FT157: “Now that the anti-establishment types are running government we are no longer to question authority but embrace it.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The History of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the English Civil War were not that Distant

Benjamin Franklin said the first responsibility of every citizen is to question authority.  That was kind of America’s thing.  Giving the finger to the governing authority.  Figuratively.  And sometimes literally.  Starting with King George III.  One of our earliest flags said, “Don’t tread on me.”  This flag had a coiled rattle snake on it.  Franklin thought the rattle snake was a good symbol of the American people.  If the British left us alone this snake would cause no harm.  If you get too close this snake will warn you to back off by shaking its rattle.  If you don’t heed this warning and threaten this snake it will strike you with lethal force.

This problem with authority almost lost the Revolutionary War for us.  At first American soldiers didn’t like following orders.  For if they could rebel against their king they could just as easily rebel against a commanding officer.  George Washington stopped that.  But this mistrust of authority was systemic.  The state governments did not trust the Continental Congress.  That distant central power.  Anymore than they trusted that other distant central power.  The British monarchy.

So the Continental Congress was woefully underfunded throughout the Revolutionary War.  Finding it very difficult to supply the Continental Army.  Or pay her soldiers.  Something else the states didn’t trust.  A standing army.  For the history of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the English Civil War were not that distant.  Or the peace that followed.  Where that army helped keep the new government in power.  And unleashed great woe and suffering to the Catholics in Ireland and Scotland.

Kings don’t suffer Personal Attacks in the Newspapers like an Elected President Does

So the Americans stood up to that distant power.  And to her ministers in the American colonies.  Not afraid to speak truth to power.  To speak out about the abuses of King George in the colonies.  Which Thomas Jefferson summarized in the Declaration of Independence.  They spoke contemptuously of the ruling British authorities.  When they won their independence they transferred this contempt to the new federal government.  The states trusted the new central authority in the United States little more than they trusted the one on the far side of the Atlantic.  And many fought as passionately against it as they fought against King George.

Even those in the new central government didn’t trust each other.  Political parties formed.  Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists.  Who wanted a strong central government.  And Thomas Jefferson led the Republicans.  Who wanted a weak central government.  Keeping the power in the states.  Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other.  Despised each other.  Believed that the other was everything that was wrong in the new nation.  And they attacked each other viciously in the newspapers through their surrogates.  Which were extensions of these political parties.  So if you wanted fair and balanced news all you had to do was read at least two newspapers.  Weigh the vitriol and lies in each to arrive at the truth.  Which was somewhere in between.

And these papers were pretty nasty.  Even attacking the most beloved man in the country.  George Washington.  Calling him old and senile.  Secretly British.  A mere puppet controlled by that evil puppet master Alexander Hamilton.  George Washington could have been king with the blessings of the American people.  Instead he chose to keep the United States a republic.  And suffered horribly for it.  For kings don’t suffer the personal attacks in the newspapers like an elected president does.  This was representative government.  Where the people are sovereign.  And the president is a servant of the people.  Not the other way around.  Like in a monarchy.

You can call LBJ and George W. Bush Murderers but you can’t ask President Obama Questions he doesn’t want to Answer

People marveled at how George Washington stepped down from power after his second term as president.  Even King George said that if he did that he would be the greatest man in the world.  And he did.  Proving the American system.  But while others marveled about how he could give up power after so short a time in office Washington more likely marveled about how long he was able to stay in office.  For he hated the politics.  And the newspaper attacks.  He was anxious to step down.  He was giddy during the transfer of power.  Happy to be going home.  While poor John Adams had to deal with all the politics.  The newspaper attacks.  And the lies.

Contrast this to President Obama.  Who gets treated by the media with kid gloves.  Who don’t question him at all.  Or his administration.  It being more like a monarchy than a republic.  After 4 Americans died in Benghazi the president offered no explanation.  And the media did not pressure him for one.  When Congress finally got to question the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, they asked her who was responsible for the failure to provide for the security for our diplomats in Benghazi?  Who was responsible for not coming to their aid while they were under attack?  And who was responsible for the lie about it being a spontaneous uprising in response to a YouTube video?  She only yelled “what difference does it make?”  And that was that.  The media reported that the Republicans were mean to her.  And never pressed her for answers.  Or President Obama.

Even the people aren’t demanding answers.  Which is sad.  For once upon a time the people chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  Making the political pressure of the Vietnam War so unbearable that he refused to run for a second term.  But where is this outrage over President Obama’s use of drones to kill terrorists as well as the innocent civilians and children around them?  Or the targeting of American citizens without any due process?  We hear nothing from the people.  Or the media.  The same people and media who wanted to try the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a U.S. court not far from Ground Zero during the Bush Administration.

Why the double standard?  Why was it okay to question authority in the Sixties and Seventies?  No matter who was in power.  But after that it was only permissible to question authority when Republicans were in power?  Why is it you can call LBJ and George W. Bush murderers but you can’t ask President Obama questions he doesn’t want to answer?  When Dr. Benjamin Carson spoke truth to power at the National Prayer Breakfast criticizing Obamacare and the president’s economic policies the Left attacked him for not showing deference to the president.  How dare he exercise free speech in a public setting they asked?  A far cry from “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  No.  This president we’re supposed to show deference to.  As if he was a king.  Why?  Apparently now that the anti-establishment types are running government we are no longer to question authority but embrace it.  So they can do whatever they want to do.  And change the country however they want to change it.  While that whole questioning authority thing was okay when they were on the outside looking in.  But now that they are on the inside looking out we need to question less and obey more.

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King George III, Lord North, John Dunning, Oliver Cromwell, New Model Army, Caesar, King Louis XVI, General Washington and Cincinnatus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Had the Time of Kings Come to an End?

The British people grew weary of the war in America.  And the cost.  Many felt that the relationship between King George III and Lord North was a little too cozy.  And a little too unconstitutional.  John Dunning entered a motion in the House of Commons in 1780.  Stating that “the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”  And the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 didn’t improve the political climate.  On March 20, 1782, Lord North resigned as Prime Minister.  Even King George penned a letter of abdication.  Though he never sent it.  He did go mad for awhile.  In 1788.  But he got better.

