tv Lectures in History Salem Witch Trials and the Great Awakening CSPAN November 25, 2018 12:00pm-1:16pm EST
history. learn more about not this and other cities on our tour on c-span.org. your watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> up next on lectures in history, baylor university teaches athomas kidd class on the great awakening in america. a period of christian revitalization that swept through the colonies. it led to an era of traveling preachers, such as george whitfield and an emphasis on evangelism. his class is about 70 minutes. beenssor kidd: we have talking about the founding of the american colonies, and we're getting into the 1700's. today, i want to focus on
religion in the light colonial period. i know this has been on your mind since you have a paper coming up about that. i want to talk about the lead up to the great awakening, some of the overview on what happens in the great awakening and hopefully that will set you up for your paper. you can see on the screen, we have an image of george whitfield, who is the most famous preacher of the great awakening, preaching in london in the 1730's and 1740's. he is the sensation of the age, but we will talk more about him when we get there. first, i want to take a look at the background to what is happening in 18th-century america in regards to religion. we've talked about some of this already before in class about the scope of religion and religious commitment across the colonies.
if you look at the southern colonies from maryland down to georgia, mostly what we have is a formal commitment to the church of england. the church of england is the national official church of england, of britain. most of those colonies adopt what we would call a formal establishment of the church of england, but the southern colonies, overall, are probably the least religious of all the colonial regions, which if you think about that for a minute, you will see it as weird because we think of the south today as the bible belt, but in the colonial period, it is different. there is a formal establishment
of the church of england, but once you get past the colonial cities, places like williamsburg, charleston, and savannah, the rates of churchgoing is pretty limited. part of the reason for that, you remember going back to the founding of jamestown in 1607, these colonies are being founded for business purposes. it is difficult to set up churches in the backcountry were settlement is so scattered. people living in the rural south in the early 1700's might have been christians for sure. if they were literate, they probably read the bible. maybe they had family devotions, but many of them did not go to church because maybe the nearest church was 50 miles away. if that is the case, if you're going on a wagon, you're not
going to church. people in the north, in the northern colonies recognized, they would talk about their worry for the south and its relative godlessness. there just weren't that many people going to church there. there were not enough pastors. the south was really regarded as the least religious part of the colonies. the middle colonies -- we are talking about new jersey, pennsylvania, new york, and delaware. it is a real mix of different kinds of christian denominations. they are often connected to a particular ethnicity. you have scottish presbyterians or scott irish presbyterians. dutch reformed people, this is the group that founded the new netherlands in the 1670's.
german lutheran. there are quakers. there are different baptist groups. the middle colonies is representative of the kind of diversity that you see in modern america. a lot of different religious groups, lots of different ethnicities that sometimes do not get along with each other, competing for adherence. it is hard to tell the one, single, linear story of the south and slavery. the middle colonies is more like that. in new england, when you get into the early 1700's, when you're talking about the 18th century, new england sees the decline of puritanism. these colonies were founded as
puritan colonies. puritanism by the early 1700's is in decline. we are now 70, 80 years past the time of the founding. the puritan movement has started to fade away. historians debate about how much puritanism is declining. some of this may just be talk. you know that pastors, lots of christians will talk about how the founders were much more committed than we are. i don't know if you've heard that in a church service. it used to be so much better, but now we have fallen away. that is a very common rhetorical move that you get in churches. you started to see that in the new england churches as well. the late 1600's and early
1700's, it breeds a type of sermon, a characteristic new england sermons that you get in this period that historians call the jeremiads. if you know your bible well enough, you will hear a name, jeremiah. he was a gloomy kind of prophet, the kind that said to israel, you have fallen away from god, you need to straighten up or judgment is coming. that kind of sermon became very common in new england, starting in the 1670's and 1680's, early 1700's. the pastors would say you have fallen away from your first love. you have fallen away from that original mission, and you need to turn around, turn back to god and renew your devotion to the lord. how reflective this is of actual reality -- had the people really turned away from god?
it is hard to measure that. it is hard to judge people's hearts. there is some evidence that at least new england is becoming more diverse, not just exclusively puritan. in the 1690's, england started requiring massachusetts to tolerate other kinds of protestants, not just puritans, but now you have to tolerate quakers and baptists. there are some intriguing pieces of evidence about rising, at least access to immorality. in the 1680's, it looks like boston gets its first brothel.
