The Triennial Convention, founded in 1814, was the first national Baptist denomination in the United States of America (InterVarsity, Wardin). In 1907, the Triennial Convention was succeeded by the Northern Baptist Convention, predecessor to the American Baptist Churches USA.
In 1814, Rev. William Carey (August 17, 1761–June 9, 1834), English Baptist Missionary to India, and Rev. Adoniram Judson, Sr. (August 9, 1788-April 12, 1850) and Ann Hasseltine Judson (December 22, 1789-October 24, 1826), American Baptist missionaries to India, convinced the Philadelphia Baptist Association (organized 1707) and most other regional American Baptist denominations to unite and support the Judsons' planned mission trip to Burma by founding the American Baptist Missionary Union (American Baptist Foreign Mission Society) and the Triennial Convention (General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions) (American Presbyterian Mission Press, Christianity Today, InterVarsity, Oxford 62-3, Wardin, Wayland). The Convention was called "Triennial" because the national convention met every three years (InterVarsity, Wardin). Members of the denomination were called American Baptists (Triennial Baptists) (Barkley, McBeth). The Philadelphia Baptist Association’s headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the Triennial Convention’s headquarters (Johnson).
The Triennial Convention accepted the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith (Johnson). The Confession affirmed "the authority of the Bible [Chapter 1; Matt. 1:21-3, 2 Tim. 3:16-7], the Lordship of Jesus Christ [Chapter 3, Part 6; Matt. 1:21-3, Mark 2:27-8], the independence of local congregations [Chapter 27, Part 7; Matt. 1:21-3, Matt. 18:18-20], the necessity of a conversion experience and a believer’s baptism by immersion [Chapter 30; Matt. 3:16, 28:18-20], and evangelism and missionary outreach [Matt. 1:21-3, 28:18-20]" (Oxford 62) and predestination (Chapter 3, Part 3; Matt. 1:21-3, Rom. 8:29-30) (Johnson).
The Triennial Convention had a number of seminaries and universities, so some ministers were required to have seminary or university education. Requiring ministers to have a university education helped make for a knowledgeable clergy, but it also contradicted the Philadelphia Confession, the Bible, and blocked some would-be ministers from the ministry (Oxford 62-3). Triennial Baptist ministers were ordained by local congregations and by regional associations. Regional ordination helped create consensus, but it also contradicted the Philadelphia Confession and limited the role of the local congregation (Johnson).
While the Triennial Baptists supported Christian education, Christian morality, public school prayer, and state recognition of God, they also supported public education, separation of church and state, and opposed State-sponsored churches. None of the State-sponsored churches in the United States were Baptist. The Triennial Baptists helped abolish States' sponsoring of churches in the United States in the early 19th century (Oxford 62-3).
The Triennial Convention took no position on slavery. This moderate position accepted the Bible, which permits slavery, and conscience and allowed both Abolitionists and slavery supporters to remain in the denomination, but it also contradicted the Bible and conscience because of its indifference to slavery. The majority of Triennial Baptists in the Northeast opposed slavery, while the growing number of Triennial Baptists in the Southeast supported slavery. The Abolitionists helped abolish slavery in the northern States in the early 19th century (Finseth, Oxford 62-3).
Some anti-missionary, free will, and radical Baptists were grandfathered into the Triennial Convention, while others remained outside the Convention. Independent and Separate Baptists remained outside the Convention (Holder). The Triennial Baptists consisted mostly of English Americans in the Northeast (Oxford 62-3). The Second Great Awakening (an American Christian revival from 1800 to 1840) grew the Triennial Baptists and made them more Arminian (free will) and traditional (Finseth).
The Triennial Baptists supported the United States at the end of the War of 1812 (1812-1814) (Oxford 814). The Triennial Baptists supported the United States during the Indian Wars (1776-1890), but opposed the genocide of Native Americans. However, American success in the Indian Wars led to the genocide of Native Americans and the expansion of the United States (Oxford 379-380). Influenced by regional concerns, the majority of Triennial Baptists in the Northeast supported federalism and thus the declining Federalist Party and the emerging federalist wing of the Democratic-Republican Party. Those in the Southeast and West supported States’ Rights and thus the Democratic-Republicans (Oxford 178, 259, 513, 814).
William Colgate (January 25, 1783 – March 25, 1857) of New York City, founder and president of William Colgate & Company (org. 1806) and a major donor to the American Baptist Seminary of New York City, was grandfathered into the Triennial Convention (Colgate-Palmolive, Colgate University, The Reformed Reader). In 1816, in New York City, William Colgate founded the American Bible Society (American Bible Union), a Bible publishing company (Oxford 63, The Reformed Reader).