They questioned the very idea of monarchy.  Whether the time of kings had come to an end.  It was done before.  They got rid of the king following the English Civil War.  Even executed him.  King Charles I.  And Parliament ruled without a king.  Under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector.  After his New Model Army won the English Civil War for Parliament.  And the New Model Army was loyal to Cromwell.  Giving him a lot of power.  As a standing army in peacetime is wont to do.  Just like Caesar’s army crossing the Rubicon.  Allowing Caesar to declare himself Roman emperor.  Cromwell used his army to suppress the enemies of Parliament.  And the enemies of the Protestant Church.  But the government didn’t survive long after Cromwell’s death.  And Britain would soon have a king again.  Charles II.  The son of the king they beheaded.

But things settled down in Britain.  And King George remained king.  Until 1820.  Even though he lost about half of the British Empire.  Giving up his Crown only in death.  By natural causes, of course.  Unlike that of Charles I.  But things would not end well for another European monarch.  In particular the one that helped America gain their liberty from the British Crown.  The French king.  Louis XVI.  Whose country imploded under the cost of war.  The peasants suffered through famine while the monarchy and the Church lived fairly well.  Igniting the French Revolution in 1789.  And it didn’t end well for King Louis.  Or his wife Josephine.  The French Revolutionaries beheaded them both.  The time of kings had come to an end in France.  Ditto for the Catholic Church.  For awhile.  Napoleon would rise up and declare himself emperor.  Which is just like being a king.  Marching to Paris at the head of his army.  The source of his power.  But it didn’t last.  After Napoleon the French would bring back the monarchy.

History has Shown (and Continues to Show) that a Disgruntled Army is a Dangerous Army

So the American Revolution shook things up in Europe.  Causing one monarchy to tremble.  And another to fall.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing in America, either.  For winning the war was one thing.  But governing the new nation was another.  Would a new American nation arise?  Or would the states abandon their common interests now that the common enemy was no more?  Would Congress be able to keep the promises they made?  Or now that the war was over would the states cease funding the Congress?  Making it impossible to keep their promises.  Like the pensions they promised those who served in the Continental Army.  Who sacrificed so much to win America’s independence.

History has shown (and continues to show) that a disgruntled army is a dangerous army.  A wronged army with a popular leader could very well seize power.  And there was a real fear of this happening following the war.  In 1783 some officers began a movement to demand what the Congress had promised them.  Alexander Hamilton, then serving in Congress, became alarmed.  And wrote General Washington.  Asking him to advance these officers demands to prevent it from getting out of control.  Washington refused to get involved.  Then it escalated.  Some were advocating more forceful measures.  Calling for a meeting to discuss these measures.  And General Horatio Gates supported this meeting.  Gates was the general who won at Saratoga (but it was really Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan who won the day).  Gates was involved in the Conway Cabal, an attempt to smear the reputation of General Washington in order to replace him.  And Gates was, of course, a leading candidate to replace Washington.  And General Gates suffered one of America’s most humiliating defeats at the Battle of Camden.   Which he fled from on horseback.  Fleeing until he fled some 60 miles from the battlefield.  So Gates’ involvement spelled trouble.

An anonymous driver of the movement was urging the army to retire to the frontier if the war continued.  To abandon an ungrateful people.  Letting them meet their fate at the hands of the enemy.  Or to turn their arms on that ungrateful people.  To get what the Congress promised them.  And more.  Fearing a military coup General Washington issued an order forbidding the meeting Gates supported.  Then called a meeting of his officers to discuss their grievances.  And at this meeting General Washington once again saved the country.  By his presence.  His devotion to duty.  And his failing eyesight.  He pulled out a prepared speech and began to read.  Then paused.  He pulled out a pair of spectacles.  An officer in that meeting recorded what happened.  Major Samuel Shaw.  Washington “begged the indulgence of his audience while he put them on, observing at the same time that he had grown gray in their service, and found himself growing blind.”  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after this.  These guys still loved Washington.  And would go to hell and back for him.  If he wanted them to support the civilian government they would support the civilian government.

General Washington Submitted his Resignation and Returned to Civilian Life like Cincinnatus 

Of course, having the army do whatever their leader asked could prove to be a problem, too.  If that leader had designs on power.  Especially when that leader had more power than any single man in the new nation.  Washington may have defused one military coup.  But a lot of people worried about his intentions.  Especially when a lot of people were asking him to be king.  Caesar may have been ancient history to some.  But Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army were not.  Washington.  A standing army.  It made people nervous.  Even foreign powers never believed that Washington would give it all up.  Even King George.  Who said if Washington refused to be king he would be “the greatest man in the world.”

The last of the British troops left New York on December 4, 1783.  The war was truly over.  It was time to go home.  Washington had one last meeting with his officers.  On the evening of the 22nd of December there was a ball in his honor.  He danced until every lady had a chance to dance with the general.  Then he addressed Congress on the 23rd of December.  And became the greatest man in the world.  By submitting his resignation.  And returning to civilian life.  A regular Cincinnatus.  Called to serve his country.  And after serving his country he surrendered all power to return to his farm.

The war was over.  And it ended in peace.  More the exception than the rule when it came to revolution.  Thanks to George Washington.  And the other Founding Fathers.  Benjamin Franklin.  John Adams.  Alexander Hamilton.  Thomas Jefferson.  John Jay.  And everyone else of that unique generation.  Men of exceptional character.  Who never sacrificed their principles.  Or their sacred honor.

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Oliver Cromwell, New Model Army, Charles II, the Restoration, British Army, Colonial Empire, Townshend Acts and the Boston Massacre

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 23rd, 2012

Politics 101

The Restoration brought Charles II to the Throne and gave him a Standing Army

Before the English Civil War there were no standing armies in England.  During Medieval times everyone was a soldier.  A ‘citizen’ soldier.  Fighting in a part-time militia.  You answered your lord’s call “to arms.”  Fought.  Usually to protect your lord’s land from intruders.  Or to join a higher noble or king to fight an opposing noble or king.  But mostly you fought near your home.  And when you were done fighting you went back to your day job.  If you survived.  The sooner the better because there was usually a lot of work to do.  And family to take care of.  But this all changed during the English Civil War.  Thanks to Prince Rupert of the Rhine.  A dashing cavalier commander and veteran of some European fighting.  He brought his professional military skills to England.  And fought for his uncle, King Charles I, during the English Civil War.

