The History Book Club discussion

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
This topic is about What Hath God Wrought
AMERICAN HISTORY > 5. WHAT GOD HATH WROUGHT- AWAKENINGS OF RELIGION, CHAPTER 5 (164 - 202) ~ November 26th - December 2nd; No Spoilers, Please

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37638 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

For the week of November 26, 2012 - December 2, 2012, we are reading Chapter Four of Awakenings of Religion.

The fifth week's reading assignment is:

WEEK FIVE: November 26, 2012 - December 2, 2012

5. Awakenings of Religion (164 - 202)

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book was kicked off on October 29th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle. This weekly thread will be opened up on or before November 26th.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Bentley will be moderating this discussion.




What Hath God Wrought The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe by Daniel Walker Howe



It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.


If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:


Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.


There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author used in her research or in her notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations. No self promotion, please.

TOC and the Syllabus

The following is a link to the table of contents for the book and the weekly syllabus:

Book as a Whole Thread

What Hath God Wrought The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe by Daniel Walker Howe

message 2: by Athens (last edited Nov 29, 2012 11:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Athens | 40 comments Have to admit I finished this chapter by not going very deeply into it - no side trip researching. Made a point of remembering a few key names and the difference between the styles of N and S approaches, that is about it.

It was interesting to see that the preachers often had a range of hardships that would have sent the rest of us back to the regular job in the Piedmont or Tidewater after a couple days.

I do not call their effort stupid or senseless; I call it brave and manly to have faced such difficulty.

Please allow me to paraphrase Plato describing courage as discernment of what to be afraid of. These men were more afraid of a godless world than they were of physical danger and suffering. Plato does not equate courage to blind and foolish risk and danger; rather, rather he indicates it is an informed choice.

Totally get how my respected atheist or non-Christian friends would disagree with my assessment here, but I'd reserve the right to my own authenticity, and no offense meant to anybody.

So yes, an interesting chapter to explain motivations and allegiances - and again how the threads of tension between N and S were being woven and pulled.

message 3: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments I agree, Paul - this was a very interesting chapter to explain some motivations and allegiance - as well as the unity and splits just like the Republican splits of the era. On the surface it may have appeared to be a smooth "Second Great Awakening" (Era of Good Feelings) but underneath there were plenty of differences for folks to split on.

Also fascinating (to me anyway) about how and perhaps why American religion and its practice is different from European; how it developed in a totally different environment where the population was moving into undeveloped territories, where the state and local governments were separating themselves more and more from any church affiliation, where there might even have been a unique character developing ala Frederick Jackson Turner -

The Significance Of The Frontier In American History by Frederick Jackson Turner by Frederick Jackson Turner (no photo)

message 4: by Bryan (new) - added it

Bryan Craig Indeed, Becky, The Second Great Awakening was a democratization. You didn't need priests to connect to God, and it played well in the larger development of Jacksonian democracy. This is a good book:

The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. HatchNathan O. Hatch

message 5: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments That does sound good. Thanks.

message 6: by Lori (last edited Dec 08, 2012 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori I'm finally getting caught up with my reading. So far this book is at the same high standard I expect from the Oxford History series. I've read the books from the Revolution to the Civil War (see below for links). I already knew something about this era, but the book is helping me put the pieces together.

The discussion for the first chapter was about religion and the US. I am no longer surprised at how central religion was and is in the USA. Even today there is much more social stigma to being an atheist than there is in (probably) every other industrialized nation. What I find interesting is that this is actually BECAUSE of the removal of state support of religion. Also, the whole interdenominational aspect is something I know non-Americans find difficult to understand. In the 1800s, as the author states, interdenominational meant Protestants only, but it is much broader today (at least in the SF Bay Area, where I live). Americans feel much more comfortable 'shopping' for a religion and they mostly accept that others shop too. (I am deliberately ignoring the fundamentalist Christians, they are like the 1800s, Protestant Christianity only.)

I can relate this to my family history. I have two branches going back to before the Revolution and religious choice was important in many generations. Even my maternal grandparents went shopping when they moved to a new city (Pueblo, CO). They were very religious but from different sects, neither one of which had a strong presence, so they found a church they liked.

I looked up Unitarianism - boy that word can mean all kinds of things! The original (and 1800s) meaning was 'Christians rejecting the Trinity'. Today the Unitarian Church accepts anyone (including atheists), and only about 20% consider themselves Christian.

I really condensed things. I hope it's not too confusing.

The Glorious Cause The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 Robert Middlekauff;
Empire of Liberty A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 Gordon S. WoodGordon S. Wood;
Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era by James M. McPhersonBattle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era James M. McPhersonJames M. McPherson

message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom One interesting thing about religion in the USA (and probably elsewhere) is that it is used to validate almost every political position - from the most radical to the most reactionary; from the most racist to the least.

