Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Cynthia Van Zandt


On May 9, 1798, the Reverend Jedidiah Morse of Charlestown, Massachusetts introduced a threat to both American government and religion in the form of the Bavarian Illuminati. This thesis argues that the Bavarian Illuminati sermons represent an attempt by the orthodox Congregational clergy in Massachusetts to mediate between republican ideology and traditional New England religious expectations by utilizing the clerical role of social watchmen to instill a sense of virtue in the American public and guide the development of a New Jerusalem in republican America. The goals of the clergy in propagating the Bavarian Illuminati threat ultimately failed catastrophically. Although traditionally viewed by historians as reactionary and conspiratorial, the Bavarian Illuminati sermons by Jedidiah Morse and his colleagues represent a significant turning point in refashioning the traditional New England jeremiad message and the covenant message to mesh with American republican society in the early nineteenth century.