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John Calvin's American Legacy$
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Thomas Davis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390971

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390971.001.0001

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Calvin and the Social Order in Early America: Moral Ideals and Transatlantic Empire

Calvin and the Social Order in Early America: Moral Ideals and Transatlantic Empire

(p.19) 1 Calvin and the Social Order in Early America: Moral Ideals and Transatlantic Empire
John Calvin's American Legacy

Mark Valeri

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the mixed history of Calvin’s influence on economic mores and practices in early America. It retraces Calvin’s ideal for economic discipline over the emergent market in Geneva. It shows how three different communities in colonial America transposed Calvinist ideals: Puritans in Boston, with their localized conceptions of social order; Dutch Reformed leaders in New York, with their urbane mercantile associations; and Huguenots in Charleston, with their dispersed social networks. Calvin promulgated a flexible and pragmatic approach to scripture that allowed his adherents to adapt economic instruction to the needs of their religious communities. Early American Calvinists followed this method when they transformed their teaching about commerce and the nascent market economy in the context of colonization. Throughout, this chapter challenges how the Weber thesis has been misapplied to the American context.

Keywords:   John Calvin, economic practices, Max Weber, Puritans, Dutch reformed, Huguenots, colonial America, Boston, New York, Charleston

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