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North America Author(s): A. G. Roeber Source: The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 883-912 Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2674504 . Accessed: 26/08/2011 14:07
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What the Law Requires Is Written on Their Hearts: Noachic and Natural Law among GermanSpeakersin EarlyModern North America
A. G. Roeber
Johann Martin Boltzius, the Lutheran pastor at
Ebenezer, Georgia, detailed for his superiors in Europe the fate of a German-speaker who had attempted to draw the Cherokees away from their alliance with the British by an appeal to natural law. During Joseph Watson's expeditions among the Cherokees in 1741, the Englishman had encountered a Saxon, Christian Gottlieb Prieber. After law studies at Leipzig, Prieber had emigrated to North America and found his way west to the indigenous peoples of the Mississippi River Valley. There he attempted to incite his hosts to war against the invading Europeans for violating the Indains' natural rights. For his trouble, Boltzius dryly observed, Prieber "was despised by even the Indians" for "his beliefs, conduct, ethics, and dress." Kidnapped by the Creek Nation, Prieber was sold into British captivity. on the island of James Oglethorpe imprisoned the German-speaker Frederica, where he died.1 Precisely why Prieber's "beliefs, conduct, ethics, and dress" upset those he was trying to enlighten, Boltzius did not explain. The ambivalence with which the story must have been read by Europeans mirrored a profound crisis in European thinking about whether all peoples were bound by certain empirically valid concepts of civic order rooted in a natural law. The emerging secular jurisprudence Prieber had studied, pioneered by the Dutch scholar Hugo Grotius and adumbrated by the German scholars Samuel Pufendorf and, more recently, Christian Thomasius, insisted that international civic order could be constructed without reference to Christian scripture or revelation. If Prieber's former Leipzig classmates read of his fate, they might have concluded that the basic precepts of natural rights were not yet
A. G. Roeber is professor of early modern history and religious studies at The PennsylvaniaState University. He thanks RichardRoss, Mark Hdberlein, the participantsat the Pennsylvania State-Max Kade German-AmericanResearch Institute Conference on "Jewsand Pietists in Dialogue in Enlightenment America," and the William and Mary Quarterlyreferees for comments and suggestions. 1 George Fenwick Jones, ed., Detailed Reportson the Salzburger EmigrantsWho Settled in ii ... America Edited Samuel by Urlsperger,(Athens, Ga., I989), 76, I48 n. I3.
Williamand Mary Quarterly, Series, Volume LVIII, Number 4, October 200i 3d
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clear to the "savages"of the New World. Alternatively, they might have applaudedthe Cherokees'integrity for honoring diplomatic commitments to their British allies.2 For the Protestant pietist opponents of Thomasius at the Francke Foundations in Halle with whom Boltzius was associated, this secularized notion of "natural rights" held ominous implications. Did the Native Americansact out of a dim sense of conscience and duty, thus rightly despising the misguided secularistPrieber?Boltzius certainlyseemed to hint at this in noting the proper contempt for Prieber's "beliefs" that the Cherokees exhibited. But if Indians acted out of conscience, how could their consciences have been so properly enlightened since they were pagans and knew nothing of the one true God and only dimly perceived the obligations of civic order, as well? This incident and the differing ways Europeansplausibly read it provide us with the opportunity to glimpse an anguished early modern Atlantic debate over the question of the "law written on the heart" and Germanspeakers'encounters with Jewish and pagan contemporaries.That the reverberations of a German university debate over the sacred or secular understandingof natural law should be heard in far-off Georgia should not surprise us because the Atlantic world's Protestant pietist inhabitants had already recognized in their Jewish neighbors' traditions how critical this debate would be in their New World encounters with non-Christians. At first glance, we might think these early modern German-speakingProtestant pietists and their Jewish neighbors had little to say to one another about a "law written on the heart." If Protestantism stood for anything, it insisted on the absolute necessity of salvation from the misery of sin by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from any works of "law."In both official theology and popular piety, the Law of God revealedhis will and was accessible only through sacred scripture. That law not only revealed his will but also condemned and harassedthe sinner. If it also functioned in a distant "third use" as a guide to behavior, this was only true if the person using it understood and accepted revelation in the first place. What possible use did laws given to Noah and his sons, recordedin Genesis 9:1-17, have in this understanding of the human condition if Jews did not accept Jesus of Nazareth as the one who had fulfilled the law?The plight of pagans, those "outside the law," was even more dire. Jewish commentators might also have doubted the value of exchanges on this subject with gentiles. For Jews, the commands given to Noah and his sons after their rescue from the deluge were revealed truth and laid down a clear set of requirements:to establish a society based on laws; to prohibit idolatry; to prohibit blasphemy;to prevent the carelesstaking of human life;
2 The confrontation between Thomasius and the pietists at Halle has a long historiography; for an elegant summary of the arguments and a perspective on polemics in the context of an emerging theory of communication, see Martin Gierl, PietismusundAu/kldrung:Theologische Polemik und die Kommunikationsreform Wissenschaft Ende desi7. Jahrhunderts der am (Grttingen,
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAWIN EARLY AMERICA
not to tolerate adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality; to prevent robbery; to avoid eating the limb torn from a living animal. These seven basic laws, applicable only to the people of the Covenant, had become the focus of a written tradition by the second century of the Common Era. The body of writings (the Tosefra) that commented on Noachic law began gradually to extend the applicability of the Noachic commands.3 Much later not before the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Jewish commentators who followed Maimonides firmly maintained that gentiles also had to observe these laws. Maimonides believed that this was so not because humans could reason themselves toward the right conclusions, but rather because revelation at Sinai had codified them into the Decalogue. Maimonides assumed that nonJewish access to the universal truths expressed here brought obligation in its train. Instead, as some critics pointed out, gentile persecution of the people of the Covenant raised serious questions about whether the term "righteous gentile" was perhaps an oxymoron. What difference did it make if gentiles occasionally behaved as if trying to follow the commands given to Noah and his sons in the covenant relationships detailed in Genesis 9? Their blasphemous persecution of God's chosen people, especially as Christianity became a tolerated, then the official, public religion, more than canceled occasional lapses into decency. Covenant language inherited from the writings of ancient Israel, however, had forced early Christians to reflect on where the bounds lay that obligated them to observe Torah but excused them from the attendant requirements and explications of the Law. Only a radical minority in Christianity believed that the Decalogue did not apply to Christians at all. Considerable doubt surrounded the question of what glimmers of an original, unspoiled nature remained in all humans after the Fall. Those doubts increased, and adherents of Christianity demanded clarity on the question as more gentiles converted, bringing with them anxious concerns about the fate of pagan ancestors and relatives who did not know Torah at all. Augustine of Hippo, especially, in trying to work out some notion of human conscience, distanced himself from Epicurean philosophers. These pagans had scorned the idea of justice as an end of human life and denied the political instincts of humankind or the significance of conscience. Augustine clearly defended the centrality of revelation, first to ancient Israel and, latterly, through Jesus of Nazareth to Christians. He firmly rejected the notion that all humans enjoy an innate moral sense. Conscience in the most elevated sense operated only in baptized Christians, and the "law written on the heart" for Augustine remained primarily a matter of civic order. Even the dim sense pagans might have of a God had become distorted, he believed, and hence, so did their ability to discern rightly who the true God was and, consequently, what he
3 See, in general, J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Casefor Natural Law (Downers Grove, Ill., I997), 202-07. On the Tosefta(meaning "addition"to Mishnah commentary or sometimes including laws that are not in the Mishnah at all), see Menachem Elon, Ha-MishpatHa-Ivri, 4 vols., trans. BernardAuerbachand JewishLaw: History,Sources, Principles Melvin J. Sykes (Philadelphia,I994), 3:I052-53, I078-82.
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intended as the proper destiny of humans. Gradually,Christian consensus of a sort began to take shape, partly formed in argumentswith Jewish commentators. Indeed, Christians decided, the Decalogue's commands were identical with a kind of universallyvalid set of principles. But Christians increasingly argued that these were rational and could be discerned by empirical observation of the world and human behavior;these principles governed all human life, and they were timelessly valid. Medieval Christians concluded that the universality of Noachic law and the Decalogue's contents could be seen in what the former Pharisee Saul of Tarsus had summarized in writing as the Apostle Paul to the Christian church at Rome: "When Gentiles who have not the law [that is, Torah] do by nature what the law requires,they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requiresis written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhapsexcuse them."4 By the sixteenth century, the question of conscience how it existed in all humans and what relationship it had to those who knew divine revelation had to be engaged even more energetically. For, as inheritors of Augustine, the German reformersMartin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon and their contemporarieshad to explain why they did not find the medieval consensus of the Western, or Latin, church on the question of a natural law consonant with their recoveryof the doctrine of justification by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law. That explanation necessarily demanded reflection on the Jews and on the question of what fate God had decreed for pagans, as well. Early modern European contacts between Jewish and pietist Protestant correspondentsand thinkers preparedGerman-speakingChristiansand Jews, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, for further exchanges on such questions in North America. As newcomers there, where Africans and Native Americans now lived as real neighbors, not as distant abstractions, Protestant Christians urgently needed clarity in their dealings with non-Christians. The sense of urgencywas less markedamong the small and scatteredgroups of Jewish settlers. At times, German Protestants appeared to believe, like most Jewish commentators, that a law written on the heart was confined solely to a "civic"law or law of nations. But the more urgent question that disturbed German pietists did not focus on the issue of mere civic responsibility and the right ordering of society. More pressingwas the problem of conscience.
4 Some translationssuggest that for "by nature,""instinctively"or "by the light of nature" reflects the Greek better. Rom. 2:14-I5. See Ernest L. Fortin, "The Political Implications of St. Augustine's Theory of Conscience,"AugustinianStudies,I (I970), I33-52; KristerStendahl, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Harvard TheologicalReview, 56 (i963), I99-2I5; and Johannes Stelzenberger,Conscientia Augustinus: bei Studiezur Geschichte der Moraltheologie (Paderborn,I959). Stendahl arguesplausibly that Paul was utterly uninterested in issues of personal conscience and attributes to Augustine the role of "the first to express the dilemma of the introspective conscience" (203). For a different reading that conflates Paul and Luther and denies any role to naturallaw in their perspectives,see Markus Barth, "NaturalLaw in the Teachings of St. Paul," in Elwyn A. Smith, ed., Church-State Relationsin Ecumenical Perspective (Pittsburgh, i966), II3-5I.
