Conservative Revolutionaries: Transformation and Tradition in the Religious and Political Thought of Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew

By John S. Oakes

A new study of two New England preachers often portrayed as radical thinkers, revealing a traditionalist side to their theological and political beliefs.

ISBN: 9780227176764


Boston Congregationalist ministers Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766) were significant political as well as religious leaders in colonial and revolutionary New England. Scholars have often stressed their influence on major shifts in New England theology, and have also portrayed Mayhew as an influential preacher, whose works helped shape American revolutionary ideology, and Chauncy as an active leader of the patriot cause. Through a deeply contextualised re-examination of the two ministers as ‘men of their times’, Oakes offers a fresh, comparative interpretation of how their religious and political views changed and interacted over decades. The result is a thoroughly revised reading of Chauncy’s and Mayhew’s most innovative ideas. Conservative Revolutionaries unearths strongly traditionalist elements in their belief systems, focussing on their shared commitment to a dissenting worldview based on the ideals of their Protestant New England and British heritage. Oakes concludes with a provocative exploration of how their shifting theological and political positions may have helped redefine prevailing notions of human identity, capability, and destiny.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 318

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

John S. Oakes is Adjunct Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. He recently held a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Divinity School and a visiting fellowship at Yale Divinity School. He has taught courses in Church History and Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver. He was educated at Oxford University (MA), Regent College (MDiv and MCS), the University of British Columbia (MA), and Simon Fraser University, where he earned his PhD in History.


List of Illustrations
Foreword by David D. Hall


Part 1 – Transformation and Tradition
1. Earlier Lives
2. Reshaping the Calvinist Heritage: The Shift to Arminianism
3. Challenging the Boundaries of Orthodoxy: Unitarianism and Universalism
4. Maintaining Tradition: Consistent Puritan Themes

Part 2 – Conservative Revolutionaries
5. Engaging the Public Square: Ministers in Politics
6. Fighting the Cause: Languages of Liberty
7. Resolving the Big Issue: Submission or Revolution
8. Mayhew, Chauncy, and Revolutionary Change



Endorsements and Reviews

A balanced, careful, and engaging study of two important figures who are more often captured in caricature. Oakes’s book situates Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew not as pathfinders of revolution and Enlightenment, but as key figures in their own historical moment.
Nicholas Guyatt, University of Cambridge

Well-researched and highly informative.
Anglican and Episcopal History