The Presbyterian Rebellion: An analysis of the perception that the American Revolution was a Presbyterian war

Richard Gardiner, Marquette University

Abstract

During the era of the American Revolution, King George III and his supporters perceived that the war was a "Presbyterian Rebellion." Why? The label "Presbyterian" was a much more ambiguous designation than it is at present. Employed broadly as a synonym for a Calvinist, a dissenter, or a republican, the term was used with considerable imprecision in the eighteenth century. Furthermore, it was used as a demagogic tool to inflame popular passions. The term Presbyterian carried with it the connotation of a fanatical, anti-monarchical rebel. Those who designated the war a Presbyterian Rebellion could be considered biased, partisan, and somewhat extreme. Nevertheless, the designation was based in reality. Calvinists and Calvinism permeated the American colonial milieu, and the king's friends did not wish for this fact to go unnoticed. This inconspicuous reality is one of the missing chapters in the conventional history of the genesis of the United States. Part of the reason that it is missing is that it represents the view of the loyalist opposition, and it is "the winners who write the history books." Another rationale for its absence is the fact that historians of the Revolutionary era prefer to emphasize socio-economic factors in their explanations of what happened and why. Hence, the hypothesis that there was a significant religious factor in the midst of the conflict has not been given adequate consideration. This study provides compelling evidence that there indeed was a profound religious factor at the heart of the conflict, both perceived and real, and that this dynamic deserves further attention in order to provide a more comprehensive account of the Revolution.

Recommended Citation

Richard Gardiner, "The Presbyterian Rebellion: An analysis of the perception that the American Revolution was a Presbyterian war" (January 1, 2005). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3172505.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3172505

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