Lee v. Weisman

Vine & Fig Tree's
of Church and State Page

Religion and Government
No Separation of True Religion and Government

There are several lines of evidence which show that the Constitution was never intended nor understood to deny the fact that both human beings and their institutions (such as "the State") have duties given them from God which they are obligated to obey. Until the rise of the ACLU and the myth of the "separation of church and state," the Constitution never prevented a politician from publicly acknowledging God or performing his public duties in accord with God's Commandments. Ecclesiastical and political power could be kept separate, but there is nothing in the Constitution which institutionally separates America from God and from True Religion.

In article <>, (THR) writes:

>it remains that the liberal founding of this nation

If the word "liberal" is taken in its 19th-century meaning, I am a liberal. The word meant one who preferred liberty over government regulation. 19th-century "liberals" would be called "libertarians" today. So-called liberals today do not trust the people to exercise self-government. Liberalism today is elitism. The Founding Fathers believed in Christian self-government. Government "under God."

Daniel J. Mahoney, "Pierre Manent and the New French Thought,"
Crisis Magazine, January 1995, p.39
Manent is sympathetic to those "liberals" such as Benjamin Constant and Alexis de Tocqueville (and for that matter the authors of The Federalist) who understood, however differently, that the defects of democracy are rooted at least in part in modern, democratic principles themselves: the French Revolution in contrast to the American Revolution had revealed the despotic and even nihilistic consequences of a "democratic" and "revolutionary" will which recognizes no order or principle outside itself. Authentic "liberals" recognize that human liberty cannot be grounded in "modern" or "liberal" or "democratic" principles alone. Tocqueville, filled with "religious terror" before the project of democratic sovereignty, sketched in response a new political science and art of liberty which worked to reconcile judiciously the spirit of liberty and the spirit of religion.

>was in direct opposition to authority (ANY authority, natural or
>supernatural) and in direct support of self-government.

"Opposition to supernatural authority" is an egregious misreading (if a reading at all) of American history. No serious historian could maintain and defend this proposition. This is bumper-sticker historiography. This is sound-bite scholarship. Time for Secular Humanists to revise their "How to Debate the Fundies" Handbook.

There is no evidence that the Constitution took America out from under the authority of God; that it made America no longer a nation "under God." This is pure fiction.

And if THR is annoyed at my "robbing our country's founding principles . . . of all historical context," let's make sure we see the context.

John Winthrop, in his 1644 document, Arbitrary Government Described, found in the Harvard Classics (1910), Vol.43, p.98 - p.99, said:

Every law must be just in every part of it, but if the penalty annexed be unjust, how can it be held forth as a just law? To prescribe a penalty must be by some rule, otherwise it is an usurpation of God's prerogative; but where the law-makers, or declarers, cannot find a rule for prescribing a penalty, if it come before the judges pro re nata, there it is determinable by a certain rule, viz., by an ordinance set up of God for that purpose, which hath a sure promise of Divine assistance (Exo. xxi. 22; Deut. xvi. 18). "Judges and Officers shalt thou make, etc., and they shall judge the people with just judgment." (Deut. xxv. 1, 2, and xvii. 9, 10, 11). [F]or a divine sentence is in the lips of the King, his mouth transgresseth not in judgment (Prov. xvi.), but no such promise was ever made to a paper sentence of human authority or invention. He who hath promised His servants to teach them what to answer, even in that hour when they shall be brought before judgment seats, etc., will also teach his ministers, the judges, what sentence to pronounce, if they will also observe His word and trust in Him. "Care not for the morrow, etc." is a rule of general extent, to all cases where our providence may either cross with some rule or ordinance of His, or may occasion us to rely more upon our own strengths and means, than upon His grace and blessing. In the sentence which Solomon gave between the two harlots (1 Kings 111. 28), it is said that all Israel heard of the judgment which the King had judged; and they feared the King, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment. See here, how the wisdom of God was glorified, and the authority of the judge strengthened by this sentence; whereas in men's prescript sentences neither of these can be attained;

"Arbitrary government" comes when rulers ignore the law of nature and of nature's God. A century later John Locke (falsely charged in our day with deism) echoed this same sentiment:

[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God. [L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.
[Two Treatises on Government, Bk II sec 135. {quoting Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity {shows Puritan influence}]

