chapter  3
22 Pages

The Ends of Puritan Rhetoric

The Puritan vision was the offspring of both, in what amounted to the century's most unlikely union of rhetorical forms. The immigrant Puritans of 1630 shared this ambiguous nationalist-universalist outlook. Mather's concept of Christianography may be said to apply after all. And the application extends as well to the two other germinal events to which he refers: the discovery of America and the growth of Protestantism. In Germany it informs Hegel's encomia to the Prussian State, and the millennialist Sturm und Drang of the Third Reich. Progress and New Canaan: these terms, though relatively muted in Winthrop's address, were nonetheless organic to his vision. The legacy of the Puritan conflation of sacred and secular may be stated, retrospectively, in the boldest terms: only in America did nationalism come to carry with it the Christian meaning of the sacred. The decisive moment came in 1660s and 1670s when a series of crises threatened to put an end to their enterprise altogether.