Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Borderland Religion: The Emergence of an English-Canadian Identity, 1792-1852

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Borderland Religion: The Emergence of an English-Canadian Identity, 1792-1852

Article excerpt

J.I. Little, Borderland Religion: The Emergence of an English-Canadian Identity, 1792-1852 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), x + 415pp. Cloth. $75. £48. ISBN 0-8020-8916-X. Paper. $32.95. £20. ISBN 0-8020-8671-3.

Ostensibly, this book is a history of organised (and some disorganised) religion in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. But in its implications, it is far more than a local study. Little argues strongly for the integration of religious history with the perceived 'mainstream' political and social story. He challenges the recent fashion for studying the Townships as part of an international 'borderlands'. True, the Townships were largely settled by Americans, not all of them Loyalists. They retained New England habits, ignored customs posts and even counterfeited US currency. But Little argues that the region was also shaped by influences from the imperial centre, calling his approach 'borderline' by comparison. The Townships were largely Protestant, and considers the major churches in turn, tracing how those of American origin diverged from their origins. The War of 1812 forced some choices as did, to a lesser degree, the 1837-38 rebellions, so that the annexation movement of 1849 proved short-lived. The core of Little's argument is about organisation backed by external support. Congregationalists and Baptists were largely abandoned by their republican neighbours. Americans could never decide whether Canada was tax-free paradise or a monarchical despotism. Either way, it did not seem a promising field for outreach activity. New England Protestantism was so deeply imbued with Calvinism that missionary work seemed pointless anyway. Left to their own fragile structures, Protestant churches in the Townships were more likely to be destabilised than strengthened by religious revivals: a Justice of the Peace was brought in to police a Methodist 'love feast' in 1829. …

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