In our founding documents, no other foundation but Covenantal Puritanism was the predominant theory. Here, the noted former Emeritus Professor at Columbia:
From the Bay Colony came the great intellectual leaders, the theologians who became the leaders … in the establishment of New England colonies… Nor was its influence restricted to New England, for its ideals and aspirations… became the dominant influence in the development of the United States.-Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, vol. 1, ch.3
Prominent 19th Century historian Alex d'Tocqueville did not give Enlightenment Rationalism the influence modern historians do, but understood Puritan Covenant Theology the main impetus for social theology that spread throughout the new nation:
In was in the English colonies… better known as the states of New England, that the two or three main principles now forming the basic social theory of the United States were combined. New England principles spread first to the neighboring states and then…to those more distant, finally penetrating everywhere… Their influence now extends beyond its limits over the whole American world…”-Alex d’Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book I, ch. 2.
Is it no less a surprise that the political leader of the Revolution was a Puritan; speaking for the new nation? The Declaration of Independence is a Puritan compact:
The people of this country, alone, have formally and deliberately chosen a government for themselves, and with open and uninfluenced consent bound themselves into a social compact. Here no man proclaims his birth or wealth as a title to honorable distinction, or to sanctify ignorance and vice with the name of hereditary authority. He who has most zeal and ability to promote public felicity, let him be the servant of the public. This is the only line of distinction drawn by nature.-Samuel Adams, An ORATION Delivered at the State-House, In PHILADELPHIA, To A Very Numerous AUDIENCE; On THURSDAY the 1st of AUGUST 1776.
As Robert N. Bellah notes, Puritanism was the foundation for our constitutionalism, what he coined, our "civil religion" 7. Thus, our civil religion is a form of Puritan Christianity, established on biblical promises. True, Puritan Congregationalism may not be the only factor of our Constitutional Compact, but, it is the context from which the other aspects flow.
Included in Puritan Theology was Millenialism; the idea that human history is divinely ordained and will lead to a period of heavenly perfection on earth. Puritan Whigs that were to make up the future Hamiltonian Federalist Party in 1790, believed in this "Covenant Theology." Some may have discarded theological points within Calvinism, but milennialism was not one of them. These men believed in a "New Jerusalem" and that place was America. Just as God had led the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan, God had sovereignly delivered the Colonists from England, to bring in a righteous kingdom, led by righteous rulers, ultimately to establish Christ's millenial reign. As long as there were "righteous rulers" God's Blessings endured.
Important to note, this belief was not limited to New England Puritans, but was taught in Reformed Churches throughout the colonies, evidenced by beliefs from middle states Founding Fathers: John Witherspoon, Thomas McKean, George Clymer, Benjamin Rush, and Southern Congregationalists: Button Gwinnett, and Lyman Hall. Other millenialist Whigs included: Roger Sherman, Samuel Adams, Richard Stockton, Josiah Bartlett, Oliver Ellsworth, John Hancock, Oliver Wolcott, Alexander Hamilton, and yes, John Adams. Whatever Adams may have wrote after he retired; in 1776, he believed as the others:
But We should always remember, that a free Constitution of civil Government cannot be purchased at too dear a Rate; as there is nothing on this Side of the new Jesusalem, [Jerusalem] of equal Importance to Mankind.-John Adams to Archibald Bulloch July 1, 1776
The idea to separate the fundamental beliefs of Whigs (Colonists that rejected Monarchial rule, and the Divine Right of Kings), with Puritan Covenant ideology is revisionism. Whigs and Puritans agreed that God was on our side, to help us in our cause:
To be sure, the wide support of Whig thought may have had something to do with America's religious heritage, for a number of Real Whig themes resembled cherished Puritan themes, at least in form. First, Puritans and Whigs shared a pessimistic view of human nature. Puritans believed that natural depravity predisposed individuals to sin; Whigs held that political power brought out the worst in leaders. Both emphasized that freedom meant liberation from something. For Puritans it was freedom from sin; for Whigs it was freedom from political oppression. Both also linked freedom and virtue. Puritans held that sinful behavior led to spiritual and other forms of tyranny; Whigs felt that tyrannical behavior grew from corruption and, in turn, nourished it. Finally, Puritans and Whigs both regarded history in similar terms. It was the struggle of evil against good, dark against light, whether for the Puritan (Antichrist versus Christ) or the Whig (tyranny versus freedom). This similarity in form between Whig political ideas and the traditional theology of some Americans made it easier for many to blur the distinction between a political struggle for rights and a spiritual conflict for the kingdom.(Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, George M. Marsden, David F. Wells, and John D. Woodbridge, editors, Eerdmans' Handbook to Christianity in America [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983], pp. 134-135).
