Fortnight For Freedom Day: Freedom is Not Just a Big Word

Monday, July 3, AD 2017

But before he started he looked over the judge and jury for
a moment, such being his custom. And he noticed the glitter in their eyes was twice as strong as before, and they
all leaned forward. Like hounds just before they get the fox, they looked, and the blue mist of evil in the room
thickened as he watched them. Then he saw what he’d been about to do, and he wiped his forehead, as a man
might who’s just escaped falling into a pit in the dark.
For it was him they’d come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in the glitter of their eyes and in the way the
stranger hid his mouth with one hand. And if he fought them with their own weapons, he’d fall into their power;
he knew that, though he couldn’t have told you how. It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and
he’d have to wipe that out or the case was lost. He stood there for a moment, his black eyes burning like
anthracite. And then he began to speak.
Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

 

 

 

 

The video at the top of this post is a scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.   In this scene Daniel Webster addresses a jury of the damned, all villains of American history.  I have always thought this speech one of the most eloquent statements of what it means to be an American.

In regard to Freedom it reminds us that it is just not a word:  Freedom is not just a big word — “it is the bread and the   morning and the risen sun”.

Go here to read the passage in the Stephen Vincet Benet’s short story.  Below is the scene as written in the screenplay:

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2 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom Day: Freedom is Not Just a Big Word

Civilization VI Optimism

Tuesday, May 17, AD 2016

 

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to play historically based computer strategy games.  One of my favorite series has been the Civilization games by Sid Meier.  The first one reached my house on Christmas Eve 1991, the first Christmas of my twin sons, and my bride and I quickly became entranced by it.   In between playing with our infants and introducing them to the joys of Christmas, we took turns charting the courses of society through 6,000 years of history.  For a young married couple fascinated by history, it was the ideal Christmas present.

Over the past quarter century we have purchased each new version of it.  I was struck by the optimism of the announcement trailer.  It is a historical optimism I share and it is splendidly set forth in Daniel Webster’s closing argument to the jury of the damned in The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet:

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3 Responses to Civilization VI Optimism

  • I’ve only ever played Civ IV, but I’ve played it a lot.

    The thing I wanted to see was for them to replace the difficulty settings with the option of playing different leaders. Instead of playing Washington at Noble or Emperor or whatever, why not be able to play Washington, Hayes, and Buchanan? Instead of choosing between three successful leaders of Russia, why not include a couple of the real dogs?

    I thought that would make the big games more fun, if you were given the option of playing against random-quality opponents. Imagine how different it would be looking across the Channel at James II or Victoria.

  • And back to the point of your post: I’ve never before seen a video game ad that made my tears well up.

God of Our Fathers

Saturday, November 29, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  God of Our Fathers.  Written in 1876 to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it reminds each American how fortunate we are to live in this land.

 

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

America is a wonderful place, even when we acknowledge her flaws.  I think one of the best tributes to America is contained in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, when he describes Daniel Webster addressing the Jury of the Damned:

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2 Responses to God of Our Fathers

American History and Political Correctness

Saturday, August 23, AD 2014

“the difference between the old and the new education being) in a word, the old was a kind of propagation – men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.”

CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man

My son and my daughter when they were in high school both took advanced placement American history, earning A’s.  (Yeah, they heard quite a lot about American history from me as they were growing up!  “Dad, I only asked for three dollars!  What does Washington’s strategy during the Yorktown campaign have to do with it?”)  They enjoyed the classes and thought they were worthwhile.  I am glad they took the courses prior to the new framework for teaching the courses was initiated.  Larry Krieger is a retired American history teacher.  He specialized in teaching advanced placement American history, and was recognized in 2004 and 2005 by the College Board, the company that produces the courses, as the best teacher of advanced placement American history, and he has written several books to help students prepare for the course.  He has been leading the charge against the changes that the College Board is implementing in their American history course:

The Framework’s unbalanced and biased coverage of the Colonial era represents a radical departure from its existing topical outline and from state and local curriculum guides. While students will learn a great deal about the Beaver Wars, the Chickasaw Wars, the Pueblo Revolt, and King Philip’s War, they will learn little or nothing about the rise of religious toleration, the development of democratic institutions, and the emergence of a society that included a rich mix of ethnic groups and the absence of a hereditary aristocracy. The Framework blatantly ignores such pivotal historic figures as Roger Williams and Benjamin Franklin and such key developments as the emergence of New England town meetings and the Virginia House of Burgesses as cradles of democracy.

The absence of coverage on the development of religious toleration is a particularly egregious flaw. Freedom of religion is one of America’s greatest contributions to world civilization. Yet, inexplicably the Framework omits the Pilgrims, mentions the Quakers once, and fails to discuss the importance of religious dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams and the consequences of the First Great Awakening.

Thomas Jefferson described New England town meetings as “the best school of political liberty the world ever saw.” Jefferson was right. We encourage parents, teachers, and students to attend local meetings and ask school and political officials if the new College Board AP U.S. History Framework is aligned with their locally mandated courses of study. If it is not, then the public has a right and a responsibility to demand that the College Board rescind the new Framework and adopt a more appropriate course of study.

 

UNIT 3: 1754 – 1800

At the present time, a five-page outline provides AP U.S. History teachers with a clear chronological list of topics that they should cover in their courses. This traditional outline conforms to the sequence of topics approved by state and local boards of education. In contrast, the new redesigned Framework provides a detailed 98-page document that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period.” The College Board has thus unilaterally assumed the authority to replace local and state guidelines with its own biased curriculum guide. These biases can be clearly seen in how the Framework emphasizes, deemphasizes, and omits selected topics in the period from 1754 to 1800.

The Framework begins this critical period of American history with a full page devoted to how “various American Indian groups repeatedly evaluated and adjusted their alliances, with Europeans, other tribes, and the new United States government” (page 32). The Framework then generously grants teachers the flexibility to discuss Pontiac’s Rebellion and Chief Little Turtle (page 32).

While the Framework emphasizes “new white-Indian conflicts along the western borders (page 36) and “the seizure of Indian lands” (page 37), it all but ignores George Washington’s life and indispensible contributions to American history. Although Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” he merits only one random Framework reference: “Although George Washington’s Farewell Address warned about the dangers of divisive political parties and permanent foreign alliances, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France fueled increasingly bitter partisan debates throughout the 1790s” (page 34).To put this glaring omission into perspective, imagine how South Africans would respond if an unelected agency issued a history of their country that contained just one reference to Nelson Mandela.

The Framework’s decision to all but omit George Washington extends to his command of the Continental Army. Most state and local curriculum guides require teachers to discuss the significance of Valley Forge and the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. Instead, the College Board Framework completely ignores all Revolutionary War battles and commanders. Veterans and their families will by dismayed to discover that this is not an oversight. In fact, the College Board ignores military history from the Revolutionary War to the present day.  Students will thus not learn about the valor and sacrifices of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, the Rough Riders, the doughboys, the GI’s, and the servicemen and women who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The Framework’s superficial coverage of the Revolutionary War is typical of this poorly organized unit. For example, the Framework devotes just one sentence to the Declaration of Independence (page 34). John Adams later wrote that “the Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” While the College Board Framework invites teachers to discuss “the architecture of Spanish missions” (page 34), it does not invite teachers to fully explore the republican ideals that motivated America’s founders. Confused students may wonder what cause motivated the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the soldiers at Valley Forge, and the framers at Independence Hall to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their “sacred honor.” For example, Richard Morris risked his life and sacrificed his fortune to promote the cause of freedom.

