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Lemuel Haynes and the Revolutionary Origins of Black Theology, 1776-1801

  • John Saillant


Lemuel Haynes was a black Congregationalist minister to mostly white churches in New England and New York between 1788 and his death in 1833. Abandoned as an infant, Haynes was reared as an indentured servant in a pious white Massachusetts family. He served in the American Revolution in 1774 and 1775 as a Minute Man and in 1776 as a soldier in the march to Fort Ticonderoga. In 1776, Haynes composed an essay, “Liberty Further Extended: Or Free Thoughts on the Illegality of Slave-keeping.” After the Revolution, he acquired a reputation among his white contemporaries as an inspiring preacher. In 1788, Haynes accepted a call to minister in Rutland, Vermont, where he served for thirty years before being dismissed, perhaps because he was a black man. While at Rutland, he published a number of essays and sermons, including in 1801 The Nature and Importance of True Republicanism and in 1806 Universal Salvation. Universal Salvation ultimately appeared in seventy editions, fifty-four of them within Haynes's lifetime.



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1. The only biography of Haynes is Cooley, Timothy Mather, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Reu. Lemuel Haynes, AM., For Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt, and Late in Granville, New York (New York, 1837; repr., New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), hereafter dited as Sketches of Haynes. For a modern bibliography, see Newman, Richard, Lemuel Haynes: A Bio-Bibliography (New York: Lambeth Press, 1984). Haynes's military service is recorded in Massa chusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (Boston: Wright and Potter Printing Company, 1900), 7:39, 227. Possible reasons for Hayne's dismissal from the church in Rutland are advanced in Newman's “Biographical Sketch” of Haynes in Lemuel Haynes, 15.

2. Republican ideology attracted many Americans during the imperial crisis, the American Revolution, and the Revolutionary formation of new State constitutions and governments. A polyglot ideology, republicanism drew from European sources ranging from the classics to natural law and natural rights theory to Whig ideology, British moral philosophy, and the French Enlightenment. In the imperial crisis, American republicans saw a British conspiracy against liberty, an effort by a monarchy and a society corrupted by power to enslave Americans. Liberty, a natural right, could be protected from this grasping power by individ-ual virtue and by minimizing the traditional place of power in government. Virtue was characteristic of a man both secure in his property and selfless when called upon by society—a virtue exemplified in patriotic Service in the Revolution. The Revolutionary State constitutions and governments were republican in limiting or even eliminating upper Councils and governors, seen in traditional political philosophy as enemies of liberty, and extending the power of representa-tive legislatures. Beyond issues of governance, republicanism promoted a sentimentalist view of society as an organic unity formed by natural affection, benevolence, and common sense, not by authority and force. The virtuous republican was to be both independent and benevolent. Sentimentalism clashed with a new, liberal republicanism in the early republic as political and intellectual leaders argued over republicanism's meaning and signifkance in American society.

3. The New Divinity, the first indigenous American theology, originated in the 1740's with Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins, students of Jonathan Edwards. Hopkins became the premier New Divinity theologian. In the 1750's and 1760's, New Divinity spread through a network of New England Congregationalist ministers, including Haynes's mentors. New Divinity doctrines included God's absolute sovereignty, unregenerate humankind's moral depravity, church membership only for the regenerate, sin as a necessary part of God's plan, an identification between sin and self-love, and an identification between true virtue and disinterested benevolence. Yet, Hopkins taught that the intellectual faculty had escaped the ruin of the moral faculty. Moreover, although Hopkins saw conversion as a divine work and condemned human desires for salvation as selfish, he encouraged both revivals and individual striving for salvation as long as they were motivated by disinterested benevolence. Hopkins expected the converted to address their disinterested benevolence to society. After his ministry began in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1769, Hopkins's paradigms of disinterested benevolence became patriotic Service in the Revolution and Opposition to slavery. (Newport was an important link in the slave trade.) Caught in the crosscurrents of the Revolutionary era, the New Divinity recalled traditional New England polity, invoked benevolence and intellect in typical late eighteenth-century fashion, and augured nineteenth-century individuaHsm, revivalism, and benevolent Cru sades.

4. Haynes, Lemuel, The Nature and Importance of True Republicanism: with a few suggestions, favorable to independence. A discourse delivered at Rutland, (Vermont,) the Fourth ofjuly, 1801.—It being the 25th anniversary of American indepen dence (Rutland, Vt.: William Fay, 1801), 11.

