Ralph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City. Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.
In a session on Quakers, Methodists, and Public Discourse in the Early Republic, Samuel Dodge (Lehigh) described the paradox of religious freedom as it affected Pennsylvania Quakers in the call-up before the Revolution—the conflict being over the absoluteness of their pacifist convictions and the demand to sacrifice personal liberties for the common good. Elizabeth Georgian (Univ of SC) presented the case of itinerant Lorenzo Dow, the subject of several disciplinary proceedings for slander and who sought vindication in the court of public opinion through his published Journal and favorable attention in newspapers. Daniel Gullotta (Stanford) elucidated some of the differences between Whig and Jacksonian attitudes toward Christianity and its appropriate role in public life. While the Whigs accused Jacksonian Democrats of godlessness (and everything implied by that), Gullotta argued that the latter saw themselves as having a religious character just as firm as that of the sanctimonious Whigs.