AMERICA NOACHIC AND NATURALLAWIN EARLY
Gradations emerged incrementally along a theological spectrum that precluded a consistent German Protestant answer to the queries Jewish commentators had been asking for generations: what is the law written on the heart? to whom does it apply? Moravian pietists by the eighteenth century believed that natural law remained a relatively bright beacon among the pagan nations. Lutherans since the Reformation had cautiously agreed that it existed, but thought the beam of light a dim one, and most Lutheran theology confined its existence to those legal and rational norms essential for organizing a society or a polity. For the most part, they demurred that it was capable of enlightening conscience about God and his will. More Calvinistinfluenced Germans regarded natural law as little more than an almost-dead ember, generating little light or heat. As German-speakers encountered both Jews and non-Europeans in North America, a second set of gradations emerged from those contacts and ruminations on them. They developed a racial/ethnic hierarchy in their assessments of the nations of the world, in which promptings of natural law barely moved Africans, perhaps more strongly shaped certain Native American peoples, and were surely present among the Jews who enjoyed the blessings of Torah. But Jewish rejection of Christianity seemed to Christian observers almost the paradigm of bad conscience and a wholesale assault on the concept of reasonable conclusions drawn from reflection on the law. Jewish refusal to give such assent deepened the anxiety over what the "law written on the heart" could possibly mean. Just how these two sets of gradations intersected and what theological warrant emerged from German-language speculation on a graded racial hierarchy, this article seeks to examine. By the end of the eighteenth century, debates on the issue of conscience and the emergence of a secularized international law altered the ways in which German pietists thought about the many peoples of the world and whether some notion of conscience informed them all. Because of their inability to answer clearly what the "law written on the heart" was and why it seemed to manifest itself differently in a variety of peoples, pietists of all sorts usually found themselves unable to connect individual conscience easily to social or political issues. Their quandary allowed many to turn their backs on the diverse peoples who had originally been moved by the warmth of Protestant German religious sentiment. The recovery of Aristotle via the Islamic scholars such as Averroes by the Swabian Dominican theologian Albertus Magnus and his brilliant disciple Thomas Aquinas did challenge fundamentally the inherited Augustinian pessimism on the dignity of a civic order. Nor did Aquinas quite share the Augustinians' equally dim view about the light of conscience in individual humans. Peter Abelard sketched the counter-argument Aquinas would adumbrate more fully: that both piety and reason compel the conclusion that "those who strove to please God according to their best lights on the basis of the natural law would not be damned for their efforts." By the I400s, Jean Gerson agreed with this insight and coupled to it an assertion of
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
conciliarist or collective "rights"to govern the Christian church. Gerson's argumentsamounted to a quasi-defenseof what later generations recognized as individual, or subjective, rights and provided a serious basis for the dignity of secular political life.5 Why the medieval recovery of Aristotle by Western theologians seemed to threaten the centrality of Augustine's conviction that all truly good works depended on God's free grace ("prevenient grace") first is a question that has generated massive commentary. Whether Luther really understood Aquinas's or the later scholastics' teachings on natural law has also been fiercely contested by experts. It seems clear to some scholars that Luther only had access to Aquinas's youthful work and the commentary of later scholastics in the tradition of nominalism. In fact, Thomas had stoutly denied that by nature the unaided intellect could know, for example, that the true God was Trinity. That knowledge came only through grace. At best, human intellect "could know the existence of God, and even the supreme goodness of God." The anxiety of the reformers focused, however, less on debates over knowledge of God. Behavior of humans, and what relationship linked good behavior to grace, occupied them far more. Where medieval consensus had emphasized "faith active in love," Luther insisted that the truer message of Paul had been "faith living in Christ," which again seemed to minimize the doing good. For activities of humans-however well-intentioned-toward Luther and Melanchthon, the burning question remained not whether human reason could arrive at some recognition of God by studying nature. Rather, for Luther, as for Augustine, sin was in the will. The human crisis lay not in its somewhat diminished capacity for intellection, but in its utter
5 See, variously, David Novak, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism:An Historical and Constructive Studyof the Noahide Laws (New York, I983), and "The Mind of Maimonides,"First
Things, 90 (I999), 27-33; Aaron Lichtenstein, The Seven Laws of Noah, 2d ed. (New York, i986); Steven Schwarzschild, "Do Noachites Have to Believe in Revelation?" Jewish Quarterly Review, (Chicago, 52 (i962), 297-308; Jaroslav Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-i300) I978), 255 (Abelard quotation); and Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights,Natural Law, and ChurchLaw, ii50-1625 (Atlanta, I997), 207-26, on Gerson. Tierney's major disagreement on the origins of the concept of natural rights is with Richard Tuck. See Tuck, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origin and Development (Cambridge, I979); for an example in the North American context of an affirmation of Tuck's point of view, see James H. Hutson, "The Emergence of the Modern Concept of a Right in America: The Contribution of Michel Villey," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 39 (I994), I85-224. For a useful summary of I7th- and i8th-century Reformed developments, see Daniel Westberg, "The Reformed Tradition and Natural Law," and William Edgar, "A Response," both in Michael Cromartie,
Grace:Protestants, Catholics,and Natural Law (Washington, D. C., and Grand ed., A Preserving
Rapids, Mich., I997), I03-I7, II8-30. On the problem of Luther and the scholastic tradition, see also Sigurd Martin Daecke, "Gott der Vernunft, Gott der Natur und persdnlicher Gott. Naturliche Theologie im Gesprdch zwischen Naturphilosophie und Worttheologie," in Carsten Bresch, Daecke, and Helmut Riedlinger, eds., Kann Man Gott aus der Natur erkennen? Evolution als Offenbarung (Freiburg/Basel, Vienna, I992), I35-54, and Wolfgang Maaser, "Luther und die Naturwissenschaften-systematische Aspekte an ausgewahlten Beispielen," and Dino Bellucci, "Gott als Mens: Die 'aliqua physica definition' Gottes bei Philipp Melanchthon," in Gunther Frank and Stefan Rhein, eds., Melanchthon und die Naturwissenschaften seiner Zeit (Sigmaringen,
I998), 25-4I, 59-7i.
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAWIN EARLY AMERICA
inability to will to confess God rightly and to do good accordingly, even if
intellectually perceiving him dimly.6
Members of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi diasporas arriving in North America in the eighteenth century left no written commentary demonstratingconclusively how they interpretedNoachic law. Indeed, not a single written reflection on the topic of Noachic law penned by a Jewish immigrant arrivalin North America is known to exist. Some Jews may well have held to a narrowand strict sense that matched, roughly, the pessimistic fate for humans beyond the law and revelation that Augustine and Luther discerned from their Christian perspective. Indirect evidence suggests that most did not. Some Jewish commentatorshad expressedthe opinion that the seven Noachic commandmentsprovided keys to an emerging law of nations. Especially among some Sephardi writings, this more inclusive and hopeful vision may have accompanied later migrants to New Netherland and North America former exiles from Portugal and Brazil arriving via Amsterdam. The Sephardim in Amsterdam had participated in mercantile networks that bound them to both Hamburg and London. Before i632, no Jewish courts existed in Amsterdam, and Jews in that community had become deeply familiarwith gentile courts and Christian beliefs at the very time the Dutch overseas trade empire began to flourish. Their exposure to a highly cosmopolitan set of mercantile exchanges with both Roman Catholic and Protestant neighbors tended to create among the former Portuguese who moved between Amsterdam, London, Hamburg, and Frankfurt-am-Maina fairly tolerant and broad view of "righteousgentiles," their capacity for acting according to conscience, and their emerging law of nations.7 Some Jewish commentators, even in this irenic tradition, regardedCatholicism as idolatrous, and those who did could not regard a Catholic as righteous. Their Dutch- and German-speakingProtestant neighbors agreedwholeheartedly, though perhaps allowing for the odd but wholly exceptional possibility of a righteous papist. Both Catholic and Calvinist commentary with which the Jews of Amsterdam were familiar started from the same premise. An all-just God revealed glimpses of his awesome majesty in an ordered creation where the
6 Pelikan, Growth of Medieval Theology (600-i300), 284-93, quotation on 287; Heiko A. Oberman, "'Justitia Christi' and Justitia Dei'. Luther and the Scholastic Doctrines of Justification," in Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation:Essaysin Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought(Edinburgh,i986), I04-25, quotations on i20. 7 On these background issues, see Miriam Bodian, Hebrews of the PortugueseNation: (Bloomington, Ind.,I997), 25-75, and S. Conversos and Community EarlyModernAmsterdam in Gaon, "Some Aspects of the Relations between Shaar Hashamayim of London and Shearith Israel of New York," 3-I3, and L. Hershkowitz, "Some Aspects of the New York Jewish Merchant in Colonial Trade," IOI-I7, both in Aubrey Newman, ed., Migration and Settlement: ... Proceedings the Anglo-American of JewishHistoricalConference July 1970 (London, I97I). More Jew, 1492-i776, 3 vols. (Detroit, I970). generally,see Jacob RaderMarcus, The ColonialAmerican On Jewish experience with Dutch courts, see Edward Fram, "Jewish Law from the Shulhan Aruknh to the Enlightenment," in N. S. Hecht et al., eds., An Introductionto the Historyand Sources ofJewish Law (Oxford, i996), 360; on EuropeanJewish exchanges among the large mercantile centers, see David Novak, "ModernResponsa:i8oo to the Present,"ibid., 379-95.
