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The perfect law of liberty : Elias Smith and the providential history of America

Author: Michael G Kenny
Publisher: Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1994.
Edition/Format:   Print book : Biography : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
Elias Smith (1769-1846), a New England preacher, journalist, and herbal physician, was one of the most idiosyncratic of a generation of democratic leaders in the age of the new republic. Combining religious and social history, this biography tells how Smith's "perfect law of liberty" - a radical fusion of Jeffersonian republicanism and evangelical Protestantism - drew the faith of humble Americans as it challenged
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Genre/Form: Biography
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Kenny, Michael G., 1942-
Perfect law of liberty.
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1994
(OCoLC)595851714
Online version:
Kenny, Michael G., 1942-
Perfect law of liberty.
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1994
(OCoLC)623767679
Named Person: Elias Smith; Elias Smith
Material Type: Biography
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Michael G Kenny
ISBN: 1560983213 9781560983217
OCLC Number: 28709960
Description: xvi, 328 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Responsibility: Michael G. Kenny.

Abstract:

Elias Smith (1769-1846), a New England preacher, journalist, and herbal physician, was one of the most idiosyncratic of a generation of democratic leaders in the age of the new republic. Combining religious and social history, this biography tells how Smith's "perfect law of liberty" - a radical fusion of Jeffersonian republicanism and evangelical Protestantism - drew the faith of humble Americans as it challenged the social order.

Michael Kenny charts the evolution of Smith's increasingly powerful and unsettling rhetoric. A Baptist minister in the 1790s, Smith broke with the church hierarchy over questions of equality and became a leader in the so-called Christian Movement or Christian Connection. Linking the New Testament with the Declaration of Independence, he told followers that the destiny of the United States was to become a true democracy. In sermons and writings he emphasized universal equality, repudiated social deference, and invoked ideas of individual autonomy and millennial expectation.

Kenny traces the extent of Smith's influence - his newspaper, The Herald of Gospel Liberty, had a national circulation - as well as the character of his followers. Revealing how one man helped redefine democracy and religion for all citizens, this book suggests that America's heritage of evangelical preachers who advance radical ideas is as old and persistent as the nation itself.

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