In 1824, with the Federalist Party gone, the federalists in the Northeast supported Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848, served since 1817) (Democratic-Republican) of Massachusetts and other federalist candidates for president of the United States. The States’ Rights supporters in the Southeast and West supported Senator Andrew Jackson (1767-1845, served since 1823) (Democratic-Republican) of Tennessee and other States’ Rights candidates. In the contest, the federalist Democratic-Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Adams the winner (Oxford 7, 400).
In 1828, the federalists in the Northeast supported President Adams for reelection. The States’ Rights supporters in the Southeast and West supported Jackson, then, a politician. Since moderates viewed Adams as too powerful, Jackson won the election (Oxford 7, 400).
The Triennial Baptists opposed the Indian Removal Act, passed by the Democratic-Republican-controlled Congress in 1830, which relocated several Native American tribes from east of the Mississippi River to the new Indian Territory (Oklahoma) (Oxford 378-9).
In 1832, the Triennial Convention founded the American Baptist Home Mission Society to help ordain or send their ministers in the United States (Barkley, McBeth). That same year, the federalists in the Northeast supported Senator Henry Clay (1777-1852, served since 1832) (National Republican) of Kentucky for president of the United States (Oxford 134, 400, 827). The States’ Rights supporters in the Southeast and West supported President Jackson for reelection. Since moderates supported Jackson, he won reelection (Oxford 400).
The Triennial Convention accepted the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith. The Confession was drafted by Rev. John Newton Brown, D.D. (June 29, 1803 – May 14, 1868), of New Hampshire and other Triennial Baptist ministers, and adopted by the New Hampshire (Triennial) Baptist Convention. The Confession was traditional. The controversy of the day was free will verses predestination. While the New Hampshire Confession is shorter than the 1742 Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Confession affirms the Philadelphia Confession including predestination and free will in the context of predestination. The New Hampshire Confession states that "[Humans] by voluntary [free will] transgression fell from the holy and happy state [they were created]" (line 14) and that "We believe that Election [predestination] is the eternal purpose of God, according to which he graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners" (line 46). However, many saw the New Hampshire Confession as accepting free will. The free will Baptists in the Northeast and West accepted the Confession, while the Calvinist (predestination) Baptists in the Southeast rejected the Confession but remained in the Triennial Convention (Johnson).
In 1834, when the National Republican Party became the Whig Party, the federalists in the Northeast supported the Whig Party (Oxford 827). In 1838, African, Danish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish Americans began organizing their own Baptist denominations because of persecution by English Americans and nationalism by non-English Americans. The Triennial Baptists remained predominately English American (Oxford 62-3).
By 1840, the Triennial Baptists had become a major denomination in the United States. Baptists were in every State and territory by 1840. By that time, they had established over twenty seminaries and universities as well as missions in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe (Oxford 62-3). In 1840, when the Democratic-Republican Party was renamed the Democratic Party, the States’ Rights supporters in the Southeast and West supported the Democratic Party (Oxford 178). In 1841, William Bullein Johnson (1782-1862) briefly served as president of the Convention. That same year, the Triennial Convention founded the American Baptist Publication Society to help distribute materials (Barkley, McBeth).
In 1843, the Abolitionists in the Northeast founded the Northern Baptist Mission Society in opposition to slavery (Oxford 62-3). In 1844, the Home Mission Society refused to ordain James E. Reeve of Georgia as a missionary to the Southeast because he was a slaveowner (Louis, Snay). In May 1845, in Augusta, Georgia, the slavery supporters in the Southeast broke with the Triennial Convention and founded the Southern Baptist Convention in support of slavery and unity. The Triennial Baptists again became concentrated in the Northeast (Barkley, McBeth). The Abolitionists in the Northeast inherted the Triennial Convention and the Northern Baptist Mission Society was dissolved (Oxford 62-3). William Bullein Johnson joined the Southern Baptists (Barkley, McBeth). The Abolitionists in the Northeast opposed the United States’ annexation of Texas, passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress that year, because it expanded slavery (Oxford 497, 827).
The Triennial Baptists supported the United States during the Mexican War (1846-1848), but opposed taking Mexican territory (Oxford 497, 827). However, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, ratified by the Democratic-controlled Senate on March 10, 1848, forced Mexico to sell California, New Mexico (which included Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and part of Colorado and Wyoming) and Texas to the United States (Oxford 497).