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8 Responses to American History and Political Correctness

  • Truth! Liberals (superannuated, 1960’s pot-heads and VC sympathizers with graying pony-tails) took control (now we have Federal government mandates) of, and transformed, education. Now, it’s indoctrination not education.
    .

    It’s far too easy to be a post-modern academic. The answer to every contemporary or historical (generally distorted, exaggerated or fabricated) crisis/event/movement is one or more of the following: Christianity, class, Dick Cheney, gender, George W. Bush, global warming, race, Sarah Palin, sexual orientation, WHITE MEN . . .
    .

    I have a 1965 AP, high school American History text. If any of you wants the truth about US history, I can look it up.

  • God is three Persons. The person of Jesus Christ is a sovereign citizen of the world. The Person is due “due process of law” under the Constitution.
    .
    When the Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale (1962) told the atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, that she could “go her own way”, the Court interpreted the Constitition’s “tolerance”. Of itself, atheism is unconstitutional since atheism does the Constitution violence. “…or prohibit the free exercise therof.” Atheism prohibits all freedom of religion thereof.
    .
    The imposition of atheism in public schools to minor children, a captive audience, is unconstitutional. Atheism or the removal of public prayer in public school needs to be put on the ballot in each and every town.
    .
    Yes, the children in public school are minors whose civil rights are held in trust for them by God, by their parents and finally by the state. However, no parent or adult is barred from entering any class room to moderate, observe and challenge any violation of the students’ civil rights. (Planned Parenthood has already entered the public school classroom to indoctrinate through the United Nations)
    .
    God is the endower of civil rights. Children praying to God are exercising their civil rights to freedom and acknowledging that their civil rights are held in trust for them by God. To prohibit this act of trust in God is to deny the child his civil rights, his human soul and his freedom, all of his freedom.
    .
    This freedom is not happening in our culture. The sovereign personhood of every individual is violated. The Person of God, the citizen, is violated, the soverign personhood of the atheist is violated and there is hell to pay. Actually, the court has sent us all to hell. Time to put the public acknowledgement of our freedom in society to the ballot. Oh, that was done in 1788.
    .
    Perhaps, the Supreme Court might like to read the Constitution before it it changes the Constitution without ratification by the states.

  • Our oldest starts Kindergarten on Monday, and more and more I’m seeing how vigilant we will have to be as parents to see she and her sisters get a good and accurate education in all subjects. I pray we’ve made the right decision this year to send her to our local parish school. Many of the local Catholic high schools use AP and IB curricula just like the public schools. It will be very hard to avoid this tripe for anyone who doesn’t want to home school.

  • Good comment by T. Shaw. Mary De Voe and Mrs. Zummo are also correct. Liberals have to revise history because as Pope Leo XIII pointed out in his encyclical Libertas, they are the ones who cry, “I will not serve.” There is a liberal who runs a pro-nuclear energy blog (very odd given that the overwhelming majority of liberals are reflexively anti-nuclear energy). Everything he writes about nuclear engineering is correct. But when he writes about history or politics, his entire paradigm is so skewed that he cannot tell the true from the false, a condition that Bill Wilson in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous identified with alcoholism. Oh no, this man is no alcoholic (at least to the best of my knowledge). But it is the “ISM” (I, Self and Me) that is the fatal disease. The ISM is the same for liberalism and it is for alcoholism.

  • KC Johnson has written on this topic. He remarked a judicial opinion which made use of a 1977 American history text as a reference. This was necessary, per Johnson, because the sort of political and institutional history that the court needed to reference is hardly being written anymore. It’s all a race-class-gender gasbag philharmonic. (The study of colonial-era aboriginal populations is much more a department of archaeology and anthropology than a department of history).

  • The College Board needs to be hit in the head with a board – a good, solid 2×4. My oldest is in first grade. The school district he attends – and I pay through the nose for – is supposedly highly rated. Property taxes are so high it ran the local Catholic grade school out of business.

    I can only imagine how the College Board has fouled up world history. At any rate, my kids will learn about history from ME. I will point them to the sources that are reliable. They will learn the truth about Islam, the Reconquest, the Deformation – as it reformed nothing, the heroic battles fought by the Knights of Malta, Lepanto and Vienna. They will learn that the Spanish conquistadores put an end to Aztec human sacrifice and the Church evangelized most of this Hemisphere. They will learn that , despite the stupid anti-Catholicism that was found throughout the Colonies, that the War for Independence would not have been won without
    Catholic help from France and Spain.

    I suspect I could teach history better than most so called present day educators. Given that my ex sister in law is a schoolteacher and did not know that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, I’m sure there are other things she doesn’t know.

    I remember the “new math” of the early 1970s. That was a disaster.

  • Never said better: “Truth! Liberals (superannuated, 1960′s pot-heads and VC sympathizers with graying pony-tails)…” (T. Shaw, 8/23/2014) And here, in the leftist-super-populated SF Bay Area, many gaggles of super-annuated pot- and gray-pony-tailed-heads with perpetually grimacing upside-down smiles. One would think these people who are generally quite well-off and who totally control the levers of power in this state would be happy—yet they are not. Could it be they only have their materialistic “big sleep” to look forward to?
    .
    And have care lest you dare burst their thin little balloon of progressive fable and 60’s self-hypnosis. Not long ago, our quirky little family sat down to a cafe-lunch at the beautiful Palace of Legion of Honor art museum in SF. It was a beautiful sun-splashed day on the patio (not always common in summertime SF) ; people chatting, relaxing. So, as the food came out, my autistic brother instantly started the Catholic grace before meals (well, of course!), so I mean a full sign of the cross, etc and Gloria Patri at the end. We joined in, quietly. Unknown to me, but spotted by Mrs. Phoenix, behind me, at least two patrons at another table grimaced, faces turning dark, and at once got up and moved to the far end of the patio to get away from us. That sign-of-the-cross hocus pocus stuff definitely ruined the grey-pony-tails’ day.

  • “That sign-of-the-cross hocus pocus stuff definitely ruined the grey-pony-tails’ day.”

    I bet they didn’t have garlic on their table!

Daniel Webster

Thursday, March 7, AD 2013

Yes, Dan’l Webster’s dead–or, at least, they buried him. But every time there’s a thunder storm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, “Dan’l Webster–Dan’l Webster!” the ground’ll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you’ll hear a deep voice saying, “Neighbor, how stands the Union?” Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper sheathed, one and indivisible, or he’s liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that’s what I was told when I was a youngster.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet.  We also looked at the judge who presided over the case, Justice Hathorne.  Only one personage remains to examine, Daniel Webster.

Born in 1782 a few months after the American victory at Yorktown, Webster would live to be a very old man for his time, dying in 1852.  Webster would serve in the House for 10 years from New Hampshire and 19 years in the Senate from Massachusetts.  Three times Secretary of State, he also attempted on three occasions to win the Presidency failing three times, watching as much lesser men attained that office.  Like his two great contemporaries, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, his name is remembered while most Americans would be hard pressed to name many of those presidents.

While holding political office he also practiced law, arguing an astounding 223 cases before the United States Supreme Court and winning about half of them.

He was acknowledged to be the finest American orator of his day, a day in which brilliant speech making was fairly common on the American political scene, and his contemporaries often referred to him blasphemously as “the god-like Daniel”.  Perhaps the finest example of Webster’s oratory is his Second Reply to Senator Haynes of South Carolina during the debate on tariffs which took place in the Senate  in January of 1830.  In the background lurked the nullification crisis and possible secession, a crisis which would build over the next three decades and explode into the attempted dissolution of the union in 1860.  The ending of this speech was once known by every schoolchild:   Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!