His skill won a lot of battles for Charles I.  And impressed Oliver Cromwell.  Who was fighting for Parliament.  So impressed him that he copied from Prince Rupert.  And created the New Model Army.  A professional army.  Trained.  Well disciplined.  And paid.  That fought anywhere.  Ultimately winning the war for Parliament.  Then marching on London for back pay.  They held the power.  And installed Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the new commonwealth (no monarchy or hereditary power).  Who used the New Model Army to keep the peace.  Rather brutally.  Especially in Ireland.  Where they had no family.  And had no problem in being brutal.

After Cromwell executed his father, Charles I, the Scots crowned Charles II king.  For Charles I was a Scott.  And they were none too pleased that the English killed him.  Charles marched south and tried to restore the monarchy.  Failed.  And Cromwell chased him all the way to France.  Where he lived during the English commonwealth.  In Louis XIV’s court.  An absolute monarchy.  The way it used to be in England.  Before Parliament.  And King Louis had something new.  A standing army.  Even in times of peace.  And the French people didn’t bitch about the costs.  Like Parliament did about every cost the royals incurred.  When Cromwell died his son inherited his office of Lord Protector.  So much for the elimination of heredity power.  But he was weak.  Couldn’t control the army.  And didn’t last.  Without a better option they talked to Charles II.  Who said he would offer some pardons if they made him king.  He would not seek any retribution for the killing of his dad.  And he’d pay the army.  And that fast England (and Scotland and Ireland) had a king again.  (The Restoration.)  And a standing army.

The British Subjects in North America did not have the same Rights as British Subjects in Great Britain

The British put that army to use during the 18th century.  Fighting a lot of wars.  In Europe.  And elsewhere.  With lots of soldiers serving garrison duty throughout the world to protect their colonial interests.  Costing a pretty penny.  The very reason why people don’t like standing armies.  They’re very costly.  In war.  As well as in peace.  Especially the peace that followed the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).  Great Britain won a lot of colonial land from the French.  Particularly in North America.  Where French Quebec became British.  Giving the British nearly the entire North American continent.  Full of Native Americans none too happy with the outcome of the Seven Years’ War.  (Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa nearly threw the British out in 1763.)  Or their French Allies.  And the job of keeping the peace fell to the British Army.  Those infamous Red coats.

During the 18th century Great Britain was a constitutional monarchy with a representative government.  The king was still sovereign but he ruled with the consent of Parliament.  And their money.  During this time William Pitt the Elder, British Secretary of State, had built up a large and prosperous colonial empire.  Over this century the balance of power tilted away from Spain and France and towards Great Britain.  The Seven Years’ War in particular ended economically favorable for the British at the expense of the French.  This meant a lot of money for those in commerce.  Which made the taxpayers agreeable to some of these military costs.  But at the same time this last war left Great Britain broke and in debt.  Worse, she needed a larger military to garrison all that territory she had just won.  And those taxpayers, represented in Parliament, weren’t going to say yes to any more taxes.  Because they could.  In constitutional Great Britain there was no taxation without the consent of those British subjects taxed.  Well, for some of those British subjects.

The British subjects in North America did not have the same rights as British subjects in Great Britain.  The British Empire needed revenue.  And Parliament turned to the American colonies to collect it.  Without their consent.  Something not allowed by the Bill of Rights.  A 1689 act of English Parliament.  So the British Americans took some offense.  And then the anti-American legislation came.  The Sugar Act of 1764 taxing sugar.  The Quartering Act of 1765 forcing Americans to provide quarters for and to feed British troops.  The Stamp Act of 1765 taxing printed materials.  The Declaratory Act of 1766 which repealed the Stamp Act due to fierce opposition but made all laws passed by Parliament legal and binding in the colonies.  The Townshend Acts starting in 1767 which tried to make the taxes more palatable by taxing only imports.  They didn’t.  It also raised revenue for the British to pay judges and custom officials to keep them loyal to the distant Crown rather than the local populace.  The Commissioners of Customs Act of 1767 that established an administrative board to enforce these new acts.  Headquartered in Boston.  America’s leading port.  This caused a lot of resentment and open hostility to the Crown’s representatives in Boston.  To protect them and to maintain order the British occupied Boston in 1768.  Sending in the Red coats.

Parliament sued for Peace after Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown because the War had grown too Costly to Continue 

This was all very un-English.  Not since the days of the New Model Army had English subjects lived under the tyranny of a standing army.  A very costly standing army.  Paid for by all of those revenue acts.  So here they were.  British subjects.  Who lost centuries of hard-earned rights.  Some going back to Magna Carta in 1215.  While their British brethren were living under a constitutional monarchy in Great Britain.  Enjoying all of their rights.  Where life in North America was turning into an absolute monarchy.  Like their most hated enemy.  The French.

This all boiled over in Boston in 1770.  Beginning with a British sentry.  Some kid forced to stand guard among a hostile populace.  It started with a misunderstanding.  But the hatred of the British helped to escalate it.  Until a mob had gathered.  Taunting the sentry to fire his weapon.  British reinforcements arrived.  Someone struck and knocked down a private.  Who grabbed his weapon and fired.  Then other shots rang out.   Even though the commanding officer did not give the order to fire.  Killing 3.  And wounding 8.  The infamous Boston Massacre.  Patriot and future Founding Father John Adams actually represented the British in court.  Where they got a fair trial.  And the case Adams presented convinced a Boston jury to find most of those on trial not guilty.  Including the commanding officer.  Which was the last act of civility between these two British peoples.

Hostilities would only grow.  And within 5 years there would be a shooting war.  That would take 8 years before a peace would finally end it.  A war won, interestingly, not by a part-time militia.  But by a professional standing army.  That thing the Americans so hated.  But whose very existence prevented an American defeat.  Something General George Washington fully understood.  Who may have lost more battles than he won.  But he won the most important battle of them all.  Keeping that army in the field.  Until the point where Parliament said enough was enough.  Sinking ever further into debt they sued for peace after Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown.  The war had simply grown too costly to continue.  And the taxpayers no longer gave their consent to continue to pay for it.

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William of Orange, Mary, Glorious Revolution, Bill of Rights, Act of Succession, Whigs, Tories and Constitutional Monarchy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2012

Politics 101

Englishman John Lock believed not in the Divine Right of Kings but in the Sovereignty of the People

After the English Civil War, and the English Republic with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, Britain had a king again.  Charles II.  Taking the throne in 1660.  And after what Britain just went through he was going to rule a little more carefully than his dad Charles I.  Who was, after all, beheaded by Parliament.  Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  But he wasn’t going to mess with Parliament.  He didn’t want anyone saying like father like son about him.