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
laws written into it were accessible to observation and reason, at least in part. Catholic commentators believed the Fall in the Garden of Eden had left reason and free will maimed but operative-into which grace could be "infused"and through which the law of nature could be discerned. Some were willing to speculate that the mere intention to do good among pagans indicated that God operated outside the normal bounds of revelation, and the Christian church.8 But for Augustinian Calvinists, the central doctrine of the utter depravityof humankind and the bondage of the will compelled denial that grace could work through nature, and hence, the very notion of natural law as it applied to conscience was repugnant to scriptural revelation's centrality. Anglican commentators such as Thomas Hooker found themselves under attack when they affirmed even a modified natural law teaching they saw in Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and other sixteenthcentury theologians.9 Especially among more rigorous seventeenth-century English-speaking "puritan"Calvinists, a fideist tradition that drew from Tertullian and latemedieval nominalists emphasized God's revealed law, one not accessible to reason. Such authors tended to be interested in the legal knowledge resting on rational observation and deduction that might form the basis for a godly spoke for many when society. But William Ames, in his essay on Conscience, he wrote that some relics of natural law perhaps remained in human hearts "like to some dim aged picture. . . . [but] therefore is there nowhere found any true right practical reason, pure and complete in all parts, but in the written law of God," alluding to Psalm II9:66. The political use of the law of nature found guardedProtestantendorsement, but all Protestants,in varying degrees, struggledwith the question of whether individual conscience, in the truest sense, existed apart from explicit, individual appropriation of the knowledge of the law, revealedsolely through the Gospel.10
8 For a survey of the vast literature on the Roman Catholic debates over the nature of indigenous Americans and human nature, see William Pencak, "The Sign of the Indian in Late Scholastic Hispanic Thought, the British Counter-Example, and the Practical Consequences," Communicationand Information SciencesReview, vols. I/2 (forthcoming). A particularlysharp indictment of Christianity's relationship to slavery is Forrest G. Wood, The Arroganceof Faith: Christianity and Race in Americafrom the Colonial Era to the Twentieth Century(New York, i990); more nuanced views of the complicated relationship of slavery practices and biblical beliefs are available in the special issue on "Constructing Race," William and Mary Quarterly,3d Ser., 54 (I997), esp. Benjamin Braude, "The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods,"I03-42. 9 W. J. Torrance Kirby, "RichardHooker's Theory of Natural Law in the Context of ReformationTheology," SixteenthCentury Journal, 30 (i999), 68I-704; on Calvin, see Susan E. Schreiner, The Theater His Glory:Nature and the Natural Orderin the ThoughtofJohn Calvin of (Grand Rapids, Mich., I995). 10 "Teach me good judgment and knowledge [i.e., "practicalknowledge"] for I believe in thy commandments"; William Ames, Conscience (London, i639), Question 8; the more extensive treatment is Ames, De Conscientiaet ejusjure vel casibus libri V (Amsterdam, i630). Ames's teacher, William Perkins, authored a similar treatise with similar conclusions; see William Perkins,i558-i602: EnglishPuritanist, ed. Thomas F. Merrill (Nieuwkoop, i966), 8, containing both of his works on casuistry,"A Discourse on Conscience"and "The Whole Treatise of Cases
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAW IN EARLY AMERICA
Puritan theologians thus placed great emphasis on education and training, insisting that humans possessed of natural reason were obligated to order both private life and society as the expression of faith. Such right ordering depended in turn on a right anthropology, the right knowledge of one's self and the hopeless condition in which humanity existed. The puritan emphasis on practical reason drove them, whether they liked it or not, to consider whether natural law applied to the heathen and their societies as well as to Christians and Jews who knew God's revealedlaw. Absent empirical proof that a natural law as found in the Decalogue functioned among indigenous Americans or Africans, puritans were not particularlyinterested in those societies and cultures.1"Moreover, for all Reformed in the seventeenth century, the threat of revived Catholic influence via Spanish scholastics such as Luis de Molina intensified anxiety about natural law thinking in general.12 Among German-speakers, the confrontation with a natural law, or Noachic tradition, reflected some of the same tension between radical faith and a proper role for human reason as was reflected in the English-speaking world. But Lutheran, Moravian, and German Reformed theologians did not subscribe to the predestinarian rigor of Calvin and some of his followers among the Scots or the English. German-languagedescriptions of Africans, North American Indians, and Jewish neighbors in America reveal the struggle these continentals engaged in as they tried to maintain the central requirement that the Gospel be preached and heard, yet maintain some
of Conscience":"LetAtheists barkeagainst this as long as they will: they have that in them that will convince them of the truth of the Godhead, will they nill they, either in life or death." Perkins denies that the Jews were responsible for spreading revelation before the coming of Christ, since "the conference and speech of Jewish merchants with forrainerswas no sufficient meanes to publish the promises of salvation by Christ to the whole world: first, because the Jewes for the most part have alwaies bin more readie to receive any new and false religion than to teach their owne: secondly, because the very Jewes themselves, though they were well acquainted with the ceremonies of their religion, yet the substance thereof, which was Christ figured by externall ceremonies, they knew not" (i6). On the evolution of casuistry and the indebtedness of Puritan divines to the Roman Catholic tradition, see Merrill's introduction, xixv, and, for the impact of casuistryupon English legal doctrine and theory and the tension with Reformed theology, Edmund Leites, ed., Conscienceand Casuistryin Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, i988), introduction, i-II, and Margaret Sampson, "Laxity and Liberty in Seventeenth-CenturyEnglish Political Thought," ibid., 72-II8, esp. 78-96; on the English religious context, see Jonathan Wright, "The World's Worst Worm: Conscience and Conformity during the English Reformation," Sixteenth Century Journal, 30 (I999), II3-33. 11 The above summarizes a vast literature on this topic, elegantly surveyed in John
Morgan, GodlyLearning:Puritan Attitudes towardsReason,Learning,and Education, i560-i640
(Cambridge, i986), 4I-78; on the I7th-century English search for a "language of nature" and the growing recognition that this search signaled a recognition of the lack of ordered natural princi-
ples, see Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge,
for the New England
Moral Philosophy at
A Seventeenth-Century Harvard: Disciplinein Transition(Chapel Hill, i98i). 12 See RichardA. Muller, God, Creation,and Providence the ThoughtofJacob Arminius: in Sourcesand Directionsof ScholasticProtestantism the Era of Early Orthodoxy(Grand Rapids, in
and, on the connection to legal doctrine, James Gordley, The Philosophical
Doctrine(Oxford, Originsof ModernContract
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
aspects of pre-Reformationnatural law teaching. In part, that struggle came from careful observation of mores and habits among "others" that suggested, at least at times, that a law written on the heart understood as conscience might really exist among those not yet apprized of Christian revelation. We do not know if the Swiss Reformed pastor Johann Joachim Zibly knew of Christian Prieber's death two years after Zibly's ministry in Savannah began in 1745. Zibly faced the challenge posed by the questions surrounding God's will for the Jews and pagans that Boltzius's account of Prieber's death had opened for Europeans. Zibly had become well acquaintedwith a Portuguese-Dutch Jewish member of the d'Acosta family, who in turn had corresponded with a "learned Jew in New York."13 D'Acosta presented Zibly with his New York friend's interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 "Behold a [young woman or virgin, that is, almah] shall conceive and bear a son." Predictably, Ziibly defended the Septuagint Greek text, which Jews in the diaspora had used, to vindicate the Christian application of the text to Jesus of Nazareth'sbirth to the Virgin Mary. More significant was Zibly's irenic observation that "a mind that seeks nothing but truth, can not be displeased, because others are of a different Opinion, and I will do Your unknown friend the Justice, that his Letter appear'd to me candid and gave no mean opinion of his Abilities and Sincerity."Zibly asked d'Acosta to convey to the New York scholar the pastor's "true Regard for your whole Nation" as well as Zibly's "Confidence and friendship, which it shall be my Care never to become undeservingof." After presenting his philological arguments, the Swiss Reformed cleric observed how Christianity"is professedlybuilt on the SacredWritings of the old Testament."What struckZibly was the appropriateness a virgin birth to of distinguishthe Messiahfrom "the universalCorruptionof Nature."For Zibly, it would appearthat very little, or nothing, remained "in nature"that could lead gentiles to the truth. For, he wrote, "we Christians. . . were once not a people . . . [but] were brought to the Knowledgeof the Lord of Israel. . . we poor Gentiles never knew anything of God, we were not blessed with that Revelation You Jews had." For Ziibly, the Jews were "our elder Brethren," though he could not account for the fact that "the Veil of Moses" had not yet been removed so that the Jews, too, could see "the Glory of God shining 14 in the Face of Jesus Christ."
13 Quotation in Henry Melchior Mihlenberg, TheJournalsof HenryMelchiorMiihlenberg, trans. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, I942-I958), 2:685. On ZUbly, see Roeber, Palatines, Liberty, and Property:German Lutheransin Colonial and Randall M. Miller, ed., "A Warm and British America (Baltimore, I993), i69, 300-oi, ZealousSpirit": John J Zfibly and the AmericanRevolution,A Selectionof His Writings(Macon, Ga., I982), I-27. As of this writing, I have not been able to determine which of the d'Acostas ZUbly knew. On the family's arrivalin New Amsterdam,see L. Hershkowitz, "SomeAspects of the New YorkJewish Merchant in Colonial Trade," in Newman, ed., Migrationand Settlement,
14 ZUbly's letter survives in two variant forms, both available at the Lutheran Archives Center PM 95A I774-I775; Mihlenberg mentions but does not reproducethe letter in Journals, n. 2:685 I.