characteristic of colonial cities. puritan boston its brothel. it is horrifying. occasionally, there are dancing classes being offered. the puritans were not keen on dancing, especially between unmarried couples. there are actually some pieces of evidence that you could look at and say, maybe this is becoming a more diverse, non-puritan society. maybe there is something to that jeremiad theme. probably the most horrific episode for pastors in new england in the late 1600's for sure is the salem witchcraft crisis. we read a document about this. the salem witchcraft crisis is horrific for the leaders in new england, first and foremost for
them, because they see it as a great attack by satan on their society. the puritans believed they had a high calling from god, so they thought of course, satan is going to break out these attacks against us. so that is how they saw what happened in 1692. that satan had raised up a cohort of witches to attack their people and try to disrupt new england society. that is how the first and foremost interpreted what was going on in salem. dozens of people start getting accused of being witches. you may remember the crucible by arthur miller. there was a group of mostly teenage girls who had probably gotten involved in some kind of
white magic type of practice, trying to tell the future and so forth. those girls started to have signs of what the puritans would have considered daemonic attacks, daemonic oppression and having convulsions and being tormented. they would say that it was this woman, that woman who was coming, especially in the spirit realm to attack them spiritually and to physically harm them. ultimately -- it is mostly younger women accusing older women of being witches. almost all the accused are women. almost all of the accusers are women too. one interesting historical investigation, was this a kind of misogynistic episode where
there is a loathing of women, especially these older women who were difficult to deal with and had maybe gotten into altercations with their neighbors? that is an interesting thesis, but one problem with it is it is almost always women who are accusing. it would be more convenient if it was men accusing women to read it as a misogynistic episode. there are some men who get accused of being warlocks. it ends up being hundreds of people who get accused across the region, not just in salem, but you meet people get accused. not coincidentally, that is when the judges and other officials start thinking about closing it down because they can see the accusations are going viral.
they say there are too many people. they start to doubt some aspects of the trial. everyone in salem, in new england, approaching 100% of everybody believes that witches exist. even the critics of the trial are saying, well, we know that witches exist, but there are problems that we have with the way that the trials are being run. we will talk about why in a minute.
that is a really important aspect to understand. this is not the puritans, who, in their religious fervor, believe in the existence of witches and then standing outside of that, you have these skeptics saying, you fools. no, everybody realizes or believed at the time that the supernatural is real and in isolated cases, people can make a covenant with the devil in order to have malevolent spiritual power to cast spells on people and torment them in the spirit realm at least. let's take a look at this document. i will have you give me comments about this. on page 43 in your book, you see we have tituba, who they call an indian woman. it is debatable who tituba was. she seems to be a household servant or slave of one of the pastors involved. when they say indian, it might mean native american, but it is more likely that she is probably from the caribbean.
you remember when columbus came, he said this is the indies. sometimes an indian meant somebody from the caribbean. we do not know a whole lot about her other than these testimonies. she is being interrogated. they start off on page 44, and the judge says to her, tituba, what evil spirit you have familiarity with? she says non. why do you hurt these children? i do not hurt these children. so on and so forth. when you lead in like that in
this trial, what does that tell you about the way that judicial proceedings went in the 1600s? what does that tell you? >> it is very face value. there is no evidence to back it up. it is just straight up asking. professor kidd: including about the spiritual dynamic. they are very willing to take testimony about what the devil is doing. what else does it tell you about judicial proceedings? >> based on this case, it is -- they believe that she is guilty, but they do not necessarily have the evidence to back the claims, but they believe she is guilty, even without a doubt. professor kidd: yes. there is no presumption of innocence. that is not unusual in the 1600's. in the english legal system, there is no guarantee that you will be assumed to be innocent.
the way they interrogate these people is, if you have been accused, you are assumed to be guilty. what they are trying to do is to get her to admit that she is guilty. she initially says, i did not hurt them, but it is not long in the investigation that she admits that she is a witch. whether she is doing this because she wants to be let off -- it becomes clear that the people who will not admit they are witches are most likely to get executed. you are in a catch-22. should i admit it even if you don't believe you are a witch? it could be that in some of these cases, maybe in her case, some of these people may have
been engaged in what they thought of as magical practices. there might be a few of them that actually regarded themselves as witches. that makes it a real conundrum about how to run these things because if you have people who consider themselves to be witches, in a society where everybody believes in witches, that becomes a law enforcement matter. you see what i mean? it is tough for us to know in our secular age, how do you deal with these kinds of issues. if you look further, they say what is this appearance that you see? she says sometimes it is like a hog or like a great dog. what did this animal being say to you? she said, the black dog serves me.