And in this context, Madison placed our nation under the authority of God with his proclamation:

Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of public humiliation and prayer; and
Whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed to offer at one and the same time their common vows and adorations to Almighty God on the solemn occasion produced by the war in which He has been pleased to permit the injustice of a foreign power to involve these United States:
I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment, and especially of offering fervent supplications that in the present season of calamity and war He would take the American people under His peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms; that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that, turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace. Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A. D. 1812. [SEAL.]
[From Annals of Congress, Twelfth Congress, part 2, 2224.]
Messages and Papers of the Presidents, James Madison, vol. 1, p.498

Pledged as we are, fellow-citizens, to these sacred engagements, we yet humbly, fervently implore the Almighty Disposer of events to avert from our land war and usurpation, the scourges of mankind; to permit our fields to be cultivated in peace; to instil into nations the love of friendly intercourse; to suffer our youth to be educated in virtue, and to preserve our morality from the pollution invariably incident to habits of war; to prevent the laborer and husbandman from being harassed by taxes and imposts; to remove from ambition the means of disturbing the commonwealth; to annihilate all pretexts for power afforded by war; to maintain the Constitution; and to bless our nation with tranquillity, under. whose benign influence we may reach the summit of happiness and glory, to which we are destined by nature and nature's God.
Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Pronouncing The Alien And Sedition Laws To Be Unconstitutional, And Defining The Rights Of The States.
Drawn by Mr. Madison IN THE VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES Friday, December 21, 1798
Jonathan Elliot, Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4, p.532

[T]he rights essential to happiness . . . We claim them from a higher source -- from the King of kings and Lord of all the earth
John Dickinson, Signer of Constitution, Governor of Pennsylvania,
The Political Writings of John Dickinson, (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801) Vol. 1, p. 111.

The greatest engine of "tyranny" is a State which thinks it has no responsibility to obey God.

>Not everyone, either
>then or now, agrees with this radical secular principle, and they don't have
>to -- but it IS our standard of law, and it is what insures us against

If it is our standard of law, why has the Court never said "this is a secular nation," but the Court has in fact stated several times, This is a Christian nation?

Why is it none of the defining moments of American history were undertaken as atheists, but in fact were engaged in as Christians?

The commander-in-chief directs that divine service be performed every Sunday at eleven o'clock in those brigades [in] which there are chaplains; those which have none [are] to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example to their men. While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian. The signal instances of providential goodness which we have experienced, and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good.
—George Washington, General Orders. . (1778.)

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick. 39 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-44. vol. 11, p. 342.

The first difficulty to be overcome existed in Boston itself. Cushing, the speaker, who had received a private letter from Dartmouth, and was lulled into confiding in "the noble and generous sentiments" of that minister, advised that for the time the people should bear their grievances. "Our natural increase in wealth and population," said he, "will in a course of years settle this dispute in our favor; whereas, if we persist in denying the right of parliament to legislate for us, they may think us extravagant in our demands, and there will be great danger of bringing on a rupture fatal to both countries." He thought the redress of grievances would more surely come "if these high points about the supreme authority of parliament were to fall asleep." Against this feeble advice, the Boston committee of correspondence aimed at the union of the province, and "the confederacy of the whole continent of America." They refused to waive the claim of right, which could only divide the Americans in sentiment and confuse their counsels. "What oppressions," they asked, in their circular to all the other towns, "may we not expect in another seven years, if through a weak credulity, while the most arbitrary measures are still persisted in, we should be prevailed upon to submit our rights, as the patriotic Farmer expresses it, to the tender mercies of the ministry? Watchfulness, unity, and harmony are necessary to the salvation of ourselves and posterity from bondage. We have an animating confidence in the Supreme Disposer of events, that he will never suffer a sensible, brave, and virtuous people to be enslaved."
George Bancroft, History of the United States, Vol.3,
Chapter 34: The Boston Tea-Party, August-December 1773

The authority of Parliament was questioned only because of the rights and absolutes given by the Creator.

In article <>, (THR) writes:

>The basis for it is clearly revealed in the ferment of
>Enlightenment philosophers and scientists, and clearly reflected in the views
>of such
>reformers as Locke, Paine and Jefferson.