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAW IN EARLY AMERICA
Zibly's contemporary Johan Hendricus Goetschius exhibited the same impatience with notions of a natural law. In a fiery 1742 sermon, the Swiss Reformed preacher swept aside with contempt the Athenians' altar to "THE UNKNOWN GOD," since they could not know God's revelation in scripture and thus were "so darkened by their submission to idolatry that they also missed the end of the law of nature." That law, Goetschius believed, allowed observation of a created world, by which one would come to the right conclusion that one personal God exists and that worship is due him alone. Why, however, if pagans could inductively draw this lesson from empirical observation of the natural world, did Athenians and other heathens remain mired in "idolatry"? By way of answer, Christian theologians could assign the majority of humankind to perdition and avoid blaming God by subscribing to the doctrine of double predestination. With far more uncertainty, non-Calvinists began to speculate on whether perhaps some people simply acted in bad conscience, even when both natural reason and revelation were accessible to them. Since relatively few German-speakers subscribed to double predestination, the puzzle of conscience emerged with increasing frequency to disturb their observations on the obvious lapse between accessible observation of the natural world and its laws and patently wrong belief and behavior. German pietists of various theological hues had to confront the puzzle of conscience as they interacted with their Jewish neighbors, fellow "so-called" European Christians, or pagan Africans and Native Americans.15 German-speaking Christians rarely acknowledged openly their indebtedness to Jewish teaching and commentary as a source of their understanding about natural law. Certainly, among the German- and Dutch-language publications actually printed in North America, not a single title reveals such an acknowledgment. Some German- or Dutch-language Jewish works printed in Europe may have found their way into libraries of pastors such as Zubly, but the surviving records do not confirm this. In the catalogue of "mostly German" (but including Dutch and Latin) books offered for sale in Philadelphia in 1769 by Heinrich Muller, about a dozen texts provided instruction in Hebrew, or reviewed Jewish history, or engaged in polemics on why the Jews had not yet been successfully converted. One offering explicitly compared the condemnation of ancient Israel for its unfaithfulness to the godless "Sodomitic" nature of modern Germany. But no direct evidence in the form of scholarly texts survives to show North American Jewish and Christian engagement with this key question of Noachic or natural law.16
15 For the sermon text, see Randall Balmer, ed., "John Henry Goetschius and The Unknown God: Eighteenth-CenturyPietism in the Middle Colonies," Pennsylvania Magazineof History and Biography,II3 (I989), 595; Goetschius is here drawing on the passages in Paul's Letter to the Romans, i:i9-2i: "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened." 16 [John Henry Muller], Catalogus von mehr als 700 meist Deutschen Blichern . . . (Philadelphia, I769). The polemics included Direr's Hof/nungIsraels,oder:Beweis,daf?vor dem
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
Indirectly, however, German-speakers struggled with this dilemma. They were forced to reflect on their own gentile status vis-h-vis the Jews as they confronted the "heathen" with whom they had contact in North America. Although scholars may be correct to point out that European awareness of the "other" began with the rise of the Jewish ghettos in medieval Italy, Christians could not regard the Jews, possessors of genuine revelation, as the equivalent of the heathens. Rather, it was the Christian recognition that the Jews really did possess genuine revelation that intensified Christian bewilderment about Jewish rejection of the later revelation of the God of Israel in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The same could not be said of those nations "without the law." Did they "know" somehow what God expected, at a minimal level, from them as individuals, and possibly as
nations? 17 German-speaking Christians disagreed in answering this question. Zibly, and the Reformed in general, tended to minimize the survival of a law of conscience. Indeed, among the Dutch Reformed of New Netherland, Adriaen van der Donck believed that the Indians possessed "less knowledge of good and evil than we have and are also less sinful." Van der Donck's basis for this somewhat remarkable theological opinion lay in his observation of Indian women in childbirth who, he thought, suffered less, and "since labor pains are not natural, but are a punishment for sin imposed on the first mother," the conclusion was an obvious one.18 How many Dutch and German Reformed shared van der Donck's perspective, we do not know. Certainly, even German Reformed preachers who rejected Calvin's doctrine of double predestination paid scant attention to the law written on the heart. Philip Wilhelm Otterbein, credited as the founder of the United
Jingsten Tage das Grofl des Jfidischen Volks soil bekehrt werden and Gerson's Inhalt und Widerlegung Jfidischen Thalmuds;the monitory use of Israel's history is Johannes Jacobus des das Beckius, Grfindlicher Bericht,wer daran Ursach,daf?zur Zeit desAlten Testaments Judenthum, und zur Zeit des Neuen TestamentsDeutschland, zum zehnfachen Sodom worden; Hoburg's Deutsch-Evangelisches Judenthumsurveyedthe converted. I note I7 titles of the 700 touching on some aspect of Hebrew or Jewish history or theology, mostly in German with two Dutch titles. Whether these titles were purchased, and by whom, surviving evidence does not indicate. For more details on German- and Dutch-language books, see Roeber, "Germanand Dutch Books and Printing," in Hugh Amory and David Hall, eds., A Historyof the Book in America,vol. I: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World(Cambridge, I999), 298-3I3. The entries under "conscience" in the EnglishShort Title Cataloguedeal overwhelminglywith liberty of conscience in religious matters, scandal, scruples, courts of conscience, but not on the dilemma under examination here. Lutheranlists of books either ordered from Halle or loaned by colleagues reveallittle systematic assessment of the Noachic tradition; in I776 Johann Christoph Kunze loaned Mihlenberg the younger cleric's copy of a second edition of Johann David Michaelis, on which, however, Miihlenberg MosaischesRecht, 6 vols. (Frankfurt-am-Main, I775-I780), makes no comment; see Journals, 2:76i. 17 See Robert Bonfil, "Aliens Within: The Jews and Antijudaism,"in Thomas A. Brady, Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, eds., Handbookof EuropeanHistory, I400-I600: 2 LateMiddleAges,Renaissance, Reformation, vols. (Leiden, I994), i:263-302. and 18 Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck, "Description of New Netherland, i653," trans. Diederik Goedhuys, in Dean R. Snow, Charles T. Gehring, and William A. Starna, eds., In Mohawk Country: EarlyNarrativesabout a Native People(Syracuse,N. Y., i996), II4-I5.
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAWIN EARLY AMERICA
Brethren movement, preached in 1760 a sermon at the Germantown (Pennsylvania) Reformed Church that began flatly: "By nature we are in a completely desperate condition. We are without God and children of wrath ...destitute of all godly light. . . . Man is so deeply mired in corruption that he does not by nature even recognize it." Otterbein admitted that fear of death could drive some toward the fear of God, but in a "slavelike" manner. In this sense, "each person still has a fear of God unless his conscience has been stilled by extinction." For Otterbein, the Jews had exhibited this kind of slavish obedience in their legalistic "observances" lived "in a conbut stant, slavelike fear of death."Among pagans, Otterbein found even less evidence of conscience. 19 Lutheran and Moravian theologians, far more than their Reformed counterparts, drew on patristic traditions that hinted at the survival of conscience. Luther explicitly affirmed the existence of natural law, observing that law books would be unnecessary if it were obeyed. For, he argued, humankind "carry along with them in the depth of their hearts a living book which could give them quite adequate instruction about what they ought to do
and not to do.
. All nations share this common
feel in my heart that I certainly ought to do these things for God, not because of what traditional written laws say, but because I brought these laws with me when I came into the world."20 German-speaking Moravians might well have agreed with Luther here, and they drew the most optimistic conclusions about the survival of a law of conscience among the heathen. While Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf's indebtedness to natural law thinking remained somewhat inchoate, his instructions to Moravians about to engage the unconverted in Russia reveal
19 Otterbein, "The Salvation-bringing Incarnation and the Glorious Victory of Jesus Christ over the Devil and Death . . . ," in J. Steven O'Malley, ed., Early German-American Evangelicalism: Sources Discipleship Sanctification Pietist on and (Lanham,Md., I995), I9-4I, quotations on i9, 22, 23, 24. 20 Luther's quotations here are taken from a variety of his lectures, cited in Paul Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia, I972; orig. pub. i965), in 25-35, quotations on 26-27, n. I2; see also Michael G. Baylor, Action and Person:Conscience LateScholasticism the Young and Luther (Leiden, I977), I54-56, 223-38, for Luther's concept of I natural conscience or synteresis. have commented elsewhere on Luther'snegative feelings about canon law and lawyers;see Roeber, "'He read it to me from a book of English law': Germans, Bench, and Bar in the Colonial South, I7I5-I770," in David J. Bodenhamerand James W. Ely, A eds., AmbivalentLegacy: LegalHistoryof the South (Jackson,Miss., I984), 202-28. Scholarsdisagree vigorously about whether Luther's insistence in his essay "The Bondage of the Will" that God is a "hidden God" precluded or at least made inconsistent his apparent naturallaw beliefs. Some conclude that he denied utterly the concept of synteresis. this perspective, see Alister For E. McGrath,Justitia Dei: A Historyof the ChristianDoctrineofJustification,2 vols. (Cambridge, i986), 2:I7-20. For the most recent summaryof counter-arguments,see Antti Raunio, "Natural Law and Faith: The Forgotten Foundations of Ethics in Luther'sTheology," in Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Union with Christ:TheNew Finnish Interpretation Luther(Grand of Rapids, Mich., i998), 96-i24, and William H. Lazareth, "Response to Antti Raunio, 'Natural Law and Faith,"' ibid., I25-28. That Luther interpreted the Genesis passagesas a reference to the "law of nations," with perhapssome norms for universalindividual conscience, one can see in his Lectures on Genesis, in Pelikan, ed., Luther'sWorks,vol. 2: Lectures Genesis,Chapters on 6-14 (St. Louis, i960), I3I-42.
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
his confidence in a universal sense of conscience. The same instructions informed Moravian missionaries among Native Americans or Africans. On the one hand, deeply influenced by the Lutheran pietism he had imbibed at Halle, Zinzendorf insisted on the importance of the preached word announcing a gospel of forgiveness. But he also warned that Christians made two major mistakes in dealing with pagans: they said too much about the doctrine of God and too little about forgiveness, or they tried to explain too soon and through "rational"discussion trinitarian theology before making clear the love God had for all humans. In addition, "truth"was no abstraction but what every person could "feel"as the result of experienced, existential confrontation with everyday life. The specifics of Christian belief-the Trinity, the doctrine of salvation via the cross-had to wait while one watched the workings of the "heart"and "feelings"to confirm what the heathen alreadyknew-that there was a God.21 Zinzendorf's followers extended these convictions to their work among enslavedAfricans in the Americas. But Moravian beliefs in the existence of a law written on the heart suggested logically to their critics that such convictions would lead to an attack on the enslavement of fellow Christians. After initial successes in the Caribbean,Zinzendorf felt compelled to reassureanxious Danish settlers that no implicit attack on the law of slaveryflowed from Moravian convictions about the law of conscience.22Zinzendorf and his colleagues passed over in silence the embarrassingdisjunction between natural reason and conscience that brought the enslaved to God and the persistence of social and political conditions that seemed to conspire against the preaching of the Gospel. Testimony documenting the conversion of Africans to the Moravian faith confirmed the prior existence of a kind of faith that had emerged from their natural condition, though perfected, after hearing the Gospel. Thus, the "Memoir of Abraham," an African who died in 1797, noted that after his birth among the Mandingo in Guinea, this man "throughdiligent praying . . . establisheda religious way of thinking himself, though this was mixed with heathen superstition."On being recapturedafter an initial attempt to escape from slaveryin North Carolina, conscience manifested itself in Abraham"of his own free will . . . admitt~ing]that he ought to be punished" before he experienced conversion.23Yet affirmation of conscience prior to conversion did not lead Moravians to develop a full-blown
21 See the discussion in Hermann Wellenreuther and Carola Wessel, eds., Herrnhuter von I772 bis Revolution:Die Tageblicher David Zeisberger, in Indianermission der Amerikanischen i78i (Berlin, I995), 56-58. The examination of the texts on natural law used at Halle and which informed not only Zinzendorf, but Lutheran clerics in North America, cannot be undertaken here. I treat this issue in the work from which the present essay is taken. For a useful survey of various problems in naturallaw theory, see Pauline C. Westerman, TheDisintegrationof Natural Aquinasto Finnis (Leiden, i998), esp. 77-227, for early modern developments; the Law Theory: Spanish-RomanCatholic struggleshave been most recently interpretedin Anthony Pagden, The Ethnology (Cambridge, Fall of Natural Man: TheAmericanIndian and the Originsof Comparative i982), esp. ii9-200. 22 Jon F. Sensbach, A SeparateCanaan: The Making of an Afro-MoravianWorldin North Carolina,I763-I840 (Chapel Hill, I998), 33-55. 23 "Memoirof Abraham," trans. ErikaHuber, ibid., 309-I0.
