About the author
Anne C. Loveland is a professor at Louisiana State University and the author of several books.
Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order is a scholarly, evenhanded examination of an important and influential group in the antebellum South. The first chapters detail the religious experiences, training, and ministry of numerous notable Evangelical clergymen, mainly of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations. Prominent clergymen whose stories and views are presented include Thomas Smyth, William Capers, Jeremiah Jeter, William Winans, and James Henley Thornwell.
In chapter three, the author looks at the great revivals that took place in the South from the 1830s into the 1850s, and the phenomenon of camp meetings. Chapter four examines the struggle against worldliness in the churches, noting clerical denunciations of worldly amusements (especially those indulged in by the wealthy) such as card playing, dancing, horse racing, and the theater. Chapters five and six describe the role of the Evangelicals in the Temperance movement and other reforms and charitable pursuits. Though the Evangelicals believed in working for moral reforms and spiritual regeneration in society, they did not fall prey to the utopianism that took hold in the North, and they did not believe in the perfectibility of man. Their benevolent schemes included Bible, tract, Sunday school and home and foreign mission societies, “as well as efforts on behalf of prisoners, the insane, those who were deaf, dumb, and blind, seamen, and young men.” The Evangelicals were also deeply concerned with promoting and upholding the observance and holiness of the Sabbath, and they spoke out against the practice of dueling.
Chapter seven explores the attitudes of the Evangelicals regarding the institution of slavery, which they accepted, but stopped short of terming a “positive good.” The author relates their reactions to attacks by abolitionists, and describes their efforts to promote reforms of the institution, and to bring religious instruction to the slaves. One Baptist minister, Richard Fuller, sought to emancipate the slaves through colonization.
The concluding chapter examines evolving Evangelical attitudes toward disunion. The author notes a view that developed among many southern clergymen that the sectional controversy was “a conflict between those who acknowledged the authority of the Bible and those who repudiated it—in other words, between Christians and infidels.”
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