Paine was rejected by the Founders because he rejected the authority of God:

Locke was a Christian. Quote Locke for the proposition that America should not be under the authority of God. This is mere name-dropping. Locke said (above) that our laws must be judged by the Bible.

Locke does not deny the existence of God. . . . Rather, God has given individual human beings powers of sensation and reflection, through which people can discover what they need to know in this world. . . . . Locke was confident that a thorough intellectual individualism, very reasonable, would secure mankind against the violence of Unreason. Formal schooling, Locke thought, would suffice to keep human beings reasonable. In part, Locke's theory of knowledge was a reaction against the religious fanaticism of seventeenth-century Britain. Turn away from religious dogmatism, Locke is saying, in effect: hereafter base your actions upon sweet reason, as ascertained by the individual's five senses. But Locke did not foresee the coming, a century later, of fanatic political ideology; still less did he foresee that there would develop a fanatic cult of Reason, beginning in France.
Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.291-92

This does not mean, however, that the Founding Fathers always interpreted Lockean ideas in a purely Lockean manner. While they drew on the spirited Locke of the Two Treatises on Government for practical purposes, there is little evidence they accepted the relativistic and radical Locke of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The Founders associated Locke with Richard Hooker and other European (especially Protestant) natural law writers and the classical republican tradition of England.
Matthew Spalding, "From Toleration to Liberty," Crisis Magazine, July/August 1995, p.42

As for Jefferson,

This was true even of the more innovating Americans, among them Thomas Jefferson. As Gilbert Chinard writes, "The Jeffersonian philosophy was born under the sign of Hengist and Horsa, not of the Goddess Reason." That is, Jefferson was more influenced by his understanding of English history (especially of the Anglo-Saxon period, beginning with the landing in Britain of the Teutonic chieftains Hengist and Horsa) than he was influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Jefferson knew his Locke, and praised him highly; but in his Commonplace Book and his public papers, Jefferson cited more frequently such juridical authorities as Coke and Kames. And Jefferson denied that he had copied the Declaration of Independence from Locke's Second Treatise.
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.291-92

Jefferson did not reject the authority of God in favor of the authority of man or the authority of the federal government. The civil government was to be "separate" from ecclesiastical governments, but BOTH were to be "under God." True religion secured civil prosperity.

The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus, and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in his discourses.
— TJ to James Fishback, Sept 27, 1809, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Edited by Albert Ellery Bergh. 20 vols. Washington: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907, vol.12, p. 315.

Speaking of "the widespread denunciation of him by his political opponents as an anti-Christian infidel or atheist," Foote observes,

[I]t is one of the minor ironies of history that such slanders should have been so generally and so long believed about the man whose knowledge of and admiration for the teachings of Jesus have never been equaled by any other President.
Henry Wilder Foote, "Introduction," The Jefferson Bible, 18

It was not, however, to be understood that instruction in religious opinion and duties was meant to be precluded by the public authorities as indifferent to the interests of society. On the contrary, the relations which exist between man and his Maker and the duties resulting from those relations are the most interesting and important to every human being and the most incumbent on his study and investigation. -- TJ, Report to the Visitors [school boards] Oct 7, 1822

As between religion and irreligion, Jefferson did not hesitate to place the government under the authority of God. Only the authority of Great Britain was challenged.

"In the summer of the year 1783, it was expected that the assembly of Virginia would call a Convention for the establishment of a Constitution. The following draught of a fundamental Constitution for the Commonwealth of Virginia was then prepared, with a design of being proposed in such Convention had it taken place."
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 2, p.281 Appendix No. II. Fundamental Constitution for the Commonwealth of Virginia

To the citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia, and all others whom it may concern, the delegates for the said commonwealth in Convention assembled, send greeting:

It is known to you and to the world, that the government of Great Britain, with which the American States were not long since connected, assumed over them an authority unwarrantable and oppressive; that they endeavored to enforce this authority by arms, and that the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, considering resistance, with all its train of horrors, as a lesser evil than abject submission, closed in the appeal to arms. It hath pleased the Sovereign Disposer of all human events to give to this appeal an issue favorable to the rights of the States; to enable them to reject forever all dependence on a government which had shown itself so capable of abusing the trusts reposed in it; and to obtain from that government a solemn and explicit acknowledgment that they are free, sovereign, and independent States.

