Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Boudinot: Joseph Priestley got 27 House Votes to be a Chaplain

Learn something new every day. On social media Bill Fortenberry challenged John Fea about a quotation in his article that had Elias Boudinot lamenting that during the 1796 election, Pennsylvania saw 13 out of 15 votes cast for "open & professed Deists" Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

[Update as it turns out, I misread the conversation. Bill Fortenberry wanted John Fea to cite his sources. Fortenberry uncovered the letter with the "professed Deists" quotation.]

An additional piece of information I had not known about was the House of Representatives in Congress at the time gave 27 votes to Joseph Priestley to be their Chaplain. I wonder how many votes in total there were then? You can read the letter here.

We know there were a handful of "key Founders" who offer smoking gun quotations or other evidence that suggests they weren't "orthodox Trinitarian Christians." And there are another handful who like Boudinot have quotations and so on suggesting they were orthodox (ironically, the candidate the "orthodox" forces of religious correctness supported in 1796 turned out to be a flaming unitarian himself).

It's a non-sequitur to conclude, as some have, that except for a small handful of "Deists" (or people like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, whatever we call them), virtually all the rest were devout orthodox Trinitarian Christians.

No, rather, just about all of them, including Jefferson and Franklin, were in some way connected to churches that had an orthodox Trinitarian creed. But you could be a member of or in some way connected to such a church without believing in its official doctrines. Indeed, reformations happen and churches change. Some of the heterodox members might have distanced themselves from their orthodox Church because they didn't appreciate the orthodoxy. Others, on the other hand, may have stayed close to their church and tried to change it in the unitarian and/or universalist direction.

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