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Jonathan Mayhew: Conservative Revolutionary
Unformatted Document Text:  had been “too far carried away with the common current,” something for which, he insisted, “some allowance” should be made. Still, the sermon was intended to fortify colonial vigilance in defense of their liberties, which “were in the most imminent danger.” And while the sermon was “composed in a high strain of liberty,” he insisted that he had also expressed clearly that defense of one’s liberties did not justify “mobbing or [committing] such abominable outrages as were lately committed,” that civil liberty was compatible with “the restraint of laws” and incompatible with those “who rebel against or resist their lawful rulers in the discharge of their offices.” 30 The third document is a “detailed summary” of the sermon he wrote following the destruction of Hutchinson’s home. As Bailyn explains, this summary was probably based on the notes Mayhew preached from on 25 August and was “calculated to dispel the charges” that his sermon had fomented the riot and to “strengthen his claim to be a defender of law and order.” 31 But as Bailyn reasonably concludes, the “long passages in even this obviously slanted interpretation of what he had said shows the continuing, fresh enthusiasm of his libertarian beliefs.” 32 The summary shows that Mayhew’s sermon focused on the apostle’s appeal, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty”. Mayhew’s exegesis of this passage was a restatement of the principles he had espoused in his Discourse, with those Whig principles applied to the subject of parliamentary taxation. Indeed, this part of the sermon, like the Discourse, was at its core a stock expression of Whig political theory and stressed the distinction between civil liberty and slavery: “people are real slaves,” Mayhew offered, “[and] not in a state of civil liberty, if they approve neither the persons nor laws, by which they are governed.”(142) He also sought to explicate the apostle’s admonition, “Only use not liberty for an occasion to the 30 Mayhew to Richard Clarke, 3 September 1765, quoted in ibid., 116-117. 31 Bailyn, “Religion and Revolution,” 117. 32 Ibid., 117-118. 11

Authors: Lubert, Howard.
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had been “too far carried away with the common current,” something for which, he insisted,
“some allowance” should be made. Still, the sermon was intended to fortify colonial vigilance in
defense of their liberties, which “were in the most imminent danger.” And while the sermon was
“composed in a high strain of liberty,” he insisted that he had also expressed clearly that defense
of one’s liberties did not justify “mobbing or [committing] such abominable outrages as were
lately committed,” that civil liberty was compatible with “the restraint of laws” and incompatible
with those “who rebel against or resist their lawful rulers in the discharge of their offices.”
The third document is a “detailed summary” of the sermon he wrote following the
destruction of Hutchinson’s home. As Bailyn explains, this summary was probably based on the
notes Mayhew preached from on 25 August and was “calculated to dispel the charges” that his
sermon had fomented the riot and to “strengthen his claim to be a defender of law and order.”
But as Bailyn reasonably concludes, the “long passages in even this obviously slanted
interpretation of what he had said shows the continuing, fresh enthusiasm of his libertarian
beliefs.”
The summary shows that Mayhew’s sermon focused on the apostle’s appeal, “For,
brethren, ye have been called unto liberty”. Mayhew’s exegesis of this passage was a
restatement of the principles he had espoused in his Discourse, with those Whig principles
applied to the subject of parliamentary taxation. Indeed, this part of the sermon, like the
Discourse, was at its core a stock expression of Whig political theory and stressed the distinction
between civil liberty and slavery: “people are real slaves,” Mayhew offered, “[and] not in a state
of civil liberty, if they approve neither the persons nor laws, by which they are governed.”(142)
He also sought to explicate the apostle’s admonition, “Only use not liberty for an occasion to the
30
Mayhew to Richard Clarke, 3 September 1765, quoted in ibid., 116-117.
31
Bailyn, “Religion and Revolution,” 117.
32
Ibid., 117-118.
11


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