First Congressional Authorization For the Use of Force

Sunday, August 14, AD 2016



It is sometimes contended that in order for the US to legally use armed force against an adversary, a declaration of war is required.  The weakness in this argument is that the Constitution does not set forth what constitutes a declaration of war.  Throughout US history Congress has felt free to authorize the use of force without using the language contained in Congressional declarations of war.  The first Congressional authorization for the use of force was at the outset of the Quasi War with France.  The text of the Congressional authorization of force was as follows:

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3 Responses to First Congressional Authorization For the Use of Force

  • Don

    A Declaration of War in International law must be between to sovereign nations. If we were to say declare war on ISIL we would be saying it is a legitimate member od international society like the USA France Mexico etc.

    It can only be ended by a peace treaty. Every member ot the two nation at war are enemies od every citizen of the other country.

    A declaration of war is virtually an unusable in an age of nuclear weapons.

    Since we are a member of the UN article 43 governing the use of force makes such a declaration legally problematic.

    But sates of armed conflict short of war have been happening for centuries.

  • Hank, it is all a matter of convenience, the legal technicalities aside. Declarations of War have normally been reserved for major wars or wars with a European state, Spain being the prime example. Force authorizations have been used for all lesser conflicts. Article 43 of the UN concerns me not at all, but the US Constitution does and force authorizations clearly are Constitutional from a historical stand point and from a textual stand point.

  • Declarations of war assume importance in the law of the sea and the rights and obligations of neutrals, including a belligerent’s right of stoppage and search on the high seas, contraband of war, unneutral service, blockade-running and the prize jurisdiction to condemn vessels and cargoes.

Quotes Suitable For Framing: John Adams

Friday, May 13, AD 2016

John adams



Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.

John Adams (1814)

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3 Responses to Quotes Suitable For Framing: John Adams

  • This is long, but very worth it:

    The manifest, the avowed difficulty is that democracy, no less than monarchy or aristocracy, sacrifices everything to maintain itself, and strives, with an energy and a plausibility that kings and nobles cannot attain, to override representation, to annul all the forces of resistance and deviation, and to secure, by Plebiscite, Referendum, or Caucus, free play for the will of the majority. The true democratic principle, that none shall have power over the people, is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain or to elude its power. The true democratic principle, that the people shall not be made to do what it does not like, is taken to mean that it shall never be required to tolerate what it does not like. The true democratic principle, that every man‘s free will shall be as unfettered as possible, is taken to mean that the free will of the collective people shall be fettered in nothing. Religious toleration, judicial independence, dread of centralisation, jealousy of State interference, become obstacles to freedom instead of safeguards, when the centralised force of the State is wielded by the hands of the people. Democracy claims to be not only supreme, without authority above, but absolute, without independence below; to be its own master, not a trustee. The old sovereigns of the world are exchanged for a new one, who may be flattered and deceived, but whom it is impossible to corrupt or to resist, and to whom must be rendered the things that are Caesar’s and also the things that are God’s. The enemy to be overcome is no longer the absolutism of the State, but the liberty of the subject. – Lord Acton

  • There can be real benevolence in different forms of governance- the important thing is right relationship with God

  • “And for support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance of the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” from the Unanimous Declaration of Independence for the United States of America ratified and signed by each and every state and from Massachusetts: Samuel Adams and John Adams.

Jefferson on the History of the American Revolution

Wednesday, February 24, AD 2016

On August 10, 1815, Thomas Jefferson set pen to paper to respond to John Adams’ letter to him of July 30, 1815.  Go here to read that letter.  Jefferson was no more optimistic than Adams that a true history of the American Revolution could be written:

On the subject of the history of the American revolution, you ask Who shall write it? who can write it? and who ever will be able to write it? nobody; except merely it’s external facts. all it’s councils, designs and discussions, having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them. these, which are the life and soul of history must for ever be unknown. Botta, as you observe, has put his own speculations and reasonings into the mouths of persons whom he names, but who, you & I know, never made such speeches. in this he has followed the example of the antients, who made their great men deliver long speeches, all of them in the same style, and in that of the author himself. the work is nevertheless a good one, more judicious, more chaste, more classical, and more true than the party diatribe of Marshall. it’s greatest fault is in having taken too much from him. I possessed the work, and often recurred to considerable portions of it, altho’ I never read it through. but a very judicious and well informed neighbor of mine went thro’ it with great attention, and spoke very highly of it. I have said that no member of the old Congress, as far as I knew, made notes of the discussions. I did not know of the speeches you mention of Dickinson and Witherspoon. but on the questions of Independance and on the two articles of Confederation respecting taxes & voting I took minutes of the heads of the arguments. on the first I threw all into one mass, without ascribing to the speakers their respective arguments; pretty much in the manner of Hume’s summary digests of the reasonings in parliament for and against a measure. on the last I stated the heads of arguments used by each speaker. but the whole of my notes on the question of independance does not occupy more than 5. pages, such as of this letter: and on the other questions two such sheets. they have never been communicated to any one. do you know that there exists in MS. the ablest work of this kind ever yet executed, of the debates of the Constitutional convention of Philadelphia in 1788.? the whole of every thing said and done there was taken down by mr Madison, with a labor and exactness beyond comprehension. I presume that our correspondence has been observed at the post offices, and thus has attracted notice. would you believe that a printer has had the effrontery to propose to me the letting him publish it? these people think they have a right to every thing however secret or sacred.

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John Adams on the History of the American Revolution

Tuesday, February 23, AD 2016

John Adams often groused that the true history of the American Revolution would never be written.  Considering this, it is somewhat surprising that he did not undertake the task himself.  He had ample time after his Presidency, and his lively and copious correspondence indicates that age had not lessened his skill with a pen.  It is possible that he simply viewed it as an impossible task, as he indicated in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on July 30, 1815:

Dear Sir                                                                                                                                                                                  Quincy July 30th 1815

Who shall write the history of the American revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it?

