Josiah Strong: Biography & Quotes

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Josiah Strong dedicated his life to social reform. He believed a strong Christian influence was crucial for making America great, and that immigration to major cities was a critical problem for the country. Use this lesson to gain a deeper understanding of Strong's beliefs.

Josiah Strong: Biography & Quotes

'The rich are richer, and the poor are poorer, in the city than elsewhere; and, as a rule, the greater are the riches of the rich and the poverty of the poor.'

While these words may sound familiar, especially among the 2016 Democratic campaign, they were coined over a century before by Josiah Strong. Strong was a Protestant clergyman who believed that the United States faced a perilous path unless significant reform was instituted.

Strong believed that Anglo-Saxons (English-speaking whites) were the most advanced race, and that other races, specifically those who were not Christians, were savages. He believed, however, that they could be 'elevated' to an accepted social level with Christianity. Much of this sentiment is revealed in Strong's most famous work, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Present Crisis.

Our Country

'There are no more new worlds. The unoccupied arable lands of the earth are limited, and will soon be taken.'

Strong was an avid proponent of expansion and his intention and belief was that people of different cultures and 'lesser' races could be elevated in status closer to English speaking whites by becoming Christians. He often compared the status of the United States with that of Britain, claiming that expansion and the spread of Christianity, especially to cities in the United States, would greatly benefit the country.

In Our Country, Strong emphasized focus in two key areas: Civil Liberties and Christianity. His point on civil liberties; however, was dictated by the presence of Christianity. Immigration, naturally, led many of the people coming to America to the cities. Strong felt there should be a stronger connection between church and state, and that Christianity was paramount in leading a healthy government. His co-founding of the Social Gospel movement gave him a voice among the people.

'As a rule, our largest cities are the worst governed.'

Civil Liberty

'The city has become a serious menace to our civilization... It has a peculiar attraction for the immigrant.'

Obviously, there were far more opportunities for immigrants to successfully manage their families and new life in the United States by settling in cities. Because of the rapid growth of population, Strong felt that city governments were ill equipped to handle such an influx of different cultures. Christianity, he believed, was fundamental in leading immigrants into a supportive role in the United States and would, in turn, make the United States a stronger nation.

Like many cities, poverty is often a crucial social issue. Strong's answer to that was some form of equality. Instead of isolating demographics based on race and nationality, the government should instill and maintain a strong Christian influence among the poor, which was fairly forward thinking for that time as far as race relations were concerned. Poverty was the key element that united that demographic. Strong felt that, somehow, a Christian belief structure would improve their quality of life.

'Not only does the proportion of the poor increase with the growth of the city, but their condition becomes more wretched.'


'There the union of Church and State tends strongly to paralyze some of the members of the body of Christ. Here there is no such influence to destroy spiritual life and power.'

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