In fact, things really began to change under Charles II.  It was the age of empiricism.  The era of observing things.  And making sense out of what you saw.  Which led to some questioning of Church doctrine.  For the Church said they understood everything.  Such as the earth being the center of the universe.  And in the Divine Right of Kings.  But then Galileo observed that the earth revolved around the sun.  Contrary to Church doctrine.  So if the Church was wrong about how the universe worked then perhaps they were wrong about the Divine Right of Kings, too.  People started questioning things.  Francis Bacon who lived through the English Civil War questioned some of the old books.  Believing more in observing things.  And thinking about what you observed.  Tom Hobbes observed life and thought people were a lost cause.  And needed the heavy hand of government to protect them from each other.  To alleviate their suffering from a life that was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  John Locke, a veteran of the English Civil War, thought a lot about what he observed.  He believed everyone was born equal.  And innocent.  He didn’t believe in the Divine Right of Kings or the nobility.  And that government ruled at the consent of the governed.  The idea that kings weren’t sovereign.  The people were.

It was also a science renaissance.  Smart guys were figuring out how to master their environment.  And the seas.  This was the era when the world got smaller.  As ships began to navigate the oceans.  And the great European powers colonized other lands.  Things were looking up in Britain.  Until Charles II died and his son took over being king (1685).  King James II.  Who had none of his father’s cunning political skill (who ruled following a civil war that ended monarchy).  Who liked to rule as he pleased, believing more in the Divine Right of Kings than in Parliament.  But worse of all he was a Catholic.  While the English were still Protestant.  And fiercely anti-Catholic.  Especially with all of this new thinking going on.  They were done with Catholic dogma for good.  And when James started making the Protestant churches of England and Scotland Catholic, well, the people had had enough.

The Act of Succession brought a German from Hanover to the British Throne

James II was chased out of England into exile in France.  A Dutch prince came over to do the job.  William of Orange.  A stout Protestant.  Who had married James’ daughter.  Mary.  With James abdicating his throne (by running away) Parliament made William and Mary joint monarchs.  Not quite a revolution.  But we call it one anyway.  The Glorious Revolution.  Because the William/Mary monarchy was conditional on a Bill of Rights.  Which basically said Protestants and Parliament were in.  The Divine Right of Kings and Catholics were out.  Which was good if you were a Protestant.  But particularly unpleasant if you were a Catholic in Scotland or Ireland.  Who suffered dearly under William.

Things were looking up again for Protestant, liberty-loving Britons.  But the royal monarchs were getting old.  And had no male heirs.  Even Mary’s sister, Anne, failed to produce a male heir.  Big problem.  Then they found a widow of a dead German prince with some Stuart blood in her.  Sophia of Hanover.  Whose mother was the daughter of one James I.  (The dad of Charles I.  King Charles I, of course, being the king Parliament executed after he lost the English Civil War).  And more importantly she was a Protestant.  Problem solved.  The Act of Succession (1701) formally passed the throne to Electress Sophia after everyone else ahead of her died.  And to her heirs upon her death.  The act further stated that a Catholic shall never, ever, sit on the British throne.

Queen Mary died in 1694.  William III followed in 1702.  Making Anne Queen.  Under her reign Scotland joined England in formal union.  Creating a large free-trade zone.  The impetus for the Scots to sign on the dotted line.  The Act of Union ended the Scottish parliament.  Scottish ministers now sat in the British parliament.  In the new union called Great Britain.  In time the Scots and the English would stand shoulder to shoulder on battlefields throughout the world.  Fighting Catholics.  And others.  Building an empire.  Meanwhile Sophia died.  Before Anne.  So when Anne died the throne passed to her son.  George.  Who enjoyed being home in Hanover more than being in England.  And spent more time in his German kingdom.  At first angering Parliament.  But then they grew to like the idea of having all that unfettered power.

British Americans enjoyed their British Heritage, their Religious Freedom and their Constitutional Monarchy

It was the age of Parliament.  And constitutional monarchy.  While George was home in Hanover Parliament governed Great Britain.  It was political parties that fought each other.  Not the Parliament and king.  The Whigs (who favored the Hanover line of succession).  And the Tories (who favored the House of Stuart).  Whigs supported religious freedom.  For them any form of Protestantism was okay.  The Tories preferred only those Protestants in the Church of England.  But they united in their opposition to all things Catholic.  Thanks to a financial scandal tied to the Tories the Whigs ruled for most of the 18th century.  The Whigs MPs grew powerful.  Especially Sir Robert Walpole.  Who the people began calling Prime Minister.

The 18th century saw a series of wars in Europe and throughout the world.  All of which could be boiled down to two things.  Economic advantage.  And the never ending battle between Protestantism and Catholicism.  Which put Protestant Great Britain and Catholic France in a near perpetual state of war in the 18th century.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  Meanwhile the British Americans in the New World were coming of age.  Enjoying their British heritage.  Their religious freedom.  And their constitutional monarchy.  For awhile, at least.  Until they picked up on that idea Locke had.  About the people being sovereign.

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Charles I, Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Strafford, Ulster, William Laud, Grand Remonstrance, English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell & Charles II

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 2nd, 2012

Politics 101

Like Father Like Son, Charles I Dissolves Parliament after not Getting the Money he wanted for his Misadventures

At the start of the 17th century England was a lot like other monarchies in Europe.  Powerful.  And used to getting their way.  Sure, sometimes they had to give a little to Parliament.  That body of the people.  But that was more of an irritant than a force to be reckoned with.  By the end of the century that irritant would become the most powerful restraint on a monarch’s power the word had ever seen.

When the Scottish King James VI became King James I of England the Scottish king changed his Scottish name from ‘Stewart’ to the English ‘Stuart’.  Being the king of Scotland was all well and nice but the money and the power was in England.  And for the first time an English king ruled over Scotland (being Scottish to begin with, of course, helped).  And Wales.  And Ireland.  These were heady times to be king.  But, alas, his subjects didn’t much care for him.  Especially that body of the people.  Parliament.  Which refused to fund his errant ways.  Which took all the fun out of being king. 

Eventually James I did what all kings do.  Died.  And the crown went to Charles I.  Who annoyed his subjects even more than his dad did.  Because, like Dad, he believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  And he dissolved Parliament, too.  Just like Dad.  After Parliament was complaining about his spending habits.  And all those military misadventures.  Headed by a guy Parliament hated.  George Villiers.  The Duke of Buckingham.  Who tried to liberate Protestant Netherlands from Catholic Spain.  And failed.  Who tried to capture the Spanish treasure fleet ala Sir Francis Drake.  And failed.  Who tried to liberate Huguenot (Protestant) France.  And failed.  Buckingham was so hated that someone eventually assassinated him.

