History Rebuilt Post 24 - Education on Britain Leading to Revolutionary War (Black Coat Regiment)

Updated: Jan 21

The following has been copied from

We did not want to re-write what has been so eloquently already put together.

The Black Robed Regiment was the name that the British placed on the courageous and patriotic American clergy during the Founding Era (a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore). [1] Significantly, the British blamed the Black Regiment for American Independence, [2] and rightfully so, for modern historians have documented that:

There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763. [3]

It is strange to today’s generation to think that the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the two decades leading up to the American Revolution, but such was the case.

But it was not just the British who saw the American pulpit as largely responsible for American independence and government, our own leaders agreed. For example, John Adams rejoiced that “the pulpits have thundered”[4] and specifically identified several ministers as being among the “characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in the “awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings” that led to American independence. [5]

Across subsequent generations, the great and positive influence of the Revolutionary clergy was faithfully reported. For example:

As a body of men, the clergy were pre-eminent in their attachment to liberty. The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom. [6] The American Quarterly Register [MAGAZINE], 1833

If Christian ministers had not preached and prayed, there might have been no revolution as yet – or had it broken out, it might have been crushed. [7] Bibliotheca Sacra [BRITISH PERIODICAL], 1856

The ministers of the Revolution were, like their Puritan predecessors, bold and fearless in the cause of their country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers. . . . [B]y their prayers, patriotic sermons, and services [they] rendered the highest assistance to the civil government, the army, and the country. [8] B. F. Morris, HISTORIAN, 1864

The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit. [9] Alice Baldwin, HISTORIAN, 1918

Had ministers been the only spokesman of the rebellion – had Jefferson, the Adamses, and [James] Otis never appeared in print – the political thought of the Revolution would have followed almost exactly the same line. . . . In the sermons of the patriot ministers . . . we find expressed every possibly refinement of the reigning political faith. [10] Clinton Rossiter, HISTORIAN, 1953

The American clergy were faithful exponents of the fullness of God’s Word, applying its principles to every aspect of life, thus shaping America’s institutes and culture. They were also at the forefront of proclaiming liberty, resisting tyranny, and opposing any encroachments on God-given rights and freedoms. In 1898, Methodist bishop and church historian Charles Galloway rightly observed of these ministers:

Mighty men they were, of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and heart of flame. God needed not reeds shaken by the wind, not men clothed in soft raiment [Matthew 11:7-8], but heroes of hardihood and lofty courage. . . . And such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the Divine call. [11]

But the ministers during the Revolutionary period were not necessarily unique; they were simply continuing what ministers had been doing to shape American government and culture in the century and a half preceding the Revolution.

For example, the early settlers who arrived in Virginia beginning in 1606 included ministers such as the Revs. Robert Hunt, Richard Burke, William Mease, Alexander Whitaker, William Wickham, and others. In 1619 they helped form America’s first representative government: the Virginia House of Burgesses, with its members elected from among the people. [12] That legislature met in the Jamestown church and was opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Bucke; the elected legislators then sat in the church choir loft to conduct legislative business. [13]As Bishop Galloway later observed:

[T]he first movement toward democracy in America was inaugurated in the house of God and with the blessing of the minister of God. [14]

In 1620, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts to establish their colony. Their pastor, John Robinson, charged them to elect civil leaders who would not only seek the “common good” but who would also eliminate special privileges and status between governors and the governed [15] – a radical departure from the practice in the rest of the world at that time. The Pilgrims eagerly took that message to heart, organizing a representative government and holding annual elections. [16] By 1636, they had also enacted a citizens’ Bill of Rights – America’s first. [17]

In 1630, the Puritans arrived and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and under the leadership of their ministers, they, too, established representative government with annual elections. [18] By 1641, they also had established a Bill of Rights (the “Body of Liberties”) [19] – a document of individual rights drafted by the Rev. Nathaniel Ward. [20]

In 1636, the Rev. Roger Williams established the Rhode Island Colony and its representative form of government, [21] explaining that “[t]he sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” [22]

The same year, the Rev. Thomas Hooker (along with the Revs. Samuel Stone, John Davenport, and Theophilus Eaton) founded Connecticut. [23] They not only established an elective form of government [24] but in a 1638 sermon based on Deuteronomy 1:13 and Exodus 18:21, the Rev. Hooker explained the three Biblical principles that had guided the plan of government in Connecticut:

  1. [T]he choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.

  2. The privilege of election . . . belongs to the people . . .

  3. They who have power to appoint officers and magistrates [i.e., the people], it is in their power also to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place. [25]

From the Rev. Hooker’s teachings and leadership sprang the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” – America’s first written constitution (and the direct antecedent of the federal Constitution). [26] But while Connecticut produced America’s first written constitution, it definitely had not produced America’s first written document of governance, for such written documents had been the norm for every colony founded by Bible-minded Christians. After all, this was the Scriptural model: God had given Moses a fixed written law to govern that nation – a pattern that recurred throughout the Scriptures (c.f., Deuteronomy 17:18-20, 31:24, II Chronicles 34:15-21, etc.). As renowned Cornell University professor Clinton Rossiter affirmed:

[T]he Bible gave a healthy spur to the belief in a written constitution. The Mosaic Code, too, was a higher law that men could live by – and appeal to – against the decrees and whims of ordinary men.[27] (emphasis added)

Written documents of governance placed direct limitations on government and gave citizens maximum protection against the whims of selfish leaders. This practice of providing written documents had been the practice of American ministers before the Rev. Hooker’s constitution of 1638 and continued long after.

For example, in 1676, New Jersey was chartered and then divided into two religious sub-colonies: Puritan East Jersey and Quaker West Jersey; each had representative government with annual elections. [28] The governing document for West Jersey was written by Christian minister William Penn. It declared:

We lay a foundation for after ages to understand their liberty . . . that they may not be brought in bondage but by their own consent, for we put the power in the people. [29]

Under Penn’s document . . .

Legislation was vested in a single assembly elected by all the inhabitants; the elections were to be by secret ballot; the principle of “No taxation without representation” was clearly asserted; freedom of conscience, trial by jury, and immunity from arrest without warrant were guaranteed. [30]

In 1681, Penn wrote the Frame of Government for Pennsylvania. It, too, established annual elections and provided numerous guarantees for citizen rights. [31]

There are many additional examples, but it is indisputable that ministers played a critical role in instituting and securing many of America’s most significant civil rights and freedoms. As Founding Father Noah Webster affirmed:

The learned clergy . . . had great influence in founding the first genuine republican governments ever formed and which, with all the faults and defects of the men and their laws, were the best republican governments on earth. At this moment, the people of this country are indebted chiefly to their institutions for the rights and privileges which are enjoyed. [32]

Daniel Webster (the great “Defender of the Constitution”) agreed:

[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible in that age men were much indebted for right views of civil liberty. [33]