but i said i am afraid, and he said if i did not, he would do worse to me. who is the black dog? who do you think the black dog is? >> is it supposed to be satan? professor kidd: i think so. maybe a demon, but probably the devil who has taken on this animal specter. when she is testifying -- lots of people testified along these lines, either this animal spirit attacked me or talked to me. at the bottom of the page, she talks about what else have you seen? two rats, a red rat and a black rat. do you see who hurts the children? yes, it is good wife good. she is tormenting them in the
spirit realm. it can have physical consequences. what do you think is going on here when tituba testifies to seeing these things in the spirit realm? does she believe this? there is no wrong answer. this is speculation. >> i do not think she actually believes in what they believe in. i think she is manipulating them because she does not want to be a slave anymore. so maybe telling them what she thinks they want to hear. it is bad news if you are pretty -- goodie good. maybe they are trying to settle scores. do you think most of these accusations are people who are thinking consciously, i am going
to lie about the accusations? again, there is no right answer on this. this is speculative. do you think there are people that are so deeply convinced that witchcraft -- this is a traditional christian belief in demons at least. demons are in the bible. remember their mentality, 1600's, the medieval mentality in effect. do you think there are people who really do believe in these kinds of things, or is it a big sham? >> i think there probably are people who generally do you believe in it, but i think it is people who are being accused of it in that point in time -- they do not go into it thinking i am going to lie about it, but when they get put on the spot, they do not want to get in trouble for something that did not happen, so they end up pushing
the blame onto somebody else. professor kidd: i think we can verify that. i think you're right. there are cases where late in the trials, some people start recanting testimony. among the things that they say is i was put under so much pressure. i think some of them say i started imagining things were happening to me, but now that i think about it -- but some people definitely say they were put under so much psychological duress that they just went ahead and admitted to things that they knew were not really true. there are even a couple cases where we know that people were physically tortured, which they are not supposed to be doing that under english law. you are not supposed to extract confessions through torture. a couple people were.
one of the things with torture is you say what you think people want you to say. i think it is true. i think there probably are some people. it is hard to know what their mentality is, but they think something is happening to them spiritually like this. of course, everybody involved pretty much believed that the devil was doing something in these trials. either making covenants with these witches or duping the people, deceiving the people making the accusations. how do you know the devil is not deceiving people into believing these attacks are real? it is tough to interpret this, but in the end, 19 people were executed for being witches. most of them were executed by hanging. one poor man was pressed to death with boulders until he suffocated.
they were trying to get him -- there is an instance of torture. they were trying to get him to admit that he was a witch. he would not. a tragic situation. a few dogs were executed under suspicion of being witches' familiars because a witch has an animal companion that goes along with the witch and does their bidding, so there were a few dogs that got executed. by the end, most people involved, even some of the judges realized that taking testimony about a person's spirit, their specter as they would call it, taking testimony about this person's specter coming to me and encouraging me to sign the devil's book -- the
specter came to me and physically tormented me. the judges said that is not enough to convict somebody of witchcraft, so we need to take a step back. they shut things down. by that point, 19 people had died. by far, the biggest outbreak of witchcraft in the colonial american period before and after this were just one person being accused. there were witchcraft episodes after this, but they were kind of on their way out by this point, partly because of the embarrassment of salem. salem is definitely feeding into a broader sense in the late 1600's and early 1700's of
religious crisis in the colonies, especially in new england. new england is the easiest story to tell about the coming of the great awakening because there is such a linear, colonial story in new england of the puritan founding, the decline of puritanism, a sense of building religious crisis in the early 1700's and in the 1730's and 1740's, an outburst of the religious commitment as signaled in the great awakening. a lot of what i will talk about is in the background, tracing the story most specifically of colonial new england, which is the epicenter of the great awakening in america. other colonies are definitely
affected by the great awakening. so why do they have a sense of religious crisis? one reason that you see here is a rise in greed, immorality, we talked about the signs that people were falling away from their puritan commitment. the pastors are talking all the time about how people are consumed with business affairs and forgetting about their love for god. they are worried that society is becoming dominated by greed, business, and the kinds of immorality that they see coming along with that. another reason for the sense of religious crisis is the rise of what we call enlightenment thought and a related trend, which is the rise of "rational theology." the enlightenment is a term i'm sure you have come across before in other classes. it is a controversial term among historians.
