Taking Oaths and Giving Thanks; Ritual and Religion in Revolutionary America

Tara E. Strauch, University of South Carolina


This dissertation examines the early modern ritual traditions of oaths, thanksgivings, and fast days in Revolutionary America and argues that American politicians and citizens negotiated the meanings of these rituals for American citizenship throughout the Revolutionary era. Oaths of office and allegiance, thanksgivings and fast days were tools for creating a united nation, but they also posed significant challenges because of the religious and political associations inherent in such rituals. These rituals came out of early modern Europe's religious and political culture which was useful for establishing America as a legitimate European nation. As colonials on the edge of the European world, grounding the nation in European tradition was an important step in presenting themselves as a nation on equal footing with Britain, France, and Spain. These same rituals, however, presented problems for unifying a society with as much religious and political variety as appeared in the American colonies.