The Scottish Commit Treason to Save the Kirk from Catholicism, Charles calls Parliament to Raise an Army

Charles and the Duke were burning through a lot of Parliament’s money.  And had nothing to show for it.  In the process the king was walking all over English Common Law.  Worse, he was meddling with the Church of England.  Making the Protestant church look more and more Catholic.  It was all too much.  To borrow a lyric from the late George Harrison.  So Parliament hit the king where it hurt.  Sir John Eliot led Parliament in restricting customs duties to pay for Charles’ errant ways.  Infuriated, Charles sent his messenger, Black Rod, to dissolve Parliament.  He did.  But not before they passed Three Resolutions.  Calling Charles’ actions treason.  A bit strong for some in Parliament.  Including one ‘Black Tom’ Wentworth.  Who switched sides.  Charles made him the Earl of Strafford.  His muscle.  And sent him to Ireland.

The English may have conquered Ireland but Ireland never fully accepted being conquered.  There were many uprisings against English rule.  The problem was that Ireland was Catholic.  So not only were the English subjugating them they were attacking their religion.  Elizabeth I tried to solve this.  By having Protestant Scots settle in Ireland.  In Ulster.  In Northern Ireland.  James I followed suit.  And then annexed this land.  So there wasn’t a whole lotta love between the Irish and the English.  To borrow a lyric from Robert Plant.  And the Earl of Strafford did nothing to improve that.  He went there for money.  And got it.  More taxes.  And protection money.  Which made the Irish hate the English even more.  As if that was even possible.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, there was more trouble.  The guy making the English Church Catholic, William Laud, was doing the same thing to the Kirk.  The Scottish church.  Which was Presbyterian.  Very Protestant.  And very un-Catholic.  The Presbyterians were already not happy that their Parliament made Charles’ dad head of their church.  For kings weren’t supposed to head Presbyterian churches.  And now this.  This foul wind of Catholicism.  Well, they didn’t just sit there and take it.  They drew up a National Covenant telling Charles to stop.  Or else.  This was, of course, treason.  You just didn’t tell kings what to do.  Especially if said king believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  So Charles wanted to thump them good.  These Covenanters.  But Charles had a bit of a problem.  To raise an army for a good thumping you needed money.  Which wasn’t easy to come by when you’ve dissolved Parliament.  But he sent up a small army anyway in what we call the first Bishops’ War.  Too small to do anything they turned around and went home without fighting a battle.  Charles called for his Muscle.  Strafford.  Who told him to call Parliament.  He did.  A decade or so had passed since he dissolved the previous one.  So there shouldn’t be any harsh feelings, right?

Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army ultimately defeated Charles I in the English Civil War 

But there were.  John Pym was the new head of the royal opposition.  And the people weren’t happy.  In England, Scotland or Ireland.  They hated Laud.  Strafford.  Paying ship money (taxes raised from coastal cities to build navies to protect coastal towns which somehow ended up helping Catholics fight Protestants in the Netherlands).  And they especially hated the court set up to encourage those reluctant to pay forced loans and extralegal taxes loan their money and pay their taxes.  So Charles was not greeted warmly.  Didn’t get the money he wanted.  So he dissolved Parliament after three weeks of this nonsense (thereafter known as the Short Parliament) and told Strafford to raise an army and teach the Scottish who their king was.  He did.  With a small army.  And fought the second Bishops’ War.  Which ended worse for Charles than the first Bishops’ War.  He lost a chunk of northern England this time.  He needed an army.  And to get an army he needed money.  Which left him no choice.  He had to call Parliament again.

This Parliament, the Long Parliament, wasn’t any more helpful.  Instead of giving Charles money they gave him a list of demands.  Arrest Laud and Strafford.  And abolish ship money and those courts.  He signed the order to execute Strafford.  “Put not your trust in Princes,” indeed.  And sent Laud to the Tower of London.  To die of age.  Meanwhile, over in Ireland, the Catholics were rising up in Ulster.  Killing Protestants wherever they found them.  Charles needed money to raise an army and fast.  But Parliament was still reluctant.  As they feared he could turn that army on Parliament.  Pym and another Member of Parliament, Hampden, passed a bill transferring power from king to Parliament.  The Grand Remonstrance.  Which led to civil war.  War between Parliament and the king.

Civil wars are the cruelest of wars.  There were no standing armies then.  So both sides assembled volunteers from their communities.  So those killing each other often knew each other.  Old friends.  Neighbors.  And family.  They tore families and communities apart.  When one of your own kills your friends and family it tends to draw some violent and cruel acts of revenge.  This was the English Civil War.  Bloody.  And cruel.  Parliament lost some early battles.  Thanks to Charles’ cousin.  A professional cavalry officer.  Who knew a thing or two about winning battles.  He so impressed Oliver Cromwell that he raised a professional cavalry force like his to fight for Parliament.  He, too, was very successful.  Soon Parliament organized their whole army along the same lines.  It was the birth of a professional, standing army.  The New Model Army.  Under Cromwell.  And Sir Thomas Fairfax.  It was the New Model Army that ultimately defeated Charles. 

Their British Descendants built the New World with a Full Knowledge of their Past

Parliament won.  Thanks to the army.  But there was little unity in Parliament.  Or the army.  They had Charles.  But they couldn’t agree on what to do with him.  Charles wrote to the Scots and asked them to save their king.  The Scots came down and started fighting.  Leading to a second civil war.  That Cromwell won in short order.  And decided that they had to try Charles for treason.  They found him guilty.  Executed him.  Made England a republic.  And ended hereditary rule.  The Scots, meanwhile, where none too pleased that they executed their king.  So they crowned Charles’ son king.  So Cromwell came north and thumped the Scottish.  Parliament made Cromwell Lord Protector.  He wasn’t a king.  But he sure looked like he was.  Then he went to Ireland and thumped them for their past sins in Ulster. 

