It is with great hesitancy that I write unto you this day, and I fear that this letter may prove to be my last. The dreaded tea ships have been in our harbor for now seventeen days. We have exhausted all peaceful means of returning the despised cargo to England, but as a show of our good intentions, we will attempt once more to reason with the Governor this evening. If this final attempt meets with the same treatment as those previous, then we will have no other recourse but to take action. In so doing, let it be known that we bear no animosity toward the Crown nor toward parliament. We act not in rebellion to our King but in sincere adherence to the laws and the rights of Englishmen; assuredly knowing that it is the duty of every citizen to uphold the law and that the Crown itself is made subservient to that noble statute. Thus armed with the knowledge that our course is just, we have pledged to each other our lives and our honor, holding both sacred but neither so dear as to be of greater value than the defense of freedom. This evening, we will take action much sought to be avoided but nonetheless necessary, and it may be that this action will bring upon us the end of our lives upon this earth.
Originally published anonymously in 1905, this poignant essay from Mark Twain is still remarkably applicable to modern America.
Is there such a thing as Christian citizenship? No, but it could be created. The process would be quite simple, and not productive of hardship to any one. It will be conceded that every man's first duty is to God; it will also be conceded, and with strong emphasis, that a Christian's first duty is to God. It then follows, as a matter of course, that it is his duty to carry his Christian code of morals to the polls and vote them. Whenever he shall do that, he will not find himself voting for an unclean man, a dishonest man. Whenever a Christian votes, he votes against God or for Him, and he knows this quite well. God is an issue in every election; He is a candidate in the person of every clean nominee on every ticket; His purity and His approval are there, to be voted for or voted against, and no fealty to party can absolve His servant from his higher and more exacting fealty to Him; He takes precedence of party, duty to Him is above every claim of party.
Sir William Blackstone is often praised for laying the groundwork for American jurisprudence with his Commentaries on the Laws of England. Blackstone's Commentaries were one of the most widely read books in the colonies, and his views of the laws of England were often incorporated into the laws of America. One portion of Blackstone's Commentaries that has largely been forgotten by modern legal scholars but which played a significant role in forming the thought of founding fathers like James Wilson was Blackstone's answer to the question of where laws come from. What follows is a condensed version of Blackstone's somewhat loquacious answer to that question.
Much of the debate on the relationship between church and state has centered around the phrases “freedom of religion” and “separation of church and state.” While these phrases have a very important history and should be studied, their applicability to American government must be understood within the confines of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, the debate on this Amendment has largely focused on whether or not its prohibitions are limited to the US Congress. The real key to understanding the First Amendment lies in unlocking the mystery of the phrase “an establishment of religion.”
Conservatism is the philosophy that the wisdom of the past is still just as applicable today as it was then. Conservatism is an ancient wisdom in itself, for every age has its conservatives and liberals, and it is always the conservatives who succeed and pass their wisdom down to the next age where some new brand of liberals will rise up to challenge that wisdom once again.
It has become rather common in our day to hear descriptions of our founding fathers as bold rebels daring to defy the authority of the British government, but is that really what happened? Was the American Revolution an act of rebellion against England? That has certainly become a popular theme in modern, American education, but the records of the founding era tell a different story.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to a debate between Mark Hall and Steven Green on the topic of the Christian foundation of America. Hall has written a book defending the idea that America had a Christian foundation, and Green has written a book in defense of the opposite view. I obviously agree with Hall, but I thought that he could have done a better job of refuting some of Green’s claims (and he probably does so in his book). Since I was taking notes anyway, I thought that I would share a few of my objections to Green’s claims.
Modern accounts of the philosophical underpinnings of the American Revolution often attribute the concept of popular sovereignty to men such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau with Locke being the one most often praised as the source of the American ideal of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. To make this attribution, however, modern scholarship has had to ignore or, perhaps, forget the previously held view that the notion of popular sovereignty can be traced to the government of ancient Israel as recorded in the pages of the Bible. This in-depth study is an attempt to correct that error.
The conclusion to my book Hidden Facts of the Founding Era contains a list of 49 correlations between the Bible and the Constitution, and I thought it would be good to share it again here. The book is a refutation of Chris Pinto's popular video The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers, and it is written for a homeschool audience. You can read the conclusion here, and of course, the book is available on Amazon.
One of the major points of contention in the discussion of America’s Christian foundation is found in a reference that John Adams made to the “general principles of Christianity.” Those who support the idea that America was founded on Christian principles often present this statement as evidence in their favor, while those who disagree with them usually respond by pointing to the context of the statement as evidence for their position. Unfortunately, most of those discussing Adams’ statement seem to be operating under the impression that it was made in a vacuum. In this article, I will attempt to provide a full analysis of Adams’ letter and demonstrate that when we consider all of the variables in their proper order, it becomes clear that this letter supports the claim that America was founded on principles that are unique to Christianity.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)