Date of Award

Spring 2005

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Krugler, John D.

Second Advisor

Avella, Steven

Third Advisor

Carey, Patrick


American Presbyterians frequently circulate the claim that King George III of England referred to the American Revolution as a "Presbyterian War." Several years ago I set out to find the original source from which the quote is taken since I was curious about the context in which the king made this statement-if indeed he even did. The first time I discussed this quest with my dissertation director (who happens to be an elder in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.), he suspected I may discover it is a fiction manufactured by proud Presbyterian myth-makers, for indeed many such writers have spun their yarn. But I wished to find out for certain. The search not only led me into the microfilm rooms of various American archives, wading through pools of unpublished letters, sermons, and books written during the revolutionary era, it also took me on a journey to London, Oxford, and Cambridge where, in the collections such as the Lambeth Palace Archives, the U.K. Public Record Office, and the Bodleian Library, I found much more than I expected. Though my probe did not lead immediately to the smoking gun, the process revealed a unique and important dynamic of the American Revolution that has never been fully explored. I discovered that many, if not most, of the writers loyal to the king and the Church of England perceived that the Revolution was the result of a Presbyterian conspiracy. But I also discovered that what they meant by this is something quite different than American Presbyterians today mean when they transmit the anecdote about King George III. Hence, the result of my research is fourfold: first, it will demonstrate beyond any question that the American Revolution was widely perceived by loyalists and many associates of the British government as a Presbyterian plot; second, it will explore what they meant by the label "Presbyterian"; third, it will explain what led the king and his supporters to form this perception; and finally, it will discuss the degree to which this perception was rooted in reality. This study documents, evaluates, assesses, and interprets the perception that the American Revolution was a "Presbyterian Rebellion."...



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