5 to 6:30pm
Prophet, Priest, and Republican Theorist: Thomas Shepard and the Formation of the Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts
Although best known among early Americanists for his role in preserving the conversion narratives of his congregants, Puritan pastor Thomas Shepard was also a remarkably capable political theorist whose influence on the development of the Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts (1648) has been little acknowledged. Shepard wrote powerfully about theconnection between inward and outward government: man must first be able to recognize and address his own sinful nature by exercising an “inward government” over his actions and desires in order to appreciate and appropriately participate in the various forms of “outward government” to which he falls subject. The final result of Shepard’s theory was a unique mixture of liberty and authority that held the active role of individual citizens as members of society in a carefully negotiated creative tension with a strong sense of the commonwealth itself as something more than merely a mechanistic or artificial sum of its several parts.