Emergence of the American Military Power


Have you ever wondered where the military power of the United States came from? We haven’t always been a super power capable of destroying our enemies, our friends, and ourselves.  For most of the early years of the American republic we had to rely on allies to assists us in our military campaigns. The French aided us in the American Revolution, although we did have minor successes prior to their entry into the war. We fought to a stalemate with the English during the War of 1812, yet our Nation’s Capital was burned down.

We were able to defeat the Mexicans during the Mexican-American War, but we still weren’t a super power. We had to rely on the British to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the Western Hemisphere is closed to European Colonization. Yet, one event in American History stands alone as ushering in the advent of American military supremacy.

During the Civil War advancements in technology were made that made obsolete all other militaries in the world. The mini ball made for more accurate gun fire, destroying a military fighting style that had spanned centuries. The CSS Hunley was only the second major attempt by Americans to create submarine power (the USS Turtle was used during the American Revolution, which was a one man submarine that operated on a similar concept as the Hunley.) And ultimately, the clash of the Iron Clads (CSS Merrimack & USS Monitor) made all other navies in the world obsolete. By the end of the Civil War there were over 1 Million soldiers in America’s Army. Within a couple years that number would drop significantly to 125,000 military personal.

In the wake of the Civil War and the assassination, and attempted assassination, of President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State Seward two nations attempted to capitalize on a war torn nation. Emperor Louis Napoleon III had fashioned himself as a French Andrew Jackson, but like his famous ancestor became an Emperor. With the coup that destroyed the French Second Republic, Napoleon sought to take advantage of a perceived weak America.

Napoleon conspired with the Arch-Duke Maximilian of Austria to take over Mexico and create an Empire that would threaten the existence of the United States. Secretary Seward recovered from a carriage accident and being stabbed in a failed assassination attempt the night Lincoln was shot by Booth to challenge Napoleon’s plan. General Grant sent 50,000 soldiers and General Sheridan to the Texas-Mexican border to secure America from an attack. In the mean time Seward sent General Schofield to deter Napoleon from his plan. Publicly Seward published a letter to the Emperor that was more diplomatic than what Schofield was sent to deliver. Napoleon backed down and the Mexicans murdered the Arch-Duke.

In the mean time, the British were attempting to secure Canada from the United States. War was England was eminent during the Civil War, it was only Ambassador Charles Francis Adams  (Son of John Q. Adams and grandson of John Adams) that helped prevent war from breaking out. The British, Sir John A.  MacDonald created a plan to create the Kingdom of Canada, a confederacy of the Canada territories. When northerners along the border cried for war, the English monarch Queen Victoria signed into law a bill creating the Dominion of Canada; regardless, the damage was done and a permanent reminder of the English monarchy was created. And in a major coup for the United States, Secretary of State Seward purchased Alaska from the Russians. This purchased, declared “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Ice Box” was actually a tactical victory for the United States. With Alaska, the United States surrounded Canada from the South and the West. The arctic circle to the north meant that Canada only had it’s Eastern boarder free from America. In the event of a war with England, the United States could secure Canada and blockade it’s Eastern shore ports.

The United States came out of the Civil War a military power house. Over the next thirty years the US would continue to grow stronger as the industrial revolution took hold. By the time the United States went to war with Spain she had one of the strongest navies in the world, and was able to defeat the once mighty Spanish. Following the destruction of Europe in World War I, the United States stood as the most complete and most powerful military in the world. It wouldn’t be until the end of the Second World War that the U.S. was officially a super power, with enough fire power to destroy the world.

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Roman Foreign Policy between 264 and 146 B.C: Why They Fought


From the First Punic War through the Third Punic War there was much change in the reasoning for Rome going to war.  Roman conquest of Italy in the years leading up to the First Punic War gave the Romans confidence about their military power. Their success at unifying most of Italy under the Roman banner must have given them an adrenaline rush to spur them into a war with Carthage in an attempt to take Sicily. Successive wars appear to have been encouraged by Roman desire to dominate trade throughout the Mediterranean world.

Roman involvement in the First Punic War was spurred on by ambition to add Sicily to their territory. The Second Punic War and the wars with Greece were brought on primarily through a desire to dominate trade.  The wars with Spain and the Third Punic War, however, appear to harken back to the desires which spurred on the First Punic War and the Italian wars.

According to Polybius, the First Punic War marked the first time the Romans engaged in sea warfare. Whether or not this is completely true or not does not detract from how important such an idea is to the motives of going to war. There is little doubt that the Romans probably engaged in at least some minimal trade prior to this war. Yet Polybius’ account of the construction of wartime vessels demonstrates that the Romans most likely had not yet engaged in naval battles[1]. If this account is true then the motives for going to war over Sicily were not about trade, at least not entirely. To some degree Rome must have sought to have dominion over Sicily and to remove foreign influence in Italy all together. Polybius’ account of the treaty between Rome and Carthage, which ended the First Punic War, gives further credence to the idea Rome was not fighting for the sole purpose of trade. Polybius says, “’The Carthaginians to evacuate the whole of Sicily…. The Carthaginians to give up to the Romans all prisoners without ransom. The Carthaginians to pay to the Romans by installments in twenty years 2,200 Euboen talents’’[2] Polybius also accounts that the Roman people demanded, “they reduced the time of the payment by one half, added 1,000 talents to the indemnity, and demanded the evacuation by the Carthaginians of all islands lying between Sicily and Italy.”[3] These accounts given by Polybius support the belief that Rome’s first conquest outside of Italy was spurred on by a desire to continue unifying Italy, or at least to expand the territory they possessed.

The Second Punic War and the wars subsequently with Greece on the other hand were almost entirely about improving trade and Roman economic status. The Second Punic War was triggered by Carthaginian interference with a Roman ally in Spain. While the sources concerning the war do not directly demonstrate that this war was about economic gain through trade, it is clear through the terms of the treaty that the war was at least on some level about trade. Polybius once again demonstrates, “they were to surrender their ships of war, with exception of ten triremes.”[4] Without their former naval power the Carthaginians would be hard pressed to continue trading on such a scale as they once enjoyed. This left Rome as the most dominate naval power in the Western Mediterranean both militarily and trade wise. Without war ships the Carthaginians could not protect their trading vessels from pirates and other warring states.

With the Western Mediterranean locked up Rome focused her attention on the Eastern half. Rome’s attempt to subdue the Eastern Mediterranean was not so much like their attempts in the West. Unlike the West, the Romans did not seek to have dominion over the East. Instead the Romans sought to dismantle the alliances and empires throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. By doing this Rome was successful in destroying the economic power of the East. Their tactics with the East resemble in some manner their attempts in Italy to subdue the Latin tribes.

The Third Punic War and the wars with Spanish tribes appear to be more about revenge and expansion of the Empire than about acquisition of wealth. Carthage had been the nail in the Roman’s side for better part of a century. When they finally broke the Treaty of Zama the Romans found the opportunity to finally put Carthage away for good. With Carthage completely destroyed the Romans were able to take dominion over all of North Africa and eliminated the only threat to Roman dominance in the Western Mediterranean for good. If for nothing else the Roman destruction of Carthage demonstrated for her enemies that Rome could, if brought to bear, annihilate any and all foes. The Third Punic War demonstrates an almost entirely unique episode in Roman foreign policy between 264 and 146 B.C. It was not about acquisition of land, nor of furthering trade. Rather the Third Punic War was about revenge for the Romans.

In Spain however, the attempts by the Romans were almost entirely over conquest of land. Unlike Carthage and the Eastern Mediterranean, Spain was not governed by formal empires or kingdoms. With the ever expanding population in Italy, the Romans needed more space for citizens. Spain was the prime location after the Second Punic War. Unfortunately for the Romans the Spanish tribes were troublesome and required a full on assault to attempt to subdue Spain; even then, the Spanish tribes were not completely subdue until the time of Caesar Augustus. Yet Rome’s conquests in Spain were necessary in order to provide more land for her citizens. Not only was this, but Spain was rich in minerals, specifically in silver which was important to the Romans.  However, the Roman desire to conquer Spain was not primarily out of a desire to exploit Spain but rather to incorporate it.

Rome’s foreign policy from 264-146 B.C. was spurred on by two primary motives: expansion and trade. Ultimately, however, the Romans desired to create a Mediterranean wide empire. The true motive behind the Roman foreign policy was simply and purely imperialism. While their foreign policy began with an attempt to have more sovereignty, such as in the First Punic War, it ultimately landed on the need and desire for more territory as was the case in the Spanish wars.


[1] Naphatali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. 1, Selected ReadingsThe Republic and the Augustan Age, 3rd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 159-160

[2] Lewis 161.

