nearness and familiarity with it. She hath a great propensity to do it good and receives such content in it, as fearing the miscarriage of her beloved she bestows it in the inmost closet of her heart. She will not endure that it shall want any good which she can give it. If by occasion she be withdrawn from the company of it, she is still looking towards the place where she left her beloved. If she hear it groan she is with it presently. If she find it sad and disconsolate she sighs and mourns with it. She hath no such joy as to see her beloved merry and thriving. If she see it wronged, she cannot bear it without passion. She sets no bounds of her affections nor hath any thought of reward. She finds recompense enough in the exercise of her love towards it. We may see this acted to life in Jonathan and David. Jonathan, a valiant man endued with the spirit of Christ, so soon as he discovers the same spirit in David had presently his heart knit to him by this lineament of love; so that it is said he loved him as his own soul. He takes so great pleasure in him that he strips himself to adorn his beloved. His father’s kingdom was not so precious to him as his beloved David. David shall have it with all his heart. Himself desires no more but that he may be near to him to rejoice in his good. He chooseth to converse with him in the wilderness even to the hazard of his own life, rather than with the great courtiers in his father’s palace. When he sees danger towards him, he spares neither care, pains, nor peril to divert it. When injury was offered his beloved David, he could not bear it, though from his own father. And when they must part for a season only, they thought their hearts would have broke for sorrow, had not their affections found

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vent by abundance of tears. Other instances might be brought to show the nature of this affection, as of Ruth and Naomi and many others, but this truth is cleared enough. If any shall object that it is not possible that love should be bred or upheld without hope of requital, it is granted, but that is not our cause. For this love is always under reward; it never gives, but it always receives with advantage. First, in regard that among the members of the same body, love and affection are reciprocal in a most equal and sweet kind of commerce. 2ly, in regard of the pleasure and content that the exercise of love carries with it, as we may see in the natural body. The mouth is at all the pains to receive and mince the food which serves for the nourishment of all the other parts of the body. Yet it hath no cause to complain. For first, the other parts send back by several passages a due proportion of the same nourishment in a better form for the strengthening and comforting the mouth. 2ly, the labor of the mouth is accompanied with such pleasure and content as far exceeds the pains it takes. So is it in all the labor of love among Christians: the party loving reaps love again as was showed before, which the soul covets more than all the wealth in the world. 2ly, nothing yields more pleasure and content to the soul than when it finds that which it may love fervently. For to love and live beloved is the soul’s paradise, both here and in heaven. In the estate of wedlock there be many comforts to bear out the troubles of that condition; but let such as have tried the most say if there be any sweetness in that condition comparable to the exercise of mutual love. From the former considerations arise these conclusions. First, this love among Christians is a real thing not imaginary. 2ly. This love is as absolutely necessary to the being of the body of Christ as the sinews and other ligaments of a natural body are to the being of that body.


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This love is a divine spiritual nature: free, active, strong, courageous, permanent, undervaluing all things beneath its proper object. And of all the graces this makes us nearer to resemble the virtues of our heavenly father.


It rests in the love and welfare of its beloved.

For the full, certain knowledge of those truths concerning the nature, use, and excellency of this grace, that which the holy ghost hath left recorded 1 Cor. 13. may give full satisfaction. Which is needful for every true member of this lovely body of the Lord Jesus to work upon their hearts, by prayer, meditation, continual exercise at least of the special [  ] of this grace, til Christ be formed in them and they in him, all in each other knit together by this bond of love.

[IV] It rests now to make some application of this discourse by the present design which gave the occasion of writing of it. Herein are 4 things to be propounded: first, the persons, 2ly the work, 3ly the end, 4ly the means. 1. For the persons, we are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ, in which respect only, though we were absent from each other many miles, and had our employments as far distant, yet we ought to account ourselves knit together by this bond of love and live in the exercise of it if we would have comfort of our being in Christ. This was notorious in the practice of the Christians in former times, as is testified of the Waldenses from the mouth of one of the adversaries Aeneas Sylvius, mutuo [  ] pene antequam norint: they use to love any of their own religion even before they were acquainted with them. 2ly. For the work we have in hand, it is by a mutual consent through a special overruling providence, and a more

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than an ordinary approbation of the Churches of Christ, to seek out a place of cohabitation and consortship under a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical. In such cases as this the care of the public must oversway all private respects, by which not only consequence,1 but mere civil policy doth bind us; for it is a true rule that particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public. 3ly. The end is to improve our lives, to do more service to the Lord, the comfort and increase of the body of Christ whereof we are members, that ourselves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world; to serve the Lord, and work out our salvation under the power and purity of his holy ordinances. 4ly. For the means whereby this must be effected, they are 2fold. A conformity with the work and end we aim at. These we see are extraordinary. Therefore we must not content ourselves with usual ordinary means. Whatsoever we did, or ought to have done, when we lived in England, the same must we do, and more also, where we go. That which the most in their churches maintain as a truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice, as in this duty of love. We must love brotherly without dissimulation. We must love one another with a pure heart fervently. We must bear one anothers burdens. We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren. Neither must we think that the Lord will bear with such failings at our hands as he doth from those among whom we have lived, and that for 3 reasons. 1.

In regard of the more near bond of marriage between him and us, wherein he hath taken us to be his after a most strict and peculiar manner, which will make him the

1. A later writer changed “consequence” to read “conscience.”


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more jealous of our love and obedience. So he tells the people of Israel: you only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your transgressions. 2ly. Because the Lord will be sanctified in them that come near him. We know that there were many that corrupted the service of the Lord, some setting up altars before his own, others offering both strange fire and strange sacrifices also. Yet there came no fire from heaven, or other sudden judgement upon them as did upon Nadab and Abihu, who yet we may think did not sin presumptuously. 3ly. When God gives a special commission he looks to have it strictly observed in every article. When he gave Saul a commission to destroy Amalek he indented with him upon certain articles; and because he failed in one of the least, and that upon a fair pretense, it lost him the kingdom, which should have been his reward if he had observed his commission. Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into covenant with him for this work. We have taken out a commission. The Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles. We have professed to enterprise these actions upon these and these ends. We have hereupon besought him of favor and blessing. Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath he ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it. But if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have propounded and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, be revenged of such a perjured people, and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

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Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah: to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end we must be knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as his own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of his wisdom, power, goodness and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, the Lord make it like that of Massachusetts.2 For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a going. 2. “Massachusetts” was washed out and replaced by a later writer with “New England.”


A Modern Transcription

And to shut up this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israel, Deut. 30: Beloved there is now set before us life and good, death and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his commandments and his ordinance and his laws and the articles of our covenant with him, that we may live and be multiplied and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and serve worship3 other Gods, our pleasures, and profits, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it. Therefore let us choose life, that we, and our seed, may live, by obeying his voice, and cleaving to him, for he is our life, and our prosperity.

3. Correction in the original.

Notes introduction. “The Most Famous Lay Sermon in All of American History”

1. Michael Parker, John Winthrop: Founding the City upon a Hill (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 39. 2. Ronald Reagan, “Election Eve Address: ‘A Vision for America,’ ” Nov. 3, 1980. The American Presidency Project, Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www; Barack Obama, “Commencement Address, University of Massachusetts at Boston,” June 2, 2006, Obama Speeches, /074-University-of-Massachusetts-at-Boston-Commencement-Address-Obama-Speech .htm. 3. Matthew S. Holland, Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America— Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007), p. 19; Terry Golway, ed., American Political Speeches (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. xxvii; Philip Gorski, American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). Richard M. Gamble makes the counterargument that “A Model of Christian Charity” did not achieve iconic status until the twentieth century: In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012). 4. Perry Miller, “The Shaping of the American Character,” New England Quarterly 28:4 (Dec. 1955): 443.

chapter 1. Writing “A Model of Christian Charity”

1. David D. Hall, Ways of Writing: The Practice and Politics of Text-Making in SeventeenthCentury New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), chap. 2. 2. Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction (New York: Knopf, 1986); Alison Games, Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). The aggregate figures are summarized in Bruce C. Daniels, New England Nation: The Country the Puritans Built (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), table 3.1. 3. Henry Jacie [sic] to John Winthrop Jr., c. Feb. 1635, Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 3:188. 4. Addition of an extra syllable to the name of the ship that Winthrop and his contemporaries knew as the Arbella was also this writer’s contribution. 5. Perry Miller, ed., The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956), p. 79. 6. Draft of Ronald Reagan speech at Eisenhower College, 1969, Edwin Meese Papers, box 283, Hoover Institution Archives, courtesy of Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University. 7. Jon Butler, Grant Wacker, and Randall Balmer, Religion in American Life: A Short History, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 48.



Notes to Pages 17–31

8. Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1996), pp. 19, 18, 17, 10. 9. Hugh J. Dawson, “John Winthrop’s Rite of Passage: The Origins of the ‘Christian Charitie’ Discourse,” Early American Literature 26:3 (1991): 219–31; Hugh J. Dawson, “ ‘Christian Charitie’ as Colonial Discourse: Rereading Winthrop’s Sermon in Its English Context,” Early American Literature 33:2 (1998): 117–48. See also Richard M. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012), chap. 1. 10. Francis J. Bremer, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 173–74. 11. Bremer, John Winthrop; Michael Parker, John Winthrop: Founding the City upon a Hill (New York: Routledge, 2014). 12. “Address of John Winthrop to the Company of the Massachusetts Bay,” Winthrop Papers, 2:175. 13. Ibid., 2:176. 14. Ibid. 15. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 725–26. 16. Babette May Levy, Preaching in the First Half Century of New England History (Hartford, CT: American Society of Church History, 1945), chap. 5; Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Richard Bernard, The Faithfull Shepheard (London, 1607), chaps. 5–12. 17. Aware of this difficulty, Abram Van Engen has proposed a scriptural passage that he imagines must have originally prefaced the Model before an incomplete text reached the copyist, but this seems implausible. Abram C. Van Engen, “Origins and Last Farewells: Bible Wars, Textual Form, and the Making of American History,” New England Quarterly 86:4 (Dec. 2013): 543–92. 18. Stout, New England Soul, pp. 14–16; Meredith Marie Neuman, Jeremiah’s Scribes: Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); Levy, Preaching in the First Half Century, pp. 81–85. “Social authorship,” David D. Hall calls this in his Ways of Writing. 19. “Prefatory Remarks,” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 27 (1838): 32 (“homily”); George E. Ellis, “The Aims and Purposes of the Founders of the Massachusetts Colony,” in Lectures Delivered in a Course at the Lowell Institute . . . on Subjects Relating to the Early History of Massachusetts (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1869) (“treatise”); Charles F. Richardson, American Literature, 1607–1885, 2 vols. (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1889–91), 1:90 (“booklet”); The Humble Request of the Massachusetts Puritans and A Modell of Christian Charity by John Winthrop 1630, ed. S. E. Morison, Old South Leaflets no. 207 (Boston, 1916), p. 1 (“tract”). 20. For an extended discussion of this theme: David Grayson Allen, In English Ways: The Movement of Societies and the Transferal of English Local Law and Custom to Massachusetts Bay in the Seventeenth Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982). 21. Susan Hardman Moore, Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), p. 36. 22. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 590; Winthrop Papers, 4:468–88. 23. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 584–89.

chapter 2. “We Shall Be as a City upon a Hill”

1. “Arguments for the Plantation of New England. Objections Answered: First Draft,” Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 2:136.

Notes to Pages 32–39


2. Ronald Reagan, “Farewell Address to the Nation,” Jan. 11, 1989, The American Presidency Project, Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www.presidency.ucsb .edu. 3. Bernard Bailyn, The Barbarous Years. The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675 (New York: Knopf, 2012), chap. 12; Roger Thompson, Mobility and Migration: East Anglican Founders of New England, 1629–1640 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chap. 1; David Cressy, Coming Over: Migration and Communication between England and New England in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 46–50. 4. John White et al., The Planters Plea (London, 1630); “Sir John Eliot’s Copy of the New England Tracts,” Winthrop Papers, 2:146–47. 5. “Arguments for the Plantation of New England,” Winthrop Papers, 2:106–49. 6. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 227. Bailyn, Barbarous Years, chap. 2. 7. Thomas Dudley, “To the Right Honourable; My Very Good Lady, the Lady Bridget Countess of Lincoln,” Mar. 12, 1631, in Massachusetts, or the First Planters of New-England (Boston, 1696), p. 16. 8. John Winthrop to—, Winthrop Papers, 2:123. 9. “Reasons to be Considered, and Objections with Answers,” Winthrop Papers, 2:139. 10. John Cotton, God’s Promise to His Plantation (London, 1630), p. 9. 11. Darrett Rutman, John Winthrop’s Decision for America, 1629 (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975), pp. 24–25; John Winthrop, “General Conclusions and Particular Considerations,” Winthrop Papers, 2:133; John Winthrop, “General Conclusions and Particular Considerations: Early Draft,” Winthrop Papers, 2:126. 12. “General Observations for the Plantation of New England,” Winthrop Papers, 2:111; John Winthrop to—, Winthrop Papers, 2:122. 13. “Reasons to Be Answered, and Objections with Answers,” Winthrop Papers, 2:139. 14. Thomas Hooker, “The Danger of Desertion,” in Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, ed. George H. Williams et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), pp. 246, 252. 15. John Winthrop to Margaret Winthrop, May 15, 1629, Winthrop Papers, 2:91–92. 16. Richard Mather, “Arguments Tending to Prove the Removing from Old England to New . . . ,” in Increase Mather, The Life and Death of that Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather (Cambridge, 1670), p. 17. 17. Quoted in Theodore Dwight Bozeman, To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension in Puritanism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), p. 111. 18. Peter Bulkeley, The Gospel-Covenant, or, The Covenant of Grace Opened (London, 1646); cf. Francis J. Bremer, “To Live Exemplary Lives: Puritans and Puritan Communities as Lofty Lights,” Seventeenth Century 7:1 (Spring 1992): 27–39. 19. Matt. 5:13–16 (Geneva Bible). 20. James Sharpe, The Triall of the Protestant Private Spirit (1630). 21. William Perkins, A Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon in the Mount (Cambridge, England, 1608), pp. 53–57. 22. Calvin is quoted in Richard M. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012), p. 56. 23. Richard Baxter, Church-History of the Government of Bishops and Their Counsels (London, 1680), p. 483.


Notes to Pages 39–49

24. Patrick Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1988), p. 30. 25. John Milton, Of Reformation in England (1641), quoted in Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill, p. 69. 26. Perkins, Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon in the Mount, p. 55. 27. Anthony Horneck, Several Sermons upon the Fifth of St. Matthew (London, 1698), pp. 426–27. 28. Edward Howes to John Winthrop Jr., Apr. 3, 1632, Winthrop Papers, 3:76. 29. The Correspondence of John Cotton, ed. Sargent Bush Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), p. 283. 30. B. E., A New Dictionary of the Canting Crew in Its Several Tribes (London, 1699), n.p. 31. Michael P. Winship, “ Were There Any Puritans in New England?,” New England Quarterly 74:1 (Mar. 2001): 118–38.

chapter 3. A Chosen People

1. Francis J. Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), pp. 132–34; Frances Rose-Troup, John White, The Patriarch of Dorchester and the Founder of Massachusetts, 1575–1648 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930), pp. 221–23; and, more generally, David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (New York: Knopf, 2011). 2. John Cotton, God’s Promise to His Plantation (London, 1630), p. 13. 3. The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 24, 340–41. For an excellent history of providentialism: Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607–1876 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 4. Mason I. Lowance Jr., The Language of Canaan: Metaphor and Symbol in New England from the Puritans to the Transcendentalists (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980). 5. “General Considerations for the Plantation in New England,” Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 2:120. 6. John Winthrop, “General Conclusions and Particular Considerations: Early Draft,” Winthrop Papers, 2:125. 7. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 440–50. 8. Michael McGiffert, “God’s Controversy with Jacobean England,” American Historical Review 88:5 (Dec. 1983): 1152; John Lyly, Euphues and His England (1580), quoted in Dorian Llywelyn, Sacred Place, Chosen People: Land and National Identity in Welsh Spirituality (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999), p. 37; Pasi Ihalainen, Protestant Nations Redefined: Changing Perceptions of National Identity in the Rhetoric of the English, Dutch, and Swedish Public Churches, 1685–1772 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), p. 100. 9. Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987), p. 98. 10. Paul Stevens, “ ‘Leviticus Thinking’ and the Rhetoric of Early Modern Colonialism,” Criticism 35:3 (Summer 1993): 451–52. 11. Robert Montgomery, “Discourse concerning the Designed Establishment of a New Colony to the South of Carolina” (1717), quoted in Charles L. Sanford, The Quest for Paradise: Europe and the American Moral Imagination (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961), p. 85. 12. Robert Gray, “A Good Speed to Virginia” (1609), quoted in Alfred A. Cave, “Canaanites in a Promised Land: The American Indian and the Providential Theory of Empire,” American Indian Quarterly 12:4 (Autumn 1988): 286.