In article <>, (THR) writes:

>The document, our Constitution,
>that upholds that standard of liberation, is as secular a document that could
>ever POSSIBLY be written for modeling a government.  It was a quite conscious
>act of rebellion against authority.

If you want to see a secular society, go to France about the same time as the US Constitution was being put into effect. Jefferson spoke of "The horrors of the French revolution."[1] "Like the rest of mankind, he was disgusted with atrocities of the French revolution. . . . " [2] "November the 5th, 1793. E. Randolph tells me; that Hamilton, in conversation with him yesterday, said, "Sir, if all the people in America were now assembled, and to call on me to say whether I am a friend to the French revolution, I would declare that I have it in abhorrence." [3]

The leading feature in the mind and character of Thomas Jefferson was a firm and undoubting belief in the worth and dignity of human nature, and in the capacity of man for self government. . . . It seems to have been inborn; but whether inborn or communicated, it ruled his life; it burst from him like the peal of an anthem when he came to pen the immortal Declaration; his long residence in Europe only confirmed it; the excesses of the French Revolution had no effect to abate it, and it breathes through every line of his public utterances from his seat as President of the United States; it was the foundation of his virtues and the source of his errors; and not only the source of these, but the cause of the false imputation to him of errors he never committed; his friendships and his enmities were alike due to it; he distrusted all who were not in full sympathy with it, and they distrusted him.
. . .
The impulse of the movement which culminated in the French Revolution, reaching these shores, stirred the sympathies and passions of both parties, the one espousing the cause of Democratic France and the other of monarchical England. The Federal party, alarmed for the public welfare, and fearful lest the license of the French revolutionists should be repeated on this side of the water, sought to strengthen authority by those acts of repressive Federal power, since generally condemned, called the Alien and Sedition laws. [4]

It is probable, too, that by being boarded in a French family, the habit of speaking that language may be obtained. I do not count on any advantage to be derived, in Geneva, from a familiar acquaintance with the principles of that government. The late revolution has rendered it a tyrannical aristocracy, more likely to give ill than good ideas to an American.[5]

But [Jefferson] suffered bitter disappointment as he saw the [French Revolution] degenerate into extremism and bloodshed after his departure from France. Years later, he admitted that John Adams had been right in predicting that the revolution would fail to produce a free republic—but even then he was not willing to give up hope for the future:

Your prophecies [about the French Revolution] proved truer than mine.… The destruction of eight or ten millions of human beings has probably been the effect of these convulsions. I did not, in 1789, believe they would have lasted so long, nor have cost so much blood.

But although your prophecy has proved true so far, I hope it does not preclude a better final result. 22 [TJ to John Adams (11 Jan. 1816), Bergh 14:395-96. See also TJ to John Adams (28 Oct. 1813), Bergh 13:402. [6]

1. The Anas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1, p.281-82.
2. Ibid, p. 282-83
3. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1, p.402, Cabinet Meetings.
4. "The University of Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson, Its Father," An Address delivered by James C. Carter, LL. D., upon the occasion of the Dedication of the new Buildings of the University, June 14, 1898. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 2, p.vii–viii, xxx-xxxi
5. Letter to J. Bannister, Junior PARIS, October 15, 1785. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 5, p.185–188
6. Allison, The Real Thomas Jefferson, p.147

During the French Revolution, the great French chemist Lavoisier was put on trial, and chalked on the wall just above his head was the slogan "The Republic has no use for scientists." He was guillotined.
Richard Nixon, "Remarks on Presenting the National Medal of Science Awards for 1970," May 21, 1971, Public Papers of the Presidents, Nixon, 1971, No. 176, p.650.