Cromwell would die in office.  In 1658.  And much like a monarchy, which England wasn’t, Cromwell’s son inherited his office of Lord Protector.  For a while, at least.  He wasn’t like the old man.  He was weak.  And couldn’t control the army.  Charles II, in exile in the Netherlands, offered the English a deal.  Let him be king and he would give them pardons and promises galore.  Even said he would pay the army.  Long story short, England got a king again.  One that would work with Parliament.  He never trusted them.  For they did kill his dad.  But he tolerated them.  And made a deal with French King Louis XIV.  The Sun King.  Who also believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  Charles II married a Catholic.  And his brother was Catholic.  So he had some mutual interests with the French king.  A reason not to attack Catholics.  Which the French were.  Helping to maintain the peace between the two super powers.  And brought some French funds into the Crown.  Which was a lot easier than begging Parliament for it.

Charles granted complete religious freedom for everyone.  Even Catholics.  In the Declaration of Indulgence.  But Parliament was still Protestant.  So if you wanted to serve in the army, serve in Parliament or go to college you had to be a member of the Protestant Church of England.  So the century ended as it started.  With a king.  Only a king with limited powers.  But it had something new.  Religious freedom.  At least, some religious freedom.  Within a century these things would take on even greater meaning on the other side of the Atlantic.  In the New World.  Where their British descendants would build the new with full knowledge of their past.

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Kennedy Wrong on Kennedy, the Constitution, Catholicism and Abraham Lincoln

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 4th, 2010

There’s no Separation of Church and State in the Constitution

Sarah Palin wrote about JFK’s Houston speech in her new book America by Heart.  I haven’t read her book but, according to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, she doesn’t get JFK or his speech. 

Ms. Kennedy says JFK took a lofty stand to separate church and state.  Palin said JFK dissed the Founding Fathers (see Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion and politics by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend posted 12/3/2010 on The Washington Post).

Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office.

I gotta side with Palin on this.  For I know history.  And a little about JFK.

A lot of people get this wrong.  Especially those on the Left.  They don’t know America’s history.  Or the Constitution.

Briefly, then, here is some American history.  The English founded British North America.  The Church of England is Protestant.  At the time of our founding, the English (and Protestants) hated Catholics.  Americans, then, had a deep-rooted hate of Catholics.  They left England because they felt the Church of England was getting too Catholic for their liking (pick up a history of the English Civil War for more on this).  So they came to America and founded new colonies.  Christian colonies.  Protestant, Christian colonies (except for Maryland which was a Catholic colony.  Go figure.).

All right, long story short, the American colonies were religious colonies.  They had established religions.  And they didn’t want any new fangled central government infringing on their established religions.  The so called wall between church and state in the Constitution has nothing to do about separating church from state.  It was all about keeping the federal government out of the states’ religious business. 

To get the states to ratify the Constitution, the new federal government had to agree not to interfere with the religious business of the individual states.  Hence the ‘shall not establish clause’.  Because the states already had established.  Religions.

Catholics didn’t Feel the Love for a Long Time in America

George Washington was perhaps the first to break down the walls between religions.  He had Protestants and Catholics fighting side by side in his army.  And he was trying to get Catholic French Canada to join the American cause.  So he forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations.  To help serve the army.  And his vision of the new nation.  But it took a long time for Protestant British Americans to warm up to Catholics.

When JFK ran for president, many Americans were still not ready for a Catholic president.  And this was a BIG problem for JFK.  People were worried that Rome would be calling the shots in America with a JFK presidency.  Ergo the Houston speech.

My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

Yes, he urged this.  Because he wanted to be elected president.  Not because he believed in it.  JFK was pragmatic.  He did/said what was necessary.  Whether he believed it or not. 

The Kennedys were Catholic in Name Only

You know, it might have been easier to stress that JFK wasn’t a ‘good’ Catholic.  He was an adulterer.  A good Catholic doesn’t use birth control or abortion.  They only have sex to make babies.  You know, according to Catholicism.  An adulterer, then, is obviously not having sex to make babies.  They’re having sex only for a bit of fun.  And that just ain’t good Catholicism.  According to Catholicism.

Apparently, Palin criticized Nancy Pelosi in her book.  Pelosi, pro-choice (i.e., pro-abortion), is a ‘Catholic’ who believes in something very un-Catholic.

For instance, she criticizes Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), a Democrat and a faithful Catholic, for “talking the (God) talk but not walking the walk.”

Who is Palin to say what God’s “walk” is? Who anointed her our grand inquisitor?

Palin criticized Teddy Kennedy, too.

Teddy Kennedy believed that his stands were at one with his faith. He did disagree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy at times. But as we have seen, the hierarchy’s positions can change, and in our church, we have an obligation to help bring about those changes.

The Catholics have the Pope.  And he is infallible.  So, unless the Pope reports that God changed his mind on the abortion issue, God hasn’t.  You can still be pro-choice if you want to be.  But not in the Catholic Church.

Abraham Lincoln Based his Morality in Religious Beliefs

Abraham Lincoln was a very religious man during the Civil War.  In fact, he thought that the war was God’s punishment for the sin of slavery.  He observed that both the North and the South prayed to the same God.  And that they both couldn’t be fighting on the side of God.

Lincoln’s original goal was to save the union with or without slavery.  That changed.  Because of his religious beliefs.  When once he said a house divided could not stand, he spoke of two options.  All slave.  Or all free.  His religious beliefs changed those two options.  He saw a nation all free.  Or he saw no nation.

Palin, for her part, argues that “morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.” That statement amounts to a wholesale attack on countless Americans, and no study or reasonable argument I have seen or heard would support such a blanket condemnation. For a person who claims to admire Lincoln, Palin curiously ignores his injunction that Americans, even those engaged in a Civil War, show “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Many historians say the Confederate ‘high tide’ of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg.  (Many other historians, myself included, believe the Western Theater was where the war was decided.  But that’s another story for another time).   After three bloody days, General Meade telegraphed Lincoln that the Confederates were repulsed from Union territory.  Lincoln was infuriated (that Meade let a beaten army escape).  For it was all Union territory.

(In Meade’s defense, he was the last general commanding the Army of the Potomac.  General Grant found him one of his more capable general officers.  He put him in the company of General Tecumseh Sherman.  High praise indeed.)

The war would go on for another 2 years.  In all, some 600,000 Americans would die (total North and South).  The Union prevailed.  But the cost was devastating.  There were some who wanted revenge.  They wanted to punish the South.  Not Lincoln.  With the war over, he wanted to bring the South back into the Union as quickly as possible.   There were to be no reprisals.  No trials.  No executions.  He wanted to heal the nation’s wounds.  Put that bloody war behind them.

