As I continue to study our nation's history and how it has been affected by eschatology, I read with great interest,
Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role, Ernest Lee Tuveson, University of Chicago Press (1968).
Ernest Tuveson here shows that the idea of the redemptive mission which has motivated so much of United States foreign policy is as old as the Republic itself. He traces the development of this element of the American heritage from its beginnings as a literal interpretation of biblical prophecies. Pointing to the application of the millenarian ideal to successive stages of American history, notably apocalyptic events like the Civil War, Tuveson illustrates its pervasive cultural influences with examples from the writings of Jonathan Edwards, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Timothy Dwight, and Julia Ward Howe, among others.
"Solidly written, delightful reading, the book is a much needed corrective to many who have written on America's 'sense of mission' but failed to see the complete character of the millennialist vision." —Quarterly Journal of Speech
I was surprised to find how AC influenced Sam Clements. Have any RM historians written about this?
Here is a bit from the Appendix dealing with A Connecticut Yankee . . .
Pg 216-23 Appendix
Mark Twain's boyhood was passed in an area which was especially affected by the religious ferments of the 1840's and 1850's. The great, almost obsessive interest in religion that appears throughout his work perhaps reflects the interest, at times arising almost to hysteria, of the people of Hannibal in salvation. Despite the skepticism about church religiosity of his later years, it hardly seems wise to assume that religious attitudes ever were eradicated from his psyche. One biographer in fact has said that "he did not believe in Hell, but he was afraid of it." '' Formally, he was brought up in the Presbyterian Church, and he described the terror inspired by sermons about predestination and the pains of hell. We may even suspect that the mature man reacted so strongly against the churches in part because these early teachings had made an ineradicable impression, and he resented their arrogated dominance over his heart and imagination. In A Connecticut Yankee, the author says:
Training—training is everything; training is all there is to a person. We speak of nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by that misleading name is merely heredity and training. We have no thoughts of our own, no opinions of our own; they are transmitted to us, trained into us.
Among the opinions transmitted to the young Sam Clemens, besides eternal damnation to the glory of God, must have been some form of the Protestant theory of history I have described. The Presbyterian Church itself was largely of these opinions; but there were other religious bodies of consequence in Hannibal. It was a center of Campbellites. The millennium, apparently, was one of the liveliest issues in the popular mind. Mark Twain, on his last visit to Hannibal, recalled how the Millerites donned their ascension robes and awaited the end, on October 22, 1844, and he pointed out the place where they gathered.
But for present purposes the Campbellites may have been the most important. Young Sam's closest friend, Will Bowen, was the grandson of a notable Campbellite preacher, the Reverend Barton W. Stone. One may surmise that the boy saw issues of The Millennial Harbinger, and that millennialist doctrines were in the air. In his Autobiography, moreover, he recorded one personal encounter with Campbell himself, and we get an impression of the personal power of the celebrated revivalist. In Sam Clemens' early days on The Courier, "The farmers and their families drove or tramped into the village from miles around to get a sight of the illustrious Alexander Campbell and to have a chance to hear him preach. The farmers raised the enormous sum of sixteen dollars to print the sermon of the illustrious preacher, and The Courier thus for the first time became a book publisher. It was Campbell who berated Wales McCormick for shortening "Jesus Christ" to "J. C." The great man dramatically irrupted into the newspaper office to direct that the blasphemy be corrected; unfortunately, he did not overawe McCormick, but something of the impression on Sam Clemens comes through. The sermon must have been almost engraved on the young man's mind; and, given Campbell's preoccupation with the millennium and with history as apocalyptic, we may speculate that the subject must have entered into that discourse.
Indeed, for all Mark Twain's distrust of doctrinalism and revivals, Campbell's conception of history had much that might well appeal to the grown man, Clemens. No other preacher more completely fused the religious and secular elements of the millennial Utopia; none more strongly emphasized the need for social reform as preparation for the great age. One could say that for Campbell—who had come from Ireland at the age of twenty—"Americanizing" the world, in the right sense, is almost identical with millennializing it. As I have indicated before, he states in the Prospectus for the first issue of The Millennial Harbinger (January 4, 1830) that its purpose is to forward "the development and introduction of that political and religious order of society called the millennium." The placing of "political" first is perhaps an unconscious revelation of his attitude. The wheel has come full circle from Augustine; Christianity to Campbell was of supreme importance because it and it alone would make possible the really good life and the good society.