Nor is the American Revolution conceivable without the religious background. The difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is that the American Revolution, in its origins, was a religious event, whereas the French Revolution was an antireligious event. As John Adams was to put it long afterward, in 1818: "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people: and change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations."
Paul Johnson, "God and the Americans," 1. The City Upon a Hill, The American Jewish Committee, Commentary Magazine, January 1995, p.31

Russell Kirk describes the differences between the two Revolutions (and note that he is not a Theocrat, and describes the Constitution as "secular," but as resting on the authority of God):

A principal difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution was this: the American revolutionaries in general held a biblical view of man and his bent toward sin, while the French revolutionaries in general attempted to substitute for the biblical understanding an optimistic doctrine of human goodness advanced by the philosophes of the rationalistic Enlightenment. The American view led to the Constitution of 1787; the French view, to the Terror and to a new autocracy. The American Constitution is a practical secular covenant, drawn up by men who (with few exceptions) believed in a sacred Covenant, designed to restrain the human tendencies toward violence and fraud; the American Constitution is a fundamental law deliberately meant to place checks upon will and appetite. The French innovators would endure no such checks upon popular impulses; they ended under a far more arbitrary domination.
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.29

When the American Revolution came, it would not be a revolution against a church by law established, or against Christian teaching—in this very unlike the French Revolution. In America, Browne was read only by the well educated; his Anglican learning and his Christian aphorisms reached the mass of people only slowly and indirectly. A large proportion of the leading classes in America were Anglican, nevertheless, and the Christianity of gentlemen like George Washington was very like the Christianity of Sir Thomas Browne.
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.277

In article <>, (THR) writes:

>The basis for it is clearly revealed in the ferment of
>Enlightenment philosophers and scientists, and clearly reflected in the views
>of such
>reformers as Locke, Paine and Jefferson.

As we have seen,

As for the Enlightenment, Russell Kirk shows that the Enlightenment and the ideas of the French Revolution were not as influential in America as secular myth-makers would have us believe.

At the heart of the "Enlightenment" mentality was an enormous confidence in the reason of the individual human being. Man's private intellectual faculties, if awakened, could suffice to dissolve all mysteries and solve all problems—so the Encyclopedists believed. Religion must be discarded as mere superstition, old political forms must be swept away as irrational and oppressive, the natural goodness of man must be enabled to prevail—through an appeal to Reason. If properly cultivated, every man's private rationality could emancipate him from the delusion of sin, from ways of violence and fraud, from confusion and fear. This dream ended in the French Revolution.
      To America, the mentality of the Enlightenment scarcely penetrated. A few Americans of cosmopolitan experience, notably Benjamin Franklin, were affected by these doctrines—but even in them, the boundless optimism of the typical philosophe was chastened by direct experience of reality in practical America. A moderate Deism was the furthest advance of Enlightenment theories in the Thirteen Colonies. The eighteenth-century men of ideas whose direct influence upon Americans was strongest stood in partial or total opposition to the philosophes generally and the Encyclopedists particularly. Montesquieu, with his devotion to the hard lessons of historical knowledge; Hume, with his good-natured contempt for the cult of Reason; Blackstone, governed by legal precedent and prescription; Burke, appealing to the great traditions of medieval and Christian and classical belief—these were America's teachers in the latter half of the eighteenth century. If they enlightened, it was not with the torch of the French Enlightenment.
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.349

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, no man would be more frequently cited and quoted than Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755). . . . All of Montesquieu's writings were eagerly read, in youth, by many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and drew up the Constitution of the United States; others absorbed Montesquieu's ideas at second hand through Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.
     Montesquieu's ascendancy over English and American minds was not gained because he was a radical innovator: he was nothing of that sort. On the contrary, Montesquieu expressed better than could any Englishman or American of his day the very principles in which most thinking Englishmen and Americans already believed. He had resided for two years in England, and was an ardent admirer of the English constitution. His understanding of the nature of law confirmed Englishmen and Americans in their affection for their own jurisprudence and legal institutions; his discussion of the power of custom and habit in shaping society agreed with the prescriptive politics of the English-speaking peoples; his advocacy of the separation of powers sustained the political experience of Britain and the colonies. Upon Englishmen and Americans, his influence was conservative.
      It would be somewhat otherwise in France, where Montesquieu's praise of the English constitution would produce demands for reconstruction of the French political structure upon the English model. Those who so read Montesquieu were disappointed in the event. For as Montesquieu himself made clear, one country's historic experience cannot be transported to a different land, and customs and habits cannot be altered by positive law—they can only be distorted. In France, the early ideals of many revolutionaries, Mirabeau among them, were connected with the English pattern of politics. But the Revolution, as it ran its course, redoubled the very defects—centralization especially—which Montesquieu had assailed obliquely in the France of the Old Regime; what emerged from the French Revolution did not resemble either the English constitution or Montesquieu's general model of a constitution with separation of powers and local liberties. Somewhat wistfully, Montesquieu had desired French reform—but no revolution. In America, his great book would help in the recovery of order after a revolution.
Although Montesquieu was a witty critic of the Church in his age, at bottom his understanding of natural law is religious.
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.350-53

