Searching for the City on a Hill: Tracing the Roots of America's Metaphor

with Richard Gamble

The next Liberty Law Talk podcast is a conversation with historian Richard Gamble of Hillsdale College on his challenging new book, In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth. Gamble provides a definitive intellectual history of this metaphor, now etched, albeit in symbolic new form, in America’s national self-definition by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Gamble observes that before the imperatives of the Cold War and the need for powerfully stated arguments for American political purpose, the metaphor “City on a Hill” existed in the Gospel of Matthew’s Sermon on a Mount and as a sermon written by the Puritan leader, John Winthrop, in 1630 while on-board the ship Arbella that was bound for the Massachusetts colony. The key question posed by Gamble is what succeeding generations of Puritans and, in turn, Americans did with both the  content of Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity,” and its metaphor.