Tag Archives: Patriotism and Piety

Jefferson and Christianity

In recent days the space not taken up by discussions of, say, the Cincinnati gorilla, has been taken up online by  a vibrant discussion about Thomas Jefferson and Christianity. Jefferson claimed to be a Christian, even as his beliefs in “Christianity” diverged strongly from orthodox Christianity. How should we evaluate this?

The conversation was kicked off by a presentation by Peter Onuf and Annette Gordon-Reed on C-Span. It played out on twitter. Recent posts by John Fea and Ben Park have also addressed this.

Rather than rehash the issues raised, in my brief time I want to raise one other historical point. We could also ask: how did Jefferson’s contemporaries view his faith?

It’s worth noting that some of Jefferson’s contemporaries were quite suspicious. Due to his writings in places like Notes on the State of Virginia and various correspondence, many of Jefferson’s opponents questioned his faith.

I see this most clearly in a political editorial in 1800 that asked its readers if they wanted to vote for “God and a Religious President” [i.e., John Adams] or “Jefferson…and NO GOD.”

A more sustained statement of this idea came from two New York ministers, John Mitchell Mason and William Linn. After parsing Jefferson’s public utterances, they asserted that Jefferson was an infidel (one who maliciously rejected Christian truth) and so not to be trusted.

Or, as they claimed in a second pamphlet:

Christians! Lay these things together: compare them; examine them separately, and collectively: ponder; pause; lay your hands upon your hearts; lift up your hearts to heaven, and pronounce on Mr. Jefferson’s Christianity. You cannot stifle the emotions; nor forebear uttering your indignant sentence–infidel!!

(“The Voice of Warning to Christians,” 1800)

Now, Linn and Mason didn’t speak for everyone, and you could suggest that their claims were at least partially politically motivated. Still, as ministers, they claimed their duties forced them to point out Jefferson’s heterodoxy. To some believers of his day, Jefferson’s beliefs seemed suspicious.

Politics, you say? Would there be a book out there that talked about religious and political conflicts in the early republic? Maybe one involving the Federalists? Oh, that’s right: this one.




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Patriotism and Piety on the Road this Summer

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll have some opportunities to take my Patriotism and Piety book on the road. I’ll be doing “Meet the Author” events at three Barnes and Noble locations. I’ll be signing books and will be happy to talk about the Federalists, Religion, and even what implications those categories have for today.

May 28, I’ll be at the B&N in Roseville, Minnesota, at the Harmar Mall, 2-4 PM.

June 11, I’ll be at the B&N in Des Moines, Iowa, at Jordan Creek Town Center, 2-4 PM.

June 12, I’ll be at the B&N in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Northland Square, 1-3 PM.

So, if you’re a reader in the area, please come out and say “hello!”

DenHartog Patriotism and Piety Cover

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A Great Review of Patriotism and Piety

The semester is over and my grades are entered. I’ll now be transitioning to other activities for this summer.

I arrived at my office this morning to learn that a review of Patriotism and Piety had gone online over night.

Neil Dhingra wrote an extended and really thoughtful review on the “Living Church” blog: “Americans Have Always Been Arguing Over Religion.”

Dhingra describes the book’s argument effectively, and he picks up on many of the central characters and moments from the book.

Dhingra even spices things up with a dramatically colorful introduction:

Philip Larkin famously said that sexual intercourse began in “nineteen sixty-three,” and many Americans doubtless imagine that religious controversy migrated here soon after the post-coital cigarette. Jonathan Den Hartog’s new book, Patriotism & Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation, shows that intense religious argument, particularly about infidelity, has been part of the history of the United States nearly from the start. And it only had a little to do with sex.

I appreciated the review because Dhingra not only took the book seriously, but he stepped back from the book to make very valuable points about nationalism, national identity, and the place of religion in American political life.

I highly recommend the review. Read it all here.

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Patriotism and Piety in “The Author’s Corner”

Messiah College Historian John Fea runs a regular feature on his “Way of Improvement Blog” with newly-published authors called “The Author’s Corner.” Today, I was able to come into “The Author’s Corner.” The interview has gone live today.

So, head over to his website and check it out!

Then, click through his link or mine, to buy the book.

Apparently we sold out Amazon’s initial stock. Thanks! They will have restocked by next week.DenHartog Patriotism and Piety Cover

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The Blurbs of Patriotism and Piety

Many books carry on their covers “blurbs,” or recommendations from other authors and authorities. This is a way of signaling to readers “Look at this book!” or “This is important!” The choices of who will offer blurbs and what those blurbs will say carries a lot of weight.

It’s for that reason that I was incredibly pleased with the two scholars who offered blurbs for Patriotism and Piety.

The first was Mark Noll. Noll is the McAnaney Chair in History at the University of Notre Dame. Noll is the most prolific historian of American Religion in his generation. He has written extensively, producing many important works, including The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,  A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, and America’s God. Noll’s scholarship has strongly influenced my own. As a leader in the field, it matters when Noll writes:

With diligent research, the author provides unusually detailed support for his contentions about the religious and political convictions of his subjects, as well as for their networking with other Federalists and competition with Jeffersonians. The result is a convincing study that demonstrates how significantly religion factored in the history of the Federalist Party and how important religious Federalists were for propelling the voluntary style of social organization that influenced the nation so significantly in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The second blurb comes from Thomas Kidd, who is a professor of history at Baylor University and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Religion at Baylor. Kidd is quickly building his own resume as a prolific historian, with histories of the First Great Awakening, Religion in the American Revolution, and just this past year, a biography of George Whitefield. Thus, it’s also a great compliment for Kidd to write:

Patriotism and Piety represents a much-needed addition to the political and religious history of the period. Comprehensive and authoritative, this book is clearly based on immense archival reading and research and will have a long-lasting influence on our view of an understudied topic.

So, don’t just take my word for it–listen to Mark Noll and Thomas Kidd and pick up Patriotism and Piety today!

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Mad Tom, Political Conflict, and Religious Conflict

We don’t have a lot of political cartoons from the very early republic, but lately I have very much appreciated one called “Mad Tom in a Rage.”mad-tom-in-a-rage

As you can see, it shows the Devil and Tom Paine working to pull down the Federal Government.

To my mind, this says a lot about how Federalists saw the religious and political conflict of the early republic.

Today, I analyze the cartoon over at the Religion in American History Blog.

But, there’s another reason I think the cartoon is worth talking about: it forms the artwork for my book!




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It’s Here! It’s Here!

IMG_4551Wow! Talk about a great gift a few days before Christmas!

A box arrived in the mail from Virginia…Surprised, I opened it to find copies of my book!

Yes, indeed–Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation is a real thing. The idea has taken on form and become an actual book.

I’m delighted and pleased. This “baby” has been gestating for something like 11 years now. It’s great to see it “in the flesh.”

Incidentally, the book looks great–if I do say so myself. The University of Virginia Press did a great job of producing the book. The illustrations also look fantastic.

Here’s the requisite Amazon link, if you’re interested.

Finally, I’ll leave you with another actual pictures as proof of the book’s arrival:


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