The American Union was Webster’s passion throughout his life, he being above all an ardent patriot.  He was also an ardent opponent of slavery.  However, in 1850 when his opposition to slavery conflicted with what he perceived to be the necessity of a compromise to preserve the Union, he did not hesitate and helped hammer the compromise together.  Because it included a stronger fugitive slave act, he was roundly condemned throughout New England, something noted in The Devil and Daniel Webster:

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13 Responses to Daniel Webster

  • We live in a much different country today than the one Daniel Webster fought to preserve. I would not compromise my anti-abortion principles to save this country (and I certainly wouldn’t go to hell rather than see its dissolution, as Webster proclaims his willingness to do in Benet’s fictional account). Over a century-and-a-half has lapsed since Webster’s time, and the country we have today would no doubt be unrecognizable to Webster. I’m not so sure he’d find what we have today so worth preserving.

  • Completely disagree Jay, root and branch! Your words actually echo those of radical abolitionists prior to the Civil War who denounced the Constitution as a Covenant with Death because of slavery and called for the breaking up of the Union. Wiser men, like Lincoln and Webster, saw that the primary hope for ending slavery was the preservation of the Union and that the Union was a good in and of itself. They were proven right and I think their example is something to ponder today when there is too much idiotic talk about Secession once again. There is nothing wrong with this country that would be solved by breaking up the United States of America into two or more squabbling Republics, and endless new evils would result. As for Webster’s quip in the story about going to the Pit, considering he just had bested Satan in court and was about to give him a kick in the hindquarters, I doubt if Webster would have been going to the Pit to surrender his soul, but rather to have another round with Mr. Scratch!

  • The difference, Donald, is that I don’t believe for one minute that the best hope for ending abortion lies in the preservation of the Union. Nor am I sold on the Manifest Destiny-based argument that the Union is necessarily a good in and of itself.

    Now, I’m no secessionist, and I certainly don’t hope for the dissolution of our country. And I don’t even think it’s a realistic possibility any time in the near future (certainly not our lifetimes, and probably not our children’s lifetimes). But I firmly believe that there may be circumstances at some point in our nation’s future in which there may a much higher good than preservation of the Union to work toward and/or fight for.

  • Though I’m extremely fond of the “Liberty and Union” speech, I’m more in Jay’s corner on this one.

    I don’t see him taking a Garrisonian position. Indeed, the problem is not the Constitution, the problem is that it has been turned into a Rorschach test, with people amending it without actually doing the hard work of amending it. Either via lawsuit or winking at flatly-unconstitutional legislation. We have a Union–indeed, increasingly a unitary state–but less liberty.

    Union without liberty is…well, there was a Soviet Union once.

  • Thank you, Dale, for saying in just a few words what I was unable to convey in either of my two comments. You have concisely and accurately captured my exact concerns.

  • Webster would have recognized a contemporary American plague.

    From his critique of President Jackson’s veto message against the renewal of the charter of the Second Bank of the United states.

    “In his 1832 veto of renewing the Bank’s (Second Bank of the United States) charter, Jackson complained that its profits went to foreigners and a ‘few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class.’ Daniel Webster replied that the message was a ‘wanton attack on whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of other classes.’” The poison runs even stronger today in the party of Obama.

  • I think that but for the preservation of the Union in the 19th Century the whole planet would have entered a totalitarian nightmare in the 20th. I believe that on the whole the United States of America has been a powerful force for good in this world and I will not allow slavery or abortion to alter in the slightest my love for this country and for the Union. I completely agree with Webster’s ringing words : Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable and I believe his words are just as applicable today as it was in his time. As for liberty, I think I will do a post comparing the status of liberty in Webster’s day and the status of liberty in our own time.

  • A comparison of liberty in the two time periods will be interesting. From my perspective, neither “liberty” or “union” means what it did back then. Today, liberty is more akin to license and union to co-existence.

  • I will hold both periods to the liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

  • America is the only nation on the face of the earth with freedom guaranteed by our Creator endowed, unalienable rights, unalienable because God is infinite, and unchangeable.

    Jesus Christ descended into hell.

    “I doubt if Webster would have been going to the Pit to surrender his soul, but rather to have another round with Mr. Scratch!”

  • Yes, Bill Clinton is out of office, so they say. But if you go to the White House and listen closely, they say you can still hear his grand oratory echoing through the halls. And if you call out his name three times, it is said that you can feel the ground shake and his voice bellow forth, “is Girls Gone Wild still in business?”. You better answer that it is, or he will return to the White House and right the injustice…nah, it doesn’t work for some reason.

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Justice Hathorne

Monday, February 25, AD 2013

He pointed his finger once more, and a tall man, soberly clad in Puritan garb, with the burning gaze of the fanatic, stalked into the room and took his judge’s place.

“Justice Hathorne is a jurist of experience,” said the stranger. “He presided at certain witch trials once held in Salem. There were others who repented of the business later, but not he.”

“Repent of such notable wonders and undertakings?” said the stern old justice. “Nay, hang them–hang them all!” And he muttered to himself in a way that struck ice into the soul of Jabez Stone.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet.

The judge who presided over the case was Justice John Hathorne.  Born in August of 1641, Hathorne was a merchant of Salem, Massachusetts.  Hathorne prospered as a merchant with trading ventures to England and the West Indies.  He owned land around Salem and in Maine.  With economic power he combined political power, being Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and a member of the legislative upper chamber which combined the roles of legislature and high court.  In 1692 Hathorne was one of the men who questioned the accusers and accused and was in favor of bringing the accused to trial.  He was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts as one of the judges of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the trials.  Hathorne always voted to convict.

Subsequent to the trials he saw service in the militia in King William’s War, taking part in 1696 in the siege of Fort Nashawaak in what became New Brunswick in Canada and rising to the rank of Colonel. He was eventually appointed to the Superior Court.  He died on May 10, 1717.

Following the Salem witch trials, there was a wave of revulsion at the verdicts.  Few doubted at that time that witches did exist, but many attacked the fairness of the trials, especially the concept of “spectral evidence” which allowed the accusers to testify as to what demons purportedly told them about the accused.  Many people found this admission of supernatural hearsay to be not only fundamentally unfair but preposterous and feared that the accusers had been simply settling old family feuds with the accused.

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2 Responses to Justice Hathorne

Blackbeard

Thursday, February 21, AD 2013

There was Teach, the bloody pirate, with his black beard curling on his breast.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the seventh in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler, here to read the biography of Thomas Morton here to read the biography of King Philip, and here to read the biography of Governor Thomas Dale.  Our final member of the jury of the damned is Edward Teach, better known to history as Blackbeard.

It is odd that Blackbeard is almost the only pirate from the colorful Age of Piracy in the Sixteenth-Eighteenth centuries that most members of the general public could name, because he had a very short career, only two years, and was much less successful than many pirates, for example Henry Morgan, who achieved a knighthood and the office of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.

Teach was probably born in Bristol, England in 1680.  He may have served as a privateer in Queen Anne’s War.  In 1716 the pirate Benjamin Hornigold placed Teach in command of a sloop, and together the duo committed numerous acts of piracy.  In 1717 Teach captured a French merchant ship, renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge and armed her with 40 guns, a formidable armament for a pirate ship.  His fame began to spread.  His nickname, Blackbeard, came from the long black beard he wore.  Teach adopted a fearsome personae in order to overawe the crews of the ships that he captured.  He lit fuses dangling from beneath his cap to enhance his image as a completely ruthless pirate.