The most essential documents, the debates & deliberations in Congress from 1774 to 1783 were all in secret, and are now lost forever. Mr Dickinson printed a speech, which he said he made in Congress against the Declaration of Independence; but it appeared to me very different from that, which you, and I heard. Dr Witherspoon has published speeches which he wrote beforehand, and delivered Memoriter, as he did his Sermons. But these I believe, are the only speeches ever committed to writing. The Orators, while I was in Congress from 1774 to 1778 appeared to me very universally extemporaneous, & I have never heard of any committed to writing before or after delivery.

These questions have been suggested to me, by a Review, in the Analectic Magazine for May 1815, published in Philadelphia, page 385 of the Chevalier Botta’s “Storia della Guerra Americana.” The Reviewers inform us, that it is the best history of the revolution that ever has been written. This Italian Classick has followed the example, of the Greek and Roman Historians, by composing speeches, for his Generals and Orators. The Reviewers have translated, one of Mr R H Lee, in favour of the declaration of Independence. A splendid morcell of oratory it is; how faithful, you can judge.

I wish to know your sentiments, and opinions of this publication.  Some future Miss Porter, may hereafter, make as shining a romance, of what passed in Congress, while in Conclave, as her Scottish Chiefs.

Your friend durante Vita2

John Adams

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John Adams: Washington’s Ten Talents

Sunday, February 21, AD 2016

“The History of our Revolution will be one continued lye [sic] from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin’s electric rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. Then Franklin electrified him… and thence forward those two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislations, and War.” 

John Adams, letter to Benjamin Rush, 1790

John Adams was a very great man, but he could be somewhat petty at times.  This pettiness came to the fore when he considered that other men, particularly George Washington, would loom larger than him in the history of the American Revolution and its aftermath.  In a letter to Benjamin Rush on November 11, 1807, he remarked upon what he considered to be Washington’s ten great talents:

Self taught or Book learned in the Arts, our Hero was much indebted to his Talents for “his immense elevation above his Fellows.” Talents? you will say, what Talents? I answer.

1. An handsome Face. That this is a Talent, I can prove by the authority of a thousand Instances in all ages: and among the rest Madame Du Barry who said Le veritable Royaute est la Beaute.

2. A tall Stature, like the Hebrew Sovereign chosen because he was taller by the Head than the other Jews.

3 An elegant Form.

4. graceful Attitudes and Movement:

5. a large imposing Fortune consisting of a great landed Estate left him by his Father and Brother, besides a large Jointure with his Lady, and the Guardianship of the Heirs of the great Custis Estate, and in addition to all this, immense Tracts of Land of his own acquisition. There is nothing, except bloody Battles and Splendid Victories, to which Mankind bow down with more reverence than to great fortune. They think it impossible that rich Men especially immensely rich Men, Should Submit to the trouble of Serving them but from the most benevolent and disinterested Motives. . . . Such is their Love of the Marvellous, and Such their Admiration of uncommon Generosity that they will believe extraordinary pretensions to it and the Pope Says, Si bonus Populus vult decipi, decipiatur. Washington however did not deceive them. I know not that they gave him more credit for disinterestedness, than he deserved, though they have not given many others so much.

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9 Responses to John Adams: Washington’s Ten Talents

  • Don

    Ignoring the untactful nature of the list, there is a point hidden in there.

    It is the common estimate that one third of the population supported the revolution, a third England and a third were neutral. In most places the Patriots had control of the local government and thus were in charge

    At any point if the Continental Army had dissolved, which was a real threat through early 1778, the British could have deployed there army in to small detachments and put the local Loyalists in charge and backed them up.

    With the Continental Army in the field, the British could not break up into small detachments because the Continentals would destroy them piece meal.

    Washington’s greatest accomplishment was, by charisma shear force of will, and fantastic personal leadership he kept the Army together despite hunger, scarce and poor equipment, long marches, and poor quarters, and multiple defeats.

    The revolution had a number of persons with the more conventional set of “talents” but did not have the charisma to keep the Army together.

  • You anticipate my post for tomorrow Hank!

  • Seems to me most of the list are assets (nature) rather than talents. In that vein, I want to add: Faith and that he was graced with huge amounts of the Divine assistance.

  • I agree, T. Shaw. Benjamin Franklin wrote of striving for virtues but it seemed mostly because it would make him a more pleasant person— a secular saint wanna-be. But Washington’s diaries reveal that he had pleasing God more in mind. Anyway, Washington stands alone.

  • Adams did not say it was an all inclusive lisit but i’d have suggested

    Washington had great physical strength and stamina – he could crack a walnut between his thumb and index finger. His letter writing is incredibly voluminous and always gracious and tolerant. He was also quick to give others credit and recognition.

    Last, he funded some of the revolution from his own money which was not unique in the revolution – Martha wrote out his expenses for submission to congress for recompense. we have a copy of them here in upstate new york. he took no salary as Com-n-chief The image of Washington praying along side his war horse tops the list i think. i believe in one of his biographies Washington claimed 67 times Divine Providence intervened on his or the revolutions behalf.

  • “First in war, first in peace, and (still) first in the hearts of his countryman.”

  • Good Lord, John Adams was a vain and petty little man. His greatest contribution to the American cause was nominating Washington to be Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. That fact, alone, must have caused him no end of indigestion.
    And I say that as a great admirer of John Adams.

  • I think Jay the difference between the men comes down to the fact that Adams was always concerned about what the history books would say about him. Washington could not have cared less. If he could have lived his life peacefully as the squire of Mount Vernon he would have been content. It was events outside his control, and his own sense of duty, that thrust him into the historical limelight. In Washington the old Roman tale of Cincinnatus came wonderfully to life.

  • and a constant exercise in humility i think- Adams was a talented man, maybe not so great a dad

    but every day he had to walk, talk and work among GIANTS, and he was savvy enough to know they were……..

