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Evidence from Original Sources is here.
Additional sources here.
Here is an exchange from an AOL "Separation of Church and State" message board. Notice that the Secular Humanist contends that America was never a Theocracy. This is desperate fantasy. But he must claim so because Theocratic government -- a nation "under God" -- was never repudiated by the Founding Fathers.
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (EDarr1776) writes:
>Kevin said: >>The
states were theocracies.<<
>Take a deep breath, Kevin. The states were NEVER theocracies, even under
>their royal charters.
Sounds like an invitation to quibble over words. Naturally, I accept. ;-)
Here are some sources which indicate that the colonies under their royal charters were theocracies. I challenge Ed to post ONE serious historian who says that the colonies were NOT theocracies.
In a subsequent post I will show that the colonies were theocracies after Independence was declared and the royal charters were no longer in force.
Perry Miller is probably the most well-respected authority on America's Colonial history. He writes in the Dictionary of American History, James Truslow Adams, ed., 2nd rev. ed., NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, vol. 5, p. 260:
|Theocracy in New England is the term
usually applied to the political regime set up by the
founders of Massachusetts Bay and New Haven colonies. It is
a correct description to the extent that the leaders
deliberately intended to create a "Bible
Commonwealth," a society where the fundamental law
would be the revealed Word of God, and God regarded as the
supreme legislator. Thus John Winthrop announced the program
before the settlement, "For the worke wee haue in hand,
it is by a mutuall consent . . . to
seeke out a place of Cohabitation and Consorteshipp vnder a
due forme of Government both ciuill and ecciesiasticall,"
the "due forme" being that enacted in the Bible.
John Cotton later argued that the New England colonies,
having a clear field before them, were duty-bound to erect a
"Theocracy . . . as the best forme of government in the
commonwealth, as well as in the Church." Consequently
the political theory assumed that the colonies were based
upon the Bible and that all specific laws must be required
to show Biblical warrant.
In a still more fundamental sense, the governments of the two colonies were true theocracies in that all society was held to be ordained by God as a check upon the impulses of depraved human nature, and therefore that all politics should ideally be directed to the ends prescribed by God. Hence, John Winthrop explained in 1645, after men have entered a body politic they thereafter have freedom not to do what is good in their own eyes, but only that "which is good, just and honest," only that, in other words, which God demands. The purpose of the state was universally agreed among the first settlers to be the enforcement, by all possible external means, of the observance of God's laws on the part of every member of the society.
On the other hand, the term "theocracy" is a misnomer if it is taken, as it often is, to mean that the ministers directly ruled the colonies. It was well recognized that the Bible defined a distinct sphere for the civil government, and the secular authorities in both colonies were jealous of any clerical invasion of their province. The ministers did indeed possess great influence; in doubtful cases or at times of crisis their opinion was asked, though it was not always followed exactly as they desired.
For Further reading:[Perry Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts; Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, The Puritans.]
The following bibliographic entries are from:
A Guide to the Study of the United
States of America:
Representative Books Reflecting the Development of American Life and Thought
Prepared under the Direction of Roy P.
By Donald H. Mugridge and Blanche P. McCrum
GENERAL REFERENCE AND BIBLIOGRAPHY DIVISION • REFERENCE DEPARTMENT
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS •WASHINGTON: 1960
3182. Ellis, George E. The Puritan age and rule in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, 1629–1685. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1888. 576 p. 1–12030 F67.E47
The author states in his preface that his aim in this remarkably extensive work is to set forth "the motives of estrangement and grievance which prompted the exile of the Puritans to this Bay, and the grounds on which they proceeded to exercise their severe and arbitrary rule here. The points to be chiefly emphasized in this historic exposition are these: the relations of the Puritans, as Nonconformists, to the Church of England at the period of its reformation and reconstruction in the transition from the Papacy to Protestantism; the peculiar estimate of and way of using the Bible, characteristic of the Puritans under the critical circumstances of the time which had substituted the Book for the authority of the Papal and the Prelatical Church; their finding in that book the pattern and basis for a wholly novel form of government in civil and religious affairs, with an equally novel condition of citizenship; their attempt at legislation and administration on theocratic principles; and the discomfiture of their scheme as involving injustice, oppression, and intolerance." The story is carried to the loss of the colony charter, when Puritan rule ceased to be absolute and a royal governor was appointed. While the author displays a sympathetic understanding of many of the problems of the Puritans, he regularly maintains a scholarly objectivity towards his subject. The book is based on an extensive knowledge of the primary and secondary printed and manuscript materials available at that time. Subsequent scholarship has modified some points, and raised some new issues, but Ellis' study remains basically sound, as well as the most inclusive study, and nearly the only one which puts its main emphasis on the matters which the Puritans themselves regarded as primary.
3197. Winslow, Ola Elizabeth. Master Roger Williams, a
biography. New York, Macmillan, 1957. 328 p. 57–10016
Williams (ca. 1603–1683), the vigorous opponent of the Massachusetts theocracy and the founder of Rhode Island, is discussed as a writer in Chapter I on Literature (nos. 84–89).
5399. Niebuhr, Helmut Richard. The Kingdom of God in
America. Chicago, Willett, Clark, 1937. xvii, 215 p. 37–28492
"Notes": p. 199–210.
Dr. H. Richard Niebuhr and his brother, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, are prominent representatives of the neo-orthodox movement in modern American theology. The theme of these historical and interpretative lectures is that the dominant idea of [p.755] Protestantism in America has always been the kingdom of God, but this has had three successive meanings. In the Puritan theocracy and no less in the other Protestant sects of the colonial settlements, the kingdom of God meant the absolute sovereignty of God. During the Great Awakening and later evangelical revivals, it meant the reign of Christ.
