Kendall and Carey, “Preface” –
Describe what Carey (and by implication, Kendall as well) means by “derailment” (see ix and xxi-xxii).
Carey posits several divergencies as he moves to define and clarify America’s “political tradition.” Are they all identical? And are his characterizations accurate? –
ix – Founding Fathers’ focus on self-government vs. new tradition derived from the Declaration of Independence and centered on rights
x-xi and xiv – Declaration of Independence (liberty and democracy) vs. Constitution (elite special interests)
xii-xiii – French romantic philosophy vs. English liberalism
xiv-xv, xvii-xix, xx, xxi – Lincoln on “equality” vs. tradition vs. egalitarianism vs. “genuine democracy.” Do Lincoln and progressives agree?
xvi and xix – Founding era with key documents vs. prior political tradition vs. Lincoln’s redefinition of America’s “normative core”
Where in the above divergencies do civic obligation and “civic humanism” fit?
Does Carey give enough attention to “liberty” and “freedom”? In present political culture these are hallmarks of discourse by politicians.
xxii – Characterize nomocratic vs teleocratic views of the Constitution.
Kendall and Carey, chapter I –
What in the traditional view are the 4 basic documents yielding the American political tradition? (We have a “tradition” concerning our political “tradition”) –
Origin and meaning of the word “tradition” quoted from
late 14c.[century], “statement, belief, or practice handed down from generation to generation,” especially “belief or practice based on Mosaic law,” from Old French tradicion “transmission, presentation, handing over” (late 13c.) and directly from Latin traditionem (nominative traditio) “delivery, surrender, a handing down, a giving up,” noun of action from past participle stem of tradere “deliver, hand over,” from trans- “over” (see trans-) + dare “to give” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). The word is a doublet of treason (q.v.). Meaning “a long-established custom” is from 1590s. The notion is of customs, ways, beliefs, doctrines, etc. “handed down” from one generation to the next.
In the context of this formal definition, we may regard “tradition” as that which is handed down to us.
Describe in brief the early views of loyalty oaths and freedom of expression.
As the present generation explores the question, what is America’s political tradition, and whether it remains agreeable, cultural and demographic changes are occurring. Which of those changes, if any, will provoke intense discussion about the legitimacy and/or acceptability of America’s political tradition?
K&C state that some people now question “whether there is an American political tradition at all.” Is there “a single set of political principles” holding sway? In a discussion, how would you respond to that view?
Corollary – why do people come to America?
Do K&C have an agenda? They say the “thesis” of presently ascendant literature (as taught in universities, for example, in the time frame of their writing (1970)) and “official literature” “must” “come crashing down.” Explain.
K&C loosely claim the Founders “were, almost to a man, opposed to the adoption of a Bill of Rights” (see also pp. 13, 27, and 28). Is this claim true? Keep the question in mind when reading in The Federalist.
K&C say the Declaration of Independence “appears to be the declaration of a religious people, or, more specifically, a Christian people.” And that it “seems to be the declaration of a people … [with] a commitment to work the will of God.” Contrast their hesitancy with firm exposition by Amos in Defending the Declaration.
Was there, as K&C claim, a shift in thinking between 1776 (Declaration) and 1787 (Constitution), in that the latter exhibits “religious indifferentism”?
Was the “spirit” of 1776 “betrayed” by that of 1787? Did “natural rights” “disappear”? Was “equality” “repudiated”? What exactly is the “official literature” mentioned by K&C? Have K&C erected “straw men” of their own?
What is the “second” of “recent developments” articulated by K&C? In review, what was the “first”?
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K&C discuss Voegelin and his use the term “myth.” Is their use compatible with its use in social science and other political science?
K&C write of Voegelin’s use of “compact” symbols, but then of their differentiation. K&C say our symbols “tend to be variants” of symbols in the “Judeo-Christian religious tradition,” including Moses leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land. They then claim that political principles come after the symbols, a later development with “critical clarification.” Does the Declaration justify their claim (consider Amos’ thesis)?
K&C claim “hanky-panky” about the Founders and “oversimplification” about the American founding. In particular, K&C claim that authors of the documents were not all of one mind, and further, the public was largely bypassed in decision-making. Moreover, the “myth” of the founding was “in fact invented after the fact” and “it spins itself out of nothingness.” This characterization completes the setup of the book, leading readers to ask, in conclusion, “Where, in America, is the beginning?”