Notes to Pages 50–60


13. Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloody (1652), quoted in Perry Miller, Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition (New York: Atheneum, 1965), p. 169. 14. Robert Cushman, A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation Settled at Plimouth in New England (1622), quoted in Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, p. 25. 15. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, ed. Kenneth B. Murdock (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), bk. 2, chap. 4. 16. Amos 3:2 (King James Version). 17. Deut. 28:37 (King James Version). 18. Deut. 30:15–19 (Geneva Bible); emphases added. 19. Cotton, God’s Promise to His Plantation, p. 18. 20. Thomas Hooker, “The Danger of Desertion,” in Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, ed. George H. Williams et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), pp. 245–46; John Winthrop to Margaret Winthrop, May 15, 1629, Winthrop Papers, 2:91. 21. “The Humble Request of His Majesty’s Loyal Subjects, the Governor and the Company Late Gone for New England” (1630), Winthrop Papers, 2:232. 22. Cave, “Canaanites in a Promised Land,” pp. 291–92. 23. Thomas Dudley, “To the Right Honourable; My Very Good Lady, the Lady Bridget Countess of Lincoln” (1630), in Massachusetts, or the First Planters of New-England (Boston, 1696), p. 21. 24. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 416. 25. Everett Emerson, ed., Letters from New England: The Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1629–1638 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976), p. 205. 26. John Allin and Thomas Shepard, “Defence of the Answer Made unto the Nine Questions” (1645), in Massachusetts, or the First Planters of New-England (Boston, 1696), p. 37. 27. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 675, 672. 28. Ibid., pp. 324–25. 29. Lord Saye and Sele to John Winthrop, July 9, 1640, Winthrop Papers, 4:263–67. 30. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 334. On the controversy: Karen Ordahl Kupperman, “Errand to the Indies: Puritan Colonization from Providence Island through the Western Design,” William and Mary Quarterly 45:1 ( Jan. 1988): 70–99. 31. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 333. 32. Dudley, “To the Right Honourable . . . Countess of Lincoln,” p. 24; “General Observations for the Plantation of New England,” Winthrop Papers, 2:112. 33. Thomas Hooker, “Danger of Desertion,” pp. 4, 230–31; Michael P. Winship, “What Puritan Guarantee?,” Early American Literature 47:2 (2012): 411–20. 34. Peter Bulkeley, The Gospel-Covenant, or, The Covenant of Grace Opened (London, 1646), p. 15. 35. Cotton, God’s Promise to His Plantation, p. 17.

chapter 4. New England in a World of Holy Experiments

1. Donald Worster, Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), chap. 1. 2. J. H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), chap. 7. 3. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, “Entangled Histories: Borderlands Historiographies in New Clothes?,” American Historical Review 112:3 ( June 2007): 787–99; Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra,


Notes to Pages 60–68

“Typology in the Atlantic World: Early Modern Readings of Colonization,” in Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, 1500–1830, ed. Bernard Bailyn and Patricia L. Denault (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 237–264; Thomas O. Beebee, Millennial Literatures of the Americas, 1492–2002 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), chap. 1; Frank Graziano, The Millennial New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 4. John Leddy Phelan, The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), p. 5. 5. Djelal Kadir, Columbus and the Ends of the Earth: Europe’s Prophetic Rhetoric as Conquering Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), p. 54. 6. Leonard I. Sweet, “Christopher Columbus and the Millennial Vision of the New World,” Catholic Historical Review 72:3 ( July 1986): 370. 7. Ralph Bauer, “Millennium’s Darker Side: The Missionary Utopias of Franciscan New Spain and Puritan New England,” in Finding Colonial Americas, ed. Carla Mulford and David S. Shields (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2001), pp. 38–39. 8. Jaime Lara, City, Temple, Stage: Eschatological Architecture and Liturgical Theatrics in New Spain (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004). 9. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: Modern Library, 1967), p. 296. 10. Graziano, Millennial New World, chap. 4. 11. Julia J. S. Sarreal, The Guaraní and Their Missions: A Socioeconomic History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014); Sélim Abou, The Jesuit “Republic” of the Guaranis (1609–1768) and Its Heritage (New York: Crossroad, 1997). 12. Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, The Spiritual Conquest Accomplished by the Religious Society of Jesus in the Provinces of Paraguay, Paraná, Uruguay and Tape (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1993), p. 109. 13. Guillaume Ansart, “From Voltaire to Raynal and Diderot’s Histoire des deux Indes: The French Philosophes and Colonial America,” in America through European Eyes: British and French Reflections on the New World from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, ed. Aurelian Craiutu and Jeffrey C. Isaac (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009), pp. 71–90. 14. Tim Blanning, The Pursuit of Glory: Europe, 1648–1815 (New York: Viking, 2007), p. 96. 15. Edward Johnson, Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, 1628–1651, ed. J. Franklin Jameson (New York: Scribner’s, 1910), p. 59. 16. Kenneth Shipps, “Puritan Emigration to New England,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 135 (1981): 91, n. 43. 17. Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987), pp. 94, 98. 18. Ibid., p. 224. 19. Jean R. Soderlund et al., eds., William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 1680–1684: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), p. 77. 20. Ibid., pp. 77, 55, 58–65. 21. Voltaire, “On Paraguay,” in The Works of Voltaire, trans. William F. Fleming (Paris: E. R. Dumont, 1901), vol. 39, p. 269; Edith Philips, The Good Quaker in French Legend (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932), chap. 4. 22. J. Potter, “The Growth of Population in America, 1700–1760,” in Population in History: Essays in Historical Demography, ed. D. V. Glass and D.E.C. Eversley (Chicago: Aldine, 1965), p. 638.

Notes to Pages 72–81 chapter 5. Left All Alone in America


1. Thomas Coleman, The Christians Course and Complaint (London, 1643), p. 70. 2. Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, ed. Thomas Carlyle, 2 vols. (New York: Harper, 1851), 2:263–64. 3. Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 70, 207; Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, 5 vols., ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Boston, 1853–54), 1:204. 4. Francis J. Bremer, “Puritan Crisis: New England and the English Civil Wars, 1630–1670” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1972), chap. 1. 5. David W. Galenson, “The Settlement and Growth of the Colonies: Population, Labor, and Economic Development,” in The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vol. 1: Colonial Era, ed. Stanley L. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), table 4.5. 6. Susan Hardman Moore, Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 55–56, 70, 82. 7. Bremer, “Puritan Crisis,” pp. 115, 217–25. 8. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 416. 9. Bremer, “Puritan Crisis,” p. 219. 10. Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560–1660 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 11. Christopher Durston, Cromwell’s Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), chap. 8; David Underdown, Fire from Heaven: The Life of an English Town in the Seventeenth Century (London: HarperCollins, 1992); David Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England, 1603–1660 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985). 12. Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 11. 13. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 353–54. 14. Carla Gardina Pestana, The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640–1661 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 58–59. 15. John Coffey, “The Toleration Controversy during the English Revolution,” in Religion in Revolutionary England, ed. Christopher Durston and Judith Maltby (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006); John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558–1689 (Harlow, UK: Longman, 2000); Andrew R. Murphy, Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001). 16. Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 608, 635. 17. Bremer, “Puritan Crisis,” p. 283. 18. William Hooke, New-Englands Sence of Old-England and Irelands Sorrowes (London, 1645), p. 19. 19. Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607–1876 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 33. 20. Galenson, “Settlement and Growth of the Colonies,” table 4.5. 21. Edward Johnson, Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, 1628–1651, ed. J. Franklin Jameson (New York: Scribner’s, 1910), p. 29; Increase Mather, Returning unto God the Great Concernment of a Covenant People (Boston, 1680), p. A2; Jonathan Mitchell, Nehemiah on the Wall in Troublesome Times (Cambridge, 1671), p. 19; John Norton, The Heart of New-England Rent at the Blasphemies of the Present Generation (London, 1660), p. 79.


Notes to Pages 81–93

22. Urian Oakes, New-England Pleaded With (Cambridge, 1673), p. 17; Increase Mather, The Day of Trouble Is Near (Cambridge, 1674), p. 26; Samuel Wakeman, “To the Christian Reader,” Sound Repentance the Right Way to Escape Deserved Ruine (Boston, 1685). 23. Wakeman, “To the Christian Reader”; Increase Mather, Ichabod, or, A Discourse Shewing What Cause There Is To Fear That the Glory of the Lord Is Departing from New-England (Boston, 1702), pp. 57, 63. 24. W[illiam] Stoughton, New-Englands True Interest; Not to Lie (Cambridge, 1670), p. 10; Mather, Returning unto God, pp. A2, 10. 25. Robert Middlekauf, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596–1728 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 101. 26. Oakes, New-England Pleaded With, pp. 20–21, 54. 27. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, Books I and II, ed. Kenneth B. Murdock (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 126. 28. Ibid., pp. 129, 92–93, 89, 123, 196; Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, 2 vols. (Hartford, CT: Andrus, 1855), 1:580. 29. Oakes, New-England Pleaded With, p. 25.

chapter 6. Love Is a Bond or Ligament

1. “Arguments for the Plantation of New England,” in Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 2:106–49; [ John Winthrop et al.], A Short Story of the Rise, Reign and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists, and Libertines that Infected the Churches of New England (London, 1644). 2. The Journal of John Winthrop,1630–1649, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 584–89. 3. Henry Jacie [sic] to John Winthrop Jr., c. Feb. 1635, Winthrop Papers, 3:188. 4. John Yates, A Modell of Divinitie, Catechistically Composed (London, 1622); James Harrington, Rota; or, A Model of a Free State or Equall Commonwealth (London, 1660); James Harrington, The Art of Law-Giving, Book 3, Shewing a Model Fitted unto the Present State or Balance of This Nation (London, 1659). 5. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 590. 6. Isa. 58:6–8; Deut. 15:7–8 (Geneva Bible). 7. Matt. 5:42; 1 John 3:17 (Geneva Bible). 8. Frances J. Bremer, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 179; Abram C. Van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 26. 9. “An Exhortation, concerning Good Order & Obedience,” Certayne Sermons Appointed by the Queene Majesty, to be Declared and Read (1562), quoted in Darrett B. Rutman, ed., John Winthrop’s Decision for America: 1629 (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975), p. 56; William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 194, 51, 201. 10. Edmund S. Morgan, “John Winthrop’s ‘Modell of Christian Charity’ in a Wider Context,” Huntington Library Quarterly 50:2 (Spring 1987): 147. 11. Thomas Smith, Sir Thomas Smithes Voiage and Entertainment in Rushia (London, 1605), p. B3. 12. William Ames, Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London, 1642), chap. 7. 13. Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (1738), in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 8, Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 178.

Notes to Pages 97–105 chapter 7. Moralizing the Market Economy


1. Alison Games, Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). 2. James E. McWilliams, Building the Bay Colony: Local Economy and Culture in Early Massachusetts (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007); Margaret Ellen Newell, From Dependency to Independence: Economic Revolution in Colonial New England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998); Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chap. 4; Daniel Vickers, “Competency and Competition: Economic Culture in Early America,” William and Mary Quarterly 47:1 ( Jan. 1990): 3–29. On the pervasiveness of debts and obligation in contemporaneous England: Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998). 3. Mark Valeri, “Religious Discipline and the Market: Puritans and the Issue of Usury,” William and Mary Quarterly 54:4 (Oct. 1997): 47–68; Mark Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (New York: Knopf, 2011), chap. 4. 4. John Winthrop to Margaret Winthrop, Nov. 12, 1629, Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 2:168; John Winthrop to Margaret Winthrop, Nov. 24, 1629, ibid., 2:174; John Winthrop to Margaret Winthrop, Feb. 5, 1629/30, ibid., 2:201–2. 5. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, 5 vols. (Boston, 1853–54), 1:61–64. 6. “Address of John Winthrop to the Company of the Massachusetts Bay,” Winthrop Papers, 2:175. 7. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, 1:64–66. 8. “Address of John Winthrop to the Company of the Massachusetts Bay,” Winthrop Papers, 2:174–77. 9. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, 1:74, 89, 91, 109. 10. Ibid., 1:223, 307. 11. Ibid., 1:142. 12. The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 174–75. 13. John White to John Winthrop, Nov. 16, 1636, Winthrop Papers, 3:321–23. 14. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 308. 15. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, 1:331. 16. Ibid., 1:260, 283, 284; Journal of John Winthrop, pp. 342, 424. 17. Ibid., p. 66. 18. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, 1:131–33, 253. 19. Bernard Bailyn, ed., The Apologia of Robert Keayne: The Self-Portrait of a Puritan Merchant (New York: Harper and Row, 1964); Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize, chap. 1. 20. Journal of John Winthrop, p. 307. 21. Ibid., p. 308. 22. Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize; Mark A. Peterson, The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997); Joseph A. Conforti, Saints and Strangers: New England in British North America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).


Notes to Pages 105–116

23. Wendy Warren, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York: Liveright, 2016).

chapter 8. The Poor and the Boundaries of Obligation

1. Bernard Bailyn, ed., The Apologia of Robert Keayne: The Self-Portrait of a Puritan Merchant (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), pp. 45–55. 2. Ibid., pp. 6–20. 3. John Winthrop to—[1629], Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929–47), 2:122. 4. Paul Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Longman, 1988); Paul Slack, From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), chap. 2; Keith Wrightson and David Levine, Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525–1700 (New York: Academic Press, 1979); William Hunt, The Puritan Moment: The Coming of Revolution in an English County (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), esp. chap. 6; Steve Hindle, On the Parish? The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c. 1550–1750 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004). 5. Slack, Poverty and Policy, p. 170. 6. David Underdown, Fire from Heaven: The Life of an English Town in the Seventeenth Century (London: Harper Collins, 1992). 7. Slack, From Reformation to Improvement, p. 47. 8. Ibid., p. 86. 9. John White to John Winthrop, Nov. 16, 1636, Winthrop Papers, 3:322. 10. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, 5 vols. (Boston, 1853–54), 1:287, 2:173, 164. 11. Marcus W. Jernegan, “The Development of Poor Relief in Colonial New England,” Social Service Review 5:2 ( June 1931): 175–98; Charles R. Lee, “Public Poor Relief and the Massachusetts Community, 1620–1715,” New England Quarterly 55:4 (Dec. 1982): 564–85; Darrett B. Rutman, Winthrop’s Boston: Portrait of a Puritan Town, 1630–1649 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965), chap. 8; Stephen Foster, Their Solitary Way: The Puritan Social Ethic in the First Century of Settlement in New England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1971), chap. 5. 12. Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, Fourth Report: Dorchester Town Records, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1883), pp. 317, 237. Online at /fourthreportofre04bost. 13. Rutman, Winthrop’s Boston, p. 230; Lee, “Public Poor Relief,” 577, 581. 14. Barry Levy, Town Born: The Political Economy of New England from Its Founding to the Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), pp. 47–48. 15. Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, Fourth Report: Dorchester Town Records, pp. 181, 197, 202, 208, 229, 257–58. 16. Ibid., p. 236. 17. Ibid., p. 237. 18. Ibid., pp. 214, 219. 19. Ibid., pp. 203, 207, 211, 212, 261. 20. Ibid., pp. 166, 181–82, 185. 21. Ruth Wallis Herndon, “ ‘Who Died an Expence to This Town’: Poor Relief in Eighteenth-Century Rhode Island,” in Down and Out in Early America, ed. Billy G. Smith (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004); Ruth Wallis Herndon, Unwelcome Americans: Living on the Margin in Early New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

Notes to Pages 117–128


22. Gary B. Nash, “Poverty and Politics in Early American History,” in Smith, Down and Out in Early America, chap. 1; Heli Meltsner, The Poorhouses of Massachusetts: A Cultural and Architectural History ( Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012). 23. I. Smith Homans, History of Boston from 1630 to 1856 (Boston: F. C. Moore, 1856), p. 55; Eric Nellis and Anne Decker Cecere, eds., The Eighteenth-Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2007), chap. 3. 24. Priscilla Ferguson Clement, Welfare and the Poor in the Nineteenth-Century City: Philadelphia, 1800–1854 (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), chap. 2; John K. Alexander, Render Them Submissive: Responses to Poverty in Philadelphia, 1760–1800 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980); Mara Kaktins, “Almshouses (Poorhouses),” in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, http://philadelphiaencyclopedia .org/archive/almshouses-poorhouses. 25. Harold Kirker and James Kirker, Bulfinch’s Boston, 1787–1817 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964); Meltsner, Poorhouses of Massachusetts, pp. 90–91. More generally: Christine Leigh Heyrman, “The Fashion among More Superior People: Charity and Social Change in Provincial New England, 1700–1740,” American Quarterly 34:2 (Summer 1982): 107–24.

