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Can you guess who is described as the “father of American democracy”?

July 13, 2017

Early American Rev. Thomas Hooker is often described as the “father of American democracy.”  Know why?

After Puritan pastor Rev. Thomas Hooker and others founded the colony of Connecticut, Hooker delivered an influential sermon before the Connecticut General Court in 1638 in support of popular sovereignty (people’s rule).  It was the first time in the colonies that an American explicitly asserted democratic ideas.  Notably, Hooker defended democracy based on the Bible.

Hooker and Company Journeying Through the Wilderness From Plymouth to Hartford in 1636 by Frederic Edwin Church, 1846

In his sermon, Hooker advocated for certain Bible-inspired principles of self-government including popular sovereignty, consent of the governed, chosen representatives, limited government, and constitutions.  Hooker supported these democratic principles based on Deuteronomy 1:13 in which Moses instructs the Israelites to “‘choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’”  His sermon influenced the writing of Connecticut’s constitution, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut of 1639, the first constitution in the American colonies.

Hooker later wrote a Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline in 1648 to explain the principles of Puritan Congregational Church doctrine and organization.  Since the Puritans applied their form of church government to their civil government, this writing further reveals the Bible-based thought behind the Puritans’ governing principles.

Hooker is often described as “the father of American democracy” for his support of self-governing principles in the early American colonies.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 2 of 3, Activity 4:  The Political Ideas of Winthrop and Hooker, p. 118, 320.  MS-HS.

The Political Ideas of Winthrop and Hooker

Purpose/Objective: Students learn about political ideas of Puritan leaders John Winthrop and Thomas Hooker, including their views on forms of government (Winthrop’s mixed government vs. Hooker’s democracy), mutual support for covenants and civil representatives, and Hooker’s initial support for and initiation of limited government, popular sovereignty, consent of the governed, and constitutions.

Suggested Reading: Chapter 3 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text. Students read sections from 3.1, 3.4, 3.6-3.11.

Think-Pair-Share and Venn Diagram. Students brainstorm with a partner and write down the similarities and differences between the political ideas of John Winthrop and Thomas Hooker. Discuss. See last week’s blog post for a link to download the “Venn Diagram” in the “Supporting Resources” section of this course guide, p. 320.

To download the whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the member resources page on americanheritage.org.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Published by: The Founding

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