Religion and American identity

While many loyalists left the colonies and others, reading the handwriting on colonial walls, turned recessive and sullen, the more intense energies of colonists went to support the cause of independence and colonial liberty. The Stamp Act and the Tea Party had been justified in colonial, especially New England pulpits, and British policy came to be described as tyranny. The more staid preachers in prominent pulpits showed how the philosopher John Locke, the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Paul the apostle as preacher of liberty and not blind obedience, would have backed the colonists' rebellions. Meanwhile, some evangelizers on horseback found biblical grounds for similar messages in villages on the frontier and in the forests. They amassed a spiritual capital from which the colonists could draw. Among their favoured biblical texts was one in the Old Testament, in which the city of Meroz was cursed because it did not come to the defence of the Lord. Similarly cursed would be those villages, churches, and individuals who did not now do battle for the Lord, who did not see the Americans' righteous cause as divinely inspired.14

One can easily overstress the role of religion in triggering and sustaining the Revolution - just as, decades ago, historians tended to overlook it. The

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