July 4, 1826

Thursday, July 1, AD 2010

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day from the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.  Jefferson died before Adams, and therefore Adams was in error when, with his last breath, he said “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  However, in a larger sense, a part of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams and all the patriots who brought us our independence, will remain alive as long as Americans continue to read and remember the Declaration of Independence.

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5 Responses to July 4, 1826

  • What was that clip from Don? I’ve always had a appreciation for the story of Adams and Jefferson. Their opposing temperments and bitter disputes turning into profound respect and a great friendship. They represent America in more than one way. They’re not just two major players in the nation’s founding or just sequential presidents. Their personalities and ideas serve as a microcosm the whole. It was that ideological tension they bring that is what made this nation work. Either ideology would have failed, but the compromises (and even just the effect of having the debates) forged something greater than the parts.

    That either man (who both had a hand in writing the DoI) would die on the 4th or that they would die on the same day would be remarkable, but that they both died on the very same day and it was July 4th is amazing.

  • That was from the excellent John Adams HBO mini-series, which was based on David McCullough’s biography on Adams.

  • It’s a story McCullough has told wonderfully for years — read his book, and you get some of the full effect of the way he tells it personally.

  • I never saw the John Adams mini-series. I will certainly rent it. Incredible that Adams and Jefferson died exactly 50 years to the day after signing the Declaration of Independence.

    A happy 4th to you all! I am having family over to feast on the usual summer fare and to watch fireworks on the roof of my building. Independence Day is my favorite secular holiday. I hope AC readers all enjoy the day.

  • It is a masterpiece Donna, shockingly good. A happy Fourth to you and yours!

Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

Friday, June 18, AD 2010

Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative, and I run a blog on American History:  Almost Chosen People.  Yesterday Paul raised the question:  Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

Yeah, the post title is somewhat deliberately provocative, but it’s also meant to be a serious question that I hope will spark some discussion.  I was going to ask it in the comments to Donald’s post below, but thought it might be useful fodder for debate in its own right.

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9 Responses to Is Robert E. Lee Overrated?

  • Yeah, what Donald said.


  • Personally, I think that the General Lee was in fact overrated.

  • I agree Lee was by far the best general of that war and probably in American history.

    Overrated? Some in perpetuating the Lee legend have tended to overstate Lee’s abilities. Longstreet, for instance, after the war flirted with Republicans, became a Catholic, and hob-knobbed with President Grant. The Lost Cause folks and especially Lee’s hagiographers in Virginia stepped up their criticisms of Old Pete, beginning a slander against him that is referenced even in the movie from which the clip headlining this post is taken. That is, that Longsteet’s reluctance vigorously to execute Lee’s orders on the second and third days at Gettysburg led to that defeat (and hence, to the ultimate fall of the Cause). Never mind that this slur was uttered only after Lee’s death, for Lee himself acknowledged many times that the fault for Gettysburg lied with him, not Longstreet. Never mind, too, that Longstreet was just plain right, no confederate army could successfully have dislodged Meade from the heights outside of Gettysburg. That battle was lost when Ewell neglected to do what Stonewall certainly would have, and that is press the broken Federal army on day one to capture Cemetery Hill and Culp’s.

    So the moral of the story is that while our greatest general, even Lee has been oversold somewhat. He was only mortal after all, and did make other mistakes (e.g., Malvern Hill, North Anna).

  • It depends.

    A read of Lee’s Terrible Swift Sword tells of his string of decisive victories from Antietam through Second Bull Run. Chancellorsville was the most dramatic drubbing of the Union army. If the Sun stayed up as it did for the Israelites, he’d likely have destroyed that federal army. Other federal armies would have been raised.

    Lee lost it at Gettysburg and it was mostly downhill from there. This is not to say that the South had an even chance. Without Lee the South likely would have been defeated much earlier.

    Tom is correct in all respects. IF Ewell had taken the Union lines before they could bring up the entire seven (was it five?) corpses (Obama!). That’s a big IF. The armies would yet have been in close proximity and a fight would have been fought; probably with a different outcome, assuming Lee lured Meade into doing for him that which Burnside did at Fredrucksburg or Hooker at Chancellorsville.

    Gettysburg seems the battlefield where Lee departed from his “modus” at very high cost. I believe it was that Lee abandoned the tactical defensive and made the same mistakes Burnside made at Fredericksburg. In fact the Irish Brigade soldiers at Picket’s Charge said, “It was Fredericksburg in rivarse.” And, the Union troops chanted “Fredericksburg” as Picket’s broken men retreated.

    Given the Confederacy’s limitations (compared to Union resources) the only salutary tactics available were tactical defenses (maybe guerrilla warfare) even if they went over to strategic offense.

    Another factor, the generals were just learning how to employ 19th century weapons and railroad supply movements. Attackers nearly always suffer higher casualties against a well-emplaced, well-led, prepared army.

    I believe George Washignton was the greatest American general. He cannot be overrated.

    “Late Unpleasantness”, “Lost cause”?? How about calling it what is was: the war of northern aggression? Is that in the Constitution?

  • In my view, Lee was a brilliant strategic and operational commander. He was also normally a very successful risk-taker. One of his problems during the Gettysburg Campaign was that he had grown accustomed over the last couple of years to the rabid aggressiveness of Stonewall Jackson. He had not really adjusted to the initiative and drive he lost when his most brilliant Corps commander was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.
    Some have attributed the loss (with good reason) to muddling Corps commanders, others to Stuart’s absence (again, with reason), still others to Lee’s inability to compensate for the lack of his Cavalry’s scouting and screening functions), and many others to Longstreet’s reluctant and even tardy obedience to orders.
    Having retired as a mere Captain in Air Defense Artillery, I am unqualified to offer recommendations to one of the nation’s Great Captains. That being so, neither will I offer criticism as if I could and would have done better. Lee was aging and suffering from heart disease at the time. These factors may have contributed to Lee’s seeming inability to communicate his intentions and vision with accuracy and timeliness to his subordinates.
    I am profoundly grateful to God that there was a Robert E. Lee in the South. Without his leadership, however it may have failed at Gettysburg, Lincoln’s 75,000 volunteers may have been enough to suppress the rebellion within a year and a half. As it is, Lee gave the Union both the time and the necessity (more political than military) to re-tool public opinion of the war by casting it as being one of emancipation, rather than mere oppression. Without Lee’s leadership, all the world would have seen Lincoln for the Constitutional disaster that he was (and intended to be), and would have robbed many in both north and south of the comforting fiction that so many fought and died to free the slaves because that was the only way to get it done.

  • “Personally, I think that the General Lee was in fact overrated.”

    I am ashamed to admit how much time as an undergrad I wasted watching the Dukes of Hazard!

  • I would not say that Lee was overrated as a commander. Overrated I would apply to the following commanders:

    Major General John C. Fremont
    Major General Daniel Sickles
    Major General Ambrose Burnside
    Major General John Pope
    Major General Irvin McDowell
    Brevet Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick
    Brevet Major General Alfred Pleasonton

    General Braxton Bragg
    Lieutenant General James Longstreet
    Major General John B. Floyd
    Major General John Bell Hood
    Major General Lafayette McLaws
    Major General Earl Van Dorn
    Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow

  • Lee recognized prior to the ‘Gettysburg’ offensive that the South would eventually lose a war of attrition in which it stayed on the strategic defensive, growing weaker as the North grew stronger. A Southern victory on Northern soil was the only chance to bring the war to a favorable conclusion. Fighting not to lose worked fine for the Yankees, but the Rebels had take the riskier course, and fight to win.

  • Robert E Lee probably lost the war for the South. One contribution he did make, however, was to encourage and end to violence at the end of the war.

    However, Lee often wrote that God fully intended the negro to be treated cruelly and painfully, in order to teach the negro his place. The letter most people assume shows Lee is anti slavery, is actually one of the most amazing pro slavery letters ever written.

    Lee claims its fine to pray for an end to slavery — someday. But God has to end slavery, he said, not man. And God might take 2,000 years or more. Meanwhile any man who would try to end slavery is evil. He equates owning slaves with spiritual liberty.

    But what about Lee’s supposed military genius?

    Shelby Foote said (paraphrasing) “Losing Gettysburg [and therefore the war] was the price the South paid for having Lee in charge.”

    Lee had remarkably able generals under him — Stonewall Jackson for one, Johnston for another. Lee’s speciality was taking credit for their daring successes. Lee shamelessly “brown nosed” Davis, while most other generals refused.

    Davis was known for his favoring people who flattered him — and Lee flattered Davis shamelessly. Few people today understand that Lee had virtually NO military battle experience at the begining of the Civil War — he was an engineer, and a good one. He was not a battle tested general.

    In fact, he wasn’t even a full colonel, until Lincoln made him one. This persistant myth that Lincoln offered Lee command of the Union forces is nonsense, –often repeated, but never by Lincoln, or Lee, or Scott, the person who supposedly offered it.

    Lee’s generals were very capable, particulary Jackson and Johnston. When Lee spurned their advice, or when they were not available, was almost criminally stupid. Lee got most his “true believers” killed off, and these men were irreplacable.

    The men that took their place were far different from those Lee sacrificed in stupid moves. The new men were eager to desert — in fact, over 2/3 of the rebel soldiers deserted. As early as Lee’s inept handling at Shaprsurg, out of 19,000 men who were suppposed to refor, only 5,000 did. A desertion ratio of 2/3– Davis himself went on a speaking tour later to beg, shame, and frigthen deserters to return. It didn’t work. Desertion is by far the biggest reason the war ended. And Lee’s ineptness is a big reason they deserted.

    Lee sincerely thought God should sort out who got killed– it was his job to send men to battle, God’s job to decide who died. But notice when Lee faced any personal danger, he wasn’t going to let God decided anything — he was going to run.

    Lee left Richmond on the FALSE rumor of a breach in the line. (By the way, Lee personally led the construction of the earth works around RIchmond and Petersburg — all done by slave labor, probably the biggest construction job in the South to that point — he used 100,000 slaves, under penalty of death or torture)

    He left the citizens without notice, without a word, and worse, ordered fires to be set to warehouses. With no men available to put out the spreading fires, the mayor of Atlanta had to ride out to the Union troops, under a white flag, and ASK FOR HELP to put out the fires.

    The Southern apologist have been forced to pump Lee into some kind of hero, militarily and personally. Yet Lee was all too human on both counts.

    We know now, from Elizabeth’s Pryors book “Reading the Man” that Lee did in fact have young women tortured, screaming at them during their torture. He also apparently regularly sold the infants from these young girls.

    We know Lee kept a “Hunting List” in his own account books of slave girls he most wanted captured. We know his slave almost universally hated him, and rebelled before the Civil War, to which Lee hired bounty hunters and paid extra for the torture of at least one young girl.

    We know Lee had sharpshooters in the rear of his own soldiers — killing those who would run away during battle, a tactic later mimiced by Stalin. (Page 410 of Pryors book). We know Lee’s soldiers hated him, and were deserting en masse.

    The real picture of Lee is almost directly opposite of the nonsense that has so far been deliberatedly fabricated about the man.

4 Responses to The Civil War in 4 Minutes

Kelly’s Irish Brigade

Sunday, May 30, AD 2010

I have had a few posts, here, here  and here, on the famous Irish Brigade that fought for the Union in the Army of the Potomac.  There were however other Irish units, North and South.  This song celebrates Kelly’s Irish Brigade that fought for the Confederacy in the West.  The Brigade was actually a regiment, the Washington Blues, organized by Joseph Kelly, a grocer in Saint Louis, prior to the Civil War.  Kelly was an Irish immigrant as were most of the men in his regiment.  They provided good service for the Confederacy, and you may read about them here.

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3 Responses to The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Thank you for posting.

