Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church.
Pope Leo XIII on John Carroll, first Bishop in the United States
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.
Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the fourth of these blog posts.
From the beginning of our Republic, American Catholics were at the forefront of the battle to free America from British rule and to enshrine a committment to liberty in our founding documents. The remarkable Carroll family of Maryland was at the head of this effort by American Catholics. Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the Declaration of Independence. His cousin Daniel Carroll signed both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Daniel Carroll’s younger brother John Carroll, was the first bishop in the United States of America.
Born on January 8, 1735 in Maryland, he went abroad to study in Flanders and France, joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1769. With the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, he returned to his native Maryland as a missionary priest. A patriot, he served on a diplomatic mission to Canada for the Continental Congress in 1776. During the War he continued his efforts as a missionary priest, along with efforts to persuade the new states to remove disabilities from Catholics in their new state constitutions. He was ever an advocate for religious freedom:
When men comprehend not, or refuse to admit the luminous principles on which the rights of conscience and liberty of religion depend, they are industrious to find out pretences for intolerance. If they cannot discover them in the actions, they strain to cull them out of the tenets of the religion which they wish to exclude from a free participation of equal rights. Thus this author attributes to his religion the merit of being the most favorable to freedom, and affirms that not only morality but liberty likewise must expire, if his clergy should ever be contemned or neglected: all which conveys a refined insinuation, that liberty cannot consist with, or be cherished by any other religious institution; and which therefore he would give us to understand, it is not safe to countenance in a free government.
I am anxious to guard against the impression intended by such insinuations; not merely for the sake of any one profession, but from an earnest regard to preserve inviolate for ever, in our new empire, the great principle of religious freedom. The constitutions of some of the States continue still to intrench on the sacred rights of conscience; and men who have bled, and opened their purses as freely in the cause of liberty and independence, as any other citizens, are most unjustly excluded from the advantages which they contributed to establish. But if bigotry and narrow prejudice have prevented hitherto the cure of these evils, be it the duty of every lover of peace and justice to extend them no further. Let the author who has opened this field for discussion, be aware of slyly imputing to any set of men, principles or consequences, which they disavow. He perhaps may meet with retaliation. He may be told and referred to Lord Lyttleton, as zealous a Protestant as any man of his days, for information, that the principles of non-reistence seemed the principles of that religion which we are not told is most favorable to freedom; and that its opponents had gone too far in the other extreme!
On June 6, 1784 he was appointed by the Pope as superior of the missions in the United States. On November 6, 1789, he was appointed by the Pope as Bishop, after being elected to the post by American priests, a procedure previously approved by the Pope. Continue reading
Their blood flowed as freely (in proportion to their numbers) to cement the fabric of independence as that of any of their fellow-citizens: They concurred with perhaps greater unanimity than any other body of men, in recommending and promoting that government, from whose influence America anticipates all the blessings of justice, peace, plenty, good order and civil and religious liberty.
John Carroll, first American bishop, on American Catholics in the Revolution
Something for the weekend. Chester, America’s unofficial national anthem during the American Revolution. This fits in well with the Fortnight of Freedom proclaimed by our Bishops in resistance to encroachments by government on our religious liberty.
Written by William Billings in 1770, he added new lyrics to the song in 1778 and transformed it into a battle hymn for the Patriots in their war for independence. The song reveals the strong religious element that was ever-present on the American side of the conflict, with most Patriots viewing the war as a crusade. Continue reading
The tenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here ,here, here and here. Rudyard Kipling had an intensely ambivalent attitude towards America and Americans. His wife was an American and he and she after their marriage resided in Vermont from 1892-1896. The Kiplings loved Vermont, Rudyard Kipling especially loving the rugged natural beauty of the Green Mountain State. but eventually returned to England due to a now forgotten diplomatic squabble between the US and Great Britain over the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana and which led to the last talk of war between those two nations, and a family squabble involving some of Kipling’s wife’s relatives.
Kipling admired American energy and inventiveness, but hated traditional American antipathy to Britain and what he regarded as a boorishness that afflicted many Americans. This ambivalence is well reflected in the poem American Rebellion which appeared in A School History of England (1911) by C. R. L. Fletcher and Kipling. The poem is in two strikingly different sections. Here is the first section:
- TWAS not while England’s sword unsheathed
- Put half a world to flight,
- Nor while their new-built cities breathed
- Secure behind her might;
- Not while she poured from Pole to Line
- Treasure ships and men–
- These worshippers at Freedom’s shrine
- They did not quit her then!