[3] Lewis, 162.

[4] Lewis, 180

Alienation in Post World War America


World War II ended with the surrender of the Japanese Empire in August 1945 leaving a wake of destruction on almost every continent. America was elated, not only had they defeated the Nazis but the Japanese were defeated as well. Yet, America’s place in the world changed as a result of the war in a way very few people would have thought possible. Only an up and coming nation in the last World War, the United States emerged from World War II as the preeminent world power. Amidst the jubilation of victory in both theaters of war, Americans had to come to grips not only with America’s new place in the world, but with what had happened in the war to America. The story of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye demonstrates the alienation some particular Americans felt in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The beginning of The Catcher in the Rye takes the reader to a boarding school and a character named Holden Caulfield. Holden is arguably one of the most controversial characters in literature, but his story is an important one as it is the story of America after World War II. Holden’s alienation from the rest of the world is central in his story. Throughout most of the story Holden is unable to find the good in the world and insists that everyone he knows or meets is a phony. Holden is a confused young man who is attempting to reconcile the world of his childhood with the world of his young adulthood. At sixteen when the story takes place, Holden was born two years after the stock market crashed and was still too young when the United States entered the Second World War in December, 1941. America, in a lot of ways, has grown up rapidly in the span of Holden’s short life.

The main antagonists in Holden’s life are his roommate Stradlater, his neighbor Ackley, a friend from home Sally, and a pimp and a prostitute he meets while staying in New York. In each case, the antagonists choose to ignore the realities of life by distracting themselves with sex, money or theater. Holden faults each character for being a phony, and considers his dead brother Allie, and his younger sister Phoebe as two of the only real people he has ever met. Holden has been affected by the war and its aftermath and maintains a child-like opinion of the world. In fact, he states, “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”[1] Holden is alienated from those who are his age, or close because of his own inability to grow up. The various encounters Holden ha leave him more alienated than before. In the case of Sally, Holden contacts her and makes a date only to alienate himself from her by saying:  “You give me a royal pain in the ass…”[2] Holden is completely unable to maintain friendships and continues to draw further and further away from the world.

As Holden is unable to maintain friendships with anyone he meets, he is also a contradiction. At the beginning of the book he states, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies.”[3] And yet he goes to see a movie at Radio City after his date with Sally. He goes into the bar at his hotel and has a low opinion of everything about it from where they seat him, to the band, to the patrons.[4] Holden constantly belittles people, places and things only to turn around and immerse himself in them. This further alienates him from the world and people around him as they view him as an immature person.[5] His sense of superiority, which results in his alienation, prevents Holden from having any meaningful relationships with anyone aside from his sister and dead brother Allie.

Holden is so disillusioned with the world around him that the only thing he can think to do is protect those who he views as innocent. Holden’s depression is lifted whenever he is around kids. The first instance the reader sees this is in the streets of New York. On his way to find a record store open on Sundays, Holden follows a family of three. The parents are on the sidewalk and immediately gain the disapproval of Holden when he says, “They looked sort of poor, which implies that Holden views the family, at least the parents, as beneath him. The child, however, entertains Holden as he is walking behind the family. The child is in the street singing, “‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’” The child and song make Holden, “feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.”[6] Holden is not alienated from children the way he is from those closer in age to him because he is able to find a truth in children that doesn’t exist for him in his contemporaries.

Holden’s alienation goes even further, to a desire to remove himself completely from society. At first, Holden pleads with Sally to, “drive up to Massachusetts or Vermont….We’ll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out…I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all….I could chop wood in the wintertime and all.”[7] His feeling of superiority has alienated him not only from any meaningful relationships but also a desire to quit society almost all together. Later on he says, “Everybody’d think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone. They’d let me put gas and oil in their stupid cars, and they’d pay me a salary and all for it, and I’d build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there the rest of my life.”[8] Both times, Holden suggests leaving society to live away from a world he doesn’t fully believe he belongs to.

Holden’s alienation also drives him to attempt to save those he believes he cares most about. In his first desire to leave society, he invites Sally to go with him only to alienate himself from her when she refuses to go with him. Holden also feels a need to assist a roommate at a previous school before he ultimately rejects him. His roommate Dick Slagle is poorer than Holden and doesn’t have as fancy of luggage as he has. As Holden describes the situation: “The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs…”[9] But he goes on to clarify, “You think if they’re intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don’t give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.”[10] Holden both creates his own alienation, as in the case of Sally, and is a victim of society’s mandated alienation as was the case with the former roommate. Yet in both cases, Holden attempts to save that person from the phony world as Holden perceives it.

Finally, Holden’s struggle not to care about what others think or do and his desire to save people from their phoniness comes to a head. His sister Phoebe questions whether or not Holden actually likes anything, or if he simply hates everything.[11] As he avoids Phoebe’s questions, she finally prompts him, “All right, name something else. Name something you’d like to be.”[12] And it is here that Holden admits to his desire to protect children and to allow them to maintain their innocence when he tells Phoebe, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”[13] Holden’s alienation from friends closer in age; his hatred of cars and movies all stem from his own desire to return and protect the innocence of childhood.

Yet, it takes Holden until he has nearly broken down psychologically that he realizes he can’t protect everyone from everything. While on the way to  deliver a note to Phoebe at her school, Holden notices writing on the walls outside the school. He desires to protect the innocence of the children from the writing  and dreams of killing the person responsible for writing obscenities on the school’s walls. The second time he finds the obscenities, however, he realizes that it has been craved into the wall.[14] It is at this point that Holden comes to the realization, “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible.”[15] He finally realizes that things won’t return to how they were when he was a child and life was simpler. Holden recognizes that the world is full of things he hates and wants to protect others from but it is a fool’s mission to try to protect the world from all the bad.

The story of Holden Caulfield could be analogous to the story of the United States after World War II. Like Holden, the United States was alienated from the rest of the world, including our allies. As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States had a responsibility not shared by her allies. Both the Soviet Union and the allies of the United States differed from the U.S.and did not seem to share many beliefs held by America. The United States, as well as Holden, had to come to grips with the reality of the world. Holden was never going to achieve living in a world where people were to be exactly as he wanted to be more ready to believe exactly what he believed. Holden is defined by his alienation from the world and weather he is finally able to reconcile himself with both the world and people around him.


[1] Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye(Boston: Little Brown and Company 1951) page 122.

[2] Ibid. 133

[3] Ibid. 2

[4] “they gave me a lousy table anyways…”, “The band was putrid”, “show-offy-looking guys with their dates.” Ibid. 69

[5] “Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?” Ibid, 144

[6] Ibid. 115

[7] Ibid. 132

[8] Ibid. 199

[9] Ibid. 109

[10] Ibid.

[11] “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” Ibid. 169

[12] Ibid. 172

[13] Ibid. 173

[14] “I saw something that drove me crazy…”, “I went down by a different staircase….” Ibid. 201, 202

[15] Ibid.

 

The Nature of Government and of the United States as Affecting the Right to Secession


The question of Secession was raised immediately after the first Southern states began to leave the Union. President Abraham Lincoln ordered Federal troops to invade the South in hopes of unifying the nation. Following the war, Orestes Brownson wrote on the issue of whether or not Secession was in fact legal or constitutional. Secession is not constitutional, as Orestes Brownson argues in the American Republic, on the grounds that government itself is indissoluble.

Orestes Brownson divides his argument against Secession into four major themes: the origins of government, the constitution of government, the United States, and the United States Constitution. These four main arguments supply the basis upon which Brownson argues that secession is unconstitutional. In order to understand why secession is unconstitutional, it is necessary to examine Brownson’s four main arguments first.

The circumstances surrounding the secession of the southern states in 1860 stem from a long argument concerning which was superior, the state or federal government. The necessity of government and man’s place in society is self evident according to Brownson who argues, “Hence as man is nowhere found out of society, so nowhere is society found without government.”[1] As such, the question over whether or not man belongs in society and whether or not society requires government is put to rest by Brownson. From the ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle to the Enlightenment philosophers Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacque Rousseau the question of the origins of society and government have been argued.

Yet these philosophers do agree on at least a handful of axioms of government and man’s loyalty to government. Brownson sums up the responsibilities of government by stating:

“[Government] defines and protects the right of property, creates and maintains a medium in which religion can exert her supernatural energy, promotes learning, fosters science and art, advances civilization, and contributes as a powerful means to the fulfillment by man of the Divine purpose in his existence.”[2]

These axioms are agreed upon by most political philosophers throughout time, although the specific aim of government may be different. But as long as these are maintained and protected, the individual person in society is obligated to remain loyal to the society and government. As Thomas Hobbes might agree, a duly instituted regime has the authority to do as it pleases. However, if it fails to protect the people it is no longer legitimate. Tyranny is never legitimate. We are required to remain loyal as long as our liberty is secure.[3]

Yet, while the majority of political philosophy agrees that there are certain responsibilities of both society and the citizen, the origins of government differs drastically from one philosopher to the next. The six origins of government according to Brownson include:

Government originates in the right of the father to govern his child.