    Memorial Day brings childhood memories. As a boy scout in the early 1960’s, our troop would march in each Memorial Day parade. It was special. Most of our fathers had served in WWII. Many of their sons would see action in Vietnam.

    On Memorial Day, I remember all the young men that gave their last full measure of devotion, and never got to raise families, like I have. And, I especially prayerfully remember Bill, Dan, Dave, and Paul who marched with me in those parades and never came home from their war.

    Flag etiquette: Memorial Day morning the flag is displayed at half staff. It is slowly raised to full staff and slowly lowered to half, in honor of the fallen. After noon, the flag is repsectfully returned to full staff.

  • Thank you gentlemen.

Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

Tuesday, May 11, AD 2010

One of the difficulties that I often experience when preparing a post on a historical topic for the blog, is deciding what to leave out.  Oftentimes I have far more material than I can put in a post, unless I want to transform the post into a treatise.  In the case of my recent post on Joshua Barney, American naval hero of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, I had to leave out quite a bit on his life.  One portion that I think might be of interest to our readers is his involvement with Jerome Bonaparte, brother to Napoleon Bonaparte.

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27 Responses to Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

  • What a huge mess is what I say. Archbishop Carroll should have refused to marry them. For the Americans to be in league with the family of the Terror of Europe by virtue of entertaining Napoleon’s brother on this land as though he was real royalty.

    Wouldn’t this be akin to Raul Castro being welcomed into this land and showing him a grand ‘ol time while his brother–Fidel– is terrorizing Catholicism and Christianity in general?

    And lastly, of course he saw the marriage to Betsy as nothing more than a piece of paper. I am not surprised. He himself was married twice.

  • fascinating post, Donald. Thank you. It would make a great movie (for those of you that like that sort of thing, and I think you know who you are!)

  • Napoleon was no Castro. He was a despot, but no more so than most of the Monarchs of the Europe of his day, with the proviso that Napoleon was far more talented at doing the Monarch job than all the rest of them put together. His concordat with the Pope effectively ended the Republican war against the Church. Napoleon of course bullied the Pope and locked him up, but these behaviors were well within the traditions of earlier monarchs of the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”.

  • What exactly makes one a monarch other than force, and then heredity enforced by force?

  • I think there was a BBC Horatio Hornblower episode that used this as a story line.

  • Phillip – I thought I had watched all the Hornblower episodes on A&E. As I recall, they were taken from Foresters “Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” stories (which were written long after “Beat to Quarters” but tell the story of Hornblower’s earliest experiences with [then] Captain Pellew). I also remember they did a two part movie based on Lieutenant Hornblower, where he and Lt. Bush must overcome a psychotic captain.

    I dont recall a similar storyline following “Fifi’s” romantic escapades but would love to see it.

  • The episode in which Hornblower met Jerome and Betsy was released in 2003. It was entitled Duty.


  • And I was preparing a screenplay … oh well …

  • “Lifestyles of the Young and Bonaparte!”

  • tryptic67,

    Go ahead and do your screenplay. As I recall, the Hornblower episode doesn’t approach the detail that Donald relates.

  • Interesting post. I am actually a descendant of William Patterson’s brother Thomas Michael Patterson who settled in South Carolina. In your post you make two historical mistakes: 1) William Patterson wasn’t Catholic, he was Presbyterian from Northern Ireland. He arranged for a Catholic wedding and even he was against her marrying a Bonaparte. 2) He wasn’t a shipbuilder, he was a merchant, like you said the richest after Carroll. He also aided the American Revolution by buying arms from the French and supplying Washington’s army. Other than that you are spot on.

  • Thank you Jason. You are correct on both points. One of the sources I consulted was in error. I have amended the post accordingly.

  • Historians generally call the period from 1800 through 1815 as the Napoleonic Wars. That one man can single-handedly plunge an entire continent to fifteen years of near-constant warfare, causing widespread death and destruction, is appalling. Not very many persons in human history can boast the same achievement.

    In my opinion, Napoleon was pretty evil.

  • “Historians generally call the period from 1800 through 1815 as the Napoleonic Wars. That one man can single-handedly plunge an entire continent to fifteen years of near-constant warfare, causing widespread death and destruction, is appalling.”

    Napoleon has his share of the blame, but I don’t think he can be properly alloted all of the blame. Wars were a frequent feature of life in Europe up to the time of Napoleon, and in that respect the wars of his period were not that unusual. What was extremely unusual was the almost century of peace and brief wars in Europe ushered in after the Congress of Vienna.

  • Admiral Nelson tried to help the Pope as much as he could. Contrast this with Napoleon, who occupied Rome. So Admiral Nelson, an Anglican, turned out to be more pro-Catholic than Napoleon, a nominal Catholic. This was an exceptional moment of Protestant-Catholic cooperation.

  • Catholic refugees in England during the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars helped begin the process of lessening the virulent anti-Catholicism that England had been cursed with since the time of Bad Queen Bess.

  • Napolean was actually an agnostic at best.

    He didn’t care for the Church unless it served him such as his wedding to gain legitamacy in the eyes of Frenchman.

    He’s still one of the closest men in history that resembled the anti-Christ.

    Only Mao, Stalin, and Hitler can claim that crown along with the Corsican.

  • I disagree with you as to Napoleon’s religious stance Tito. I agree with the observations of Metternich, his greatest foe:

    “Napoleon was not irreligious in the ordinary sense of the word. He would not admit that there had ever existed a genuine atheist; he condemned Deism as the result of rash speculation. A Christian and a Catholic, he recognized in religion alone the right to govern human societies. He looked on Christianity as the basis of all real civilization; and considered Catholicism as the form of worship most favorable to the maintenance of order and the true tranquility of the moral world; Protestantism as a source of trouble and disagreements. Personally indifferent to religious practices, he respected them too much to permit the slightest ridicule of those who followed them. It is possible that religion was, with him, more the result of an enlightened policy than an affair of sentiment; but whatever might have been the secret of his heart, he took care never to betray it.”

    My thoughts on Napoleon and his religious beliefs are set out here:


  • It is a little-known historical fact that Admiral Nelson almost became a Liberator of Rome. In 1798, Rome was occupied by Napoleon. Nelson persuaded King Ferdinand IV of Naples to take action. With the help of Nelson’s fleet, King Ferdinand and his army entered Rome on November 29, 1798. If their success had been more permanent, King Ferdinand IV and Admiral Nelson would have gone down in history as Liberators of Rome.

  • Actions speak louder than words, and Napoleon committed many acts that can hardly be described as Christian. He killed hundreds of thousands of people in aggressive warfare. Name almost any country in Western Europe, and more likely than not, Napoleon shows up in her history as invader or conqueror. Let’s not forget, either, the Russians and anyone else who opposed him.

    (Some of Napoleon’s battles may have been in France’s self-defense, but in many situations he was the aggressor rather than the defender.)

    “What was extremely unusual was the almost a century of peace and brief wars in Europe ushered in after the Congress of Vienna.” So Napoleon in power brings fifteen years of death and destruction, but Napoleon in exile three thousand miles away affords Europe a hundred years of peace. (Pardon me for using your argument against you.)

  • Blaming Napoleon solely for the wars of his time are absurd. The wars brought on by the French Revolution were already in full swing by the time Napoleon arrived on the scene. Britain, and the other powers it convinced to join in wars against France over the years, simply was not going to allow a greatly expanded France to dominate the Continent, as it had waged a similar war to prevent Louis XIV and France from dominating Europe a century before the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon was part of a long historical process of wars between Britain and France to decide which would be the dominant player in Europe and the World. To paint Napoleon as the bogey man in this process betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of this clash of two nations that ended in the Pax Britannica.

  • Look at a map of Europe. Austerlitz, Jena, Moscow, etc. are hundreds of miles away from French soil. Napoleon was not fighting in self-defense.

    At this time, France had beheaded its King and Queen. All the royal houses of Europe were in fear for their lives. You might forgive them a little for being eager to oppose France.

    I will admit though, that it was a little hypocritical of the British to oppose Napoleon and keep the Irish oppressed.

  • Austerlitz was fought as a result of Britain convincing Austria to join the Third Coalition against France, France and Britain being at war since 1803 after the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens. Jena was fought as a result of Prussia joining the Fourth Coalition, and being deluded enough to think that it could beat France in a stand up fight. Prussia declared war on France, not the other way around. Moscow was fought as a result of Napoleon’s attempt to keep Russia in the Continental System which involved closing the ports of Europe to trade with Britain. It is impossible to understand the Napoleonic Wars without understanding the ancient rivalry between Britain and France which was the underlying cause of each of these wars.

    As to the royal houses being in fear of their lives, that fear terminated long before Napoleon was crowned as Emperor with the end of the Republican terror. After Napoleon their motivation was chiefly fear of the loss of their jobs, until the nationalism that motivated the masses in France had spread to the masses of the nations fighting France.

  • Way before Austerlitz was fought, Napoleon had made his intentions loud and clear – he wanted to replace most, if not all, of Europe’s monarchies with his own rule. Would-be world conquerors do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Britain, Prussia, Austria and their allies perceived that Napoleon was a threat. They were on the defensive side, regardless of who technically declared war first.

    The traditional Anglo-French rivalry may have made the fighting more bitter than usual. If the British were a little eager in opposing Napoleon, it is because they knew what was at stake. Even before the Peace of Amiens, Napoloeon intended to cross the English Channel and invade Britain. What Napoleon was planning to do with the British once he had conquered them, you can imagine for yourself.

  • “Napoleon had made his intentions loud and clear – he wanted to replace most, if not all, of Europe’s monarchies with his own rule.”

    Quite untrue. What Napoleon wanted was to have a continent dominated by the Empire of France. If that goal was served by keeping the local rulers in power he kept them in power, as he did with the Hapsburgs in Austria and the Hohenzollerns in Prussia. From 1793 Britain and France were in a struggle to see which country would dominate Europe and the globe. I like the fact that Britain won that struggle, due to the restraint, usually, with which they exercised their hegemony in the Nineteenth Century, and their commitment to Parliament and the rule of Law, but that does not alter the fact that both Britain and France were aiming for the same goal, the top position among the powers of the globe.

  • Oh, and the Brits long before the French drew up invasion plans for England, had made unsuccessful attempts to invade France. Napoleon earned his promotion to Brigadier General by commanding the artillery during the siege of Toulon that drove the British from that French port in 1794.

American Swashbuckler: Joshua Barney

Monday, May 10, AD 2010

It is a pity that Errol Flynn during the Golden Age of Hollywood never had the opportunity to do a biopic on Joshua Barney.  Barney’s life was more adventuresome and filled with derring-do than the fictional characters that Flynn portrayed.

The scion of a Catholic Maryland family, Barney was born on July 6, 1759 in Baltimore, one of 14 children.  At 10 he announced to his startled father that he was leaving school.  His father found him a job in a counting shop, but Barney refused to spend his life chained to a desk.  He left his father’s farm at 13 to seek his fortunes on the sea.  He became an apprentice mate on the brig Sydney engaged in the Liverpool trade.  The captain of the brig died suddenly on a voyage  to Europe and  the 14 year old Barney assumed command and successfully completed the voyage.

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One Response to American Swashbuckler: Joshua Barney

General Lee and Guerrilla War

Friday, May 7, AD 2010

Hattip to commenter Dennis McCutcheon for giving me the idea for this post.  We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy.

“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.

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9 Responses to General Lee and Guerrilla War

  • Probably the greatest general America has ever had.

  • Lee’s quintessential decency saved America from a horrible fate. We owe him more than we will ever be able to describe.

    Not so BTW, Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,” explores a related proposal from time travellers with an agenda.

  • Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,”

    Apologies for the off-topic snicker, but was this a sequel to “Bosons at Bull Run?” Personally, “Gluons at Gettysburg” was a pretty good yarn, too. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

  • “Guns of the South” was also a good alternative-history book where South African Apartheiders went into the past to ensure a Confederate victory (by Harry Turtledove).

  • The night before the formal surrender, General Chamberlain had decided to salute the Army of Virginia. The decision “was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

    The next morning, on April 12, the salute was rendered.

    “When General Gordon came opposite of me, I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention’…The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. As the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment of its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation…On our part, not a sound of trumpet more, nor the roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breathing-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.”

    After the war, General Gordon would address Chamberlain as “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army.”

    As other units passed Chamberlain, one Confederate said as he was delivering his flag, “boys, this is not the first time you have seen this flag. I have borne it in the front of battle on many victorious fields of battle and I had rather die than surrender it to you.” Chamberlain replied, “I admire your noble spirit, and only regret that I have not the authority to bid you keep your flag and carry it home as a precious heirloom.” One officer said to Chamberlain, “General, this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at the day’s business. Another officer said, “You astound us by your honorable and generous conduct. I fear that we should not have done the same to you had the case been reversed.” A third officer went even farther by saying, “I went into that cause I meant it. We had our choice of weapons and of ground, and we have lost. Now [pointing to the Stars and Stripes] that is my flag, and I will prove myself as worthy as any of you.”

    However, most of the Confederates were too humiliated to be reversed so quickly. General Wise told Chamberlain, “You may forgive us but we won’t be forgiven. There is a rancor in hour hearts which you little dream of. We hate you, Sir…you go home, you take these fellows home. That’s what will end this war.”

    Chamberlain replied, “Don’t worry about the end of the war. We are going home pretty soon, but not till we see you home.”

    No matter how ill Chamberlain’s salute to the fallen South may have been received, it still remains one of the greatest acts of honor in the military history of the United States.

    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence.“Bayonet! Forward” My Civil War Reminiscences.
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1994.

    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence. The Passing of the Armies: The Last Campaign of the
    Armies. Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1915.

    Dllard, Wallace M. Soul of the Lion; A Biography on General Joshua L. Chamberlain
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1960.

  • When the War ended, Robert E. Lee was a man without a home and without citizenship.

    Before the War, Lee and his family lived at Arlington House, a mansion on top of a hill in Alexandria County, Virginia. The place is across the Potomac River from Washington. Mrs. Lee had inherited the place from her father, who was related to George and Martha Washington. Mrs. Lee’s father had put together the largest private collection of George Washington memorabilia at Arlington House.

    When Robert E. Lee joined the Confederate Army, he had to abandon Arlington House, which the Union Army soon took over. Yankee soldiers looted the house, not sparing some of the Washington memorabilia. The Union Army buried dead Yankee soldiers at the front yard, at the backyard, and all around the house. This was to ensure that Robert E. Lee and his family would never again live at Arlington House. Thus, the place became Arlington National Cemetery.

    After the War, Washington College needed a leader to take it through the rough postwar years. The college, which had received an endowment from George Washington, asked Robert E. Lee to be their next college president. Lee accepted, and served at the college for five years until his decease in 1870. Later, the college would adopt the name Washington and Lee University.

    Interestingly, both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were residents of Lexington, Virginia at different times, Jackson as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute before the War, Lee as president of Washington College after the War.

    In the postwar years, Lee’s citizenship was under a cloud. He applied for amnesty, but the federal government sat on it. In 1975, Congress finally restored Lee’s citizenship.

  • To suggest that the nation’s future balanced “on a knife’s edge” during that moment of temptation by Alexander is to besmirch the noble name of Lee. Even the quoted recouting of the story exposes the blatant lie in the suggestion that Lee considered it seriously, even for a moment.

    You might as well sully the reputation of Washington (another famous Virginian) by saying he was giving serious thought to keeping the presidency as long as he could.

    What’s this facsination with dancing on the graves of the South’s warriors? You don’t really want to bring up the issue of relative goodness here. Though slavery was certainly horrible, you have to stretch the meaning of words and tarnish your reputation for truth to suggest that the federal government entered into the war to abolish slavery. So what end must have been declared to justify the means of 75,000 volunteers in the spring of 1861? Was it really emancipation? If that were true, would any have been able to argue that it was the only way?

    Those of you who actually say the word “indivisible” in the Pledge certainly see nothing wrong in completely destroying the consent of the governed that had existed in the repuiblic until that day.

    Now Obama merely takes it all to it’s natural conclusion. If southern consent was not required in 1861 under Lincoln, his 21st century political descendent cannot be blamed for deciding that no consent is required today.

  • Kevin, you took offense where none was intended. The entire post was in praise of Lee. Some Lost Cause enthusiasts are just as quick to take offense against purely imaginary insults as devotees of other forms of identity politics.

  • i have lived in a country with guerrilla war that has lasted a hundred years,it never ends! this kind of fight has no honour,which is a reflection of our times.Lee was a model to all men of how to act-charity, kindness and true courage.Never thinking of himself,always of others and the greater good.His foundation his faith.Godbless Lee Godbless the south!

Mormon Bad Boy

Tuesday, April 20, AD 2010

God can use a thunderstorm.  Or Porter Rockwell.

Mormon Proverb

One reason why I have always loved history is that it is so often wilder and more colorful than fiction.  A very colorful part indeed of American history is that which records the events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, and in that history no portion is more colorful than the life of Orrin Porter Rockwell.  Throughout his life legends began to cluster about him and it is not easy to keep fact and fable in his biography separate.

Born on June 28, 1813, in Belchertown, New Hampshire, he was one of the earliest followers of Joseph Smith, being baptized into the church in 1830.  Powerfully built, he served as a bodyguard for Smith.  In 1838 he may have attempted to assassinate the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs, after Boggs issued an order calling for the expulsion of the Mormons from Misssouri or their extermination.  The order was prompted by the Missouri Mormon War of 1838.

Rockwell was held in jail for eight months, but no grand jury would indict him due to lack of evidence.  Rockwell defended himself with such statements as “I never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!” and “He’s alive, ain’t he.” in reference to Governor Boggs.  After his release from jail, Rockwell traveled to the house of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, a town built by the Mormons, arriving there on Christmas Day 1843.  A Christmas party was underway and Rockwell looked like a dirty tramp, his hair grown out during his imprisonment and his clothes and his body unwashed.  Smith purportedly made the following prophecy upon seeing Rockwell:  “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you — Orrin Porter Rockwell — so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.”  Rockwell wore his hair long thereafter until he cut it to make a wig for a woman who lost her hair from typhoid fever.

Rockwell was a Danite, a secret Mormon organization dedicated to carrying out acts of violence on behalf of the Mormon religion.  In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were indicted for treason against the state of Illinois, the culmination of ever growing tension between Mormons and non-Mormons in Illinois.  On June 27, 1844 a mob stormed the jail in Carthage, Illinois where the Smiths were being held and murdered them.  Rockwell had been away on a mission for the Mormon church at the time, and wept like a child according to witnesses when he learned of the death of Joseph Smith.

In the chaos that ensued after the death of Smith, the Mormons often engaged in battles with mobs of non-Mormons.  On September 16, 1845 Rockwell was hastily deputized by the Sheriff of Hancock County Illinois, Jacob Blackenstos.  Blackenstos was a non-Mormon but was friendly to the Mormons.  He was being chased by an anti-Mormon mob led by Frank Worrell, who had been in charge of the militia unit that failed to protect Joseph Smith when he was murdered.  Rockwell took out his rifle and stopped the mob by shooting to death Worrell.  Worrell thus became the first man killed by Rockwell, a total that would grow to 40-100, no one is certain, by the end of Rockwell’s life.

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7 Responses to Mormon Bad Boy

  • Articles like this are why I love the internet. Great work.

  • I’d be interested to know if Rockwell had many run-ins with Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle, a predecessor of Bishop Katharine Schori as presiding TEC bishop.

    Based in Salt Lake City, he once thrashed a stage driver for swearing in the presence of a woman. Ranchers and miners flocked to see the fighting cleric, according to David T. Courtwright’s history _Violent Land_.

  • Here’s another American legend.

    In 1972, the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” was released. It was loosely based on the life of John Johnston. If you want the real story, read Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson by Raymond W. Thorpe and Robert Bunker.

  • There won’t be any accounts of exchanges between Bishop Tuttle and Rockwell unless Tuttle broke the law. Rockwell was a lawman and pioneer; but theological discourse didn’t ever appear to be on his plate.

    On minor error above has Rockwell away on a mission when Joseph Smith was killed. He was instead waiting at home in Nauvoo, Illinois as were the rest of Smith’s bodyguards as they had been directed to be by Smith.

    The so-called Danites were a short-lived group during the Missouri period (1833-38)that was disbanded when Church leaders learned of it.

  • “There won’t be any accounts of exchanges between Bishop Tuttle and Rockwell unless Tuttle broke the law. Rockwell was a lawman and pioneer; but theological discourse didn’t ever appear to be on his plate.”

    Isn’t that the truth Alma!

    “On minor error above has Rockwell away on a mission when Joseph Smith was killed. He was instead waiting at home in Nauvoo, Illinois as were the rest of Smith’s bodyguards as they had been directed to be by Smith.”

    That could well be. I used this account for my statement that he was away on assignment:

    In researching Rockwell I found a great deal of contradictory material. A lifetime could be spent attempting to get everything straight in his story.

    “The so-called Danites were a short-lived group during the Missouri period (1833-38)that was disbanded when Church leaders learned of it.”

    That is open to debate.

    From the Utah History Encyclopedia:

    There is incontrovertible evidence that a few “rough-rider” type minute men were appointed by Brigham Young as early as l847 to act as lawmen in the new Mormon settlements on the plains, and later in the Salt Lake Valley. This was necessary in the absence of any civil administration. Handy with their guns and with a knowledge of frontier life, these men were on call for Indian uprisings and immigrant problems such as the July, l849 arrival of the California gold-seekers into the valley. Brigham’s “Minute-men” were kept busy in this period when stealing, rustling and murder increased as travelers entered the territory. Local residents who committed crimes were dealt with by their bishops and not the “Minute Men”.

    The name “Danite was applied to four or five of these early lawmen by the Eastern Press because of an earlier semi-religious organization begun in Missouri in l838 by Dr. Sampson Avard. This early group disbanded almost before it started when the motives of Dr. Avard became suspect and he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. However, the ideas he promulgated persisted with some for several decades in the Utah Territory. Based on the biblical scripture, Genesis 49:l7, non-Mormon “Gentiles” who persecuted the Mormons were to be punished by losing their possessions.

    It is unknown how many of the Utah period so-called “Danites” had been members of the original Missouri organization. What is known is that there were never “70 Destroying Angels” appointed by Brigham Young. The number seventy came from the Church priesthood calling of the “Seventy”.

    After Sir Richard Burton’s visit to the Salt Lake Valley in l860, the Eastern press most prominently identified as “Danites” William Adams “Bill” Hickman, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Ephe Hanks, Robert Burton, and Lot Smith. All had taken a prominent part in the war against the U.S. Army troops in l857-58, and had been appointed by Brigham Young. These men served with honor during the Mormon War and also the later tumultuous Camp Floyd period.

    Orson Hyde, an apostle in the Church and one who had benefited from the protection given by lawman Bill Hickman in Winter Quarters in l848-49, failed to later discourage Hickman’s gang in l860 for depredations committed against the U.S. Army at Camp Floyd. Hyde contended that Hickman probably “had a revelation to act as he did.” This lawless period should have ended with the official announcement by Brigham Young on 9 September l860, that said, “…if the Lord wants any stealing done he would reveal it to me as soon as to Bill Hickman or others.”