Quotes Suitable for Framing: John Adams

Friday, February 19, AD 2016

11 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: John Adams

  • While I believe George Washington was the greatest of our Founders, I find John Adams the most endearing. Vain and thin skinned at times, but rose above his failings to greatness when it counted.

  • “They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.” -JA

    Who is virtuous in today’s political race?
    Sanders? Hillary? The Donald?

    John Adams, pray for this Nation from on high. Please.

  • Hegel could occasionally come out with a striking line: “You cannot free a people whose consciences are enslaved; Napoléon could no more coerce the Spanish into freedom than Philip II could force the Dutch into slavery.”

  • “could no more coerce the Spanish into freedom”

    Freedom to be subjects of the French Empire and be ruled by Napoleon’s elder brother. Spanish patriots were fully justified in waging an all out War to avoid such a fate.

  • Discussion for the Coffee Clatch: does the MacArthur/Ridgeway Shogunate (1945-1952) prove or disprove Hegel’s thesis?

  • Disprove, as did the Western Allies construction of West Germany.

  • Or prove. If the total destruction of German & Japanese society resulted in the liberation of a peoples’ enslaved consciences, that is.

  • Ernst Schreiber asks, “[D]oes the MacArthur/Ridgeway Shogunate (1945-1952) prove or disprove Hegel’s thesis?”
    I would say it supports it. Japan is a country so demoralised by the loss of its traditional beliefs and way of life that its people are no longer interested in survival. Japan’s population has been in decline for decades and its Total Fertility Rate is now only 1.41 children per woman (the replacement rate is 2.1) The median age is 46.1 years (47.5 for women) There are no longer enough women of child-bearing age to reverse the slide to extinction.
    The Japanese resemble one of those Amazonian tribes who react to the loss of their traditional way of life by collective suicide. Germany is much the same. In both cases, their tribal gods of nationalism have been discredited and they have been unable to embrace an alternative.

  • “The Japanese resemble one of those Amazonian tribes who react to the loss of their traditional way of life by collective suicide. Germany is much the same. In both cases, their tribal gods of nationalism have been discredited and they have been unable to embrace an alternative.”

    Complete and utter rubbish. The Japanese and the Germans are afflicted with the same plunging birthrates that afflict most of the industrialized world.

  • “The Japanese and the Germans are afflicted with the same plunging birthrates that afflict most of the industrialized world.”

    But that is false in fact. France and the Republic of Ireland both have a TFR of 2.1, i.e. at replacement. The UK and Sweden stand at 1.9
    Outside Europe, Australia has a TFR of 1.93 and New Zeland is nearly at replacement level at 2.05. The Jewish population of Israel, a highly industrialised country with many high-tech industries,has a TFR of 3.1
    The USA has a TFR of 1.88, but still has a median age of only 37.8, so this could easily rise.
    All these are far highe than Germany and Japan.

  • Your thesis is nonsense MPS, as a glance at the link below demonstrates:

    Japan and Germany have low birth rates, but their birth rates are similar to their neighbors and in some cases higher.

Finished Peace, Unfinished Peace Portrait

Wednesday, January 20, AD 2016


The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War, were long, contentious and complicated, involving not merely the peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States, but also separate treaties between Great Britain and France, Spain and the Netherlands.  Benjamin Franklin, who led the American team, and who deserves the title of greatest American diplomat, made it clear from the outset that the United States would not make any peace with Great Britain without its ally France also coming to terms with Great Britain.  He also demanded Canada.  By such wily ploys, Franklin outthought the British negotiators at every turn, and quickly got them to concede American Independence in hopes that the Americans could prevail upon France to be reasonable in its demands. 

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One Response to Finished Peace, Unfinished Peace Portrait

  • Never hear of Henry Laurens, so I have to look him up (thanks again for the stimulus Don). Quite a history. His estate is now in large part a Trappist monastery.

It Crashed Before The Declaration Was Saved!

Thursday, July 2, AD 2015

A cute video imagining the Declaration of Independence being drafted on Microsoft Word.

John Adams on August 6, 1822 in a letter to Timothy Pickering who had inquired as to how the Declaration came to be drafted responded as follows:

You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the Committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence, I answer; It was the Frankfort advice, to place a Virginian at the head of every thing. Mr. Richard Henry Lee, might be gone to Virginia, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason of Mr. Jefferson’s appointment. There were three committees appointed at the same time. One for the Declaration of Independence, another for preparing articles of Confederation, and a other for preparing a treaty to be proposed to France.  Mr. Lee was chosen for the Committee of Of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Congress, in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation, not even Samuel Adams was more so, that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draught, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.

The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught I said, “l will not.” “You should do it.” “Oh! no.” “Why will you not? You ought do it.” “I will not.” “Why?” “Reasons enough.” “What can be your reasons?” “Reason first–You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second–I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular.  You are much otherwise. Reason third–You can write ten times better than I can.” “WelI,” said Jefferson, “if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.” “Very well.  When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”

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4 Responses to It Crashed Before The Declaration Was Saved!

For Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things, and Battles Long

Thursday, February 19, AD 2015

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

William Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper



An interesting collection in the video above of photos of Civil War generals during and after the War.  As the Civil War was drawing to a close one hundred and fifty years ago, the hundreds of thousands of photographs taken during the War ensured that it would not be remembered as other conflicts had been remembered.  Unlike, say, the American Revolution, the reality of the War would not be sweetened by a few score paintings that would fix the War visually in historical memory.    Unthinkable in 1865, even when the millions of men who had fought in the War were all dust, the photographs would remain to show a small part of what they saw.  John Adams, who feared that the true history of the American Revolution was lost forever and that posterity was being given myths instead of truths regarding the great times he lived through, would have hailed the advent of photography as helping to preserve some of the reality of the stubborn facts of history.

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2 Responses to For Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things, and Battles Long

  • “……the photographs would remain to show a small part of what they saw.”