It originates in convention, and is a social compact.

It originates in the people, who, collectively taken, are sovereign.

Government springs from the spontaneous development of nature.

It derives its right from the immediate and express appointment of God.

From God through the Pope, or visible head of the spiritual society

From God through the people

From God through the natural law[4]

The first of these origins is taken directly from two sources, the first is Aristotle and the second is Sir Robert Filmer. Aristotle’s argument, stemming from book one of the Politics, demonstrates that the origins of society and government come from the family. Aristotle argues that because people wish to mimic the gods, they favor monarchy as their choice of government with the family ruled by the father, the village ruled by the eldest male, and the city ruled by the king. While Aristotle admits that other forms of government do exist, and may in fact be more desirable than monarchy, people will still naturally yearn for monarchy. This argument is also connected to Divine Right of Kings set forth most completely by Sir Robert Filmer.  Sir Robert Filmer, in his Patriarcha, makes an argument in favor of Divine Right monarchy stemming first from Adam’s sovereignty over his children. Brownson, however, disagrees both with Aristotle and Filmer by rejecting monarchy in favor for republican government. . “The distinctive mark of republicanism is the substitution of the state for the personal chief, and public authority for personal or private right.”[5] Governments based on the principle of fatherhood are despotic. Republicanism is the true government because the rulers rule for and on behalf of the state. Rulers who are proprietors of the land are not rulers. Aristotle is most famous for putting forth the argument that government stems from the family, is critiqued with the moderns who reject paternal rule. One must rule for the sake of the commonwealth.

Following the classical understanding, Brownson critiques the modern understanding of government as being a social compact. “The state, as defined by the elder Adams, is held to be a voluntary association of individuals. Individuals create civil society, and may uncreate it whenever they judge it advisable.” Brownson rejects the concept that society can be established and abolished at will and calls America out, “Prior to the Southern Rebellion, nearly every American asserted with Lafayette, ‘the sacred right of insurrection’ or revolution…”[6] However, sovereignty cannot be relinquished, neither by a state/nation nor by a person. The Enlightenment holds that people are sovereign in a state of nature and that they give up part of that sovereignty when they enter society. “But individuals cannot give up what they have not, and no individual has in himself the right to govern another.” Modern political philosophers suppose a state of nature, which supposes a social contract. Brownson rejects the social contract because man cannot willingly forfeit his rights and because man is bound into society. Furthermore, men in nature fail to be able to acquire the knowledge necessary to create a civil society.

While there are still four other origins of government according to political philosophy, the first two are the most important for the United States. The United States was born out of the modern understanding of government, the only enlightened government. The United States, as a result, was an independent nation and a republic before it declared independence from England. Brownson’s arguments against the ancient and modern assertion of the origins of government indicate that the United States as a society had to exist prior to the revolution. However, the question is not whether there is a United States but whether it formed as a collection of sovereign, independent nations or whether it formed as a single whole. The same principle applies to the society as it does to the individual: a sovereign society cannot give up its sovereignty. If this is the case, then the several states never gave up their sovereignty and the United States as a single entity never existed. Brownson argues against the individual sovereignty of the states by stating, “The colonies were all erected and endowed with their rights and powers by one and the same national authority, and the colonist were subjects of one and the same national sovereign.”[7]However, if the United States exists as a single entity it would be impossible for the states to be independently sovereign.[8] Thus, if the United States is a society, then the states would be inferior to the federal government. In this instance, the states would not be capable of secession from the Union because they are not sovereign nations in themselves.

The American Constitution, therefore, is the only element left in determining whether or not the southern states had a right to secession in 1861.   As discussed in his chapter on the origins of constitutions, a constitution is not something created, as man is a creature not a creator. Under the auspices of this same argument, the U.S. Constitution is understood by Brownson as, “Two-fold, written and unwritten, the constitution of the people and the constitution of the government.”[9] This unwritten constitution is what Brownson refers to as the Providential constitution. To Brownson, this Providential constitution is not something created but rather comes into existence along side the nation.[10] The American Providential constitution is unique to the United States and never seen elsewhere in the world. Our Constitution is made up of both sovereign and dependent states, and is neither a confederacy nor centralized state.[11] We are still yet one people divided into states but still united. “The Union and the States were born together, are inseparable in their constitution…”[12] The United States Constitution declares the American people as, “We the people of the United States…” And as such, the American people are united together rather than a loose confederacy of sovereign nations with mutual interests.[13]

The origins of the American system and the nature of the American Constitution are seen most clearly through Brownson’s understanding of territorial democracy. The thirteen original colonies that formed together as the United States of America did not exist under their own authority. They were created by the authority of the King of England and joined together as United Colonies under the authority of the Continental Congress. The various states that have come into the Union since the creation of the United States Constitution can only do so under the authority of the United States Congress.[14] The individuals living within a given territory are granted democracy within their given territory, but that territory does not have sovereign authority. Rather, it is subject totally to the United States Congress. The people living in the territory, “are subjects of the United States, without any political rights whatever, and, though a part of the population, are no part of the sovereign people of the United States.”[15] Or more simply put, are not citizens. The people of the territory are given the authority by the United States to, “meet in convention, draw up and adopt a constitution declaring or assuming them to be a State, elect State officers, senators, and representatives in the State legislature, and representatives and senators in Congress, but they are not yet a state.”[16]

Thus, when a territory becomes a State and the people of that territory go from being subjects to citizens of the United States that State only exists by the will and authority of the United States Congress. None of the States exist by themselves with sovereign authority. Brownson demonstrates this time and again as showing that society and government are not created and that the United States is the sovereign and not the individual states. As a result, Secession of the various states in 1861 could not be legally permitted as they had no authority independent of the United States to secede from the Union. From the time the first colonies were settled to when the territories became states, the individual states depended upon an outside authority for their creation. As such, outside the Union they are not states.

[1] Brownson, Orestes. The American Republic. ( Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2003) pg. 12

[2] Ibid. 13

[3] “But it is never lawful to resist the rightful sovereign, for it can never be right to resist right, and the rightful sovereign is the constitutional exercise of his power can never be said to abuse it.” Ibid. 17

[4] Ibid 19-20

[5] Ibid. 23

[6] Ibid. 34

[7] Ibid. 136

[8] “If the several States of the Union were severally sovereign states when they met in the convention…” Ibid. 127

[9] Ibid. 141

[10] Ibid. 141, “It is Providential, not made by the nation, but born with it.”

[11] Ibid 141, “The unwritten or Providential constitution of the United States is peculiar…”

[12] Ibid 144

[13] Ibid. 145 “united, not confederate States.”

[14] Ibid. 145 “Even then it was felt that the organization and constitution of a State in the Union could be regularly effected only by the permission of the Congress; and no Territory can, it is well know, regularly organize itself as a State…”

[15] Ibid. 146

[16] Ibid. 146


Locke on Toleration


John Locke wrote four letters concerning toleration in his lifetime. The most famous of these was the Epistola de Tolerantia (Letter Concerning Toleration), written in 1685; Locke wrote the letter to his friend Philip von Limborch.[1] This letter is the most general of all four letters concerning toleration. Locke’s understanding of toleration can be summed up as follows: every person ought to be permitted to worship as their conscience dictates; the government may not make laws requiring religious attendance at a state specified Church; but that does not mean the government may not promote religion through persuasion as every other citizen is permitted.

            There are found topics concerning toleration discussed throughout the first letter. The first is toleration as the characteristic of the True Church.[2] Secondly, Locke discusses the role of the government in religion. He then discusses the Church, defining it and describing the powers granted unto it. Locke then discusses the bounds placed on religion by toleration and then the bounds placed on the society by toleration

            “That I esteem that Toleration to be the chief Characteristical Mark of the True Church.” [3] Locke asserts that the toleration is above all the duty of a Christian as given to humanity by Christ. Christians must first concern themselves with their own salvation before they can assume to tell others about salvation.[4] In order for someone to be saved, they must sincerely believe in Christ as their savior. This notion dictates that forcing someone to worship in a manner contrary to their own consciousness would in fact futile to the desired end.[5] Locke asserts, “The Toleration of those that differ from others in Matters of Religion, is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine Reason of Mankind, that it seems monstrous for Men to be so blind, as not to perceive the Necessity and Advantage of it, in so clear a Light.”[6] A Christian must not punish those who do not believe in the same faith.

