THAT THE POST-ASSASSINATION sermons of the Northern clergy were so political in nature should come as no surprise. The preachers, through their pulpits, as well as other means, had been heavily involved in the public affairs of their time since the mid-1830s. They had been instrumental in turning sectional differences into moral issues during antebellum days. The Northern preachers, as well as their Southern counterparts, played significant roles in exciting the sectional passions and debates that culminated in the Civil War. In 1857 historian Albert Barnes wrote of the influence of the clergy at that time.
In a country so extensively under the influence of religion as ours; where religion undeniably so much controls public sentiment; where so large a portion of the community is connected with the church; and where the Christian Ministry exerts so wide an influence on the public mind, it cannot be an unimportant question what the church is doing, and what it ought to do, in reference to an evil [slavery] so vast, and so perilous to all our institutions.... In our country there is no class of men who exert more influence than the ministers of the gospel.1
Religion was a dominant influence in mid-nineteenth-century America and as such played a significant role in private and public life. In the 1830s, the perceptive French visitor to America, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed that there was "no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America." Irving H. Bartlett, in his brief but insightful study The American Mind in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, has