Sunday, November 4, 2018

St. George Tucker, Religion & the American Founding, Postscript

A subtitle to this post is "the power of missing quotation marks." You can view the last of my series on St. George Tucker here

When it came to sourcing material, America's founders often operated according to a different set of rules. In the material I reproduced from Tucker, at least he explicitly attributes to Richard Price and otherwise puts in quotations some of the things that he quotes exactly. America's founders didn't always do this.

The problem is that Tucker (or perhaps whoever reproduced his work) misses some quotation marks. And it makes a difference. Tucker apparently endorses all of the words he reproduces from Price. But he makes it really hard to tell where his words end and Price's words begin.

Here is a link to the original. What follows is the offending original part of the quotation where quotation marks are not used in Tucker's original writing:

"In liberty of conscience says the elegant Dr. Price, I include much more than toleration." 

This is then followed by a great deal of words. It gives the impression that Tucker is paraphrasing Richard Price's sentiments. The problem is, starting with "[i]n liberty of conscience" Tucker begins quoting Price exactly. It should have read, "In liberty of conscience," says the elegant Dr. Price, "I include much more than toleration." 

Tucker then goes on to quote Richard Price verbatim so much such that arguably Price's exact words make up the majority of words in this document from The Founders' Constitution

I'm going to quote below the entire passage of Price's, quoted by Tucker as it should have looked. I've put Tucker's words in bold:
"In liberty of conscience," says the elegant Dr. Price, "I include much more than toleration. Jesus Christ has established a perfect equality among his followers. His command is, that they shall assume no jurisdiction over one another, and acknowledge no master besides himself. It is, therefore, presumption in any of them to claim a right to any superiority or pre-eminence over their bretheren. Such a claim is implied, whenever any of them pretend to tolerate the rest. Not only all christians, but all men of all religions, ought to be considered by a state as equally entitled to it's protection, as far as they demean themselves honestly and peaceably. Toleration can take place only where there is a civil establishment of a particular mode of religion; that is, where a predominant sect enjoys exclusive advantages, and makes the encouragement of it's own mode of faith and worship a part of the constitution of the state; but at the same time thinks fit to suffer the exercise of other modes of faith and worship. Thanks be to God, the new American states are at present strangers to such establishments. In this respect, as well as many others, they have shewn in framing their constitutions, a degree of wisdom and liberality which is above all praise. 
"Civil establishments of formularies of faith and worship, are inconsistent with the rights of private judgement. They engender strife . . . they turn religion into a trade . . . they shore up error . . . they produce hypocrisy and prevarication . . . they lay an undue bias on the human mind in its inquiries, and obstruct the progress of truth . . . genuine religion is a concern that lies entirely between God and our own souls. It is incapable of receiving any aid from human laws. It is contaminated as soon as worldly motives and sanctions mix their influence with it. Statesmen should countenance it only by exhibiting, in their own example, a conscientious regard to it in those forms which are most agreeable to their own judgments, and by encouraging their fellow citizens in doing the same. They cannot, as public men, give it any other assistance. All, besides, that has been called a public leading in religion, has done it an essential injury, and produced some of the worst consequences. 
"The church establishment in England is one of the mildest sort. But even there what a snare has it been to integrity? And what a check to free inquiry? What dispositions favourable to despotism has it fostered? What a turn to pride and narrowness and domination has it given the clerical character? What struggles has it produced in its members to accommodate their opinions to the subscriptions and tests which it imposes? What a perversion of learning has it occasioned to defend obsolete creeds and absurdities? What a burthen is it on the consciences of some of its best clergy, who, in consequence of being bound down to a system they do not approve, and having no support except that which they derive from conforming to it, find themselves under the hard necessity of either prevaricating or starving? No one doubts but that the English clergy in general could with more truth declare that they do not, than that they do give their unfeigned assent to all and every thing contained in the thirty-nine articles, and the book of common prayer: and, yet, with a solemn declaration to this purpose, are they obliged to enter upon an office which above all offices requires those who exercise it to be examples of simplicity and sincerity . . . Who can help execrating the cause of such an evil? 
"But what I wish most to urge is the tendency of religious establishments to impede the improvement of the world. They are boundaries prescribed by human folly to human investigation; and enclosures, which intercept the light, and confine the exertions of reason. Let any one imagine to himself what effects similar establishments would have in philosophy, navigation, metaphisics, medicine, or mathematics. Something like this, took place in logic and philosophy, while the ipse dixit of Aristotle, and the nonsense of the schools, maintained, an authority like that of the creeds of churchmen; and the effect was a longer continuance of the world in the ignorance and barbarity of the dark ages. But civil establishments of religion are more pernicious. So apt are mankind to misrepresent the character of the Deity, and to connect his favour with particular modes of faith, that it must be expected that a religion so settled will be what it has hitherto been . . . a gloomy and cruel superstition, bearing the name of religion. 
"It has been long a subject of dispute, which is worse in it's effects on society, such a religion or speculative atheism. For my own part, I could almost give the preference to the latter . . . Atheism is so repugnant to every principle of common sense, that it is not possible it should ever gain much ground, or become very prevalent. On the contrary, there is a particular proneness in the human mind to superstition, and nothing is more likely to become prevalent . . . Atheism leaves us to the full influence of most of our natural feelings and social principles; and these are so strong in their operation, that, in general, they are a sufficient guard to the order of society. But superstition counteracts these principles, by holding forth men to one another as objects of divine hatred; and by putting them on harrassing, silenceing, imprissoning and burning one another, in order to do God service . . . Atheism is a sanctuary for vice, by taking away the motives to virtue arising from the will of God, and the fear of future judgment. But superstition is more a sanctuary for vice, by teaching men ways of pleasing God, without moral virtue; and by leading them even to compound for wickedness, by ritual services, by bodily penances and mortifications; by adoring shrines, going pilgrimages, saying many prayers, receiving absolution from the priests, exterminating heretics, &c. . . . Atheism destroys the sacredness and obligation of an oath. But is there not also a religion (so called) which does this, by teaching, that there is power which can dispense with the obligation of oaths; that pious frauds are right, and that faith is not to be kept with heretics. 
"It is indeed only a rational and liberal religion; a religion founded on just notions of the Deity, as a Being who regards equally every sincere worshipper, and by whom all are alike favoured as far as they act up to the light they enjoy: a religion which consists in the imitation of the moral perfections of an Almighty but Benevolent Governor of Nature, who directs for the best, all events, in confidence in the care of his providence, in resignation to his will, and in the faithful discharge of every duty of piety and morality from a regard to his authority, and the apprehension of a future righteous retribution. It is only this religion (the inspiring principle of every thing fair and worthy, and joyful, and which, in truth is nothing but the love of God to man, and virtue warming the heart and directing the conduct). It is only this kind of religion that can bless the world, or be an advantage to society. This is the religion that every enlightened friend to mankind will be zealous to support. But it is a religion that the powers of the world know little of, and which will always be best promoted by being left free and open."
Again, what Tucker didn't do was put in the quotation marks that I put in. Right after writing the words "free and open" Tucker then states:

"The following passage from the same author, deserves too much attention to be pretermitted:" ...

And it's correctly followed with quotation marks indicating the words are Price's. 

Below is how it looks, with Tucker's words in bold. But this time the quotation marks are NOT added by me but exist in the original. 
The following passage from the same author, deserves too much attention to be pretermitted: "Let no such monster be known there, [in the United States] as human authority in matters of religion. Let every honest and peaceable man, whatever is his faith, be protected there; and find an effectual defence against the attacks of bigotry and intolerance. In the United States may religion flourish! They cannot be very great and happy if it does not. But let it be a better religion than most of those which have been hitherto professed in the world. Let it be a religion which enforces moral obligations; not a religion which relaxes and evades them . . . A tolerant and catholic religion; not a rage for proselytism . . . A religion of peace and charity; not a religion that persecutes curses and damns. In a word, let it be the genuine gospel of peace, lifting above the world, warming the heart with the love of God and his creatures, and sustaining the fortitude of good men, by the assured hope of a future deliverance from death, and an infinite reward in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour."
If what I have written has confused any reader, you can compare the originals. Here is Price'shere is Tucker's.


Tom Van Dyke said...

In the United States may religion flourish!...But let it be a better religion than most of those which have been hitherto professed in the world.

Typical Jacobin sentiment, and we hope written before the Reign of Terror.

For Tucker to reprint it in 1803, no excuse, and another reason why his non-Blackstone essays were consigned to the back of his book, and soon dropped entirely. [Price is gone too, a creature of the continental (not Scottish) Enlightenment, on the ash heap of history.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

Price was British. Born in Wales, moved to England.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Price, predictably, was an early supporter of the Jacobins, although he does appear to have drawn the line at political violence. Still, he was on the wrong side of it all.

