Thursday, 5 July 2012

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to my American readers and friends.




 If I had been around in those days I would most likely have been a Loyalist and emigrated to Canada (see my recent post on monarchy), but we've long since buried that hatchet, haven't we? Fighting side by side through two world wars and numerous lesser conflicts has sealed the bonds of friendship in blood. And there is much to admire and learn from in the American character and ethos, past and present. For all the criticism the US garners, some of it no doubt justified, at its best it remains a beacon of light and hope in this world. So, enjoy your holiday my friends and celebrate your highest ideals! (Yes, I know this post is dated 5th July, but we are c. 3/4 day ahead of the US, where 4th July celebrations should be in full swing)

The following article from the WSJ provides some historical background to the Revolutionary War: 
 "Almost every American knows the traditional story of July Fourth—the soaring idealism of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress's grim pledge to defy the world's most powerful nation with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. But what else about revolutionary America might help us feel closer to those founders in their tricornered hats, fancy waistcoats and tight knee-breeches?Those Americans, it turns out, had the highest per capita income in the civilized world of their time. They also paid the lowest taxes—and they were determined to keep it that way." Read it all here.

8 comments:

joel in ga said...

Thanks for your kind wishes. Did you ever read De Toqueville's Democracy in America?

Mark Henderson said...

Joel,
Yes, many years ago I picked up a yellow pb copy in a second hand bookshop in Brisbane where I get many of my books from. They have been in business for nearly 30 years and have literally millions of books in stock but are not on the 'net, so one actually has to visit & wander through the stacks - I hope this arcane institution can stay afloat in these book devaluing times. But I digress!.

It is interesting to apply de Tocqueville's observations on equality and individualism to Australia, which has hitherto adopted a via media between British traditionalism and American individualism. Collective thinking & action thus has an honoured place in Australian history, although this is coming under increased pressure today.
The civil sphere of life is now disappearing along with the consensus of values (derived from religion) which made it possible, leaving only the individual and the increasingly coercive state as the main features on the landscape of society. I think this stage is a precursor to some form of Fascism, although that is not yet inevitable.

Melanchthon said...

You will be gald to know that Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the patriarch of American Lutheranism, remained a loyalist all his life.

His journal entry for July 4, 1776:

Today the Continental Congress openly declared the united provinces of North America to be free and independent states. This has caused some thoughtful and far-seeing melancholici to be down in the mouth; on the other hand, it has caused some sanguine and short-sighted persons to exult and shout with joy. It will appear in the end who has played the right tune. This remain...s as a comfort to believers: There is One who sits at the rudder, who has the plan of the whole before him, to whom all power in heaven and on earth is given, and who has never made a mistake in his government. He it is who neither sleeps nor slumbers and who has asked his people to pray, “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

Mark Henderson said...

Now that's interesting, Jon. I knew of Muhlenberg, of course (his Journal is on my wishlist), but not that he was a Loyalist, although it makes sense given the traditional attachment of European Lutherans to monarchy. But wasn't his son a general in Washington's army? I wonder if that caused any dissent within the family?

Melanchthon said...

Yes. His son was a well regarded general, and there is a painting hanging in the Gettysburg Seminary of him throwing off his clerical robes to reveal his uniform:

http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1-2-28C

I actually used them as an illustration of how division over politics does not need to lead to a division in faith. As far as I know, they remained on good terms. Not all loyalists had to flee the U.S.

Mark Henderson said...

Fascinating! I believe that was quite a dramatic moment when he announced he was going off to fight. Not sure if I can approve, though - should clergymen take up arms? And should they take up arms against the God-ordained monarch (no matter how bad a king he was)!. Well, I guess its academic now. I hope to visit Gettysburg and the seminary one day.

Melanchthon said...

Luther was pretty clear, in his comments about Zwingli's death, that clergymen should not take up arms!
“Zwingli drew his sword. Therefore he has received the reward that Christ spoke of, ‘All who take the sword will perish by the sword’ [Matt. 26:52]. If God has saved him, he has done so above and beyond the rule."

Mark Henderson said...

And God in his mercy saved Muhlenberg Jnr, both on the battle field and, we pray, unto eternity.