What was the Black Robed Regiment?
The Black Robed Regiment was the name that the British placed on the courageous and patriotic American clergy during the Founding Era (a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore). Significantly, the British blamed the Black Regiment for American Independence, and rightfully so, for modern historians have documented that:
There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763.
It is strange to today’s generation to think that the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the two decades leading up to the American Revolution, but such was the case.
But it was not just the British who saw the American pulpit as largely responsible for American independence and government, our own leaders agreed. For example, John Adams rejoiced that “the pulpits have thundered” and specifically identified several ministers as being among the “characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in the “awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings” that led to American independence.
Across subsequent generations, the great and positive influence of the Revolutionary clergy was faithfully reported. For example:
As a body of men, the clergy were pre-eminent in their attachment to liberty. The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom. The American Quarterly Register [MAGAZINE], 1833
If Christian ministers had not preached and prayed, there might have been no revolution as yet – or had it broken out, it might have been crushed. Bibliotheca Sacra [BRITISH PERIODICAL], 1856
The ministers of the Revolution were, like their Puritan predecessors, bold and fearless in the cause of their country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers. . . . [B]y their prayers, patriotic sermons, and services [they] rendered the highest assistance to the civil government, the army, and the country. B. F. Morris, HISTORIAN, 1864
The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit.
Alice Baldwin, HISTORIAN, 1918
Had ministers been the only spokesman of the rebellion – had Jefferson, the Adamses, and [James] Otis never appeared in print – the political thought of the Revolution would have followed almost exactly the same line. . . . In the sermons of the patriot ministers . . . we find expressed every possibly refinement of the reigning political faith. Clinton Rossiter, HISTORIAN, 1953
The American clergy were faithful exponents of the fullness of God’s Word, applying its principles to every aspect of life, thus shaping America’s institutes and culture. They were also at the forefront of proclaiming liberty, resisting tyranny, and opposing any encroachments on God-given rights and freedoms. In 1898, Methodist bishop and church historian Charles Galloway rightly observed of these ministers:
Mighty men they were, of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and heart of flame. God needed not reeds shaken by the wind, not men clothed in soft raiment [Matthew 11:7-8], but heroes of hardihood and lofty courage. . . . And such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the Divine call.