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAW IN EARLY AMERICA
critique of political and social regimes engaged in unconscionable abuse of Christianized Africans. Indeed, despite early optimism about African conscience, Moraviansstill harbored considerable doubts about the existence of conscience in nonChristians.David Zeisberger's preachingto GermanMoraviansin Pennsylvania in October 1772 exhibited a rather odd interpretationof a passage in Paul's
Epistleto the Romans(11:25-27)
that refersto a partial hardening Israel's of
hearts until the gentiles are converted. Passing over the relationship between Jews and gentiles one might have expected here, Zeisbergerinstead emphasized the blindness "in which humans live by nature, so much so that they are not in the position even to think what is good," a conclusion that dismissed natural and Noachic law wholesale.24Zeisberger concluded that Europeans displayed a shocking lack of conscience when he observed that many whites could read scripture, knew what God's will was, and were therefore all the more guilty for not fulfilling it-a failure they manifested in their mistreatment of Indians. The Indians who did not know God could, in this line of reasoning,plead ignoranceas their excuse. Further,Zeisberger,in holding up the converted Indian settlements, contrasted the drunkenness,murder, theft, lies, and deceit among the unconverted with the Moravian Indian towns, remarkingthat one especially felt the reign of Satan while living among the unconvertedIndians, among whom the persistenceof pagan beliefs and practices seemed very slow to vanish.25 If direct contact by German-speaking Moravians with both African Americans and Native Americans produced ambivalent conclusions about whether a law of conscience existed among them, this was even more the case among German Lutherans. Moreover, Lutheran assessments of their Jewish-Europeancounterparts also seldom reflected Zibly's positive assessment of the Jewish "nation." In part, this stemmed from the questionable interpretation of Luther by those who subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions. The "Two Kingdoms" doctrine developed by Luther admitted some persistence of universal conscience, affirmed that political and legal reasoning existed for ordering society and government, and largely left undeveloped a correspondingsense of personal responsibility for public life. The realm of politics was left to the princes, of whom Luther had little good to say. This disjunction between the clear obligations of individual conscience (understood to be the province of the Gospel) and social and political life (the law) bequeathed a legacy of quietism that also had disastrous consequences for the affirmation of an integrated natural law tradition among later Lutherans. Where Reformed theologians agreed with their Roman counterpartsabout the role of the law as an expression of God's love and his
io6 Wellenreutherand Wessel, eds., Herrnhuter Indianermission, (entry for Oct. 6). Entries Sept.20, I773, June23, July3, I774, Oct. 23, I780, ibid., I70-72, 209, 2I5, for 537. The image of darknessassociatedwith satanic and, by implication, Native American condition is explored in James H. Merrell, "Shamokin, 'the very seat of the Prince of darkness': Unsettling the Early American Frontier,"in Andrew R. L. Cayton and FredrikaJ. Teute, eds., ContactPoints:AmericanFrontiers from the Mohawk Valleyto the Mississippi,I750-I830 (Chapel Hill, i998), i6-59.
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
will for organizingsociety, Luther refused to make such a connection, seeing here a confusion of law with the freedom of the Gospel. No critique of Christian failure to deal "righteously" with Jews or pagans could easily flow from this disjuncture.26 Miihlenberg first encountered enslaved Africans in 1742. His journal accounts reveal his doubt about the degree to which a law of conscience existed among them. Although Mihlenberg never reduced his thoughts to a systematic conclusion, one can discern a hierarchyin his assessmentof how the law of conscience worked among "others."Africans occupied the bottom rung of this ladder of nations, with North American Indians exhibiting a clearer understanding of both the existence of God and the obligation to treat others as one would wish to be treated. Jews stood near the top, being the most like Christians, yet also-like "so-called Christians"-had the least excuse for misbehaviorbecause they enjoyed the knowledge of Torah. Mihlenberg thought enslavedAfricans retained a special degree of "savage spite and cunning trickiness, like the gypsies in Europe" because they understandably"cherish[ed]a secret rancor for having been snatched from their homeland and sold into everlastingslavery in a strange land." But the chances of bringing them to the knowledge of the true God were slim, much "likewriting Hebrew text with points and accents on coarse blotting paper." Miihlenberg rejected Moravian methods of conversion, which appealed to the emotions, firmly believing that all humans were possessed of a "rational soul" and had to come to, or perhaps alreadywere possessed of, a modicum of knowledge, not "blind, sensual feeling . . . [but] every man ought to have at least some knowledge of the commonest attributesof his soul and parts of his body." Although Miihlenberg baptized and marrieda number of Africans during his ministry and never denied at least a portion of "natural"knowledge of good and evil among Africans, his skepticism remained largely unchanged. Recounting the conversion of a slave hanged for murdering a black child, he referredto the guilty party as ignorant, "totally blind," and "had never even heard of the existence of a God." Initial contact with slaves in 1742 had convinced Miihlenberg, after questioning several, that "they knew nothing of the true God," yet his condemnation of the "so-called Christians [who] lead a more evil life than the heathen" was even more severe.27
26 The literature on the "Two Kingdoms" problem is vast and complex; for a brief summary, see Roeber, Palatines,Liberty,and Property, 294, 30I-02. 72-75, I77-78, 27 MUhlenberg,Journals,2:638, 675, 683-84, 7, I2, s:58. Miihlenberg's apprehension of a hierarchy of races and degrees of awareness of a law of conscience seems approximately that detailed for i8th-century Europeansinfluenced by environmentalism;see BernardW. Sheehan, Seedsof Extinction: and the AmericanIndian (Chapel Hill, I973), I-44. Jeffersonian Philanthropy That clergy did not necessarilyconstruct a demonized view of Africanswhile still probablysubscribing to the environmentalist hierarchy of peoples is argued forcibly in Daniel A. Cohen, "Social Injustice, Sexual Violence, Spiritual Transcendence:Constructions of InterracialRape in EarlyAmerican Crime Literature,I767-I817," WMQ, 3d Ser., 56 (I999), 48I-526. Despite his apparent rejection of an appeal to sentiment, MUhlenberg,like pietists in general, recognized a role for emotion in religious teaching. The intricacies of these distinctions take us too far afield from the purposesof this article.
AMERICA NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAWIN EARLY
Neither Miihlenberg nor many of his congregants regardedthe indigenous peoples of North America as falling directly within the scope of Lutheran missionary work. Yet, in scattered remarks, Mihlenberg noted interactions between Indians and Europeans, from New York to Georgia, with a distinctly different and higher assessmentof a law written on Indian hearts from what he had failed to discern among Africans. His views on Native Americans remained cautious and at times laced with negative allusions to European paradigms of borderland heathens. Remarking on the capacity of conscience in the revolutionaryrepublic to honor donors' charitable gifts, Mihlenberg believed a "civilized, not to say Christian, nation" would do so, lest it be thought a people comprised of "Indians,Negroes, or
From conversations with his father-in-law, Conrad Weiser, and the South Carolina German-speaker Michael Kalteisen, who informed him about life among the Cherokees, Miihlenberg concluded that the indigenous peoples of North America really did possess a profound sense of conscience. At the same time, he was horrified at the cruel tortures Indians imposed on their captives and expressed his disgust with Indian theft from Europeans even after the signing of treaties. This seeming lack of rectitude fit awkwardly with the admirablequalities of natives he listed for his Halle superiors. Kalteisen informed the Pennsylvaniapastor that the Cherokees, before European contact, had "lived and acted simply in accord with the code of nature; they were sober, chaste, truth-loving, just, industrious, loyal toward one another. . . . They believe in a good god who grants and gives to them everything that is good." The Cherokees maintained a house of refuge in their villages for "their aged, sick, and helpless people," were "very hospitable to those who are allied with them," and possessed a deep sense of rectitude. If anyone lied or broke a promise, "they refuse ever again to repose
confidence in him."29
Weiser's boyhood experiences among the Indians of New York and his later service to Pennsylvania as translator and arbitrator provided Mihlenberg with additional information and ground for reflection. Like his son-in-law, Weiser genuinely admired certain aspects of Indian life. But just as clearly, he perceived degrees in the law of conscience possessed by nonEuropeans.30In relating Weiser's own conclusions, Mihlenberg noted for his Halle superiorsthat Weiser deemed the Indians "verywise and shrewd in natural things and, though they do not possess the art of writing, they have the faculty of knowing and remembering many events of the distant past because they have been diligently handed down and preservedby oral traditions." Miihlenberg believed linguistic barriersaccounted for difficulties in conveying some of the truths of Christianityand concluded that "at best one
29 Ibid., 2:573 (I774). For more on Kalteisen, see Roeber, Palatines, Liberty, and Property,
30 On Weiser's mixed attitudes, see Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiatorson the Pennsylvania Frontier(New York, i999), 203, 222-23, 29I-92.
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY
is able to express with their phrases a natural theology and the historical truths of the Word of God."31 After a decade in North America, Mihlenberg recounted a Swedish pastor's summary of work among the Indians. The account testified to natural law and the value of natural theology, he thought. But a wrong-headed account of the Swedish endeavorwas "so distorted by deists" that divine revelation had been dismissed in favor of mere natural religion. Mdhlenberg concluded for those who had asked his opinion of the account that "experience gives certainty, but if one sticks to theory alone, one is quickly felled." Ask any woman who has suffered the pangs of childbirth whether this does not comport with the words of Genesis, he suggested. Miihlenberg even referreddeist scoffers at natural theology to Noachic law without explicitly acknowledgingRomans 2:I4: "let them pay heed to their hearts and dispositions. Accusing and excusing thoughts are present in man's conscience."32 The horrors visited on German-speakersin the western settlements of Pennsylvaniaduring the Seven Years'War graduallyhardened Mihlenberg's own heart about Indians' conscience. He openly sympathized with the settlers, though condemning the Paxton rioters and the murderersof Indians in Lancaster. In recounting the captivity of the Leininger family, originally from the imperial city of Reutlingen, Mihlenberg struggled to understand why some whites chose after years of captivity to remain with the Indians. No account of naturallaw could explain this for him, and he comparedsuch misguided folk to the "childrenof Israelwho so easily deserted the true God, mixed with the heathen, and adopted their customs." The law of conscience should have told them better, but it appeared that "fallen human nature" attached itself to the "humanemasters"in the wilderness. Moreover, "experience also testifies that, whether people be high or low, educated or ignorant, they would ratherlive for themselves and their sinful passions than for Him who died and rose again for them." Alone among the captives, the eighteenyear-old Regina could be identified because she still could recall from memory and sing a hymn. On opening a German Bible, she read how Tobit, in the time of Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians, "though he was a captive among strangers, yet did he not fall away from God's Word." For Miihlenberg, it was not the presence of an abstractuniversalnaturallaw, but the impact of Christian educational institutions, Regina's youthful memory exercises,and the centralityof a revealedword that explained her rescue.33
Journals,i:i67. MUhlenberg, Ibid., I:323 (I752). The possible universalidentity of women experiencing menstruation and childbirth as a "natural"bridge across cultures is explored in Jane Merritt, "Creating Common Communities: Mahican, Delaware, and German Women in i8th-century Pennsylvania," paper presented at OIEAHC Annual Conference, June 2-4, I995; see also Merritt, "Metaphor, Meaning, and Misunderstanding: Language and Power on the PennsylvaniaFrontier,"in Cayton and Teute, eds., ContactPoints, 60-87. 33 Tobit i:2. On the reaction to the Lancaster murders and the Paxton Riots, see MUhlenberg,Journals,I:728, 2:18-24; for his account of the captivity of the Leiningers, ibid., 2:202-04, quotations on 204, 205. The captivity narrativecan be found in entry 219, KarlJohn
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAW IN EARLY AMERICA
By the 1770s, Mhhlenberg relented somewhat, as he revealed in an exchange with one of the leaders of the Six Nations. Their conversation at the home of Samuel Weiser turned to issues of natural theology and conscience. While rejecting the Indian's notion of minor gods, Mihlenberg admitted that one should not be surprisedto "hearsuch tomfoolery from a heathen, for even in Christendom one seldom finds a poem, composed in the advanced taste, which is not padded with similar heathen stuff-muses, nymphs, dryads, lyres, and wood-pipes." They agreed about the "confusion and corruption in human nature," and Mihlenberg pleased his counterpart by concluding that "clothes do not make a man virtuous, even less that they make man acceptable in the sight of God; only an upright heart does this." But Mihlenberg confessed his own inadequacy to find words in the American'sown tongue to explain that "without redemption the uprightness
is inadequate."34 Younger Lutheran pastors, such as J.H.C. Helmuth, Miihlenberg's own sons, and Johann Christoph Kunze, developed little that was new in their assessment of the law of conscience among indigenous Americans. Among the younger generation, only Kunze finally suggested that missionary work among the Indians would be preferable to attempting to convert the hardened hearts of transplanted Germans and indifferent English-speakers. But no such missionary effort emerged among Lutheran or Reformed Germanspeakers in the eighteenth century.35 In part, energies needed for such an enterprise would be invested instead in the battle against a more secular vision of natural religion that threatened confessional Christianity's insistence on natural theology rooted in revealed scripture. Pastor Helmuth played on old anglophone fears in this contest. British authorities had feared during the Seven Years' War that German settlers might defect to the French in the contested western areas of European settlement. Helmuth again demanded support for a charity school scheme from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If German-speakers were not instructed in their own language, he warned, the influence of the frontier would manifest itself, and instead of becoming civilized members of the new republic, they would instead "easily turn Heathens or Indians."36
RichardArndt et al., eds., TheFirst Centuryof GermanLanguage Printing in the United Statesof I:II5. For the incident and related attacks at Penn's Creek and colonists' turning on all Indians in a sharp decline in willingness to contemplate a "common nature,"see Merrell, IntotheAmerican Woods, 225-36, 276-30I. 34 Mihlenberg, Journals, 2:437-38 (I770). 35 On Kunze, see Roeber, Palatines,Liberty, and Property, 330, 4I7; on Helmuth's observations regardingthe Jews, see below. Kunze estimated that a German-Lutheranmissionaryeffort could be mounted among the indigenous peoples in New York for around ?400, which would cover the support for a missionary,a candidate assistant to learn the indigenous language, a student preparedfor preaching in New York, and a variety of costs associated with letter writing, printing, and securing further support. See his "Plan zu einer Indianermission"accompanying the Oct. 27, 1789, letter to Halle in Archiv der FranckeschenStiftungen, 4D2 Philadephische
2 America, vols. (Gbttingen, I989),
quotation on 75.
