Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Den Hartog Reviews Frazer's Latest

Linked is a timely review by Jonathan Den Hartog of Gregg Frazer's latest documenting the loyalists' political theology in the American Revolution. A taste:
Although Samuel Seabury might not be a household name, fans of the musical Hamilton should be able to identify him. In the first act, a foppish clergyman enters to strains of harpsichord music to announce, “My name is Samuel Seabury, and I present free thoughts on the proceedings of the Continental Congress.” Our hero Alexander Hamilton then appears, and delivers a rap over poor Seabury’s objections, symbolizing the triumph of revolutionary ideas over archaic ones.   
The real Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) was an articulate New York Loyalist who wrote pamphlets such as Free Thoughts, on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress. To avoid attacks, Seabury signed them “A Westchester Farmer.” One of Hamilton’s earliest public pieces was an attack on Seabury called The Farmer Refuted. 
Students of American history (whether or not they have been to the musical theater) who want to learn more about Seabury and his Loyalist brethren have a fine new resource. It is Gregg Frazer’s God against the Revolution: The Loyalist Clergy’s Case against the American Revolution. In fact there has been a resurgence of writing about the Loyalists in recent years. Studies by Maya Jasanoff and Ruma Chopra have done much to situate Loyalists in the revolutionary moment. Frazer adds to this literature with a very specific goal: He wants to present, in a clear and logical way, the arguments made by Loyalist clergy. This affects the book’s organization. Chapters develop not chronologically but according to Frazer’s organization of the Loyalists’ arguments. He aims to let these speak for themselves as much as possible.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

You skipped the good stuff. :-D

"It should be noted that the author’s sympathies are clearly with these Loyalists’ endorsement of total obedience and that he is skeptical of all forms of resistance to government."


Gregg Frazer got very steamed at me when I correctly predicted the kind of book he would write. Gregg can write anything he wants of course, but I consider it a missed opportunity to fully inform and educate anyone interested in the whole topic, not just Gregg's favored half of it.


"In presenting the Loyalist perspective, the book makes clear their beliefs and arguments. It also, however, reproduces their biases and blind spots. These Loyalists were theorists, but also actors in the conflict, and so the polemical nature of some of their arguments should not be dismissed. As I read, I kept imagining Patriots like John Adams, John Jay, and John Witherspoon demanding to answer the arguments, and it should be remembered that these debates did have two well-argued sides."