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Many Revolutionary War clergy argued that the war against Britain was approved by God. In this sermon Abraham Keteltas celebrated the American effort as "the cause of truth, against error and falsehood. Abraham Keteltas. This satire expresses the British view that the American Revolution was inspired by the same kind of religious fanaticism that had fueled Oliver Cromwell's establishment of the Commonwealth of England more than a century earlier.

British Museum, London, England Peter Muhlenberg was the prime example of a "fighting parson" during the Revolutionary War.


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The eldest son of the Lutheran patriarch Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, young Muhlenberg at the conclusion of a sermon in January to his congregation in Woodstock, Virginia, threw off his clerical robes to reveal the uniform of a Virginia militia officer. Having served with distinction throughout the war, Muhlenberg commanded a brigade that successfully stormed the British lines at Yorktown. He retired from the army in as a brevetted major general. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. Oil on canvas, by an unidentified American artist. Nineteenth century.

James Caldwell , a Presbyterian minister at Elizabeth, New Jersey, was one of the many clergymen who served as chaplains during the Revolutionary War. At the battle of Springfield, New Jersey, on June 23, , when his company ran out of wadding, Caldwell was said to have dashed into a nearby Presbyterian Church, scooped up as many Watts hymnals as he could carry, and distributed them to the troops, shouting "put Watts into them, boys.

Reverend James Caldwell at the Battle of Springfield. Watercolor by Henry Alexander Ogden.

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Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia Gostelowe Standard No. Watercolor once in possession of Edward W. John Witherspoon was the most important "political parson" of the Revolutionary period. He represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress from to , in which capacity he signed the Declaration of Independence and served on more than one hundred committees.

As president of Princeton, Witherspoon was accused of turning the institution into a "seminary of sedition.

John Witherspoon. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D. Some Quakers were conscientiously convinced that they could, despite the Friends' peace testimony, take up arms against the British. Calling themselves "Free Quakers," they organized in Philadelphia. The majority of Quakers adhered to the denomination's traditional position of pacifism and disowned their belligerent brethren. This Free Quaker broadside declares that although the "regular" Quakers have "separated yourselves from us, and declared that you have no unity with us," the schism does not compromise the Free Quakers' rights to common property.

To those of our Brethren who have disowned us. Broadside, July 9, Manuscript Division , Library of Congress The American Revolution inflicted deeper wounds on the Church of England in America than on any other denomination because the King of England was the head of the church. Anglican priests, at their ordination, swore allegiance to the King. The Book of Common Prayer offered prayers for the monarch, beseeching God "to be his defender and keeper, giving him victory over all his enemies," who in were American soldiers as well as friends and neighbors of American Anglicans.

Loyalty to the church and to its head could be construed as treason to the American cause. Patriotic American Anglicans, loathe to discard so fundamental a component of their faith as The Book of Common Prayer , revised it to conform to the political realities. Mary's County, Maryland, placed over the offending passages strips of paper showing prayers composed for the Continental Congress. The petition that God "keep and strengthen in the true worshipping of thee, in righteousness and holiness of life, thy servant GEORGE, our most gracious King and Governour" was changed to a plea that "it might please thee to bless the honorable Congress with Wisdom to discern and Integrity to pursue the true Interest of the United States.

Book of Common Prayer. England: John Baskerville, c. The problem was handled differently by Christ Church, Philadelphia. London: Mark Basket, Right page.

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Oxford: Printed by Mark Basket, printer to the University, More than half of the Anglican priests in America, unable to reconcile their oaths of allegiance to George III with the independence of the United States, relinquished their pulpits during the Revolutionary War. Some of the more intrepid priests put their loyalty to the Crown at the service of British forces in America. One of these, Jonathan Odell , rector at Burlington, New Jersey, became a confidant of Benedict Arnold and scourged the Patriots with a sharp, satirical pen. This long, rhymed attack on John Witherspoon contains the clumsy couplet, "Whilst to myself I've humm'd in dismal tune, I'd rather be a dog than Witherspoon.

