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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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Calvinism and American National Identity

Calvinism and American National Identity

(p.43) 2 Calvinism and American National Identity
John Calvin's American Legacy

David Little

Oxford University Press

Samuel P. Huntington argued that American national identity was and still is profoundly influenced by what he called Anglo-Protestant culture. He attributed the major part of that influence to Calvin’s heirs, the New England Puritans. In particular, Huntington drew a connection between the Puritans and what is known as the American creed, which is a collection of legal and political ideals associated with American constitutionalism. Huntington concluded that America was from the start and still is a Christian nation. John Witte’s work, however, shows that, while some Puritans (John Winthrop and John Cotton, for example) were close to Huntington’s point of view, others (Roger Williams, for example) were not. This chapter argues that the deep division over religion and national identity did not originate with the New England Puritans. Rather, that ambivalence is at the root of the Calvinist tradition, going back to John Calvin.

Keywords:   John Calvin, Samuel P. Huntington, John Witte, John Winthrop, John Cotton, Roger Williams, Puritans, American constitutionalism, American creed

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