Review of A Cautious Enthusiasm: Mystical Piety and Evangelicalism in Colonial South Carolina, by Samuel C. Smith.
In A Cautious Enthusiasm, Smith writes a case to show the relevancy of evangelicalism in shaping political and social consensus in the low country South, specifically colonial South Carolina. He sees degrees of congruency between evangelicalism and the Anglicanism in South Carolina's low country rooted in Protestantism’s pietistic strain and Roman Catholic’s mystic strain. This congruency allowed the transference of transcendent and flexible qualities from evangelicalism to the Anglican elite that contributed to the Anglican ruling elite to form political and social consensus. He traces this through different events including the friction between George Whitefield and Alexander Garden in Charleston, the adoptive use of small groups or “conventicles” of evangelicalism by Anglican circles to further country ideology, and the movement to transform slavery into a “uniquely Christian institution.” He also highlights the development of patriotic spirit and political enthusiasm, but the clarity of his argument in relation to his main thesis appears more strained. His notes are important to understanding his argument for creating context for his conclusions. The author successfully shows relevancy for evangelicalism’s influence on the Anglican elite, but the nature of the study also demonstrates just how difficult it is for a historian to expose “the spiritual impulse hidden beneath the surface” leaving the degree of relevancy open for further research and debate.
Pearson, Andrew L. Review of A Cautious Enthusiasm: Mystical Piety and Evangelicalism in Colonial South Carolina, by Samuel C. Smith. Religious Studies Review 40 (December 2014): 229.