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6 Responses to Blackbeard

Governor Dale

Thursday, February 14, AD 2013

and cruel Governor Dale, who broke men on the wheel

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the sixth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler, here to read the biography of Thomas Morton and here to read the biography of King Philip.  Today we look at Governor Thomas Dale.

The Virginia colony was close to collapse.  Too many useless “gentlemen” of leisure who had come to the New World thinking they could pick gold off the ground and quickly return to England rich.  They had not bargained for a hard pioneer life and many seemed to prefer starvation rather than forsaking their lazy habits.  Into this fiasco in the making came Thomas Dale in 1611.  A Surrey man, Dale had served both as a soldier in the Netherlands and in the Navy.  He was a military man to his marrow and something of a martinet.  The Virginia Company, realizing that strong leadership was needed if the new colony was not to dissolve into anarchy appointed Dale as Deputy Governor and as “Marshall of Virginia”.

When he got to Jamestown Dale was alarmed at the dilapidated condition of the buildings and immediately convened a meeting of the council to appoint crews to begin rebuilding Jamestown.  Dale would serve as acting Governor for the colony for three and a half months in 1611 and in 1614-1616.  In the interim Dale served as “Marshall”.  Whatever his title, while he was in the colony it was clear to all that he was in charge.

He introduced the first code of laws to the colony, popularly known as Dale’s code, which is quite severe.  However, coming into a literally lawless community I can see why Dale would have erred on the side of sternness.

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4 Responses to Governor Dale

  • Sir Thomas Dale may be most famous for a letter that was written to him by Virginia tobacco planter John Rolfe in 1614, in which he justified his reasons for marrying Pocahontas. Clearly, John Rolfe was in love with Pocahontas, and says as much in his letter to Dale. But such carnal reasons weren’t going to be enough to satisfy the race-conscious man in charge of the Virginia colony. So, Rolfe appealed to love of God and country in his explanation:

    “… for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our countrie, for the glory of God, for my owne salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbeleeving creature, namely Pokahuntas.”

    Dale was so impressed by Rolfe’s letter and his reasons for marrying the Indian princess, that he decided to ask Chief Wahunsonacock, aka Powhatan, if he could marry another one of his daughters who was only 12 years old. Powhatan wisely refused.

  • And, by the way, Governor Dale could thank John Rolfe for being the person responsible for saving the Virginia colony. Without the tobacco hybrid that Rolfe first planted and experimented with, Virginia would have had no viable economic means of survival. And the 8-year “Peace of Pocahontas” brought about by Rolfe’s marriage to the favorite daughter of Powhatan, bought the colonists valuable time to establish an economic and political foothold in Virginia.

    By the time Powhatan’s brother Opecancanough attacked the Virginia colony in 1622, killing 1/4 of the population, it was too late for the Indians. The colonists were there to stay by that point.

  • Oh, and not so by the way, when Governor Dale asked for the hand of Powhatan’s 12-year-old daughter, he ALREADY had a wife and family back in England.

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King Philip

Tuesday, February 5, AD 2013

King Philip was there, wild and proud as he had been in life, with the great gash in his head that gave him his death wound.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the fifth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler and here to read the biography of Thomas Morton.  Our focus today is on King Philip.

Metacom, known to the white settlers as King Philip, was the second son of Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag, who had helped the Pilgrims survive during the first years of the colony.  He became chief in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta, King Alexander, died.  King Philip attempted to preserve peace with the whites.  The Wampanoag were in a bad strategic situation, squeezed between ever-increasing white settlements in the East and an ever-expanding Iroquois Confederacy in the West.  King Philip made major concessions to the whites, but war came anyway.

The great war of Seventeenth Century New England, King Philip’s War raged from 1675-1678 with the New England colonists, now numbering about 80,000, and their Mohican and Pequot allies confronting the  Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Podunk, Narragansett and Nashaway tribes.  The war was savage on both sides, with quarter rarely given.

The conflict began due to the suspicions of the New England colonists that Metacomet, named by them King Philip, Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy, was attempting to rally the Indian tribes of New England into a great alliance for war against the whites.  John Sassamon, a Christian Indian, graduate of Harvard and an advisor to Metacomet, informed the Governor of Plymouth colony of this plan.  Metacomet was brought to trial in Plymouth.  Lacking evidence the court merely warned him that further rumors of plots by him could lead to severe consequences for the Wampanoag. 

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6 Responses to King Philip

  • “The winter of 1975-1676 “?

  • Thank you for noting the error Mike! I have corrected it.

  • Selling Metacom’s wife and young child into slavery was a particularly disgusting act of retribution. Perhaps Benet should’ve included the folks that did that on his jury of the damned, as I have little doubts as to the eternal reward of such people.

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  • Selling adversaries into slavery Jay was a regrettably common practice among both the Whites and the Indians of the time. Actually Benet does mention the mistreatment of the Indians in his short story:

    “And who with better right?” said the stranger, with one of his
    terrible smiles. “When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I
    was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her
    deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs, from the first
    settlements on? Am I not spoken of, still, in every church in New
    England? ‘Tis true the North claims me for a Southerner, and the South
    for a Northerner, but I am neither. I am merely an honest American
    like yourself–and of the best descent–for, to tell the truth, Mr.
    Webster, though I don’t like to boast of it, my name is older in this
    country than yours.”

    Daniel Webster in his oration to the jury of the damned also deals with wrongs done in the early history of the nation:

    “And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and
    felt–the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of
    food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re
    a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were
    good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when
    he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got
    like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men
    who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made
    you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he
    showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the
    starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part
    in it, even the traitors.”

  • fascinating article. Many thanks. I’ll definitely follow the links to the other articles in this series.

Morton of Merry Mount

Sunday, January 27, AD 2013

There was Morton of Merry Mount, who so vexed the Plymouth Colony, with his flushed, loose, handsome face and his hate of the godly.

Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the fourth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet and here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler.  In this post we direct our attention to Thomas Morton of Merry Mount.

A Devonshire man born in circa 1578, Morton was an attorney and a lover of plays and classical learning.  In 1624 he became involved in a trading venture to the Algonquian Indians in what is now Massachusetts.  In 1626 he founded the settlement of Merry Mount.  Morton ran a free and easy settlement, with the English settlers mixing freely with the Indians and quite a good time apparently being had by all.  On May 1, 1627 Morton erected a Maypole with much frolicking going on around it.

The pilgrims were shocked.  Governor William Bradford of Plymouth wrote:

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One Response to Morton of Merry Mount

  • Well, the Royalists and the Puritans were at odds to say the least. Their differences were political, theological, and ideological. They differed in terms of cultural practice, too. These two factions arose in different regions of England and their separate trajectories in America have been traced into the nineteenth century.

Walter Butler

Tuesday, January 22, AD 2013

For there was Walter Butler, the loyalist, who spread fire and horror through the Mohawk Valley in the times of the Revolution.

Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the third in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty and here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet.  In this post we will examine the life of Major Walter Butler.

Walter Butler was a young man of 23 at the start of the Revolution, the son of John Butler, a wealthy Indian agent and a judge in frontier Tryon Country, soon to be the scene of many desperate frontier battles between Patriots and Loyalists, and their Indian auxiliaries.  John Butler was a firm loyalist as was his son.    Walter Butler served as an Ensign at the battle of Oriskany in 1777 during the Saratoga campaign.  Shortly after Oriskany he was captured behind enemy lines.  Sentenced to death he succeeded in escaping.  When his father formed the Loyalist Butler’s Rangers, Walter served in it as a Captain.

