Religion and Reconciliation in South Carolina, 1781–90

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Superior Room B (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Rebecca Brannon, University of South Carolina Aiken
South Carolinians suffering through a violent civil war fought through guerilla means turned to religion, among other things, to heal themselves from the strains of war. In the aftermath of the war, Loyalists who decided to stay and seek clemency, forgiveness, and ultimately reconciliation used Christian themes and teachings to help craft an atmosphere of Christian forgiveness suitable to readmitting them to social intimacies. They then built on social intimacies (visits to private Patriot homes, personal relationships) to join fair-minded Patriots in creating a culture amenable to reconciliation. Christian discourse was an important part of this process. For instance, churches and charitable organizations were among the first institutions to explicitly allow Loyalist members on an equal footing. Even more secular public intellectuals used religious thinking to shape arguments for greater inclusion for Loyalists. This paper shows how these religious discourses actually shaped the process of granting social clemency and then created fertile ground for reconciliation. The paper is based on a combination of newspaper sources, private letters and diaries, pew records, and legislative records for South Carolina from 1782 to 1790.