Institution Granting Degree
University of South Carolina
Pietistic, Mystical, Thought, Anglican, Elite, Eighteenth century, Low-country South, Colonial, Revolutionary
This dissertation examines the transmission and eventual manifestation of Christian pietistic and mystical thought into the Colonial and Revolutionary lowcountry South. The facilitators of this transmission include the Continental Pietists, who were themselves heavily influenced by the mystics, and British Evangelicals such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, who, even in their public denials of mysticism, nevertheless demonstrated its strong influence in their ministries. Mystical and pietistic expressions impacted the religious, social, and political life of the lowcountry more than has been previously recognized. Evangelical Pietism's mid-eighteenth century infusion prompted some to correctly recognize its subjective (i.e. inwardly focused and feelings oriented) roots in medieval Catholic mysticism. Such association led them to wrongly conclude, however, that Evangelicals were secret emissaries of Rome sent to disrupt social and religious stability in the region. "Enthusiastic" religion did not play the disruptive role that many feared it would. Granted, misguided notions led to early concerns in the lowcountry, but in the end, Evangelical Pietism's transcendent and flexible qualities contributed to the formation of political and social consensus, provided a new means to obtain significance in the larger British world, helped transform the image of slavery into a uniquely Christian institution, and supplied impulse for unified action during the Revolutionary Era.