Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


George Campbell, Enlightenment, US Constitution, Rhetorical Tradition


The year 1776 saw the production of two important documents of the Enlightenment: the US Constitution and George Campbell's The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Both documents were products of Enlightenment thought, and both demonstrate the conflicting attitudes in the era toward the rhetorical use of emotional appeals. Recent scholarship by John Witte examines the religious roots of the anti-emotionalist rhetoric expressed by Federalist politicians in the Constitutional era and in particular the influence of the Calvinist clergy of New England, with their "Puritan covenantal theory of ordered liberty and orderly pluralism:'1 Like the Federalists who were in charge of the new US government, the Calvinists of New England not only celebrated the victory achieved in the Revolution but also worked to ensure that the new American republic did not descend into the kind of chaos that later consumed revolutionary France. The Federalist politicians and the Calvinist clergy shared a suspicion of mass rule, of mobs enflamed by emotion. Politicians such as John Adams and James Madison were careful to acknowledge that the US Constitution was not too easily subjected to the whims of the mob, what Adams famously called "the tyranny of the majority" and what