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Boston Congregationalist ministers Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766) have been widely recognized as important church leaders in eighteenth-century New England. Mayhew has been portrayed as a proto-revolutionary forerunner, who produced works that helped shape the ideology of the American Revolution. Chauncy has been viewed as a practical as well as ideological contributor to the Patriot cause. Both have featured prominently in historical debates over the nature of Congregationalist political engagement and causal connections between religious activism and revolutionary politics. As more progressive theologians, their works have also raised major questions about how they and their contemporaries directly influenced shifts in New England theology from orthodox Calvinism to Arminianism and ultimately to universalism and Unitarianism.
Just published by Pickwick Publications, my new book, Conservative Revolutionaries: Transformation and Tradition in the Religious and Political Thought of Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew, sheds new light on the religious and political thought of Chauncy and Mayhew through a thoroughly contextualized, comparative re-examination of their intellectual development in both these crucial areas. It focuses on themes of continuity and discontinuity in the ideas of Chauncy and Mayhew. By setting their works closely within their historical Sitz im Leben, the monograph offers a fundamental reassessment of how their religious and political beliefs not only changed, interacted and differed over time, but continued to reflect various inherited traditions. It thus represents a marked departure from much previous scholarship, which has often failed to integrate the two ministers’ political and religious concerns and offered anachronistic analyses of their ideas based on a “Whig” narrative of eighteenth-century colonial and revolutionary American progress.
For academic opinions of Conservative Revolutionaries, which has a foreword by Professor David D. Hall of Harvard Divinity School, please see here.