Author

Ehrhardt

Date of Award

4-2002

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Janet L. Coryell

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Maier

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Wilson

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

White evangelical preachers of the antebellum era presented the American South with a cosmology that was rooted in the Bible as God's revelation to all humans, with God as sovereign over a strict social hierarchy that placed the white male as household head, and women, children, and black slaves (in that order) as subordinates. This cosmology contributed to sectional tensions, as southern pastors were at the forefront of advocating a proslavery worldview, and supported secession from the Union and war as an act of purification from northern infidels who did not endorse the ministers' brand of biblical literalism.

Southern clergymen understood that within the Triune Godhead (Father, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit) there exists perfect harmony and organization. Therefore, it was logical and biblical for them to discern God's intentions for society to rest on a clear chain of command. The social schema was based in the institution of the family as the cosmological bedrock of the world. Any assault on the plantation household arrangement from abolitionists was interpreted by southern divines as an attack on the very foundation of southern society. It was the scriptural discernment of the family within a proslavery cosmology that was in contradistinction to the North and provided fodder for a secessionist impulse among many of the southern evangelical clergy.

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