Analysis of the Great Awakening and Revolutionary Thought
In the 1730s and the 1740s, religious revival swept through the New England and Middle Colonies. Through these revivals, the colonists came to view religion as a discrete and personal experience between God and man which, “undermined legally established churches and their tax supported ministers.” (Henretta, P. 112) Joseph Tracey was the first person to describe this period of revivalism as, ‘the Great Awakening.’ In 1841, Joseph Tracy wrote The Great Awakening: a History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield summarizing this period and cementing its name as ‘the Great Awakening’ for future generations. Of the Great Awakening, he asserts, “Its importance in itself, and in its influence on the subsequent state of the churches, was universally acknowledged,” and it was, “…extensively at work…producing a revolution in the minds of men, and thus in the very structure of society.” (Tracey, P. IV) James Henretta wrote that, “…the main intellectual legacy of the Great Awakening was not education for the privileged few but a new sense of authority among the many.” (Henretta, P.114) It was a, “movement towards democracy and religious liberty,” (Isaac, “Religion and Authority…”) and a “mechanism of social change.” (Rossel, “The Great Awakening: a Historical Analysis”) The Great Awakening was instrumental in the development of a “sense of authority among the many” concerning religion and the spread of this attitude helped redefine and unite the generation that would fight and win the American Revolutionary War. It is necessary to examine the environment in which the Great Awakening happened. It began in New England where the Puritans had originally settled. It is known that the Puritans originally left England in order to practice their religion freely (amongst other things). Their motives were an, “admixture of utopian and materialistic;” their exodus to the New World was...
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