            As having asserted that toleration is the chief characteristic of the True Church, Locke demonstrates the boundaries of Civil Government from that of Religion[7]. Locke begins his discussion of Civil Government and Religion by saying, “The Commonwealth seems to me to be a Society of Men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of their own Civil Interests.” [8] He labels the “Civil Interests” to be, “Life, Liberty, Health, and Idolency of Body; and the Possession of outward things, such as Money, Lands, Houses, Furniture and the like.”[9] The duty of the sovereign is procure these goods and other goods necessary for this life. Thus it is inherently not the duty of the magistrate to legislate religion for the salvation of the soul.[10] The authority of salvation of souls is not granted to the magistrate by God, nor can it be granted to the magistrate by the People. Locke explains:

Nor can any such Power be vested in the Magistrate by the consent of the People; because no man can be so far abandon the care of his own Salvation, as blindly to leave it to the choice of any other, whether Prince or Subject, to prescribe to him what Faith or Worship he shall embrace. [11]

 

The power of salvation must lie in the hands of the individual citizen for his or her own salvation, because as Locke describes, “All the Life and Power of true Religion consists in the inward and full perswasion of the mind; and Faith is not Faith without believing.”[12]

Secondly, the magistrate creates laws that have punishments when the law is not followed, thus to create laws dictating religion would place punishment on those who do not follow the law; further it would coerce individuals to follow the state religion against their own consciousness. [13] While the magistrate is not permitted to create laws concerning religion, Locke does say:

It may indeed be alledged, that the Magistrate may make use of Arguments, and thereby draw the Heterodox into the way of Truth, and procure their Salvation. I grant it; but this is common to him with other Men. In teaching, instructing, and redressing the Erroneous by Reason, he may certainly do what becomes any good man to do. Magistracy does not oblige him to put off either Humanity or Christianity. But it is one thing to perswade, another to command; one thing to press with Arguments, another with Penalties. This Civil Power alone has a right to do; to the other Good-will is Authority enough. Every Man has Commission to admonish, exhort, convince another of Error and by reasoning to draw him into Truth; but to give Laws, receive Obedience, and compel with the Sword, belongs to none by the Magistrate. [14]

 

This is the sum of the authority of the magistrate in matters of religion, which he receives by virtue of his humanity.

            In the third place, Locke argues that the magistrate cannot involve himself in religion because there is only one way to Heaven. Since no one knows what the true religion is, forcing someone to obey a state religion could mean the damnation of that person’s soul. [15]

            Moving on, Locke defines a church as:

A Church then I take to be a voluntary Society of Men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the publick worshipping of God, in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the Salvation of their Souls.[16]

A person must come to religion on their own accord; no one is born a member of a church as a result. [17]re can be no state mandated religion or Church as a result. The church, as a voluntary society, must be permitted to create laws that all members consent to in order to survive. These laws consist of the following:

  • “Place and time of meeting…”
  • “Rules for admitting and excluding Members…”
  • Distinction of Officers and putting things into a regular Course, and such like…”[18]

Like the Civil Society, a Church cannot punish a member save removing them from the Church.[19] Churches must have a ruler established and consented to by the members of the Church. And as in Civil Society, Locke argues that no man can be forced to belong to a Church without consenting to his representatives. [20]

            This thus ends the argument concerning what the Civil Society and Church are permitted to do. Locke then discusses toleration in regards to both Civil Society and Church. The Church is bound by toleration, first, by removing any person from the communion of the Church after continuing to disobey the Laws of the Society. [21] is it that a Church may remove a member? Locke responds, “For these being the Condition of Communion, and the Bound of the Society, if the Breach of them were permitted without any Animadversion, the Society would immediately be thereby dissolved.”[22]

            Private Citizens are bound by Toleration as well, Locke states, “nor ought any private Persons, at any time, to use Force; unless it be in self-defence against unjust Violence. Excommunication neither does, nor can, deprive the excommunicated Person of any of those Civil Gods that he formerly possessed.”[23]the same manner the private citizens is not permitted use prejudice against any person based on his or her religious beliefs. [24]

            When the Magistrate joins himself with a specific church and religion he does not grant any new rights to the church or religion that they did not already possess; in the same light the church or religion does not grant any new authority the Magistrate. [25] right of a society to remove members that disobey the laws that were consented to cannot be denied according to Locke; however the church society does not have a right to acquire any new rights over those that are not members.[26]Churches are bound to toleration in these manners, that they may create laws and a ruling body based on the consent of their members, also that they may remove those members but may not infringe on their life, liberty or property, and finally that they are not permitted to exercise any authority over persons not members of the church society.

            Locke finishes his letter with a discussion of how the Civil Society is bound to toleration. [27] Locke has already established that the magistrate does not have the authority to create laws requiring individuals to attend a specific church, worship in a specific manner and believe in a specific deity. He reiterates this by saying, “Not a Magisterial Care, I mean, which consists in prescribing by Laws, and compelling by Punishments. But a charitable Care, which consists in teaching, admonishing, and persuading, cannot be denied unto any man.”[28] Laws can be created for the protection of goods and health of the members of the society.[29] He sets out to discredit the belief that the magistrate can dictate the religious beliefs of the society through laws. The question is finally asked by Locke, “If the Religion of any Church become therefore true and saving, because the Head of that Sect, the Prelates and Priests, and those of Tribe, do all of them, with all their might, extol and praise it; what Religion can ever be accounted erroneous, false and destructive?”[30] Another problem with the magistrates dictating religion is that when one magistrate dies and another takes his place the beliefs of the religion might be changed. He points to the reformation monarchs of England and demonstrates how the religious beliefs of the national church changed as each monarch ascended to the throne. Thus Locke asserts:       

I may grow rich by an Art that I take not delight in; I may be cured of some Disease by Remedy that I have not Faith in; but I cannot be saved by a Religion that I distrust, and by a Worship I abhor. It is in vain for an Unbeliever to take up the outward shew of another mans Profession. Faith only, and inward Sincerity, are the things that procure acceptance with God.

 

            From this Locke discusses toleration on two levels, the outward worship of the religious society and the inward worship. In regards to the outward worship, Locke believes that the magistrate has no authority in prescribing the manner of worship through law. This power is held away from the magistrate because the church is a free society, permitted to create its own rules concerning the outward worship of its members.[31] Law may only be created with the ends of the public good in mind, not with the salvation of individual souls, which is the responsibility of the individual person. Locke does permit the magistrate’s interference into religion when the ceremonies used by the church endanger the life, liberty or property of the members. [32] The magistrate has authority as well, if it prove to be beneficial to the society, to order aspects of the outward worship be practiced by the society; Locke uses the example of infant baptism, that if it proves to protect against disease then the magistrate has authority to order all infants to be washed.[33] Locke once again proposes that, “Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth, cannot be prohibited by the Magistrate in the Church.”[34] For example, if it is legal for a man to slaughter a chicken in his home then he must be allowed to slaughter a chicken for sacrifice in church. Laws that are passed to prohibit a religious sect from performing an outward symbol of worship must be general and political. That is to say that the law must apply to all citizens for the specific purpose of the public good.[35]

            After discussing the manner of outward worship, Locke moves to the inward worship of religions. He separates inward worship into two categories: the speculative opinions and practical articles of faith. As to the speculative opinions, the magistrate is not permitted to forbid the preaching or profession of such opinions. For example, a Roman Catholic should be allowed to believe the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ; the Jew should be allowed to believe the New Testament to be false. [36]

            As for the practical Locke begins by saying:

A Good Life, in which consists not the least part of Religion and true Piety, concerns also the Civil Government: and in it lies the safety both of Mens Souls, and of the Commonwealth. Moral Actions belong therefore to the Jurisdiction of both the outward and inward Court; both of the Civil and Domestick Governor; I mean, both of the Magistrate and Conscience.

 

The religious beliefs of the individual must not infringe on the rights of another man. The beliefs of a religion cannot be contrary to the public good as dictated by the law. All persons are obligated to follow the law when it is for the public good; but one may also go against the law if it is not for the public good. The commonwealth’s authority extends only to those things of this life, not of the afterlife; thus they may not legislate laws that protect the interests of persons in this life. [37] A religion cannot profess that its members assume the mantle of responsibility that is already granted to the commonwealth. That is to say, the responsibility of the religion is to help in the salvation of the souls of its members; the religion may not profess to have any control over the public good.