    And lovers of a free nation founded by men who feared God, exist today, to bring history and truth to the men and women of these United States.
    Thanks Mr. McClarey for caring.
    My sight is better for it.

  • “Way down south in the land of cotton,
    Old times there are not forgotten.”
    Those were men.

His Rotundity

Tuesday, February 18, AD 2014

His Rotundity

To many Americans it often seems that Congress wastes an inordinate amount of time debating on trivialities.  It is at least an old tradition.  The Senate spent a month in 1789 debating what the title of the President should be.  Washington during the Revolution had often been known informally as His Excellency, but at that time that was the common title for governors of states.  Vice-President John Adams thought that the President needed a royal, or at least a  princely, title  to sustain the dignity of the office.  He suggested such titles as “His Highness” and “His Benign Highness” demonstrating once again how tone deaf to public opinion he tended to be, the American people post Revolution being decidedly anti-monarchical.  Eventually a Senate committee approved the title “His Highness, the President of the United States, and the Protector of Their Liberties”.

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was aghast at the whole business and recalled Benjamin Franklin’s description of Adams as a man who means well for his country, is always an honest man, sometimes a wise one, and who,  some times, and in some things, is absolutely out of his senses.

Washington initially favored the unwieldy formulation of “His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties,” but was aghast at the criticism that all of this smacked of monarchy, and eagerly agreed to the simple title of Mr. President that James Madison succeeded in having the House of Representatives approve.

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Rational Evil

Wednesday, October 30, AD 2013

Dennis Prager , in this episode of his Prager University series of videos, takes on an ever popular heresy:  evil is irrational.  This heresy is popular for any number of reasons but doubtless it all boils down to the belief, completely unfounded in human experience, that reasonable people will agree on what is good and what is evil.  The experience of the last half century in the West should have knocked that bit of foolishness into a cocked hat.  Agreement on good and evil in practice is largely a matter of convention.   If the social norms of a people come under challenge, we quickly see apparently reasonable people disagreeing on such fundamental questions as whether an unborn child has a right to life, or whether sex outside of marriage is evil. 

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13 Responses to Rational Evil

  • I sometimes fancy that Natural Law thinking has done real harm to Christian witness and provided a cover for civic religion.
    The Neo-Thomists had developed a theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation, or rather, travesty of St Thomas. They had talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. This “two-tier” account of nature and grace was based on this view that the addition of “grace” was something super-added to a human nature that was already complete and sufficient in itself and apart from any intrinsic human need
    In the memorable exchange in 1910, in Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, between Maurras’s Jesuit defender, Descoqs and the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière, Descoqs, a follower of Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas had allowed the political sphere a wide degree of political autonomy and he was prepared to detach “political society” from “religious society.” Laberthonnière had retaliated by accusing Descoqs of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”
    So far as I know, this exchange has never appeared in English, which is astonishing, as it was what united such disparate thinkers as Blondel, Maréchal, the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, Lubac and Daniélou. It was a fundamental moment for the Nouvelle Théologie, much as Keble’s Assize Sermon had been for the Oxford Movement.
    Thus, Maurice Blondel, insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”
    Jacques Maritain, too, declared that “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account” and “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology”

  • Preamble
    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
    In the 52 words of the Preamble to the US Constitution, the Law of the Land lies the reason and purpose of the United States of America which cannot be corrupted, not changed because the Preamble addresses the human rights of : “We, the people of the United States of America”, past, present and future generations. The human rights of all people, the human species, conceived as sovereign persons, innocent and virgin, perfect, until visited by the sins of corruption and concupiscence of their fathers.
    Had Adam, the first human being, told Eve, his wife, that “NO” I am not eating the apple”, Eve’s corruption would have been annihilated, as a husband has rule over his wife’s vows, oaths and indiscretions. The human race might have come into being, as each individual might come into being under Adam’s correct, politically correct and perfect obedience to “their Creator” for the common good.
    Correctness is necessary for the common good. Correctness is spelled out in The Preamble. “ in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” Our posterity are all future generations yet to be born known only to God in God’s infinite wisdom. “ and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity” brought forward from all past generations, our posterity are guaranteed the “Blessings of Liberty”
    “do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” “do ordain”, that is to make into law and establish this law throughout the land.

    “Violation of the Preamble to the Law of the Land, our United States Constitution is violation of “We, the people”, past generations, the now generation and all future generations. The Law is alive and living in time and in eternity, now and forever.
    The dictates of being human are inscribed in the Preamble.
    If the Liberal Left does not like it, they can go live somewhere else. Being inhuman and overriding another sovereign person’s human rights is demonic. Evil is practiced by the demonic.

  • “Descoqs, a follower of Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas…” “Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights.” Francisco Suarez

  • But Suarez overlooked St Thomas, where he says, ““even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.] for he says, “the happiness of any rational creature whatsoever consists in seeing God by his essence” [In IV Sent, d. 49, q. 2, a. 7:]

    Again, St Thomas says, ““The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

    This is also the teaching of St Augustine, when he says, in the first line of the Confessions, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

  • To the extent I’m following your reasoning Michael (if I’m following your reasoning because I’m not at all familiar with the debate you describe), I’d say that, at least as far as the good ol’ U. S. of A is concerned, our prevailing schools of social thought are predominantly structural and post-structural, i.e. social rather than moral, so I don’t see where natural law fits in to our present debates, except perhaps by its absence.

  • Excellent post. None are more evil than the quintessentially rational liberal who in defying self as god condemns unborn babies to death because it is the reasonable thing to do.