Thankfully, he imparted this to Generals Grant and Sherman before his assassination.  They followed his orders and granted very generous terms of surrender to Generals Lee and Johnston.  And they in turn helped keep the Civil War from degenerating into a protracted guerrilla war.

When Lincoln said

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

he wasn’t saying ‘judge not lest ye be judged’, he was saying we suffered enough as a nation.  He was saying the war was over.  The healing was to begin.  And that God would help us find our way.

Distorting History to Protect Family

I can understand protecting family.  But when you’re protecting family against presumed misunderstandings of history, one shouldn’t distort history even further to protect your particular version of the facts.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #34: “Sure, until you win the lotto you’re all for sticking it to the rich.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 5th, 2010

Money Envy

Class warfare is a different kind of warfare.  During the English Civil War, the Protestants and the Catholics were trying to kill each other.  They didn’t want to have anything to do with each other.  Protestants didn’t want to be Catholic.  Catholics didn’t want to be Protestant.  But in class warfare, it’s a little different.  The poor want to be rich.

The poor hate the rich because they have it so much better than the poor.  But they don’t hate the idea of being rich per se.  Just who gets to be rich.  Because, given half the chance, they’d choose to be rich if they could.  Why?  Because the rich typically don’t go wanting for food, shelter or clothes.  They also get to have all the neat toys to play with.  And they wear some nice bling.

So the poor don’t really hate the rich.  It’s just money envy.  After a child grows up he or she may notice that they like money.  They see they have no money of their own.  So they want their mother’s or father’s money.  Because there are limits, and sometimes outright rejection, they seek money elsewhere.  As they grow up, they may get a job.  Sell drugs.  Prostitute themselves to conventioneers.  Marry into it.  Steal it.  Become a ward of the state.  Or play the lotto.

Whose Money is it Anyway?

During this phase in their life, politicians, college professors and the media bombard them with messages of income redistribution.  Fair share sacrifice.  Taxes on the rich.   And all around fairness.  It all sounds good.  And right.  Those damn rich people.  How dare they?  Why them?  Why not me? 

Well, some inherited their money.  Like the Kennedys.  Some married into it.  Like John Kerry.  They live like rich royalty from days of old.  When there was a true aristocratic class that could actually own people.  But they are there, fighting for you.  Liberals.  Taking away other people’s money and giving it to the more deserving.  And the poor are all for that.

A luxury tax?  Yeah, stick it to them.  An inheritance tax?  Sounds good to me.  How about taxing their assets?  Their net wealth?  Because some of those rich bastards don’t even work.  They invest their money.  Sure, they pay a confiscatory capital gains tax on their earnings, but their earnings pale in comparison to their overall wealth.  We need to go after that pile of wealth.  Redistribute it.  Along egalitarian principles.  Level the playing field.  Close the gap between the rich and the poor.  The way the liberals look at it, it’s the government’s money anyway.  So the government can spread it around as they damn well please.

Poor/Rich – It’s All Relative

Most of these rich bastards are not Kennedys or John Kerrys, though.  Most are self-made.  Through hard work.  And personal sacrifice.  Most are small business owners.  They borrowed everything they could.  They mortgaged their homes.  They risked their children’s college funds.  And they made something.  A small business.  Created jobs.  They hired people.  Something the Kennedys and the John Kerrys of the world don’t do.

Most of these small business owners are ‘S’ corporations.  They aren’t big corporations with corporate officers.  No finance or a legal department.  They’re just people who work 80+ hours a week.  They may never see a million in annual revenue.  But they’ll probably make more than $250,000.  And, being an ‘S’ corporation, that makes them rich.  Even if they leave the money in their business to grow it.  But the IRS still taxes them like they’re rich fat cats lighting their cigars with $20 bills. 

Yes, they’re small business owners.  But they’re still pretty much middle class people.  Do the poor hate them, too?  Sort of.  Simply because they have more than they do.  And the politicians, college professors and the media point out how wrong that is.

Congratulations.  And Thank You

And then one day you buy a lotto ticket and, overnight, you become rich.  Congratulations.  It’s nice to have another rich person to tax.

Yes, you won the lotto and now you’re rich.  How does that feel?  Are you looking forward to redistributing your winnings?  For egalitarian principles?  Help close that gap between rich and poor?  Or have you become a greedy rich bastard?  Like all those others you used to hate until you became one of them?

Whether you do or not doesn’t matter.  For the IRS will be coming after you.  With their hand out.  For their share, a sizeable chunk of your winnings.  Your windfall will push you into the highest tax brackets.  And, guess what?  If you don’t pay your ‘fair share of taxes’ willingly, they’ll come after you.  Or seize your wealth.  And as sad as that may be, few will pity you.  Just as you did not pity those before you were rich.

Be Careful What You Vote For

Class warfare is good for politics.  Because there are always more poor people than rich.  And poor people are useful to someone running for public office.

But they don’t like you.  They don’t really care about you.  They care about only one thing.  To keep you poor.  For should you win the lotto, the chances of you voting for high taxes and income redistribution are slim to none.  Your egalitarian principles will fly out the window.  Which won’t help them.  So should you become rich, they will vilify you.  Come after you with a vengeance.  To take your wealth.  And return it to the rightful owners.  Themselves.  The government.  So they can use it as they please.  To buy votes.

And how will you feel then?  You might want to think about this ‘what if’.  Because you could win the lotto one day.  Inherit wealth.  Marry into it.  Or even earn it.  I mean, be careful what you vote for while in college.  One day you might make something of that education.  You may very well become rich one day.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #14: “Christianity does not beget antidisestablishmentarianism.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 18th, 2010

DID THE FOUNDING Fathers found America as a Christian nation?  No.  Did they found a secular nation?  Not exactly.  Did they found a federal nation?  Yes.

Federalism.  What does it mean?  It means the new federal government would have LIMITED powers.  The new national government would do national things.  Trade.  National defense.  Treat with other nations.  In other words, those things that required a single national voice.  The French didn’t want to treat with the individual states.  They didn’t want one set of trade agreements for Virginia and another for North Carolina.  Neither did Great Britain.  Or the other European powers.  No.  If the United States of America wanted to be an independent nation, then they had to act as a single, unified nation.  So they did.