chapter 9. Inventing Foundations

1. Gary B. Nash, First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), p. 70; Edwin Wolf, Philadelphia: Portrait of an American City. A Bicentennial History (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1975); Nicholas Garrison, “A View of the House of Employment, Alms-House, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Part of the City of Philadelphia,” 1767, New York Public Library, Digital Collections,; Benjamin Easburn, “A Plan of the City of Philadelphia, 1776,” Free Library of Philadelphia, Digital Collections, 2. Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992); David A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680–1800 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1983). 3. Bell, Cult of the Nation, p. 4. 4. Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History, new ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2018); Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Americas: A Hemispheric History (New York: Modern Library, 2003). 5. John M. Murrin, “A Roof without Walls: The Dilemma of Early American National Identity,” in Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity, ed. Richard Beeman et al. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Michael A. McDonnell, “War and Nationhood: Founding Myths and Historical Realities,” in Remembering the Revolution: Memory, History and Nation Making from Independence to the Civil War, ed. Michael A. McDonnell et al. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), pp. 19–40. 6. Simon P. Newman, Parades and the Politics of the Street: Festive Culture in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999); Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Boyd C. Shafer, Faces of Nationalism: New


Notes to Pages 129–135

Realities and Old Myths (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), chaps. 6–7; Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London: Sage, 1995); Rachel Tsang and Eric Taylor Woods, eds., The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation-Building: Ritual and Performance in the Forging of Nations (London: Routledge, 2014). 7. Hobsbawm and Ranger, Invention of Tradition; David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776–1820 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997); Drew Gilpin Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988); John R. Gillis, ed., Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994); Stefan Berger and Christoph Conrad, eds., The Past as History: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 8. Mona Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 9. 9. Mark A. Noll, “The Image of the United States as a Biblical Nation, 1776–1865,” in The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, ed. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 39–58; Eran Shalev, American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013). On Paine: Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976). 10. David Ramsey, An Oration, Delivered on the Anniversary of American Independence, July 4th, 1794 (London, 1795), pp. 5, 17; Samuel Stillman, An Oration Delivered July 4th, 1789, at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston (Boston, 1789), p. 20; John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 6:23 (Nov. 1839): 426–30. 11. Ralph V. Turner, Magna Carta: Through the Ages (Harlow, UK: Pearson/Longman, 2003). 12. Mona Ozouf, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” in Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, 3 vols., ed. Pierre Nora (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996–98), 3:77–116. 13. Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Knopf, 1997), chap. 4; Newman, Parades and the Politics of the Street; Len Travers, Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rise of Nationalism in the Early Republic (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997). 14. Faust, Creation of Confederate Nationalism, p. 21.

chapter 10. Mobile Metaphors of Nationalism

1. Malcolm Freiberg, “The Winthrops and Their Papers,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 80 (1968): 55–70. 2. “Constitution of the Historical Society” and “Introductory Address from the Historical Society to the Public,” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1 (1792): 1–4; Louis Leonard Tucker, The Massachusetts Historical Society: A Bicentennial History, 1791–1991 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995). 3. Memoirs of Hon. Thomas Lindall Winthrop, LL.D. (Boston, 1857). 4. “June Meeting, 1872,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 12 (1871–73): 233–37. 5. “List of 22 Historical Books Dated 1607–1728—Sent F. B. Winthrop to Reverend Samuel Miller, 30 January 1809,” New-York Historical Society Archives, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society. For additional details of the Model’s

Notes to Pages 135–140


early years: Richard M. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012), chap. 4. 6. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill, p. 95. On Folsom: Lyman Horace Weeks, ed., Prominent Families of New York, rev. ed. (New York: Historical Company, 1897), p. 221. 7. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3rd ser., 7 (1838): 29–30, 32, 33–48. 8. American Quarterly Register 13:2 (Nov. 1840): 213–20. David F. Allmendinger Jr., “The Strangeness of the American Education Society: Indigent Students and the New Charity, 1815–1840,” History of Education Quarterly 11:1 (Spring 1971): 3–22. 9. Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson, eds., A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 10 vols. (New York: W. E. Benjamin, 1888), 1:304–7. 10. John Gorham Palfrey, History of New England, vol. 1 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1858), pp. 312–13; Charles F. Richardson, ed., American Literature, 1607–1885, 2 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889–91), 1:90–91. Moses Coit Tyler gave a page to the Model in his A History of American Literature, 1607–1865 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1878). On Bancroft: Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill, pp. 102–5. 11. Noah Webster, History of the United States (Columbus, OH: J. N. Whiting, 1841); Charles A. Goodrich, History of the United States of America on a Plan Adapted to the Capacity of Youth (Boston: Jenks, Hickling, and Swan, 1852); Edward Eggleston, A History of the United States and Its People for the Use of Schools (New York: D. Appleton, 1889); Edward Channing, A Students’ History of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1904); David Saville Muzzey, An American History (Boston: Ginn, 1911); Woodrow Wilson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1902). 12. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, 18 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1903). 13. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Report of the Commission to Procure Memorial Statues for the National Statuary Hall at Washington (Boston, 1877). 14. Michael G. Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (New York: Knopf, 1991); Michael A. McDonnell et al., eds., Remembering the Revolution: Memory, History, and Nation Making from Independence to the Civil War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013); Harlow W. Sheidley, Sectional Nationalism: Massachusetts Conservative Leaders and the Transformation of America, 1815–1836 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998), chap. 5; Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). 15. Annals of the Congress on the United States, 1789–1824, HeinOnline, https://www; The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Digital Edition, ed. John P. Kaminski et al. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009–2018), http://rotunda.upress.virginia .edu/founders/RNCN.html. 16. John Adams to Nathaniel Greene, Mar. 1780, The Adams Papers Digital Edition, ed. C. James Taylor (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), http://www.upress 17. William Plummer Jr., An Address Delivered at Portsmouth, N.H, on the Fourth of July, 1828 (Portsmouth, NH, 1828), p. 23; Paul Dean, A Discourse, Delivered at the Annual Election, Jan. 4, 1832 (Boston, 1832), p. 34. 18. Sketch of the Life and Public Services of Gen. Lewis Cass (Washington, DC, 1848), p. 7. 19. Rev. J. W. Wiley, “The Daughters of China,” The Ladies’ Repository 15 (Mar. 1855); “On Certain Errors of Pious Students in Our Colleges,” Home, the School and the Church, or, The Presbyterian Education Repository 1 (1850): 79; “Masonic Record,” North American, or,


Notes to Pages 140–143

Weekly Journal of Politics, Science, and Literature 1 (Oct. 13, 1827): 22; James L. Ridgely, Oration Delivered in Faneuil Hall, before the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Boston, 1845), p. 38; “The Feeding of Cotton Plants,” Southern Cultivator 8 (April 1850): 49; “Book Farming,” New York Farmer 8 ( June 1835): 170. 20. New York Mirror, Dec. 5, 1829, p. 174; “Brooklyn on a Hill,” New York Evangelist 62 (Feb. 12, 1891): 7; Proceedings of the National Convention of Insurance Commissioners (1918), p. 129; “Baltimore and Her Great Railroad,” American Farmer 2 (Dec. 1867): 178; “Some Things about Akron,” Ohio Farmer 18 (May 15, 1869): 312; Albert D. Richardson, Our New States and Territories, Being Notes of a Recent Tour of Observations through Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Montana, Washington Territory, and California (New York, 1866), p. 44. 21. Jonathan Kittredge, An Address Delivered before the Temperance Society of Plymouth, N.H., July 4, 1829 (Boston, 1830), p. 18; Irving Fisher, “Can Prohibition Drive Out Drink?,” Independent, Jan. 4, 1919, p. 97. 22. “New Hampshire Democracy and Massachusetts Whigism,” Liberator 16 (Mar. 6, 1846), p. 38. 23. Charles W. Webber, The Gold Mines of the Gila, vol. 2 (New York, 1849), p. 175. 24. The Morality of Public Men: A Second Letter to the Right Hon. the Earl of Derby (London, 1853), p. 12; [Elizabeth Heyrick], Appeal to the Hearts and Consciences of British Women (Leicester, 1828), p. 15. 25. Maximilien Robespierre, “Sur les principes de morale politique qui doivent guider la convention nationale dans l’administration intérieure de la république,” in Oeuvres de Robespierre, ed. A. Vermorel (Paris, 1866), p. 295. On Michelet: Tzvetan Todorov, On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 210–11. More generally: Tyler Stovall, Transnational France: The Modern History of a Universal Nation (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015). 26. James E. Sanders, The Vanguard of the Atlantic World: Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), pp. 85, 88. 27. Samuel Sherwood, The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness: An Address on the Times (New York, 1776), pp. 46–47. More generally: James P. Byrd, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607–1876 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Mark A. Noll, “The Image of the United States as a Biblical Nation, 1776–1865,” in The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, ed. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 39–58. 28. Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Poganuc People,” in The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe , 16 vols., Riverside ed. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1896), 11:139–40. 29. Andrew Jackson, “Farewell Address,” Mar. 4, 1837, The American Presidency Project, Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., 30. William Carey Crane, Life and Selected Literary Remains of Sam Houston of Texas (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1884), p. 287; John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 6:23 (Nov. 1839): 430; Charleston Courier, July 4, 1845, quoted in Merle Curti, The Roots of American Loyalty (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946), p. 68. 31. Quoted in Drew Gilpin Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), p. 26.

Notes to Pages 143–153


32. Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, p. 66; Mary Anne Perkins, Nation and Word, 1770–1850: Religious and Metaphorical Language in European National Consciousness (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1999), p. 165. 33. Pasi Ihalainen, Protestant Nations Redefined: Changing Perceptions of National Identity in the Rhetoric of the English, Dutch, and Swedish Public Churches, 1685–1772 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), pp. 135–36; Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987), chap. 2; Philip S. Gorski, “The Mosaic Moment: An Early Modernist Critique of Modernist Theories of Nationalism,” American Journal of Sociology 105:5 (Mar. 2000): 1428–68. 34. Quoted in Michael Lind, The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution (New York: Free Press, 1996), p. 231. 35. Perkins, Nation and Word, p. 146. See also “Chosen Peoples,” special issue of Nations and Nationalism 5:3 ( July 1999); Anthony D. Smith, Chosen Peoples (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). 36. Todd Gitlin and Liel Liebovitz, The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), chap. 1. 37. Thomas Jefferson, “Inaugural Address,” Mar. 4, 1801, The American Presidency Project,; John Adams to Benjamin Rush, Oct. 22, 1812, in Old Family Letters (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1892), p. 311; Robert C. Winthrop, “The Oregon Question and the Treaty of Washington,” Mar. 18, 1844, quoted in Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, p. 222; Abraham Lincoln, “Address to the New Jersey State Senate, Feb. 21, 1861,” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler et al., 9 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953–55), 4:236.

chapter 11. From the Top Mast

1. Herman Melville, White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War (1850), The Writings of Herman Melville, Northwestern-Newberry ed., vol. 5 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), pp. 3–5 2. Ibid., pp. 150–51. 3. Henry Southgate, ed., Many Thoughts of Many Minds, 3rd ed. (London: Griffin, Bone, 1862), p. 468; Elon Foster, New Cyclopaedia of Prose Illustrations (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1877), pp. 612–13. 4. The Letters of Herman Melville, ed. Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1960), p. 106; Willard Thorp, “Historical Note,” to Melville, White-Jacket. 5. Melville, White-Jacket, pp. 138, 297 and, more generally, chaps. 33–36. 6. Ibid., pp. 375, 194. 7. O. A. Brownson, An Address Delivered at Dedham on the Fifty-Eighth Anniversary of American Independence, July 4, 1834 (Dedham, MA, 1834), pp. 3–4, 10; O. A. Brownson, An Oration before the Democracy of Worcester and Vicinity, Delivered at Worcester, Mass., July 4, 1840 (Boston, 1840), p. 34. 8. Margaret Fuller, “American Facts,” in Life Without and Life Within: Reviews, Narratives, Essays, and Poems (Boston, 1859), p. 108. 9. “The Stain on Our National Character,” Liberator, Apr. 7, 1848, p. 54. 10. American Anti-Slavery Society, Annual Report (New York, 1855), p. 13. 11. Frederick Douglass, “Anthony Burns Returned to Slavery,” in Frederick Douglass, Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Philip S. Foner (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999), p. 281.


Notes to Pages 154–163

12. Frederick Douglass, “The Dred Scott Decision,” in Douglass, Selected Speeches and Writings, p. 350. More generally: David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). 13. Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975). 14. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler et al., 9 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953–55), searchable online at /lincoln. Lincoln used the “almost chosen people” phrase in his “Address to the New Jersey State Senate, Feb. 21, 1861,” ibid., 4:236. 15. Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 432, 433; George Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), p. 55. 16. Drew Gilpin Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), p. 29. 17. Harry S. Stout, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the American Civil War (New York: Viking, 2006); Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607–1876 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), chap. 7; Leonard Rogoff, “Who Is Israel? Yankees, Confederates, African Americans, and Jews,” American Jewish Archives Journal 64:1–2 (2012): 33. 18. Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1865,” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8:333; Richard Carwardine, “Lincoln’s Religion,” in Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, ed. Eric Foner (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), p. 238. 19. Abraham Lincoln, “Address at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Feb. 22, 1861,” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 4:240.

chapter 12. Constructing a City on a Hill in Africa

1. Quoted in Richard West, Back to Africa: A History of Sierra Leone and Liberia (London: Cape, 1970), pp. 139–40. On the American Colonization Society and its Liberia project: James Ciment, Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It (New York: Hill and Wang, 2013); Nicholas Guyatt, “ ‘The Outskirts of Our Happiness’: Race and the Lure of Colonization in the Early Republic,” Journal of American History 95:4 (Mar. 2009): 986–1011; Claude A. Clegg III, The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Charles S. Johnson, Bitter Canaan: The Story of the Negro Republic (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987); Tom W. Shick, Behold the Promised Land: A History of Afro-American Settler Society in Nineteenth-Century Liberia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980). 2. Tom W. Shick, “A Quantitative Analysis of Liberian Colonization from 1820 to 1843 with Special Reference to Mortality,” Journal of African History 12:1 (1971): 45–59. 3. “Address Delivered before a Society in North Carolina, Auxiliary to the Society at Washington, for Colonizing the Free People of Colour on the Coast of Africa,” African Repository 3:3 (May 1827); “Twenty-First Annual Meeting of the American Colonization Society,” African Repository 14:1 ( Jan. 1838). 4. American Colonization Society, Eighth Annual Report (Washington, DC, 1825), pp. 13–14. 5. Leslie M. Alexander, African or American? Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784–1861 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), p.180; Frederick Douglass, “Henry Clay,” North Star, Jan. 28, 1848; Frederick Douglass’ Paper, Feb. 26, 1852.

Notes to Pages 163–173


6. Frederick Douglass, “Emigration to Hayti,” Douglass’ Monthly, Jan. 1861; Frederick Douglass, “A Trip to Haiti,” Douglass’ Monthly, May 1861. On Douglass and the emigration movement: David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), chap. 6. 7. Joseph Saye Guannu, ed., The Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of Liberia: From Joseph Jenkins Roberts to William Richard Tolbert, Jr., 1848 to 1976 (Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1980), pp. 84, 28, 179. 8. Hollis R. Lynch, ed., Black Spokesman: Selected Published Writings of Edward Wilmot Blyden (New York: Humanities Press, 1971), pp. 27, 50, 43. 9. Guannu, Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of Liberia, p. 13; Lynch, Black Spokesman, p. 79. 10. Hilary Teage, “Liberia Anniversary Oration, Delivered December 1st, 1846, in the Baptist Church of Monrovia,” African Repository 239: 9 (Sept. 1847); Guannu, Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of Liberia, pp. 63, 78, 87. 11. Booker T. Washington, ed., Tuskegee and Its People: Their Ideals and Achievements (New York: Appleton, 1905), p. 56; “Bishop W. T. Vernon on Booker T. Washington,” Chicago Defender, Apr. 25, 1931, p. 15. 12. Louis R. Harlan, “Booker T. Washington and the White Man’s Burden,” American Historical Review 71:2 ( Jan. 1966): 441–67; Louis R. Harlan, Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901–1915 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), chap. 11. 13. West, Back to Africa, p. 267; Ibrahim Sundiata, Brothers and Strangers: Black Zion, Black Slavery, 1914–1940 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), p. 19. 14. W.E.B. Du Bois, “The African Roots of War,” Atlantic Monthly 115 (May 1915): 707–14. On Du Bois and Africa: David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt, 2009), chap. 15; Frank Chalk, “Du Bois and Garvey Confront Liberia: Two Incidents of the Coolidge Years,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 1:2 (Nov. 1967): 135–42; James Campbell, Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787–2005 (New York: Penguin, 2006), chap. 6. 15. W.E.B. Du Bois, “Little Portraits of Africa,” Crisis, Apr. 1924, pp. 273–74; W.E.B. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept (New York: Schocken Books, 1940), chap. 5; W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Primitive Black Man,” Nation, Dec. 17, 1924, 675–76. 16. Du Bois, “Little Portraits of Africa”; Langston Hughes, “Ships, Sea, and Africa: Random Impressions of a Sailor on His First Trip down the West Coast of the Motherland,” Crisis, Dec. 1923, pp. 69–71. 17. W.E.B. Du Bois, “Worlds of Color,” Foreign Affairs 3:3 (Apr. 1925): 444; W.E.B. Du Bois, “Sensitive Liberia,” Crisis, May 1924, p. 10. 18. Du Bois, “Worlds of Color,” p. 444.

chapter 13. The Carnage of God’s Chosen Nations

1. Lloyd C. Gardner, Walter F. LaFeber, and Thomas J. McCormick, Creation of the American Empire: U.S. Diplomatic History (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1973), p. 4; Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Paterson, eds., Major Problems in American Foreign Relations: Documents and Essays, vol. 1, To 1920, 7th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth, 2010), p. 31. 2. Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997); Robert Kagan, Dangerous Nation (New York: Knopf, 2006); Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008); Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York: Knopf, 2012).