historians these days are not necessarily so keen about talking about the enlightenment as if it were one thing that works the same way everywhere. we know for sure there are different kinds of enlightenment, depending on whether you are in france, scotland, or america. some parts of the enlightenment are anti-christian. in america, the enlightenment tends to be fairly friendly towards christianity. we will just have a more updated version of christianity. most of the advocates of the enlightenment say of course we are christian. christianity accords with rationality and modern learning. they would not have seen a tension between those things.
one of the ways that this plays out, there is a growing tendency to explain things naturally. for sure, when you compare the mentality of americans from 1692, when the salem witch craft trials happened to 1800, something has definitely changed. there are still people who believe in strong supernaturalism and things like witchcraft, but if you go from 1692 to 1700 to 1750, there is a tendency to see things in supernatural terms. say your cow dies unexpectedly. your cow was fine one day, and the next day it is frothing at the mouth and dies.
what do you think has happened? in 1692, you might think, especially if you had a recent argument with a spooky neighbor that a spell has been cast on your cow. it's just reflexive. that is the world that you live in. it's a world of wonders and magic. you might think it is a malevolent spiritual attack on me and my livestock. in 1800, some people might still think that, but it is more likely that people will think they got a disease. these things happen. there is a medical reason for it. there might not be a good medical reason for it, but not in terms of spiritual powers, but in the natural world. there is not really any explanation for it. it is not that god is getting us.
it is just that my cow got sick and died. that is an important change. you see in that the beginnings of the modern, secular world. even today, many devout and religious people, if something bad happens to them, they do not necessarily think it is a spiritual attack on them. some people might, but most -- what can you do? bad things happen. in theology, there is a related tendency to say we still study theology and want to understand god as best we can, but anything we believe about god must accord with rationality. you take something like the doctrine of predestination where
god elects only certain people to be saved and leaves everybody else to their own devices, which means judgment and damnation. to my mind, that does not make sense. i do not think god would act like that. i think god would give all the freedom to decide for themselves whether to believe or not. that accords with normal standards of rationality. you can see -- i'm sure some of you might agree with that. you can see there is a little step towards a human-centered kind of theology. god must be understandable. god must be accessible and live up to our standards of rationality. that starts to influence the way you interpret the bible. that sort of theology, rational theology, had become dominant at harvard college by the early 1700's.
harvard had been founded as the first american college, founded almost exclusively for training puritan pastors in the 1630's. by the early 1700's, it had become captured by christian theology, but this rational, non-predestinarian, non-puritan type of theology. new englanders start a new college as a more conservative alternative that will go more towards puritan theology. that was yale. they were the conservative bible college in the early 1700's, so we could have an alternative to harvard. almost all the colonial colleges were founded in the colonial period, they were founded as colleges for the training of
pastors, and almost nobody else went to college. no women went to college. almost no men went to college in those days. if you did go to college, it was almost always to become a pastor. what they saw as a rise in immorality, enlightment thought, more modern philosophy and theology. they saw an ongoing war with catholic france and spain and their native american allies. they go through a couple generations of imperial war between britain and the british colonies, and then either france or spain. in new england, the main issue is fighting against the forces of france coming out of canada
or what they called new france. there is no natural boundary there. england and france are fighting, but the english channel separates them. in new england, there is no natural barrier. the french had more native american allies than the british did. you would have attacks from the french on frontier villages. native american raids on frontier villages. even when they were not at war, you would have new england and new france fighting these low-level but vicious wars with one another. 1720, there is a war between new france and new england that is inspired by a french catholic missionary who is operating in maine, telling the indians to
stick up for your rights against the english, do not let them take your land. they have this war. the new englanders commission a bounty against this catholic priest who is encouraging the native americans. they send out a war party against him. they shoot him and kill him and they scalped him. traditionally, we talk about the native americans as barbaric, but who is barbaric? the new englanders are commissioning bounties against missionaries. you have these troubling intellectual changes, social changes, and war is such a contributing factor because of
the fear of the judgment of god. we might be overrun by the french or native americans. all of these things are feeding into the salem witchcraft trials, the memory of that, are feeding into a sense of religious crisis through the colonies, but especially in new england. 1720's, 1730's, and then you get the great awakening. most people feel like the time that they live in is a time of crisis, but there is no doubt that the colonists felt that crisis in the 1730's. i think culturally, religiously, that set them up for a new religious awakening. the first great awakening in the 1730's and 1740's is the main event.