    There continued to be isolated incidences attributed to the “Danites” in Anti-Mormon books and press articles until the railroad came to the territory in l869. By then the original territorial lawmen were mostly dead, retired, or had been replaced by a new group of sheriffs and policemen with civil rather than religious powers. However, the name “Danite” continues to excite readers and historians of the early Utah period, even though the evidence of excessive wrong doing outside the law, appears to be greatly exaggerated.

    Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton”

    Anti-Mormon writers have attributed all sorts of nefarious actions to the Danites. I find the history lacking to support these allegations.

  • It is difficult to sift the myth and legend out of accounts of Porter Rockwell because so many people think that a story worth telling is worth telling better.

    It is true that Brigham Young appointed “minute-men” or Mormon Marauders as they became known in the 1857 war. But history notes that they were under strict orders from Brigham Young not to shed blood. They were able to stop the US Army from entering into the Salt Lake Valley without the loss of any human life.

    The idea of a lawless society with Brigham’s destroying angels was good fodder for newspaper and dime novel sales, but the reality was that Brigham Young governed about 50,000 people in over 300 communities with a handshake and a smile. A lot of sayings attributed to him didn’t find their way into reports of his comments that were published weekly. Consider this statement: “I am sorry that some of our brethren have been killed by the Indians, but am far more sorry that some of the Indians have been slain by the brethren. I have often said, and I say again, if any person is to be killed for stealing, let that one be a white man, and not an Indian, for white men know better, while Indians do not.”

    My own great-great grandfather was a member of the Danites in Missouri; but this group was so short lived (except in folklore) that Mormons have ever after been embarrassed by its presence in history.

    One book on Rockwell was written by a journalist named Schindler. He found the material so contradictory that he provided alternate accounts for many of the stories. It makes for interesting citations since you get opposite readings on the same page.

  • Fascinating.

    What little I know of the early Utah days of the Mormons comes from a pair of truly enjoyable books I read as a kid by Catholic author John D. Fitzgerald: Papa Married a Mormon and Mama’s Boarding House.

    Fitzgerald is more famous for his (much more heavily fictionalized) Great Brain books, but these two, written more for adults, are a less fictionalized biographical account of Fitzgerald’s parents: his father was a Irish Catholic who fell in love with and married a Mormon girl — a marriage which was not blessed by either church for a number of years. The two books tell about his family’s life in a small Utah town, living in between the calm Mormon community and the wild west Gentiles.

    Though given that they’re so enjoyable (and have to do with history) I’m guessing they may not be news to Don…

Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

Sunday, April 18, AD 2010

Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington.  The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”

Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772,  a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.

It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.

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12 Responses to Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

  • Thanks for an excellent and engrossing essay, Dave. There’s always something new to be learned from history, especially when written from a Catholic perspective.

  • Very interesting.

    A few minor points:

    Hamilton is the only non-President on US currency

    Franklin, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Salmon Chase.

    Hamilton was a self made man.

    The local community paid for his college education then he married into wealth.

    I disagree with your point about money:

    Hamilton was a strong advocate of agriculture and manufacturing subsidies. Of course the vast majority of people don’t like taxes. But Hamilton and others understood that taxes used for the general welfare were necessary. Those who understand it best often come from disadvantaged childhoods. Hamilton, Obama, Clinton. People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

  • As Thomas DiLorenzo in his book Hamilton’s Curse points out:

    “Hamilton complained to George Washington that “we need a government of more energy” and expressed disgust over “an excessive concern for liberty in public men” like Jefferson. Hamilton “had perhaps the highest respect for government of any important American political thinker who ever lived,” wrote Hamilton biographer Clinton Rossiter.

    Hamilton and his political compatriots, the Federalists, understood that a mercantilist empire is a very bad thing if you are on the paying end, as the colonists were. But if you are on the receiving end, that’s altogether different. It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks would say.

    Hamilton was neither the inventor of capitalism in America nor “the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America,” as biographer Ron Chernow ludicrously asserts. He was the instigator of “crony capitalism,” or government primarily for the benefit of the well-connected business class. Far from advocating capitalism, Hamilton was “befogged in the mists of mercantilism” according to the great late nineteenth century sociologist William Graham Sumner.”

    Hamilton the first of the “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Big Government Conservatives.”

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I mede the necessary correction.

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I made the necessary correction (it is awful early in the morning!)

  • Far better for the world if Hamilton had stayed in it and Burr, a true blackguard, had departed it.

  • Thanks Dave great stuff as always!

  • Speaking of Hamilton and Burr, the Creative Minority Report posted a funny account that mentions them in response to the news that George Washington, Hamilton and others failed to return library books: http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2010/04/george-washington-and-i.html

    “Dueling for Dummies”: what a hoot!

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  • Given that Obama’s grandmother was a bank president and he attended a prestigious private school in Hawaii, I have a difficult time seeing his upbringing as “disadvantaged,” unless you wish to argue that simply being of mixed race automatically places one in the ranks of the disadvantaged.

    People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

    My, tea party haters really need to get their memes straight. One day we’re being characterized as ignorant trailer trash, and the next we’re folks with all sorts of advantages and no sympathy for the poor. It might behoove you to simply attend one yourself and take a good look at the country instead of mindlessly repeating whatever the media line du jour is about the tea partiers. When I went to one, the great majority of people struck me as utterly ordinary; neither toothless hicks nor BMW-driving swells.

    I did not know the details of Hamilton’s last hours. Thank you for a very interesting and informative post, Dave.

  • Donna, thank you for your kind words. I think you succinctly described the way critics of Big Government are described in the Mainstream Media. It does appear critics are either described as the toothless characters one saw chasing Ned Beatty in Deliverance, or a modern version of Mr Howell, upset that more taxes are being heeped upon Lovie and him.

    In truth the alternative “Coffee Party,” that the mainstream media seems to smitten with is indeed the new elite. Gone are Mr & Mrs Howell and their Polo Club Membership. Instead the new elite holds Cocktail Party fundraisers in cosmopolitian neighborhoods in spring, or a large Cape Code home in Marth’a Vineyard in the summer. For the Heinz-Kerry Yachting crowd, maybe a little gnosh in Monaco for the fall.

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Using Religion To Defend Slavery

Friday, April 16, AD 2010

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: 

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17 Responses to Using Religion To Defend Slavery

  • Obviously I missed the recent headline describing any living person who can spell both words “moral” and “compass,” let alone put them together, actually defending slavery.

    Perhaps you intend to dissect the reverend’s presumably learned discourse? I’ll need the cliffnotes, or some other reason to waste my time on the concept of slavery as a moral undertaking. Does this apply to moral instruction needed by anyone?

  • Catholicism’s place in slavery was not the one of Catholic quick internet written versions and not the list (which they are based on) of anti slavery bulls that Pope Leo XIII and another Pope gave in the 19th century… with simply Catholic laity disobeying and Popes objecting.
    John T. Noonan dispels that myth in “A Church That Can and Cannot Change”/ Nortre Dame/ 2005. What Pope Leo XIII left out of his list of anti slavery bulls was the late 15th century Popes who gave perpetual slavery as a right to Spain and Portugal when new natives resisted them in the new world. One can clearly see the beginning of this turbo charge of imperialism online in “Romanus Pontifex” 1453 by Pope Nicholas V (a follow up to his “Dum Diversas” which it is referring to) in the middle of the 4th large paragraph…see words in caps for essence:

    “We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to REDUCE THEIR PERSONS TO PERPETUAL SLAVERY, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit…(then at the end of the bull a fateful voiding of future bulls for the Portuguese crown)…And if anyone, by whatever authority, shall, wittingly or unwittingly, attempt anything inconsistent with these orders we decree that his act shall be null and void…Therefore let no one infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our declaration, constitution, gift, grant, appropriation, decree, supplication, exhortation, injunction, inhibition, mandate, and will. But if anyone should presume to do so, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.”

    Noonan points out that three subsequent Popes in the latter part of the 15th century confirmed the above for Portugal after Pope Nicholas V passed on and Pope Alexander VI in 1593 repeated the same rights for Spain as that bull divided the world between Spain and Portugal. You will remember that Alexander VI was in some ways the worst Pope we ever had in terms of scandal.
    In the Catholic Universities, theologians had a number of just causes for slavery and unforetunately one was already in the decretals (born to a slave mother) and was mentioned by Aquinas in the Supplement to the ST on Marriage (of a slave):

    “children follow the mother in freedom and bondage; whereas in matters pertaining to dignity as proceeding from a thing’s form, they follow the father, for instance in honors, franchise, inheritance and so forth. The canons are in agreement with this (cap. Liberi, 32, qu. iv, in gloss.: cap. Inducens, De natis ex libero ventre) as also the law of Moses (Exodus 21).”
    Supplement to the Summa Theologica
    Question 52 article 4 (“I answer that” section).

    Religious orders had slaves as England was in the process of stopping slavery.

    Noonan: “In 1792, six French Sulpicians arrived in Maryland, and one of them,
    Ambrose Marechal, leased a former Jesuit parish in Bohemia, where among other business in 1793 he sold ?Philis and her infant 3 weeks old for 35 pounds, and a month later sold Clara, Philis other child, 4 years old for five pounds. Marechal thought the proceeds belonged to the Sulpicians as profits of the estate, like the crops, the increase of stock, and firewood not fit for building. The Jesuits (organized as regular clergy since their suppression by the Pope in 1773) objected: like timber the Negroes belonged to the landlord. No objection was registered as to the sales, not even that separating Philis and Clara.” …A Church That Can and Cannot Change?/ pages 91-92/ John T. Noonan Jr.

    Noonan goes on to note that Marechal later became archbishop of Baltimore and argued with the Jesuits over property and Marechal reported to the Vatican pertaining to the dispute that concerning the wealth of the Jesuits: “They have about 500 African men bound in slavery to them, of whom the mean price is about 200 scudi.” And he goes on to note in the next sentence the large number of animals they also own. He is saying all this to get Rome to side with his contention that the Jesuits have property that rightly belongs to the Diocese since the Jesuits at that time were not an order (suspended) but were in the interim regular clergy.

  • I’ll grant you, this day after Tax Day, that Obama is doing his best to make slaves of us all. Other than than, I fail to comprehend the value in the discussion.
    And given the decidedly autocratic, politically tone-deaf bent to our national legislature of late, I am not sure I want anyone reminded that at one time reasonable men could reach different conclusions about the matter of chattel slavery and still be considered reasonable!

  • Cardinal Dulles had a review of Noonan’s book in 2005 in First Things. Here is the portion of the review which dealt with slavery:

    “More than half of the book deals with slavery, a subject that Noonan has researched in considerable detail. Slavery was practiced by almost every known society until modern times. Throughout the biblical era, Noonan shows, slavery was taken as a given, although the Israelites practiced rather mild forms of slavery and did not permanently enslave their compatriots. Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus and any other slaves he may have had.

    For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.

    The leaven of the gospel gradually alleviated the evils of slavery, at least in medieval Europe. Serfdom did not involve the humiliation and brutality people today ordinarily associate with slavery. Moral theologians recognized that slaves, unlike mere chattels, had certain rights even against their masters, who no longer had over them the power of life and death, as had been the case in pagan antiquity.

    For St. Thomas, slaves (servi) had the right to food, sleep, marriage, and the rearing of their children. Provision had also to be made for them to fulfill their religious duties, and they were to be treated with benevolence. With the conquest of the New World and the enslavement of whole populations of Indians and Africans, theologians such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Cajetan began to object to the injustices of subjecting conquered peoples and of engaging in the lucrative slave trade. Some prominent Catholics of the early nineteenth century, including J.M. Sailer, Daniel O’Connell, and the Comte de Montalembert, together with many Protestants, pressed for the total abolition of slavery.