Notes to Pages 174–182

McDougall partially retracted his earlier thesis in “The Unlikely History of American Exceptionalism,” American Interest 8:4 (Mar.–Apr. 2013): 6–15. 3. John L. O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17 ( July–Aug. 1845): 5–10; Albert J. Beveridge, The Meaning of the Times and Other Speeches (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1908), p. 85. 4. Perry Anderson, “Imperium,” New Left Review 83 (Sept.–Oct. 1983): 6. 5. Thomas Foxcroft, Grateful Reflexions on the Signal Appearances of Divine Providence for Great Britain and Its Colonies in America (Boston, 1760), pp. 11, 9. More generally: Nicholas S. Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607–1876 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), chap. 2. 6. Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). 7. Walter Nugent, Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion (New York: Knopf, 2008); Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), chap. 4; Frank Ninkovitch, The United States and Imperialism (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001); Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). 8. Peter J. Kastor and Francois Weil, eds., Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009). 9. Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). 10. Theodore Roosevelt, “Fourth Annual Message to Congress,” Dec. 6, 1904, The American Presidency Project, Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www 11. Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997); Sebastian Conrad, German Colonialism: A Short History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Burbank and Cooper, Empires in World History; Duncan Bell, “Ideologies of Empire,” in The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies, ed. Michael Freeden and Marc Stears (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 12. Albert J. Beveridge, “The Star of Empire,” in Beveridge, Meaning of the Times, pp. 120–21, 131, 133. 13. Albert J. Beveridge, “Speech in the U.S. Senate,” Congressional Record, Jan. 9, 1900, pp. 704, 712. 14. Robert D. Schulzinger, American Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 11. 15. Albert Marrin, The Last Crusade: The Church of England in the First World War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1974), pp. 142, 135; Gerhard Besier, ed., Die protestantischen Kirchen Europas im Ersten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1984), pp. 157, 17; Alice L. Conklin, Sarah Fishman, and Robert Zaretsky, France and Its Empire since 1870, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 132. 16. David Roberts, ed., Minds at War: Poetry of the First World War in Context (Burgess Hill, UK: Saxon Books, 1996), p. 46; Besier, Die protestantischen Kirchen Europas, pp. 156, 18. 17. Roberts, Minds at War, p. 338. 18. Samuel Eliot Morison, ed., The Humble Request of the Massachusetts Puritans and A Modell of Christian Charity by John Winthrop, 1630, Old South Leaflets no. 207 (Boston, 1916), pp. 1–2. 19. Woodrow Wilson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1903); John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1889); Henry

Notes to Pages 182–193


Cabot Lodge, A Short History of the English Colonies in America (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1881). 20. Woodrow Wilson, “The Course of American History,” in Woodrow Wilson, Mere Literature, and Other Essays (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1896). 21. Woodrow Wilson, “Message to the National Army, Aug. 7, 1917,” The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link et al., 69 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966–94), 43:380; Woodrow Wilson, “Address to the Senate, July 10, 1919,” ibid., 61:427–28. 22. Woodrow Wilson, “Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 4, 1917,” ibid., 45:202; Woodrow Wilson, “Remarks to Confederate Veterans, June 5, 1917,” ibid., 42:452. See also Richard M. Gamble, The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2003). 23. Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995). 24. Woodrow Wilson, “Campaign Address in Jersey City, May 25, 1912,” Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 24:443; Woodrow Wilson, “Address to the U.S. Senate, July 10, 1919,” ibid., 61:436; Woodrow Wilson, “Speech at Coeur D’Alene, Sept. 12, 1919,” ibid., 63:213; Woodrow Wilson “Speech at Pueblo, NM, Sept. 25, 1919,” ibid., 63:512. 25. A. J. Hoover, God, Germany, and Britain in the Great War: A Study in Clerical Nationalism (New York: Praeger, 1989), pp. 90, 69; Besier, Die protestantischen Kirchen Europas, p. 131. See also Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (New York: HarperOne, 2014); John F. Piper Jr., The American Churches in World War I (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985). 26. Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone (London: Heinemann, 1929), pp. 183–84.

chapter 14. The Historical Embarrassments of New England

1. Tercentenary of the Founding of Boston: An Account of the Celebration Marking the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Settlement of the Site of the City of Boston, Massachusetts, 1930 (Boston: City of Boston Printing Department, 1930). Online at /tercentenaryoffo00bost/tercentenaryoffo00bost_djvu.txt. 2. Edwin Markham, “Ode to Boston,” in Tercentenary of the Founding of Boston. 3. “Commission Approves Design of Memorial Commemorating Establishment of Boston,” Daily Boston Globe, Jan. 16, 1930, p. 10. 4. Harlow W. Sheidley, Sectional Nationalism: Massachusetts Conservative Leaders and the Transformation of America, 1815–1836 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998), pp. 141–45. 5. Joseph A. Conforti, Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Stephanie Kermes, Creating an American Identity: New England, 1789–1825 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); Sheidley, Sectional Nationalism; John D. Seelye, Memory’s Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Lawrence Buell, New England Literary Culture: From Revolution through Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), chap. 8; Ruth Miller Elson, Guardians of Tradition: American Schoolbooks of the Nineteenth Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964), pp. 169–73. 6. Wesley Frank Craven, The Legend of the Founding Fathers (New York: New York University Press, 1956). 7. George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent to the Present Time, 10 vols. (Boston: Charles Bowen, etc., 1834–74), 1:393–94.


Notes to Pages 193–202

8. Sheidley, Sectional Nationalism, p. 126. See also Ann Uhry Abrams, The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origins (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999). 9. Quoted in Seelye, Memory’s Nation, p. 258; Joshua Barker Whitridge, An Oration Delivered on the Anniversary of the New-England Society, Charleston, S.C., Delivered December 22, 1835 (Charleston, SC, 1836), p. 15; Robert C. Winthrop, An Address Delivered before the New England Society in the City of New York, Dec. 23, 1839 (Boston, 1840), pp. 13, 59. 10. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 4 vols., trans. James T. Schleifer (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010), 1:110–14. 11. Ibid., 1:52–53, 2:455. See also George Wilson Pierson, Tocqueville in America, abridged ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), chap. 8. 12. R. B. Bernstein, The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). 13. David W. Galenson, “The Settlement and Growth of the Colonies: Population, Labor, and Economic Development,” Daniel Vickers, “The Northern Colonies: Economy and Society, 1600–1775,” and Russell E. Menard, “Economic and Social Development of the South,” all in Stanley L. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman, The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vol. 1, The Colonial Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Nicholas Canny, “English Migration into and across the Atlantic in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Europeans on the Move: Studies in European Migration, 1500–1800, ed. Nicholas Canny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 39–75. 14. Mark A. Peterson, “Life on the Margins: Boston’s Anxieties of Influence in the Atlantic World,” in The Atlantic World: Essays on Slavery, Migration, and Imagination, ed. Wim Klooster and Alfred Padula (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005), pp. 45–59; Vickers, “Northern Colonies,” p. 235; Galenson, “Settlement and Growth of the Colonies,” p. 198. 15. Susan-Mary Grant, North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000). 16. John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England; or, the Puritan Theocracy in Its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1889); Charles Francis Adams, Three Episodes of Massachusetts History (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892). 17. Herbert Sherman Houston, “Memorials of Phillips Brooks,” Outlook 61:1 ( Jan. 7, 1899): 61; Kenyon Cox, “Augustus Saint Gaudens,” Century Illustrated Magazine 35:1 (Nov. 1887): 30. 18. William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York: Boni, 1925), pp. 67, 65. 19. Samuel Eliot Morison, “Those Misunderstood Puritans,” Forum and Century 85 (Mar. 1931): 142–47. 20. Mark L. Sargent, “The Conservative Covenant: The Rise of the Mayflower Compact in American Myth,” New England Quarterly 61:2 ( June 1988): 233–51, esp. p. 248; Seelye, Memory’s Nation; Peter J. Gomes, “Puritans and Pilgrims: ‘Heroes’ and ‘Villains” in the Creation of the American Past,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3rd ser., 95 (1983): 1–16. 21. Edmund S. Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and the State (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1967). 22. Adams, Three Episodes, pp. 569, 488. 23. Francis J. Bremer, “Remembering—and Forgetting—John Winthrop and the Puritan Founders,” Massachusetts Historical Review 6 (2004): 38–69. 24. Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought, vol. 1, The Colonial Mind (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927), pp. 6, vii, 43, 47, 50. 25. Tercentenary of the Founding of Boston; “Racial Groups’ Tercentenary Program Begins Tomorrow,” Daily Boston Globe, July 13, 1930, p. B8.

Notes to Pages 203–212


26. None of the printed publications of the Tercentenary Commission included mention of the Model: Samuel Eliot Morison, Historical Background for the Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary in 1930 (Boston, 1928); Massachusetts Historical Society, The Founding of Massachusetts: A Selection from the Sources of the History of the Settlement, 1628–1631 (Boston, 1930); Mrs. N. S. Bell, Pathways of the Puritans (Framingham, MA, 1930); Massachusetts Department of Education, Material Suggested for Use in the Schools in Observance of the Tercentenary of Massachusetts Bay Colony (Boston, 1930).

chapter 15. Puritanism in an Existentialist Key

1. On Perry Miller as a teacher and historian: Edmund S. Morgan, “Perry Miller and the Historians,” Harvard Review 2:2 (1964): 52–59; Ann Douglas, “The Mind of Perry Miller,” New Republic, Feb. 3, 1982, pp. 26–30; Nicholas Guyatt, “ ‘An Instrument of National Policy’: Perry Miller and the Cold War,” Journal of American Studies 36:1 (Apr. 2002): 107–49; David Levin, “Perry Miller at Harvard,” Southern Review 19 (Oct. 1983): 802–16; Kenneth S. Lynn, “Perry Miller,” American Scholar 52:2 (Spring 1983): 221–27. 2. Albert J. Gelpi, “Perry Miller, 1905–1963,” Harvard Review 2:2 (1964): 5–7. 3. Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. viii; Elizabeth Miller to Sanford Searl Jr., quoted in Rivka Maizlish, “Rethinking the Origins of American Studies (with Help from Perry Miller),” U.S. Intellectual History Blog, Nov. 13, 2013, -help-from-perry-miller. 4. Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, pp. 16, viii. 5. Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, eds., The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, 2 vols. (New York: American Book Company, 1938), 1:1. 6. Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought, vol. 1, The Colonial Mind, 1620–1800 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927), p. 6. 7. Perry Miller, “The Marrow of Puritan Divinity,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Feb. 1935), reprinted in Miller, Errand into the Wilderness. Miller’s full statement came in Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (New York: Macmillan, 1939). 8. Miller and Johnson, Puritans, 1:195–99. 9. Miller, New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, pp. 477, 483. 10. Ibid., p. 477. 11. Ibid., chap. 1. 12. Ibid., p. 10. 13. Miller, “Marrow of Puritan Divinity,” in Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, p. 65; Miller, New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, p. 487. 14. George Cotkin, Existential America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). 15. Miller and Johnson, Puritans, 1:63. 16. For Miller’s and Niebuhr’s assessments of each other: Perry Miller, “The Great Method,” Nation 169:6 (Aug. 6, 1949): 138–39; Perry Miller, “The Influence of Reinhold Niebuhr,” Reporter, May 1, 1958, pp. 39–40; Reinhold Niebuhr, review of Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, New Republic 129:5 (Aug. 31, 1953): 18; Reinhold Niebuhr, “Perry Miller and Our Embarrassment,” Harvard Review 2:2 (1964): 49–51. 17. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917–1950 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), pp. 161–63; Robert Coles, “Dr. Percy’s Hold on Medicine,” in The Last Physician: Walker Percy and the Moral Life of Medicine, ed. Carl Elliott and John Lantos (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), p. 12; Robert Coles,


Notes to Pages 213–220

Lives We Carry with Us: Profiles of Moral Courage, ed. David D. Cooper (New York: New Press, 2010). 18. Perry Miller, “Errand into the Wilderness,” first delivered as a lecture at Brown University in 1952, reprinted in Miller, Errand into the Wilderness. An extensive critical literature soon grew up around the essay. Among the particularly acute contributions: Andrew Delbanco, “The Puritan Errand Re-viewed,” Journal of American Studies 18:3 (Dec. 1984): 343–60; Theodore Dwight Bozeman, “The Puritans’ ‘Errand into the Wilderness’ Reconsidered,” New England Quarterly 59:2 ( June 1986): 231–51; Theodore Dwight Bozeman, To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension in Puritanism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Gordon S. Wood, “Struggle over the Puritans,” New York Review of Books, Nov. 9, 1989, pp. 26–34; David D. Hall, “Narrating Puritanism,” in New Directions in American Religious History, ed. Harry S. Stout and D. G. Hart (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). 19. Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 25. 20. Miller, “Errand into the Wilderness,” in Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, p. 11. 21. Perry Miller, “Liberty and Conformity” (1958), in Perry Miller, The Responsibility of Mind in a Civilization of Machines (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1979). 22. Miller, “Errand into the Wilderness,” p. 13; Miller, New England Mind: From Colony to Province, p. 485. 23. Perry Miller, “The Shaping of the American Character” (1955), in Miller, Nature’s Nation, pp. 12–13. 24. Perry Miller, “The Social Context of the Covenant” (1953), in Miller, Responsibility of Mind, p. 157.

chapter 16. Arguing over the Puritans during the Cold War

1. Philip Gleason, “World War II and the Development of American Studies,” American Quarterly 36:3 (1984): 343–58; Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); Wendy L. Wall, Inventing the “American Way”: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Robert H. Walker, American Studies in the United States: A Survey of College Programs (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958); “The American Studies Movement: A Thirty-Year Retrospective,” American Quarterly 31:3 (1979): 289–406; Marvin Wachman, “Colgate’s Course in the American Idea,” Journal of Higher Education 26:5 (May 1955): 243. 2. Perry Miller, “What Drove Me Crazy in Europe,” Atlantic Monthly 187 (Mar. 1951): 41, 45. 3. William Benton, “The Struggle for the Minds and Loyalties of Mankind,” Congressional Record, Mar. 22, 1950, pp. 3763–65. 4. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Chicago,” July 11, 1952, The American Presidency Project (hereafter “APP”), Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www.presidency 5. John Jessup, The Third Estate: Selections from the Writings of John Knox Jessup, ed. Henry Grunwald (privately printed), pp. 29, 32. 6. Clinton Rossiter, “The American Mission,” American Scholar 20:1 (Winter 1950/51): 19–28; Harvey Wish, Society and Thought in America, vol. 1 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1950), chap. 2; Edward M. Burns, The American Idea of Mission: Concepts of National Purpose and Destiny (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1957).