  • Ernst Schreiber
    Descoqs had urged Catholic support for Charles Maurras and his ultra-nationalist political party, Action Française because Maurras, though an atheist, who did not recognize the supernatural constitution of the Church, nevertheless had great esteem for the Catholic Church, along with the monarchy, as “the rampart of order” and assigned her a privileged position in his new order.
    Descoqs argued that Catholics could collaborate with positivists like Maurras, because “these latter have very just, though incomplete and ‘deficient’ ideas on several points: order, authority, [and] tradition.” (In other words, they were neo-fascists.) He maintained the natural order has “its proper value and relative independence” and insisted on maintaining the “essential distinction…between purely political and economic questions and moral and religious questions.” Laberthonnière, Blondel and their supporters insisted otherwise; for them, the two were inseparable. That was the crux of the quarrel.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour,
    You are certainly correct on the misreading/misinterpretation of Saint Thomas first by Suarez, then by the Neo-Thomists writing after the call by Pope Leo XIII for a return to Thomas as a perennial philosophical/theological system. I will not get into the specifics of the late 19th century French Political questions.

    Thomas was building his system fundamentally on Augustine, the Doctor of Grace. Thomas however enhanced the place of creation/nature, while Augustine had done so with grace. While Thomas emphasized the distinction of grace and nature ( in much the same way as Chalcedon emphasized the two natures of Christ) he never radically separated them, as did Suarez and the later Neo-Thomists ( actually creating a ‘Nestorian-like’ theology of nature and grace). Thomas held to the profound and fundamental unity of nature and grace given by Augustine (analogously giving us the unity of the Person of Christ of the Council of Ephesus). Thomas saw grace perfecting (or building on) nature. This axiom does not only give us the distinction of nature and grace, but reveals that nature is perfected, most fully itself when graced. As Saiint Irenaeus would write (in 187 AD) “The Glory of God is man fully alive and man fully alive sees the Face of God”. This is a far cry from the almost accidental relationship between nature and grace in Suarez et al.

    It is in this light that we need to see Thomas’ teaching on Natural Law. Thomas believed that the Eternal Law in the mind of God is revealed first in Natural Law then completed or perfected by Divine Law (revealed in both Old and New Testament). As nature is ‘perfected’ by grace, according to Thomas, so natural law is ‘perfected’ by Divine Law. This is fully revealed when we realize that what the New Testament reveals is the Law of the Spirit (grace) with Christ Himself as our new Norm.

    To return to the actual point of the above article, especially quoting Jihn Adams, then this dynamic, completing, fulfilling, perfecting relationship of grace to nature, reveals just how fundamental moral and religious people are to the commonweal.

  • Great post. Made me think of th evil of the Reign of Terror, dedicated as it was to Reason.

  • “Made me think of the evil of the Reign of Terror, dedicated as it was to Reason.”

    To eat of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the REASONABLE thing to do:

    Genesis 3:6

    So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh],
    that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes],
    and a tree desirable to make one wise [the pride of life],
    she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

    But Jesus did NOT do the logical, REASONABLE thing in Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11.

    He did NOT turn the stones into bread [the lust of the flesh].
    He did NOT bow down to worship Satan at the sight of all the kingdoms of the world [the lust of the eyes]
    He being empowered as God did NOT dash Himself down from a great height [the pride of life]

    Reason unbridled by religious charity always leads to the dominance of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is unreasonable to humble one’s self. But to do otherwise is to forsake eternal life in Heaven for Esau’s REASONABLE bowl of porridge.

    1st John 2:15-17

    15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

  • I am not sure how to express this, but here it goes:
    There is some excellent argument offered at this site that when I have the time to read I am glad of it. However, it comes across as a closed discussion among a few individuals trying to prove this or that to the other one with a few listeners, like me, listening in. That’s fine if this is the purpose of The American Catholic. However, my first impression was that The American Catholic was intended to permeate the general American Catholic population, welcoming discussion, encouraging thought and dare I say, nourishing conversion while presenting Truth. Granted it would be a slow process and the general Catholic population is woefully ignorant of our faith, but it seems to me that is where we have to go and “elevate.”
    I have not often replied, but I have on a few occasions and only once did one person reply. Following the thread of several discussions it suggests to me the usual pattern is engagement of those few persons known in a sort of intellectual parry. Again, fine if that is your purpose and for the few, informative and interesting. But with no disrespect intended, in fact only admiration, I still yearn to discover a vehicle for reaching, inviting, enticing, engaging a broader population. Perhaps I am very mistaken and you have a large and growing participants. If so, I gladly stand corrected of my ignorant impressions.

  • We have far more readers than those who are actively involved in the comboxes. Our daily hits vary from a usual 4,500 up to a high of 12,000. Our hard core of commenters is usually about fifty individuals with the individuals changing somewhat over time. A highly popular post will usually have comments from people outside of the core. I am always interested in comments from people who do not regularly comment, because new insights are always welcome. (Unless they are crazy of course. 🙂 )

  • Kevin,

    Perhaps I have been one of those to whom you refer. I am sorry if I have come across as just wanting to carry on a conversation with just a few. That is not my intention

    I suggest you jump in. If it seems I have not really responded to your point. Point it out to me. Faith filled, reasoned questions and discussions are what we try to attain here

John Adams: Prophet?

Thursday, June 20, AD 2013

Suppose a nation, rich and poor, high and low, ten millions in number, all assembled together; not more than one or two millions will have lands, houses, or any personal property; if we take into the account the women and children, or even if we leave them out of the question, a great majority of every nation is wholly destitute of property, except a small quantity of clothes, and a few trifles of other movables. Would Mr. Nedham be responsible that, if all were to be decided by a vote of the majority, the eight or nine millions who have no property, would not think of usurping over the rights of the one or two millions who have? Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors. Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of every thing be demanded, and voted. What would be the consequence of this? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them. The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.

John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions of the United States, 1787

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14 Responses to John Adams: Prophet?

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  • Adams’ statement is somewhat prescient. He gets a little Ayn Randian there with the statements about the idle and the vicious, but point taken. Not to go Vox Nova on this blog, but one could argue that there’s a strong countervailing power against this tendency coming from the undemocratic forces wielded by elites and moneyed interests. (If you doubt America has its own version of aristocracy, just try to work in Hollywood and challenge Lord Geffen. Or talk to a judge.) The irony, of course, is that these elites are often characterized by self-loathing that compels them toward the same redistributive policy prescriptions as the lowly masses. Oh, they’ll still protect their private property tooth and nail, but it’s not as though they’re a bulwark against democratic chaos.