On November 11, 1778 at Cherry Valley, New York, Butler, leading a mixed force of Loyalists and Mohawks and Seneca under Joseph Brant, easily overcame the heavily outnumbered 7th Massachusetts Continentals.  In the aftermath of the battle, 30 settlers were murdered, including women and children.  In his report Butler blamed Brant and his Indians and steadfastly insisted that he spared no effort to rescue settlers from them.  However, Patriots claimed that Brant attempted to save settlers and that it was Butler who instigated the massacre.  My estimate is that neither Brant nor Butler were directly responsible and that it was independent action by the Seneca and the Mowhawk, who had many scores to repay, that resulted in the murders.  Like many historical questions the evidence now is too fragmentary and conflicting  for complete certainty.

Butler was killed in a skirmish on October 30, 1781 and scalped by Oneidas fighting for the Patriots.  Here is a contemporary account of his death by Philip Graff, a member of the Patriot militia in Mowhawk Valley New York:

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The Reverend John Smeet

Tuesday, January 15, AD 2013

The Reverend John Smeet, with his strangler’s hands and his Geneva gown, walked as daintily as he had to the gallows. The red print of the rope was still around his neck, but he carried a perfumed handkerchief in one hand.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone.  Only seven of these entities are named.  This is the second in a series giving brief biographies of these men.  Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty.

The Reverend John Smeet long puzzled literary analysts of The Devil and Daniel Webster.  No record could be uncovered as to his existence.  Scholarly debate raged as to whether Benet had been referring to other historical personages.  The mystery was not cleared up until 1960 when his widow, Rosemary Benet, wrote a letter to the New York Times Book Review in which she stated that Smeet was an imaginary character that her late husband simply inserted into the work.  This was not unusual for Benet.  He had invented a character called John Cotton, and even written a brief bio of him.  I will now do the same for the Reverend Smeet.

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Girty the Renegade

Monday, January 14, AD 2013

And there was Simon Girty, the renegade, who saw white men burned at the stake and whooped with the Indians to see them burn. His eyes were green, like a catamount’s, and the stains on his hunting shirt did not come from the blood of the deer.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone.  Only seven of these entities are named.  This is beginning of a series to give short biographies on each of these figures.

Born in 1741 on the Pennsylvania frontier, Girty’s life took a sharp turn when he and his brothers were captured by the Seneca and adopted by them.  It would be seven years before Girty was able to return to his family.  By that time Girty was a Seneca in all but skin color.  At the outset of the American Revolution Girty supported the patriots, but eventually became a loyalist.  Frontier patriots regarded him as a turncoat and renegade.

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2 Responses to Girty the Renegade

Fortnight For Freedom Day 1: Freedom is Not Just a Big Word

Thursday, June 21, AD 2012

 

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 first of these blog posts.

The video at the top of this post is a scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.   In this scene Daniel Webster addresses a jury of the damned, all villains of American history.  I have always thought this speech one of the most eloquent statements of what it means to be an American.

In regard to Freedom it reminds us that it is just not a word:  Freedom is not just a big word — it is the bread and the   morning and the risen sun. It was for freedom we came in boats and ships to these shores.  It has been a long journey, a hard one, a bitter one. There is sadness in being a man, but it is a proud thing, too.  Out of the suffering and the starvation, the wrong and the right, a new thing has come, a free man. When the whips of   the oppressors are broken, and their names forgotten and destroyed, free men will be walking and talking under a free star. Yes, we   have planted freedom here in this earth like wheat.  This is the priceless treasure that Goverment encroachments like the HHS Mandate begin to take away from us.

Go here to read the passage in the Stephen Vincet Benet’s short story.  Below is the scene as written in the screenplay:

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27 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom Day 1: Freedom is Not Just a Big Word

  • Defend Religious Liberty.

    Stop Tyranny.

    Defeat Obama.

  • Isn’t it ironic that Democrats are the most anti-freedom people around, from their support of slavery in the 1800s to their support of baby-murdering in the late 1900s and early 2000s? Having sold their souls to Satan, I suppose they have no other choice.

  • Freedom of religion lets us live by conscience.
    Freedom of worship is within ‘church’ walls, not the law. Until … such as places in the eastern world.
    Two weeks for special prayer for Christianity, whether or not locales have any plans to get people together to understand.

  • I will be saying the St. Michael Prayer, which Pope Leo XIII wrote after seeing a horrific vision of demons and St. Michael. Our country, the Catholic Church and the world certainly needs his intercession. We all need to be warriors now!

    Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

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  • Satan has no soul. Satan is a person as he testifies for himself, but Satan has no soul. Saint Michael, appearing to the children of Fatima, brought to them Holy Communion. Saint Michael bowed to the earth in their presence and confessed that he could not receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Satan, the Destroyer, liar and murderer, cannot be a citizen as he claims in the story The Devil and Daniel Webster, because a citizen constitutes a nation. Just being there as he claims, when the slaves were enslaved, does not constitute citizenship. Constituting the nation constitutes citizenship. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, has a human, rational soul. Jesus Christ is Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, perfect innocence, perfect charity, the standard of Justice and mercy, Jesus Christ constitutes all nations, all sovereignty, and therefore, is a citizen of all nations, all people. Jesus Christ, as citizen of the universe, nation and the USA, cannot be denied access to the public square, the public square, Jesus’ God and Father created.
    When the Person of God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity of Persons, the first family, the community of LOVE, is returned to the public square, all freedom will reign. Viva Christo Rey
    The moral order is established by God. Jesus Christ lives the moral order.

  • Our US bishops have exercised, for the most part, silence regarding the Church’s truth, though hard sayings, regarding artificial contraception and abortion. The bishops, the USCCB, have not for many years exercised their so called American “freedom” and “freedom of conscience” regarding the Church’s doctrines. They have been afraid to speak the truth in love to Catholics or they have sold their souls to the liberal, often Judaized, philosophies. Fear and silence do not go together with truth and true freedom. Pope Gregory the Great famously said .. “If people are scandalized at the truth, it is better to allow the birth of scandal, than to abandon the truth” Here is what Saint Catherine of Siena said about silence. “I’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence.” A follower of Christ is to be a bondslave of Christ.

    Now we are supposed to be rallying and considering “civil disobedience” in this “Fortnight of Freedom”, when the Americanist bishops and “American Catholics” for the cause of “freedom”, which is NOT the cause of Christ, and is NOT first obedience to God.

    Read what Pope Pius X said about Americanism and the Americanists. The founding of the USA was by those who believed in the principles of the Enlightenment. The principles of the Englightenment are anti-Christ and anti Christ toward Christ’s Catholic Church.

    Thomas Payne and Thomas Jefferson spoke of “freedom” not in Christ’s definition of “freedom” (the glorious freedom of the children of God) but in this worldly Englightenment ideas of freedom, and that is the way this Fortnight of Freedom is promoting “freedom.” This is not freedom under God. This is freedom above God.

    Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

  • In a word, Jeannon, baloney. Try reading this passage from Leo XIII:

    ” 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. She, by her very nature, guards and defends all the principles on which duties are founded, and setting before us the motives most powerful to influence us, commands us to live virtuously and forbids us to transgress. Now what is the Church other than a legitimate society, founded by the will and ordinance of Jesus Christ for the preservation of morality and the defence of religion? For this reason have We repeatedly endeavored, from the summit of the pontifical dignity, to inculcate that the Church, whilst directly and immediately aiming at the salvation of souls and the beatitude which is to be attained in heaven, is yet, even in the order of temporal things, the fountain of blessings so numerous and great that they could not have been greater or more numerous had the original purpose of her institution been the pursuit of happiness during the life which is spent on earth.

