Americans, almost uniquely in the world, have had reason to consider themselves truly citizens rather than subjects, but that’s changing as the administrative state grows. Angelo M. Codevilla takes a look at the situation in a post at the Library of Law and Liberty.
Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’
If you’re wondering why, say, The Little Sisters of the Poor can’t just sign off on a form and let others go along with the HHS mandate for them, read this (“St. Thomas More, The Little Sisters of the Poor & the Casualness of Conscience,” Tod Worner, January 7, 2014, at Patheos). Well, even if you know already why they can’t, you might want to read the post. It’s a good overview, and a good reminder of some of what’s at stake.
The treaty that was signed at the formal end of the American Revolution begins:
In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.
It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse , between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony; and having for this desirable end already laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation by the Provisional Articles signed at Paris on the 30th of November 1782…
Read related documents here.
This address by Hunter Baker is one of the best I’ve seen for explaining why the HHS mandate, and other recent policies put forth by the federal government in the United States, are rightly seen as an assault on freedom in general, and religious liberty in particular.
It also packs a surprising amount of historical information into a short space.
Some American history, from Citizen Magazine (emphasis in original):
…Today, there are some — mainly on the Left — who paint the Founders not as Christians but as Deists, believers in an impersonal creator who left his creations to fend for themselves. But while that description fits less than a handful of the Founders, to varying degrees, it clearly doesn’t fit the vast majority.
Of the 55 signers of the U.S. Constitution, “with no more than five exceptions, they were orthodox members of one of the established congregations,” wrote the late University of Dallas historian M.E. Bradford.6 “References made by the Framers to Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Son of God … are commonplace in their private papers, correspondence and public remarks — and in the early records of their lives.”7
And this wasn’t just lip service, Bradford noted: The faith the Framers professed played a large role in their lives.
Thus, both James Madison and Alexander Hamilton “regularly led their households in the observance of family prayers.” Roger Sherman “was a ruling elder of his church.” John Dickinson of Delaware “wrote persuasive letters to youthful friends conserving the authority of Scripture and the soundness of Christian evidences.” Richard Bassett, also of Delaware, “rode joyfully with his former slaves to share in the enthusiasm of their singing on the way to Methodist camp meetings.” Elias Boudinot of New Jersey “was heavily involved in Christian missions and was the founder of the American Bible Society.” 8
The Wall That Never Was
Why would such men have written a First Amendment that sought to purge religious expression and values from the public square? Simple: They didn’t.
The Founders wanted to preserve the many vibrant Christian churches that were thriving in America. So they provided in the First Amendment that no Congress could squelch the free exercise of religion or establish a national church body— as had happened in England, driving many of their ancestors to the New World.
They also created a decentralized system that left states free to pursue diverse policies. Some (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, South Carolina and Maryland) gave funding or property to churches. A few state constitutions contained religious requirements. Pennsylvania and New York required officeholders to pledge belief in the divine inspiration of Scripture.
To be sure, that wasn’t the norm. Most states guaranteed religious liberty, on the principle that government compulsion was an affront to true worship. But the very language in those guarantees testified to the prevailing faith. Many used terms of praise like “Almighty God.” Massachusetts spoke of “the right, as well as the duty, of all men in society … to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.”9
And the federal government itself, though much more limited in its religious involvements, did things that would make an ACLU attorney blanch. Even one of the least religiously orthodox Founders, Thomas Jefferson, used federal funds during his presidency to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians.
That’s especially meaningful since it was Jefferson who authored the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” in a letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association — words now commonly misused to claim that the Founders would have supported an ACLU-like approach. But as Dreisbach notes, “The absurd conclusion that countless courts and commentators would have us reach is that Jefferson routinely pursued policies that violated his own ‘wall of separation.’ ”10
In truth, the Founders never dreamed that, one day, the government they helped establish would so often be hostile to the faith that most of them — despite their many other differences — held in common…
I was raised with the ‘founders were Deists’ idea pounded into my head again and again, which suited me fine (at first) since I was bouncing around from agnostic to atheist to deist myself – and since I was historically illiterate. But then I found more of the old documents, and contemporary accounts of the American Revolution and the decades before and after it. Thinking that the religious tone and references showed a different story than the one I was being told, I asked a teacher or two about it. I was then assured that the Founders wrote and talked that way because the masses were so ignorant as to still believe all that God garbage, and our Founders were wise enough to humor them.
Then I discovered letters that they wrote to each other, and to young people they were mentoring. So much for that ‘humoring the masses’ idea. Upon hearing this objection, my teachers told me that although the Founders were products of the Enlightenment, they were of course early in the process and so were of course poisoned by the social conventions of their times. They didn’t really believe in God, they simply didn’t know how to talk or write or think any other way…
While I will agree that we are all influenced by the culture in which we are raised (witness the fact that I actually believed my teachers for a while, even on that last point), at some point I had to decide that my teachers were protesting too much. The Founders – who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the cause, and stayed the course at tremendous sacrifice, and who prayed and praised God both publicly and privately – made sense only if I ignored the very odd, and very recent, spin put upon them by my teachers. The original documents, the earlier textbooks, the art around official buildings in Washington D.C., the policies of the government – pretty much everything put out by people who hadn’t fallen into Social Darwinist thinking (or its near cousins) – argued against the intellectual fad I was taught in public school, and then in college.
From Mr. Smith and The Ides of March, by Robinson O’Brien-Bours:
While both Clooney’s and Capra’s films depict a political system rife with corruption, there is a hugely important difference between the two. Clooney’s dark and pessimistic tale brings no closure to it, and no hope; one leaves the theater with a bitter sense of disappointment and cynical contempt for our political process. It is a tragedy where everyone loses, much like the tale of Julius Caesar that the title alludes to.
Mr. Smith, though, has a far different, more lasting, and more important tone. It depicts one decent and determined common man, surrounded by petty bunch of political thugs, who nonetheless makes a difference. This is not to say that its title character, Jefferson Smith, is alone in his feelings–the people support him, and there are even members of the Senate who likely support him as well, but are yet complicit with the villains through their silence. Smith still wins in the end, though.
Perhaps this is too idealistic. Perhaps the cynical transformation of Gosling’s Stephen Myers is closer to the real thing than the determined support for lost causes exhibited by Stewart’s Smith. If that is the case, though, then the fault is not with our system of government, but with us. We are the government.
Many Americans over the past few years seem to see our country through the same jaded vision of The Ides of March, and are tired of it. Perhaps, then, now is the perfect time to revisit the 1939 classic, which came out just in time for Nazis, Soviets, and Fascists to all ban it for its dangerous idea. When Hitler banned American movies in France, one Parisian theater played Mr. Smith nonstop for the month leading up to the ban. Tyrants are threatened by the idea that individuals have power; mortified by the possibility that one single person has the power to change the world. The reason they fear this is because it is true: good men, armed by the truth and common decency, can do more to change the world than all the armies and propaganda of tyranny and corruption in the world combined. It just takes hard determination in face of the harshest adversity.