5. Haynes, Lemuel, “Liberty Further Extended: Or Free Thoughts on the Ülegality of Slave-keeping; Wherein those arguments that Are useed in its vindication Are plainly confuted. Together with an humble Address to such as are Concearned in the practise,” quoted from Ruth Bogin, “ liberty Further Extended': A 1776 Antislavery Manuscript by Lemuel Haynes,” William and Mary Quarterly 40 (1983): 95,102.

6. Cone, Cecil Wayne, The Identity Crisis in Black Theology (Nashville: The African Methodist Episcopal Church and Henry Belin, Publisher, 1975), 620; Cone, James H., For My People: Black Theology and the Black Church (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984), 57,74,99; Major J. Jones, The Color of God: The Concept of God in Afro-American Thought (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987), 30.

7. Roberts, John Deotis, Black Theology in Dialogue (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 38. See also Roberts, John Deotis, Black Theology Today: Liberation and Contextualization (New York: Edwin Meilen Press, 1983), 8589.

8. Boesak, Allan, Farewell to Innocence: A Social-Ethical Study on Black Theology and Black Power (Johannesburg, South Africa: Rava Press, 1977), 112-19.

9. Cone, James H., “Black Theology as Liberation Theology,” in African American Religious Studies: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, ed. Wihnore, Gayraud S. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1989), 177207.

10. Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 49.

11. Breitenbach, William, “Unregenerate Doings: Selflessness and Selfishness in New Divinity Theology,” American Quarterly 34 (1982): 481-84.

12. Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 53.

13. Ibid., 57. Hopkins believed that “regeneration” was God's influence upon the individual, while “conversion” was the volitional human response to regeneration. Ahlstrom, Sydney E., A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972; repr. in 2 vols., Garden City, N.Y: Image Books, 1975), 1:495-96.

14. Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 54.

15. Valeri, Mark, “The New Divinity and the American Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly 46 (1989): 742-49.

16. Conforti, Joseph A., Samuel Hopkins and the New Divinity Movement: Calvinism, the Congregational Ministry, and Reform in New England between the Great Awakenings (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 6,108,126.

17. Ahlstrom appropriately described Hopkins as “a champion of both revivalism and intellectuaHsm” in A Religious History of the American People, 1:496.

18. Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 49-50,56.

19. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended,” 94,104.

20. For the jeremiads emphasizing slavery as part of Americans’ sinfulness, see Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1975), 295-98.

21. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended,” 94.

22. As James H. Cone notes, the two classic biblical references used against slavery have long been the book of Exodus and Psalms 68:31, “Princes shall come out of Egypt, and Ethiopia shall soon Stretch forth her hands unto God.” Cone, Speaking the Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation, and Black Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 94. On the Afro-American use of Exodus, see Raboteau, Albert J., “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Tradition of Black Religious Protest,” in Religion and the Life of the Nation: American Recoveries, ed. Sherrill, Rowland A. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 50.

23. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended,” 101.

24. For the “Word” (rational scriptural argument) versus the “Spirif” (intense participation in emotional worship) in black preachers in the generation after Haynes's, see Swift, David E., Black Prophets of Justice: Activist Clergy before the Civil War (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 811. See Conforti, Samuel Hopkins and the New Divinity Movement, 32, 148 -54 . Divinity “preparation in the school of the prophets,” the theological training of Haynes's generation of Congregationalist ministers.

25. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended,” 94.

26. Ibid., 100.

27. Ibid., 95.

28. Ibid., 102,103,104,98,99.

29. Swift noted that the Declaration of Independence and the Bible became “complementary authorities” in the writings of antebellum ministers such as Samuel Cornish, Theodore Wright, Charles Ray, Henry Highland Garnet, Arnos Beman, and James W. C. Pennington. Swift, Black Prophets of Justice, 8-11.

30. Conforti, Samuel Hopkins and the New Divinity Movement, 148-54.

31. Tise, Larry E., Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701-1840 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 190-91.

