The American Philosophical Society will host a discussion with Brendan McConville on his new book “The Brethren: A Story of Faith and Conspiracy in Revolutionary America” on May 24 at 7 pm at Washington Crossing Historic Park, Washington Crossing, PA.
The Brethren were a group of North Carolina farmers who devised a plan to assassinate leading patriots in the colony because they feared “enlightened” deist principles would be enshrined in the state constitution and displace their Protestant faith. Throughout the book, McConville traces the Brethren as they drew up plans for violent action. In the summer of 1777, Patriot militiamen threatened to arrest the Brethren as British sympathizers. In response, the Brethren tried to spread false rumors of a slave insurrection in hopes of gaining loyalist support. A disaffected insider denounced the movement to authorities and many members of the Brethren were put on trial as a result.
As part of a larger Southern movement of conscription resistance, the conspiracy offers a complexity of public opinion regarding the American Revolution. The Brethren thought Patriot leaders threatened their religious freedom when in reality both religious freedom and individual liberty were and still are ascribed to the Founding generation.