This has been only a summary description of the temperate wisdom of Montesquieu. Because his principles of politics found their best embodiment in eighteenth-century England, his reputation in that realm stood high. And it is not difficult to understand why Montesquieu was far more popular with Americans than he was either with the French masters of the Old Regime or with the rash French reformers who brought on the Revolution.
      For Montesquieu's understanding of the nature of law was shared by the Americans. They recognized religious and moral sanctions behind positive law; they had been brought up in the English juridical principles and practices of common law and equity, which clearly had developed out of a people's experience in community; they looked upon law as the protector of freedom. The Americans knew that their own society was not the product of a single formal social compact; it was in part an inheritance from British social development, and in part the consequence of their own peculiar geographical, economic, and political circumstances; it had grown accidentally or providentially, rather than being created out of an abstract general agreement. They understood very well indeed the benefits of separation of powers and of checks and balances: in every colony, the governor held executive power, the assembly representing the freeholders controlled legislation, and the courts were independent. (In Virginia, the county courts even resembled Montesquieu's "depository of laws.")
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.356-7

In this, the American Revolution differed vastly from the French Revolution. The Americans, in essence, meant to keep their old order and defend it against external interference; but [p.396] the French rising was what Edmund Burke called "a revolution of theoretic dogma," intended to bring down the Old Regime and substitute something quite new. (Just what that something new might be, the French revolutionary factions disputed violently among themselves.)
Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.395-96

"Happy, thrice happy the people of America! whose gentleness of manners and habits of virtue are still sufficient to reconcile the enjoyment of their natural rights, with the peace and tranquillity of their country; whose principles of religious liberty did not result from an indiscriminate contempt of all religion whatever, and whose equal representation in their legislative councils was founded upon an equality really existing among them, and not upon the metaphysical speculations of fanciful politicians, vainly contending against the unalterable course of events, and the established order of nature."
John Quincy Adams to Friedrich Gentz, June 16, 1800, and his "Letters of Publicola", June-July, 1791, in Writings of John Quincy Adams (edited by Worthington Chauncy Ford; New York: Macmillan, 1913), Vol. II, p. 463, and Vol. I, p. 98. Cited in Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.397

Later in the nineteenth century, the talented French writers Alexis de Tocqueville and Hippolyte Taine would judge the French Revolution similarly. In the twentieth century, American historians tend to confirm Gentz's verdict. "The Americans of 1776," Clinton Rossiter writes, "were among the first men in modern history to defend rather than to seek an open society and constitutional liberty; their political faith, like the appeal to arms it supported, was therefore surprisingly sober...Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of this political theory was its deep-seated conservatism. However radical the principles of the Revolution may have seemed to the rest of the world, in the minds of the colonists they were thoroughly preservative and respectful of the past...The political theory of the American Revolution, in contrast to that of the French Revolution, was not a theory designed to make the world over."
Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic: the Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty (New York: Harcourt, Brace 1953), p. 448. Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.399

As Gentz points out, there occurred persecutions, cruelties, confiscations, and exiling of honest people in the course of the American Revolution also. "But what are all these single instances of injustice and oppression, compared with the universal flood of misery and ruin, which the French revolution let loose upon France, and all the neighboring countries? If, even in America, private hatred, or local circumstances, threatened property or personal security; if here and there even the public authorities became the instruments of injustice, of revenge, and of a persecuting spirit, yet did the poison never flow into every vein of the social body; never, as in France, was the contempt of all rights, and of the very simplest precepts of humanity, made the general maxim of legislation, and the unqualified prescription of systematic tyranny."
Friedrich Gentz, The French and American Revolutions Compared (edited by Russell Kirk; Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1955), pp. 44, 60, 81. Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.399