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  • It’s not solely the “idle and vicious.”

    Today’s WSJ: George Melloan writes a review entitled “A Jeremiad to Heed” of Niall Ferguson’s book, “The Great Degeneration.”

    Mr. Melloan writes about “the strangling of private initiative by an ever-encroaching state.” Professor Ferguson cites crises in economics, politics and culture. The most threatened institutions are: representative government, free markets, the rule of law, and civil society. Regarding the erosion of the rule of law, politicians ignore the Constitution and spawn huge numbers of “unwise and unenforceable laws and regulations.” As government expands, civil society retreats.

  • St Thomas ascribes private property to positive law. : “Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

    This is not the only place in his writings where one can see the influence of the Roman jurisprudence; here, its stark distinction between possession, which is a fact and ownership, which is a right.

    One can see this principle working to great effect in the French Revolution. Take Mirabeau (a moderate) “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens”

    So, too, Robespierre (not a moderate) “In defining liberty, the first of man’s needs, the most sacred of his natural rights, we have said, quite correctly, that its limit is to be found in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as if natural laws were less inviolable than human conventions?”

  • These men were SO WISE If John Adams were alive today and said or wrote that he would be ridiculed and called a “racist”. The people in power have more than three years left to circumvent the Constitution and create their twisted vision of America. I am praying that the Constitution is the true bulwark that can save us. It is being severely bent but I do not think it will break.

  • L.P., I was about to enter that one-word (“racist” the most versatile word in the political lexicon) comment.

    Remember the Second Great Commandment, love thy neighbor as thyself (even if he is a rich SOB).

    Schemes to “take from the rich” ever and always degenerate into envy, hatred, violence, and dystopia.

  • T Shaw wrote, “Schemes to “take from the rich” ever and always degenerate into envy, hatred, violence, and dystopia.”

    And yet, the increase in the number of landowners in France from from 43 before the Revolution to 10,000,000 in 1789 provided the greatest element of social stability for over a century. The new peasant proprietors, along with the petit bougeoisie were the backbone of the Party of Order

  • 43? Where did you get that number MPS? I believe that between 30-40 percent of all land prior to the Revolution in France was owned by peasant proprietors. Of course quite a few peasants fought against the Revolution that tended to be much more popular in the cities than in rural areas.

  • Donald M McClarey

    All but 43 proprietors held of a subject superior, to whom various duties and ground annuals were due. Only a pairie-fief amounted to absolute ownership (dominium directum) Everyone else had only the “dominium utile” – ownership of the use. Even where inflation had rendered the feu-duties trivial, the casualties payable on succession or alienation often amounted to half-a-year’s profits and the superior usually retained the sporting, timber and mineral rights.

    During « la Grande Peur » between 19 July and 3 August 1789, manorial records, terriers and rent-rolls were destroyed by peasants all over France with quite remarkable thoroughness.

  • Ergo, I had in mind . . .

    “In 1932-33, the Ukraine, formerly the breadbasket of Russia, was turned into a desolate wasteland during the ‘Holodomor.’ Malcolm Muggerage wrote in his book, War on the Peasants, ‘On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bellies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU (secret police) carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible, they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages, they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.’ More than 7 million people died so that their farms could be collectivized by Moscow.
    “The policies of the Communist Party in China caused more than 76 million people to starve between 1958 and 1961. Called the Three Years of Great Chinese Famine, the government had ruled that changes in farming techniques were the law. People were not allowed private plots to grow their own food and all farms were arranged into communes (collectivism strikes again). Yang Jisheng, a Chinese historian wrote in his book Tombstone, ‘In Xinyang, people starved at the doors of the grain warehouses. As they died, they shouted, “Communist Party, Chairman Mao, save us”. If the granaries of Henan and Hebei had been opened, no one need have died. As people were dying in large numbers around them, officials did not think to save them. Their only concern was how to fulfill the delivery of grain.’ To this day, Yang Jisheng’s book about the famine is banned on Mainland China.”
    From a Daisy Luther piece published in “The Organic Prepper.”

  • There are opposing realities that a Catholic has to recognize: None of our possessions are “owned” by us; we’re merely borrowing them during our time in this world. Hopefully we are good stewards of that property. A wise person realizes that our endowments are not purely a result of our own actions, but are also a product of fortune. These things temper our understanding of “private” property.

    Having said that, Adams’ point is still valid: It’s hard to imagine a just society where the rule of law does not include fairly strict protections on property. I’m not an expert on natural law or natural rights, but there are those Ten Commandments. Property rights might not be as absolute as the right to life, but a just order based on the rule of law depends on them heavily.

  • J Christian wrote, “It’s hard to imagine a just society where the rule of law does not include fairly strict protections on property”

    Absolutely, but to elevate them into “natural rights” can lead to inflexibility. For example, most legal systems have some system of prescription, whereby a bona fide possessor can acquire ownership by long, undisputed possession. A system whereby dormant claims, especially to land, could be raised after a century would make everyone’s title insecure. Again, some legal systems tend to favour a bona fide purchaser’s rights over the original owner’s more than others. French law is rather more generous than Scottish, but neither is manifestly unjust. Reasonable people, even reasonable jurists (if that is not an oxymoron) can differ and moral theologians have always agreed that this is properly the province of the civil law.