            At this point Locke engages a discussion of instances when the magistrate is no longer bound to tolerate a specific religious sect:  

No Opinions contrary to human Society, or to those moral Rules which are necessary to the preservation of Civil Society, are to be tolerated by the Magistrate. But of these indeed Examples in any Church are rare. For no Sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness, as that it should think fit to teach, for Doctrines of Religion, such things as manifestly undermine the Foundations of Society, and are therefore condemned by the Judgment of all Mankind: because their own Interest, Peace, Reputation, every Thing, would be thereby endangered.[38]

 

There is an inherent obligation of religion to teach its members to obey the laws of the commonwealth. If the religion teaches something contrary to the public good, the magistrate has an obligation not to tolerate it. The religion may also not profess authority to relieve members of allegiance to the prince of the commonwealth.[39] Locke says, “That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the Magistrate, which is constituted upon such a bottom, that all those who enter into it, do thereby, ipso facto, deliver themselves up to the Protection and Service of another Prince.”[40] Finally Locke lists another set of person that should not to be tolerated by the magistrate:

Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist. The taking away of God, tho but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by their Atheism undermine and destroy all Religion, can have no pretence of Religion whereupon to challenge the Privilege of a Toleration. As for other Practical Opinions, tho not absolutely free from all Error, if they do not tend to establish Domination over others, or Civil Impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no Reason why they should be tolerated. [41]

In the end, Locke sums up his beliefs of who is to be tolerated and who is not to be tolerated:

Those that are Seditious, Murderers, Thieves, Robbers, Adulterers, Slanders, etc. of whatsoever Church, whether National or not, ought to be punished and suppressed. But those whose Doctrine is peaceable, and whose Manners are pure and blameless, ought to be upon equal Terms with their Fellow-Subjects.

           

            Locke’s understanding of toleration extends to both the commonwealth and the church. Religions must obey laws established for the public good, while in the same light the commonwealth may not pass laws specifically prohibiting a certain religion from doing something allowed to other citizens. Religions have the same rights granted to them that any other private association would have. Persons are required to believe in some sort of deity, and those that act contrary to the public good are not to be tolerated at all. For Locke the idea of toleration is at times simple but can become very complex at the same time. Religion has no right to involve itself in the public affairs, while the commonwealth may involve itself in private affairs when those affairs act contrary to the public good.

Footnotes


 [1]Introduction of Letter Concerning Toleration by John H. Tully

 [2]LCT. Pg 23. in Tully

 [3]LCT. Pg. 23 in Tully

 [4]“It would indeed be very hard for one that appears careless about his own Salvation, to persuade me that he were extreamly concern’d for mine.”- LCT. Pg. 23 in Tully

 [5]Desired end of Christian salvation is to be saved, however one cannot be saved if they do not sincerely believe in Christ.

 [6]LCT. Pg. 25 in Tully

 [7]“I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the Business of Civil Government from that of Religion, and to settle the just Bounds that lie between the one and the other.”- LCT, pg. 26 in Tully.

 [8]LCT. Pg. 26 in Tully

 [9]LCT. Pg. 26 in Tully

 [10]“Now that the whole Jurisdiction of the Magistrate reaches only to these Civil Concernments; and that all Civil Power, Right and Dominion, is bounded and confined to the only care of promoting these things; and that it neither can nor ought in any manner to be extended to the Salvation of Souls..” LCT, pg. 26 in Tully.

 [11]LCT pg. 26 in Tully

 [12]LCT. Pg 26 in Tully

 [13]“The care of Souls cannot belong to the Civil Magistrate, because his Power consists only in outward force; but true and saving Religion consists in the inward perswasion of the Mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.”- LCT Pg. 27 in Tully

 [14]LCT. Pg 27 in Tully; cross reference with page 35 “In the last place..”

 [15]“For there being but one Truth, one way to Heaven; what Hopes is there that more Men would bed led into it, if they had no Rule but the Religion of the Court, and were put under a necessity to quite the Light of their own Consciences, and blindly to resign up themselves to the Will of their Governors…” LCT, Pg 27

 [16]LCT, pg 28 in Tully

 [17]“No Man by nature is bound unto any particular Church or Sect, but ever one joins himself voluntarily to that Society to which he believes he has found that Profession and Worship which is truly acceptable to God.”- LCT, pg. 28 in Tully

 [18]LCT, pg. 28 in Tully

 [19]LCT pg. 30 in Tully

 [20]LCT, Pg. 29 in Tully

 [21]“That no Church is bound by the Duty of Toleration to retain any such Person in her Bosom, as, after Admonition, continues obstinately to offend against the Laws of the Society.”- LCT, Pg. 30 in Tully

 [22]LCT Pg. 30 in Tully

 [23]LCT Pg. 31 in Tully

 [24]“No private Person has any Right, in any manner, to prejudice another Person in his Civil Enjoyments, because he is of another Church or Religion”- LCT Pg. 31 in Tully

[25]“For the Civil Government can give no new Right to the Church, nor the Church to the Civil Government.”- LCT Pg. 31 in Tully

 [26]“This is the fundamental and immutable Right of a spontaneous Society, that it has power to remove any of its Members who transgress the Rules of its Institution: But it cannot, by the accession of any new Members, acquire any Right of Jurisdiction over those that are not joined with it.”- LCT pg. 31 in Tully

 [27]“Let us now consider what is the Magistrate’s Duty in the Business of Toleration: which certainly is very considerable.”- LCT pg. 35 in Tully.

 [28]LCT pg. 35 in Tully

 [29]“Laws provide, as much as is possible, that the Goods and Health of Subjects be not injured by the Fraud or Violence of others…”-LCT pg. 35 in Tully.

 [30]LCT pg 37 in Tully

 [31]“that the Magistrate has no Power to enforce by Law, either in his own Church, or much less in another, the use of any Rites or Ceremonies whatsoever in the Worship of God. And this, not only because these Churches are free Societies, but because whatsoever is practiced in the Worship of God, is only so far justifiable as it is believed by those that practice it to be acceptable unto him.”- LCT pg. 39 in Tully

 [32]“The only business of the Church is the Salvation of Souls: and it no ways concerns the Common-wealth, or any Member of it, that this, or the other Ceremony be there made use of. Neither the Use, nor the Omission of any Ceremoney in those Religious Assemblies, does either advantage or prejudice the Life, Liberty or Estate of any man.”- LCT pg. 39 in Tully

 [33]“Let it be granted also, that if the Magistrate understand such washing to be profitable to curing or preventing any Disease that Children are subject unto, and esteem the matter weighty enough to be taken care of by a Law, in that case he may order it to be done.”- LCT pg. 40 in Tully

 [34]LCT pg. 42 in Tully

 [35]“The Magistrate ought not to forbid the Preaching and Profession of any Speculative Opinions in any Church, because they have no manner of relation to the Civil Rights of the Subjects. If a Roman Catholick believe that to be really the Body of Christ, which another man calls Bread, he does no injury thereby to his Neighbour. If a Jew do not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter any thing in mens Civil Rights.”- LCT pg. 46 in Tully

 [36]“For the Political Society is instituted for no other end but only to secure every mans Possession of the things of this life.”- LCT pg. 48 in Tully.

 [37]LCT pg. 49 in Tully

 [38]LCT pg. 50 in Tully

 [39]LCT pg. 51 in Tully

Endnotes


 [40]For modern example of this principle see Church of Lukumi Babalu Ave., Inc. v. Hileah. 113 S. Ct. 2217 (1993). Supreme Court ruled a law passed by the Hileah to be unconstitutional because it barred the Lukumi from practicing sacrifice despite not outlawing slaughtering in general.

[41]Locke was aware of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church was already in the process of changing her views on this subject.

Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 01:33  Comments (2)  

Religion in Modernity: The Solution of a Christian Civil Religion


Civil religion was a vital part of ancient life, religion and politics were joined harmoniously. With the dawn of Christianity, a religion whose focus is not on the state primarily but on the afterlife, the world slowly began to change. Religion was often used to divide rather than unify the commonwealth. Modernity’s problem with Christianity came at the dawn of the Reformation, where Christianity was used to pull people apart and start wars between nations who share ethnic, cultural and religious ties. America is the shinning product of modern thought; the brain child of men such as Niccolo Machiavelli and John Locke. Both men drew an outline of civil religion for the purpose of maintaining and promoting the state. Machiavelli faults Christianity while praising Roman civil religion for its aim towards the commonwealth. Machiavelli’s examination of religion, namely civil religion, in the Discourses on Livy is expanded into a natural Christian religion in John Locke’s Four Letters Concerning Toleration. Picking up on these concerns, John Locke laid down the policy of religious toleration in four letters. The issue at hand is not one of Church and State, but of religion and politics. As Jon Meacham explains in regards to the American situation, “The wall Jefferson referred to is designed to divide church from state, not religion from politics. Church and state are specific things.”[1] This definition explains what is at the heart of Locke’s argument in The Letter Concerning Toleration. Further it even comes to the heart of Machiavelli’s argument. It says that religion and politics do have a place together, but the church and state do not. The importance of civil religion in the maintenance of the state is clear; for without civil religion the state would not be able to hold together her citizens and thus dissolve into oblivion.

