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Presbyterians & the American Revolution

The Scot and Scot-Irish Presbyterians often are cited as one cause for formenting dissent in the Colonies. Former Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, Joseph Galloway (1731-1803) opposed Independence and fled to England in 1778. He wrote a pamphlet in 1780 (sample page at right) that the Revolution was caused by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. He wrote: "the principal matter recommended by the faction in New England, was an union of the congregational and presbyterian interests, throughout the Colonies... Thus the Presbyterians in the southern Colonies, who, while unconnected in their several congregations, were raised into weight and consequence; and a dangerous combination of men, whose principles of religion and polity were equally averse to those of the established Church and Government, was formed."

A Revolutionary Chaplain
There were many clergy who served as chaplains during the War of Independence. One was James Caldwell (1734-1781), a Presbyterian minister at Elizabeth, New Jersey. At the battle of Springfield, New Jersey, on June 23, 1780, when his company ran out of paper wadding to load bullets for their rifles, Caldwell reportedly dashed into the Springfield Presbyterian Church (established in 1745), scooped up as many Isaac Watts hymnals (left) as he could carry, and distributed them to the troops, shouting "put Watts into them, boys." Caldwell and his wife were both killed before the war ended. The British burned the church and much of the town, but were turned back by the American forces. The Springfield Presbyterian Church was rebuilt in 1791 and continues to be active today.

Historical & Political Reflections on the Rise & Progress of the American Revolution. Galloway, James. London: 1780.

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