- Not till their foes were driven forth
- By England o’er the main–
- Not till the Frenchman from the North
- Had gone with shattered Spain;
- Not till the clean-swept oceans showed
- No hostile flag unrolled,
- Did they remember what they owed
- To Freedom–and were bold. Continue reading
Throughout his life George Washington had a great deal of sympathy for the struggles of the Irish against their English rulers, seeing in those struggles a mirror for the American fight for independence. Irish immigrants to America, Protestant and Catholic, were enthusiastic in their embrace of the American cause, and during the Revolutionary War many of the soldiers who served in the Continental Army were Irish or of Irish descent. Therefore when General Washington heard in March 1780 that the Irish Parliament had passed free trade legislation, he issued the following general order to the Army on March 16, 1780:
The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated; not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Chester, America’s unofficial national anthem during the American Revolution. Written by William Billings in 1770, he added new lyrics to the song in 1778 and transformed it into a battle hymn for the Patriots in their war for independence. The song reveals the strong religious element that was ever present on the American side of the conflict, with most Patriots viewing the war as a crusade.
Let tyrants shake their iron rods,
And Slav’ry clank her galling chains.
We fear them not, we trust in God.
New England’s God forever reigns.
Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton, too,
and Cornwallis joined,
Together plot our overthrow,
In one infernal
When God inspired us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forced,
Their ships were
shattered in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our coast.
The foe comes on with haughty stride,
advance with martial noise;
Their vet’rans flee before our youth,
gen’rals yield to beardless boys.
off’ring shall we bring,
What shall we render to the Lord?
hallelujahs let us sing,
And praise his name on ev’ry chord! Continue reading
Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.
Pope Leo XIII
American Catholics, a very small percentage of the population of the 13 colonies, 1.6 percent, were overwhelmingly patriots and played a role in the American Revolution out of all proportion to the small fragment of the American people they represented. Among the Catholics who assumed leadership roles in the fight for our liberty were:
General Stephen Moylan a noted cavalry commander and the first Muster Master-General of the Continental Army.
Colonel John Fitzgerald was a trusted aide and private secretary to General George Washington.
Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of Illinois, whose aid was instrumental in the conquest of the Northwest for America by George Rogers Clark.
Thomas Fitzsimons served as a Pennsylvania militia company commander during the Trenton campaign. Later in the War he helped found the Pennsylvania state navy. After the War he was one of the two Catholic signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787
Colonel Thomas Moore led a Philadelphia regiment in the War.
Major John Doyle led a group of elite riflemen during the War. Continue reading
In 1864 the Reverend Elias Brewster Hilliard, a minister from Connecticut, at the request of a Hartford publisher, set out on the task of interviewing the seven surviving veterans of the American Revolution in the North, writing down their memories of the American Revolution and obtaining their views of the Civil War. In 1958 American Heritage published a fascinating story on the results of these interviews, and the story may be read here.
The American Revolution is not normally associated with photography, but some elderly veterans of that conflict lived long enough to have their pictures taken by the then cutting edge technology of photography. Some of the photographs were taken for the 1864 interviews. Among the veterans pictured above is John Gray, the last surviving veteran of the Revolution. He was born fittingly enough near Mount Vernon. His father was killed at the battle of White Plains in 1776. John joined up at 16 in 1780 and was present at Yorktown when Cornwallis’ army marched by in surrender. He died on March 29, 1868, age 104. He was not among the veterans interviewed in 1864, and I assume he was overlooked.
How brief our history as an independent nation truly is! Men who fought to give this nation birth lived to see the Civil War and the ultimate preservation of the nation. The last surviving veteran of the Civil War, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 just six months before I was born in 1957. We are still a very young nation. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Scenes from the American Revolution set to the music of the film National Treaure. This Fourth of July weekend we should recall our heritage, especially the eight long years of war it took to achieve American independence. We should also remember these words of our second President John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail on April 26, 1777: Continue reading
From the musical 1776, a heavily dramatized version of the vote to declare American independence on July 2, 1776. The scene is effective but historically false. James Wilson did not dither about his vote, but was a firm vote for independence, having ascertained that his Pennsylvania constituents were in favor of independence. There was no conflict over slavery, Jefferson and Adams having already agreed to remove from the Declaration the attack on the King for promoting the slave trade. Caesar Rodney did make a dramatic ride to Congress of 80 miles in order to break a deadlock in the Delaware delegation over independence, but he was not dying and would live until June 26, 1784, witnessing the triumph of America in the Revolutionary War. Continue reading
A fascinating little video on preserving the Declaration of Independence.
