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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

When Theology Falters Jeremiah Evarts and the American Indian Removal Debate, 1828-1831
by Goodwin, Seth H., M.A.L.S., Dartmouth College, 2012, 99; 1510692
Abstract (Summary)

It is well known that evangelical Protestant missionaries were involved in the debate over American Indian removal in the 1820s and 1830s. However, historians have inadequately examined their motivations for opposing removal. Many of these missionaries, in particular Congregationalists affiliated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), opposed removal because they believed it was un-Christian and would stain the nation's honor. Although this was true, the historical analysis generally ends there.

In fact, evangelical opposition to Indian removal was a more nuanced and complicated mix of ideology and theology. The opposition had political and religious dimensions, but it was driven by a particular eschatology called postmillennialism. This interpretation of Revelation 20 held that Christ would return to earth after the millennium, a one thousand year period of Christian righteousness. In order to prepare for his arrival the earth had to be reformed. Preventing Indian removal and converting Indians to Christianity became two essential reformist goals for evangelical Christians in the first half of the nineteenth century.

One person who sought to do this was Jeremiah Evarts, the corresponding secretary for the ABCFM. In his role for the organization he administered their missions throughout the world, including the domestic missions among Indian tribes in the southeastern United States. Evarts's influence in this narrative of social reform is profound, for the Boston headquarters of the ABCFM, where he sat, became the command center from which he orchestrated a national campaign against the Indian Removal Bill between 1828 and 1831. In the end, though, he failed to prevent passage of the removal bill. This failure called into question not just the morality, honor, and providential status of the United States, but also the foundations of his own postmillennial theology.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Calloway, Colin G.
Commitee: Butler, Leslie A., Powers, Thomas
School: Dartmouth College
Department: Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- New Hampshire
Source: MAI 50/06M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, American history, Native American studies
Keywords: Abcfm, Cherokees, Indian removal, Jeremiah evarts, Millennialism, Theology
Publication Number: 1510692
ISBN: 978-1-267-34830-2
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