The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes Study Questions Direction

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes Study Questions
Directions: The book test will consist of your responses to 25 out of the questions below, written in sentence form, standard English, double spaced.
1.) Perhaps the most insightful European visitor to the United States during its early existence, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention.” What features of American religious life made it so startlingly distinctive from a European experience?
2.) Describe and provide examples of what Holmes refers to as “religious sects?”
3.) Holmes wrote that Pennsylvania was the American colony with the “richest mosaic” of religious groups. Why did this happen? Describe the religious sects present in Pennsylvania.
4.) Why was Pennsylvania the only colony without a legally established militia? When was this changed?
5.) From what European area did most of the Pennsylvania sects come?
6.) From what two sects did the American commitment to separation of church and state originate?
7.) Describe what is meant by the term “established” or “state” church? How did the “established/state” church differ in its relationship to government?
8.) A Massachusetts colonist referred to what other New England colony as containing, “Antinomians, Anabaptists, Antisabbatarians, Arminians, Socinians, Quakers, Ranters…everything in the world but Roman Catholics and real Christians.” Why would he say such an ungenerous thing?
9.) What religious group, although seriously challenged over the years, managed to sustain its position as the established/state church longer than any other in North America?
10.) Holmes wrote that colleges are an effective means to determine which church dominated which colony. Identify the churches that founded the following institutions of higher education: Harvard, Ruth, Brown, Rutgers, Princeton, King’s (Columbia), William & Mary, and the University of Philadelphia (Penn State). What was the primary motivation for creating these colleges? (There’s a trick in this question…beware!)
11.) Describe the purpose of the London-based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. What is a measure of its success?
12.) Why did Holmes suggest that both Delaware and New Jersey were religiously best understood as extensions of Pennsylvania; however, each has distinctive developmental features. Describe them.
13.) What was the most populated city in British North America? Describe its distinctive religious characteristics.
14.) Holmes suggests that Maryland’s religious experience is perhaps the most ironic among the colonies. Why?
15.) Assess the significance of the Maryland Toleration Act? Is it, as it’s been described, the earliest legislative expression of religious freedom or something else, much less elevated?
16.) Virginia colonist William Byrd described residents of what colony as “the least Superstition of any People living. They do not know Sunday from any other day.” Describe the effect of the Great Awakening upon this assessment.
17.)Describe the distinctive religious experience of the colony of South Carolina.
18.) How was the religious situation North Carolina and Georgia similar?
19.) What was the Great Awakening? Who were the people most influential in it? What two churches were the primary beneficiaries of it? Why did Holmes assess it as “the single most transforming event in the religious history of colonial America.”
20.) Who was known as “The Grand Itinerant?”
21.) Describe the features of Deism that most appealed to Thomas Paine.
22.) When did Deism emerge? With what other European movement is Deism associated? Identify and provide the contributions made to Deism by the following: Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke.
23.) By the eighteenth century, and into the nineteenth, Deism had extended to include political figures such as Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, Frederick “the Great” of Prussia, Anthony Collins, and Thomas Paine. Identify and trace the contributions made to Deism by these famous men.
24.) It is probable that future U.S. president James Monroe, when American envoy to France in the 1790s, was influenced religiously by Thomas Paine. Explain how that likely happened.
25.) Thomas Paine, the most important American propagandist advocating American independence during the revolutionary war, lost many friends and supporters after publication of his book, The Age of Reason. What did he assert in his book that cost him much of his earlier popularity?
26.) Deism, according to Holmes, logically inclines its adherents in typical socio-religious and political directions. Describe those directions?
27.) Identify and provide the significance of Edward Herbert in comprehending Deism.
28.) How is Deism distinctive from traditional/orthodox Christianity?
29.) Identify and provide the contributions made to Deism by Elihu Palmer and Ethan Allen.
30.) What political views and objectives naturally emerge from Deism?
31.) Provide an effective time frame for the rise and decline of Deism in North America.
32.) Holmes suggests that the features that led to Deism’s rise led to its decline. Explain his rationale.
33.) All of the leading Virginians of the founding generation were, in some way or another, influenced by Deism. Holmes asserts that, with the sole exception of James Madison, Deism was primarily extended through shared experience at or exposure to what institution; who was Deism’s leading exponent there, and what was his role there?
34.) Describe Benjamin Franklin’s religious evolution through his life.
35.) What demonstrates that Franklin’s religious views were more practical than theoretical?
36.) According to Holmes, Franklin’s affection for George Whitfield derived, in part, from his sermons’ effect on what segment of Philadelphia’s population.
37.) Holmes asserts that the issue dominating Franklin’s religious point of view was “morality.” How did this emphasis manifest itself in Franklin’s thoughts and behavior?
38.) What evidence suggests that George Washington would be considered “religiously active” during his lifetime?
39.) What evidence suggests that George Washington held distinctively Deistic views?
40.) Despite solid, believable evidence at hand, why are Washington’s religious views so controversial? When did the controversy begin?
