ABSTRACT

This article explores religion and politics on Pennsylvania's revolutionary frontier through two key events, the Paxton Riots and the Whiskey Rebellion. The author argues religion shaped frontiersmen's understanding of the proper role of government and provided justification for resistance and extralegal action. Moreover, the understanding of government promoted by religious leaders and frontier peoples presented an image of civil society and government at odds with the scholarly literature that often presents frontiersmen as antigovernment “proto-Lockeans,” prizing personal independence and individual rights. The words and actions of ministers, the Paxton Boys, and Whiskey Rebels adhered to a man in society, public welfare vision of government that set a high standard for the role of government in society and provided justification to both regulate and resist government when it failed to meet that standard. These events also demonstrate the continuity of a frontier political logic shaping events in the pre- and post-independence eras.

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