This point reinforces the idea John Locke, or enlightenment philosophy, had any fundamental position in the DOI. The Scriptures (1 Cor 11:14, "Doth not even nature itself teach you" and Rom 2:14-15), espoused by English Divine Richard Hooker, John Calvin, and Reformed ideology, had years earlier, enumerated Natural Law subservient to Revelation. Natural Law, advocated by Thomas Aquinas, preceded the Scottish Enlightenment by almost four-hundred years. What did the Enlightenment teach? Reject the supernatural, and question the Bible. Did the Colonists adhere to those tenants? No. Why then do historians: Donald S. Lutz, B. Bailyn, G. Wills, Gordon Wood et al. promote this false idea? It is historical revisionism to ignore the concepts laid down from the Protestant Reformation and Francisco Suarez and The School of Salamanca, to say nothing of Christendom from the Church Fathers to the Renaissance.
It has been noted by many historians, that Locke's influence has been exaggerated prior to 1776. Professor and British historian Jack Richon Pole:
It isn't surprising to claim the idea of popular sovereignty and representative government by the Colonists of the 1760's was not influenced, as is generally believed, by the political theology of John Locke..Very little evidence exists to suggest that Locke exerted any effective influence on the political thought of the Colonists until Thomas Jefferson came to draft the Declaration of Independence.-Political representation in England and the origins of the American Republic (Macmillan 1966). H. Trevor Colborum, Thomas Jefferson's Use of the Past, "William and Mary Quarterly" Jan. 1958, 56-70.
If the Enlightenment was to touch on morality, economics, jurisprudence, consent of the governed, life, liberty, property, etc. they were way late to the game, which says volumes about the historians who promote it. Or if the Founding Fathers had questioned the Scriptures in favor of reason, it would be fair to include Enlightenment thought in the DOI, however, the personal preferences of: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, do not represent the Southern, Middle, or New England Colonies.
1) See generally DANIEL J. ELAZAR, EXPLORING FEDERALISM 127 (1987). The concept of federalism appeared in almost all versions of Calvinism. In the Dutch version, it partially inspired the federation of the United Provinces at the end of the 16th century (keeping this federal style until Napoleon's invasion). Calvinist federalism also showed up in the Helvetica and German Confederations. Even the French term for its Protestants was "Hugerenot." meaning "oath-based" association or "federation."
2) Martinez, The Religious Character of the American Constitution: Puritanism and Constitutionalism in the United States. p.477. "This expression comes from John Winthrop and Elazar, describing 'namely the liberty of the partners to act in accordance with the moral principals embodied in God's covenant with humanity (as in biblical Israel and colonial New England)." See CORWIN ON THE CONSTITUTION 79 (Richard Loss ed., 1981).
3)Id at 478
5) Id 478
6)Id 480. See also Robert N. Bellah Civil Religion in America, Daedalus 96 (1967). See also John T. Watts, Robert N. Bellah's Theory of America's Eschatological Hope. 22 J. OF CHURCH AND STATE 5, (1980).
7)Spencer Welles McBrideThe Courtship of Providence and Patriotism p. 7. See Ruth H. Bloch, Visionary Republic: Millenial Themes in American Thought, 1756-1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), xi.