Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Boudinot to Samuel Bayard, a Second Time Today

I am going to copy and paste some of the 1796 letter from Elias Boudinot to Samuel Bayard that Bill Fortenberry tipped me off to. As Boudinot wrote:
It is a most remarkable event and one that soon cannot be forgotten, that in the year 1796, on the first disputed election for a President of the United States, the State of Pennsylvania who values herself on her attachment to the christian character should give 13 votes out of 15 for a President & Vice President who are open & professed Deists at the same time, it will also be remembered that in the house of Representatives in the Congress of the United States Dr Priestly had 27 votes for their Chaplain. These facts are too remarkable to escape the Pen of our future Historians & I confess they give such substantial evidence of our degenerating from the zeal of our forefathers, who first settled this wilderness, that those who retain any of their spirit have their fears greatly alarmed for the consequences.
The bold face is mine. What I put in bold reminds me of what the two Cornell scholars stressed in "The Godless Constitution."  Now, neither Thomas Jefferson nor Joseph Priestley were "Godless." (The same can be said of Thomas Paine.) But the authors of that book noted how the orthodox forces of "religious correctness" lamenting both God's absence in the US Constitution as well as the rise of heterodox men like Jefferson offended Providence and insulted the real "Christian" heritage of the planting period.

Christian Nationalists like David Barton on the other hand claim virtually all of America's Founders were "Christians" with a bare number of "Deists" here and there and that there was no "disconnect" between the political theology of America's colonial Planting and its Founding from 1776-1800 or so.

As the theory Barton rejects as "revisionist" goes, the colonial Planting involved orthodox covenants, done under the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings and British colonial law. The Founding broke with such, not only with Divine Right of Kings and British colonial law, but the notion that governments should covenant with orthodox Trinitarian theology. Instead, we got a Godless Constitution and Article VI's "No Religious Test" Clause.

Rather, Barton claims it was liberal "revisionist" historians of the modern era who made up this understanding.

Boudinot in the above quotation seems to not only observe the disconnect, but also predicts how those future historians (Barton's "liberal revisionists") will have "substantial evidence" on their side regarding the difference between the Planting and the Founding.


Tom Van Dyke said...

but the notion that governments should covenant with orthodox Trinitarian theology

I question you can find a direct quote of Barton or anyone else saying that. They prefer "Judeo-Christian" precisely because it avoids the tall weeds of the unitarian controversy.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me check. I think you are confusing YOUR preferred understanding with Barton's.

The closest I remember Barton's response to the "unitarian" question was his improvised answer to Jon Stewart that "unitarians" of that day were "evangelical."

Jonathan Rowe said...

If you can sit through this series of videos:


Nothing "Judeo" about it. All about the gospel and saving souls.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nothing about the Trinity either. The tactic of using the unitarian controversy to make the Founding era non-Christian is what's questionable.

Tom Van Dyke said...

" The time likewise at which the Continent was discovered, adds weight to the argument, and the manner in which it was peopled, encreases the force of it. The Reformation was preceded by the discovery of America: As if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety."

Thomas Paine, "Common Sense"

And BTW, he also uses the Bible to argue against kings. It's quite interesting.


"But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING."

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's true Barton has now backed off the Trinity and that's because he's seen the evidence of unitarianism. This has also led him to get muddy on whether Trinity denying Mormons are "Christians," and he gets nailed by folks who otherwise would like to support him.

Still Barton used to pump the debunked "52 out of 55" members of the Constitutional Convention were orthodox Trinitarian Christians figure by M.E. Bradford (he otherwise did solid historical work; that was one of his bad moments) that we commonly see still listed on "Christian heritage" sites.

There were a group of orthodox covenanters at the time of the Founding Presbyterians who broke with Witherspoon who rejected the Constitution because of its lack of a covenant. And there were forces of religious correctness like Boudinot and Timothy Dwight who were not so "up" on the "Christian heritage" of the American Founding (because of its lack of orthodoxy).

That is simply part of history (which Barton writes off as "liberal revisionism").

Tom Van Dyke said...

Still Barton used to pump the debunked "52 out of 55" members of the Constitutional Convention were orthodox Trinitarian Christians figure by M.E. Bradford

Well, what he "used" to do is not terribly relevant, except of course to his critics. I also recall catching one of Chris Rodda's weird videos where she charged him with wording he didn't actually use on the 52 of 55 thing. I don't believe he used the wording you do here either.

Yes, he did and does gloss over the tall weeds of the various heterodoxies among the Founding generation, but even worse is using these minor heterodoxies [or plain indifference to the fine points of theology] glossing over their Christianity. Aside from Jefferson and Franklin, the evidence gets pretty thin. John Adams may have been a unitarian, but proclamations like this are plenty Christian enough.

For these reasons I have thought proper to recommend...a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come...

Jonathan Rowe said...

According to our friend Dr. Frazer, Barton's wording was worse than Bradford's original from which he quoted:

"Let us begin with monumental unsupported assumptions presented as fact. The video begins with the claim that 52 of the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention were 'orthodox, evangelical Christians.'”


But Barton is living in a world where Glenn Beck is a "Christian" (which according to my standards, I wouldn't dispute, but the fundies, one of whom Barton claims to be and to whom he wants to appeal most certainly do) and unitarians are "evangelical."

Tom Van Dyke said...

The video begins with the claim that 52 of the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention were 'orthodox, evangelical Christians.'”

The Barton video Chris Rodda attacked didn't say that. Perhaps there's another, but I'm not aware of it. If it's OK, I'd rather not take anyone's word for it.

That Barton seems untroubled by Mormonism's even more disparate heterodoxies rather argues against your thesis, that unitarianism is a disqualification from "Christian."

Regardless, I think the quote from Thomas Paine is far more probative than squabbling over a line from a video. Paine argues that God may have created America as a refuge for Protestantism! That's far more interesting.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Rodda attacks newer Barton videos. Frazer attacked Barton's older "America’s Godly Heritage" video, in part because he has been criticizing Barton for a longer period of time and is familiar with the video, but also because said video is still currently sold and broadcasted.

It could be that Frazer is attacking the original which I believe is from 1995. I'd have to view it in its entirety and compare it to the 2009 version.


Here is Jim Allison's critique:


Tom Van Dyke said...


I have PBS calling them all deists. Where's the outrage?

Like the other Founding Fathers, Jefferson was considered a Deist...


Jonathan Rowe said...

Post your outrage to the front page Bob Dole.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's the obsession with David Barton and the clumsy if not false paraphrases [no direct quotes] of what he teaches or believes that irritate me. 3 posts in the last 10. Mercy.

John gave the deist thing a shot, anyway.