            According to tradition the Roman civil religion was founded by Numa Pompilius. Numa was king following Romulus’ assumption into heaven and his deification as the god Quirinus. Numa was chosen by the Roman senate to become king after a period of interregnum. Numa is said to have been a very pious man, as Plutarch tell us:

He banished all luxury and softness from his own home, and while citizens alike and strangers found in him an incorruptible judge and counselor, in private he devoted himself not to amusement or lucre, but to the worship of the immortal gods, and rational contemplation of their divine power and nature.[2]

It was Numa, who according to tradition gave to the Roman people their religion. It was important to provide the Romans with religion because without it they would have fallen victim to the brute passions of a warlike people. The impact of the Roman civil religion is explained by Machiavelli, “It will also be seen by those who pay attention to Roman history, how much religion helped in the control of armies, in encouraging plebs, in producing good men, and in shaming the bad.”[3] Numa instituted many changes to the Roman state whence he became king.

            Among the first things he did, Numa introduced an additional month into the calendar; this month was called Mercedinus. Under Romulus there had only been eleven months, starting with the month of March in honor of Mars, the god of war. March was placed at spot of the third month and January and February went from the end of the year to the first two months. It was fitting for Numa to place January at the beginning of the year, “he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are preferred before those of war.”[4] January was named for the god Janus, god of doors and beginnings. February comes from the word februa; the month was one of purification filled with offerings to the dead. Within the calendar Numa instituted a number of games and festivals in honor of the gods as Plutarch explains once more, “He also began markets and games and all sorts of occasions for gatherings and festivals. By these institutions he restored to humane and gentle behavior the minds of men who had become savage and inhuman through their love of war.”[5] The intent of the festivals and games were to divert the attention of the people away from war and conquest to the gods.

Among others, Numa introduced a number of new offices, which were of religious significance; among these offices was the Pontifex Maximus whose job it was to declare divine law and to rule over sacred ceremonies; the Pontifex Maximus was fifth in the religious hierarchy behind “the rex sacrorum and three great flamens.”[6] The Pontifex Maximus was also charged to lead the six Vestal virgins. [7] Numa constructed a temple to the goddess Vesta who was the oldest of all Roman goddesses and a symbol of purity. Her priestesses, called Vestal virgins, were given the task of keeping lit the sacred flame. The virgins were to remain as such for thirty years, if they broke their vow of chastity or allowed the sacred flame to go out the offending virgin would be buried alive. This office was the most sacred of all holy offices within the Roman state. The first ten years of a Vestal’s service were spent in training, the second ten were spent performing her duties while the final ten were spent training new Vestals. The Vestal Virgins were so important that it is said when another official passed one that they would order the fasces lowered.

Numa’s legacy on the Roman people lead them to become prosperous, Machiavelli writes, “All things considered, therefore, I conclude that the religion introduced by Numa was among the primary causes of Rome’s success, for this entailed good institutions; good institutions lead to good fortune; and from good fortune arose the happy results of undertakings.” [8] It was through religion, and not war, that the Romans became a successful and great civilization. Under Romulus the Romans acquired their name and ability for warfare but under Numa they acquired their culture, their civilization. Dr. Svetozar (Steve) Pejovich defines culture as, “the synthesis of a community’s traditions, customs, moral values, religious beliefs, and all other informal norms of behavior that have passed the test of time and bind the generations.”[9] Under this definition, it is clear that Numa and not Romulus was the result of Rome’s culture. Rome was so attached to Numa that Machiavelli tells us, “Marveling, therefore, at Numa’s goodness and prudence, the Roman people accepted all his decisions.”[10] The Romans revered Numa for his qualities and virtue, and they wished to imitate them as much as they desired to follow Numa without question. This is how Machiavelli begins to praise of the importance of religion; and how he demonstrates the greatness of Roman civil religion.

Following a discussion of the Roman religion, which is similar to the one given by Machiavelli in the Discourses on Livy, he begins section twelve of the Discourses by saying:

Those princes and those republics which desire to remain free from corruption, should above all else maintain incorrupt the ceremonies of their religion and should hold them always in veneration; for there can be no surer indication of the decline of a country than to see divine worship neglected.[11]

It is the duty of the princes and magistrates of the commonwealth to uphold the religious practices of the people. Religion for Machiavelli is the glue of, and provides for allegiance to, the commonwealth. Machiavelli goes on to say, “The rulers of a republic or of a kingdom, therefore, should uphold the basic principles of the religion which they practise in, and, if this be done, it will be easy for them to keep their commonwealth religious, and, in consequence, good and united.”[12] Without religion the commonwealth cannot keep itself together. Furthermore, as Harvey Mansfield points out, Observance of the divine cult is the cause of greatness in republics.”[13]Religious observance, above all else creates the greatness in republics. But the end to which religion is important in the commonwealth is defined even further by Machiavelli, “And the more should they do this the greater their prudence and the more they know of natural laws.”[14] It is here that religion plays it’s most important role in the commonwealth; for the commonwealth must be in line with the natural laws and natural law is discovered through religion. Without religion one cannot determine the natural law fully, and so one must attach themselves and their commonwealth to religion.

            But to what religion ought the commonwealth to attach itself, whether it should be a Pagan society or a Christian society. Machiavelli denounces the Church of Rome’s attitude of religion despite calling Christianity a strong religion. Machiavelli recounts the story of the fall of the city of Veii. After the Romans conquered the city they entered the temple dedicated to Juno and asked her statue if she wished to be moved to Rome; as Machiavelli tells us, “To some it seemed that she nodded. To others that she answered, Yes.”[15] This was possible due to the religious piety the Romans were imbued with by their rulers. According to Machiavelli when the soldiers entered the temple they did not enter as marauders, but as pious and religious men. This religious attitude was promoted by the city rulers. A similar religious attitude of the Romans is found wanting in the Christians by Machiavelli. He asserts, “If such a religious spirit had been kept up by the rulers of the Christian commonwealth as was ordained for us by its founder, Christian states and republics would have been much more united and much more happy than they are.”[16] Italy, as attested to by Machiavelli, lacked religious observance in his day (as it might be even said to be lacking now.) He assaults the Church of Rome as the cause of the Italian “irreligious and perverse”[17] nature. Further, the Church did not attempt to unify the Italians under one prince. Machiavelli believes, “no country has ever been united and happy unless the whole of it has been under the jurisdiction of one republic or one prince, as has happened to France and Spain.”[18] These are the greatest faults Machiavelli finds with the Christian religion, at least in regards to Italy. Certainly the Roman religion was a means of unifying the people of the Italian peninsula, like the people of Machiavelli’s time the people of Italy at the time of the Roman republic all shared similar religious convictions. The Romans were able to use the religion to unify Italy, and much of Europe and North Africa under the banner of the Roman city. In the 1200 years of Christian dominance in Europe the continent slowly began to break apart first with a divide between East and West[i] and slowly more with the development of nation-states such as England, France and Spain. The Christian religion was even unable to keep Italy all one nation and it was not for another three hundred years after Machiavelli’s death that Italian unification was realized.

            At least one explanation can be proposed for why the Christian religion failed, while the Pagan religion of the Romans succeeded, which is as Machiavelli points out the different aims of the religions. Christianity has the aim of the after life; they are citizens first and foremost of the city of God. Romans were citizens first and foremost of their own city and the religion was focused on the temporal success rather than salvation in the after life. Christianity, until much later was unable to successfully create a civil religion of itself. The Romans used their religion in order to secure certain outcomes in the city. As Machiavelli accounts:

The Roman people, having created tribunes with consular power, all of whom, save one, were plebians, there occurred in that year pestilences and famine, and certain prodigies took place. Availing themselves of this opportunity in the next appointment of tribunes, the nobles said that the gods were angry with Rome for having abused the majesty of her authority, and that the only way to placate them was to restore the election of tribunes to its proper position.[19]

 

Machiavelli mentions two other events in the Roman republic, which used the religion in order to seduce the people. The first is in regards to the war with the city of Veii previously mentioned; the Roman generals used religion to keep the soldiers primed for attack. The second is with the tribune Terentillus who wished to pass a law, which Machiavelli does not describe, but the nobles used religion to stir the people into a fear that they did not allow for the law to pass. [20] The Romans used religion for the sake of the city, which with the devotion the people had to religion caused them to have a deep devotion to the city and so that religion could stir the people to its defense. Harvey Mansfield observes, “Machiavelli concludes that Numa’s religion was among the first causes of Rome’s happiness, because it caused good orders, which produced good fortune in successful enterprises.” [21] This observation is the issue Machiavelli has with the Christian religion in regards to the commonwealth.