[1.] What principles, practices, institutions, etc. come to mind when you hear the phrase “the American political tradition”?
[2.] What is the thesis of Chapter One of Kendall & Carey’s BASIC SYMBOLS? In your opinion, does it matter when we date the beginning of the American political tradition: at 1607, 1776, 1787, 1788, 1791, or yet another date? And acknowledging a heritage of many centuries of Western civilization generally and in the British North American colonies specifically, is it somewhat arbitrary to speak of an 18th-century “Founding”?
1. What principles, practices, institutions, etc. come to mind when you hear the phrase “the American political tradition”?
Prior to embarking upon this class, the words “American political tradition” meant the following to me:
•Principles – one person/one vote, hard/honest work, and a collection of individuals deciding upon a given course of action or law. In other words, democracy (by its very nature) is designed to be messy. Those issues on which an overwhelming number of Americans agree should be easy to pass. For those issues where there are significant and/or competing interests, it should take some time, effort, and debate before the country embarks upon that course of action. In the current culture of immediate gratification, this concept is difficult for the public to accept (in my opinion).
•Practices – politicians representing their constituents (not a powerful lobbyist), police enforcing the laws of the land, judges using the Constitution (and not their opinion) to make or interpret laws, and the very limited use of executive privilege.
•Institutions – Congress, the Supreme Court, the office of the Presidency, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
2. What is the thesis of Chapter One of Kendall & Carey’s BASIC SYMBOLS? In your opinion, does it matter when we date the beginning of the American political tradition: at 1607, 1776, 1787, 1788, 1791, or yet another date? And acknowledging a heritage of many centuries of Western civilization generally and in the British North American colonies specifically, is it somewhat arbitrary to speak of an 18th-century “Founding”?
In my opinion, the basic premise of chapter one is that our Founding Fathers were probably not all of one mind, and there was significant discord when drafting the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It is amazing to me to see that those who had written probably the three most important documents in American history in less than two decades have such differing words and concepts. In summary, the main idea of chapter one is that maybe our concept of “American political tradition” is NOT what we think it to be.
In my opinion, chapter one actually has two schools of thought as to the beginnings of the “American political tradition”. The first part of the chapter introduces the concept that our traditions can be fixed in time. The fixing of the beginning of our traditions provides the citizens a solid base from which to view our political history and the direction the country is going. In other words, by fixing when a tradition begins, we can look for changes and deviations. With this thought in mind, I would have to point to 1776 as the beginning of the “American political tradition”. The words “becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands”, “separate and equal station”, and “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” create in my mind our political tradition.
However, later in the chapter the authors introduce the concepts of Eric Voegelin where “tradition” is a matter of self-interpretation. This concept means that the tradition is only valid as it is defined in that period of time. With this in mind, the starting point for the “American political tradition” is moot since it is constantly evolving. I personally do not agree with this definition because there is no standard from which to assess if traditions are being followed or not.
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Week 2 Discussion: American Colonies: the Ancient & “Balanced” Constitution
[1.] What was the “ancient constitution” to Britons and Americans? What continuities are alleged by Kendall & Carey between the early colonial charters and covenants and later “founding” documents such as the Declaration of Independence and even the Constitution? Do you accept their arguments?
[2.] What does the Frenchman Montesquieu (much-quoted by our American Founders) admire about the constitutionalism of British liberals like Addison, Trenchard and Gordon, et al. and the British unwritten constitution? How does Rev. Jonathan Mayhew view the Christian’s duty relative to the state?
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1. To first answer this question the term “ancient constitution” needs to be defined. In my opinion, it could be successfully argued that the “ancient constitution” was the Magna Carta Libertatum (also known as the “Great Charter of the Liberties”). Some of the highlights of the document include: protection of church rights, protection from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. It is interesting that this document is conspicuously absent from the Kendall & Carey (K&C) book.
In my opinion, K&C list other “ancient constitution” documents such as the: Mayflower Compact, General Orders of Connecticut, Virginia Declaration of Rights, and The Body of Liberties of Massachusetts Bay, since they have a significant impact on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (p. 30-31). With this in mind, I partially accept K&C’s “ancient constitution” documents – since the Magna Carta is not included in the group.
There are two aspects of “continuities”: format and meaningful. From the formal perspective, K&C’s argument appears to apply to documentation. For instance the parts of the Mayflower Compact: (1) signatories identified, (2) clearly stated purpose, (3) political oath statement, and (4) a clarification addendum match up well with the Constitution (p. 32) and Declaration (p. 34).