although cascading effects of the revivals go into the revolutionary period of 1770. it is hard to explain why the great awakening happened exactly. you could look at cultural factors, the history and decline of puritanism. some of you would look at spiritual factors that even today people would say there are spiritual and divine reasons why god made this happen. in history class we don't spend much time on that kind of thing. there is no question that in the 1720's and 1730's, you find evidence of pastors across the colonies and new england, telling people that they need to pray for revival, which is a term occasionally used in the bible. what they are talking about is
that they want for the people to be praying for an outpouring of the holy spirit, third person of the trinity, to be poured out, so that people will come back to god and so lots of people will convert to christianity for the first time, even though most of these people were nominally christian. they will have a conversion experience. maybe people who had fallen away from god would return to god and return to their commitment to god. in the jeremiads the message had been, we need to straighten up and start living right, doing what we know god wants us to do. in the 1720's and 1730's, they tweaked the message and say we are so far gone that what we need is divine rescue. it is not about morality anymore.
what we need is a revival created by god, through the holy spirit. we need that to change our society. i think we can reasonably expect that if pastors are calling on people to pray like this, some people were responding to the pastors' calls and praying for revival. in the 1730's and 1740's, revival comes in a big way. what you think about that has everything to do with your belief in prayer. a lot of christians would say people prayed, and god response ded to their prayers. it could also be that if you are more skeptical, the more they talk about revival, the more likely it will happen. i think those explanations can work together. what is different about the
first great awakening? it is an outbreak of great religious intensity and individual passion. life-changing events. another thing that is different is the role of the itinerant preachers in the great awakening. before this point, the standard model for a pastor, this is most of the time in church history, is that you have a pastor who pastors this congregation and does not do much traveling around speaking. your parish, your church, that is who you speak to. in the first great awakening, you start to see a critical role for traveling preachers who cause a sensation everywhere they go. they are brilliant preachers.
george whitfield is number one on the list. they are brilliant preachers who travel around and become famous regionally, if not internationally of having a reputation of being this brilliant preacher. you cannot wait for them to get there. it is new and exciting. they have a laser focus, these itinerants do, on the message that you need to accept christ's free offer of salvation. you need to be born again. jesus talks about the born-again experience in the gospel of john, chapter three. in order to see the kingdom of god, you must be born again. it is a long-time biblical message, but people in the past have had different
understandings of what born-again meant. people in the great awakening are clear. what you need as an adult or teenager, you need to understand for yourself that you are a sinner, that your sin has caused a serious problem between you and god. and that you need to personally accept the offer of forgiveness in order to be in righteous standing with god. when you do that, that is your moment of being born again. everybody needs to have this experience. the parish minister or pastor might be talking about a lot of different topics week to week. preaching through the bible.
the itinerants are really focused on you need to be born again. they travel. they tell people in these impassioned sermons that you need to be born again. that is the center of their message. sometimes they do not talk about much else. the greatest mind, the greatest theologian of the great awakening is jonathan edwards, who we have a picture of in the upper right-hand corner. edwards is best known for his sermon, sinners in the hands of an angry god, 1741. edwards is a minister in northampton, massachusetts. he does a little bit of traveling, but most the time he sticks at his church. sinners in the hands of an angry god, he actually gives at a nearby village in connecticut while he is traveling around in
the summer of 1741. edwards is not the most famous preacher at the time, but edwards has come down to us as the greatest intellectual figure of the first great awakening. arguably, the greatest intellect of the whole colonial american period. we could do a whole class on just jonathan edwards because he wrote a ton and it's intellectually sophisticated and theologically challenging, but he is best known for this one sermon. it gets anthologized, and people read it today. it is a good news and bad news kind of thing because it is a brilliant sermon, and it is
frightening, if you have read it. but we should not mistake edwards for some kind of screaming crazy guy that you would see on late-night tv, yelling about you are all going to hell. he is a titanic intellect. the last job he had in his life was president of princeton college because he had that kind of intellectual reputation. when he preached, including sinners in the hands of an angry god, he had a manuscript in front of him that he had handwritten, and he read the manuscript. he would try to give it feeling, but the power of his sermon is in the content. it is not in the rhetorical fireworks. when he gave sinners in the hands of an angry god in 1741,
it got an intense reaction from the people there. some of the people at the meeting started crying out for mercy and asking, what can i do to be saved? they were terrified of the judgment of god. some of them were falling in the aisles and crying. when edwards saw what was happening, it was getting noisier, he closed up his sermon. he is not necessarily looking for this outlandish response, but he gets it because of the power of the rhetoric that he uses.