32. Haynes, The Qiaracter and Work of a Spirited Watchman (IitcMeld, Ct.: Collier and Buel, 1792), 3.

33. Haynes, The Influence of Civil Government on Religion (Rutland, Vt.: John Walker, 1798), 4-5.

34. Federalism in New England in the early republic comprised faith in traditional social organization along with fear of disorder such as Federalists perceived in the results of the French Revolution and on the American western frontier. Protestant Christianity, education, social harmony, and leadership by a social elite were the hallmarks of New England Federalism. New England Federalists thus opposed Thomas Jefferson's deism, his sympathies for France, and his blithe confidence in westward expansion. To New England Federalists, liberty threatened to become license and popular sovereignty threatened to become popular tyranny. A crucial element in American republicanism and in the American Enlightenment was sustained in New England Federalism: a commitment to moderation and solidarity and a revulsion against seemingly corrosive social and intellectual developments. Of Massachusetts Federalism, Banner, James M., Jr., wrote, “Harmony, unity, order, solidarity: these were the basic motife in Massa chusetts Federalist thought.” Banner, To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789-1815 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), 53. Indeed, Federalists such as John Adams, Timothy Dwight, and Haynes persistenüy claimed to be true to Revolutionary republicanism. Opposition to Presidents Jefferson and Madison led Federalists to call for the secession of New England, first in 1808 and then in 1814-1815. The Federalist Party survived longest in New England, where party politics pitted Federalists against Democratic-Republicans until 1820. For the Federalist/Republican conflicts in Vermont, see Williamson, Chilton, Vermont in Quandary, 1763-1825 (Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1949), 258-60; and Roth, Randolph A., The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Sodal Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791-1850 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 6974.

35. Haynes, Nature and Importance of True Republicanism, 9, 23. For the Vermont Constitution and Opposition to slavery in the State, see Roth, The Demo cratic Dilemma, 13, 23-24; Tuttle, Charles E., Jr., “Vermont and the Slavery Question,” Proceedings ofthe Vermont Historical Society 6 (1938): 4; and Myers, John, “The Beginnings of Anti-Slavery Activity in Vermont,” Vermont History 36 (1968): 126.

36. Haynes, Nature and Importance ofTrue Republicanism, 11-12.

37. Ibid., 4.

38. Ibid., 3.

39. Ibid., 3-5.

40. Ibid., 7-8.

41. Ibid., 9-10.

42. Ibid., 9,11.

43. Ibid., 7-8.

44. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended,” 102.

45. Haynes, Nature and Importance ofTrue Republicanism, 11-12,16.

46. Jefferson, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 vols., ed. lipscomb, Andrew A. and Bergh, Albert EUery (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903-04), 2:206-7.

47. Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 2:192. See also Smith, Wilson, ed., Theories ofEducation in Early America, 1655-1819 (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973), 322.

48. MacLam, Helen M., ‘'Black Puritan on the Northern Frontier: The Vermont Ministry of Lemuel Haynes/’ in Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: AfroAmericans and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, ed. Wills, David W. and Newman, Richard (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982), 7.

49. Haynes, “Liberty Further Extended/’ 94.

50. Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 46.

51. Ibid.

52. Wood, Gordon S., “ülusions and Disillusions in the American Revo lution,” in The American Revolution: Its Character and Limits, ed. Greene, Jack P. (New York: New York University Press, 1987), 358.

53. Kloppenberg, James T., “The Virtues of Liberalism: Christianity, Republicanism, and Ethics in Early American Political Discourse,” Journal of American History 74 (1987): 29.

54. Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. lipscomb and Bergh, 12:393-94; Paine, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Paine, 4 vols., ed. Conway, Monome Daniel (New York, 1902-03; repr., New York: Burt Franklin, 1969), 1:69. For more on Jefferson and Paine, respectively, on this point, see Matthews, Richard K., The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson: A Revisionist View (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984), 8189; and Claeys, Gregory, Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 7692.

55. An excellent discussion of the liberal reformulation of republicanism is Watts, Steven, The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790-01820 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), esp. 151-60, 219-20, 250-51,298.

56. Haynes, Nature and Importance of True Republicanism, 15. Haynes's belief that affection and virtue were essential to republicanism should serve as a balance against modern scholarly efforts to strip republicanism of affection and virtue such as Appleby, Joyce, Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790's (New York: New York University Press, 1984); Diggins, John Patrick, The Lost Soul of American Politics: Virtue, Self-Interest, and the Foundations of Liberalism (New York: Basic Books, 1984); Pangle, Thomas L., The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); and Kramnick, Isaac, Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990). Kramnick, for instance, posits a “gradual liquidation of the aristocratic world and its replacement by the lib eral capitalist order” (9) without noting the antiaristocratic and antiliberal efforts of Haynes and his contemporaries to promote affection and virtue.

57. Staudenraus, P. J., The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), 48,171-83.

58. See Banner, To the Hartford Convention, 104-9; and Kerber, Linda K., Federalists in Dissent: Imagery and Ideology in Jeffersonian America (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1970), 2366.

59. Tuttle, “Vermont and the Slavery Question,” 6; and Siebert, William H., Vermont's Anti-Slavery and Underground Railroad Record (Columbus, Ohio: The Spahr and Glenn Co., 1937), 13.

