Christian America: Lyman Beecher and Theodore Dwight Weld, two perspectives on the evangelical tradition
Ansdell, Douglas B.A.
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This thesis will concentrate primarily on American Evangelicalism in the third and fourth decades of the 19th. Century. More specifically, it will deal with those in the North who were sympathetic to, and actively involved in the work of the 'Second Great Awakening'. Of this group of Evangelicals, this work will be concerned with their aspirations and endeavours to christianise the American nation. Often overlooked with regard to this subject is the extent to which their interpretation of history provoked and influenced this concept of a 'Christian America'. In dealing with this question it will be argued that a Protestant interpretation of past historical events made an immense and invaluable contribution to this concept. A chronological survey of the central themes as they are found in different periods of American history will form an important part of this enquiry. This will demonstrate that hopes for a 'Christian America' have been variously expressed, and yet at every stage have been influenced by the perspective provided by a Protestant interpretation of history. The Evangelicals of the 'Second Great Awakening' held many things in common, yet even within this group significant differences existed. In this thesis attention will be directed to two distinct groups which can be distinguished by the varying extent to which past Protestant history and tradition defined their approach to the concept of a 'Christian America'. The two groups will be labelled 'Traditionalists' and 'Non- Traditionalists', and will represent different perspectives with regard to the task of christianising the American nation. Lyman Beecher and Theodore Dwight Weld will represent the two perspectives which will be discussed, and which provide essential categories within which both men can be better understood.