    Throughout this period the popes were far from silent. As soon as the enslavement of native populations by European colonists started, they began to protest, although Noonan gives only a few isolated examples. Eugene IV in 1435 condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Pius II and Sixtus IV emphatically repeated these prohibitions. In a bull addressed to all the faithful of the Christian world Paul III in 1537 condemned the enslavement of Indians in North and South America. Gregory XIV in 1591 ordered the freeing of all the Filipino slaves held by Spaniards. Urban VIII in 1639 issued a bull applying the principles of Paul III to Portuguese colonies in South America and requiring the liberation of all Indian slaves.

    In 1781 Benedict XIV renewed the call of previous popes to free the Indian slaves of South America. Thus it was no break with previous teaching when Gregory XVI in 1839 issued a general condemnation of the enslavement of Indians and Blacks. In particular, he condemned the importation of Negro slaves from Africa. Leo XIII followed along the path set by Gregory XVI.

    Although the popes condemned the enslavement of innocent populations and the iniquitous slave trade, they did not teach that all slaves everywhere should immediately be emancipated. At the time of the Civil War, very few Catholics in the United States felt that papal teaching required them to become abolitionists.

    Bishop John England stood with the tradition in holding that there could be just titles to slavery. Bishop Francis P. Kenrick held that slavery did not necessarily violate the natural law. Archbishop John Hughes contended that slavery was an evil but not an absolute evil. Orestes Brownson, while denying that slavery was malum in se, came around to favor emancipation as a matter of policy.

    In 1863 John Henry Newman penned some fascinating reflections on slavery. A fellow Catholic, William T. Allies, asked him to comment on a lecture he was planning to give, asserting that slavery was intrinsically evil. Newman replied that, although he would like to see slavery eliminated, he could not go so far as to condemn it as intrinsically evil. For if it were, St. Paul would have had to order Philemon, “liberate all your slaves at once.” Newman, as I see it, stood with the whole Catholic tradition. In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled that although slavery (servitus) was undesirable, it was not per se opposed to natural or divine law. This ruling pertained to the kind of servitude that was customary in certain parts of Africa at the time.

    No Father or Doctor of the Church, so far as I can judge, was an unqualified abolitionist. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources.”


  • Donald
    Dulles does a neat trick which is to again leave out the late 15th century Popes and secondly Dulles studiously does not notice if the anti slavery Popes followed up with interdict when Catholic countries ignored them.
    I read that Dulles piece long ago in First Things and it is not good reviewing when you seem not to have read what Noonan wrote. Dulles simply copied from Leo XIII or a drivative thereof which was the problem all along. It is as though Dulles skimmed the Noonan book…missed the central point of the late 15th century and thus skipped from Aquinas to Las Casas who was early 16th century… and then went to Leo’s encyclical and took on the reviewing assignment thinking no one would really read the Noonan book with close attention.

    Dulles fails to mention and Noonan does mention that the Canary Island case was a Pope objecting to slavery on Canary islands because the people in question were baptized. You can see that from the document itself online. That same Pope,EugeneIV,later gave Portugal the right to conquer those Canary islands which were infidel in 1436 in a separate “Romanus Pontifex” from Nicholas’ fateful one of 1453.

    Dulles goes on to tell of Pope Paul III issuing a bull against slaving in 1537 in the new world but he fails to mention why it was necessary (the late 15th century Popes had given carte blanche to enslave if the gospel was resisted) and further Dulles misses (which Noonan had documented) that ten years later, that same Paul III praised domestic slavery within Italy.

    Read the Noonan book and you will have done more than Dulles did. You can see from my piece above that Noonan documented the sale of a woman away from her child by the Sulpicians with the Jesuits taking that conduct for granted while Dulles goes on in cover up style about how the gospel alleviated the details of slavery. Please read Noonan, a Federal judge…one used to evidence and not used to making things look better than they were. What we did on sexual abuse was not new. We have done it with history on topics like slavery.

  • Bill, in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race. One feature of the enslavement of muslim captives is that they normally had to be freed if they converted to Christianity. Romanus Pontifex was part of Nicholas V’s attempts to launch a crusade as the Ottoman Turks were finishing off Constantinople.

    There are many passages in Romanus Pontifex that indicate that the war against the Saracens, muslims, was the prime concern of the Pope:

    “Moreover, since, some time ago, it had come to the knowledge of the said infante that never, or at least not within the memory of men, had it been customary to sail on this ocean sea toward the southern and eastern shores, and that it was so unknown to us westerners that we had no certain knowledge of the peoples of those parts, believing that he would best perform his duty to God in this matter, if by his effort and industry that sea might become navigable as far as to the Indians who are said to worship the name of Christ, and that thus he might be able to enter into relation with them, and to incite them to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet, and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown but most sacred name of Christ, strengthened, however, always by the royal authority, he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole.”


    Removing the bull from its historical context distorts what the Pope was trying to accomplish: destroy Islamic power in Africa and Asia and convert the populations to Christianity.

  • Donald,
    You paint a prettier picture but you didn’t get it from Romanus Pontifex which is the cat’s meow on what Romnaus Pontifex was about.
    Giving it an exclusive purpose concerning Islam which makes it seem more religious is distortive when the text does not support that is what is happening? Imperialistic converting of all foreign peoples is what is happening by force of arms….something Vatican II now forbids in the strictest terms.

    Pope Nicholas discerned three groups as the document progresses and only one of those groups was the Saracens. He obviously saw slaves in person by that time and discerned that Blacks from lower Africa had zero to do with Saracens.

    The text shows that Pope Nicholas distinquishes between the Saracens and the people of lower Africa and…and… a group living between who also are not Islamists (third paragraph) and all are to be conquered even lower Africa which had no record of attacking Iberia as the Moors did so the self defense thing is not relevant with them.

    You will recurringly see a couplet…”Saracens and other infidels”…”enemies and infidels” and no where does Nicholas restrict slavery to male soldiers…prior to his reign, the decretals…Church law… as I showed above in Aquinas allowed for the slavery of women and their children who would then follow them in slavery.
    Throughout the centuries, this would be the loophole whereby slavery perdured…a canon law that said children followed the mother if she was a slave. The other just titles for slavery were capture in a just war/ selling one’s children to feed one’s other children (Tomas Sanchez)/ self selling of self to pay debt as with endentured servants. The loophole Portugal used was to buy blacks that were captured in a presumably just war in the interior of Africa.
    The sellers said the war was just. Your mutual fund tells you they never trade in and out of Playboy Enterprises; you are allowed to take their word for it.

    Romanus Pontifex first paragraph:

    “not only restrain the savage excesses of the SARACENS AND OF OTHER INFIDELS, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion..”

    second paragraph:

    “also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the SARACENS AND ALL OTHER INFIDELS WHATSOEVER, [and how] after the city of Ceuta, situated in Africa, had been subdued by the said King John to his dominion, and after many wars had been waged, sometimes in person, by the said infante, although in the name of the said King John, against the enemies and infidels aforesaid

    Thrid paragraph which now talks of conquering three distinct groups which will be repeated near the ending:

    “to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet…he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole”

    paragraph 4…future undiscovered lands perhaps motivated by the very remoteness of Antartica mentioned above..no mention of Saracens…just infidels and pagans:

    “all those provinces, islands, harbors, and seas whatsoever, which hereafter, in the name of the said King Alfonso and of his successors and of the infante, in those parts and the adjoining, and in the more distant and remote parts, can be acquired from the hands of INFIDELS OR PAGANS, and that they are comprehended under the said letters of faculty.”

    Next to the last paragraph then mentions the three groups while forbidding non Portuguese to bring things to those three groups:

    “that they do not by any means presume to carry arms, iron, wood for construction, and other things prohibited by law from being in any way carried to the Saracens, to any of the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places whatsoever, acquired or possessed in the name of King Alfonso, or situated in this conquest or elsewhere, to the SARACENS, INFIDELS, OR PAGANS…”

  • Bill, I think the document is clear that crusade is what the Pope had in mind. Of course it also helps to have some knowledge of the period and of the pontificate of Nicholas V. The encroaching threat of Islam consumed the pontificate of Nicholas V as it did the pontificates of most of the Popes of this time. Nicholas V viewed the explorations being undertaken by the Portugese as a prime opportunity to spread Christianity and make an end run around Islam. To attempt to read this bull as the Pope giving permission to found a slave trade or a slave empire is ahistoric. The Pope was attempting to encourage the Portugese in their endeavors, and hence that is why he granted them a monopoly in these territories.

    How Nicholas V would have dealt with long term slavery based on race is suggested by his bull in 1449 overturning statutes of the city of Toledo discriminating against Conversos, Catholics of Jewish Ancestry, on the grounds that “all Catholics are one in body according to the teaching of our faith.”

  • Donald,
    I’ll end briefly too. Were Pope Nicholas only about crusade, he would not have promised all the lands and assets of conquered countries to the Portuguese with the conquered people being perpetual slaves…unless there is a new definition of crusade that I never saw. And you then in your paradigm have the conquered males being slaves and the women and chidren as free as you and me. That is an odd picture of a conquered country with two classes of people…free women and enslave males. Sounds like the beginning of women’s lib. Romanus Pontifex said “perpetual slavery” not slavery til ransom as you said way above as you tried to subsume it under war practices.
    Pope Nicholas did not envision what the slave trade would become just as Henry Ford did not picture the New Jersey Turnpike and people being maimed in accidents… but he was responsible in great measure for giving slavery it’s license from Heaven prior to Protestantism and its justifications of slavery. And you are ignoring the text of Romanus Pontifex and its listing of two groups at first and its eventual listing of three groups of which Islamists were only one.

    A previous bull of “Unam Sanctam” mistook the two swords the disciples told Christ they had in the gospel… as saying that the Pope had both a secular sword and a relgious sword….power over the Church and power over the world. In the actual text of the gospel, scholars now feel Christ was exasperated with the two disciples taking His reference to swords as literal and so Christ says “Enough”. “Unam Sanctam” said Christ was saying that the “enough” meant that the two swords for the Pope are sufficient in the sense of complete..one over the Church and one over the world…the most dire misinterpretation of Christ that perhaps ever occurred.

    Pope Nicholas was the next step for the two swords; he actually carried that two fold purpose out with a nation. He saw himself capable of giving the world to Portugal due to his dominion over the secular sword and that they must convert others during that conquest as an integral part of conquest. Soon after Nicholas, in 1493, a Spanish Pope who had more children as Cardinal than the average NFP person today…Alexander VI… divided that entire world between Spain and Portugal each getting half of the world and that Pope gave the longitude they were to go by which oddly resulted in Brazil being Portuguese and the rest of South America being Spanish. It had nothing to do with Islam whatsoever. He was Spanish himself and was making sure the Portuguese did not get the whole world thanks to Nicholas. And the same rights of invasion and dominance and perpetual slavery were given Spain as were in Romanus Pontifex for the Portuguese (Noonan)…including the right of taking assets of those who resisted the gospel which Niall Ferguson of Harvard and Oxford in his recent best seller, “The Ascent of Money”, notes allowed a priest accompanying the conquistadors to hand a Bible to the leader of those natives in Peru as constituting preaching the gospel and see if he resisted the gospel; the leader did not open the bible…perhaps he could not read Latin and it was very lengthy. Anecdotes say that he threw it on the ground and that constituted resisting the gospel. Spain was subsequently to take that kingdom and all their silver for over 200 years from that area…at first with paid labor and later with local slaves and then after that black slaves….all of whom were easily maimed from falling stones in that type of mining and that silver and Mexico’s were 44 percent of Spain’s budget by the end of the 16th century and thus of the Inquisition’s budget…and Spain still waned before Britain due to her European wars. Ferguson quotes an Augustinian monk, Fray Antonio de la Calancha writing in 1638 AD: ” Every peso coin minted in Potosi(Peru)has cost the life of ten Indians who have died in the depths of the mines.”

