Abstract

In May 1638 the Puritan pastor Thomas Hooker preached a sermon that has been accounted as among the most important in colonial New England. According to existing interpretations, Hooker advocated popular sovereignty and popular control of civil government. Furthermore, in line with this interpretation, most scholars have accorded Hooker an important, if not also central, role in Connecticut’s adoption in 1639 of the Fundamental Orders—the colony’s articulation of its design for self-government. Contrary to the accepted interpretation, this essay demonstrates that Hooker’s sermon, based on Deuteronomy 1:13, was actually instruction to his congregation and audience about their religious duties as persons living under a government that God had ordained for them. This essay concludes that this change in perspective about the sermon’s meaning—from “political” to “religious”—has important implications for existing stories of New England political history.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0895
Print ISSN
1543-4273
Pages
pp. 194-225
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Open Access
No
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