Notes to Pages 220–227


7. Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958); Jon Butler, “In Memoriam: Edmund Sears Morgan,” Perspectives on History, Dec. 2013, p. 39. 8. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York: Random House, 1958), bk. 1. 9. John P. Diggins, “The Perils of Naturalism: Some Reflections on Daniel J. Boorstin’s Approach to American History,” American Quarterly 23:2 (May 1971): 153–80; Daniel J. Boorstin, The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Holt, 1948); Daniel J. Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), p. 187. 10. Daniel J. Boorstin, ed., An American Primer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966). 11. John F. Kennedy, “Inaugural Address,” Jan. 20, 1961, APP. 12. “Text of Kennedy’s Speech,” New York Times, Jan. 10, 1961, p. 20. 13. Richard M. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012), p. 133; Arthur S. Schlesinger Jr. to “Fred,” c. Jan. 6, 1961, in John F. Kennedy Papers, Speech Files, Address to the Massachusetts State Legislature, Jan. 9, 1961, -001.aspx; “The Progressive Spirit in an Age of Conformity—Address by Senator Douglas,” Congressional Record, appx., Mar. 2, 1957, pp. A1659–60. 14. “State House Talk Seen as Call for Moral Uplift in Bay State,” Boston Globe, Jan. 10, 1961, p. 1; “Kennedy Pledges Rule of Integrity,” New York Times, Jan. 10, 1961, pp. 1ff.; Charles L. Whipple, “Dirty Money in Boston,” Atlantic Monthly, Mar. 1961, pp. 41–46. 15. John F. Kennedy, “Remarks at a Dinner for the Big Brothers of America,” June 7, 1961, APP. 16. John W. Jeffries, “The ‘Quest for National Purpose’ of 1960,” American Quarterly 30:4 (Autumn 1978): 451–70; John K. Jessup, “A Noble Framework for a Great Debate,” Life, May 23, 1960, p. 25. 17. John F. Kennedy, “We Must Climb to the Hilltop,” Life, Aug. 22, 1960, pp. 70ff. 18. Albert H. Rosenthal, “Ideas Are Weapons,” Congressional Record, appx., Sept. 6, 1961, pp. A7021–22. 19. Lyndon B. Johnson, “Remarks in Boston at Post Office Square,” Oct. 27, 1964, APP; Richard M. Nixon, “Remarks to the 89th Annual International Meeting of the Knights of Columbus in New York City,” Aug. 17, 1971, APP; George McGovern, An American Journey: The Presidential Campaign Speeches of George McGovern (New York: Randon House, 1974), p. 212. 20. Robert F. Kennedy, “Racial Problems in the North: Speech to the National Council of Christians and Jews,” in RFK: Collected Speeches, ed. Edwin Guthman and C. Richard Allen (New York: Viking, 1993), p. 158; Hubert Humphrey, “Address to the Citizens Crusade against Poverty,” Feb. 10, 1965, Congressional Record, Feb. 17, 1965, p. 2824. 21. Oscar Handlin, ed., American Principles and Issues: The National Purpose (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961), pp. 33–34. 22. Merle Curti, The Growth of American Thought, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943); Boorstin, An American Primer; Loren Baritz, ed., Sources of the American Mind: A Collection of Documents and Texts in American Intellectual History (New York: Wiley, 1966); Cleanth Brooks, R.W.B. Lewis, and Robert Penn Warren, eds., American Literature: The Makers and the Making (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973). 23. Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Daedalus 96:1 (Winter 1967): 1–21; Robert N. Bellah, The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975).


Notes to Pages 228–235

24. Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, American Pageant: A History of the Republic, 6th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath, 1979); Charles M. Dollar et al., eds., America: Changing Times (New York: Wiley, 1979). 25. John F. Kennedy, “Three Women of Courage,” McCall’s, Jan. 1958. 26. Rev. D. Paul Reaser in the Congressional Record, July 20, 1973, p. 25249. 27. Christopher Looby, “Scholar and Exegete: A Tribute to Sacvan Bercovitch,” Early American Literature 39:1 (2004): 1–9; Sacvan Bercovitch, “Introduction: The Music of America,” in his The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America (New York: Routledge, 1993). 28. Doris Friedensohn, “The Mid-Life Crisis of American Studies,” American Quarterly 31:3 (1979): 372–76. 29. Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); Sacvan Bercovitch, “How the Puritans Won the American Revolution,” Massachusetts Quarterly 17 (1976): 597–663; Sacvan Bercovitch, “The Rites of Assent: Rhetoric, Ritual, and the Ideology of American Consensus,” in The American Self: Myth, Ideology, and Popular Culture, ed. Sam B. Girgus (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981), pp. 5–42. 30. Sacvan Bercovitch, “The Biblical Basis of the American Myth,” in The Bible and American Arts and Letters, ed., Giles Gunn (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983), p. 223; Sacvan Bercovitch, Preface to the 2011 edition of The Puritan Origins of the American Self, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), pp. xi–xii. 31. Ibid., p. xix. 32. For important critiques of Bercovitch’s work: David Harlan, “A People Blinded from Birth: American History According to Sacvan Bercovitch,” Journal of American History 78:3 (Dec. 1991): 949–71; Donald Weber et al., “Symposium on The Puritan Origins of the American Self,” Early American Literature 47:2 (2012): 377–441; Michael P. Winship, “What Puritan Guarantee?,” Early American Literature 47:2 (2012): 411–20.

chapter 17. Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill

1. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana,” Aug. 15, 1988, The American Presidency Project (hereafter “APP”), Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., 2. Reagan, “Remarks at Oath Taking Ceremony, State Capitol Rotunda, Sacramento, CA,” Jan. 2, 1967, Ronald Reagan, Governor’s Papers, Press Unit, Series III: Speeches, box P17, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (hereafter “RRPL”). 3. Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 (New York: Harper, 2008), p. 58. The false quotation was “It would not matter if 3/4 of the human race perished; the important thing is that the remaining 1/4 be communist.” 4. Ronald Reagan, “Commencement Address at Eureka College,” 1957, Reagan 2020,; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks to the First Conservative Political Action Conference,” Jan. 25, 1974, Reagan 2020,; George Lippard, “The Unknown Speaker,” in Wilmot Brookings Mitchell, ed., School and College Speaker (New York: Henry Holt, 1902), pp. 275–78. 5. Ronald Reagan, The Notes: Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom, ed. Douglas Brinkley (New York: Harper, 2011), p. 34; William Safire, ed., Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (New York: Norton, 1992), p. 7. 6. Ken Khachigian, “Memorandum for the President-Elect: First Draft of Inaugural Address,” Jan. 4, 1981, Kenneth L. Khachigian Files, box 1, RRPL.

Notes to Pages 235–240


7. Larry Seidler to Tony Dolan, “Corrections in ‘Vision of America’ Speech,” Oct. 29, 1980, Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential Campaign Papers, Series XXII, Tony Dolan Files, box 865, RRPL. 8. Reagan, Notes, p. 7. By this point Reagan had altered Winthrop’s “through” to “throughout.” In his earliest use of Winthrop’s words, in his speeches of 1969–70, he had quoted them correctly. 9. Jerry C. Martin, “Information and Policy Research for Ronald Reagan, 1969–75,” an interview conducted by Sarah Sharp for the Government History Documentation Project, Ronald Reagan Gubernatorial Era, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, pp. 28–29. 10. Speechwriting Office Files, RRPL; Edwin Meese Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University (hereafter “Edwin Meese Papers”). Some of these handwritten texts are collected in Reagan, In His Own Hand, ed. Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson (New York: Free Press, 2001). 11. Jerry R. Martin to Ronald Reagan, Jan. 14, 1974, and “Remarks to the American Conservative Union/Young Americans for Freedom Political Action Conference, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC,” Jan. 25, 1974, draft, both in Edwin Meese Papers, box 280: RR: Speeches/Drafts/Articles 1970–1974, Hoover Institution Archives, courtesy of Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University. 12. “Speech to the Board of Governors of the Ronald Reagan Library Foundation,” Dec. 14, 1985, draft, White House Office of Speechwriting, Speech Drafts, box 244, RRPL. 13. Anthony Dolan, “Presidential Remarks: Lighting of the Statue of Liberty, Governors’ Island, New York,” July 3, 1986, draft dated June 29, 1986, Anthony R. Dolan Files, box 44, RRPL. 14. Anthony Dolan, “Remarks at the Heritage Foundation Dinner,” Oct. 3, 1983, draft, Dolan Files, box 23, RRPL. 15. Anthony Dolan to Edwin Meese, c. June 1980, Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential Campaign Papers, 1964–1980, box 867, RRPL. 16. Ronald Reagan, “Farewell Address to the Nation,” Jan. 11, 1989, APP. 17. Reagan, In His Own Hand, pp. 13–15. 18. Ronald Reagan, “Address to the Employees of Forest Lawn,” Nov. 2, 1961, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, Series IV, Subseries C: Reagan Speeches, 1952–1978, box 424, RRPL. 19. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks Announcing Candidacy for the Republican Presidential Nomination,” Nov. 13, 1979, APP. 20. “Text of Kennedy’s Speech,” New York Times, Jan. 10, 1961, p. 20. 21. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York: Random House, 1958), p. 3. 22. Ronald Reagan, “A Time for Choosing” (1964), in A Time for Choosing: The Speeches of Ronald Reagan, 1961–1982, ed. Alfred A. Balitzer and Gerald M. Bonetto (Chicago: Regnery, 1983). 23. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at John F. Kennedy High School, Fremont, CA,” June 13, 1973, Edwin Meese Papers, box 282. 24. Reagan, “Speech to the Economic Club of New York, New York City,” Jan. 17, 1966, Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential Campaign Papers, box 873, RRPL. 25. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at an Eisenhower College Fund Raising Luncheon,” Oct. 14, 1969, Gubernatorial Papers, 1966–75, Press Unit—Speeches 8/1/68 to 12/31/72, box P18, RRPL.


Notes to Pages 240–245

26. Ronald Reagan, “Election Eve Address: A Vision for America,” Nov. 3, 1980, APP. 27. “Draft—Report to the People Script—Campus Unrest 1968,” Edwin Meese Papers, box 284. 28. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at a Luncheon Sponsored by the Independent Colleges of Southern California, Los Angeles Music Center,” May 23, 1969; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at an Eisenhower College Fund Raising Dinner, Washington, DC,” October 14, 1969; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at a Eureka College Fund Raising Luncheon, Chicago, IL,” Oct. 22, 1969; Ronald Reagan, “Address at Pepperdine College,” Feb. 9, 1970, all in Gubernatorial Papers, 1966–75, Press Unit—Speeches 8/1/68 to 12/31/72, box P18, RRPL. The second of these speeches is reprinted in Ronald Reagan, Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989). For yet another version of the same speech: Ronald Reagan, “Commencement Address at Azusa-Pacific College, Azusa, CA,” May 5, 1973, Gubernatorial Records, Research Files (Mary Sturgis Tuttle), box G0199, RRPL. 29. Reagan, “Remarks to the First Conservative Political Action Conference.” 30. Ronald Reagan, “The New Republican Party: Remarks to the Fourth Annual CPAC Convention,” Feb. 6, 1977, Reagan 2020, _Republican_Party.asp. 31. Ronald Reagan, In His Own Hand (New York: Free Press, 2001), p. 140. 32. Ronald Reagan, “Let Them Go Their Way: Remarks to the 2nd Annual CPAC Convention,” Mar. 1, 1975, Reagan 2020, _Their_Way.asp. 33. Reagan, “Election Eve Address.” 34. Jimmy Carter, “Address to the Nation on Energy and Policy Goals,” July 15, 1979, APP. 35. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at a Dinner Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Heritage Foundation,” Oct. 8, 1983, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Final Radio Address to the Nation,” Jan. 14, 1989, APP. 36. “Draft—Report to the People Script—Campus Unrest 1968.” 37. Reagan, “Remarks at a Luncheon Sponsored by the Independent Colleges of Southern California”; Reagan, “Commencement Address at Azusa-Pacific College, Azusa, CA.” 38. Anthony Dolan to Edwin Meese, c. June 1980, Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential Campaign Papers, box 867, RRPL; Reagan, “Election Eve Address.” 39. Anthony Dolan, “Election Eve Address: A Vision for America,” draft, Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential Campaign Papers, box 867, RRPL. 40. Reagan, “Election Eve Address”; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at a Luncheon of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia,” Oct. 15, 1981, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Proclamation 4850—Captive Nations Week,” June 30, 1981, APP­; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National League of Cities in Los Angeles, CA,” Nov. 29, 1982, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Address to the Nation on the Eve of the Presidential Election,” Nov. 5, 1984, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks to the Annual Convention of the Texas State Bar Association,” July 6, 1984, APP. 41. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Welcoming Rally at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana,” Aug. 14, 1988, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana,” Aug. 15, 1988, APP; Ronald Reagan, “Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas,” Aug. 23, 1984, APP. 42. Reagan, “Farewell Address to the Nation.” 43. Reagan, “Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas.”

Notes to Pages 246–252


44. Reagan, “Remarks Announcing Candidacy for the Republican Presidential Nomination.” 45. Reagan, “Final Radio Address to the Nation.”

chapter 18. Puritan Foundations of an “Exceptionalist” Nation

1. Mario Cuomo, “Keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention,” American Rhetoric, .htm; Michael Dukakis, “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta,” July 21, 1988, The American Presidency Project (hereafter “APP”), Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds.,; Bill Clinton, “Remarks to the Democratic Leadership Council,” Oct. 27, 1997, APP; Al Gore, “Speech on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta,” Jan. 17, 2000, Clinton White House, /speeches/mlk_other.html. 2. Sarah Palin, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), chap. 3; Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich, A City upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism [video] (Washington, DC: Citizens United Productions, 2011); George W. Bush, “Remarks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles,” Mar. 6, 2000, APP. 3. Hillary Clinton, “Speech to the American Legion in Cincinnati,” Aug. 31, 2016, Time .com, 4. John M. Murrin et al., Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1996), p. 70; Paul S. Boyer, American History: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 11–13. 5. “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies. Subchapter C. High School. United States History Studies since 1877, Beginning with the School Year 2011–12,” Texas Education Agency,; Russell Shorto, “How Christian Were the Founders? History Wars: Inside America’s Textbook Battles,” New York Times Magazine, Feb. 14, 2010, pp. 32ff. 6. Larry Krieger and Jane Robbins, “Five Reasons Why the College Board’s U.S. History Talking Points Are Wrong,” The Federalist, Sept. 17, 2014, /09/17/five-reasons-the-college-boards-u-s-history-talking-points-are-wrong/hat; Stanley Kurtz, “A Hard Left for High-School History,” National Review 66:20 (Nov. 3, 2014): 25–26; Stanley Kurtz, “Sorry, Still No Exceptionalism in APUSH, National Review 66:20 (Nov. 3, 2014): 25–26; Peter Wood, “APUSH: The New, New History,” Academic Questions 29 (2015): 224–35; “Letter Opposing the 2014 APUSH Framework,” National Association of Scholars (NAS), June 2, 2015, _Statement.pdf. 7. Republican National Committee, “Resolution Concerning Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH),” Aug. 8, 2014, /RESOLUTION_CONCERNING_ADVANCED_PLACEMENT_US_HISTORY _APUSH.pdf; State of Oklahoma, 55th Legislature, 1st Session, (2015), House Bill 1380, p. 3. 8. Peter Wood, “AP History and Us,” NAS, Aug. 6, 2015, /ap_history and_us; Terry Golway, ed., American Political Speeches (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. xxvi. 9. Daniel T. Rodgers, “Exceptionalism,” in Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past, ed. Anthony Molho and Gordon S. Wood (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), pp. 21–40; Daniel T. Rodgers, “American Exceptionalism Revisited,” Raritan Review 24 (Fall 2004): 21–47. For acute critiques of exceptionalism: Walter A.


Notes to Pages 253–259

McDougall, “American Exceptionalism . . . Exposed,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, Oct. 13, 2012,; Richard Gamble, “Reconsidering American Exceptionalism,” The Imaginative Conservative, Oct. 8, 2013, -exceptionalism.html; James W. Ceasar, “The Origins and Character of American Exceptionalism,” American Political Thought 1:1 (May 2012): 3–28. 10. Seymour Martin Lipset, The First New Nation: The United States in Comparative and Historical Perspective (New York: Basic Books, 1963), p. vii; Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: Norton, 1996). 11. Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). 12. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. James T. Schleifer, 4 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010), 3:767–68. See also Aurelian Craiutu and Jeremy Jennings, “The Third ‘Democracy’ ”: Tocqueville’s View of America after 1840,” American Political Science Review 98:3 (Aug. 2004): 391–401. 13. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 3:767–68. 14. Newt Gingrich, Quotations from Speaker Newt: The Little Red, White, and Blue Book of the Republican Revolution (New York: Workman, 1995), pp. 172–73; Daniel Bell, “The End of American Exceptionalism,” The Public Interest, no. 41 (Fall 1975): 197, 205. 15. Barack Obama, “The President’s News Conference in Strasbourg,” Apr. 4, 2009, APP. 16. Mark Nusbaum, Sarah Palin: Rendezvous with Liberty (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2009), p. 296; Mitt Romney, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010), p. 29; Newt Gingrich with Vince Haley, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2011). 17. “Presidential Debates: Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, SC,” Sept. 5, 2011, APP; Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, “The New Battle: What It Means to Be an American,” Politico, Aug. 20, 2010. 18. “2012 Republican Party Platform,” Aug. 27, 2012, APP; “2016 Republican Party Platform,” Jul. 18, 2016, APP. In the same vein: Richard Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru, “An Exceptional Debate: The Obama Administration’s Assault on American Identity,” National Review, Mar. 8, 2010, pp. 31–38. 19. In confirmation of the point, the French were simultaneously engaged in their own debate over exceptionalism: Tony Chafer and Emmanuel Godin, eds., The End of the French Exception? Decline and Revival of the “French Model” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 20. John R. Bolton, “The First Post-American President and American Sovereignty,” AEI .org, May 18, 2010, -american-sovereignty. 21. David Grayson Allen, In English Ways: The Movement of Societies and the Transferal of Local Law and Custom to Massachusetts Bay in the Seventeenth Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982). 22. Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History, new ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2018); Jonathan Sperber, Revolutionary Europe, 1780–1850 (London: Routledge, 2000). 23. David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). 24. Paul Bairoch, “International Industrialization Levels from 1750 to 1980,” Journal of European Economic History 11:2 (Fall 1982): 269–333; Edward J. Davies II, The United States in World History (New York: Routledge, 2006), chaps. 4–6.

