The open-ended policies and strong support for education during Rufus Anderson's early years as a corresponding secretary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (A. B. C. F. M. ) reflected both weakness and strength. On the one hand, Anderson's inexperience, coupled with the difficulties of transoceanic communication and the institutional culture of Congregationalism, gave the board a weak central structure and allowed the missions great autonomy to set policies at their own discretion. The missionaries, for their part, felt the need above all to gain a sympathetic audience in the early stages of their work. They therefore resisted direction from Boston and tended to be more responsive to indigenous context and demand. Consistent policies, much less any general theory of missions, were therefore difficult to implement.
On the other hand, prosperity enabled the A. B. C. F. M. to be somewhat freewheeling in its experiments. These years saw the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening reach its pinnacle, and the religious fervor generated by the revivals sustained a vast expansion of evangelical voluntary associations. When it was chartered in 1812, the insertion of “American” in the name of the A. B. C. F. M. made it the first such organization to claim a national identity. In many ways, it was an act of hubris at the time. The board's base of support was essentially limited to New England, and even within New England, their core constituency centered on an embattled establishment of Hopkinsian and