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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Lemuel Haynes
(1753-1833)


A significant black writer of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Lemuel Haynes engaged in a sustained elaboration of the issues of freedom and autonomy so central to African American writing in his era. As a New Light minister—one of the few professions to which a black man of his social status might aspire—Haynes fully extended the potential meanings of evangelical Protestantism for the blacks who so frequently absorbed it.

Paradoxically Haynes’s early life and intellectual experience is typical of that of his black contemporaries in the same way that his later life typifies the experiences of his white contemporaries of the conservative Calvinist ministry. Born July 18, 1753, in West Hartford, Connecticut, Haynes was raised by the evangelical family of David Rose in Middle Granville, Massachusetts. Although Haynes received cursory schooling, it appears that the bulk of his literary, theological, and spiritual instruction occurred within the Rose household. Here, Haynes was immersed in the Bible as well as in the writings of Isaac Watts, Edward Young, and George Whitefield. In an era when few blacks achieved the literacy demanded for serious literary activity, Haynes developed extensive and informed intellectual interests.

Haynes was one of several African Americans—including Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley—who generated the first significant body of African American writing that emerged from the confluence of revivalist awakening discourse and the Whig rhetoric of the Revolution. He joined the Continental Army in 1775 and fought during the Revolutionary War. Not surprisingly, the Revolution provided the young Lemuel Haynes with opportunities for some of his first literary initiatives. One of his first verses, which celebrates a battle, was partially entitled “A Poem on the inhuman Tragedy perpetuated on the 19th of April 1778 by a Number of the British Troops under the Command of Thomas Gage.” Shortly afterward, Haynes wrote “Liberty Further Extended,” a sustained attack on human bondage, which—borrowing from revolutionary political formulations and Calvinist theology—called for the immediate emancipation of blacks.

After the Revolution, Haynes declined the chance for schooling at Dartmouth College in order to study classical languages under Daniel Farrand and William Bradford while working on the Rose farm. He was licensed to preach, and with the approval of local ministers, he accepted a proposal of marriage from a white woman, Elizabeth Babbitt, who eventually had ten children with him. Haynes served as a preacher in the Granville church for five years before the church applied for his ordination by the conservative New Light Association of Ministers in Litchfield County, Connecticut. After ordination, he continued preaching in Torrington, Vermont, where he had supplied the pulpit since 1784. He preached there until he received a call from the West Parish of Rutland, Vermont, which provided him with his longest pulpit stay, from 1778 to 1818. He then preached in Manchester, Vermont, for four years, and finally in Granville, New York, for eleven years (until shortly before his death).

Haynes’s adult life was atypical of many of his black contemporaries. At Rutland alone, he wrote 5,500 sermons, of which 400 were funeral sermons. In another sense, however, Haynes was very much a typical New Light evangelical Calvinist preacher. The social composition of the ministry changed in the late eighteenth century as a large number of lower- and middle-class men (many of them from rural families) entered the pastorate and got caught up in the revivalism of the period. Once in the profession, they faced difficult parish lives. The number of church separations increased sharply during this turbulent period as a result of theological and ecclesiastical divisions and geographical displacement from communal centers in eastern cities. Ministers often had short-lived pastorates and frequently found themselves preaching beyond the “frontiers” of New England. Haynes took over the pastorship of a separate congregation in the Torrington church, one that rejected the Half-Way Covenant. The church in West Rutland, Vermont, where he was a successful revivalist, was also a New Light congregation that rejected the Half-Way measures.

Haynes’s commitment to the New Light principles, which led him to likeminded congregations and the frontier, decisively shaped his preaching. He takes not only New Light but also traditional New Divinity theological stances in his sermons on divine decrees, a voluntarist psychology locating sinfulness purely in the will and insisting upon natural ability and moral inability. Although Haynes’s preaching was doctrinally grounded, it drew upon his own idiosyncratic system of New Light and New Divinity principles to create a powerful rhetoric that stressed the sinner’s absolute voluntary resistance to godliness and correct doctrine as well as his or her obligation to transform immediately. This rhetoric formed the core of a revivalist message that stressed natural liberty, moral inability, and the obligation of immediate repentance, and his involvement in a federalism typical for New Light and New Divinity ministers in the early nineteenth century.

Within the context of Haynes’s theological discourse, we see a full elaboration of the isolated elements of Calvinism found in earlier writers such as Wheatley, Hammon, and Equiano. Most important to this elaboration is that liberty is essential for a person’s spiritual being to realize his or her moral and spiritual obligations. In other words, the moral obligations defined by Edwardsean theology implied moral right. Haynes’s early commitment to Edwardsean theology, traditional Calvinism, and anti-slavery principles in his earliest writing, “Liberty Further Extended,” was an important point of departure for an altogether typical New Light career. The much more famous discourse, “Universal Salvation,” that provocatively links the doctrine of universalism with the devil’s assault upon godliness is part of a sustained characterization of the sinful will, a characterization that shapes much of Haynes’s preaching. His career suggests the nexus of thought that grounded the evangelical Protestant and libertarian principles of early black writers in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century.

Phillip M. Richards
Colgate University


Texts
In the Heath Anthology
Universal Salvation (1805)
1990
      Liberty Further Extended: Or Free Thoughts on the Illegality of Slave-keeping (1774-1783)  [n.b., First published 1983, with original spelling 1990]

Other Works



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Links

Africans in America
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p29.html
  A detailed biography.

Vermont History
www.virtualvermont.com/history/lhaynes.html
  A brief biography.

Secondary Sources

Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M., for Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Late in Granville, New York…, 1837

Richard Newman, ed., Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-1833, 1990




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