"Hall sets out to correct a serious flaw in the historiography. While prominent accounts of the American Revolution's intellectual underpinnings devote considerable attention to the influence of Lockean, classical republican, Scottish Enlightenment traditions, the influence of Reformed Protestantism--that is, Calvinism--tends to be overlooked. Although the focus is on Sherman's political thinking, Hall tell us, his book shows that the Reformed tradition was central to the thought of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Oliver Ellsworth, Jonathan Trumbull, William Paterson, John Witherspoon, and several other prominent Calvinist politicians as well.
As Hall puts it, "I am not arguing that Calvinism was the only influence on Sherman and his colleagues, simply that it was a very important influence that needs to be taken more seriously if we are to appreciate the political theory and actions of many of America's founders." Hall here continues the project on which he, Daniel L. Dreisbach, and Jeffry H. Morrison have long been jointly and severally embarked: that of fleshing out the story of religion's influence on the politics of the Revolution and Early Republic.
Hall decries the tendency to write as if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams (a group disproportionately composed of deists and marginally committed Christians) were the entirety of the Revolutionary generation, and then to deduce the meaning of America's original commitment to religious freedom from the ideas of those men. One illustration of this tendency is that, by Hall's calculation, Supreme Court justices writing opinions about the First Amendment's religion clauses have referred to Thomas Jefferson 112 times and to Sherman only three, even though Sherman helped write the First Amendment and Jefferson was away on diplomatic business in France at the time..." Read the whole review here. Then check out the GoogleBooks preview here. Then buy the damn book.