On Helmuth's efforts, and this argument, see Roeber, "The von Mosheim Society and
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The eclipse of naturallaw thinking among younger Lutheransproceeded hand in hand with fears that "naturaltheology," if misunderstood, would align Christianswith their Enlightenment enemies' roseateviews of "natural religion"whose adherents needed no haranguesabout the law to afflict their already enlightened consciences. The defense of conscience that required revelation to function properly was not abandoned lightly, however. At a funeral sermon preached in 1789, Helmuth still proclaimed that "man is the noblest work of God" and that all humans seek happiness, which lay in the knowledge of God that could come by "attentive Contemplation of his works," completed only through study of scripture.37 This approachadmitting that the law written in the heart also allowed access to at least some knowledge of God through observation of a created order-had long been defended by at least some Lutheran theologians. In examining a prospective candidate for ordination, Mihlenberg put this question to Peter Mischler in 1769: "How can you prove that there is a God? Answer: From the Bible. But if hostile persons will not grant the validity of the Bible, how can you prove it? Answer: From creation."38 the 1780s, this proved to be By an increasinglydangerous approach. By the 1790s, Helmuth took direct aim at the "enlightened"attitudes of Americans, but especially at the "so-called Christians"whose appalling behavior "make[s]the church of Jesus smell so bad to the Turks, heathens, and Jews."39In the process, outreach to the American Indians, never a high priority among the German-speaking Lutherans,declined into nonexistence. As the largest group of German-speaking gentiles in North America, German Lutherans also drew upon the longest history of exchanges with their Jewish counterparts. Halle-trained clergy brought to America a deep familiaritywith efforts to convert both Jews and Muslims. Founded with the support of a pietist benefactor, Halle's Callenberg Institute had invested major publishing efforts in the form of dialogues and conversion experiences in hopes of converting especially European Jews to the Lutheran faith. Lutheran reflections on conscience forced reflection on the knowledge of Torah, which nevertheless did not lead Jews to accept Christianity.40
the Preservation of German Education and Culture in the New Republic, 1789-1813," in Henry Geitz, JUrgen Heideking, and Jurgen Herbst, eds., German Influences on Education in the United
Statesto i9i7 (New York, 1995), 157-76, quotation on i62.
37 Helmuth, "Sermon preached at Kingsess at the Funeral of Adam Geyer Nov. i5th 1789," unpublished ms., Lutheran Archives Center, Philadelphia, PH 48 G 5. 38 Miihlenberg, Journals, 2:408; see also ibid., 55, where in 1764 Mihlenberg already worries that the "so-called deists, or the swept and garnished scorners of the Scriptures . . . are so blind that they do not understand theologia naturalis, much less the simple ABC of a higher revelation." 39 Helmuth, Betrachtung der evangelischen Lehre. .. (Germantown, 1793), 325; for the context of his remarks, see Roeber, "von Mosheim Society and the Preservation of German Education," i65-76, and "J.H.C. Helmuth, Evangelical Charity, and the Public Sphere in Pennsylvania,1793-1800, PMHB, 121 (I997), 77-100. 40 On the importance of Halle's Callenberg Institute, see Christoph Bochinger, "J. H. Callenbergs Judaicum et Muhammedicum und seine Austrahlung nach Osteuropa," in Johannes
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAW IN EARLY AMERICA
TransplantedGerman villagers brought with them memories of having lived together with Jewish neighbors in the territories of the German southwest. The legal protection of Jewish communities by local princes had actually intensified the collective identity of all Jews in a distinct territoryand regularized exchanges between the Jews and Christians in the villages. German pietist memories of their Jewish neighbors, therefore, largely operatedwithin carefully constructed boundaries that rarely allowed for direct exchanges except in matters of trade. In effect, German-speakingJews and Christians lived in parallelvillages, almost exactly as German- and English-speakers,for example, led parallel lives in towns such as Lancasterin eighteenth-century
Those same boundaries had kept alive a kind of folk-wisdom of prejudice and rarely questioned suspicion of Jews as clever and, at worst, unscrupulously rapacious traders, moneylenders lacking in conscience in their dealings with Christians. Even among more radical separatist pietists, who tended to view aggressive missionary work among the Jews with distaste, literary evidence suggests a firm persistence of well-established prejudices that, in degrees we can only dimly document, made their way across the Atlantic. In the larger cities such as Augsburg, older imperial privileges that kept the Jews from becoming permanent residents of the city were very much in place at the time of the German migrations to North America.42 The struggle to understand what God had in mind for the Jews could only be advanced for German clerics by reliance on European texts. The Latin and German translations of John Lightfoot's Horde Hebraicae et Talmudicae illustrated their cautious assessment of the Jews. This seventeenth-century commentary that drew on the Talmud had received German
Wallmann and Udo Strater, eds., Halle und Osteuropa:zur europiischen Ausstrahlung des hallischenPietismus (Tubingen, 1998), 331-48. Bochinger's unpublished Habilitationsschrift on the Institute ("AbenteurIslam. zur WahrnehmungfremderReligion im Hallenser Pietismus des i8. Jahrhunderts," Universitat Miinchen, I996) is not presently accessible to readersbut should be published shortly. 41 On the "parallel villages," see Sabine Ullmann, "Der Streit um die Weide: Ein Ressourcenkonflikt zwischen Christen und Juden in den Dorfgemeinden der Markgrafschaft und Herrschaftspraxis der Vormoderne: in Burgau,"in Mark Haberlein, ed., Devianz, Widerstand Studienzu Konflikten suidwestdeutschen im Raum (i5.-i8. Jahrhundert) (Constance, 1999), 99-136, who argues that episodic violence or vandalism of Jewish cemeteries at the village level largely seems to have been carriedout by "outsiders" and only rarelybetween members of these "parallel" villages. See also Ullmann, Nachbarschaft Konkurrenz: und Juden und Christenin Dorfernder BurgauI650 bis I750 (Gottingen, 1999)' 458-72. Markgrafschaft 42 See J. FriedrichBattenberg, "RechtlicheRahmenbedingungenjudischer Existenz in der Friihneuzeit zwischen Reich und Territorium," in Rolf Kiefgling and Ullmann, eds., in Judengemeinden Schwabenim Kontextdes Alten Reiches(Berlin, 1995), 53-79, and Wolfram Baer, "Zwischen Vertreibung und Wiederansiedlung:Die ReichsstadtAugsburg und die Juden vom 15. bis zum i8. Jahrhundert,"ibid., 110-27. On the radical pietist literature, see HansJirgen Schrader, "Sulamiths verheifgeneWiederkehr: Hinweise zu Programm und Praxis der pietistichen Begegnung mit dem Judentum," in Hans Otto Horch and Horst Denkler, eds., und Literaturvom i8. Jahrhundert ConditioJudaica:Judentum,Antisemitismus deutschsprachige bis
... zumErsten Weltkrieg (Tiibingen, 1988),
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translations at Leipzig in i675 and again at Dresden and Leipzig in 1742. Helmuth, one of the German-speaking clergy in Pennsylvania, owned a copy and used the text in his own exegetical work. Lightfoot's explication of the text in Romans that Zeisberger had preached on in Pennsylvania (Rom. II) revealed his belief that it was "very agreeable to reason and Scripture" to conclude that the "Jewish nation, as to the more general and greater part of it," had already been "blinded before such time as our Saviour manifested himself in the flesh." By comparison, the gentiles, though confused and vain, were the more likely to "earnestly expect and wait for . . . a kind of manifestation of the sons of God within and among themselves."43 Mihlenberg shared Lightfoot's pessimistic assessment of the potential for Jewish conversion. Despite Miihlenberg's youthful encounter with two pietist missionaries from Halle who were working among the Jews of Europe, the young Gdttingen student showed little ongoing interest in this field of missionary work, expressing instead a preference for overseas labors among the pagan peoples of India.44 In this relative skepticism about the potential for Jewish conversions, the German-speakers of North America differed significantly from, for instance, English-speaking dissenters. Increase Mather had sharply criticized Lightfoot for his failure to appreciate the record of European Jewish conversions and the probability of an imminent Second Coming. Although Miihlenberg dutifully recorded the false reports from Europe that Moses Mendelssohn had become a Lutheran in 1782, he rarely indulged in chiliastic hopes for Jewish conversion and the end of history.45 The puzzle over God's plans for the Jews could not remain an abstract theological or speculative issue in the North American context, however. In trying to plant a church in a pluralist and volatile society largely devoid of continental European institutions, Mihlenberg recounted an exchange with young children in 1747. The incident revealed just how real, in everyday life, such questions could become and why transplanted German village memories and texts were engulfed by even more perplexing exchanges with nonChristians in North America. In explaining the necessity of belief and
on 43 I use here the English translation published as Lightfoot, A Commentary the New from the Talmudand Hebraica,Matthew-i Corinthians,intro. R. Laird Harris, vol. 4: Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1997), 157, 159. On Helmuth's use of Lightfoot in his Acts-I Corinthians Lehre. . . (Germantown, 1793), see Roeber, "J.H.C. Helmuth: der Betrachtungen evangelischen An Interpreter of Lutheranism in the Early Republic," in James W. Albers and David J. 17 Essays and Reports, Lutheran History:LutheranHistoricalConference Wartluft, eds., Interpreting
44 See MUhlenberg'sdescription of his student days, conversion, and encounter with the two Halle missionaries in 1737 in journals, I:4-5. 45 Mather, "A Dissertation Concerning the Future Conversion of the Jewish Nation;
Answeringthe Objectionsof the Reverendand LearnedMr. Baxter,Dr. Lightfoot,and Others . . ." (London, 1709); the London imprint suggests the heated debates that necessitated this, the second edition of the work which appearedfirst in Boston in i695. On the Mathers' chiliasm and Jewish conversion, see Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals,1596-1728 (London, 1971), 179-83. For Miihlenberg's entry on Mendelssohn, see
