Allie’s older son, Charlie, is the book’s adolescent narrator, as well as his father’s fiercest defender and acolyte, who informs us of his father’s creed. “Father often talked of thing being ‘revealed,’” says Charlie. “That was true invention, he said, revealing something’s use and magnifying it, discovering its imperfection, improving it, and putting it to work for you. . . . ‘It’s savage and superstitious to accept the world as it is. Fiddle around and find a use for it!’ God had left the world incomplete, he said. It was man’s job to understand how it worked, to tinker with it and finish it. I think that was why he hated missionaries so much: because they taught people to put up with their earthly burdens. For Father, there were no burdens that couldn’t be fitted with a set of wheels, or runners, or a system of pulleys.” After his death and a series of rude awakenings, Charlie says, “Once I had believed in Father and the world had seemed very small and old.” After he was gone, he declares, “I hardly believed in myself, and the world was limitless.” 
All proselytizers, including the Allie Foxes of the world, operate under the belief that they’re right and everybody else is wrong. It can be argued that tribalism is at the root of their behavior, and that it’s human nature to want to associate with kin and kindred spirits, and be suspicious of or even hostile toward those who aren’t. What made the missionary movement that originated in Andover unique was its timing, at the moment of industrialization. It was not a coincidence, of course. Its principals wisely availed themselves of all the developments in mass transportation, communication, and mechanization — steam ships, telegraphs, printing presses, and the factory system itself — that resulted in what was quickly acknowledged to be a genuine revolution. Nothing so big in the proselytizing business had ever happened before. 
Not everyone was onboard with the newfangled methods. Reverend Horace Bushnell doubted, for example, that the answer to more converts was printing as opposed to preaching. “As if God would offer man a mechanical engine for converting the world with the least possible expenditure of piety; or as if types of lead and sheets of paper may be the light of the world,” the controversial pastor of Hartford’s North Congregational Church wrote in a 1844 issue of the New Haven-based quarterly journal New Englander.  He acknowledged that the press was “a new tongue given to the church,” but believed that such “talk, without the life to give it power and unction, degenerates into empty noise and clatter.” It was his view that expecting the press to be “a substitute for piety, or a piety-saving machine, [was] an egregious delusion.” 
The sheer number of clergy being turned out by the seminary in Andover was itself cause for critical comment in some quarters. John Dalton Flagg, who followed his father, Timothy Flagg, into the printing business in Andover in the 1840s, once wrote that he recalled having seen a cartoon showing a seminary faculty member putting pumpkins into a giant hopper while an associate turned its crank — “and at the bottom Theological students were crawling out.”  The cartoon was a clever visual expression of the unprecedented, rote-like manner in which Andover was turning out professional preachers in far greater numbers than had ever been seen before. “Like the locusts of Egypt, they fill all the land; Not a green herb before them, uneaten can stand…,” went one of the rhymed verses of a disapproving broadside titled, “Andover Mill, or Minister’s Factory,” written by an anonymous, self-described “truly pious man.” 
The image of hayseeds being transformed into holy men can also be read as a commentary on the phenomenon, new in the early nineteenth century, of rural-born young men becoming ministers rather than following their farmer fathers into the fields. Up until then, ministers had traditionally come to their calling with smooth, uncalloused hands, from the ranks of a community’s elite. Mrs. Stowe’s character Reverend Theophilus Sewell, from her 1861 novel The Pearl of Orr’s Island, the sixth of the eight books she wrote in Andover, was the type, “who preserved the costume of a former generation, with something of that imposing dignity with which, in earlier times, the habits of the clergy were invested.” A minister based on a fictional island in Maine, where some of the old ways had more easily been preserved in isolation, Reverend Sewell “was tall and majestic in stature, and carried to advantage the powdered wig and three-cornered hat, the broad-skirted coat, knee-breeches, high shoes, and plated buckles of the ancient costume.”  It was the very attire worn by Mrs. Stowe’s own father, Reverend Lyman Beecher.
Reverend William Bentley of Salem, Massachusetts — one of the first New England ministers to openly profess Unitarian beliefs  — was unhappy about the mere fact of the seminary’s founding and existence, and so were his like-minded colleagues. “This institution is [the] subject of much public animadversion,” he wrote in his famous diary.  The noted bibliophile, scholar, historian, and linguist scoffed at the seminarians’ “love of Biblical Criticism” and did not look forward to its promised “series of liberal publications.”  The seminary’s missionary aspect did not please him, either. Regarding that development, he called the seminarians the “Jesuits of New England” and their endeavors “Don Quixote adventures.”  “The missionaries [were] mere fanatics without common talents,” he grumbled.  “How many Indians are upon our own continent?” he asked rhetorically, apparently unaware that the A.B.C.F.M. was preparing to expand into the American frontier. 
Perhaps, too, Reverend Bentley merely felt threatened. Upon the seminary’s opening, he observed of his fellow Unitarians at Harvard, “All the friends of Camb. are jealous of it…”  A few months later, he told himself as if reassuringly, “The Andover Jesuitism does not succeed greatly.”  His prediction would eventually turn out to be correct, but it wasn’t at all correct in 1809, when he recorded that sentiment. The class that graduated the following year included Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, and Samuel Nott — three men in their early twenties from small New England towns (Malden, Massachusetts; Durham, Maine; and Franklin, Connecticut, respectively) — who were about to become famous in international missionary circles.
1. Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982), 374.
2. But of course it would happen again. See televangelist, a term apparently coined by a writer for Time magazine, whose cover story on April 14, 1952 referred to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as the "first 'televangelist.'"
3. Horace Bushnell, Views of Christian Nurture, and of Subjects Adjacent Thereto (Hartford: Edwin Hunt, 1847), 153.
4. Bushnell, “The Kingdom of Heaven as a Grain of Mustard Seed,” New Englander, II (New Haven: October 1844), 606-607. The essay was retitled,“Growth, Not Conquest, the True Method of Christian Progress,” when included in Views of Christian Nurture, 158-159.
5. Phillips Academy Archives (PAA), Warren Fales Draper “Vertical File,” letter to Draper from Flagg, Sept. 16, 1903.
6. PAA archivist Paige Roberts was unable to supply a notation for this broadside, which can be found in the PAA collection, and I too was unsuccessful in finding one. It is neither dated nor, as mentioned, signed. In any case, for a complete roster of the first hundred years of seminary students, see General Catalogue of the Theological Seminary Andover, Massachusetts 1808-1908 (Boston: Thomas Dodd [printer], 1909).
7. Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Pearl of Orr’s Island (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1862, 1896), 86.
8. https://uudb.org/articles/williambentley.html. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2021.
9. William Bentley, The Diary of William Bentley, D.D., Pastor of the East Church, Salem, Massachusetts (Salem: Essex Institute, 1905-1914), Jan. 1, 1809.
10. Bentley, May 7, 1809.
11. Bentley, Nov. 19, 1809 and Mar. 14, 1813.
12. Bentley, Jan. 24, 1813.
13. Bentley, Oct. 13, 1815.
14. Bentley, Sept. 25, 1808.
15. Bentley, Jan. 1, 1809.