The other things, the non-national things, they left to the states.  And one of these things was religion.  For when it came to religion, the new federal government did not interfere in the states’ religious business.  Ergo the First Amendment.  The ‘wall’ between church and state was to separate the new federal government from the states’ religious establishments.  If a state discriminated against all but their established religion, that was fine and dandy for it was a moot point as far as the federal government was concerned.  It just wasn’t their business.

Now, a truly secular government would intervene in such a case.  The federal government would later, but at the founding, one of the preconditions for ratification of the Constitution was that it wouldn’t.  And it didn’t.  Interfere with a state’s religion.

WE ALL KNOW the story of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, coming to the New World from England to escape religious persecution.  Probably not as familiar with the backstory.  The English Civil War.  Duke of Buckingham.  King and Parliament.  Queen and Parliament.  The French.  The Spanish.  The Pope.  The Kirk.  The Ulster Uprising.  Oliver Cromwell.  And, of course, William Laud.

Here’s the short version of what happened.  And some back-story to the back-story.  The Protestant Reformation split the Catholic Church.  Much fighting ensued.  This split nations into essentially Catholic and Protestant camps (which broke down into further divisions).  England was Protestant.  Scotland was Presbyterian (a branch of Protestantism).  Ireland was Catholic with a Protestant enclave in Ulster.

Mix them together, add a not great English king, who married a French Catholic, throw in a revised Church of England prayer book, bring back some Catholicism to the Protestant Church of England, dissolve Parliament, recall Parliament, try to dissolve it again and, well, you get civil war.  Parliament wins the war.  They behead the king. 

The English Civil War is a little more complicated than this.  But for our purposes, it’s the religious component that’s important. Everyone persecuted someone at one time.  One group, the Puritans, were Protestants.  Hardcore Protestants.  Calvinists.  They were about as anti-Catholic as you could get.  Didn’t like any of the Catholics’ fancy vestments, icons, statues, pictures, altar rails, candlesticks, stained glass windows, etc.  That church was corrupt.  They had lost their way. 

They didn’t believe in original sin or that you can buy your way into heaven.  God chose your fate before you were born.  If you were one of the elect, you passed your days in long church services and you read the Bible.  If you didn’t do these things it was proof you weren’t one of the elect.  And were damned.  No matter what you did during your life.  Cure cancer, it didn’t matter.  You were damned.

They didn’t like Catholics and Catholics didn’t like them.  And, as it turned out, the Protestant powers that be didn’t much care for them either.  In England or on the Continent.  They just couldn’t be un-Catholic enough to please the Puritans.  Much bitterness ensued.  Many left the Old World and settled in the New World.  Like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, these Puritans came to the New World to establish that city on a hill of Mathew 5:14 fame (from the Sermon on the Mount.  Given by Jesus Christ.  Just in case you’re unfamiliar with it).

THEY CAME FROM England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and settled in New England, New York and the far side of the Appalachians.  A hard working people.  They provided for themselves.  Went to church.  Read the Bible.  All work and no play.  At least, some would say. 

They established the state-supported Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John Adams was born and raised a Calvinist and attended this state-supported church.  When writing the new state’s constitution, the state support of the church was a contentious issue.  Most felt that religion was an indispensible part of life.  Others agreed but feared a religious majority would oppress a religious minority.  The process would take 3 years to resolve.

Being in the heart of the rebellion, Abigail Adams, Founding Mother, and perhaps America’s first feminist, experienced much of the darker side of the struggle for independence.  Soulmate of John Adams in every sense of the word, she was as religious as he.  As the war dragged on with no end in sight, she feared it was God’s punishment for the sins of American slavery.

IN VIRGINIA, THE established church was the Anglican Church (i.e., the Church of England).  As in Massachusetts, there was debate about an established majority religion oppressing a minority religion.  For good reason.  It did.  Right in James Madison’s backyard.  Baptists were harassed.  And imprisoned.  You needed a license to preach.  Virginia and the established church made getting that license very difficult.  If you were a Baptist.

America’s least religious Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Virginian Statute for Religious Freedom.  The Virginian General Assembly passed it in 1786, two years before the states ratified the U.S. Constitution.  To help get the Virginian Baptists on board for ratification, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, promised to add a Bill of Rights after ratification that would add similar rights and protection at the federal level that were enacted at the state level.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MAY have been a Deist.  He was, after all, the embodiment of the Enlightenment.  Like Thomas Jefferson.  They embraced reason over dogma.  But Franklin believed religious faith was fundamental to civilized society.  His personal beliefs boiled down to simply doing good deeds.  Help others.  And sometimes you need to remind some people to help others.  And that’s why he liked religion.  He spent much of his life helping his community (serving in the state militia, participating in the volunteer fire department, etc.).  At an impasse at the Constitutional Convention, it was he who suggested they should pray.

GEORGE WASHINGTON MAY not have taken communion, but he added chaplains to his army units during the American Revolution.  He believed the American cause was a divine one.  He feared a lack of faith may determine battlefield outcomes.  He led an integrated army of Protestants and Catholics.  And Jews.  And blacks.  And others.  He forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations which were very common in the former British colonies.  When an Army went to Canada to attack the British, they were to respect the Catholic French Canadians and invite them to join their cause.  He would even attend Catholic service on occasion.  Like the army, the nation he would lead would be a melting pot.  Tolerance and respect was the mantra.  For all Americans.

SO, DID THE Founding Fathers found a Christian nation?  No.  Religious establishment was simply beyond the responsibility of the new federal government.  Did Christians settle the original colonies?  Yes.  And they established Christian churches.  And the states were worried that a new federal government would interfere with their religious business.  Some wanted additional safeguards written in.  So James Madison added the Bill of Rights after ratification.  The First Amendment placed a wall between the federal government and the States’ religious establishments.

In time, the states extended the tolerance and respect of religious diversity prevalent in Washington’s army to their states.  They disestablished their established churches.  And, to their relief, religion flourished.  Especially the different branches of Christianity.  Yes, America became even more Christian, but it tolerated and respected other religions.  New York even had a Jewish Temple 3 years after the British surrender at Yorktown.  And even the Catholics were welcomed in the new nation.

DISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM INCREASED THE spread of Christianity.  Like the economy, the freer it was the more it flourished.  And with the great number of Christian religions that have since spread across the nation, it is unlikely that overt acts of Christianity would result in the establishment of one of these.  Or the reestablishment of the Church of England. 

So go ahead and display your Christmas Crèche or the Ten Commandments.  Chances are good that it won’t beget antidisestablishmentarianism.

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