Sunday, February 23, 2014

Daily Beast: "What the Sex Lives of the Founding Fathers Reveal About Us"

Here. Sorry, I couldn't resist. A taste:
Neither has the lack of evidence stopped people from arguing that Alexander Hamilton was gay. [[H]istorian Thomas] Foster highlights the recent interest ... taken in homoerotic letters Hamilton wrote to John Laurens, a fellow soldier in the patriot army. One of them reads: “I wish, my dear Laurens, it were in my power, by actions, rather than words, to convince you that I love you.” 
Foster argues that it is certainly possible that Hamilton had a sexual relationship with Laurens. But ... [r]arely do ... [people asserting such] explore the nature of 18th century male friendship, which could be intensely romantic, even erotic, without including sex. “We’re not taking the complexities of 18th century love into account,” Foster said. “We’re forcing them into our model, and that’s basically what we’ve done throughout history.” 
Yet Foster does not let serious historians, either academic or popular, off the hook either. When it comes to the recent question of Hamilton’s sexual identity, he sympathizes with their reticence to say that Hamilton had sexual intercourse with Laurens. There is simply no evidence to prove it. And yet, he finds it hypocritical that many historians use the same kind of sexually charged letters Hamilton wrote to women as evidence that he was a very straight Lothario. “It just looks like such a double standard. What’s the level of evidence that you need to be certain that this was true love?” Foster said, in regard to his letters to Laurens.

Reason: "George Washington: Boozehound"

By Stanton Peele here. A taste:
Indeed, we still have available the list of beverages served at a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch. 
That's more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate. That seems humanly impossible to modern Americans. But, you see, across the country during the Colonial era, the average American consumed many times as much beverage alcohol as contemporary Americans do. Getting drunk—but not losing control—was simply socially accepted.


This article at First Things ties together so many of my obscure interests. This is my new favorite article of all time. As it relates to religion and the American Founding, a lot of the "leading lights" of that era, like Morse believed in Arianism. A taste:

"In a 2007 interview [Neal Morse] stated that he is not a Trinitarian, and that he doesn’t 'see in the Scriptures how Jesus and God can be co-equaI and the same person.'"

Friday, February 21, 2014

Evangelical Universalist on Charles Chauncy

This is from 2009, but still important given how Rev. Charles Chauncy influenced the American Founding. A taste:
Charles Chauncy was minister of First Church in Boston for decades. He was very influential and is best known as an opponent of the Great Awakening (standing against men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al). So that does not make him an obvious person for an evangelical to turn to for inspiration. 
However, Chauncy was a firm Bible-believing Christian and whilst he sadly came to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical (it was not uncommon in this period for Bible-based Christians to reject the Trinity as unbiblical). 
Anyway, of interest here is that Chauncy became a universalist because he believed it to be the only view consistent with Scripture. ...
It's true Chauncy did think Scripture taught both theological unitarianism and universalism; but he also thought the natural law discovered by reason taught such as well. And it was in combining reason and revelation that we arrive at such conclusions. (To some who believe Scripture teaches clearly both the doctrines of the Trinity AND eternal damnation, Chauncy's theology represents reason trumping revelation, and therefore is not "Christian," even though Protestant Christianity is an element of such creed.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Atlantic: "The Origin of 'Liberalism'"

Check it out here. A taste:
My research with Will Fleming finds that the Scottish historian William Robertson appears to be the most significant innovator, repeatedly using “liberal” in a political way, notably in a book published in 1769. (I presented more details in a lecture at the Ratio Institute, viewable here.) Of the Hanseatic League, for example, Robertson spoke of “the spirit and zeal with which they contended for those liberties and rights,” and how a society of merchants, “attentive only to commercial objects, could not fail of diffusing over Europe new and more liberal ideas concerning justice and order.” 
Robertson’s friend and fellow Scot Adam Smith used “liberal” in a similar sense in The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. If all nations, Smith says, were to follow “the liberal system of free exportation and free importation,” then they would be like one great cosmopolitan empire, and famines would be prevented. Then he repeats the phrase: “But very few countries have entirely adopted this liberal system.”

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Thomas Percival: Ben Franklin's Kind of "Christian"

Thomas Percival was one of the "dissenters" in Great Britain with whom Ben Franklin palled around. He wasn't quite as well known as Joseph Priestley or Richard Price. But he was a like minded unitarian. And like them, he was quite accomplished!

Anyway, below is a portion of the letter (27 October, 1786) Percival sent to Franklin that illustrates the subcultural zeitgeist in which Franklin was imbibed.
Dr. and Mrs. Priestley have been here this summer, together with Dr. Kippis. Dr. Priestley is not in a very good state of health, having had a return of the complaint with which he was visited several years ago; but his spirits and ardor do not desert him. He is at this time zealously engaged in attempts to convert the Jews to Christianity. For this undertaking he believes himself peculiarly well fitted, as it is a part of his creed, that Jesus Christ was the actual son of Joseph, and a lineal descendant of the house of David. But the Jewish rabbis have declared their resolution to enter into no discussion on these topics, being forbidden, as they allege, by their most sacred laws. 
Dr. Kippis is busied with the Life of Captain Cook, which is to be published separately, as well as in the Biographia Britannica. Our excellent friend, Dr. Price, is, I hear, deeply affected with the death of his wife. A fresh paralytic stroke carried her off about a month since. The Doctor is preparing for the press a volume of Sermons in support of the Arian doctrine, and an enlarged edition of his valuable "Review of the Principal Questions and Difficulties in Morals." The College of Physicians in London have just printed a specimen of a new Pharmacopctia. The President has favored me with a copy; and I think the Dispensatory, on the whole, is likely to be much improved.