even secular scholars of the colonial period, people that don't believe in christianity, they know that edwards is intellectually brilliant and that his rhetoric is just stunning. that is why people today still study sinners in the hands of an angry god because the rhetoric of it. if you have ever read it, you will never forget the image of a spider hanging over the fire. i will read a couple paragraphs. he says, if your wickedness makes you as it were, heavy as lead. to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell. if god should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf. he says the god who holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire. he abhors you. is dreadfully provoked.
his wrath towards you burned like fire. he looks upon you as were the of nothing else than to be cast into the fire. you are 10,000 times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours. you have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did. and yet, it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. you see the contrast between god's judgment and god's grace. both very intense. he says, how dreadful is the state of those who are daily and hourly at risk of this wrath. this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born-again.
you see what i'm saying? we lay out the desperate case because of their sin, and the rescue is available to you through being born again. that is the basic content of virtually every great awakening sermon. laser focused. you need to be born again. you can imagine, it is frightening. the pit of hell, the insect over the fire, what if he let you go? what if he let you go? you can imagine people falling out. they are as sure about this as we are sure the sun will come up. there is no doubt that this is truth to them. they want to make sure that they are right with god. edwards is the great defender of the great awakening, but he gets
stereotyped because of this sermon as a fire and brimstone preacher. he preaches a lot more about the love of god than he does about the judgment of god. i think his most representative sermon is called heaven is a world of love. you can find it on the internet. that is the core of edwards. if he is on the topic, he will also preach about the judgment of god. incredible intellect. i cannot tell you everything. edwards is writing about predestination, original sin, he is writing about enlightenment challenges to the christian faith. he is definitely one of america's greatest theologians ever. if you care about this kind of thing, you definitely have to read edwards.
he matches enlightenment thought with traditional christianity. we know this from john locke. this is how this works with traditional christianity. he has read everything and is using it to show why even in an enlightened age, christianity is the most compelling theological system. it is brilliant. what he gets known for is this one sermon. not saying it is a bad sermon, but there's a lot more to edwards. edwards is not the most famous preacher of the time. he is more famous today. the most famous preacher at the time, for sure, is george whitefield. i know the way it is spelled, it would look like whitefield, but
i am told on good authority that it was pronounced "whitfield." he is by far the most famous preacher of the 1740's. it is even more than that. he is the most famous person in britain and america in his time. the only competitor that he has is king george. maybe more people know king george's name, but a lot more people have seen whitefield in person, read his stuff, his journals, sermons. we think that probably by the end of his career in 1770, about three-quarters of everybody who
lived in america had heard him preach. he is a bigger celebrity in his time than anybody we have in our culture today. in our culture, we live in a celebrity driven culture, but we are dispersed. some people like justin bieber. some people don't like justin bieber. i won't do a poll. you know what i am saying. everybody knows whitefield. even if you are a critic, you have to deal with whitefield. he is arguably the first modern celebrity. i did not say religious celebrity, i said first modern celebrity. when he shows up in a town, he
draws crowds, often, that are bigger than the population of the town itself. he gives a farewell sermon in boston in the early 1740's. 25,000 people show up when there are about 17,000 people living in boston at the time. effectively, the whole population of the town, plus people from the hinterlands. when he preaches in london, they say 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 people are coming to hear him. this is before electricity. so he does not have what? a microphone. if you have ever read ben franklin's biographies, he and ben franklin were close business associates and friends. when whitefield first came to philadelphia, franklin did an experiment. he is walking around the edges of the crowd trying to figure
out how many people can hear him speak at one time. he said maybe 25,000 to 30,000 people could hear him speaking at one time. whitefield, he had a background in theater as a teenager. he was a playactor before his conversion. he knew how to project his voice. he must have been enormously loud. a lot of the portraits that we have of him is when he is old and sick. i like portraits like this one, when he is a young man. relatively young, and they thought he was good-looking. you can tell for yourself what you think about that. a young man, very dynamic. unlike edwards, whitefield's presentations were without a
manuscript. he would pretty much memorize his sermons, and he had a repertoire of a selection of 10 or 15 sermons that he would rotate through. all he did was itinerate. he did not have a congregation, so he could really polish a short list of sermons. he had them memorized. he could react. he was moving around the stage. he would act out. if he is talking about the story of the prodigal son, he would put himself almost in the character of the father, waiting for the son to come back. he would act it. methinks i see the father
waiting for the lost son to come back. he would act it out, act out the part of the son in the pigpen, eating the things only fit for the pigs to eat. sometimes he would be weeping, the way that an actor would, not because it's fake but because he is so into the story. it was very powerful. i would love to have a youtube clip of whitefield. just to see what it was like. people were blown away when they would hear him speek. this might be my favorite painting of whitefield. it is because of the woman. i like that it is young whitfield, but it is the woman. i cannot believe i am in the front row.
