Politics in the Pulpit: New England Opinion of Napoleon, 1808-1814

Tarah Luke, USA

Politics in the Pulpit: New England Opinion of Napoleon, 1808-1814 examines contemporary American opinion of Napoleon through the eyes of ministers who preached against Napoleon to their congregations. This paper forms the core of the first chapter of my dissertation on early nineteenth century American perceptions of Napoleon, and was developed during a graduate seminar on the religion and politics of the Enlightenment with Dr. Darrin McMahon at Florida State University in the spring of 2009. The argument that the paper seeks to make is that New England religious leaders held profoundly anti-Napoleon and anti-French beliefs, which they broadcast to their congregations via “pulpit treason,” a term from historian John Macauley, in which ministers hijacked their religious pulpits in order to spread messages of a political content to their listeners. Massachusetts pastors in particular led a veritable witch-hunt against Napoleon, labeling him, among other things, the Satanic beast and the antichrist in their great fear against possible French alliances with Napoleon and their anger over the ruination of their commercial shipping trade. The paper examines these ministers’ opinions, and what reasons they may have had for arguing so strenuously against Napoleon in their churches.


Tarah Luke is entering her second year of her doctoral program under her adviser, Dr. Rafe Blaufarb, in the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Washington and received her master’s degree in European history from Colorado State University. This past year, she had the honor to receive a Weider Fellowship from the Institute, and travelled to Savannah to present at the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era. She has also received an INS presidential scholarship to attend this congress. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary American opinion of Napoleon from 1796 to 1815.