    Historical context? Romanus Pontifex must be seen as the logical outgrowth of the mistake within Unam Sanctam…that the Pope literally owns the world in the name of Christ and so can give it to a nation that will conquer and convert under the threat of arms. That is how Filipinos and their country came to be named not after one of their heroes… but in honor of Phillip II of Spain who conquered them… much as Islam still threatens to conquer for God. God’s Providence removed throughout history land from the papacy… perhaps precisely in order to correct those several bulls.

  • Presuming to know God’s providence is a tricky business Bill. But for the actions of the Popes in sponsoring crusades across the centuries I have little doubt but that Islam would have conquered Europe. Perhaps God had the Popes assume secular authority during those centuries in order to prevent this. The answer to these type of questions will be in the next world.

    In regard to my point about Nicholas V and his overturning of the decrees against Conversos, I would note that in 1462 Pius II condemned the enslavement of baptized natives in the Canary Islands, calling slavery itself a great crime. Sublimus Dei of 1537 can thus be considered an application of the teaching regarding baptized natives and applying it to the non-baptized. Since readers of this thread might be unfamiliar with the text of Sublimus Dei I quote it in full:

    “To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

    The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office ‘Go ye and teach all nations.’ He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

    The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

    We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

    By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”

  • Donald
    Paul III whom you quoted above was not quite as consistent as you would like. He did not want enslavement based on conquering as the previous Popes did (see below). Yet Noonan found a later motu proprio of the same Pope Paul III “Statutorum almae urbis Romae libri quinque (Liber bullarum 19 v.)1548…11 years later than 1537 which stated: “from a multitude of slaves,inheritances are augmented.” Remember that Catholic moral theology until 1960 (Tommaso Iorio,S.J….Theologia Moralis…5th printing 1960)still contained several just titles for slavery in general and I actually regret that but accept it and that Leviticus 25 does mean at minimum that in some eras of debilitated economy and political structure, it can be existent morally and that John Paul II erred in calling it “intrinsic evil” in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” (the ordinary magisterium can err in morals…see Ludwig Ott/ end paragraph of section 8 of the intro to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith) (see section 40 of Evangelium Vitae for John Paul’s rather unconventional estimation of the severe within the OT as not coming from God).
    The Jesuit Salvatore Brandi centuries later in 1903 said that Paul III in the above motu proprio praising slavery was referring to mild slavery but as Noonan noted…he offered no proof.

    And I would urge intelligent readers to look at that one sentence within the piece that Donald presented just above:

    “notwithstanding [[whatever may have been]] or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty”.

    Pope Paul III is referring in the double bracketed words above to a series of 5 Popes minimum at the end of the 15th century whom Leo XIII left out of his encyclicals on the papal history with slavery and which Dulles left out of his First Things piece.

    And it was not just Pope Nicholas V and Alexander VI but included Pope Calixtus III who incorporated Romanus Pnotifex and its “perpetual slavery” (not temporary) into his own Inter Caetera 1456 as did Sixtus IV 1481 and then Pope Leo X confirmed Romanus Pontifex in writing for the Portuguese in 1514.

    We…Leo XIII and Cardinal Dulles… leave that out much as we tried leaving out many things in modern times related to the present revived scandal in the media. Opacity is over for us and for Goldman Sachs and Toyota and for everyone. But it works as long as people do not read micro history.
    But that is what the media specializes in making people read.

    Gone for real. Slavery topics kill weekends.

  • Paul III in 1545 abrograted the ancient privilege of slaves claiming freedom under a certain statue in Rome. From what I can glean online this abrogation had much to do with his desire to reduce the number of vagrants and homeless who had flocked to Rome. In 1548 he allowed the use of Muslim slaves, recall the whole crusade idea, in the Papal states.

  • “in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race.”

    Bingo! Are we really supposed to be all torn up about this?

    It’s a commonplace that classical and chattel slavery were two different institutions, and that the sort of slavery resulting from war between Christendom and Islam was far more representative of the former than the latter.

    This obsession, moreover, with “INFIDELS AND PAGANS” has nothing to do with black slavery. Infidels meant Muslims. Pagans could have meant any number of non-Muslim ENEMIES of the Church.

    None of the people of Africa or the Americas were thought of in such a way, as is made obvious by the long series of Papal bulls that were for some reason summarily dismissed at the beginning of this discussion.

    The Church wouldn’t have condemned chattel slavery in the New World over and over again if she didn’t see a difference. There’s no “contradiction” and there’s no “mistake.” The mistake is on the part of those who fail to understand the difference between what an “enemy of the Church” is, and what they aren’t.

    The “mistake” is on the part of liberals and others with a political agenda attempting to re-open old wounds by judging the past by modern standards – modern standards which are hardly any better, given the 40 million plus innocent children this country has seen legally murdered since 1973.

  • Joe
    Read detail before you post on detail. Saracens, infidels, and pagans are separated by commas in e.g. the last paragraph of Romanus Pontifex and could not therefore be identical and below Pope Paul III will name them (“Indians of the West and the South”) within that generation as he corrects the earlier bulls.

    Secondly it is the Pope, Paul III, who contradicted the five above mentioned Popes during the same time in history (Paul III was the brother of Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Giulia Farnese)and that presents a difficulty for theories like yours of that time having different standards.
    Paul III had different standards than the Popes who just preceded him immediately which means that at that time, there were two standards as to perpetually enslaving conquered blacks and native Americans if they resisted the gospel.
    So there is not one standard of enslaving in 1536 and prior; that is why Paul III wrote his bull in 1537. There were 265 Popes throughout history and relatively few took a stand against slavery and bulls in some centuries meant little beyond the immediate Pope unless they were backed up with interdict for those countries who ignored them and Paul III even did not interdict Spain or Portugal in their ignoring of him. Popes for centuries needed Kings just to have the papal territories survive and that made political bulls weak. Venice and its Bishops and priests totally ignored a papal interdict during that time of the Renaissance. That is why Pio Nono did not condemn France in the 19th century for the 2nd Opium war in China; he needed her to defend the papal territory which she did but then it was soon lost again anyway and France as papal rep within China in the second opium war both opened China to missionaries at the end of a gun but also forced the British opium trade on China simultaneously. Current Popes speak bravely against wars because current Popes get nothing from modern nations…ancien regime Popes were always dependent on nations and rarely backed up bulls with interdict so that a bull was permanent only if nations gained from what it said as in the case of Portugal and Spain who were not about to listen to an Italian Pope after a Spanish one had given them conquering rights and enslavement rights.

    And it is Paul III who further refutes your no blacks involved theory in Paul III’s own words regarding who the previous Popes gave permission to enslave. Here are the words of Paul III in 1537:

    ” The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.”

  • Pope Nicholas V by the way gave the right to perpetually enslave those who resisted the gospel. He did not say that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel so that Paul is also dealing with a further lower level of evil which had crept in since Nicholas…ie that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel. Apparently Spanish and Portuguese were running into an unforeseen problem:
    if natives accepted the gospel according to Nicholas, they were not to be enslaved and that meant that believers would interfere for example in Iberia taking specific land en masse since there existed believing natives on that land. Apparently the solution was to say that natives were too dumb to believe and thus the conquistadors were actually probably trying to undo even Nicholas V caveat that implied that natives accepting the gospel could not be enslaved or stolen from.
    Paul III did not issue an interdict to back up his words but he did issue a brief, Pastorale Officium, of excommunication mentioning the King of Castile and Aragon ….but Spain protested and so he rescinded it.

  • Bill,

    Ok. I’m going to try and be nice about this, because I admit, I could have some reading comprehension deficiency that isn’t allowing me to see your point.

    I would ask you to follow your own advice, and read the bloody details before you criticize others for not having read them.

    This is what you quote:

    “We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it.”

    First of all, what is the evil being done here? The evil is that there men – probably the Conquistadors and others, were trying to use the supposed idiocy of the natives to justify their enslavement. The whole purpose of this bull is to REFUTE THAT IDEA. He goes on to say:

    “Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters… that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”

    Is there something about this that is unclear to you?




    Someone here has severe reading comprehension deficiencies. It could be me. But I think it’s you. And I don’t know if you are motivated by anti-Catholic bigotry or you really just don’t understand the plain and simple meaning of words. You work that out for yourself.

  • Joe

    Your first post criticized my reading of words from not Paul III who you cite immediately above but from “Romanus Pontifex” by Pope Nicholas V and the words were: “Saracens, infidels and pagans” which you sought to conflate into “muslims” only. I responded to that.

    Now your above and second post is talking about an entirely different bull by an entirely different Pope as though that is one you were writing about in the first post as to the detail problem that I alleged as to those words and it was not. Your first post was about the words “infidels and pagans” within the 1453 bull not the 1537 bull by another Pope.

    You now are quoting Pope Paul III in 1537 who was opposing two errors..one of the Popes and one of the conquistadors: A. the error of the Popes prior to him who gave the right of perpetual slavery IF..IF…IF… natives resisted the faith….and B. error two (the one you mention) of those (probably conquistadors)who even wanted to go beyond what Pope Nicholas V had given them: which was the right to enslave those who resisted the gospel. They wanted to also enslave simply all natives who seemed to them too dumb to accept the gospel.
    Why did the conquistadors want to go further than enslaving perpetually those who resisted the gospel?? Probably because too many natives with clergy help were not resisting the gospel which meant that according to Pope Nicholas V who gave them the right to enslave those who resisted…it meant that they could not enslave all natives and that would leave them with land distribution problems because historically the conquistadors took vast areas for themselves and their descendants…the best land tracts; and therefore allowing some natives to hold onto their homes because they did not resist the gospel would get in the way of that land system which was later referred to as the “encomienda” system and that system is the reason there is so much poverty in South America today according to some authors like Trevor-Roper I believe it was.

Ben Franklin and the Turkey

Friday, November 27, AD 2009


After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

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7 Responses to Ben Franklin and the Turkey

  • We had ham for dinner on Thanksgiving. We are surrounded by turkeys, starting with Congress, all year long.

  • Eagles are magnificent creatures. No wonder the early writers in the OT refer to eagles often.
    The Australian Sea Eagle is, I believe, a close relative of the American Bald Eagle. While living in Oz during the 80’s, I was out fishing with a friend. As we watched, this sea eagle, only about 50 meters away, swooped down and plucked a fish out of the water – not just a little fish, what the Aussies call a southern salmon (not a true salmon) which would have weighed around 12 pounds.

  • Oops!

    4th. line – “livivd” should be “living”.
    (maybe I lived in Oz too long) 😉

  • I fixed it for you Don, although I imagine at least once while you were living in Oz you were livid. Most Aussies I’ve known have been fantastic, but a few have been truculent! 🙂

  • Actually Don, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I do have Aussie cousins, and we moved to Wollongong NSW where they lived, to be with people we know, and within weeks had a great circle of Aussie friends – all with young families, as Sandy & I did then. And, of course, I got called “Kiwi” – (hopefully because I epitomised all those manly qualities other nationals expect of us rugged antipodean outdoors men 😉 ) and the name stuck, hence my combox name.
    I did , of course, cop a lot of stick, as is usual with banter between Aussies and Kiwis, and the Aussies can be more outspoken and course than us more genteel people from the islands to the East :-), but I found, give back as much crap as you cop, and you’re respected – otherwise you keep copping it.
    Only had one punch-up, and that was in a game of Touch Rugby – go figure. Had plenty of robust arguments though, being a builder/labour contractor on some of the building sites around Sydney.
    Have many good friends in Oz – haven’t visited for about 5 years now, but each time I have, I’m sure that within a few days, if I moved back, everything would be the same.
    But I’m not moving – Tauranga, NZ is home and I’ll be buried here; though after, I hope, many more travels.