    Rousseau, a citizen of Geneva, thought property rights were more likely to be respected in a society of small property owners than one of rich men and beggars; a sad commentary on human nature, no doubt, but I believe he was right. I graze my sheep on open moorland, but there are parts of Glasgow where I would not leave a bike unattended

  • T Shaw

    But what you give are examples of collectivism, which is notoriously inefficient, not redistribution. The French Revolution adopted the opposite process; it redistributed the royal domain, the confiscated estates of emigrants and malignants, the common lands, the forest lands, it abolished the payments to feudal lords for work no longer done or value given, payments due to them “from the time, the obscure and distant time, when power went with land, and the local landowner was the local government, the ruler and protector of the people, and was paid accordingly.”

    As Populorum Progressio says, “If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.”

The Veepstakes: Who Cares?

Thursday, December 22, AD 2011

The other day Pat Archbold wrote a post lamenting that Condoleeza Rice may be positioning herself for a run at the Vice Presidential nomination.  Though I agree with Patrick that she would be an unacceptable choice, it’s probably nothing to worry about.  Frankly it just seemed as though the Washington Times was attempting to make a story out of nothing.

It did prompt me to think about the attention that gets paid to Vice Presidential selections.  What I concluded was that this decision is generally inconsequential, and it’s foolish to determine one’s vote based on this selection.

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5 Responses to The Veepstakes: Who Cares?

  • That’s probably fair analysis about how similar ideology leads to greater influence But I have little confidence in reports about who really carries weight in an administration. You don’t hear many insiders claiming responsibility for failures or saying that they had nothing to do with successes.

    Additionally, what do we mean by impact? LBJ probably didn’t talk Kennedy into anything, but handled the dealings with Congress. It’s been pretty common in recent history for a governor-turned-President to have an insider VP. Anyway, those are my first few thoughts. I’ll be interested to see where this discussion goes.

  • Pinky, I was mainly thinking about having an actual impact on administration decision-making, but I hadn’t really considered other things like Congressional influence. That’s a good qualifier.

  • I think Gerald Ford had Nelson Rockefeller supervise the Domestic Policy staff at the White House and put him in charge of one very consequential commission of inquiry. Ford suggested at a later date that optimal use of the vice president would be as a chief of staff.

    Why not eliminate the position, or replace it with a set of appointive vice presidents?

  • What Ford said makes sense, although maybe the skills you’d look for in a Chief of Staff are different than those of a potential President. But does any candidate think about their VP as anything more than an election-season tactic? Maybe Clinton and W did, which is what makes their cases unique. And Paul, the main function of a veep seems to be to go to formal international events and not cause problems – which makes our current vice-president an interesting choice, to put it mildly.

  • I think the duties of the VP are daily to inquire as to the health of the Pres, and to attend state funerals. Otherwise, he’s the president of the Senate and casts a vote if there is a deadlock.

    Don’t trust my memory. It’s a long time since I was in high school. However, in those days they taught facts not ideology.

    They chose Blithering Joe Biden either because he could deliver the Electoral College votes of Delaware; or because they were fairly assured that he would make the zero look like a super star.

Jack Webb Wishes A Belated 236th Happy Birthday to the Corps

Friday, November 11, AD 2011





On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

The Marines have fought in all our wars and by their conduct have lived up to this description of the Corps:

“No better friend, no worse enemy.”

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One Response to Jack Webb Wishes A Belated 236th Happy Birthday to the Corps

  • The US Marines have a tradition of honor. Our leaders have decided to tarnish that tradition by requiring the US Marines to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the US Marine Corps. The Marines are supposed to be the ones to fight for right and freedom. Homosexual behavior is not right.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

Sunday, July 3, AD 2011



And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

                                           George Washington, Farewell Address

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as he signed his name when he added his signature to the Declaration of Independence, was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  When he died at the age of 95, he was the last of the Signers to depart this vale of tears.

The scion of perhaps the richest family in the colonies, Charles Carroll was initially uninterested in politics and, in any case, was debarred by his religion from participating in politics in his native Maryland by his religion.  However, in his thirties he became a passionate advocate of American independence from Great Britain and quickly became one of the chief leaders of the Patriot cause in his home colony.  It was only natural as a result that he was sent to Congress, in spite of his religion, where he was one of the chief spokesmen for independence and happily placed his signature on the Declaration even though by doing so he risked not only his fortune but his life if the British had prevailed.  By the end of 1776 the revolutionary government of Maryland had issued an act of religious freedom, and Carroll and his fellow Catholics in Maryland enjoyed the same civil rights as Protestants.

In 1778 he returned to Maryland and helped draft the state constitution and in setting up the new state government, serving in the State Senate until 1800, and briefly in the United States Senate.

A slaveholder, throughout his career Carroll spoke and wrote of slavery as an evil that must come to an end as soon as possible.  He attempted, but failed, to have Maryland implement a plan of gradual emancipation.  At the age of 91 he took on the task of being president of the Auxiliary State Colonization Society of Maryland, part of  a national movement to have free blacks voluntarily colonize what would become Liberia in Africa.

Something of a Renaissance man, he had a strong interest in science and in his nineties helped set up the B&O Railroad, lending his prestige to this new technology in his native Maryland.

Throughout his life his two main passions were the American Revolution and his Faith.   Like most of the Founding Fathers he regarded the idea of political liberty divorced from sound morality, derived from religion, as an absurdity.  He set forth his ideas on this subject in a letter to Secretary of War James McHenry in 1800 in which he lamented the then current American political scene:

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amongst us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only source of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree from the turbulance of passions may be virtuous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most wanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

Carroll didn’t think much of John Adams as President, but Adams had precisely the same views on this subject as he stated in an address on October 11, 1798 to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the militia of Massachusetts:  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Most of the Founding Fathers left similar sentiments in their writings.  Something to ponder as we celebrate the Fourth tomorrow.  Here is the full text of the letter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton to James McHenry: 

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14 Responses to Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Without Morals A Republic Cannot Subsist Any Length of Time

  • Chesterton said morality consists in drawing the line somewhere. The problem in America is that the line keeps moving. And, Don, your old pal Thoreau said, “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

    Does one need to have religion to be moral? An old question that defies an answer. As the resident troll, let me aver that as an agnostic or an atheist can still know the difference between right and wrong.