she is smitten. we think this may be a portrait of his wife. he was married, but they were not together often because he was always on the road. you can tell, she is smitten. this is the first british sensation. it is not trivializing it. this is like the beatles. that is the kind of effect that whitefield had on people. obviously a very different message. this is revival for sure, but also a celebrity sensation. huge response, huge crowd. reports that he is coming months
reports that he is coming months in advance. got to get there early. they would tell people, park your horses at the margins of the crowd so that more people can get in. it is a mosh pit. people are packed in as close as you can get it was a whitfield event. -- but it's a whitefield event. britain and america had never seen anything like this before. the reason why whitefield is not more famous today -- i mean, he's known. there are christian devotees of whitefield. his brilliance was encapsulated in the sermon as delivered. you had to be there to really get it. i've written a book on whitefield, and i have the sense that i still don't quite get it, because i don't have my youtube club.
where edwards' brilliance is captured on the printed page. you didn't have to be there for edwards. because of his ideas and they are captured on the page. ok? the first great awakening is obviously this renewal of religious fervor. and the people who are not into this sort of thing, people who are not christian, not religious, not devout themselves, it may seem like, well, it was this sort of quaint thing that happened in the 1730's and 1740's. worth knowing about, but maybe not interesting to people on the outside, but i would say that the great awakening is also significant because of the controversy, culturally and socially, that it creates. it is extraordinarily controversial and disruptive in
colonial society. it is the biggest upheaval in the british colonies before the american revolution, happening 30 years before the american revolution. it is the biggest social upheaval in the colonies before the american revolution. so, even from a secular perspective, this is a big deal. part of the reason for this is because, during the great awakening, pastors are getting challenged like they never have before. of course, in the 1730's, 1740's, being a pastor is a very socially respected office. and if you have a state church, an established religion, then the pastor is on the government payroll and he's a representative of the government, as well as the church. and so, if you attack the pastor, you're attacking a
representative of the state. and that just never was done. at least not very often before the great awakening. but some of the itinerants, even whitefield from time to time, especially early on, would suggest incredibly controversial things about the official ministers. he would say, you know, your pastor is not very supportive of the revivals, is he? he is uncomfortable with this new work of god that has broken out. do you know why that might be? i think it's because your pastor himself may not actually be a converted christian. ha. now, that's a rude thing to say about a pastor, isn't it? and the pastor does not like this. the pastor is extremely offended
to have these touring itinerants coming to town, maybe even stand up in the pulpit of your church, and say, i think your pastor may not even be converted, and that's why he is not sufficiently supportive of the revival. no one has ever spoken about pastors this way before. extremely controversial. the radical people, the ones who -- radical preachers, the who ones were just rather inflammatory, james davenport, who you all have read about -- he is the most radical, controversial preacher in new england. he goes into churches early on and starts naming names. "i have a list here of all the pastors in boston who are not converted. they are going to hell." can you imagine? especially in the colonial world. someone showing up and saying that sort of thing. they start passing laws against
itinerants like this, telling them that they cannot go uninvited into a pastor's pulpit. they will be arrested if they do. so, this is becoming a legal, political controversy. ok? another reason it is controversial is because you start to see some common people, usually men, but even occasionally women, who believe that they should be able to preach without a formal education. the way this works is that, they say, look, i know i'm converted, i know i'm born again, i know when it happened. it happened three months ago. i'm filled with the holy spirit. my pastor is not supportive of the revivals. i'm not even sure he is a converted christian. i should be able to preach. it doesn't matter whether i have gone to harvard or yale or oxford. that doesn't matter. what matters is that you are filled with the holy spirit, and
that you are supportive of the work of god. so, farmers who don't go to college, for sure. occasionally, native americans who were converted. occasionally, slaves. start standing up in the meeting and saying, i have a word from god for you. and pastors like james davenport will say, listen to this brother, listen to this sister. she has something to say to us that is from the lord. there are no social settings anywhere else in colonial america where you will see women, slaves, native americans standing up and addressing, even in a somewhat authoritative way, white men. you just don't see it. it doesn't happen anywhere else
but these kind of revival meetings. you can understand the critics say this is crazy. y'all are nuts. this is socially disruptive. ok, moving out from beyond just the simple religious message, this is socially disruptive. and the critics say this is just a bunch of frenzy. it's what they would call enthusiasm at the time. it was bad in the 1700's to be enthusiastic. that means you're half crazy, and that's what the critics said this was. it's just a bunch of hooey. but it doesn't really mean anything. these people were just getting whipped up into emotion, but it's not doing anything for them spiritually.