    5. That your Republic is .progressing and developing by giant strides is patent to all; and this holds good in religious matters also. For even as your cities, in the course of one century, have made a marvellous increase in wealth and power, so do we behold the Church, from scant and slender beginnings, grown with rapidity to be great and exceedingly flourishing. Now if, on the one hand, the increased riches and resources of your cities are justly attributed to the talents and active industry of the American people, on the other hand, the prosperous condition of Catholicity must be ascribed, first indeed, to the virtue, the ability, and the prudence of the bishops and clergy; but in so slight measure also, to the faith and generosity of the Catholic laity. Thus, while the different classes exerted their best energies, you were enabled to erect unnumbered religious and useful institutions, sacred edifices, schools for the instruction of youth, colleges for the higher branches, homes for the poor, hospitals for the sick, and convents and monasteries. As for what more closely touches spiritual interests, which are based upon the exercise of Christian virtues, many facts have been brought to Our notice, whereby We are animated with hope and filled with joy, namely, that the numbers of the secular and regular clergy are steadily augmenting, that pious sodalities and confraternities are held in esteem, that the Catholic parochial schools, the Sunday-schools for imparting Christian doctrine, and summer schools are in a flourishing condition; moreover, associations for mutual aid, for the relief of the indigent, for the promotion of temperate living, add to all this the many evidences of popular piety.

    6. The main factor, no doubt, in bringing things into this happy state were the ordinances and decrees of your synods, especially of those which in more recent times were convened and confirmed by the authority of the Apostolic See. But, moreover (a fact which it gives pleasure to acknowledge), thanks are due to the equity of the laws which obtain in America and to the customs of the well-ordered Republic. For the Church amongst you, unopposed by the Constitution and government of your nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance.”

    The hatred that some trad Catholics have for their own nation and our heritage of freedom as Americans is simply bizarre and has nothing to do with Catholicism.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand it, Pope Leo XIII wasn’t so much critical of the Republican system of secular government over these United States, as he was of installing such a system of government for the Church in these United States. Indeed, one might rightly argue that it is the liberals who want Church matters decided on by popular vote, as though the Church ought to be ruled by the “peepul”.

    Establishing Americanism as the Church government in America is obviously wrong. But having a Constitutional Republican government for secular society is exactly what has prevented secular government from telling the Church what to do or not do, and thus has enabled (or at least allowed) the Successors to the Apostles act like the Successors to the Apostles.

  • In a word, Mr. McClareey, baloney. Try reading this passage from Leo XIII Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae (1899).

    “Pope Leo identified three major erroneous views that served to dilute Catholicism in America. The first is the belief that “in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions.”

    And further, Mr. Baloney, your statement “The hatred that some trad Catholics have for their own nation and our heritage of freedom as Americans is simply bizarre and has nothing to do with Catholicism.” is bizaare and has nothing to do with Catholic conduct.

    “The second error condemned by Pope Leo was “that opinion of the lovers of novelty, according to which they hold such liberty should be allowed in the Church, that…allowance be granted the faithful, each one to follow out more freely the leading of his own mind and the trend of his own proper activity.” The pope was condemning the idea of private judgment being the supreme guide as to how one should live, and he was rejecting the idea that the Church should have no say over the consciences of men. The source of this error was the constitutional, enlightenment states that were growing up in the 1800s, and according to American history professor, author and Pulitzer prize winner, Joseph Ellis, the USA is an Enlightenment state. We see the Enlightenment’s imprint on the US in Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial that “I have sworn on the alter of god, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

    “The Third error condemned was “an unwarranted importance to the natural virtues as though they better responded to the customs and necessities of the times.” The late Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary, states “In general, active virtues correspond to what is commonly associated with American activism.” The great Dominican Thomist, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, explained in his monumental work, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, that Americanism was the revival of the spirit of “practical naturalism” which is “the negation of the spirit of faith in the conduct of life”. (Tan Books, 1989, vol 1. P. 275) He teaches that Americanism says that the passions are neither good nor bad, but that they “become so according to the intention of our will. They are forces to be utilized; they must not be mortified, but regulated and modulated.” (p. 276) Americanism resists efforts to “combat private judgment, self-will…[because to do so] is to place oneself in a state of servitude which destroys all initiative and makes a person lose contact with the world, which one ought not to scorn, but to ameliorate.” (p. 276).

    The above summarization of Testem

    At the root of Americanism is pride, a pride that says America is not only unique and special but that it is also the greatest. A pride that corrupts doctrine and says that America knows better than the Church and that the Church should learn from America. A pride that places loyalty to America and the USA before loyalty to the Church and the Holy Father. A pride that places being American before being Roman Catholic. This is what we may draw from Leo’s indication that Americanism is a rejection of the words and spirit of St. Jerome who speaking to Pope St. Damasus said “I acknowledge no other leader than Christ, am bound in fellowship with your Holiness; that is with the chair of Peter. I know that the church was built upon him as its rock, and that whosever gathereth not with you, scattereth.” It is the primacy of Christ and his Church, as well of the authority of the Holy Father, that is needed in the hearts of believers to keep unity. For, as Leo XIII continued, the “true church is one, as by unity of doctrine, so by unity of government.”

    The summarization of Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae is taken from a speech of David Wemhoff, “THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT AND THE NEW AMERICANISM”

    http://www.romancatholicreport.com/id172.html

  • Jeannon Kralj,

    Everything you quoted from Pope Leo XIII’s Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae confirms what I wrote: the Pope wasn’t criticizing the Constitutional Repubic that was the United States, but the application of “peepul” rule and popular opinion for Church government.

    Look at the statements in your comment:

    (1) “…The first is the belief that ‘in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age…'”

    (2) “The second error condemned by Pope Leo was ‘that opinion of the lovers of novelty, according to which they hold such liberty should be allowed in the Church…'”

    (3) “The Third error condemned was ‘an unwarranted importance to the natural virtues as though they better responded to the customs and necessities of the times…'”

    The Pope never criticized the United States herself as a Constitutional Republic. Rather, he criticized trying to apply a system of voting, popular opinion and relativism in place of the Church government that Jesus established.

    BTW, I love my country, but I love God first. So I take exception to these statements:

    “At the root of Americanism is pride, a pride that says America is not only unique and special but that it is also the greatest. A pride that corrupts doctrine and says that America knows better than the Church and that the Church should learn from America.”

    That’s not the Americanism I have or profess. Rather, the Americanism I have and profess is one where God is honored first, where Holy Mother Church occupies a central place in the public square, where free exercise of religion is sacrosanct, and where the country I love is restored to being the Christian Consitutional Republic that she once was. We can never be best or greatest except that God be first.

  • BTW, one other thing Jeannon. You correctly wrote incriticism of this idea: “America knows better than the Church and that the Church should learn from America.” The whole idea of of this fortnight for freedom prayer time is to combat this very notion.

    America does NOT know better than the Church, the indefectible Bride of Christ (though Barack Hussein Obama and Kathleen Sebelius think otherwise), and the Church, the indefectible Bride of Christ, ought NOT to learn anything from America (though LCWR and the other liberal Katholyks think otherwise) except perhaps what NOT to do.

  • Jeannon, when you quote papal documents actually quote them, and not glosses. There is nothing in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae which supports the wacked out argument you are making.