In the present, Christianity in America is mostly used to bolster conservative positions (but see, e.g. the Nuns on the Bus) but it is important to remember that it was not always thus.

message 8: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Oh I do so agree, Peter. It's very important to remember the vital role religion played in the Abolitionist movement, the Women's movement (by giving women the opportunity to lead), right up to the Civil Rights movement of the mid 20th century and many other smaller movements. Even Prohibition was seen as a Reform due to rampant drunkenness (p. 167) Later on there were the Transcendentalists who were very reform-minded in a somewhat different way.

Odd to me - on the one hand there were the Second Great Awakening folks who believed that man was inherently sinful and so laws had to protect him and coerce him into right living. On the other hand there were the Transcendentalists who believed that man was essentially good and largely wanted to remove the external hinderances to that goodness.

I think in this chapter (6) Howe deals with the former pretty well - but the latter is a few years off yet.

Referring to Lyman Beecher Howe submits that:

He reinterpreted the Reformation doctrine of original sin to mean that sinning was universal but not causally necessary. Although all human beings sinned, they possessed “power to the contrary,” that is, the moral power to refrain from sinning if they chose. (p. 169)

Charles Finney is another fascinating character.

"...he refused the sacrament of communion to slaveholders on the grounds that they were unrepentant sinners.

Lori Becky, just a clarification about the Second Great Awakening. They were actually progressive compared to earlier Christian teachings. Although sinful, humans are able to act to achieve God's grace. Earlier teachings, from Augustine on had said that grace was a gift from God, that good acts and good thoughts could not guarantee grace (i.e. getting into heaven). Religion is not my major focus, but Christianity has had such a major impact on European history that I needed to learn about it.

Also, at this point all the revivalists believed in persuasion, not coercion. That meant no laws. It was only later that coercion became part of these movements (anti-slavery, temperance).

message 10: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Very interesting and thank you! Religion isn't my major focus either, but I have read some about the Reformation - not much Augustine, though. I think the idea of the Catholic church was that "grace" (getting into heaven) was based on grace through specific actions (baptism/other sacraments). But that was one of Luther's major contentions when he said we are saved by Grace alone because "original sin" remains even after baptism, etc.

That said, the Second Great Awakening was certainly Protestant so your point is well taken that the revivalists used persuasion rather than governmental (legal) coercion.

message 11: by Bryan (new) - added it

Bryan Craig And these religions that popped up during the Great Awakening was more democratic in nature. You don't need doctrines dictated from afar. It is in your hands, with local ministers.

Think about Joseph Smith and the Mormons as a good example.

William Kerrigan (wkerrigan) | 5 comments Peter wrote: "One interesting thing about religion in the USA (and probably elsewhere) is that it is used to validate almost every political position - from the most radical to the most reactionary; from the mos..."

Peter, I think this is an astute observation. The alliance of evangelical Christianity with conservative politics is relatively new, and may be coming to an end. In the late 19th/early 20th century, evangelicals were often associated with progressive political parties. As late as 1976, Jimmy Carter captured much of the evangelical vote with a populist-Christian message. But back in the antebellum era, there really was a radical diversity of perspectives, some of them advocating pretty radical lifestyles.

William Kerrigan (wkerrigan) | 5 comments I think Nathan Hatch's book on the Democratization of American Christianity is mostly correct, but another interesting thing about this era is how many religions it spawned that were really authoritarian--where people were devoted to a single leader, and followed strict discipline. I like to to describe the era as a "spiritual cafeteria," where people could pick and choose what they believed from an a la carte menu. I often think of how radically liberating it must have been for a young man migrating out of a New England town, where there was perhaps only one church and the minister worked to enforce one orthodox view, to arrive in someplace like Ohio, and encounter not just Methodists and Baptists, but Shakers, Swedenborgians, and a host of self-appointed prophets. This idea that belief could be *chosen* must have been profound.

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1171 comments William wrote: "Peter wrote: "One interesting thing about religion in the USA (and probably elsewhere) is that it is used to validate almost every political position - from the most radical to the most reactionary..."
I think that to a great extent you have hit the nail on the head so to say.
The empty country let settlers, and religious ideas, go where no one else was established and territorially guarding their area be it in acreage or theology.

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37638 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "I'm finally getting caught up with my reading. So far this book is at the same high standard I expect from the Oxford History series. I've read the books from the Revolution to the Civil War (see..."

Lori I found your comments very interesting regarding the Unitarian church. Great posts.

message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37638 comments Mod
Thanks William for your great comments - do not forget the citations:

The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatchby Nathan O. Hatch (no photo)

back to top