            It appears that for Machiavelli the biggest concern for Christianity is her inability to rally her followers. As a result of Christianity’s inability to keep Europe unified, individual nations began to spring up. Citizens were forced to choose between remaining loyal strictly to Rome or to their new nation. The kings of France, Spain and England demanded that their subjects be loyal first and foremost to the state and second to the religion. England in a way was able to create a civil religion when Henry VIII separated himself and his kingdom from Rome. He became the new head of religion and was thus able to unify the state and the Church. However, the problem still laid in that the Christian religion is focused on the salvation of souls and not on the preservation of the commonwealth. Machiavelli’s arguments for religion are only strong enough to support that in order to be successful religion must be present in the commonwealth; and that religion be aimed at the preservation of the commonwealth. As J. Patrick Coby explains, “Religion, understood as the fear of God, produces civil obedience”[22] which is what Machiavelli praises about the Roman religion and detests about the Christian. Christianity’s lack of primary concern for the commonwealth creates a lack of concern for the commonwealth within the people and ultimately can lead to civil disobedience. By this civil disobedience, it is to be understood simply as a disobedience to the commonwealth. However, John Locke’s argument for toleration of religion permits the creation of a civil religion that is unconcerned for the salvation of souls but with the continuance of the commonwealth.

            Before divulging into John Locke’s beliefs on religious toleration and how it creates a civil religion, it should be noted that Locke himself does not officially promulgate a civil religion rather he outlines the duties of the magistrate, which in turn can be used to create a civil religion. Within his Four Letters Concerning Toleration, Locke begins by denouncing the belief that religion and/or the civil magistrate has the authority to coerce people into attending a national church. However, too much attention is often paid to that which the magistrate cannot do; that it is often over looked to what Locke says the magistrate can and must do for the preservation of the commonwealth. And it is with what the magistrate can do that the civil religion of Christianity can be born.

            Machiavelli’s analysis of religion in the Discourses can viewed in the same light as Thomas Paine’s discussion of government in  Common Sense.[ii] Machiavelli discusses the role religion in both the Christian and Roman commonwealths, but fails to offer advice on how to cure Christianity’s problems. Similar in style to John Adams’s argument in “Thoughts on Government”, John Locke takes up the task of outlining a new role for religion in the modern commonwealth. Locke’s Four Letters Concerning Toleration is beneficial in helping to reorder the Christian commonwealth for a civil religion based on Christianity. Locke has the benefit of living in a post Reformation world where it is clear that there can no definite church pegged as the true church. As all churches use force and intolerance, Locke states, “That I esteem that Toleration to be the chief Characteristical Mark of the True Church.”[23]  Clearly, as no church in Locke’s time practiced toleration none can be properly said to be the “True Church.”

            Locke uses the term toleration to mean that no person or magistrate has the authority to force another individual into attending a certain church against their own conscience. Time and again Locke suggests that force should not be used by the magistrate, church or individual against anyone in regards to religion. Furthermore, the magistrate or church cannot deprive an individual who fails to attend a national church of their life, liberty or property. The ends of the Church and the Commonwealth are completely different, as Locke describes the Commonwealth as, “a Society of Men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of their own Civil Interests.” [24] The Church’s end is for the salvation of souls and in order for this to occur members must consent in their consciences to the Church’s doctrines. No person can be forced to believe something that they themselves have not accepted as truth. In his Second Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke explains, “But that which he denies, and you grant, is, that force has any proper efficacy to enlighten the understanding, or produce belief. And from thence he infers, that therefore the magistrate cannot lawfully compel men in matters of religion.”[25] The first characteristic that Christianity must adopt in order to be successful in the modern commonwealth is toleration insofar as the magistrate cannot force any individual against their own conscience to attend a national church under penalty of loss of life, liberty or property.

            Yet this is not all that Locke promulgates in his letters. In fact, this is only the beginning. Acknowledging that the magistrate does not have the authority to force individuals to attend a national church, Locke clarifies his position as to what the role of the magistrate and the commonwealth is in the matter of religion. The magistrate, per his rights as an individual, retains the authority to use words to persuade individuals to religion. Such an example of this persuasion to the faculties of human understanding, include the posting of the Ten Commandments or calling for a day of Thanksgiving throughout the nation. Locke explains, “‘Go and teach all nations,’ was a commission of our Savior; but there was not added to it, punish those that will nor hear and consider what you say.”[26] Preaching, without physical and outward force, is permitted according to Locke within the commonwealth. In fact it “was a commission of our Savior” to “Go and tell all nations.”[27] This is the right of all mankind, including the magistrate, to tell all who they encounter of the Lord.

            However, there is something more simplistic in Locke which calls for a civil religion. All commonwealths must be in line with the natural law and cannot violate it. Therefore, Locke says of the duty of both the commonwealth and the church:

A Good Life, in which consists not the least part of Religion and true Piety, concerns also the Civil Government: and in it lies the safety both of Mens Souls, and of the Commonwealth. Moral Actions belong therefore to the Jurisdiction of both the outward and inward Court; both of the Civil and Domestick Governor; I mean, both of the Magistrate and Conscience. [28]

 

This is merely only the beginning of the duties granted to the commonwealth in regards to religion. Morality is the basis of a good regime, and morality is acquired through religion. Laws concerning morality may be created within the commonwealth in order to secure the safety and happiness of the citizens. Religion, as we have seen, can be used in the public sector as long as it is not forced upon them, or used to harm the natural rights of citizens. One of the means of incorporating religion into the commonwealth is through moral laws, which promote the laws of nature. Locke explains further in the First Treatise on Government when he says:

If this proves a right to do so, we may, by the same Argument, justifie Adultry, Incest and Sodomy, for there are examples of these too, both Ancient and Modern; Sins, which I suppose, have their Principal Aggravation form this, that they cross the main intention of Nature, which willeth the increase of Mankind, and the continuation of the Species in the highest perfection, and the distinction of Families, with the Security of the Marriage Bed, as necessary thereunto. [29]

 

This example from Locke demonstrates that not only can the magistrate ban such immoral and unnatural behavior but that he must ban it.[30] The morality of the people will thus be secured and will unify the people under a similar moral code promoted through the law of nature, which is revealed to humanity through God. In his Third Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke argues, “Indeed they all agreed in the duties of natural religion, and we find them by common consent owning that piety and virtue, clean hands, and a pure heart not polluted with the breaches of the law of nature, was the best worship of the gods.”[31] This harkens to Machiavelli’s argument for the Roman religion and further within the commonwealth the best form of worship is to keep to the laws of nature. Machiavelli’s desire for religion to be a unifying force within the commonwealth is secured in part by Locke’s mandate that immoral and unnatural behavior be banned within the commonwealth.

            Yet there is still another way in which Locke secures the commonwealth’s unification and stability and that is that no church is permitted from preaching ideas contrary to the moral law, law of nature, or the commonwealth. As Locke states in his first letter:

No Opinions contrary to human Society, or to those moral Rules which are necessary to the preservation of Civil Society, are to be tolerated by the Magistrate. But of these indeed Examples in any Church are rare. For no Sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness, as that it should think fit to teach, for Doctrines of Religion, such things as manifestly undermine the Foundations of Society, and are therefore condemned by the Judgment of all Mankind: because their own Interest, Peace, Reputation, every Thing, would be thereby endangered.[32]

 

The magistrate is permitted to ban opinions which teach the undermining of the authority of the commonwealth. Thus, religion is molded to support the commonwealth and to promote unity within it. There is an inherent obligation of religion to teach its members to obey the laws of the commonwealth. If the religion teaches something contrary to the public good, the magistrate has an obligation not to tolerate it. The religion may also not profess authority to relieve members of allegiance to the prince of the commonwealth. Further Locke states, “That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the Magistrate, which is constituted upon such a bottom, that all those who enter into it, do thereby, ipso facto, deliver themselves up to the Protection and Service of another Prince.”[33] Thus the unity of the commonwealth is preserved in Locke’s teaching by requiring that all churches promote loyalty to the magistrate. Churches must teach the natural law and moral law as well as promote allegiance to the civil magistrate. This is a divorce from early Christian teachings which promote allegiance primarily to the city of God.