41.) What explanations are there for Washington’s neglect of both religious confirmation and participation in communion?
42.) Despite all evidence to the contrary (Washington’s own pastor bluntly said when questioned, “Sir, he was a Deist.”) what explains the insistence by some that Washington’s religion was more orthodox and prayerfully devout?
43.) Unlike the controversies surrounding our first president’s religious views, as Holmes wrote, “…those of John Adams arouse no such debate.” Our second president’s Deism is unquestioned. What distinguishes John Adams’ religious views from not only those of his fellow founders’ but from all but one other U.S. president? (The other one was Ohio’s William Howard Taft, president from 1908-1912, and the only president to ever serve as president and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…we’re both Virgos…born same date… different year!)
44.) Describe the difference between a Christian “trinitarian” and a Christian “unitarian.” Trace the history of the two ideas within the Christian tradition.
45.) Why did the trinitarian tradition become so completely dominant within Christianity?
46.) When and why did the unitarian tradition re-emerge in eastern New England and why did this coincidence effect Abigail and John Adams?
47.) What evidence suggests Holmes characterization of John Adams’ religion as “Christian Unitarianism” is apt?
48.) Who was William Small? Describe his role in Thomas Jefferson’s life.
49.) Why was Jefferson, among his contemporaries, more likely to be aware of and influenced by, what Holmes describes as, “the more radical French” Enlightenment authors?
50.) According to Holmes, how was Jefferson able to remain within the Episcopalian tradition of his youth and yet theologically depart so drastically from it?
51.) Why would Jefferson be so unwilling to share his religious views during his lifetime?
52.) What is a Christian “restorationist,” and what distinctive views do they hold?
53.) What evidence exists to suggest that Jefferson was a restorationist?
54.) Who was Joseph Priestly? What part does he play in Jefferson’s religious evolution?
55.) Who, in a letter to William Small, did Jefferson refer to as “…the most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical and ambitious; ready at the word of the lawgiver, if such a word could now be obtained, to put the torch to the pile.”
56.) What would suggest that Jefferson, despite his intense anti-clericalism, was essentially ecumenical in the final analysis?
57.) Of the many, varied criticisms that Jefferson launched against the institutionalized church, perhaps his most intense concern was with its influence upon what? How did he ultimately address his concern?
58.) Jefferson died with an Episcopalian clergyman at his bedside. Jefferson’s great-grandson characterized his great-grandfather’s religious point of view as “conservative Unitarianism.” Holmes suggests “moderate unitarianism” might be a more accurate term. Why, unlike his friends Abigail and John Adams, did Jefferson never formally associate himself with that denomination? Jefferson’s religious self-characterization is likely the most dependable. Into which sect did he himself suggest he belonged?
59.) Why did the local Episcopalian bishop suggest in 1850 that future president James Madison was likely sent to college in New Jersey rather than his native Virginia?
60.) Identify and provide the significance to Madison’s religious development of Donald Robertson, Thomas Martin, and John Witherspoon.
61.) How do we know that James Madison was largely activated religiously by his dedication to religious liberty?
62.) How would a student of Madison’s religious points of view best understand them?
63.) James Monroe, the fourth president and another Virginian, makes knowing his religious viewpoints extraordinarily difficult? How?
64.) What is the “Duponceau Letter?” What does it suggest about Monroe’s approach to religion?
65.) What did the language used in his inaugural address when referring to God, his reactions to his only son’s death at less than two years of age, his personal correspondence to younger kin, his public speeches when referencing God, letters to friends upon his wife’s death, his relationship to religious leaders, his membership in the Masonic Lodge, and the holdings in his personal library reflect about Monroe’s religious attitudes?
66.) Describe and explain Monroe’s reaction to Nathaniel Taylor’s 1817 militant sermon.
67.) How did Holmes, after examining the evidence, finally characterize America’s fourth president’s approach to religion?
68.) Explain why so few of the revolutionary females embraced Deism.
69.) Responding to letters of condolence upon her husband’s death, letters bearing Martha Custis Washington’s signature reflects a remarkably Deistic tone. Explain why.
70.) What evidence reflects Mrs. Washington’s more religiously orthodox point of view. (Don’t forget to include the attitudes of her granddaughter/adopted daughter.)
71.) How was Abigail Adams’ religiously the great exception among females of the revolution?
72.) How was Mrs. Adams introduced to Deism?
73.) Why did one historian of First Ladies conclude that Dolley Payne Madison was an odd bird for a Quaker nest.”
74.) Holmes suggests that there are at least four effective means by which to distinguish the religious beliefs of the founding generation. What are they?
75.) Holmes posits that there are three categories into which the founders fall: Non-Christian Deism, Christian Deism, and Orthodox Christianity. Be able to accurately place the founders discussed in the book into one of these categories.
76.) Compare and contrast the lives and religious points of view of Samuel Adams, Elias Boudinot, and John Jay with the other founders discussed in the book.
77.) Is there a president in the modern era that replicates the founders’ Deism? If so, who and how? If not, why?

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes Study Questions Direction
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