But "rights," like freedom itself, can prove illusory. Many of those who drew up that first declaration of rights in 1789 were slaughtered in the terror four years later, or imprisoned, or killed in the Bonapartist tyranny which eventually took its place time and again. The revolutionary Saturn devours its children, as the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution have demonstrated with horrific plentitude. During the 20th century something like 100 million men, women, and children have been put to death by regimes nominally devoted to liberty and human rights. The process continues. In theory, no people enjoy more rights, greater liberty, or the chance of higher prosperity, than the 1000 million people who live under the constitution of the People's Republic of China. But the constitution is not worth the paper it is printed on. In practice, no people on earth have a stronger chance of ending up inside a concentration or labor camp. About 20 million are in the Chinese Gulag at this very time. Most of them are slave-laborers. Few, even if they serve fixed sentences, are ever again likely to enjoy even the limited freedoms which uncriminalized Chinese possess. The rule of law means nothing in Communist China. So the right to vote is meaningless and the ordinary Chinese, while theoretically enjoying independence, are in reality less free than during the colonial period when large enclaves of the country were run by Europeans and North Americans.
Paul Johnson, "Freedom: Taking Account of Human Nature,"
The Morley Institute, Crisis Magazine, March 1995, p.22

>The document, our Constitution,
>that upholds that standard of liberation, is as secular a document that could
>ever POSSIBLY be written for modeling a government.  It was a quite conscious
>act of rebellion against authority.

As I have attempted to show, this statement represents a fundamental misunderstanding of American history. America's break with Britain was conservative, not revolutionary, and based on religious motivations, not a desire to secularize America's religious history. The concept of arbitrary authority is a Christian concept, and the "historical context" for resistance to arbitrary authority, which THR says I have robbed, goes back to the Puritans, not the Enlightenment.

In article <>, (THR) writes:

>Kevin has particularly aggravated me with his posts, because they
>employ the revisionist technique of robbing our country's founding
>principles, and the founder's convictions, of all historical context.

The "context" of America's Christian heritage is seen in the lengthy list of organic laws cited by the Supreme Court in Holy Trinity. The context is not the private theological apostasies of but two or three out of 200 of the Founders, heretical speculations which were largely kept private. When the public and legal context of American law is considered, the only possible conclusion is that America is a nation "under God." Ignorance is the only explanation for the failure of so many people to see that America is a Christian nation. Most Americans are unaware of their country's history. Most of the facts set out in the unanimous opinion of the Holy Trinity Court never see the light of day in a public school history or civics class. Rather than read the history of the nation as set out in the Holy Trinity decision, most Americans are content with sound bites and slogans.

>matter that one can tendentiously eke out little quotes here and there,
>fabricated or not, from all manner of people --

It would be nice if the Secularists would post ANY quotes at all.
Quotes against clergy don't count.
Quotes against the establishment of Anglicanism as the state church don't count.
The only quotes that would truly counter the Christian History scenario of Holy Trinity would be quotes which expressly remove the nation from "under God." Quotes which clearly say our nation no longer depends on or acknowledges the authority of God. Only quotes like these can establish the central point of the myth of "separation of church and state," as first stated by the Everson Court (1947).

It seems indisputable from these glimpses of Madison's thinking, as reflected by actions on the floor of the House in 1789, that he saw the [First] Amendment as designed to prohibit the establishment of a national religion, and perhaps to prevent discrimination among sects. He did not see it as requiring neutrality on the part of government between religion and irreligion.
. . .
None of the other Members of Congress who spoke during the August 15th debate expressed the slightest indication that they thought the language before them from the Select Committee, or the evil to be aimed at, would require that the Government be absolutely neutral as between religion and irreligion.
. . .
The actions of the First Congress, which reenacted the Northwest Ordinance for the governance of the Northwest Territory in 1789, confirm the view that Congress did not mean that the Government should be neutral between religion and irreligion. The House of Representatives took up the Northwest Ordinance on the same day as Madison introduced his proposed amendments which became the Bill of Rights; . . . it seems highly unlikely that the House of Representatives would simultaneously consider proposed amendments to the Constitution and enact an important piece of territorial legislation which conflicted with the intent of those proposals. The Northwest Ordinance, 1 Stat. 50, reenacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and provided that "[r]eligion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Id., at 52, n. (a).
J. Rehnquist, dissenting in Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)

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