Notes to Pages 259–264


25. Adam McKeown, “Global Migration, 1846–1940,” Journal of World History 15:2 ( June 2004): 155–89; Dirk Hoerder, Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). 26. C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004); Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998). 27. Bairoch, “International Industrialization Levels,” p. 301; Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016); John A. Thompson, A Sense of Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Alfred E. Eckes Jr. and Thomas W. Zeiler, Globalization and the American Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). 28. William C. Wohlforth, “U.S. Strategy in a Unipolar World,” in America Unrivaled: The Future Balance of Power, ed. G. John Ikenberry (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), p. 104. 29. Giovanni Gozzini, “The Global System of International Migrations, 1900 and 2000: A Comparative Approach,” Journal of Global History 1:3 (Nov. 2006): 321–41; Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes, America against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked (New York: Times Books, 2006), p. 35. 30. Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008); Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (New York: Norton, 2008); David S. Mason, The End of the American Century (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009); Edward Luce, Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012). For criticism of the “declinist” thesis: Robert Kagan, “Not Fade Away: The Myth of American Decline,” New Republic, Jan. 11, 2012. 31. Peter Baldwin, The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Godfrey Hodgson, The Myth of American Exceptionalism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). 32. Michael Shally-Jensen, ed., American Political Culture: An Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015) 1:41; Steven G. Calabresi, “ ‘A Shining City on a Hill’: American Exceptionalism and the Supreme Court’s Practice of Relying on Foreign Law,” Boston University Law Review 86:5 (Dec. 2006): 1335–1416. 33. Peter Schuck, “Origins and Future of U.S. ‘Exceptionalism,’ ” May 2, 2008, NPR .org,­=9­ 0126925. Schuck was promoting his new book: Peter H. Schuck and James Q. Wilson, eds., Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008). 34. Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (New York: Viking, 2016), pp. 186, 188.

chapter 19. Ambivalent Evangelicals

1. Crosswalk .com, https://www.crosswalk .com/culture/music/city-on-a-hill-541246 .html. 2. City on a Hill, Louisville, KY, -podc. 3. City on a Hill Radio Show, 4. City on a Hill Ministries, Zeeland, MI, 5. City on the Hill Music Festival, Duluth, MN, 6. City on a Hill, Inc., Garden City, KS, -addiction-garden-city-ks.html. 7. City on a Hill, Milwaukee, WI,


Notes to Pages 265–272

8. Christian Smith et al., American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Randall Balmer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, 25th Anniversary ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). 9. For example: NJ Family First, /city-on-the-hill. 10. Citizens United Productions, A City upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism, 11. Stephen M. Stookey, “In God We Trust? Evangelical Historiography and the Quest for a Christian America,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 41:2 (Spring 1999): 41–69; and 41:3 (Summer 1999): 5–37. 12. Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1977), pp. 18, 154, 22. 13. Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History (Charlottesville, VA: Providence Foundation, 1989). For more on the Providence Foundation see 14. Barton published his books and videos through his own Wallbuilders organization, see; Ruth Murray Brown, For a “Christian America”: A History of the Religious Right (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2002), chap. 13; “Barton’s Bunk: Religious Right ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America,” Right Wing Watch: A Project of People for the America Way, Apr. 18, 2011, /bartons-bunk-religious-right-historian-hits-the-big-time-in-tea-party-america. See also Julie Ingersoll, “Meet the Tea Party’s Evangelical Quack,” Salon, Aug. 23, 2015. 15. Quoted in Jeff Sharlet, “Through a Glass Darkly: How the Christian Right Is Imagining U.S. History,” Harper’s Magazine, Dec. 2006, p. 36. 16. Richard Lee, The American Patriot’s Bible: The Word of God and the Shaping of America (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009). 17. “The Agitator,” Time, Sept. 28, 2009, pp. 30–36; Chris Good, “Glenn Beck Comes to Town,” Atlantic, Aug. 28, 2010; Ross Douthat, “Mr. Beck Goes to Washington,” New York Times, Aug. 30, 2010; Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (New York: Free Press, 2012), chap. 8. 18. “Can Glenn Beck Save America?,” Dallas News, July 2012, http://www.dallasnews .com/news/arlington/2012/07/27/can-glenn-beck-save-america-many-fans-at-arlington -event-think-so; Mercury One, History of America—A Short Film from Restoring Love [YouTube video],­=­y f4uuE0SWFE; NXG, Restoring Love [YouTube video],­=j­zdqPnylLJk. 19. Mercury One, John Winthrop and the Journey to America—A Short Film from Restoring Love [YouTube video],­=­-CaLshwQrTM. 20. Pat Robertson, America’s Dates with Destiny (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986); Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers: A Comprehensive Study of America’s Christian Foundations (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1987); Beliles and McDowell, America’s Providential History; Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story (Atlanta: American Vision, 1993); William J. Federer, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations (Coppell, TX: FAME Publishing, 1994). 21. George W. Bush, “Remarks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles,” Mar. 6, 2000, The American Presidency Project, Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www; George W. Bush, “Remarks on the National Day of Prayer, May 6, 2004,” The American Presidency Project, 22. John McCain quoted in Jon Meacham, “A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation,” New York Times, Oct. 7, 2007.

Notes to Pages 273–277


23. J. Matthew Wilson, “ ‘Blessed Are the Poor’: American Protestantism and Attitudes toward Poverty and Welfare,” Southeastern Political Review 27:3 (Sept. 1999): 421–37; Daniel Cox et al., Economic Values Survey 2013, Public Religion Research Institute, https://www; Pew Research Center, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Views About Government Aid to the Poor, /religious-landscape-study/views-about-government-aid-to-the-poor. 24. Beliles and McDowell, America’s Providential History; Federer, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations. 25. The Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving, -First-Thanksgiving-Huckabees-History/dp/B00BE9GKLE; Rod Gragg, The Pilgrim Chronicles: An Eyewitness History of the Pilgrims and the Founding of Plymouth Colony (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2013). 26. Garrett Epps, “Genuine Scholars Smack Down an Unruly Colleague,” Atlantic, Aug. 10, 2012, -scholars-smack-down-an-unruly-colleague/260994; Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Random House, 2007); John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011). 27. Michael Lienesch, Redeeming America: Piety and Politics in the New Christian Right (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), p. 155. 28. Jerry Falwell, Listen, America! (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980), pp. 117, 7; Tom Tancredo, “The Vanishing American,” WND, May 3, 2013, /the-vanishing-american; Miranda Blue, “Return to Wichita: 25 Years after the Summer of Mercy, the Rescue Movement Plots Its Next Steps,” Right Wing Watch, Oct. 2016, -mercy-the-rescue-movement-plots-its-next-steps. 29. Ruth Murray Brown, For a “Christian America”: A History of the Religious Right (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2002), pp. 81–84; Joseph Gimenez quoted in Jeffrey L. Sheler, Believers: A Journey into Evangelical America (New York: Viking, 2006), p. 36; Lienesch, Redeeming America, p. 172. 30. Richard M. Gamble, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (London: Continuum, 2012), pp. 169, 183. 31. Mark A. Noll, George M. Marsden, and Nathan O. Hatch, The Search for Christian America, expanded ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers and Howard, 1989); Richard T. Hughes, Christian America and the Kingdom of God (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009); Robert Tracy McKenzie, “Metaxas on America as a ‘City on a Hill,’ ” Faith and History: Thinking Christianly about the American Past [blog], July 4, 2016, https:// For a nonprovidentialist evangelical history of the United States, see David Edwin Harrell Jr. et al., Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005). 32. Nicholas Guyatt, Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007); Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). 33. Franky Schaeffer quoted in Lienesch, Redeeming America, p. 165; Bob Jones III quoted in Hughes, Christian America, p. 159; Jerry Falwell quoted in Michelle Goldberg, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism (New York: Norton, 2006), p. 8. 34. Accessed 2/14/2017.

340 epilogue. Disembarking from the Arbella

Notes to Pages 282–285

1. Barack Obama, “Remarks Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches for Voting Rights in Selma, Alabama,” Mar. 7, 2015, The American Presidency Project (hereafter “APP”), Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, eds., http://www­. 2. Daniel Boorstin, ed., An American Primer, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 1:xvii. 3. Hillary Clinton, “Speech to the American Legion, Cleveland, OH,” Aug. 31, 2016, transcript at, -speech. On Rubio: Jennifer Rubin, “A Speech for All Times,” Washington Post, June 27, 2013; Ted Cruz, “Speech at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA,” Mar. 23, 2015, transcript at Washington Post, -liberty-university/2015/03/23/41c4011a-d168-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html; Dr. Ben and Candy Carson [Facebook post], Mar. 11, 2016, https://www.facebook .com /realbencarson/posts/607001686132968; Chris Christie, “Speech at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, NH,” Jan. 4, 2016, transcript at Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost .com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/04/chris-christie-just-made-a-compelling-argument-for -why-republicans-shouldnt-nominate-donald-trump; Barack Obama, “Remarks to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 27, 2016,” APP; Mitt Romney, “Speech at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City,” Mar. 2, 2016, transcript at,; Rudy Giuliani, “Speech at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, OH,” July 18, 2016, transcript at, 4. Donald J. Trump, “Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in New York City,” June 16, 2015, APP; Donald J. Trump, “Remarks on Foreign Policy at the National Press Club in Washington, DC,” Apr. 27, 2016, APP; Peter Wehner, “From the Shining City on a Hill to America Is a Dumpster Fire,” in “What We Saw during the Debate,” New York Times, Sept. 26, 2016, -first-debate-election-2016. 5. Ibid.; Donald J. Trump, “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH,” July 21, 2016, APP. 6. Ibid. 7. Chris Christie in “Republican Candidates Debate in North Charleston, SC,” Jan. 14, 2016, APP; Jeb Bush in “Republican Candidates Debate in Las Vegas, NV,” Dec. 15, 2015, APP. 8. The ghost writers of the book with which Donald Trump bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2012 had called out Barack Obama for waffling on the “exceptionalism” of America. Donald J. Trump, Time to Get Tough: Make America #1 Again (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2011), pp. 155–57. But by 2016 “exceptionalism” had dropped out of Trump’s own vocabulary. 9. Jill Radsken, “The Return of Winthrop House,” Harvard Gazette, Jan. 24, 2017. 10. “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill,” New York Times, June 8, 2017.

Acknowledgments Many hands helped shape this book. Students played an essential part as, over the years, they and I have tried to think through the lives of texts, contentions, and ideas. Their insights and puzzlements, even when we did not have “A Model of Christian Charity” as our focus, inform every page of this book. Institutions played an indispensable role as well. Research for As a City on a Hill was launched with a sabbatical grant from Princeton University. At the New-York Historical Society, Ted O’Reilly gave extremely generously of his time and expertise. Ray Wilson at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Dan Hinchen at the Massachusetts Historical Society offered expert guidance through their sources. The initial draft of the book itself was written at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University: as idyllic a city on a hill as higher education contains. To write in this tranquil yet stimulating setting, gathering ideas on each evening’s walk home past the deer and wild turkeys, was a rare and unforgettable privilege. As the book took shape, audiences became critically important testing grounds for the themes that began to emerge. Participants in the American Studies Workshop and the Works in Progress series of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, the Bay Area Seminar in Early American History and Culture, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the Phi Beta Kappa chapter of Temple University, and the Graduate Institute at Geneva gave back generously with responses and suggestions. A casual conversation with my congressman, 341



Rush Holt, sharpened an idea I had only half formed in my mind. Louis Hyman helped me understand what was at stake in the investors’ controversy. My colleagues at Princeton, faculty and graduate students alike, are an unmatched well of ideas and inspiration. To try to list those whose leads and suggestions enriched the book risks inadvertently missing many others. But I cannot omit noting my especial thanks to Jeremy Adelman, Claire Arcenas, Peter Brown, David Blight, Liam Brockey, Olivier Burton, Henry Cowles, Margarita Fajardo, Matthew Franck, Jonathan Gienapp, Dov Grohsgal, Kristin Hoganson, Dani Holtz, Walter Johnson, Chin Jou, Ariane Leendertz, Aiala Levy, Rivka Maizlish, Jim McClure, Martín Merimón, Ronny Regev, Helmut Reimitz, Sarah Rivett, Mark Sholdice, Melissa Teixeira, Keith Wailoo, and Wendy Warren. David Hall, James Kloppenberg, Joyce Seltzer, and an anonymous reader for Princeton University Press all offered acute and extremely helpful readings of the book’s penultimate draft. Kellen Funk and Alison Isenberg did the same for individual chapters. My especially deep thanks go to four former students, now fine historians in their own right: Brooke Blower, Chris Florio, Sarah Igo, and Lou Masur. Reading the whole manuscript at a particularly important juncture in its composition, they gave back just the blend of encouragement, provocation, and criticism that a writer needs. At Princeton University Press Brigitta van Rheinberg gave the book a home and provided critically important suggestions to make it better. Sarah Matherly cleaned up my citations and, with additional assistance from Spencer Weinreich, prepared the Model’s transcription. Paul Vincent copyedited the book with scrupulous care. On the Princeton University Press staff, Amanda Peery and Debbie Tegarden managed the last stages of the book’s preparation with ease and graciousness. The four teachers to whose memory this book is dedicated taught and inspired in very different ways. William McLoughlin threw open the door to the astonishing wealth of ideas that have saturated the



American past. George Morgan’s seminars modeled what it meant not just to know but to think. Edmund Morgan taught the art of surprise: how to notice a puzzle when you stumbled on one and how to find one’s way toward an answer. C. Vann Woodward made the link between research, the arts of writing, and serious engagement with the world come alive. Each of these teachers helped shape a young college student and aspiring historian in ways far deeper than they could know. The last name on this list of acknowledgments is, in every meaningful sense, the first of all. Her eyes read what I have written before any other’s. Almost five decades on now, she remains my best, wisest, most honest, and most indispensable reader. For Rene my love and gratitude swell beyond any mere thanks or words.

