I just wrote a (really bad) paper about pre-Revolutionary Quakers in Pennsylvania. It occured to me during its composition that no one writing about eighteenth century America seems to consider religion as seriously as eighteenth century Americans considered it. It seems like doctrine occupied eight out of every ten thoughts for them--obscure, incomprehensible, and pickypicky points of doctrine. I remember in my American Civ class first year when we read John Winthrop's journals and the professor challenged us to explain what the debate over Anne Hutchinson was actually about. Someone suggested that "she dissented." That was as specific as we could get. We tend to view doctrine in political, social, and economic contexts, but rarely as a force of its own. As a result, we may downplay how insane the Protestant sects that came here to build religious utopias actually were. Like the Quakers--totally insane. How can you even conceive of a government based on a religious doctrine of abnegating self-will? Why would you try? What were they thinking?
Still, the insane religious zealots of the North continually make for more interesting study than the boring Anglican South. I wonder how that bias arose. Maybe I would feel differently if I were Southern.
Also, I think my little cartoon me up there is getting a little chilly in that outfit.