Jonathan Odell, London: In the years following American independence, Anglican ministers who had remained in the colonies began planning for an independent American church. One of the publications that focused discussion on the issue was this volume by William White. A series of conferences in the s failed to bridge the differences between two parties that emerged but, at a convention in , the two groups formed the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

A church government and revised Book of Common Prayer believed to be compatible with a rising democratic nation were adopted. William White. Philadelphia: David Claypoole, The independence of the United States stimulated American Methodists, as it did their brethren in the Church of England, with whom the Methodists had considered themselves "in communion," to organize themselves as an independent, American church. Asbury was ordained as deacon, elder, and superintendent. American Methodists adopted the title of bishop for their leaders three years later.

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Gilchrist Campbell, , after a painting by Thomas Coke Ruckle. Manuscript Division , Library of Congress. John Strachan was the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto , and a leading supporter of the British connection in the province during and after the War of He was instrumental in organizing the Loyal and Patriotic Society. Extract from an original Letter from C. Click here to see a larger image K Right Rev.

John Strachan, D. The report provides an entry for each payment made from the funds administered by the Society between and The entry for Daniel Springer of the London District reads in part:. Governor of Upper Canada and the artist responsible for some of the illustrations in this display. Loyal service was also marked through personal advancement, as the subsequent careers of John Beverley Robinson, John Strachan, William Hamilton Merritt, the Ridouts and the Nelles' attest to, at least in part.

In the lower left corner on this plan we can see which parts of land were granted to William Hamilton Merritt for his service as captain of a company in the Troops of Provincial Light Dragoons. Click here to see a larger image K Zorra township patent plan detail , [n. John Kennedy from Scarborough would receive acres for his service as private in Captain Cameron's flank company and Joel Judd, a sergeant in the Incorporated Militia, was granted acres. The first limited the right to habeas corpus applications for those accused of treason; the second provided for trials for treason and related charges in districts outside the area where the alleged offences occurred; the third act, and the one that had the greatest impact, was the Alien Act which made it an offence for anyone to have left the province after July for the United States.

Click to see a larger image K An Act to empower his Majesty, for a limited period, to secure and detain such persons as his Majesty shall suspect of a Treasonable adherence to the enemy. VI, Textual record Archives of Ontario.

Special Commissioners were appointed under the Act to investigate individuals accused under its terms. The Commissions had the authority to declare the individual an alien and thus ineligible to hold land in Upper Canada. The passage of these acts and the subsequent "Bloody Assize" at Ancaster was the direct result of the reverses suffered by the British in the Niagara and Western Districts during Those inclined to support the invaders were in a position to do so, and many personal scores were settled through the destruction of property of those who were loyal or by the kidnapping of active militia officers.

Many of the prisoners tried at Ancaster had been captured in a raid by militia under the command of Colonel Bostwick on a party of U. Click to see a larger image K An Act for the more impartial and effectual trial and punishment of High Treason, and Misprision of High Treason, and Treasonable practices in this province.

XI, Textual record Archives of Ontario. The near anarchy in the region west of the Grand River after Proctor's defeat at Moraviantown made it impossible to hold the trials in that area as would be the normal procedure.

Article VIII

It was also feared that Justices of the Peace friendly or sympathetic to the accused would grant bail, allowing them to slip over the border or behind enemy lines. Whereas information on the Oath of good and lawful persons residing within this province is made to me as a commissioner that Ebenezer Sandrus, late of [Yonge], has been guilty or has given great leans [suspicion] of his being guilty of treasonable practices. You are therefore commended in the King's Majesty's name to apprehend the body of him, the said Ebenezer Sandrus, now residing at Gananoqua [sic] in said district and bring him before His Majesty's commissioners appointed and authorized by virtue of the said act to here and determin sic such cases and will sit at the court house in Brockville on Tuesday 16th August He took the lead in prosecuting those accused of High Treason at Ancaster in the Spring of and secured the conviction of 15 men.

All were sentenced to hang, but 7 were eventually commuted to deportation. The remaining 8 were sentenced to be executed by hanging at Ancaster in July. Execution of traitors by military power would have comparatively little influence, the people would consider them as arbitrary acts of punishment but would not acknowledge them as the natural effects of justice.