    Enjoy the holiday!

  • The basis of all morality Joe is religion. Without that basis one merely has opinion which does sway with the times. A great Fourth to you Joe!

  • ‘The basis of all morality Joe is religion.’

    Don, the defense will stipulate if the prosecution will stipulate that the definition of ‘religion’ is open to interpretation.

  • Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
    Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
    Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

  • Oh there have been many religions Joe. Today the two main schools of thought tend to be that they are equally true or equally false. I of course adhere to the belief that Catholicism is true with elements of that truth contained in some other religions.

    Western man, particularly in Europe, is living off the capital of Christianity when it comes to a common moral code. As that capital wanes over time, so does the common moral code. Winston Churchill, a believer in God but probably not a Christian, once said that something was as impossible as a law legalizing sodomy. We see in regard to homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and contraception how quickly morality shifts once the religious basis of a moral code fades away. That is also why Europeans, most of them, have such a difficult time standing up to challenges from Islamic immigrants to what were once thought to be bedrock Western ideas such as tolerance, freedom of speech, etc. Quite a few people are willing to die in defense of something that they view as eternally true; very few over a difference of opinion that might cause them to risk physical harm.

  • Albert Camus, as conflicted a man as there ever was, considered himself an atheist but wrote: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

    So it’s always good to leave oneself a little spirtual wiggle room. 😆

  • Pascal’s wager in modern dress. A shame that such a promising work in progress as Camus came to an untimely end in a car crash.

  • One can safely say that a society that abandons its religion-based moral code often loses its civilized state. Compare the French, American, and Russian Revolutions. The US was the only country to emerge healthier. The other two descended into chaos. So, on the macro level, I think that Carroll is right.

    What about the micro level – can individuals be moral without religion? Well, that depends what you mean by “moral”. If you’re referring to objective standards, well, some people without religion deny that objective standards exist. Those people may act morally, but it’d be difficult to say that they are moral. As for those who deny religion but claim that morality consists of objective standards, how are we to judge their actions? By our shared standards, by those that they hold that we don’t, or by those that we hold but they don’t?

    Take a simple case – non-religious people commit a sin every Sunday that they don’t go to church. If we criticize them for it, we’re judging ther actions on our standards. If we accept their standards in assessing their morality, we lose the ability to judge a murderer’s actions by our code. And lest this seem like a trivial matter, recall that Aquinas found religion to be connected to justice, a natural virtue. Natural law and human experience tell us that it is morally good to recognize and worship the divine to the extent that you understand it. So on this basis one can argue that the irreligious are immoral.

    Just a first crack at the question.

  • Don – I’m hoping that this thread hasn’t dried up. I read this article this morning, and I haven’t been able to shake this particular sentence all day:

    If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France.

    Do you know what he means? I can imagine he’s thinking about the overthrow of property rights in France, but he seems to be implying that he sees the parties of his day pushing in the same direction. The idea that a Founder was worried about pillaging of the wealthy intrigues me, given what we’ve seen in the US since the Great Society. Any insight you can provide would be most welcome.

  • Pinky, Federalists like Carroll were concerned that the followers of Mr. Jefferson would replicate in America the French Revolution. Their concerns were overblown on that score to say the least, although the vitriol of some Jefferson’s fiercer acolytes in the press gave adequate reasons for the fear of the Federalists.

    When demagogues decide to engage in class warfare rantings there is always the possibility that liberty will be diminished by the use of governmental power to seize private wealth and bring it under government control. The Communist states of the last century were the prime examples of what disasters resulted from these policies. I do not fear such an outcome in this nation. What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air, is having a devastating impact on the ability of our economy to be productive. This simply cannot go on much longer, and whenever the benefits cease or are greatly devalued, I would not bet against significant civil unrest.

  • What I do fear, and what I think is coming to pass, is that the use of deficit spending to pay government benefits by churning the money out of thin air,

    Although there has been some currency erosion, the resources have not been ‘churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).

    Congress and the President have been for months playing chicken games which may lead to either a sovereign default or to a government shut down far more consequential than we have seen to date. All of this is in the service of public posturing, gamesmanship, and certain idees fixes. Morals figures into this in the deficit of civic virtue amongst our political class, sometimes manifest quite brazenly and sometimes intermediated through a tendency to see reality as optional.

  • “churned out of the air’ but borrowed from other components of the public and (since 1982 or therabouts) from the sovereign wealth funds and such in the Far East (where income routinely exceeds consumption).”

    And which we have little expectation of paying Art in the absence of a severe bout of inflation lasting years, or currency devaluation. This is all heading towards debt repudiation although I am certain that a prettier term will be used to conceal the reality.

  • The ratio of public debt to domestic product has been as high as 119% in living memory. Were the debt to rise to 90% of domestic product (as it is expected to ‘ere too many years), service charges given common and garden interest rates on Treasury securities might be 4% of domestic product. (IIRC, service charges during the Reagan Administration were as high as 3.2% of domestic product). Devoting around 1% of domestic product to debt retirement would allow the serviced debt of 90% of domestic product domestic product to be liquidated within four decades. (Given normal growth rates of nominal domestic product). We can service and retire this debt, but it would require concerted action to balance our books over the next four or five years and a general policy of running small surpluses over the course of the business cycle for decades thereafter. ‘Tis possible, but ’tis not what our (federal) politicians are the least inclined to do (and Obama, Reid, and Boehner are alike in this regard).


Saturday, July 2, AD 2011

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:

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2 Responses to Remember

  • “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom!”


    Divine Assistance, their blood, their courage, their faith . . . combined to bring forth our blessed nation. Lest we forget.

  • The Founding Fathers were always thinking about their descendants and how their actions today would impact their posterity tomorrow. One of the many comparisons between the Founders and our current leadership which would lead one to conclude that we have learned little in the past two centuries and forgotten much.