Index abolitionism, 152–54, 156–57, 163. See also slavery Abraham, 48, 84, 155 Adam, 40, 46, 91, 105, 207 Adams, Charles Francis, 190, 201 Adams, John, 139, 144, 145, 196, 235, 271 Adams, Samuel, 137 Africa, 65, 105, 205; imperialism in, 164–66, 168–69, 171–72, 175–76, 177. See also Liberia; Sierra Leone; slavery African Americans, 116, 202, 229–30, 241, 250, 255; free blacks in antebellum America, 159, 161–63, 228; and the Liberian project, 8, 158–70, 171; and New Negro artists and writers, 169. See also slavery American Colonization Society, 159–62 American Education Society, 136 American “idea,” the, 2, 3, 6, 7, 29, 149, 151, 218–19, 222, 249, 258, 262–63, 285, 286 American Patriot’s Bible, The, 268, 271 American Revolution, 174, 191, 193, 196, 221, 258; evangelical interpretation of, 273–75; nationalism and, 127–128, 129–30, 141–42 American studies, 149, 218, 229–30, 231 Americans, The (Boorstin), 221, 222, 239 Ames, William, 92 Anderson, Perry, 174 apocalypticism, 60, 61, 78, 277, 278 Arbella, 47, 75; in Glenn Beck’s video, 270; presumption that the Model was delivered aboard, 1, 16–18, 23, 27–29, 221, 249; in Reagan’s story of the Model, 235–39, 246; and the tercentennial of the Winthrop expedition, 189, 202 Asquith, Herbert Henry, 181

Bacevich, Andrew, 261 Bacon, Frances, 114–15 Bale, Frances, 113–14 Bancroft, George, 136, 192–93 Baritz, Loren, 227 Barton, David, 267, 274 Battle of Bunker Hill, memorialization of, 137, 191, 195 Baxter, Richard, 39 Beard, Charles, 206 Beck, Glenn, 269–71, 274, 278 Belgium, 175 Beliles, Mark, 267, 271, 273 Bell, Daniel, 254–55 Bell, David, 127 Bellah, Robert, 227 Benson, Stephen Allen, 164 Benton, William, 219 Bercovitch, Sacvan, 4–5, 154, 229–32, 233 Berlin, Irving, 268 Bettering House (Almshouse and House of Employment), Philadelphia, 117–18, 123 Beveridge, Albert J., 173, 178–79 Bible, 137, 198, 202, 269, 270; importance of, to contemporary American evangelical Protestants, 265, 267, 274; importance of, to English Puritans, 25–26, 45–52; importance of, in the Spanish conquest, 60–62; and Supreme Court decisions, 273. See also American Patriot’s Bible, The; “city upon a hill”; Matthew, book of; New Testament; Old Testament; typology Birch, Joseph, 114 Black Panthers, 240 blacks. See African Americans



Blake, William, 144 Blaxton, William, 190, 202 Blyden, Edward, 164–65 Bolton, John, 256–57 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, 212 Boorstin, Daniel, 221–23, 227, 228, 239, 282 Borden, Mary, 184–85 Boston, 48, 53, 64, 67, 72, 153, 181, 194, 257; in the American Revolution, 196; civic pride of, 203, 204; early ministers of, 50, 83, 105–6, 130, 190; first historical society in, 134; intolerance and dogmatism in, 67, 197–98, 200; merchants of, 104, 105, 107–8; Philadelphia eclipses as leading seaport, 196; political scandals in, 224–25; relief of the poor of, 108, 113, 117, 118, 119; and the tercentennial of its founding, 189–91, 202, 203, 205, 206; Winthrop memorials in, 190, 201, 202 Boston Common “Founders Memorial,” 190–91, 202–3, 224 Boston Day parade, 189–91, 203 Boston Tea Party, memorialization of, 137, 189 Boyer, Paul S., 249 Bradford, William, 62, 137, 190, 271, 273 Brazil, 65, 258, 259 Bremer, Francis, 18 British empire, 67, 96, 126, 174, 176, 178–79 Brooks, Cleanth, 227 Brownson, Orestes, 152 Bryan, William Jennings, 282 Buckmaster, Thomas, 111 Bulfinch, Charles, 118 Bulkeley, Peter, 56 Burns, Anthony, 153 Bush, George W., 255, 256, 257, 262, 263, 277, 283; and the chosen people theme, 249, 272 Bush, Jeb, 285 Bushnell, Horace, 154 Cabot, Sebastian, 92 Calabresi, Steven G., 262


California, 236, 240, 241 Calvin, John, 24, 39, 47, 92, 197, 213. See also Calvinism Calvinism, 24, 47, 49, 52, 65–66, 143, 209, 214, 229, 240 Canaan, 79, 163; as analogue for New World settlements, 48, 49, 50, 53, 60, 61, 68, 81, 101 Canada, 174, 259 capitalism: in early America, 96; in Puritan New England, 96–98 Caribbean, 33, 105, 175, 176, 177, 258 Carson, Ben, 283 Carter, Jimmy, 242–43 Carwardine, Richard, 156 Cass, Lewis, 140 Catholicism: and the Roman Catholic Church as the true “city on a hill,” 38; Protestant campaigns against, 20–21, 33, 35, 37, 71–76. See also Franciscans; Jesuits; toleration, religious Channing, Edward, 136 charity, 108, 123; bounds of obligation of, 94, 115–16, 119–20, 124; centrality of, in the Model, 7, 19, 50, 87–91, 93–95, 97–98; and contemporary evangelical Protestants, 265, 272–73; diminished importance of, in later readings of the Model, 125, 136, 209, 226–27, 233–34; in Puritan England, 109–11; in Puritan sermons, 92–93. See also poor, the; poor relief Charles I (king of England), 71, 72 chosen people: concept of, 8, 71, 73, 82, 144–45, 158, 172, 231, 249, 272, 278, 286; and cultures of nationalism, 125–26, 141–44; Abraham Lincoln on, 145, 154–57; Herman Melville on, 147–51; in the Model, 7, 30, 44–57, 86, 94, 136; as a tool of criticism, 146–47, 151–52, 153; beyond the U.S., 52–53, 57, 60, 65–66, 70, 125, 143–44, 158, 231; in World War I, 183–85. See also Israel: biblical, analogues of in modern world Christie, Chris, 283, 285 Chubb, Mercy, 115

Index cities on a hill: in the early modern Atlantic world, 58–59, 66; in early modern England, 39, 110, 141 “city upon a hill”: in the age of nationalism, 3, 8, 32, 139–41, 152–53; anxiety and uncertainty in, 5, 32, 44–45, 146; biblical origins of, 6, 37–41, 287; Boston as a, 203; and contemporary evangelical Protestants, 18, 265–66, 275–76, 278–79, 283; and the danger of dissension, 119, 124; in history textbooks, 173, 221, 239, 250, 251; John Kennedy’s use of, 217, 223, 224, 238; as a mobile metaphor, 138–41, 152–53; in modern political rhetoric, 2, 226–27, 228–29, 248–49, 252, 262, 285; in the mission of Liberia, 8, 158, 160–61, 164–66, 169–70; in New England sermons, 37, 56, 81–83; Reagan’s use of, 2, 8, 31, 217, 232–46, 247, 283; and the scrutiny of the world, 41–43, 146, 158, 165, 287; in surviving copy of the Model, 13–14 Civil War (American), 154–57, 158, 172, 177, 253. See also Confederacy, Southern Civil War (English). See Puritan Revolution (England) Cleveland, Grover, 268 Clinton, Bill, 248 Clinton, Hillary, 249, 283 Cold War, 248, 253; Reagan’s use of the Model as a document for, 234, 239–42, 246, 281; remaking of the Model during, 4, 8, 9, 94, 214, 216, 217–32, 275 Coleman, Thomas, 72 Coleman, William David, 164 Coles, Robert, 212 Columbus, Christopher, 58, 60–61, 267 Comey, James, 285 Communism, 225, 229; American Communist Party, 221, 252; anti-, 239 Confederacy, Southern, nationalism in, 128, 132, 143, 155 Connecticut, 56, 118, 134, 228 Constitution, U.S., 139, 153, 196, 240, 246, 255, 285; amendments to, 173, 196; and

347 contemporary evangelical Protestants, 267–68, 272, 273–74; as a living document, 7, 281–82 Continental Congress, 235, 269 Cotton, John, 37, 41, 46; and the rules of commerce, 103, 104–5; and sermon of farewell to New England–bound Puritans, 18, 35, 46, 52, 55, 56 covenant, 227, 229; idea of, in nationalist rhetoric, 65–66, 143–44; with God, consequences of breaking, 56, 82, 230; with God, as outlined in the Model, 2, 3, 5, 19–20, 24, 30, 50–51, 87, 93, 94, 146, 287; Puritan idea of, 45–46; theology of, Perry Miller on, 207–9, 210, 211 Craddock, Matthew, 21 Crandall, Prudence, 228 Cromwell, Oliver, 72, 75, 88 Cruz, Ted, 283 Cuba, 172, 176, 258 Cuomo, Mario, 248 Curley, James, 190–91, 202, 203, 223, 224 Curti, Merle, 227 Cushman, Robert, 50 Davenport, John, 84 Davis, Jefferson, 155 Dean, Paul, 139 Declaration of Independence, 13, 18, 124, 142, 190, 229, 235, 284–85; Lincoln and, 156; shifting reputation of, 6–7, 131–32, 222, 246, 251, 281 DeMar, Gary, 271 democracy, in early New England, 45, 87, 194, 199–201, 206 Denmark, 35, 175 de Quiroga, Vasco. See Quiroga, Vasco de Dibelius, Otto, 184 Dolan, Anthony, 237, 243–44 Dominican Republic, 172 Dorchester, England, 53, 103, 109, 110, 111, 112 Dorchester, Massachusetts, 53, 113–15, 116 Douglas, Paul, 224 Douglass, Frederick, 153–54, 157, 163 Douthat, Ross, 269 Du Bois, W. E. B., 167–68, 169, 170, 171


Dudley, Thomas, 53, 103 Dukakis, Michael, 248 Dunn, Richard, 23 Dutch Republic, 32, 36, 49, 64–66, 68, 143, 175 Dyer, Mary, 67 East India Company, 21, 126 Eaton, Theophilus, 84 Eburne, Richard, 49 Edwards, Jonathan, 92–93, 179, 213 Eggleston, Edward, 136 Eisenhower, Dwight D., 214, 216, 219, 224 Eliot, John, 33 Elizabethan Poor Laws, 110, 112 Emancipation Proclamation, 157 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 213 Endecott, John, 41 England: charity and the poor in, 34–35, 109–11; chosen people rhetoric in, 39, 48–49, 52–53, 143, 149, 174, 180, 184, 244; emigration from, 15, 20–22, 27, 28–29, 32–37, 67, 102; imperialism in, 72, 75–76, 175; return migration to, 28, 74–75. See also Magna Carta; Puritans, English English Civil War. See Puritan Revolution (England) “Errand into the Wilderness” (Miller), 76, 213, 214–15, 220 evangelical Christianity. See Protestantism, contemporary American evangelical exceptionalism: claims of American, 5, 247–63, 264, 266, 271, 275–76, 282–83, 285; concept of, 8, 252, 256; periods of American, 257–63 existentialism, 211–13 Falwell, Jerry, 275, 277 Faust, Drew, 132, 155 Federalist Party, 131, 132, 176 Federer, William, 271, 273 Fiennes, William (Lord Saye and Sele), 41 Firestone Rubber Company, 169, 172 First World War. See World War I Fiske, John, 182 Folsom, George, 135


Forefathers’ Day, 191 Founding Fathers, 191, 194–95, 197, 228, 269, 274, 284 Fourth of July. See Independence Day France, 194, 255; imperialism in, 175, 176, 178; as a model nation, 141, 143, 178, 180–81; nationalism in, 127, 128, 130, 131, 258; and the Seven Years War, 174; in World War I, 171, 180–81, 184, 189. See also French Revolution Franciscans, 61, 68 Franklin, Benjamin, 129, 222, 271 French Revolution, 127, 128, 130, 131, 141, 194, 258 frontier, American, 176, 206 Fulbright program, 218–19 Fuller, Margaret, 152, 213 Gamble, Richard, 276 Garrison, William Lloyd, 140, 153, 163 Garvey, Marcus, 167 George III (king of England), 129 Georgia, 49, 134, 221 Germany: embattled Protestants in, 35, 73–74; emigrants from, to Pennsylvania, 67; imperialism in, 178, 179; nationalism in, 128, 130, 143, 175, 180, 184; in World War I, 180–85 Gingrich, Callista, 266 Gingrich, Newt, 254, 256, 266 Goldwater, Barry, 239 Golway, Terry, 252 Goodrich, Charles A., 136 Gore, Al, 248 Great Britain. See British empire; England; Scotland Great Depression, 204, 253, 270 Great Society, 226, 247 Great War. See World War I Greene, Nathaniel, 139 “Guarani republic,” 63–64, 68 Guatemala, 63 Haiti, 163, 172 Handlin, Oscar, 227 Harrington, James, 88 Hartford Convention, 196–97

Index Harvard University, 169, 194, 221, 285; Harvard College’s first class, 74; historians at, 3, 181, 199, 224, 227; Perry Miller and, 204, 205, 212, 213 Hawaii, 172 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 198 Herndon, Ruth, 116 Heston, Charlton, 268 historical societies, 129, 134–35. See also specific historical societies Hooke, William, 79 Hooker, Thomas, 36, 52–53, 56 Hopkins, Edward, 83–84 Horneck, Anthony, 39 Houston, Sam, 142 Howes, Edward, 41 Huckabee, Mike, 256, 267, 273 Hughes, Langston, 169 Humphrey, Hubert, 226 Huntington, Samuel, 253 Hutchinson, Anne, 200–201, 228, 232, 233, 249, 251 Hutchinson, Ellen Mackay, 136 immigration: Boston’s celebration of, in the 1930s, 189, 202–3; destinations of, in colonial America, 15, 65, 68, 80–81, 195, 196; fear of, 272, 277; and return migration, 28, 74–75, 259, 260–61; to the U.S., 3, 259, 260–61 imperialism, 8, 126, 168, 171, 259; American, 171–80; European, 59–60, 96–97, 171, 174–75, 176, 177–79; and the Model, 135–36, 172–74, 179–80, 182, 231; and nationalism, 174–76 Independence Day, 129, 130, 131, 132, 140, 142, 152, 228 India, 21, 65, 176, 178 Indians. See Native Americans inequality, 20–21, 87, 94, 111, 152, 226, 227, 248; in the Model, 19, 20, 26, 87, 88, 91–92, 138 Ireland, 67; English imperialism in, 72, 75, 175; Scots and English migrants to, 15, 80; Winthrop’s plan to move to, 35 Isaiah, 60, 70, 89, 237, 244

349 Israel, biblical: analogues of in modern world (“New Israel”), 5, 48–50, 52, 54, 56, 65–66, 72, 73, 81–84, 141, 143–44, 147, 149, 151, 164, 172, 174, 200, 231, 237, 261; and God’s covenant with, 2, 46, 89, 101 Italy, 130, 175, 259 Jackson, Andrew, 138, 142, 268 Jackson, Stonewall, 155, 268 Jacob, 48, 155 Jamestown, 193 Japan, 178 Jefferson, Thomas, 174, 176, 222, 229, 238, 262, 271, 284; on Americans as a chosen people, 129, 144–45, 172; and the Declaration of Independence, 6, 131, 235, 281 Jeremiad, 82–83, 129, 151, 278 Jessey, Henry, 87 Jessup, John, 219, 220 Jesuits, 63–64, 67, 68 Jews. See Israel, biblical; Old Testament Johnson, Edward, 65, 81 Johnson, Lyndon, 226 Jones, Bob, III, 277 Keayne, Robert, 104, 105, 107–8 Kennedy, Geoffrey Studdert, 180 Kennedy, John F., 172–73, 228, 285; use of “city upon a hill” by, 217–18, 223–26, 238 Kennedy, Robert, 226, 283 Kerry, John, 249 Kierkegaard, Søren, 212 King, Martin Luther, Jr., 230, 268, 269, 270 Knock, Thomas, 183 Krieger, Larry, 150 Lafayette, Marquis de, 190 LaHaye, Tim, 271, 277 Las Casas, Bartolomé de, 63, 64 Latin America, 33, 60–64, 96, 127, 141, 175, 177, 284 Laud, William (Archbishop of Canterbury), 71, 72, 77 Lazarus, Emma, 238


League of Nations, 183 Lee, Robert E., 155, 268 lending: in early New England, 103, 105–6; in seventeenth-century England, 97; rules of, in the Model, 19, 22–23, 24, 30, 89–90, 94, 103, 108. See also usury Lenin, Vladimir, 235; Leninism, 252 Leppard, George, 235 Levant Company, 21 Lewis, R. W. B., 227 Lewis, Thomas, 143 Liberia, 8, 161–62, 171–72; Booker T. Washington and, 166–67; “city on a hill” rhetoric in, 160–61, 163–66; critics of, 163; founding of, 158–61; Marcus Garvey and, 167; W. E. B. Du Bois on, 167–70 Light and the Glory, The (Marshall and Manuel), 266–67 Lincoln, Abraham, 249, 262, 269, 283, 285; on Americans as an “almost chosen people,” 145, 154–57 Lipset, Seymour Martin, 253 Locke, John, 207 Lodge, Henry Cabot, 182 love, as central theme in the Model, 2, 5, 7, 19, 22, 23, 24, 30, 51, 87, 90–91, 93–94, 120, 209, 280 Luce, Edward, 261 Lyly, John, 48 Madison, James, 196, 284 Magna Carta, 131, 132 market economy: and colonial Pennsylvania, 67; in early New England, 80–81, 96–98, 101–6, 199; and the Model, 7, 22–23, 88–90, 98–101,120, 280 Maier, Pauline, 131 manifest destiny, 32, 125, 142, 144, 173, 176, 179, 269–70 Manuel, David, 266, 271 Markham, Edwin, 190 Marryat, Frederick, 149 Marshall, Peter, 266, 271 Martin, Jerry, 236, 237 Marx, Karl, 252 Marxism, 248, 252, 253