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baptism (Mark i6:i6) as the prerequisites for salvation, Miihlenberg asked his young charges if "the Jews and heathen be partakers of the salvation promised in this passage, as long as they continue in unbelief and are not baptized?" The children dutifully responded, as they had been catechized, "No." An older Lutheran woman, however, listening to the exchange told the pastor later that "her heart wept" because, she said, the Jews "are after all the kinsmen of our Lord and the heathen have been given unto Him for an inheritance." Mihlenberg hastened to assure her that her reading of scripture was right; that the Jews were indeed the Lord's kin, but salvation, while it had come from the Jews, was now open to all. Not satisfied with this assurance, she pointed out that all over the world thousands existed who "have been living in darkness for centuries and yet are unable of themselves to come to the light without God."46 Mihlenberg agreed that although Jews had enjoyed the chance to accept the Gospel and rejected it, one was not allowed to conclude that "these thousands and thousands of poor souls be lost because their fathers sinned." Our own understanding is "small, meager, imperfect, and fallible," and righteousness with God is balanced by mercy. Mercy is greater than the demand for judgment. It is true that the "Jews and Gentiles . . . are still resisting Him," but God is untiring and "will do unto us men neither too much nor too little but what is exactly right." His parishioner, he concluded, should continue to pray for the Jews and the heathen: "I do it, too, for it is our duty and universal love demands it." Prayer, however, did not necessarily bring in its train confidence in imminent conversions.47 This exchange reflected German pietists' struggle in a multiethnic and racial setting to account for why the Jews were still not converted. Faced with a genuine variety of peoples and circumstances in a non-European context, they had to ask more specifically than had Europeans just what conscience demanded of them and what behavior conscience's existence in non-Christian neighbors should also produce. Moreover, the question of conscience brought inevitably in its train the even more uncomfortable one that a Native American put to the governor of Georgia when asked why Indians still stole from those with whom they had signed a treaty: "You Englishmen have a great fortress (i.e. prison) in your towns. You lock your thieves in chains. You set up two trees and put a crossbeam between them. You have ropes and you hang your thieves, and still, with all this fuss, you cannot stop your people from robbing and stealing. How much less can we, who do not have such means and instruments!"48 The Native American here probed the open wound created by pietist fascination with the connection between belief and behavior and the resultant deliberations on conscience and the law written on the heart: why reflect on the status of the law among Jews or pagans when European
46 47 48
MUhlenberg,Journals,1:125-26. Ibid. Ibid., 2:680, recounts the exchange during his 1775 visit to Georgia.
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Christians behaved so badly? Not only Miihlenberg's letters and journals, but also those of Boltzius in Georgia and all surviving documents of pietist writers are laced with disparaging remarks about "so-called Christians" whose behavior belied the probability of a saving faith and certainly gave no evidence of an active conscience pointing to a "lawwritten on the heart." The pietist demand for a close correspondencebetween faith and action naturallydrove them to intense examination of outward evidence of inward conviction, with predictablybitter reflection on their fellow Europeans.Yet, this very concern for close correlation between conscience and behavior, when they encountered North American Jews, resulted in a very cautious assessment of conversions. Pastor Friedrich Handschuh, two years after his arrival in Philadelphia, encountered a woman who had spent nine years at the Ephrata commune with her now-deceased husband. Both were former Jews, and she begged for baptism for her two children. Examining her, he admonished her to return a week later when he would test her again before committing himself to baptize the children. Handschuh's fear of Jewish scoffing at Christian rites revealed itself at another baptism in an Englishspeaker'shouse. Five Jewish women attended and comported themselves so piously that he would not, he reported, have believed them to have been Jews had he not been so informed later.49 When Jacob Daniels begged Mihlenberg and Charles von Wrangel, the Swedish pastor, for baptism, the German pastor was openly skeptical. In part, his surprise stemmed from the fact that Daniels had come to Philadelphia from the Danish Lutheran colonial settlement in the Caribbean. If the Danes had hesitated to baptize Daniels, Mihlenberg may well have wondered why he and his Swedish friend were now being approached.For, Miihlenberg wrote, "many instances of imposture in cases of this kind" had been the cause of scandal. The fear that a false conversion would lead to Laster(roughly, scoffing, especially at the sacramentsand the claims that Jesus was the Messiah) surfaced repeatedly in pietist correspondence, fearfully applied to Jewish neighbors and potential converts.50 Daniels's conversion in 1765 had followed by one year the Swedish provost von Wrangel's exegesis on why the "Jewish Church" had hardened their hearts and continued to do so.51 As early as 1747 Mihlenberg had effectively dismissed Jewish North Americansin his writings to Halle, opining that "thereare only a few Jews in this country and these few may fairly be counted amongst the practicalatheGemeinenin Nord49 Nachrichtenvon den vereinigtenDeutschenEvangelisch-Lutherischen america.... (1787), 2 vols., ed. W. J. Mann, B. M. Schmucker, and W. Germann (Allentown, Pa., i886; Philadelphia,1895), i:6o, 542. For Jacob Daniels see Kurt Aland 50 MUhlenbergdid baptize Daniels; Journals,2:266-67. Aus HeinrichMelchiorMiihlenbergs: der Anfangszeitdes deutschen et al., eds., Die Korrespondenz Luthertums in Nordamerika, vol. 3 (Berlin, 1990), 321-23; compare Mihlenberg, Journals, See Miihlenberg,Journals,2:I-2 (Jan. 1764). By "JewishChurch" the pastors meant not Jewish Christians, but the "Old Testament"Church of ancient Israel.
NOACHIC AND NATURAL LAWIN EARLY AMERICA
ists," in whose company Mihlenberg also numbered many "so-called Christians." An unnamed Philadelphia Jewish merchant associate of Heinrich Schleydorn had rejected the latter's offer of writings on Jesus as Messiah with the biting observation: "No. The foremost gentlemen in the city with whom I associate, men who are called Christians, say themselves that their Messiah was an imposter. Give the books to them; I have no time." Mihlenberg seems to have been particularly upset that the so-called Christians not only gave bad examples to Jewish neighbors, but even seduced them into "atheism," as he explained in a later entry. French Huguenots, persecuted in Europe, once arrived in America, had also grown "indifferent." This was no exception, but common, and "Christians" had "become as badly entangled in the subtleties of the world as the most cunning Jew." The identification of specious Christians with possibly insincere Jews seemed to haunt Miihlenberg's struggle to explain what happened to the law written, apparently not too indelibly, in their hearts.52 German pietist concern about mere outward religion surfaced in Israel Israel's request for a copy of his 1746 baptismal record. Mihlenberg complied, but not before rehearsing Israel's background, his "Father being a Jew outwardly."53 Mihlenberg could never bring himself to believe as clearly as Lightfoot intimated in his commentary that God had abandoned his Jewish children to universal hardness of heart. But he reacted with heightened alarm at the growth of a quasi-universalist response to the question of salvation he discerned among a younger generation of Lutheran pastors. North American conditions now threatened to derange sound theological assessment of how the law and the Gospel functioned. Both in the ancient world and in Europe, Christian theologians had speculated about God's infinite love and his capacity to save even those people who died without knowing the Gospel, or those who had rejected it. Yet such questions remained purely speculative, and neither Orthodox, nor Roman, nor Protestant churches endorsed universal salvation as tenable doctrine. In Mihlenberg's opinion, William Kurtz, one of the younger Lutheran clergy laboring in North America, began to reflect too much exposure to American pluralism. The leading pastor of the Ministerium was aghast to hear that Kurtz, at a meeting of Lutheran clergy, had opined that "the Jews have their Torah and Talmud, the Mohammedans have their Koran, and if we did not have our Bibles, we should have nothing at all; we should be worse off than they."54 Kurtz's response to Mihlenberg's agitated inquiry
52 Ibid., 1:139, 144 (i747). 53 Ibid., 3:587 (1784); see also 584 identifying Michael Israel and the baptism in New Hannover; Israel Israel was by this date living in New Castle. 54 Ibid., 3:584, 586-87, 669 (quotation)-70. The speculative theological concept of apocatastasis, or restoration of all sinners to God, was identified with the heretical positions of Origen and never accepted in ancient Christianity; it survived, however, in Cappadocian theology and was still the topic of speculation, as Kurtz's ruminations confirm. For the ancient context, see
Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosisof Natural Theology in the
Christian Encounter with Hellenism (New Haven, 1993), 8i, io6, i6i, 324-26. The revival of
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revealed that the younger man had indeed speculated about the behavior of the Apostles and the continuing influence of St. Paul's pharisaical background on his letter to the Romans. The older pastor indignantly asked whether Kurtz had imbibed such lunatic notions from some poisoned well in America, since he could not possibly have learned such speculative nonsense from his professors and theological fathers in Halle.55 Completely taken aback by the older cleric's accusations, Kurtz hastened to assure his colleague that he had never publicly taught universal salvation and that even privately he was less inclined than formerly to speculation on the topic. As the American Revolution broke upon North America, Mihlenberg struggled increasingly against his fear that a people only partially christianized, and perhaps inclined to believe notions of universalism such as Kurtz had indulged, would now be ruled by deists and atheists. While his initial remarks in 1776 expressing fears that the new constitutional order only included such potential enemies as "practical atheists, pretended Deists, Naturalists, and scoffing Philistines," his fear of hypocrisy and dissimulation increased month by month. Gratified that the new oath of loyalty to Pennsylvania at least demanded acknowledgment of a God and the inspiration of "the Old and New Testaments," Mihlenberg opined by October of that year that these had been included, because otherwise the new government "would have nothing on which to swear in Jews and Christians."56 Confidence in a law written on the heart declined as the violence of warfare intensified and the beliefs of some Americans in mere natural religion were made manifest, agitating the aging pastor. Moreover, the issue of conscience, formerly framed by questions of individual behavior among both Christians and non-Christians in regard to the consequences of revealed truth, now transmogrified into a more agonizing dilemma. Were Christians acting according to conscience if they failed to uphold a lawfully constituted Christian civil order-the primary area of Protestant natural law reflection? Could the rebellion of American colonists and their potentially heathen regime be in conscience the object of Christian loyalty? After struggling with uncertainties about the possible existence of conscience and honesty in Jews, Africans, and Native Americans, German-speaking pietists now refocused on transplanted Europeans' covenantal oaths of loyalty to fellow European Christians. Privately, Mihlenberg expressed his growing conviction that Christians in America would be ruled by "Jews, Turks, Spinozaites, Deists, perverted Naturalists, etc."57 He seemed in 1777 to agree with an Anglican