Campbell's distrust of all sectarian dogmaticism matched even Mark Twain's; in the Prospectus he asserts "the incompatibility of any sectarian establishment, now known on earth, with the genius of the glorious age to come." Among the other principles of his faith are: "Inadequacy of all existing systems of education, literary and moral, to develop the powers of the human mind, and to prepare man for rational and social happiness. . . . Injustice now existing under the best governments, as contrasted with the justice of the millennium." The Campbellite theology might be called socio-religious; abstract issues of "justification," "calling," and the like yield to practical preparation "for rational and social happiness." In the Gospels, Jesus proclaimed a message of liberation and benevolence to all men. Promising remission of sins, Christianity "banishes all guilt and fear from the conscience"—thus dissipating the paralyzing fears inspired by sermons like those Mark Twain so vividly remembered.5 The great purpose of the Gospel message is to free men from their own superstitions and selfishness and doubts, to create a new spirit in them, thus enabling them in turn to create the Utopia in which they were made to live. God says, " 'I will revolutionize the world,' and how, my friends, but by introducing new principles of human actions?"
Why, then, has not all this occurred? Why is faith in revelation necessary to solve the riddle of history? Here the prophecies furnished the answer. Campbell went so far as to say that he would share Owen's aversion to all religion, were it not for the prophecy of St. Paul that a great apostasy was to occur. The explanation of the plan that makes sense of the chaos of human actions Campbell found in the great Protestant theory of history. All that has happened has been definitely predicted; so we may assume that Providence, in its beneficence, has foreseen and provided for everything; and, since the prophets have been vindicated thus far, we are justified in confidently expecting that the frequent predictions of a holy Utopia to come will also be realized.
He makes a remark that might have come from Mark Twain himself: that only after the pagan emperors were replaced by a Christian one, did the popes usurp the honors of God.7 This fact points up the absolute necessity of divorcing religion from the civil government, and of taking from the sects any power to coerce men's consciences. After the empire had nominally and forcibly been "Christianized"—and only then—could begin the great apostasy Paul had foretold (2 Thess. 2) and John had seen in vision.
Campbell's description of the dark era that followed is of special interest here, since it adumbrates the atmosphere of the world Hank Morgan is to find in sixth-century Britain.
The mystery of iniquity early began to work. She made mysteries of plain facts, that she might work out her own delusions. She it was that loved mysteries, that paralyzed the energies of the Christian spirit, and inundated the world with all the superstitions, fables, counterfeit gospels, and all the follies of Paganism in a new garb. ... the lights of heaven were extinguished, or put under the bushel of these abominable, delusive mysteries, until a long, dark, and dreary night of superstition besotted the world. That man does not breathe whose mind is purified from all the influences of the night of superstition, which has so long obscured the light of the Sun of Righteousness.
Artificial, metaphysical theology is being replaced, "and a religion, pure and social, springing from the meaning of gospel facts, will soon triumph over the speculations of the day." Campbell gives the impression of being a man who could easily have become a pessimist about the ingrained folly and wickedness of human nature. His account of the human chronicle would accord with the spirit of What Is Man? His faith saved him from despair by assuring him that the erratic course of humanity carried out an infinitely benevolent plan, that men are capable of being redeemed. People ask, "How strange is it,... if Christianity originated in divine benevolence, that there should be such a scene in the great drama as this long night of apostasy and darkness." Yet there it was; and the only explanation, apart from the fact that we cannot see all God's purposes, is that "it appears to be a law of human nature that man can only be developed and brought into proper circumstances to please himself, by what we call experience." ' There is no short cut: first must be the germ, then the blade, then the stem, the blossoms, and last of all the fruit. "Therefore, as Paul said, the apostasy came first." Campbell, like all the other interpreters, believed that the light could break through only at the time fixed. The source of all evils was corrupted and perverted religion, and only when in the course of Providence religion was reformed—with much bloodshed—could progress occur. He goes back and forth over this question, but always comes to the same conclusion. To those who ask why all the agony of mankind intervening between the early church and the latter days was necessary, we can only say that "it is arrogance for us to arraign Omniscience at the tribunal of our reason, when we cannot tell the reason why the blossom precedes the fruit." Perhaps we can afford to be more complacent because we know we are in the dawn, and know the full day is shortly to come.
If Campbell could have read A Connecticut Yankee, it is entirely possible that he would have welcomed it as one improving novel, even if in some details and in its breezy tone it might be somewhat objectionable. And, as must be evident by now, Campbell's views of history, though extreme, were in accord generally with those of a majority of American Protestants. Certainly, therefore, Mark Twain's readers were prepared for the picture of the Middle Ages and of the American that his book presents; it appeared, we may recall, about the time Strong's Our Country was a best-seller. And, I suspect, some of the problems about the book that now disturb us would not have occurred to most readers.
