Thomas Kidd’s July 3rd blog post over at Kuyperian Commentary is entitled “The Top Five Forgotten Founders.” In reading it, I was pleased that I had actually heard of two of these men, even though my knowledge comes exclusively from the excellent Broadway musical, 1776. Since the other three men were entirely unfamiliar to me, I thought perhaps that my Sunday readers would find the list to be worthwhile, too.
Of note: All five men were ministers. All, I am sure, deserve to be better remembered. I am glad to find that all of them are the subject of biographies–several quite recent (Mr. Kidd has included hyperlinks, preserved here). At a time when national heroes are in short supply, it’s encouraging to find that we have more of them in our past to study– and perhaps to emulate:
John Witherspoon: a Scots Presbyterian minister, president of Princeton, and teacher of James Madison, Witherspoon was elected to serve in the Continental Congress, and signed the Declaration of Independence (the only clergyman to do so). The best book on Witherspoon is by Jeffry Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic.
Lemuel Haynes: born in Connecticut to a white mother and black father, Haynes worked as an indentured servant prior to enlisting in the Massachusetts militia, and then the Continental Army. Haynes also experienced evangelical conversion and came under the tutelage of local Calvinist pastors. Shortly after the Declaration of Independence, Haynes wrote “Liberty Further Extended,” possibly the most powerful argument against slavery from the Revolutionary era. In the 1780s, Haynes began a thirty year pastoral career in Vermont, and was likely the first African American to pastor a largely white congregation. The standard biography of Haynes is John Saillant’s Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes.
Roger Sherman: another devout evangelical from Connecticut, Sherman was the only Patriot to sign all four of the great American founding documents: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Mark David Hall has a major new book on Sherman coming out this fall, Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic.
David Avery: converted under George Whitefield’s preaching, Avery worked as a pastor in Vermont until the outbreak of the Revolution, when he became one of George Washington’s key chaplains. He prayed over American troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and crossed the Delaware with Washington on Christmas night of 1776. I discuss Avery at length in God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution.
John Zubly: the wildcard of the list, this Swiss Presbyterian pastor of Savannah, Georgia, became perhaps the most fascinating American Loyalist of the Revolution. Zubly led Georgia’s protests against British taxes, and represented the colony in the Second Continental Congress, but as a matter of principle, he balked at the prospect of violent revolution. He left the Congress, lost his church, and for a time hid out in South Carolina’s Black Swamp before becoming Georgia’s most active Loyalist writer. The standard introduction to Zubly and his writings is Randall Miller, ed., A Warm and Zealous Spirit: John J. Zubly and the American Revolution, A Selection of His Writings.