Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas BOE Decision:

My co-blogger at Positive Liberty, D.A. Ridgely, was on top of this first.

Here is the New York Times story.

And here is Ed Brayton's post with links to the Texas Freedom Network's live blogging.

And here is John Fea's post.

From the New York Times:

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.


I'd like to get more to the bottom of the Jefferson erasure. I understand that the American Founding was more than just Jefferson. But, at the same time, you can't erase his monumental influence from the Founding. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States.

Aquinas was virtually never cited by the Founders (though there a story to be told on his silent influence). Blackstone, though important as a "common law" authority, was a Tory and a supporter of British absolutism. And Calvin likewise, in no uncertain terms, taught Romans 13 means submission to tyrants is obedience to God.

Though there is a story in how Calvinists-Presbyterians came to support revolt, even though Calvin, were he alive and applying his principles, would have supported the British and termed the American Revolution a sinful violation of Romans 13.

That story, however, is too nuanced for K-12 students (you can, by the way, study that story with Mark Noll at the Witherspoon Institute this summer).

One of the problems with tracing the Founding to men who anticipated their ideas is we are left with literally hundreds from which to choose. The men they most often cited, however, were figures from the Enlightenment and the British Whigs. And those two categories overlap, with John Locke being the quintessential "Enlightenment" and "British Whig" figure. Others include Algernon Sidney, Montesquieu, John Milton, Samuel Clarke, Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price, James Burgh, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon and on and on.

4 comments:

Our Founding Truth said...

Based on writings of Congress, and the framers' writings, Blackstone is cited far more than anyone, and in my opinion, besides the Bible, the most important influence on our founding.

It's a fact Blackstone was THE influence to the lawyers, and they comprised the Founding Statesmen. Blackstone's politics are not the issue; his influence was on Law and Government.

Jefferson's work on the DOI is over-inflated. John Adams said the ideas in it were already common knowledge in Congress, which would divert TJ's influence.

It isn't even a close debate based on evidence that John Calvin basically founded America. This coming from secular historian George Bancroft, and history in general.

The entire modern concept of Republicanism is John Calvin. Consent of the governed, majority rules, separation of powers, et. is Geneva's John Calvin.

"Since this New World led to such paramount developments of government, the locus of the underlying root is not unimportant. Systemic features such as limited terms, balance of powers, citizen nullification, and interpositional magistracies were at the heart of New World government, all concepts that were popularized by the Reformation. One hundred years prior to the American Revolution, most of the major ideas were set, and they did not originate properly from Enlightenment social contract thought so much as from Buchanan/Rutherford’s social covenant, ensconced in its distinctly Biblical moorings."

-David W. Hall,Writer for the Acton Institute, Senior fellow at The Kuyper Institute in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Blackstone was a British Tory absolutist. Right there, that makes his influence suspect.

Re Calvinism I find George Willis Cooke's comment far more convincing:

The doctrine of degrees, as taught by the Calvinists, was the spiritual side of the assertion of the divine right of kings. On the other hand, when the people claim the right to rule, they modify their theology into Arminianism. From an age of the absolute rule of the king comes the doctrine of human depravity; and with the establishment of democracy appears the doctrine of man’s moral capacity.

Our Founding Truth said...

From the Reformers' writings, it isn't difficult to read, the doctrine of degrees pertains neither to Republicanism, nor consent of the governed, but rather to interposition. Human depravity is derived from the fall, not divine right of Kings.

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