John Joachim Zubly (August
27, 1724 – July 23,
1781), born Hans Joachim
Züblin, was an American pastor,
planter, and statesman during the American Revolution. Although a delegate
for Georgia to the Continental
Congress in 1775, he resisted independence from Great Britain
and became a Loyalist.
Early life and career
born in St.
Gall, Switzerland on August 27, 1724.
He was ordained to the German [Reformed]
Church ministry in London on 19 August 1744. Following that, he
came to South Carolina, where his father David Zublin had settled
near the Savannah River in 1735. He preached first at small
congregations south of Savannah. In 1746 he married Anna Tobler,
daughter of Appenzell Ausserrhoden governor and later New Windsor
Township founder Johannes Tobler. He then spent 10 years as
minister at the Wappetaw Church near Charleston, SC, an interesting
congregation composed largely of descendants of a shipwreck that
carried Congregationalists from New England. In 1756 he visited and
preached to a congregation in Savannah, Georgia.
They were so impressed with him that he was
later invited to their newly created pulpit. So in 1760 he moved to
Savannah and became the first pastor of the Presbyterian Church
Reverend Zubly's relationship to the Revolution reflects the
confusion and conflict inherent in the shift of ideas during his
time. Zubly's Calvinist religious beliefs made him an outspoken and
influential supporter of the colonists' rights. By 1775, Zubly had
come to view what he saw as the increasingly secular and godless
resistance of the colonies with alarm. Many view his career as
moving from a staunch defender of colonial rights, to an apologist
for the monarchy, to a loyalist and opponent of republican
government. However, it was his religious beliefs that remained
constant, while the political environment shifted around him.
Start of the revolution
After the Stamp Act
in 1765, some of
his sermons began to be issued as pamphlets, most notably An
Humble Enquiry Into the Nature of the Dependency of the American
Colonies upon the Parliament of Great-Britain and the Right of
Parliament to Lay Taxes on the said Colonies.
helped to clarify the differences and relationships between
constitutions, legislatures, laws, and people. Bernard Bailyn
credits him with making
important contributions to the consideration of representative
legislatures by identifying some of the issues involved.
In the period leading up to the Revolution, he was not a member of
the Georgia Assembly. But, he was frequently called on to open
their sessions with prayer and a sermon. Georgia was not
represented in the First Continental Congress of 1774, but in July
of 1775, they held a revolutionary congress in Savannah and Zubly
was named as one of their delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
The Continental Congress
John Zubly took his seat as a delegate in Philadelphia on September 15
in his time at the Congress he expressed his position by saying, "I
came here with two views; one, to secure the rights of America;
second, a reconciliation with Great Britain.". His distance from
the sentiments of the Congress as a whole widened during debates
over non-importation or trade embargoes. Georgia's development was
so recent that she lacked even the limited manufacturing
capabilities that existed in most of the other colonies, and it was
the least self-sufficient of any.
As the other delegates argued for unity and conformance with the
majority views, he became increasingly outspoken. By October 12
, as the debate continued he observed
that "Trade is important.... Wisdom is better than weapons of war.
We don't mean to oppose Great Britain, merely for diversion; if it
is necessary, that we make war, and that we have the means of it."
When pushed he declared that "A republican government is little
better than government of devils."
By mid-November Zubly was on his way back to Savannah. The Congress
had accused him of disloyalty since he was still carrying on a
correspondence with his friend, James Wright
, the Royal Governor of
Georgia. He resumed his pulpit, and still sought a reconciliation
in which Britain would respect colonist's rights.
Exile and return
As the revolutionary fervor rose in Georgia, the Council of Safety
decided that his "going
at large will... endanger the public safety". So on July 1
, 1776 Archibald Bulloch
ordered his arrest, but
Zubly was able to escape and find refuge with his family in South
Carolina. Half his property was seized and his library was thrown
into the Savannah River by Georgians.
When the British recaptured Savannah in 1778 he was able to return
home. Beginning in August 1780, the Savannah newspaper The
Royal Georgia Gazette
published a series of nine essays
written by Zubly, who used the pseudonym of Helvetius. In these
essays, Zubly laid out his case for opposing the American
Revolution. Zubly made the case that the revolutionists were
violating both God's law and international law. He died in Savannah
on July 23
the end of the American Revolution. Though it is rumored that he is
buried at Savannah's Colonial Cemetery, his grave has never been
- Kenneth Coleman; American Revolution in Georgia
1763-1789. 1958, University of Georgia Press, ISBN
- Randall Miller, editor. A Warm and Zealous Spirit: John
J. Zubly and the American Revolution, A Selection of His
Writings; 1982, Mercer University Press, ISBN
- Jim Schmidt; "The Reverend John Joachim Zubly's 'The Law of
Liberty' Sermon: Calvinist Opposition to the American Revolution",
The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXXXII, No. 2,
- Zubly, John J.; Revolutionary Tracts. A short reprint
of some of his sermons and pamphlets; ISBN 0-87152-088-5.
- Hawes, Lilla Mills, ed. 1989. The Journal of the Reverend
John Joachim Zubly A.M., D.D. March 5, 1770 through June
22, 1781. Georgia Historical Society Collections,
Volume XXI. Savannah: The Georgia Historical Society.