I also agree with the meaningful continuities, since the Mayflower Compact does not explicitly discuss rights and equality (p. 38). Also, from a meaningful perspective, K&C discusses how the Compact mentions both God and “good order” – concepts found in the Declaration of Independence.
2A. In my opinion, Montesquieu admired the British liberal concept of the separation of powers (legislative, judiciary, and executive). Some of Montesquieu’s statements, “There is also one nation in the world whose constitution has political liberty for its direct purpose” (Montesquieu 1748, 119) and “It is not form me to examine whether at present the English enjoy this liberty or not. It suffices for me to say that it is established by their laws and I seek no further” (123), show his affinity for the British constitutionalism. Montesquieu’s writings show his support for laws to preserve liberty and prevent corruption and echo warnings from Trenchard and Gordon about what happen when a man or a few men put themselves and their interests before that of the public.
2B. Rev. Mayhew, using the Apostle Paul’s Book of Romans, provides the Christians with several things to keep in mind when dealing with both good and bad political officials (i.e., rulers). The reverend argues that we should show obedience to those in power who act with “reasonable and just authority, which is agreeable to the will of God”. He further strengthens his point by saying that those who resist a just leader are not in accordance with Paul’s teachings with the statement “the will of God Himself; and will, therefore, be punished by Him” (Mayhew). The second point from the reverend is that there is no biblical standard for obedience to evil leaders, as demonstrated in this verse: “common tyrants and public oppressors, are not intitled to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of anything here laid down by the inspired apostle [Paul]” (135). It is also my opinion that the reverend feels it is right for Christians to resist against bad leaders because by not doing so we are endorsing slavery and misery.
Week 3 Discussion: American Revolution
[1.] Reproduce and evaluate at least one of the arguments made by British-American colonials during the mid-to-late 1760s concerning British policies toward the colonies (see especially Otis’s pamphlet). What were the main points made, and what did Americans object to in crown and parliamentary policies?
[2.] After careful reading of Rom. 13:1-7 and I Pet. 2:13-17 and the colonists’ arguments, discuss whether the American Revolution can be justified from a Scriptural point of view. (Feel free to range beyond those two passages, but at least begin there; you might also consider whether a right to revolution exists anywhere in the New Testament.) If not, how can we account for the large numbers of clergy like John Witherspoon (see Hammond, pp. 306-314) who were at the forefront of the Revolutionary effort?
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1. Reproduce and evaluate at least one of the arguments made by British-American colonials during the mid-to-late 1760s concerning British policies toward the colonies (see especially Otis’s pamphlet). What were the main points made, and what did Americans object to in crown and parliamentary policies?
The American colonists had several grievances against the King of England – the most egregious was economic. I think the passing of three main laws really inflamed the colonists: (1) Stamp Act of 1765, (2) Sugar Act of 1764, and (3) Quartering Act of 1765. While I understand Britain’s desire to increase revenue to drive down their debt, the levying of these three taxes/duties on the colonists without direct representation (vice the British position of “virtual”) made the Americans feel like second-class British citizens. Allowing indiscriminate searches and seizure of private property with little to no evidence deepened this feeling. Another major issue that inflamed the colonists was the Boston Massacre of 1770 where six of the eight British soldiers were found not guilty (being successfully defended by John Adams nonetheless) and the other two receiving what was perceived as “light” sentences. In other words, the colonists started to feel like they were a conquered state instead of a valued member of the British Empire who made significant contributions.
James Otis’ writing describes the Writs of Assistance with the words “slavery” and “villainy” (Hammond et al., 151).
In my opinion, the Declaration captures the colonists’ sentiment with these words from the Declaration: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” (Hammond et al., xvii).
2. After careful reading of Rom. 13:1-7 and I Pet. 2:13-17 and the colonists’ arguments, discuss whether the American Revolution can be justified from a Scriptural point of view. (Feel free to range beyond those two passages, but at least begin there; you might also consider whether a right to revolution exists anywhere in the New Testament.) If not, how can we account for the large numbers of clergy like John Witherspoon (see Hammond, pp. 306-314) who were at the forefront of the Revolutionary effort?
