Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Country Tis Of Thee

Happy Independence day, y'all!

From Catholic World Report, "10 Things You Should Know About the American Founding":
None of this should suggest, however, that all Americans held anti-Catholic views. Some of the most prominent Americans held absolutely no tolerance for intolerance. The most important was George Washington who accepted, without reservation, Catholics and Jews as fully republican citizens. In a March 1790 address to the Roman Catholics in the United States, he stated:

"As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed. . . . And may the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

Constitution Convention with George Washington
Another critic of anti-Catholicism was one of the least religious of the founders, Ben Franklin. In the spring of 1776, Franklin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Jacky Carroll (Charles’s cousin and close friend) traveled to Canada in a failed mission to convince the Canadians to join the American cause. Along the way, Franklin and the two Carrolls struck up a strong friendship. After the success of the American war for Independence, the Vatican decided it was time to name a bishop in North America. No bishop, not even Anglican/Episcopalian bishops, had ever stepped foot in the thirteen colonies (or, states, after 1776). Hoping not to offend republican sensibilities, the Vatican contacted Franklin through two agents. Franklin said the man for the job was Jacky, and the Vatican consequently appointed John Carroll as the first archbishop in the United States.
From The Imaginative Conservative, "Americana Res Publica: No Revolution":
Despite our post-modern tendency to distort and mock the true meanings of words, America never has been, nor really can it be, a democracy. Indeed, as several founders made clear, democracy was a great evil, necessary perhaps in some manifestation, but not as the ruling element of a balanced government or a stable society. In the opening days of the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, several participants described the havoc caused by too much democracy.
Gerry of Massachusetts lamented,
The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue; but are the dupes of pretended patriots [“demagogues” in the original; later corrected].
And, Randolph of Virginia proclaimed
the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the U.S. laboured; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.

My favorite quote, though, comes from Fisher Ames, 1806:
Our disease is democracy. It is not the skin that festers--our very bones are carious, and their marrow blackens with gangrene. Which rogues shall be first, is of no moment--our republicanism must die, and I am sorry for it. But why should we care what sexton happens to be in office at our funeral? Nevertheless, though I indulge no hopes, I derive much entertainment from the squabbles in Madam Liberty’s family. After so many liberties have been taken with her, I presume she is not longer a miss and a virgin, though she may still be a goddess.
Poor Columbia.
And yet, as many Jacksonians wished it to be, the Republic was neither purely a commercial nor libertarian one. Indeed, the American founders crafted not a commercial republic, but a virtuous republic, allowing for commerce and liberty to serve as a means by which man could use each of his gifts wisely and for the common good (the good thing; the res publica).
While not all of the founders belonged to orthodox Christian denominations or even subscribed to Jewish or Christian orthodoxy, they each accepted most of what the Judeo-Christian context and heritage had bequeathed to them. Their understanding of liberty was not the collectivist or primivist liberty of Rousseau or the atheistic and abstract liberty of Locke, but the liberty of St. Paul as described in his letter to the Galatian Christian community, the freedom to do what one ought to do.
For most patriots, one could find the best definition of liberty in the prophetic writings of Micah (4:4), as our own John Willson has reminded us many times. “But they shall sit every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid,” the Jewish prophet had written.
In these understandings, rooted in the classical as well as the Judeo-Christian, the founders wanted to emulate Republican Rome, not Carthage, as another one of us, Gleaves Whitney, has poignantly argued.
(Both of the above articles were written by a great American and man, Brad Birzer.)

Any fun plans for today? I'm going to my future family's house in a bit.

In the meantime, I hope your heart swells and surges like mine when I hear this song:

Have a blessed day with family and friends, and God bless our country!

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