It is of course very important that the physical document be preserved. However, it is much more important that the spirit of the document be preserved. On the Fourth of July we do not merely engage in ancestor worship. The principles of the American Revolution, immortally set forth in the Declaration, are just as important today as they were then, and almost as controversial.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
1. God given rights.
2. Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
3. A right of revolution when Government becomes destructive of God given unalienable rights. Continue reading
In an age before photography, America was fortunate to have a painter of the skill of John Trumbull to give us a visual narrative of those stirring days and portraits of so many of the participants. A veteran of the American Revolution, serving as an aide to George Washington and deputy adjutant general to Horation Gates, Trumbull painted with one eye, having lost sight in the other as a result of a childhood accident.
Some of the more notable paintings of Trumbull are:
- The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill
- The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec
- Declaration of Independence
- The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga
- The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown
Trumbull allowed future generations of Americans to visualize these scenes of the birth of their nation. Of course, the man was not without his critics: Continue reading
The Reformation was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of innocent English and Irish blood.
A good trick question for a history quiz would be, “Where is Thomas Paine buried?” The correct answer would be, “No one knows!’
Paine died in New York City on June 18, 1809. His views on Christianity had made him persona non grata in the US, his services during the American Revolution to the cause of Independence being overlooked. A controversy has raged since his death as to whether he did or did not recant his attacks against Christianity. I would say the burden of the evidence is that he did not. Six people attended his funeral. No Christian church would bury him, so his corpse was interred in unhallowed ground under an oak tree on a farm he owned in New Rochelle. There his bones rested until September 1819, when his body was stolen.
I think most Americans today fail to realize how close this country came to dying right after its birth. After the disastrous New York campaign, the Continental Army was reduced to a few thousand ill-fed, ill-trained and ill-uniformed men under Washington. As the year of 1776 was coming to an end, many Americans thought the cause of American independence was also coming to an end, but not George Washington. He realized that for the war to continue he had to come up with some masterstroke that would rouse American morale and convince his troops that they stood a chance to win this lop-sided conflict. Continue reading
An English translation of the first portion of the above video.
Fidel Castro: Comrades, our nation is completely bankrupt! We have no choice but to abandon communism!
Castro’s Aide #1, Castro’s Associates: [sigh]
Fidel Castro: I know, I know, I know… but we all knew from day one this mumbo jumbo wouldn’t fly! I’ll call Washington and tell them they won.
Castro’s Aide #1: But presidente, America tried to kill you!
Fidel Castro: Ah, they’re not so bad. They even named a street after me in San Francisco!
[Aide #2 whispers something into his ear]
Fidel Castro: It’s full of what?
Hattip to the Babalu Blog, the go to blog on the net to keep advised of the follies of the Castro regime in Cuba. It seems the Bearded One views the Tea Party as “fascist”:
Something for the weekend. Chester by William Billings. During the American Revolution, this was the unofficial national anthem for the new United States. As we participate in elections it is good to recall the struggles throughout our history that bequeathed to us the freedoms we enjoy today. We stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, and we should never forget that. Continue reading
Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, letter to James McHenry, November 4, 1800.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the sole Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was an endlessly fascinating man. He led the fight for Catholic civil rights in Maryland and the new nation. A slaveholder, he supported the efforts to establish a free colony of blacks in Liberia, and sponsored legislation in the Maryland Senate for the gradual abolition of slavery in Maryland, although the bill was defeated. He lived a long and eventful 95 years, dying in 1832, the last of the signers. He will be the subject of many blog posts in the future, but today I want to post on what he is most famous for, the signing of the Declaration.
One of the largely unsung heroes of the American Revolution is George Rogers Clark. The campaign that he fought in Illinois and Indiana secured to America a claim to these territories that was recognized in the treaty ending the war.
In 1778 Virginian Clark, at 25, was already a seasoned veteran of the savage warfare that raged on the Kentucky frontier throughout the Revolution. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hamilton, known to the patriots as “Hair-buyer” Hamilton, from Detroit constantly aided the Indians war against the settlers in Kentucky, and paid generous bounties to the Indians for the prisoners and scalps they brought him.
Clark realized that the best way to stop the raids into Kentucky was for the patriots to go on the offensive and seize British outposts north of the Ohio river. Recruiting 150 men to form what he called the Illinois regiment, Clark, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia militia, led his force into Illinois and took Kaskaskia on July 4, 1778. The men of the Illinois regiment received an enthusiastic reception from the French, largely due to the efforts of Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of the Illinois Country, and Frenchwomen soon busied themselves sewing flags for the regiment. Cahokia and Vincennes were taken without firing a shot, and British power in Illinois and Indiana seemed to vanish over night.
Hamilton did not take long to respond. He raised a force of 30 regulars, 145 French Canadian militiamen and 60 Indians, marched from Detroit and re-took Fort Sackville at Vincennes on December 17, planning to stay there for the winter and then retake Illinois in the spring of 1779. Continue reading