Massachusetts, 137, 139, 144, 169, 189, 201, 203; John Kennedy and, 223, 224, 238; erasure of the word, in the Model, 14. See also Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusetts Bay Colony: compared to Penn’s project, 68–69; compared to the Dutch Republic, 65, 68–69; compared to the Jesuit missions in Paraguay, 64–68; economy of, 96–97, 101–6, 195–96, 257; initial death rate in, 34; isolation of, 73–74, 76–85; motives for founding and emigration to, 15, 20, 32–37, 42–43; the poor in, 107–9, 111–16; return migration from, 28, 74–75; size of initial migration to, 15, 27, 99; toleration of dissent in, 36–37, 78–80, 87. See also Massachusetts Bay Company Massachusetts Bay Company, 15, 45, 54, 97, 193; investors’ controversy in, 21–23, 98–101; Winthrop’s leadership of, 21–23, 28–29, 98–101, 109. See also Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusetts General Court, 73–74, 77, 103; and debt cases, 97; and Anne Hutchinson, 201; and the Keayne case, 104; and the poor, 111–12; and wages, 102; Winthrop’s speech on liberty to, 29, 87, 208 Massachusetts Historical Society, 135, 235 Mather, Cotton, 50, 83–84, 179 Mather, Increase, 81, 82 Mather, Richard, 36, 53 Matthew, book of, 38–41, 43, 138, 265, 276 Mayflower, 27, 32 Mayflower Compact, 24, 193–95, 200, 251, 273 McCain, John, 248, 255, 272 McGiffert, Michael, 48 McGovern, George, 226 Melville, Herman, 147–52, 213, 230 Merrifield, Henry, 115 Metaxas, Eric, 262 Mexico, 61, 63, 141, 177, 258, 284 Michelet, Jules, 141 Michell, Jonathan, 81 millennialism, 59–61, 68, 84, 278

Index Miller, Perry, 3, 222, 271; and the Cold War, 217, 219, 232; early experiences of, 204–5; and “Errand into the Wilderness,” 76, 213, 214, 220; and the Model, 16–17, 25, 207–9, 213, 216, 229, 231, 233, 281; and The New England Mind, 209, 220; project of, to understand the Puritan mind and legacy, 205–16 Milton, John, 39, 143 ministers, New England, 45; as “cities on a hill,” 38–39; and the English Puritan Revolution, 72, 74–75, 77–78, 80; and idea of a New Israel, 73, 81–84; sermon themes of, 26–27, 40–41, 69, 82–83, 105–6. See also specific ministers mission, national, 3–4, 32, 124–25, 141–42, 173–81, 183–84, 219–20, 225–27, 258, 266–67 “Model of Christian Charity, A”: anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty in, 31, 39–43, 52, 70; and charity, 87–90, 93–95, 108, 119–20; Cold War reevaluations of, 217–18, 221–27; confidence and pride in, 31–32, 44–45, 52; covenant theme in, 45, 50, 86, 93; economic relations in 22–23, 89–90, 97–98, 100–101,105, 106; first print publications of, 135–36, 181–82; as a foundational document in American civic culture, 1–6, 8–9, 124–25, 132, 216, 233–34, 245, 250–51; inequality in, 19, 87, 88–89, 280, 286; love in, 87, 90–91; modern transcription of, 289–308; obscurity of, for three centuries after its writing, 4–5, 125–26, 133, 136–37, 173–74; place of in histories and anthologies, 3, 17, 136, 172–73, 181, 190, 208, 219–20, 227, 249–51, 268, 271; Reagan’s use of, 233–46, 248; scholarly interpretations of, 204–5, 207–16, 221–23, 229–32, 276; setting of its composition, 1–2, 15–30, 101; structure of, 19–20, 23–24, 87; surviving manuscript copy of, 13–15, 133–35. See also “city upon a hill” Moore, Susan, 74 More, Thomas, 63

351 Morgan, Edmund, 92, 220–21, 223, 228 Morison, Samuel Eliot, 28, 181–82, 199 Moses, 53, 100, 198, 268; as analogue for emigrants, 24, 49, 51, 52, 55, 56–57, 62, 66, 84; and rules of charity, 89 Motley, John Lothrop, 200 Murray, George, 240 Murrin, John, 249 Muzzey, David Saville, 136 Napoleon, 163, 176 National Archives, 13 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 167–68 nationalism: burgeoning cultures of, in Europe and the Americas, 3, 6, 7–8, 48–49, 125–32, 138–45, 174–80; critical, 151–54; and imperialism, 174–76; Lincoln’s, 154–57; technologies of 126–28; in World War I, 180–85. See also time, nationalist conceptions of; traditions, invented Native Americans, 32, 67, 174; depicted in Boston’s Winthrop memorial, 202; dispossession of, 33–34, 47–48, 175–77, 270; goal of conversion to Christianity of, 33, 61–64; in Puritan New England, 34, 53, 82, 116, 263; rationalization of violence against, 49, 53, 62, 173; in the Spanish empire, 63–64 Navy, U.S., 147–52, 172 Netherlands. See Dutch Republic New England: attempts to establish as site of America’s founding, 8, 191–95, 203, 245; marginal importance of in early America, 80, 195–97; and project of sectional nationalism, 191–95; shifting reputation of, 197–202 New England Society of Charleston, South Carolina, 193 New England Society of New York, 191 “New Israel.” See Israel, biblical New Testament, 268, 276; “city on a hill” in, 37–38, 265; and rules of charity, 89–90; and typology, 47–48; Winthrop’s use of, in the Model, 39–40, 50–51, 287


New-York Historical Society, 13, 16, 133, 134–35 Nicaragua, 21, 172 Niebuhr, Reinhold, 211–12 Nixon, Richard, 226 Noll, Mark, 276 Noonan, Peggy, 31, 237, 245 Norton, John, 81 Oakes, Urian, 81, 83 Obama, Barack, 269; on American exceptionalism, 255–57, 263; on the American “idea,” 2, 249, 282; and the “city on a hill,” 2, 249, 283 Oklahoma, curriculum controversy in, 251 Old Testament, 39–40, 268; God’s chosen people in, 45, 50, 56, 144; and typology, 47–48, 129, 155; Winthrop’s use of, in the Model, 50–51, 287 oppression, economic, 102–3, 104–5, 106. See also usury O’Reilly, Edward, 16, 289, 343 O’Sullivan, John L., 130, 142, 173 Owen, Wilfred, 181 Ozouf, Mona, 129 Paine, Tom, 129, 130 Palfrey, John Gorham, 136 Palin, Sarah, 248, 256 Pan-African Congresses, 168 Paraguay, 63–64, 67 Paramino, John Francis, 190, 202, 203 Parrington, Vernon Louis, 201, 206 Pascal, Blaise, 212 Patterson-Smith, J., 184 Penn, William, 123, 271; colony founded by, 66–68, 126, 196, 221 Pennsylvania, 123; as a magnet for European emigrants, 68, 195; as a model society, 66–68, 69, 221. See also Philadelphia Perkins, William, 38–39 Perthes, Friedrich Christoph, 143 Peter, Hugh, 74 Phelan, John, 60 Philadelphia, 128,156; eclipses Boston as colonies’ leading seaport, 196; poor


relief and charitable institutions in, 117, 118, 119, 123–24 Philippines, 172, 173, 178, 179 Pilgrims, 24, 27, 32, 50, 62, 65, 84, 246, 257; anniversary of landing of, 137, 191, 193; contemporary evangelicals’ embrace of, 273; reputation of, 199–200. See also Mayflower Compact Plummer, William, 139 Plymouth Colony. See Pilgrims Plymouth Company, 97 poor, the, 123, 152, 159, 259; and contemporary evangelical Protestants, 264, 272–73; English, 34–35, 109–11, 160, 221; in the Model, 5, 19, 20, 24, 26, 88–90, 92–93, 119, 138; in Puritan New England, 87, 94–95, 106, 108, 111–20, 257. See also charity; inequality; poor relief poor relief: in England, 34–35, 88, 109–11, 257; in Philadelphia, 117–18, 123; in Puritan New England, 108, 111–16, 118–19, 257 poverty. See charity; poor, the; poor relief Protestantism, contemporary American evangelical: ambivalent nationalism in 275–79; attitudes toward poverty in, 272–73; and Christian histories of America, 266–68, 273–74; and the “city on a hill” phrase, 8, 264–66; marginal place of Winthrop’s Model in, 271–75 Providence Foundation, 267 Providence Island Company, 97 providential history: in the age of nationalism, 124, 129, 141–44, 174, 176, 179; and the American Civil War, 154–57; and contemporary evangelical Protestantism, 266–69, 275–77, 278–79; definition of, 46–47; and the Dutch Republic, 66, 68; and the English, 72, 75, 79–80, 143, 174; and Liberia, 161–65; and the New England Puritans, 46–47, 49, 54, 57, 62, 72, 79–80, 84, 86, 125, 281; and the Spanish colonial empire, 60–62, 68 Puerto Rico, 172

Index Puritan Revolution (England), 1, 21, 37, 71–73, 75–76, 77–78, 215, 258; and care of the poor, 111; New England and, 74–80 Puritans, English: and church organization, 77–78, 79; and the “city on a hill,” 38–39; and covenant theology, 45, 208; efforts of, to discipline unruly English culture, 76; importance of the Bible to, 25–26; improvement of the poor by, 109–11; and religious toleration, 78–79; and sermons, 25–26; terms of self-description of, 42; and typology, 46–48. See also Puritan Revolution (England) Puritans, New England: as a chosen people, 44–57, 73, 82–84, 231; democracy and, 194–95, 199, 206; doubts of, 31–32, 42, 43, 209–11, 212–15; importance of the covenant idea to, 24, 45–46, 49–50, 207–9; intolerance and, 31, 78–80, 83, 197–202; and market relations, 94–98, 101–6, 120; sense of mission and, 4, 69, 76–77, 80, 86–87, 172–74, 214–15; and sermons, 25–26, 82–83; shifting reputation of, 8, 172–74, 197–99, 201–3, 205–7, 217–32, 271, 273; treatment of the poor by, 111–16, 119; and typology, 46–48; Winthrop’s Journal as source of information on, 17–18 Quakers, 66–68, 69, 78, 117–18, 197 Quiroga, Vasco de, 63, 64 racism, 158–70, 173, 224, 273–74 Ramsey, David, 130 Rankin, Jeannette, 228 Reagan, Ronald, 254, 256, 264, 271, 284–85; addition of the word “shining” by, 243–44; “city on a hill” as warning for, 239–43; and John Kennedy’s use of the Model, 217–18, 238; making of the Model into an icon of hope by, 31–32, 242–46, 281; popularization of the Model’s story by 2, 4–5, 8, 17, 232–34, 282–83; source of “city on a hill”

353 quotation for, 236–39; speechwriting for, 236–38, 243–45 Rhode Island, 116, 200 Richardson, Charles F., 136 Roberts, Joseph Jenkins, 165 Robertson, Pat, 271 Robespierre, Maximilien, 141 Roe v. Wade, 274 Romney, Mitt, 249, 256, 283 Roosevelt, Franklin, 238, 268 Roosevelt, Theodore, 167, 178 Rosenthal, Albert H., 226 Rossiter, Clinton, 219 Roye, Edward James, 164 Rubio, Marco, 283 Russia, 92, 175, 176, 178; as a chosen people, 143 Rustin, Bayard, 268 Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 198 Salem, Massachusetts, 41, 74, 99, 197, 200 Santorum, Rick, 249 Saye and Sele, Lord, 54, 55 Scalia, Antonin, 285 Schaeffer, Frank, 277 Schama, Simon, 66 Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., 212, 224 Schuck, Peter, 262 Schulzinger, Robert, 179 Scotland, 15, 71, 128, 174 scribal publication, system of, 14 Scudder, H. A., 193 Selma, Alabama, 270, 282 Sermon on the Mount, 38–41, 92 sermons: importance of, to Puritans, 25, 206, 208; structure of, 25–26; Winthrop’s Model imagined as a, 1, 4, 25–27, 28 Seven Years War, 143, 174 Sheidley, Harlow, 192 Shepard, Thomas, 79 Sierra Leone, 160, 169 Slack, Paul, 111 slavery, 59, 65; in colonial America, 80, 96, 127–28; and the colonization of Liberia, 159, 160, 161–62, 163, 169; and dynamics of imperialism, 163, 173, 176,



slavery (cont.) 197; as foundational to American history, 192, 195, 250; in Haiti, 163, 176; Lincoln on, 155–57; and periods of American “exceptionalism,” 258–59; as a political issue, 6, 140, 152–54, 173, 197; in Puritan New England, 32–33, 105; in Spanish America, 59, 60, 63, 64. See also abolitionism; Civil War Smith, Thomas, 92 Sombart, Werner, 253 Sorensen, Theodore, 223–25, 228, 238 Soviet Union, 219, 221, 225, 237, 260. See also Russia Spanish empire, in the Americas, 21, 33, 60–64, 72, 76, 96, 127, 221 Sparks, Jared, 194 Statue of Liberty, 237, 238, 259, 270 St. Augustine, 199, 209 Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 136 Stiles, Robert, 113–14 Stillman, Samuel, 130 Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 142 sugar trade, 60, 65, 80, 176, 195 Supreme Court, U.S., 225, 268, 285; decisions of, that mobilized the Christian right, 273–75 Swaggart, Donnie, 277 Sweden, 73, 197 Sweet, Leonard, 61

tobacco trade, 21, 35, 96 toleration, religious: in the Dutch Republic, 65; in England, 78, 80; and intolerance in New England, 31, 36–37, 78–80, 83, 197–99, 200–201; in Pennsylvania, 67–68, 196 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 194, 195; and “exceptionalism,” 254 traditions, invented, 128–29, 130–31 Trumbull, Jonathan, 134 Trump, Donald, 283–85 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 182, 206, 253 Tuskegee Institute, 166–67 typology, 47–48, 83, 129, 155

Taft, William Howard, 167, 183 Tancredo, Tom, 275–76 Tea Party (political movement), 269 Teage, Hilary, 165–66 Texas, 258; Republic of, 142; State Board of Education, 250 textbooks, history: for Christian homeschoolers, 265, 267; and the Model, 3, 17, 136, 172, 220, 228, 249–50 texts: lives of, 6–7, 131–32, 280–82 Thoreau, Henry David, 213; Walden, 230 time: nationalist conceptions of, 6, 124, 129–32, 245–46, 282; thinking “in biblical,” 46–48, 129, 155. See also typology

Wakeman, Samuel, 81–82 Warburton, William, 143 Ward, Nathaniel, 79 Warren, Joseph, 237 Warren, Robert Penn, 227 Washington, Booker T., 166, 167 Washington, DC, 137, 172; as a “city on a hill,” 243–44 Washington, George, 128, 268 Washington Monument, 191 Weber, Max, 96 Webster, Daniel, 137, 146, 191, 282 Webster, Noah, 134, 136 Wehner, Peter, 283 Weil, Simone, 212

Universal Negro Improvement Association, 167 usury, 90, 103, 105 Vane, Sir Henry, 75 Vietnam War, 226, 229, 231, 238, 241 Virginia colony, 21, 97, 193, 205, 221; disparaging of, 193–94; emigrants to, 32; mortality rate at, 34; as most important engine of early North American growth, 195; primacy to foundational status of, 192; tobacco and slave economy of, 96 Voice of America, 218 Voltaire, 64, 68


Index West Indies, 55, 60, 75–76, 164, 167, 267; as magnet for English emigration, 15, 195; trade with, 21, 54, 65, 72 White-Jacket (Melville), 147–52 White, John, 102–3, 110, 111 Williams, Roger, 50, 57, 78, 200, 219, 233, 251 Williams, William Carlos, 198 Wilson, John, 190 Wilson, Woodrow, 136, 172, 173–74, 182–84, 254 Winthrop, Francis Bayard, 133 Winthrop, John: background of, 20–21, 45, 94, 97; in Glenn Beck video, 270–71, 278; and composition of the Model, 15–20, 22–23, 27–30; family and descendants of, 16, 35, 73, 75, 133–35, 190; handwriting of, 14; and Anne Hutchinson, 200–1, 228; Journal of, 17, 23, 29, 48, 55, 75, 78, 103, 133–34, 138, 263; memorials to 137, 190, 202–3; Perry Miller on, 3, 205, 207–9; Edmund Morgan on, 220; motives of, in joining expedition, 32–37, 109; negotiations of, with emigrants and investors, 21–22,

98–101; other writings of, 16, 29, 53, 54, 87; preservation of religious orthodoxy by, 199, 200–1; portraits of, 20, 31; shifting reputation of 50, 68, 83,135–36, 199, 201–3, 233–34, 247, 257, 262, 271–73; wife of, 36, 45, 98. See also “Model of Christian Charity, A” Winthrop, John, Jr., 16, 41, 73 Winthrop, Margaret, 36, 98 Winthrop, Robert C., 144, 145, 194 Winthrop, Stephen, 75 Winthrop, Thomas Lindall, 134 Wish, Harvey, 219 witchcraft, 197 Wood, Peter, 251 World War I, 168, 171, 172, 204, 211, 217, 244; mission, sense of, in, 158, 180–81, 182–85; Versailles Peace Conference following, 182–84 World War II, 208, 213, 221, 260, 267 Worster, Donald, 59 Yates, John, 88 Zakaria, Fareed, 261