in interest in "universalism" late i8th-century America has been traced in Ronald Schultz, "God and Workingmen: Popular Religion and the Formation of Philadelphia's Working Class, Age 1790-1830," in RonaldHoffmannand PeterJ. Albert,eds., Religion in a Revolutionary
55 The handwritten copy of MUhlenberg's letter to Kurtz and the latter's response as
translated citedhere(Apr.21, and
arein the Lutheran Archives Center,
Philadelphia:PM95 A/ #24 1783-1785. 56 Miihlenberg, 741-42, Journals,2:717 (quotation),
57Miihlenberg C. E. Schultze,Oct. 2, to quotation 740. on
748 (quotation). in Aland,ed., Korrespondenz, 4:739-45,
NOACHIC AND NATURALLAWIN EARLY AMERICA
divine's warning to Jews-and to disobedient North American Christiansthat they had to give loyalty to heathen and Christian rulerssince all authority came from God. But Mihlenberg took no comfort from this and asked plaintively "what, then, should we do?"58 Three major consequences flowed from the dilemmas natural law thinking produced among German-speakers North America. First, the failure of in pietist theologians to decide whether and how a law of conscience operatedin all peoples may well have encouragedlegislators and constitutional theorists to pursue the separation of secular laws regulating social behavior from explicitly Christian metaphysical roots. That separation seemed to enlightened commentatorsas an escape from the "ageof conscience"and was hailed as a coming of age for the law. With few exceptions, German-speaking pietists did not exercise a significant role in framing the positive laws and constitutional frameworksof the emerging North American republic, in part because they could not endorse this reduction of conscience to procedural aspects of equity or purely pragmaticinterestsof civic order. Indeed, the final wording of the First Amendment omitted James Madison's original wording, which had implied that the "rightsof conscience"would not be "infringed," because those rights were thought to be rooted in religious conviction. Preciselywhat religion and what connection bound conscience to public professions of faith the revisersof the amendmentdeclined to specify.59 Second, German-speaking pietists retained an inherited skepticism about the potential for Jewish conversions.They accorded these Europeansthe top rank in a hierarchy of nations with whom they had long been in contact. Despite some agreementthat the civic dimension of naturallaw as understood by Christians and the Noachic law, at least as Christians understood it as derived from the Jews, provided a basis for a law of nations, little clarity had emergedfor pietists about why Jews in consciencestill rejectedChristianity. Third, German pietist theology and thought could provide no convincing answer to Mihlenberg's agonized query about the problem of private conscience and political resistance. Neither Reformed, nor Moravian, nor Lutheranpietists could abandon their conviction that the law written on the heart still flickered with the light of God's original intent for humans. Agreement ended there. True, legal reasoning and observation could construct ordered political and social existences. The ambivalence and tension built into western theological categories-profoundly influenced by legal terms and a quest for precision-faltered when faced with the hard cases of
58 MUhlenberg, Journals,3:55-56, for summaryof the Rev. Thomas Pyle's exegesis of Rom. and Miihlenberg's struggle with conscientious dissent from the Revolution; see also Roeber, Palatines,Liberty,and Property, 304-o0. 59 See, on this point, David Saunders, Anti-Lawyers: Religionand the Criticsof Law and State (London,1997), 21-29, 112-23, 142-53; on the Bill of Rightswording,see ElwynA. Smith, "Religion and Consciencein ConstitutionalLaw,"in Smith, ed., Church-State Relations, 243-71, quotationon context that informedMadison'sown convictions,see JackN. Rakove,Original 245. For the broader Politicsand Ideasin theMakingof the Constitution Meanings: (New York,i996), 310-14. 13
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conscience and human behavior created by genuine cultural encounters. While many Roman Catholic theologians and some Calvinist thinkers recovered a measure of confidence in the ability to link universal law written in the heart with social and political justice, despite the challenges of deism and political upheavals, German-language pietists contributed relatively little to these endeavors.60 The profound doubts pietists had learned to internalize about behavior and conscience in Jews, in pagans, and especially in professed Christian believers provided a peculiar style of legal and theological thinking. Pietists rarely became confident crusaders in the removal of Native Americans from ancestral lands. That same hesitancy and the relatively higher esteem in which they held Native Americans, however, simultaneously bequeathed a quietist response to the scandal of slavery. The lower esteem in which conscience had been thought to operate among Africans surely added both to pietist doubts and to their acquiescence in the "peculiar institution" despite occasional attacks by individual German-speakers. The same pietist hesitancy to affirm a universal acting conscience based on natural and legal reasoning could not account for the legitimacy of laws and religious insights generated in non-Christian cultures or contexts. Nor did German-speakers in general-and even the Moravian missionaries in particular-seem equipped to work with such traditions and to see in them consistently at least pale reflections of a law written on the heart and discernible by disciplined, reasoned
German-speaking pietists encountered Anglo-American legal and religious traditions in addition to those of non-Europeans, which only vaguely resembled the divisions between the public and private law of their homelands. Within the first half century of massive German-speaking migration, adjustment to secular law had been more or less successfully negotiated. But the theological inheritance of a complex and highly controverted natural law tradition received no institutional incarnation and was applied with but indifferent success to the dilemmas that arose from encounters with a variety of peoples and customs. The dim light of natural law went into eclipse not only because of questions that arose about the existence of individual conscience in Jews and pagan nonbelievers. The challenge of political resistance confronted pietism with the gulf that had long separated individual conscience and conviction from the clear teaching of pietists of all stripes that
60 The classic work on the connection of Western legal tradition to the "papalRevolution" of 1050-1150 is Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the WesternLegal Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1983). The obvious objection to this statement is the profound influence of pietism on Immanuel Kant; no known connections tie his legal philosophy to late i8th-century North American developments. See M. J. Detmold, The Unity of Law and Morality:A Refutation ofLegal Positivism(London, 1984), 6-7, 54-55, 78-82, 115-22, 133, 155. 61 The notion of a legal "style" is borrowed from Konrad Zweigert and Hein Kotz, Introductionto Comparative Law, 2d ed., trans. Tony Weir, vol. I: The Framework(Oxford, 1987), 68-69, by which they mean the historical development, predominant mode of thought, institutions, sources of legal authority, and ideology of a legal system.
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the true Christian'sfirst obligation in the civic realmwas obedience to established political and social authority.62 The death of the Saxon Prieberat Fredericain 1747 for his "beliefs, conduct, ethics, and dress" had signaled how ambivalently German-speakers could read that incident. Perhaps Prieber could have been hailed as an early martyrin his call to the Cherokeesfor political resistance,a call he grounded in the natural law teachings he had learned at Leipzig. Eighteenth-century German-speaking pietists in post-Revolutionary North America, however, lived in a political culture in which the fascination for "the laws of nature and of nature's God" declared a liberation from relying too specifically on Noachic or Christian natural law. That process had left behind the "Protestantnatural law thinkers schooled in German and Dutch federalism" as decisively as it uncoupled individual conscience from a comprehensive theory of law rooted in a divine presence.63 God's workings, according to both Noachic and natural law experts, while mysterious, were manifest in nature. The promptings of conscience constituted, in varying degrees, part of the evidence of the natural world, according to varying German pietist interpretations. While James Wilson and other anglophones struggled to conceptualize notions of "higher"law, neither German nor Jewish thinkers played any role in those debates. Instead, as natural theology came increasingly to be the province of their deist enemies, pietists ceased their eighteenth-century ruminations. Their wrestling with the problem of the "law written on the heart"was consigned to oblivion among their religious descendants.64 As nature and positive law both became subjects of confident rationalist systems, the God of Noah and Paul receded into ever more private and subjective realms of religious sentiment. Religious revivalism in the nineteenth century could trace some of its heritage from German pietism's emphasis on the importance of sincerity and heartfelt religion. But connections between the promptings of conscience and broader themes of the law that were discernible in all peoples vanished. That absence also obscures the earlierstrug62 On this limited "steering"capacity of legal traditions and accompanying critiques of Berman's theses, see Lew Bjarup, "The Concept of Revolution," in Zenon Bankowski, ed., Revolutions Law and Legal Thought(Aberdeen, 1991), 22-30, and Adam Czarnota and Martin in Krygier,"Revolutionsand the Continuity of EuropeanLaw,"ibid., 90-ii2. 63 See Joan Lockwood O'Donovan, "The Concept of Rights in Christian Moral Discourse," in Cromartie, ed., A PreservingGrace,143-56, quotation on 152, and more exten(Atlanta, i99i); on of sively, O'Donovan, Theology Law and Authorityin the EnglishReformation Thomas Jefferson's indebtedness to natural law thinking, despite his aversion to orthodox Christianity, see David Thomas Konig, "Principia Jeffersonia: Thomas Jefferson and the Natural Law Tradition," unpublished paper delivered at the American Society of Legal History annual meeting, Princeton, Oct. 21, 2000; I am grateful to Prof. Konig for permission to cite the paperhere. 64 For Wilson and German-Americanstruggles to apply the obligations of a "higher"law to charitable obligations, see Roeber, "The Long Road to Vidal: Charity Law and State Formation in EarlyAmerica,"in Christopher L. Tomlins and Bruce H. Mann, eds., TheMany America (Chapel Hill, 2001), 414-41. Legalities Early of
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gle of German pietists to engage the thorny issue of a universal"lawwritten on the heart" in their endeavors to arrive at an understanding of their Native American, and Jewish neighbors. African-American,
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