  • While I agree that he may have been saying it a bit tongue in cheek, he got it right. Given the turkeys in DC (& at lower levels of government as well), the turkey would have been a better symbol.

    PS 1776 is my favorite all time movie.

  • Do you remember the opening game of the World Series in 2001? It was less than a month after 9/11. A beautiful bald eagle soared over the Stadium during the opening ceremony. My eyes misted over and I got a lump in my throat. I’m sure millions of Americans had the same reaction.

    Sorry, Ben, but a turkey running across the field just would not have had the same effect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, AD 2009

A roundup from around the web …

1.  Jay Anderson gives us a history lesson on “The First Thanksgiving”:

Every gradeschool boy and girl in the U.S. will confidently tell you that their history books say that the very first Thanksgiving on American soil took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 when the English Pilgrims who had arrived the year before and the Patuxet Indians shared the food from their respective harvests in one great big happy feast.

As is often the case, however, the history books are wrong on this account…

2.  The Maverick Philosopher engages in a thanksgiving reflection:

We need spiritual exercises just as we need physical, mental, and moral exercises. A good spiritual exercise, and easy to boot, is daily recollection of just how good one has it, just how rich and full one’s life is, just how much is going right despite annoyances and setbacks which for the most part are so petty as not to merit consideration…

3.  How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims — When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they established a system of communal property. Within three years they had scrapped it, instituting private property instead. Hoover media fellow Tom Bethell shares some economic history.

4.  News has it that President Obama’s decision whether to pardon a turkey could come at any day now!

5.  And it wouldn’t be the celebration of another American holiday without a screed from the Catholic Anarchist (reaching the height of self-parody).

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Thanksgiving 1863

Thursday, November 26, AD 2009

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

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One Response to Thanksgiving 1863

Almost Chosen People

Thursday, November 19, AD 2009

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate of the State of New-Jersey: I am very grateful to you for the honorable reception of which I have been the object. I cannot but remember the place that New-Jersey holds in our early history. In the early Revolutionary struggle, few of the States among the old Thirteen had more of the battle-fields of the country within their limits than old New-Jersey. May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, “Weem’s Life of Washington.” I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New-Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle. You give me this reception, as I understand, without distinction of party. I learn that this body is composed of a majority of gentlemen who, in the exercise of their best judgment in the choice of a Chief Magistrate, did not think I was the man. I understand, nevertheless, that they came forward here to greet me as the constitutional President of the United States — as citizens of the United States, to meet the man who, for the time being, is the representative man of the nation, united by a purpose to perpetuate the Union and liberties of the people. As such, I accept this reception more gratefully than I could do did I believe it was tendered to me as an individual.

Abraham Lincoln, February 21, 1861

Announcing a new blog, Almost Chosen People.  It is a blog dedicated to American history up through Reconstruction.  I am one of the contributors.  A fair amount of my initial posts at this blog will be reposts of material first posted at The American Catholic, but they will be interspersed with new material.  My fellow contributors, including Paul Zummo of the Cranky Conservative, and Dale Price of Dyspeptic Mutterings,  will be providing posts that will be well worth reading, so please stop by.  Needless to say, although I’ll say it anyway, this new blog will not lessen my posting frequency here at The American Catholic.

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4 Responses to Almost Chosen People

New York Times Rejects Archbishop Dolans Article, Why?

Friday, October 30, AD 2009

Archbishop Timothy DolanThe New York Times rejected an op-ed article submitted by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.  Why may I ask would the New York Times reject an article from His Excellency?  Probably because Archbishop Dolan called out the New York Times for their yellow journalism.

Of course those not familiar will Colonial American history will “poo poo” this particular article.  But as early as A.D. 1642 there were laws in the books that required test oaths administered to keep Catholics out of office, legislation that barred Catholics from entering certain professions (such as Law), and measures enacted to make Catholics incapable of inheriting or purchasing land.

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30 Responses to New York Times Rejects Archbishop Dolans Article, Why?

  • What would you expect? Evil knows who the real enemy is, and doesn’t waste effort on wannabes.

  • It would be pretty uncomfortable not to be hated by, um (coughs) “minions.”

    St. Max Kolbe, St. Frances de Sales and St. Paul the Apostle are the patrons of journalists. Integrity in the press would be pleasing, for a change.

  • Tito:

    There are far more recent examples of blatant anti-Catholicism in American history.

    For starters, you might want to look into what was then known as the Blaine Amendment.

    “The American River Ganges,” Harper’s Weekly,
    September 30, 1871, p.916. Wood engraving.

    By the middle of the nineteenth century, large numbers of Catholic children had withdrawn from the significantly Protestant American public schools to attend newly organized Roman Catholic schools. With a large and influential Irish Catholic constituency, the powerful New York City Democratic machine centered at Tammany Hall persuaded the Democratic state legislature to provide public support for the Irish schools. A firestorm of controversy ensued, especially in states like Ohio and Illinois,where the Catholic hierarchy had made similar requests. The controversy re-ignited smouldering Republican nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants; and it suddenly became attractive as a vote-getter since that Reconstruction issues appeared to have been resolved. Tammany politicians are shown dropping little children into the “American River Ganges,” infested with crocodilian bishops. The American flag flies upside down, the universal signal of distress, from the ruins of a public school. Linking Roman Catholicism to the Ganges, the sacred river of Hinduism, suggested its exotic un-Americanism and also linked it with what Americans then considered a primitive and fanatical religion.

  • One significant part missing from the Archbishop’s article is that anti-Catholicism has waned a good deal since the colonial and founding days of this country. While it’s clearly still a very real and significatn part of the national mindset as he shows, had he mentioned this trend and shown an example – i.e., the positive reception of the past two popes when visiting this country – it may have been better received by the NY Times?

  • [A]nti-Catholicism has waned a good deal since the colonial and founding days of this country.

    I don’t believe this to be true; instead, I believe anti-Catholicism is not as blatant as it was in earlier days, which is why this would seem to be the case.

    After all, it is not without compellingly good reason why it has been declared (quite rightly) that “anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice”.

  • The Archbishop should remove the log from his own eye as well. He has his own biases which he shares with all his brother bishops and he, as they do, refuses to listen as well to the victims of his particular bigotry.

    What goes around comes around Timothy. Please look at yourself as well.

  • While [Anit-Catholicism] has been declared (quite rightly) that “anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice”.”, that doesn’t speak clearly to the extent of that bias, it only speaks that the bias still concretely exists. The fact that Evangelicals (see “Has the Reformation Ended?” by Noll and Nystrom) have been slowly moving toward closer relations and mutual understanding with Catholics, along with the general Protestant population as well, it’s quite clear that there is an improvement to the bias that has existed from the beginning.

    I agree that the bias is still strong, especially in the popular media, though as you mention less blatant. But even then there has been a slow but discernible improvement. See the NY Times coverage of Vatican II – the paper itself showed surprisingly positive comments on the council, granted, it tended to want to see the Catholic Church as a “changed church”, and not just development. But nonetheless, a respect was shown that would not have been present back in the 19th century.

  • Karl Says: “Archbishop should remove the log from his own eye as well”

    Karl, Archbishop does acknowledge the Catholics issues, maybe not as much as you like? But he does. Rehashing further those Catholic issues would require The NY Times to do the same every time it writes about a topic, certainly not something that will ever happen. But the Archbishop certainly deserves his say in the most influential newspaper in this country on a topic of significant importance. If you use your line of reasoning, then the NY Times would also have to do the same, and we’d have to do without that newspaper for a long time until that log was removed!

  • Publius:

    While I might grant that there has been apparently good sentiments towards establishing good relations with Catholics by some members of certain Protestant denominations (whether wholly or in part); surely, good vibes from merely a selection of Protestant individuals cannot translate as meaning the “general Protestant population”; furthermore, the general populace of America itself does not consist merely in such a population as this but extends to those who are merely secularist or are themselves beholden to other categories not even Protestant, which such anti-Catholicism also eminate.

    Rest assured, anti-Catholicism is alive and well; it’s just not as conspicuous as it used to be.

  • e.:

    I should have said that there are significant, meaningful efforts underway for decades – in particular, since Vatican II – that have made an impact in Protestantism. You’re right; it’s an overstatement to say these changes have affected the general Protestant populations. Having clarified that, it is clear that numerous Protestants and Protestant churches (not to mention a few agnostics/atheists) have gained a growing respect for Catholicism. I speak of the Protestant segment of the population because it is the largest segment and one that I know where meaningful change is taking place. If it can be shown one segment is affected, then it shows there is change, no matter how small.
    One area of change has occurred when numerous leaders on both sides of the Protestant / Catholic fences are finding important ways of working together, leaders – such as those involved in Evangelical and Catholics Together. They are leaders for a reason, they bring followers. And while this is always a bit nebulous in the Protestant world, there are a number of examples that can show this is taking root. Also, Protestants and Catholics have stood together in front of numerous abortion clinics, an action that is bound to produce more than ‘good vibes’. It builds shared values, which is a solid base to build on. This is a very slow process, but a process that is in the works. I am involved in two ecumenical groups myself where a learning process is underway that is yielding mutual respect and understanding, which requires a yield to the traditional bigotry.
    And no need to continue repeating Anti-Catholicism is still alive and well, we agree on this. I just think it’s important and helpful to acknowledge that serious effort and action has been made in past decades, especially since and because of Vatican II, that indicates the roots and resulting fruit that has taken place. It doesn’t diminish the reality of the “last acceptable prejudice” in this country.

  • I know it is called anti-Catholicism, but I think it is different in kind now than it was in the past. While many so-called anti-Catholics may see our beliefs as incoherent and superstitious as to theological/sacramental matters (eg, transubstantiation), the current anti-Catholicism is focused more on our ethical/moral beliefs. Thus, it’s not limited to anti-Catholic, but anti-anyone who does not agree with their morality.

  • c matt is correct in my view, which explains why the animus is directed more from so-called cultural elites and liberals than conservative fundies. The latter disagree with us, and have very odd understandings of our beliefs, but with a few exceptions really don’t demonize us. Moreover, the latter group is comparatively powerless.

  • Publius:

    While I agree with you that such advances have indeed been made insofar as our relationship concerning certain Protestants go; however, I believe what’s being neglected here is that these seemingly minor events have not led to any significant eradication or even a diminishment of anti-Catholicism in general and, as I’ve attempted to point out in my latter remark (admittedly, rather poorly), the general population of the United States is not primarily comprised of just Protestants. There are several other folks who are just as, if not, far more fierce in their anti-Catholicism.

    c matt:

    I’m afraid I need to disagree with you there.

    The PZ Myers affair itself would seem precisely indicative of the kind of underlying prejudice (still alive as it is ubiquitous & rampant) certain categories of Americans (in this case, the scientific community as well as various secular groups) harbor specifically towards our kind.

    That is, I don’t believe it is really merely a matter of Christian morals, which any other Christian denomination apart from ours may likewise subscribe to; and, yet, I doubt that they would suffer incidents similar to the hideous kind Catholics are typically victim to, like the one here.

  • This is no surprise to me. More and more, the MSM is simply ignoring criticism or stories which do not promote their leftist POV. They didn’t vet Obama properly, they barely reported on Van Jones, they dropped the ball on ACORN – but we know what designer made the dress Michelle wore on date night. People complain about Fox, but the truth is that Fox is doing the job the rest of the MSM refuses to do.

    In the meantime, the NY Times circulation continues to tank and they recently had another big layoff. If it wasn’t for Mexican billionaire Carlos Sim, the Gray Lady would already be six feet under.

    The Church will be around long after the Times prints its last snide MoDo column.

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  • If you go to Fox News you will see the entire Archbishop’s comments on their web site. I sent a copy of your web site article to Fox when it came out and whether or not they had planned to reprint it I do not know, but it is on their web site.