Mark Twain unequivocally places the cause of the superstition that hung over Arthur's time in the perversion of the true Christian church, and, like the Protestant commentators, sees in the feudal tyranny an offshoot and dependency of the ecclesiastical:
There you see the hand of that awful power, the Roman Catholic Church. In two or three little centuries it had converted a nation of men to a nation of worms. Before the day of the Church's supremacy in the world, men were men, and held their heads up, and had a man's pride and spirit and independence; and what of greatness and position a person got, he got mainly by achievement, not by birth. But then the Church came to the front, with an ax to grind; and she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat—or a nation; she invented 'divine right of kings,' and propped it all around, brick by brick, with the Beatitudes—wrenching them from their good purpose to make them fortify an evil one."
History is patently falsified; to represent the Roman empire, "two or three centuries" before, as a time when men got ahead by "achievement" and "men were men" is so ludicrously distorted that it could come only from a preconceived idea of the historical pattern. Possibly, of course, he is thinking of Britain alone; but the noble Anglo-Saxons had not yet appeared. The statement could, in fact, almost be an extension of Campbell's proposition that Antichrist came in with the first Christian emperor; the "two or three centuries" would be about the length of time between Constantine and the date of the action in the novel. (Historical periods, of course, are highly elastic, as they tend to be in the commentaries; Twain treats the sixth century as if it were the high Middle Ages.) And the thirteen centuries that have elapsed since that date recall the 1,260 years Antichrist was supposed to have been given power. (In fact, Hank Morgan finds himself in King Arthur's court in 513; 1,260 plus 513 would come to 1773—just the time when the "hero of the West" appears.)
The whole novel is an extended illustration of something like Campbell's theory of progress as against those of Owen, Tom Paine, Godwin, and others. They, it will be recalled, maintained that, if institutions are reformed in a rational way and men are reached by enlightened education, social evils will necessarily disappear; the salvation of society is possible at any time. But Sir Boss has from the start a presentiment that some unconquerable power in the end will frustrate all his work. For some reason, "petrified training" cannot yet be broken up. The commentators, almost unanimously, had emphasized that "overturning" and "breaking" are necessary, along with education. So he meditates:
This was not the sort of experience for a statesman to encounter who was planning out a peaceful revolution in his mind. For it could not help bringing up the un-get-aroundable fact that, all gentle cant and philosophizing to the contrary notwithstanding, no people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all revolutions that will succeed must begin in blood, whatever may answer afterward. [Chap. 20.]
As we have seen, there was a school—of which Priestley and Price were notable exponents—which held the French Revolution, even with its Terror, to be a necessary step in the overthrow of the forces of the Enemy. Mark Twain's celebrated justification of the "ever memorable and blessed Revolution" in France, "which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal wave of blood—one" is entirely consonant with this view of history; the marvel is that, at the right time, only one upheaval could overturn such a mass of evil. Lincoln had expressed the doctrine of equivalent judgment: even if the destruction of the Civil War exactly matched in quantity the evil wrought by slavery, the Lord's judgments must be pronounced righteous. From this viewpoint, the wonder was not that the Terror came, but that it was relatively so short and mild. It was, by and large, the secular apologists of progress in the nineteenth century, not the eschatologists, who were given to "gentle cant and philosophizing."
And, as I have attempted to show, long before Mark Twain wrote, it had become a cardinal tenet of American Protestants in particular that the "liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" is bound up with political freedom. The fact that political and religious reforms are a kind of Siamese twins underlies the Boss's strategy for overturning the medieval despotisms. The primary target is the established church, which by its very nature is "an established slave-pen." The Reformation could be completed, everyone agreed in principle at least, only when the last remnants of established religion had been abolished. And most American Protestants agreed in seeing a rear guard of the old Rome in the contemporary Church of England.
There is no suggestion that all religion is intrinsically an enemy to progress, that it is an "opiate of the people"; here again Mark Twain would be much closer to Campbell than to Owen.
I had started a teacher factory and a lot of Sunday schools the first thing; as a result, I now had an admirable system of graded schools in full blast in those places, and also a complete variety of Protestant congregations all in a prosperous and growing condition. Everybody could be any kind of Christian he wanted to: there was perfect freedom in that matter. But I confined public religious teachings to the churches and the Sunday schools, permitting nothing of it in my other educational buildings. [Chap. 10.]
Campbell himself would have approved; and he would have approved Hank Morgan's theory that "spiritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features."
The segregation of church from state is not merely a device to get the disturbing problems of religion out of the way so that political and social progress could go on; the "two schemes . . . which were the vastest of all my projects" were joined.
The one was to overthrow the Catholic Church and set up the Protestant faith on its ruins—not as an Established Church, but a go-as-you-please one; and the other project was to get a decree issued by and by, commanding that upon Arthur's death unlimited suffrage should be introduced. [Chap. 40.]