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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Religion
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Religion
Text 1. Bryant/Freneau
Text 2. John Mayfield
Text 3. Alexis de Tocqueville
Text 4. Frederick Douglass
Text 5. George Fitzhugh
Text 6. Charles Colcock Jones
» Reading Guide
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Text 7. Henry David Thoreau
Text 8. Mormons

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Reading Guide
6.  Charles Colcock Jones, The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States, 1842; Part III:
  Ch. 1:  "The Obligations of the Church to Afford the Gospel to the Negroes"
  Ch. 4:  "Benefits"

In the aftermath of the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831, many southern states banned slaves from learning to read or assembling for worship. Partly in response to this repressive trend, Charles Colcock Jones published the first version of this pamphlet, in which he pleads with his fellow plantation owners to provide religious instruction for their slaves. Jones, a Presbyterian minister educated at Princeton, painstakingly outlines how religious instruction will provide moral benefits for the slaves (and the masters), in addition to greater efficiency, security, and profit for the slaveowners. The pamphlet gained a wide audience and was published in numerous editions in eight languages (earning Jones renown as the "apostle to the negro slaves"). Consider this piece in the larger context of American Protestantism, increasingly fractionalized at this time over the issue of slavery (the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches broke into northern and southern sections in the years between 1838 and 1844). Brief excerpts would be useful in the classroom. 15 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  How does Jones's plea address (and reflect) southerners' perspective of Christianity?
  ·  Would Douglass consider Jones's piece to reflect the hypocritical "religion of the South"?
  ·  In contrast, what aspects of Jones's rationale would disturb southerners as radical (and horrify George Fitzhugh)?
  ·  How does Jones's pamphlet reflect the tensions within American Christianity over slavery as a moral and political issue?

Reading highlights
  ·  Jones's arguments reflect the disciplined rhetorical discourse valued in the nineteenth century. What is gained and lost by arguing in this routinized manner?
  ·  Note the instances when Jones reveals his disapproval, even contempt, for his fellow slaveowners (and then moderates his criticism).
  ·  On several occasions, Jones directs the reader to "reverse the order of Providence" and imagine exchanging places with the slaves. How would we feel, he asks? Painful to the modern reader, his own question fails to lead him to a disavowal of slavery.

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did American Christianity reflect the nation's ideals of democracy, individualism, and progress?
  •  As the nation became more sectionalized, what role did religion play in defining individual and group identity?
  •  How did religion inform the debate over slavery?
  •  How did religious groups outside the mainstream of American Protestantism reflect American culture, even in the act of rejecting it?

Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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