  • I should add that it is under their Opinion page.

  • Doesn’t matter.

    Anyone wanting to do an honest search will find our website or another Catholic website/blog with the correct information.

    As long as it gets out. Eventually most of the more outlandish attacks on our faith should subside with time. If not, those, like the New York Times, will get less and less credibility with their attacks.

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  • I do not think the NY Times is at all anti Catholic. Three years ago the Times published a Phenomenal and Wonderful Article about the NY Catholic Foundling and the work of Saint Elizabeth Seton and her Sisters of Charity.

    I think that perhaps Archbishop Dolan may just be a tad thin skinned and doesn’t understand the language of locals and natives……. He just needs time and the neverending tolerance and patience of the people we are — New Yorkers. He’s a shepherd. Perhaps sheep graze on different grass in the midwest. He’ll come around and see we’re not so scary!!!!!!!!! Francis de Sales, Gabriel, John Chrysostom, etc. love us all equally and are with us all. Maybe he was just having a bit of a belly ache after eating that case of Tasykakes sent to him by Archbishop Rigali of Philly!!!!

  • Being anti-catholic is like charging someone with being anti-semitic. This type of vitriol is thrown for the purpose of intimidating and silencing the views of others. The Archbishop has a right, if not a responsibility, to preach to his flock whatever he feels is proper according to his faith. The rub comes when he speaks or acts beyond that in an attempt to influence, if not shape, public policy. As a voter, he is free to. But as a cleric, he is out of bounds.

  • “The rub comes when he speaks or acts beyond that in an attempt to influence, if not shape, public policy.”

    So when the bishops of America speak out against abortion, would such acts be considered “an attempt to influence, if not shape, public policy”?

  • Absolutely… the Archbishop could, just as any other citizen, speak as a civilian (preferably in street clothes) and make his position clear. Speaking as a cleric and a leader of an organization accepting tax benefits, he is out of place.

  • Would similar individuals within an organization such as the Evangelical Society count?

  • The first test is whether they are granted tax free status, if so, then they would need to speak as individual and not from the authority of some tax supported organization… From the internet, I understand the Evangelical Society to believe the following: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.” These beliefs are clear but the relevance to the modern world is highly unclear.

  • zukunftsaugen,

    I disagree 100%.

    He is the shepherd of the Catholic Church in New York City and he has the right and the duty to lead them.

    Your ideas are bordering on totalitarianism.

    If that is what you think anyone in a position of authority should behave, then maybe you should investigate Communist China and see how well they are doing over there.

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John Adams and the Church of Rome

Thursday, October 15, AD 2009

John Adams, second President of these United States, was a man of very firm convictions.   Once he decided to support a cause, most notably American independence, nothing on this Earth could convince him to change his mind.  In regard to religion he was raised a Congregationalist.  Although described as a Unitarian, I find the evidence ambiguous in his writings and I suspect he remained at heart a fairly conventional Protestant.  As such he was unsympathetic to the Catholic faith by heredity, creed and conviction.  However, he did attend Mass on occasion, and his writings about these visits show attraction mixed with repulsion.

On October 9, 1774 Adams and George Washington attended a Catholic chapel in Philadelphia during the First Continental Congress.  He reported his thoughts about the visit to his wife and constant correspondent Abigail:

“This afternoon, led by Curiosity and good Company I strolled away to Mother Church, or rather Grandmother Church, I mean the Romish Chapel. Heard a good, short, moral Essay upon the Duty of Parents to their Children, founded in justice and Charity, to take care of their Interests temporal and spiritual.

This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful (Adams here means awe-inspiring and not the more colloquial use of the term common in our time.) and affecting. The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood, their Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. Their holy water– their crossing themselves perpetually– their bowing to the name of Jesus wherever they hear it– their bowings, and kneelings, and genuflections before the altar. The dress of the priest was rich with lace– his pulpit was velvet and gold. The altar piece was very rich– little images and crucifixes about– wax candles lighted up. But how shall I describe the picture of our Saviour in a frame of marble over the altar, at full length, upon the cross in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds.

The music consisting of an organ, and a Choir of singers, went all the afternoon, excepting sermon Time, and the Assembly chanted– most sweetly and exquisitely.

Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and the ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.”

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18 Responses to John Adams and the Church of Rome

  • Good stuff. I’ve heard similar sentiments from traditional conservative Protestants. Pomp has its fans. I’d love to see a return of the high and low Mass distinction. The high being a High TLM and the low being a Novus Novus Ordo (guitars, drums, and hand holding).

  • That is a very sound proposal restrained radical.

  • Note to restrainedradical: NO need not be guitars, drums and hand holding. To the contrary, in my experience, that isn’t that case at all. The Holy Father celebrated the NO when visiting the U.S. – was that as irreverent as you suggest?

  • In his description of the aesthetics of the Mass, are we sure Adams is reacting positively? If he is a man of New England prejudices, such things, even if “affecting” and able to “charm and bewitch” are negative. With a low opinion of humanity, the fact that it amazes him that Luther could succeed in leading people away from Catholicism isn’t necessarily praise for the Church – after all, the people were bewitched!

    Additional information on Adams and Catholicism can be found here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1990710/posts
    and here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/04/was-john-adams-an-anticatholic.html.

    In both those cases, Steven Waldman sees in Adams’s letter about the Philadelphia Mass nothing but criticism. I confess to being unsure on the topic; I originally read it that way, but my understanding of the word “awful” was based on the current conventional usage.

    One comment that I thought Don might be sympathetic too, if it were applied to the post Vatican II current of thought in the order, is Adams’s assessment of the Jesuits: “This Society has been a greater Calamity to Mankind than the French Revolution or Napoleans Despotism or Ideology. It has obstructed the Progress of Reformation and the Improvements of the human Mind in Society much longer and more fatally.”

  • Adams was a cross-grained personality Zach. He normally phrased a compliment within a criticism. Something he disliked like the Catholic Church received the full brunt of this habit. As to his comment about the Jesuits, it reminds me that Jesuits were banned from Massachusetts under penalty of death in 1647. Ah for the halcyon days when enemies of the Church were the ones ladling harsh criticism upon the Jesuits.

  • “I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.”

    Two words: Marty Haugen

    Of course it took a few centuries 🙂

  • Good stuff.

    In my opinion the NO (or Ordinary Form) can be celebrated reverently.

    But in my opinion because of the many NO Masses I have attended in my short life, I have never, ever seen a NO Mass done well or correctly. Until I came to the Anglican Use of the Latin Rite Mass and fell in love with this beautiful Liturgy.

  • Donald:

    This is the first time I’ve ever encountered such a relatively reverent portrayal of a vehemently anti-Catholic like Adams — and, quite ironically, from such a devout and respectable Catholic as yourself.

    While I myself may respect the man for his significance in our American history, other than that, I regard him with as much personal respect as I would a Cromwell or a Cranmer.

  • There’s a striking contrast in just a few of Adams’ paragraphs. First this:

    Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and the ignorant.

    I doubt Adams considered himself simple and ignorant, but it sounds like he’s been charmed and bewitched a bit despite himself. Are only the simple and ignorant drawn to beauty?

    Before that, there’s this:

    But how shall I describe the picture of our Saviour in a frame of marble over the altar, at full length, upon the cross in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds.

    He’s clearly disgusted by the crucifix. Not beautiful at all, in his eyes. I hear echoes of his horror in my Protestant New England mother’s thoughts about some of the more graphic imagery used by the Church.

    The beautiful and the grotesque together: Drawn to one and repulsed by the other, Adams doesn’t seem to be able to make sense of it…

    Nor does this guy:

    Many are drawn, but the teaching is hard, and they walk away.

  • “Adams doesn’t seem to be able to make sense of it.”

    True and tragic.

    “This is the first time I’ve ever encountered such a relatively reverent portrayal of a vehemently anti-Catholic like Adams — and, quite ironically, from such a devout and respectable Catholic as yourself.”

    Truth to tell e. I feel sorry for Mr. Adams. He grew up in an intensely anti-Catholic environment. Unfortunately for him no Road to Damascus experience occurred to him. However, his comments indicate to me that, in spite of himself, he felt on some level an attraction to the Church. He reminds me of the rich young man who walked away from Jesus after the young man learned the cost of discipleship. To embrace the Faith for Adams would have meant turning his back on everything that mattered to him: his Protestant faith, his heritage, his family and his education. I can be sympathetic for someone like Mr. Adams who lacks the light that guides us, especially when the antipathy he felt towards the Church, as far as I know, never tainted his actions as a public official. Adams always stood foursquare for freedom of religion, and in this country that is all Catholics have ever asked.

  • Donald:

    Well, I am appreciative at least of how your entry provides us a somewhat refreshingly different perspective from which to view Adams’ anti-Catholicism, however distasteful I find the man to be personally. Objectively speaking, the man is a great historical figure; yet, on a more intimate note, there remains much to be desired upon closer inspection, particularly regarding one fierce prejudice of his which he could not help but be explicit.

  • I agree with Donald. Adams was a man of his times and place and Massachusetts in the 18th century was clearly not Catholic-friendly. I believe it was only a generation before Adams that religious freedom was actually enacted in Massachusetts, except for those of the “Popish” faith.

    It would be hard to describe Adams as a Unitarian, since the Unitarians were not established as a denomination until about 50 years after Adams death.

    I recently read a book about the role of Sundays in both Britain and New England, including the time of Adams. Strict sabbatarians pretty much ruled in New England in those days. Their expectation was that you attended church services on Sunday essentially all day, which featured a sermon by the preacher that would be at least an hour in length. Very dour, you didn’t dare nod off, no smiling allowed on Sunday at any time or anywhere. The “competition” so to speak for how Sunday should be lived was “the Continent,” where the Church of Rome essentially said “go to church for an hour or so and then relax.” There was great resistence to such a slack observance of the sabbath, but, over time, the Catholic approach prevailed. I suspect that some of Adams’ reaction is based on his experience and assumption of how Sunday “should” be observed.

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  • Trust me, John Adams was not at all attracted to Roman Catholicism. On the contrary he was repulsed, if fascinated, by its lack of attention to the First Commandment, and its prosaic and pedestrian, if spare, use of English.

    If Cathilocs are truly interested, they must study the Pilgrims, the Puritans and those who spent blood and treasure to come here to establish a new country and a new covenant in order precisely to avoid the synergy of Church and State that was extant in their native countries of Europe.

  • Actually Irish Catholics who emigrated to this country had more than enough of state enforced Protestantism, so we Catholics have little to learn from the Pilgrims and Puritans on that score. Incidentally, the Puritans had nothing against an established Church as long as they ran it, as the period of their rule in Massachusetts amply indicates. As for Mr. Adams, his diary entries and letters speak for themselves.

  • It is strange to me that you people can’t see what he was saying when he says “I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell”.

    He wonders, is amazed, that Luther was ABLE to.

    He contemplates the pomp and stage work, the “glamour” of the artifice, notes the ignorant simple peoples not even comprehending the language the chants are in, and is amazed that Luther was able to break the spells hold. Part of the amazement was obviously at Luthers toolset, bland un-glossy reason to combat the pomp, and yet, successful !. Hence his wonder.

    When he says “Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and the ignorant”, he means to damn the churches use of pomp and trickery as propaganda to fool the gullible.

  • Thank you for your strenuous efforts in pointing out the obvious Apteryx. Perhaps you could also explain why he kept coming back time and again. The disdain is there, but also wonder at the beauty of it all. Unlike many people, internet atheists for example, Adams was able to contemplate that he might be wrong:

    “yet, perhaps, I was rash and unreasonable, and that it is as much virtue and wisdom in them to adore, as in me to detest and despise.”