    Here is what the Pope actually said:

    “From the foregoing it is manifest, beloved son, that we are not able to give approval to those views which, in their collective sense, are called by some “Americanism.” But if by this name are to be understood certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and if, moreover, by it is designated your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed, there is no reason to take exception to the name. But if this is to be so understood that the doctrines which have been adverted to above are not only indicated, but exalted, there can be no manner of doubt that our venerable brethren, the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate and condemn it as being most injurious to themselves and to their country. For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are among you some who conceive and would have the Church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world.”
    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13teste.htm

    Paul, the Church teaches us how to go to Heaven, it teaches us very little about a wide range of subjects outside that sphere. The Church has never claimed to have all wisdom in secular matters, and Catholics who pretend otherwise, and I do not place you in that group, are very much mistaken.

  • Oh, and Jeannon, David Wemhoff who you quote seems to hold some nutty theories including that Pope Benedict is a tool of the United States:

    “But that is what conquerors do — they destroy the conquered and themselves if their conquest is not in the name of Jesus Christ and with the sign of the Cross. Munoz’ mind is enslaved by the Americans just as is the mind of Joseph Ratzinger. Benedict’s many speeches praising America are a, if not the, critical factor for the darkening of Munoz’ mind so as to accept error. Benedict, as leader of the Catholics, has been conditioned to be an American and to serve America, and so Catholics are bound to follow their leader into captivity. Ratzinger, now pope, as a type of Manchurian Candidate, is a symbol of America’s occupation of the Catholic Church.

    One of the great causes for hope and miracles of the day, in addition to the numbers of people entering the Church and growing it around the world even while its prelates are suffering through their American and Jewish captivity, is that the Holy Spirit still speaks through the papal encyclicals, such as Deus Caritas Est, which calls Catholics, and all people, to the truth and liberation from error. For error leads to sin, and the wages of sin is death. One need only consult antiquity and societies of the modern era grown too engrossed in serving wealth to see where it all leads. The unfortunate part is that many who consider themselves Catholic will go down with the sinking ship known as America. And, most importantly, many are in danger of the fires of hell because of the American ideas that come from the man who is pope.

    [1] “American(s)” refers to those who hold to the liberal, Enlightenment principles that created the country known as the USA which, with its Constitution and Declaration of Independence in large measure, shape the society known as America. One can be a citizen of the USA (that is, CUSA) and be a Catholic, and most CUSAs are Americans. One cannot be a Catholic and an American. To be an American is to believe in American principles before the teachings of the Church, or in other words to accept the Enlightenment ideals as superior to the teachings of the Faith.”

    http://catholicforum.fisheaters.com/index.php/topic,3445145.0.html

    Rad Trads can be just as nutty as leftist Catholics.

  • I agree with your statement, Donald: “…the Church teaches us how to go to Heaven, it teaches us very little about a wide range of subjects outside that sphere. The Church has never claimed to have all wisdom in secular matters…” (e.g., US NRC oversight of reactor plant safety – clearly a non-spiritual issue.)

    As you correctly noted: “…I do not place you in that group…”

    I should have been more precise in my statements. It’s difficult getting all the nuances right. I did not intend to confuse rightful authority in secular matters that would devolve onto government with authority in spiritual matters that would devolve onto the Church.

  • “the Church teaches us how to go to Heaven, it teaches us very little about a wide range of subjects outside that sphere.”

    I believe the Church’s social teachings, which are founded on caring for “the common good” teach us much about a wide range of subjects outside the sphere of how to go to heaven. For example, the Church used rightly to teach us about usury and how wrong it is. Dante put sodomites and usurers in the same circle of hell. Usury seems to be the basis of the “capitalism” that we have in America. The basics of economics falls within the Church’s social teachings. Another example, the Church cares about just wages for the worker and just prices. It looks to me like the Left and the Right of all parties have been rewarding corporations for moving their industrial operations and jobs for Americans overseas, and they have been doing this for at least 40 years, possibly much longer.

    I do not consider myself a “Rad Trad” and I do not know what the terms “liberal” and “conservative” mean anymore.

    The one thing the Church as been way too silent about is that there have been dark forces and people for centuries, if not millennia, who have in stealth manipulated unjust wars and other deceptions for the purpose of forming a world government, which will nothing other than a death and slavery system for all. We know that one world government will come about from reading the Apocalypse. Who can make war with the beast? But we are to expose it, oppose it, and work to establish Christ the King’s rule on this earth as best we can.

    America was founded as a Protestant country. You say America is a Christian country. When I read the words of Christ, I simply cannot see that.

  • “You say America is a Christian country. When I read the words of Christ, I simply cannot see that.”

    No, I say that America was founded as a country of religious liberty, a concept that the Church has fully embraced.

    “For example, the Church used rightly to teach us about usury and how wrong it is.”

    Yep, and history moved on and the Church came to terms with interest and banks. The world is not static and neither is the teaching of the Church in areas not directly connected to dogma or revelation.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15235c.htm
    “basics of economics falls within the Church’s social teachings. ”

    Not really. Ecclesiastics tend to be as poor at economics as economists tend to be at theology. A recent example in support of this proposition:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/10/27/a-fisk-of-towards-reforming-the-international-financial-and-monetary-systems-in-the-context-of-global-public-authority/

    “It looks to me like the Left and the Right of all parties have been rewarding corporations for moving their industrial operations and jobs for Americans overseas, and they have been doing this for at least 40 years, possibly much longer.”

    Actually it is the law of production costs. Corporations tend to go where the work force is cheapest, other things being equal. The Chinese now are losing factories along their coast due to rising labor costs. Assuming that government fiat can alter the laws of economics has been a pleasing superstition for too many government officials and clerics down through the centuries.

  • Must Jehovah Witnesses employers include blood transfusions in coverage for Catholic employees? Can Muslim employers insist on Sharia law in the workplace? Must Christian Scientist employers provide health insurance?

    This slippery slope is coated with ice.

  • “the Church teaches us how to go to Heaven, it teaches us very little about a wide range of subjects outside that sphere”.

    I don’t think that is right. I see really no subjects outside that sphere. There is no part of me or my life than I can keep separate from the quest for Heaven. I can’t put my religion in my back pocket when I am thinking about nuclear reactors or anything else.

  • “I can’t put my religion in my back pocket when I am thinking about nuclear reactors or anything else.”

    You will find precious little in Church teaching as to how to construct nuclear reactors Anzlyne, or as to what the Hearsay Rule is, how best to utilize grazing fire in a fire fight, how to fill out the Estate Tax Return that will be one of my duties today or myriads of other topics. The confusion of religion with secular knowledge is never a good idea. Religion of course gives us our guide in morality, but too often clerics pretend to expertise in secular matters that they sadly lack, and not infrequently prove themselves buffoons in such areas to the same extent that non-clerics frequently do when they pontificate on matters of religion.

  • Hi Mr. Mc. I think we are coming from different angles here–both correct I think in what we mean.
    I think we agree that knowledge is not always wisdom, but that wisdom includes knowledge– and morality. Morality requires judgments (distinctions, decisions) based on something– and that “something” is found our religion- the foundational plank to base our lives’ actions and choices on.
    Like you, I don’t think the Bible, Tradition or the Teaching Authority of the Church try to teach us how to build a nuclear reactor. There are lots of things we can know HOW to do with or without revealed religion.
    I do think the wisdom of our religion can help us do what we can morally choose to do, better, having considered the ends, and the means to the ends. Consideration of our religion colors all of our decisions, even though it does not directly supply the ‘how to”

  • “Consideration of our religion colors all of our decisions, even though it does not directly supply the ‘how to””

    Writ large enough on big issues perhaps. My Catholicism however really does not impact my decision on how to apply the Hearsay Rule in court, or whether the Deadman’s Act is a good piece of public policy. On the other hand I think my Catholicism clearly impacts on my view of the sanctity of an oath taken in Court to tell the truth.

