Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kidd Reviews Winship, "Godly Republicanism"

And yet another book I need to read.  (See John Wilson's point in my last post about too many good history books and not enough time).

Over at The Anxious Bench, Thomas Kidd reviews Michael Winship's new book Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill.  According to Kidd, Winship argues that the Puritans were America's first "republicans" in the sense that they feared ecclesiastical and political tyranny.  This is an interesting argument and should be considered, as Kidd notes, in light of Mark Noll's America's God.  Noll suggests that the Puritans were inherently "anti-republican" particularly because they linked republican political philosophy with paganism and religious skepticism.

Here is a taste of Kidd's review:

...Winship is not concerned with the anti-orthodox leanings of many republican writers. The Puritans, he says, explicitly rejected the top-down authority of the bishops in the Anglican Church, and English Puritans became key opponents of the monarchy in their Civil War of the 1640s and ’50s. In Massachusetts, congregations elected elders to govern the churches, and politically, the colony extended the vote to all male church members. These practices made seventeenth-century Massachusetts the only place within the English empire “where the freemen had final control over all the officials who immediately affected their lives.”

Contemporary historians will undoubtedly continue to balk at oversimplified notions of the Puritan meetinghouse as a crucible of American democracy. But Winship makes a powerful case that America’s republican ideology did have  strong Reformed and Puritan roots.