While this may be an unpopular position, I do not feel the Bible offers sufficient justification for the American Rebellion. Please let me take a minute to explain. The end of the Seven Years War (Britain vs. France) left Britain with undisputed control of the seas and shipping trade. Furthermore, the size of the British territory in North America significantly increased. As a result of the war, Britain accumulated a national debt of £132 million in 1763 (Hammond et al., 151). Additionally, Britain would require 10,000 men (at a cost of £225,000) to govern the colonies (Hammond et al., 151). With a large national debt and significant expenditures projected in the future, Britain turned to taxation, levies, and duties (Sugar Act (expected to raise £60,000), Stamp Act, and Quartering Act) to bring in revenue.
During the 1750s and 1760s, the thirteen colonies fell under British rule and therefore protection and as a result their economies were able to grow. (Note: While wars do bring death and devastation, they are also an economic boon. In many ways, Germany’s re-arming and the subsequent World War helped get the world out of the Great Depression.) In other words, the colonies benefitted not only monetarily but in terms of size with essentially the Ohio Valley now becoming part of the English empire. With this economic back drop, why should the colonies NOT pay their fair share of the debt since they ultimately benefitted from the British victory?
With this thought process, I am unable to find Biblical justification that supports an American Rebellion (I chose this word specifically) for economic reasons.
However, I can find Biblical justification for the colonies to support the king and pay the taxes. The two Biblical passages in the assignment provide justification to support the king. Matthew 22:21 states, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” In other words, I think these two additional passages mean the colonists should have paid the taxes.
Week 4 Discussion: Toward a “More Perfect Union”
[1.] What were the deficiencies of the Confederation government as stated by Washington, Hamilton, et al. (who came to be known as “Federalists”)? (Pay particular attention to Madison’s “Vices of the Political System of the United States.”) Since Washington and Co. were elites, can we trust their assessment of the situation under the Articles of Confederation? (Leading Antifederalists claimed that conditions were not that bad.)
[2.] What arguments did Madison employ in his “Memorial and Remonstrance” (1785), and did they signal a secular outlook regarding the proper relationship between “church and state”?
1. What were the deficiencies of the Confederation government as stated by Washington, Hamilton, et al. (who came to be known as “Federalists”)? (Pay particular attention to Madison’s “Vices of the Political System of the United States.”) Since Washington and Co. were elites, can we trust their assessment of the situation under the Articles of Confederation? (Leading Antifederalists claimed that conditions were not that bad.)
In his “Vices of the Political System of the United States”, Madison lists eleven specific weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. Not to belabor the point, but some of the more glaring weaknesses of the Articles were:
•Government was only set up at the federal level (i.e., Continental Congress).
•It did not provide for comprehensive executive or judicial branches.
•States were only linked together through a ‘firm league of friendship’, which seemed to be a way to provide for their collective defense.
•States were limited in their ability to work with foreign governments and could not use taxes in the negotiation process.
•While the Continental Congress could pass laws, there was no mechanism to enforce them. As a result if a state did not support a federal law, it could simply ignore it.
•Congress had no power to levy taxes (it sent “requisitions”) or regulate trade.
I think someone with first-hand knowledge of a problem and nothing to gain by bringing the issue to the public’s attention is probably the most credible source a person can listen to – whether or not that person is considered an “elite”. With this in mind, I think someone like Washington should definitely be listened to, since he lived with the consequences of the Articles as president and saw many of the same issues as leader of the Continental Army. Also, the elites were behind changing the Articles. There have been many times in this country’s history where “elites” have been able to take advantage of weak laws (or enforcement) for their own betterment. In my opinion, it would have been easier for the “elites” to leave the Articles as they were (and possibly exploit them for personal gain) than to change them to a more rigorous governmental framework. Using this logic, I think the “elites” can be trusted in this instance.
2. What arguments did Madison employ in his “Memorial and Remonstrance” (1785), and did they signal a secular outlook regarding the proper relationship between “church and state”?
Madison wrote his “Memorial and Remonstrance” in response to a Virginia bill that would require the state to pay for teachers of Christianity. This bill was introduced by Patrick Henry in an effort to stave off the moral decay of the state after stopping the pay for state-sponsored clergy. Madison provides fifteen points against this bill. Without an in-depth reading of Madison’s arguments, one could assume that he was taking a secular position. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.
Madison discusses several salient Biblical points:
1. He says, “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man,” which refers to the free will that God has bestowed upon man.
2. In point # 3 he says, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” In other words, I do not want the government to be able to limit the citizens’ practice of Christianity.
3. In point # 7 he says, “establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation”. In my opinion, it is saying that government will corrupt religion and Christianity – do not spread them further or strengthen them.