            The final piece to the civil religion of John Locke and the promise of a stable and unified commonwealth is through the banishment of those who do not profess a belief in God. In his first Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke explains:

Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist. The taking away of God, tho but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by their Atheism undermine and destroy all Religion, can have no pretence of Religion whereupon to challenge the Privilege of a Toleration. As for other Practical Opinions, tho not absolutely free from all Error, if they do not tend to establish Domination over others, or Civil Impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no Reason why they should be tolerated. [34]

 

Locke’s understanding is in line with Machiavelli’s belief that religion is of the utmost importance in the commonwealth, specifically the republic. As a result those who do not profess a belief in God cannot be tolerated if the commonwealth is to survive. Furthermore, as Voltaire says, “All sects are different, because they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God.”[35] Morality cannot be learned by one who does not believe in God. Without the moral base, a person is apt not to follow the laws of the commonwealth, adhere to their contracts or follow the natural law.

            Simply put John Locke’s civil religion can be outlined as follows:

The magistrate and citizens have a right and divine duty to “tell the nations” of God and Jesus Christ. As such, no law should prohibit public preaching and public displays of religion.The commonwealth should prohibit immoral and unnatural behavior by the citizens. Examples of such: Sodomites, Adulterers, and Murders.The commonwealth should not tolerate religions that preach openly against the authority of the magistrate, or those which preach openly against the laws of nature and morality, which are the basis of civil society.That the commonwealth ought to not tolerate those who openly profess against a belief in God.[36]

This religion can properly called a civil religion as it is aimed not at the salvation of one’s soul, which is the proper place only of the Church as it belongs to speculative opinions, but of the promotion and security of the body politic.

            Machiavelli’s praise of Rome is clear because it promoted and made secure the Roman state. His opinions of Christianity as being a divider and not a unifier are made clear by Locke as Christianity promotes speculative opinion, which is open to interpretation. Locke promulgates a modern ideal for civil religion by permitting the state to publicly teach religion (so long as it does not force individuals to attend or believe in a national church), to create laws for the moral excellence of the people, to ban religions which preach against morality, the laws of nature and the authority of the commonwealth, and to ban individuals who openly preach that there is no God. These concepts can be found throughout the new Rome, or the United States. Religion was for Modernity the major obstacle to the creation of the modern nation state. In order to be successful religion had to be placed into a proper role. This role resembles the one religion played in the ancient cities like Egypt, Athens and Rome. Machiavelli and Locke together promulgate the necessity of civil religion within the modern commonwealth as a means of promoting unity and stability.

Notes:


 [1]Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation. (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks), 2006. Introduction page 19.

[2] Plutarch,  83

[3] Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Discourses. Translated  by Leslie J. Walker, S.J. New York, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2003.  Book I section 11 pg. 140

[4] Plutarch, 98

[5] Cicero, 41

[6] Hus, Alain. Greek and Roman Religion. Translated  by S.J. Tester. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962. pg. 103

[7] Hus, 103

[8] Machiavelli,  141 Book I section 11

[9]Svetozar (Steve) Pejovich, “Why is Culture Important?”, Walter Eucken Institut. Freiburg, Diskussionpapiere/Vortragsliste Nr. 288 (2003), http://www.eucken.de/veranstaltungen/Paper_Pejovich.pdf  (accessed on September 13, 2007)

[10] Machiavelli.

[11] Ibid. section 12

[12]Ibid.

[13]Mansfield, Harvey, Machiavelli’s New Modes of Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 1979. pg. 73

[14]Machiavelli, section 12

[15]Ibid.

[16]Ibid.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Ibid.

[19]Ibid. section 13

[20]Ibid. “One note also in the siege of the city of Veii….” & “There had arisen in Rome a number of tumults occasioned by Terentillus….”

[21]Mansfield, 73

[22]Coby, J. Patrick, Machiavelli’s Romans: Liberty and Greatness in The Discourses on Livy, (New York: Lexington Books), 1999. pg. 68

[23]Locke, John, A Letter Concerning Toleration, edited by James H. Tully, (Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.), 1983. pg. 23

[24]Ibid. pg. 26

[25]John Locke, Second Letter Concerning Toleration, in The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, volume 5, Four Letters concerning Toleration 12th Edition, edited by T. Longman, (London: Rivington), 1824.  http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1725&Itemid=28 John Locke did not admit to writing the first Letter Concerning Toleration until close to his death; thus in the second letter Locke writes in the third person when speaking of the initial letter.

[26]Ibid.

 [27]Ibid.

 [28]Locke, page 47

 [29]John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, edited by Peter Laslett (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1988. pg. 183 paragraph 59.

[30]A further example of this can be found in Locke’s statement, “Those that are Seditious, Murderers, Thieves, Robbers, Adulterers, Slanders, etc. of whatsoever Church, whether National or not, ought to be punished and suppressed. But those whose Doctrine is peaceable, and whose Manners are pure and blameless, ought to be upon equal Terms with their Fellow-Subjects.”, Locke, Letter on Toleration page 54.

 [31] Locke, John, Third Letter Concerning Toleration. in The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, volume 5, Four Letters concerning Toleration 12th Edition, edited by T. Longman, (London: Rivington), 1824.

 [32]Locke, pg. 47

[33]Locke, pg. 50

[34]Ibid.  pg. 51

[35]The Quotations Page, Voltaire, copyright 2007, http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/29134.html accessed on December 5, 2007

[i]The Great Schism of 1054 officially split Europe between East and West, or Orthodox and Catholic. A separation was already begun however when Charles the Great was crowned Caesar of the Roman Empire.

[ii]In a brief introduction to John Adams’ essay “Thoughts on Government” in The Portable John Adams, John Patrick Diggins says, “Adams’s essay was a response to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense…Adams believed, as he told Abigail, that Paine was more interested in tearing down government than in giving any thought to reconstituting it.” I believe that this is a similar situation with Machiavelli’s argument of religion in the Discourses and Locke’s argument of religion in the Letter Concerning Toleration. Machiavelli provides thoughts on how to reconstitute the Christian religion to create the proper aims religion ought to have in the commonwealth.

The Marriage Manifesto


The Marriage Manifesto

In the first place, it has been argued that to deny homosexuals the right to marry other homosexuals is denying them their civil rights, namely the right to marriage. While it is true that we do desire to ban homosexual marriage, we in no way are seeking to ban homosexuals the right to marry; so long as the two saying “I do” are of separate sexes. This is an argument that really holds no water. Yes civil rights are important, no one is willing to say that someone’s civil rights should be violated simply because that is the will of the majority. However the government can, and has in the past, suspended the rights of certain groups for the betterment of society. This is a practice that has long since been supported by some of the great thinkers of our world. Homosexual marriage has never been offended until now, simply speaking before modern times there was rarely a large push for homosexuals to be permitted to marry other homosexuals. The closest offense we can find is the U.S. requiring Utah to ban polygamy before it could enter as a state in 1896. In Reynolds v. United States., 98 U.S. 145 (1878 ) the Supreme Court ruled that polygamy was not constitutionally protected by the 1st Amendment. Was this not a violation of civil rights as well? But you don’t hear promoters of homosexual marriage bringing up the case of polygamy.

From there we find ourselves at the second point, homosexual marriage supporters rarely want to bring in the issue that legalizing such marriage would bring about. Of course this would be the case, most don’t wish to open up the argument of incestuous and polygamist marriages. Why is it that homosexual marriages are so important to legalize, but talking about other illegal marriages is something that has nothing to do with legalizing homosexual marriages? Lets not forget that incestuous and polygamist marriages were legal in this country at one point in time. Homosexual marriage has never been legal in any country or state until the Netherlands approved it. It is difficult for at least me to fathom why homosexual marriage should be legalized but in the same case incestuous and polygamist marriages shouldn’t be. I am not in favor of legalizing either of those two, but it seems foolish to me that one can say that the one should be legalized but the other two shouldn’t be.

And finally we come to the third, homosexual couples should be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples. Lets face it in many cases it costs more, tax wise, for a heterosexual married couple, then for a non-married couple that is either hetero or homosexual. Of course we move into the issue of hospital visits, this of course is a false idea as well. We take the Schiavo case where the family wanted to take custody of their daughter out of the hands of their son-in-law. While their attempts finally failed it is obvious that if Schiavo had written a will, her desires would have been enforced to the extent of the law. Any person, homosexual or heterosexual, has the right to write out a final will and testament which gives doctors, family and friends knowledge of exactly what the individual wished for. While a hospital may try and deny access of a homosexual partner on behalf of the family’s desire, a will must be enforced according to the law. If things are done in accordance to the law, everyone is given their equal rights. It is a common misconception that heterosexual couples are granted rights that far outweigh those of the rights of homosexual couples. If heterosexual couples really did have more rights, some civil rights lawyer would have argued on behalf of single people everywhere to get equal protection.

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