James Boorman Colgate (1818-1904) of New York City, son of William Colgate and successful banker with Boorman, Johnson & Company Bank, founded and became president of J.B. Colgate & Company (Trevor & Colgate) Bank (New International Encyclopedia). He was also a founder of the New York Gold Exchange and a major donor to Madison University (org. 1819) (Colgate University, New International Encyclopedia). The New York Gold Exchange helped secure the gold standard and expanded the New York Stock Exchange (org. 1817), which increased trade but also made the United States more dependent on gold and international trade (New International Encyclopedia, Oxford 313, 553-4). Samuel Colgate (1822-1897) of New York City, son of William Colgate, was president of the American Baptist Education Society of New York (org. 1817), an executive of the American Baptist Missionary Union, the American Tract Society (org. 1825), and a major donor to Madison University (Colgate University, New International Encyclopedia, Rorabaugh).
The Triennial Baptists opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed by Congress with bipartisan support in 1854, which allowed slavery in the territories. This caused the Triennial Baptists to support the new Republican Party (Oxford 417, 660). In 1856, the Triennial Baptists supported surveyor and former Senator, John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) (Republican) of California for president of the United States (Oxford 293). However, Fremont lost to Ambassador to the United Kingdom, James Buchanan (1791-1868, served since 1853) (Democrat) of Pennsylvania in a three-way race (Oxford 89-90, 265-6, 293). On March 25, 1857, William Colgate died and Samuel Colgate became president of Colgate & Company (William Colgate & Company) (Colgate-Palmolive). In 1858, the Triennial Baptists helped the Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives (W.W. Norton 335-6).
In 1860, the Triennial Baptists helped lawyer and former Congressman, Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) (Republican) of Illinois win the general election for president of the United States in the Northeast and thus the nation in a four-way race (Oxford 448). He was a Hard-shell (anti-missionary) Baptist by upbringing and faith and did not affiliate with or join any church (Guelzo). The Triennial Baptists supported the United States (North) during the Civil War (1861-1865) (Oxford 130-2).
J.B. Colgate & Company Bank under James Boorman Colgate loaned to the United States during the Panic of 1873, which saved the country from economic collapse but did not prevent the Long Depression (1873–1896) and also hindered reform (New International Encyclopedia). Samuel Colgate served as president of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (org. 1873), a traditionalist moral reform group (New International Encyclopedia).
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Triennial Convention took no official position on Evolution. This moderate position accepted the Bible and science and allowed both Fundamentalists and liberals to remain in the denomination, but it also contradicted the New Hampshire Confession and the Bible. The liberals in the urban Northeast accepted the position, while the Fundamentalists in the rural Northeast rejected the position but remained in the Triennial Convention (AAAS). The Triennial Baptists supported Progressivism and the Social Gospel, but not the more radical ideas of Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) and other Christian Socialists (Oxford 629, 652). The Triennial Baptists’ support of federalism and Progressivism caused them to continue supporting the Republican Party (Oxford 623, 660). In 1888, the Triennial Convention founded the American Baptist Education Society to help train their ministers (InterVarsity, Wardin).
In 1896, the progressives in the urban Northeast supported Congressman William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925, served since 1891) (Democrat, Populist) of Nebraska for president of the United States (Oxford 89). The traditionalists in the rural Northeast supported Governor of Ohio, William McKinley (1843-1901, served since 1892) (Republican) (Oxford 482). Since moderates supported McKinley, he won the election (Oxford 89, 482).
The Triennial Baptists supported the United States during the Spanish-American War (1898), but opposed taking Spanish territory. However, the Treaty of Paris, approved by the Republican-controlled Senate on February 6, 1899, forced Spain to give Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the United States (Oxford 736-7).
In 1900, the Triennial Baptists became a clear minority when immigration from predominately Roman Catholic countries, like Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and Italy (organized 1861), to the United States and growth of the United States population in the previous century made the Roman Catholic Church the largest denomination in the United States by a plurality of roughly sixteen percent or one in six (Public domain, see History of religion in the United States).
The progressives in the urban Northeast supported Bryan for president of the United States (Oxford 89). The traditionalists in the rural Northeast supported President McKinley (Oxford 482). Since the moderates supported McKinley, he won reelection (Oxford 89, 482).
In 1904, both progressives and traditionalists in the Northeast supported President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919, served since 1901) (Republican) for reelection. Since moderates, progressives, and traditionalists supported Roosevelt, he won reelection (Oxford 676-7).
On May 17, 1907 in Washington, D.C., the Triennial Convention took over the American Baptist Education Society, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the American Baptist Missionary Union, and the American Baptist Publication Society and became the Northern Baptist Convention. Governor of New York, Charles Evans Hughes (April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948, served since 1907) (Republican) was elected the first Northern Baptist Convention president, but he continued his job as Governor (InterVarsity, Wardin). 29th President of the United States, Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923, served March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923) (Republican) was a Baptist by upbringing, faith, and self-identification, but he was a member of the Masonic Lodge (Whitehouse.gov). The Northern Baptist Convention was renamed the American Baptist Convention in 1950, and the American Baptist Churches, USA in 1972 (InterVarsity, Wardin).