  • Yes. and I might add from your quote above:
    …”And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure- …. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion. She, by her very nature, guards and defends all the principles on which duties are founded, and setting before us the motives most powerful to influence us, commands us to live virtuously and forbids us to transgress.”

    Thank you so much- I thoroughly enjoy the discussion

  • Even the pagans can see the myth of America was founded as a Christian country on Christian principles.

    Note this article on a “secular humanist” site secularhumanism.org

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=walters_32_4

    Once and for All, Is America a Christian Nation?
    The Myth of America’s Christian Heritage
    Kerry Walters

    Do not agree with Professor Walters completely, but he does provide us a much clearer picture of history. Note, in reading the article, that Catholics are not part of the early American “evangelicalism.”

    Catholics were allowed into the New World but were barely tolerated.

  • Hmm, Kerry Walters or Alexis De Tocqueville? I’m really having a hard time determining who might have a firmer grasp on America’s founding.

    In all seriousness, Walters’s grasp of history is almost as poor as David Barton, whom I critiqued here the other day. He cherrypicks select quotes and pretend that he has stockpiled evidence in his defense. If Walters had stopped at Jefferson and Franklin in his litany of heterodox Christians, he would have perhaps had a point. But just as Barton overstates his case with regards to Jefferson’s orthodoxy, Walters overstates his case with regards to the heterodoxy of the rest.

  • From Waller’s linked to article. “But the big players in the founding of the United States—such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and probably Alexander Hamilton—weren’t.”

    Thomas Paine, the “filthy little atheist” as Teddy Roosevelt called him, was a bit player in the Revolution. Benjamin Franklin was a deist who had doubts about the divinity of Christ, but lacked evidence sufficient for him to venture a verdict. George Washington was a conventional Christian. Thomas Jefferson was a deist. James Madison really doesn’t give enough evidence from his writings to say whether he was a Deist or a Christian. John Adams was a Christian most of his life and had Unitarian leanings by the time of his death. Hamilton dabbled with deism as a young man but was an orthodox Christian by the time of his death.

The Devil and Daniel Webster: Closing Argument to the Jury of the Damned

Thursday, March 15, AD 2012

A scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.   In this scene Daniel Webster addresses a jury of the damned, all villains of American history.  I have always thought this speech one of the most eloquent statements of what it means to be an American.  Go here to read the passage in  Stephen Vincet Benet’s short story.  Below is the scene as written in the screenplay:

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6 Responses to The Devil and Daniel Webster: Closing Argument to the Jury of the Damned

  • Donald McClarey: The Devil and Daniel Webster is my favorite movie of all time. The devil stole a pie at the end and enjoyed his ill gotten pie. Every man can escape from the devil’s clutches because the devil is a liar and man has a finite mind and cannot give fully informed consent to a lie. The rational, immortal soul of each and every man is acknowedged and fought over to be free, a sovereignty American citizens are in joepardy of losing under HHS. May God bless you and yours.

  • The Catholic Church does not hold a person’s soul liable for any sin committed while the person is possessed by the devil. Really, if it can be proved that “the devil made me do it” in a court of law, the person is found to be not guilty by reason of possession by the devil. Might this argument not be used to return petition for Divine Providence, protection and deliverance from the evil one, in the public square? These prayers are said for the common good. “And may Almighty God have mercy on your immortal soul” was said at one time by the judge after the verdict and at sentencing, to a condemned capital one murderer, as we’ll as the invocation to almighty God “to tell the Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God” at the beginning of sworn testimony. What could be better for the common good? Returning the acknowledgment of the rational, immortal soul of each and every American citizen will staunch our nation’s descent into the hell fires of inhumanity, the propagation of LUST as love, homicide as charity and bestiality as tenderness, and the worst, tyranny as a desirable form of government.
    ATHEISM UNDONE BY TRUTH from http://www.rosaryvictory blogspot.com
    Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the self-proclaimed atheist sued to have all mankind’s First Amendment rights to FREEDOM subjugated to her lawsuit through her complaint that prayer to God, through Jesus Christ offended her son. An imperfect human nature, who is offended by perfection.
    If Madalyn Murray O’Hair was truly an atheist, she would have annihilated her own being. God, our Creator, made all things and KEEPS THEM IN EXISTENCE, therefore, Madalyn Murray O’Hair at some underlying level of consciousness, accepted God’s love for her and for her son. Madalyn Murray O’Hair spoke perjury in The United States Supreme Court, when, as an atheist she said: “I AM an atheist.” The atheist used God’s name: “I AM”, in vain and contradicted herself. Madalyn Murray O’Hair did not prove her case as perjurers never do.
    Madalyn Murray O’Hair did not have two witnesses to establish a judicial fact. Two atheists cannot bear the Truth into a court of law. Perjury does not count.
    Thank you Donald McClarey for The American Catholic

  • It is the intent of Obama’s HHS mandate to remove from every person their sovereignty, to enslave the person’s soul to the dictates of the mandate. When one lays down with the devil, one wakes up in chains.

  • iN MAYO V. SATAN: the court was wrong. All the Legion could fit on the head of a pin and all the space is left over. The court ought to have ordered an exorcism as the decision. The separation of Church and state are complementary.

  • The Devil and Daniel Webster, is my favorite movie of all times because it is GOOD.

    THE TEN COMMANDMENTS uses the King James version of the Bible and ends up blaspheming God, by calling God a thing, a “that”. God’s name is “I AM WHO I AM”. WHO IS LIKE UNTO GOD. “WHO” denotes the PERSON OF GOD. The SUPREME SOVERIGN BEING’S NAME IS “I AM WHO I AM” not what is used in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. The correlative pronoun “that” denotes things that are not persons.

    THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is in a category all by itself.

    The rest are entertainment. I would like to see a movie entitled: Frankenstein goes in search of his soul.

  • In The Lord’s Prayer we read: ”forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who sin against us”. Sinners and trespassers are addressed by “WHO”, but the Lord of heaven and earth is insulted by a correlative pronoun “that”. God’s name is “I AM WHO I AM”

United States v. Satan

Wednesday, February 9, AD 2011

A scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster, based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.  Prior to the trial, Daniel Webster attempts to get Jabez Stone out of the contract on the ground that the Devil is a foreign prince.  Satan denies this:

Foreign!” said the stranger. “And who calls me a foreigner”?  “Well, I never yet heard of the dev?? of your claiming American citizenship,” said Dan’l Webster with surprise. “And who with better right?” said the stranger, with one of his terrible smiles. “When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs, from the first settlements on? Am I not spoken of, still, in every church in New England? ‘Tis true the North claims me for a Southerner and the South for a Northerner, but I am neither. I am merely an honest American, like yourself and of the best descent for, to tell the truth Mr . Webster, though I don’t like to boast of it, my name is older in this country than yours.” “Aha!” said Dan’l Webster, with the veins standing out in his forehead. “Then I stand on the Constitution! I demand a trial for my client!”

This story is actually cited in a federal legal opinion which may be read here, and which is riotously funny in a very dry sense.  I submit it to establish that some judges do have a sense of humor, at least of a sort.

Returning to the short story, I have always treasured this passage:  the closing argument of Daniel Webster to the Jury of the Damned, which I think contains wisdom about patriotism and the human condition:

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2 Responses to United States v. Satan