60. Quoted from Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 171-72.

61. Quarles, Benjamin, “The Revolutionary War as a Black Declaration of Independence,” in Slavery and Freedom in the Age ofthe American Revolution, ed. Berlin, Ira and Hoffman, Ronald (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 291-93.

62. Robert A. Bennett, “Black Experience and the Bible,” in African American Religious Studies, ed. Wilmore, 129-39; Charles H. Long, “Assessment and New Departures for a Study of Black Religion in the United States of Amer ica,” in African American Religious Studies, ed. Wilmore, 34-49; Wilmore, Gayraud S., Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History ofAfro-American People (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972).

63. West, Cornel, Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982), 16.

64. Cone, “Black Theology as Liberation Theology,” in African American Religious Studies, ed. Wilmore, 184.

65. Cone, James H., Black Theology and Black Power (New York: Seabury Press, 1969; repr., New York: Harper and Row, 1989), 38-42.

66. Roberts, Black Theology Today, 43,56,88.

67. Young, Henry J., Major Black Religious Leaders: 1755-1940 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1977), 13; Wimberly, Edward P. and Wimberly, Anne Streaty, Liberation and Human Wholeness: The Conversion Experiences of Black People in Slavery andFreedom (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), 15.

68. For example, see Jones, The Color of God, 2. Another example of the scholarly focus on the antebellum decades is Griffin, Paul R., Black Theology as the Foundation of Three Methodist Colleges: The Educational Views and Labors of Daniel Payne, Joseph Price, Isaac Lane (New York: University Press of America, 1984). An extreme example appears in John Brown Childs, The Political Black Minister: A Study in Afro-American Politics and Religion (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980), in which black Separation from white churches is defined as the beginning of “the struggle for freedom and equality by black people in the United States” (1). Raboteau views “black religious protest” as rooted in an American creed uniting biblical themes and Revolutionary republicanism, but he discusses eighteenth-century black Americans only in the context of revivals in which “racial barriers were momentarily transcended.” Raboteau, “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Tradition of Black Religious Protest,” in Religion and the Life ofthe Nation, ed. Sherrill, 47-49.

69. For examples, see Neil, William C., The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855), 123-24; Morse, W. H., “Lemuel Haynes,” Journal ofNegro History 4 (1919): 2232; Brawley, Benjamin, A Social History of the American Negro (New York: Macmillan, 1921), 70; Woodson, Carter G., The History of the Negro Church (Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, 1921), 5256; Frazier, E. Franklin, The Negro in the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1949), 497; Frazier, E. Franklin, The Negro Church in America (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), 26; Hamilton, Charles V., The Black Preacher in America (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1972), 42; Kaplan, Sidney, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1973), 102-8; Lincoln, C. Eric, Race, Religion, and the Continuing American Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 1984), 95, 255; Harling, Frederick F. and Kaufman, Martin, eds., The Ethnic Contribution to the American Revolution (Westfield, Mass.: The Historical Journal of Western Massachusetts, 1976), 72; and Franklin, John Hope and Moss, Alfred A., Jr., From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, 6th ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 73, 147.

70. Cone, Black Power and Black Theology, 152; West, Prophesy Deliverance!, 14CM3.

71. Jones, The Color of God, 30.

72. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism, 38. See also Jones, The ColorofGod, 23.

73. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, 206; Jones, The Color of God, 14. Indeed, Cecil Wayne Cone has wondered “whether universalism is really a guise for specific, Euro-American categories that are themselves alien to black religious history.” Cecil Wayne Cone, The Identity Crisis in Black Theology, 137.

74. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, 138. Indeed, Cone noted that Black Theology and Black Power “is not chiefly written for black people This is a word to the oppressor, a word to Whitey, not in hope that he will listen (after King's death who can hope?) but in the expectation that my own existence will be clarified” (3).

75. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, 11, 20, 32. See also Jones, The ColorofGod, 5.

76. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, 33.

77. Ibid., 151-52.

78. Ibid., 151. The classic analysis of the qualities Europeans and Americans associated with black and white is Jordan, Winthrop, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968).

79. Haynes, Lemuel, A Letter to the Reverend Hosea Ballou, being a reply to his Epistle to the author; or his attempt to vindicate the Old Universal Preacher (Rutland, Vt: William Fay, 1807), printed in Cooley, Sketches of Haynes, 105-21; Newman, Lemuel Haynes: A Bio-Bibliography, 14.

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