The Author’s Corner with Gregg Frazer

9780700626960Gregg Frazer is professor of history and political studies and Dean of the School of Humanities at The Master’s University. This interview is based on his new book God against the Revolution: The Loyalist Clergy’s Case against the American Revolution (University Press of Kansas, 2018).

JF: What led you to write God Against the Revolution?

GF: My primary research interest is religion and the American Founding. I became re-acquainted with the sermons of Loyalist minister Jonathan Boucher while doing research on American Revolution-era sermons for my first book, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders. I have always been impressed with Boucher’s biblical argument and with his rational challenges to John Locke’s theories. Having analyzed the basic arguments and assumptions of the Patriot preachers in my first book, I became intrigued with the idea of examining the arguments of the Loyalist clergymen and, as they were the primary spokesmen of Loyalism, the political thought of the Loyalists in general. Irrespective of the title, the book covers all of the Loyalist arguments.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of God Against the Revolution?

GF: One cannot fully understand the political thought of the American Revolutionary period or the choice of whether or not to participate in the Revolution without a fair understanding of the arguments of those who opposed it. Loyalists were well-intentioned Americans who, while they disagreed with British actions, argued from the Bible, from theory, from English law, from the American situation, and in response to the actions of the revolutionaries for a moderate response of negotiation and conciliation rather than rebellion,.

JF: Why do we need to read God Against the Revolution?

GF: Those who want to more fully understand the political thought of the American Revolutionary period need to read God Against the Revolution. It cannot really be understood without the Loyalist point of view, which is presented here largely in the Loyalists’ own words. Those who want to experience the arguments of the Loyalists as they offered them to the public – in other words, those who can imagine being an eighteenth-century American asked to make an informed choice to rebel or not to rebel – need to read God Against the Revolution. Given that up to two-thirds of eighteenth-century Americans did not support the Revolution and given present-day acts of violent “resistance” against the current American administration (including attempts by resisters to silence their opponents), there is value in examining the case against a right of resistance by a minority that decides on its own that the government is deserving of violent opposition. Christians need to read chapter two of God Against the Revolution, then wrestle with, and meditate on, the biblical arguments made by the Loyalist clergymen. Finally, we need to read God Against the Revolution to finally give the Loyalists the hearing that they were due, but were mostly denied, more than two hundred years ago.

JF: When and why did you become an American historian – or get interested in the study of the past?

GF: My undergraduate degree is in history; my graduate degrees are in political science with emphases in political theory and American politics. All of these, in combination with my Christian faith, come together in my research interest in religion and the American Founding. As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the past and with ideas – especially persistent ideas that have motivated human beings to act and that are still relevant today. History provides an interesting story and analysis of the thoughts and beliefs of the actors in those stories both enriches the stories and helps us to learn lessons that only history can provide. As a Christian who believes in a completely infallible Bible, I do not agree with Publius that experience (history) is “the least fallible guide of human opinions,” but I do view it as a very valuable guide.

JF: What is your next project?

GF: I am not as prolific as scholars such as John Fea. I have to strategize between projects with the limited time available to me for research and writing. I have not yet settled on a project.

JF: Thanks, Gregg!

4 thoughts on “The Author’s Corner with Gregg Frazer

  1. Eagerly looking forward to reading this. Can’t wait till it comes out later this month. I’m currently writing my dissertation on this very topic–loyalist clergymen during the Revolution. My focus will be looking at loyalist ministers across the denominational spectrum. I’m not sure if Dr. Frazer covers various denominations, but his book will, no doubt, be a valuable tool to my own research!

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  2. I am a great admirer of Gregg Frazer’s scholarship and books. But I have to question his statement
    that “given that up to two-thirds of eighteenth-century Americans did not support the Revolution.”
    Of course, not “supporting” the Revolution does not mean active opposition to it. But even if verifiable
    and sufficient hard data will never be found to resolve this question definitively, I think that “common
    sense” raises the question of how could the pro-Revolution Whigs have won (or the British lost) if
    “two-thirds of eighteenth-century Americans did not support the Revolution.”

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    • a) “up to” is a key phrase here
      b) even John Adams famously speculated that 1/3 supported, 1/3 opposed, and 1/3 were neutral — that’s 2/3 that did not support
      c) they could have won for the reasons we already know: the Revolution became a world war for the British with the entry of the French and other European powers — this did not allow the British to focus attention/effort/forces on America (the final battle of the conflict was fought in India); the British were notoriously slow in taking the whole thing seriously and the French/others were “in” by the time they did; and some were forced to support the Revolution by the committees and threats from the Patriots
      d) your point that not supporting does not mean active opposition is another key reality

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  3. Good work. You might enjoy Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution, by Chas. Woodmason, a traveling Episcopal devine/missionary.
    Also Leland Stauber’s The American Revolution – A Grand Mistake.
    My Huguenot ancestors were Loyalists,
    & enjoyed being one pf the few “ provincials” comissioned as a Britsh Officer in the SC Royalist regiment.

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