5417. Winslow, Ola Elizabeth. Meetinghouse Hill, 1630–1783. New York, Macmillan, 1952. 344 p. illus. 52–11102 BR530.W5
A social picture of religion in colonial New England, with the meetinghouse on the hilltop "in sharp focus." The writer's purpose, carried out with balance and charm, is, "by recalling typical procedures in relation to various aspects of community life, to suggest attitudes which [the meetinghouse] helped to establish and patterns of group action which it helped to make habitual." She has based her interpretation on town and church records, sermons, diaries, letters, and other memorials of the theocratic New England of the 17th and 18th centuries. Her narrative incorporates many well-chosen quotations. Of the five books, the first, "Bound Up Together in a Little Bundle of Life," describes, mostly by means of particular instances, the establishment of congregation, meetinghouse, and village. Book 2, "Zion is Not a City of Fools" (Cotton Mather), is on the learning and the sermons of the clergy. Book 3, "Noises about the Temple," describes "Where to Set," how to sing, etc. Book 4 deals with the "Rule of the 'Lord Brethren,'" the government and authority of the congregation. Book 5, "Powder in the Meeting-house," illustrates the close association of the New England pulpit with the cause of liberty.
1735. Van Dusen, Albert E. Connecticut. New York,
Random House  470 p. 61–6263 F94.V3
Bibliographical references included in "Notes" (p. 421–461).
A general history written by the State historian at the request of the State Library Committee. Surveying a period of 325 years, it begins with the persecution of the Puritans in England and the emigration of Thomas Hooker and his followers to the New World and concludes with the economic and industrial expansion occurring after World War II. The arrangement is chronological, and the treatment balances political, economic, and social aspects. The author traces the strong spirit of self-reliance and independence that characterized the founding of the theocratic colonies along the Connecticut River and that is manifest in the political behavior of the modern State [sic]. A generous selection of contemporary illustrations accompanies the text.
1988. Burlingame, Roger. The American Conscience. New
York, Knopf, 1957. 420 p. 56–5782 E169.1.B938
Bibliography: p. 407–420.
The author's premise is that American moral attitudes differed from those of our European ancestors because of a set of special determinants which include isolation, the movement of the frontier, and the natural wealth encountered in the march across the continent. These combined with various secondary determinants to produce the "peculiar American compulsion to assign moral values to every historical event, economic theory, or social trend." The author begins with the rise and fall of theocracy in New England and follows with discussions of the Enlightenment in the United States, the "Great Awakening," "manifest destiny," abolition, the struggle for land, and frontier morality. The last chapter, "Our Most Wanton Orgy," focuses on the shrill nativism, corruption, and contempt for law of the 1920's.
A Second Mencken Chrestomathy
Selected, Revised, and Annotated by H. L. Mencken
Edited by Terry Teachout
Alfred A. Knopf • 1995 • 491 pages • $30
Whenever a state is strong it is intolerant of dissent, when it is strong enough it puts down dissent with relentless violence. Here one state is as bad as another, or, at all events, potentially as bad. The Puritan theocracy of early New England hanged dissenters as gaily as they are now being hanged by the atheistic Union of Soviet Republics; the Prussian, Russian, Austrian, French, and English monarchies were as alert against heresy as the militaristic-capitalistic bloc which now runs Italy or the plutocracy which runs Pennsylvania, California, and Massachusetts. 
From a review by Sheldon Richman
The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, September 1995, Vol. 45, No. 9
William Penn—America's First Great Champion for Liberty and
by Jim Powell
The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, October 1995, Vol. 45, No. 10
Penn's practices contrasted dramatically with other early colonies, especially Puritan New England which was a vicious theocracy. The Puritans despised liberty. They made political dissent a crime. They whipped, tarred, and hanged Quakers. The Puritans stole what they could from the Indians.
[Mr. Powell is editor of Laissez-Faire Books and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, American Heritage, and more than three dozen other publications.]
Notice that earlier writers correctly associate Puritans with liberty and Republican forms of government. The Puritans came to America in search of liberty. It was ecclesiocentrism, not Puritanism, which gave Theocracy a bad name. Many writers who hate clergy lash out against God and Theocracy, when God through His Prophets and His Son condemned ecclesiocentrism as vigorously as any contemporary libertarian. More so, in fact. A clergy-free Theocracy is possible only for those who will distinguish Theocracy from clericalism.
ENGEL v. VITALE, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) is the famous US Supreme Court case which removed corporate prayer from public schools. We read this at page 427, note 9
For a description of some of the laws enacted by early theocratic governments in New England, see Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought (1930), Vol. 1, pp. 5-50; Whipple, Our Ancient Liberties (1927), pp. 63-78; Wertenbaker, The Puritan Oligarchy (1947).
Clearly, early America was theocratic, or was at least attempting to be.
Obviously there are many different definitions of "theocracy," but Ed didn't say that; he simply asserted that the colonies were not theocracies (and as usual, provided not a whit of evidence).
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.
If a "theocracy" is where God makes the rules, then
America was (or was dedicated to progress along the path of being)
a benevolent, clergy-free theocracy after 1776. The Declaration of
Independence declared that it was: "with a firm reliance on
the Protection of Divine Providence." The thinking of
philosophers like Locke was embodied in the Declaration: "the
Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" reflected the belief that
America was bound to obey God's will. That "God rules"
America was clearly stated by every agency and branch of
government on state and federal levels. As the Supreme Court in
Holy Trinity put it, "there is a single voice making this
The real question is one of consistency: Is America being consistent with its theocratic claims? The national motto is "In God We Trust."
Thus the question is not whether America is a theocratic nation.
The question is whether we are consistent, or apostate.
An interesting bit of trivia: perhaps the last municipal body in America
to make official claims to being theocratic:
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.
Vine & Fig Tree
12314 Palm Dr. #107
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
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