the critics say what we need is love, charity, devotion to your pastor. all right. what difference does the great awakening make? one of the most obvious differences is that the great awakening brings about a sea change in which churches are the most popular and prominent. this is a change that continues on into the 1800s as part of the second great awakening. in the colonial period, the most prominent churches are the church of england, the congregationalist church, which is the church of the puritans, and some other denominations like that. in the great awakening, you
start to see the emergence of new denominations that are eventually going to become the largest protestant churches in america, especially, most notably, the baptist churches, which have been around for a while, but pretty small, isolated. they start to become more popular, because of the great awakening and evangelistic. one of the first places that the baptists send missionaries, coming out of the great awakening, is guess where? the south. the great awakening starts to begin the process by which the south would become much more heavily christian and some of the most popular churches, of course, in the south are going to be the baptists and then the methodists. the methodists are a movement first within the church of england. whitefield is a methodist. you may know the name john
wesley, who becomes the founding father of methodism. he is almost always in britain. but wesley's missionaries and pastors start to become active in the first great awakening, and especially after the american revolution, the methodists go out on the frontier and establish, eventually, thousands of new churches, so that, by the time of the civil war, the methodists have gone from being nonexistent at the beginning of the first great awakening to, by the time of the civil war, they are the largest protestant denomination in america. so, the congregationalists, the church of england, what comes to be known as the episcopal church, they are left behind in terms of numbers, and the baptists and methodists come to the fore. obviously, for baylor, that is
significant that baptists get as far out as central texas by the 1840's, and are establishing not only churches, but a college. ok? so, that's pretty important to us. the revivals, as you can see, began in new england, in the middle colonies, new jersey, pennsylvania, very heavily affected by the revivals. slowly spread into the southern colonies by the 1750's. they're also happening in britain and in continental europe. the great awakening, i've talked exclusively about america today, but it is an international phenomenon. ok? it is a transatlantic event. seen most obviously in the person of whitefield, who is from britain, but he comes to america seven times.
ok? what's the importance of the great awakening? some historians have argued that it's an important prelude to the american revolution. it's debatable. it's a debatable issue because of the way the argument goes, well, if it is this big social upheaval, 30 years before the american revolution, doesn't it have a kind of conditioning effect on american culture to get it ready for the american revolution? and i'd say, yeah, i mean, probably in an indirect way, it does. but we also have to remember that britain has its great awakening, too, and britain is our opponent in the american revolution. so, it's not quite as simple as -- i definitely wouldn't want to say the great awakening somehow causes the american revolution. but influences the culture, yeah, i think so. i think so.
and then, for sure, you are on more solid ground if you say, well, the great awakening inaugurated this evangelical movement within christianity, which remains in some kind of different forms -- it has taken twists and turns. billy graham and people like this in the 20th century. there are different formats and so forth. but really whitefield is the beginning of this sort of evangelical movement within christianity that, especially when you look at it in global context, is enormously significant today and shows no sign of slowing down and in many parts of the world continues to be growing. some of the leaders in places like sub-saharan africa and elsewhere look to people like george whitefield and jonathan edwards as examples. i think there's a sort of continuity in the evangelical movement from at least the
1730's and 1740's through today. for sure, that is a reason why the great awakening was significant. that's all i have for you today. let me know if you have any questions. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: every weekend, american history tv brings you 48 hours of unique programming, exploring our nation's past. to view our schedule and an archive of our programs, visit c-span.org/history. when the new congress starts in january, there will be more than 100 new house and senate members. the democrats will control the house. the republicans, the senate. scum and new leaders. watch the process unfold on c-span.
up next on american history tv, two teams of litigators face off in a trivia competition, answering questions on the history of the united states supreme court. the national constitution center and heritage foundation cohosted the contest. it's about 45 minutes. >> good evening. i'm elizabeth slattery. welcome to the heritage foundation. on behalf of heritage from the national constitution center, thank you for coming to our supreme trivia event. we can hear one of our teams out there. they will be coming out in just a minute. we have two teams tonight of top supreme court litigators who are ready to go head-to-head in rounds of trivia about the supreme court's history, trivia, scandals, and much more. before we introduce the teams, i would like to introduce my cohost, representing the national constitution center, sheldon gilberts. >> thank you. elizabeth: thanks for being here.