Burke's rebuttal in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) attacked Price, whose friends Paine and Wollstonecraft leapt into the fray to defend their mentor; William Coxe was another opponent, disagreeing with Price on interpretation of "our country". In 1792 Christopher Wyvill published Defence of Dr. Price and the Reformers of England, a plea for reform and moderation.

Here's an odd tidbit.

Both Price and Priestley, who were millennialists, saw the French Revolution of 1789 as fulfilment of prophecy. On the 101st anniversary of the Glorious Revolution, 4 November 1789, Price preached a sermon entitled A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, and ignited the pamphlet war known as the Revolution Controversy, on the political issues raised by the French Revolution. Price drew a bold parallel between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (the one celebrated by the London Revolution Society dinner) and the French Revolution of 1789, arguing that the former had spread enlightened ideas and paved the way for the second one. Price exhorted the public to divest themselves of national prejudices and embrace "universal benevolence", a concept of cosmopolitanism that entailed support for the French Revolution and the progress of "enlightened" ideas.

Jonathan Rowe said...

True about Price & Priestley supporting the FR. But they were neither alone nor outliers at the time. That 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 JA quote is actually (apparently?) about American support for the FR. Eventually when American politics became partisan, supporting the FR was the partisan position of the Democratic-Republicans, while opposing it was the Federalist position.

Tom Van Dyke said...

My point was that Price was expressing a Jacobin sentiment, without actually knowing where he stood on the FR itself. The idea of remaking religion--indeed man himself--is a modernist conceit, and we know how that turned out.

Once the FR showed its true colors, it was obvious it was no cousin to the American one. I'm assessing Price's [and by extention Tucker's] underlying philosophy, and IMO, it was far more radical [continental] than the Founding's.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You say it's more "radical" than "the Founding's." But Tucker was a Founding Father.

Tom Van Dyke said...

So was Thomas Paine. :-P

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yes and neither was a "key Founder" like Thomas Jefferson was.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jefferson was THE theological outlier among the so-called "key" Founders [an abused term]. As he ages, Ben Franklin gets a lot less "theistic rationalist."

The point is that Paine and Tucker [and Richard Price] were outliers too and did not even enjoy Jefferson's influence and accomplishments. They are footnotes.

Our Founding Truth said...

I don't consider Thomas Paine a founding father. He didn't help found or establish anything. After, Common Sense, he didn't do anything. Further, the principles in Common Sense were not knew; we were already at war; the South followed Virginia; the North followed Massachusetts and GW had already taken command of the continental army.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The numbers start adding up to too many outliers.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Show us your numbers.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Show us yours.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The numbers start adding up to too many outliers.

you opened that door

burden is yours

Jonathan Rowe said...

No actually you initiated use of the term "outlier." As far as I see it, "outlier" means one. Once the names start adding up, you are no longer in "outlier" territory.

Jefferson & Madison were the key Founders who represented the Virginia view of religion & politics. St. George Tucker was a non-key Founder who likewise represents that view.

I think St. George Tucker's writings ought to get more authority than Joseph Story's, who missed the time window to be considered a "Founder."

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm speaking of Tucker's theology, which was not widely held [outlier] and historically speaking, was a dead end.

I do not deny that the Virginia attitude became more prevelent immediately following the Framing and Ratification period--although not before.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I'm speaking of Tucker's theology, which was not widely held [outlier] and historically speaking, was a dead end."

It's long been my theory that such theology -- wherever it went in history -- had a disproportionate impact among the elites who drove policy.

Jefferson, Tucker, J. Marshall, J. Adams, Joseph Story, arguably Madison were all unitarians.

Read pp. 157-58 of this article. As it turns out, Tucker as legal theorist was extremely important and influential. And his project wasn't merely to catalog Blackstone but rather to transform Blackstone/common law for the new nation. That's what his 1803 collection is all about. And Price's theology made its way into that project.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tucker and Price's DIY theology has nothing to do with Blackstone. I you wish to argue to the contrary, you need to do better than merely assert it and post a link to a paper. [Price is not mentioned in Lash's paper, and Tucker only in reference to Blackstone's treatment of British common law, and its applicability to America.]

As for the theology, unitarianism was a natural product of the Protestant Reformation where the ecclesiastical authority to define doctrine was eroded bit by bit, although non-Trinitarianism itself was pretty much a dead end, its subsequest flareups unconnected to Founding-era unitarianism.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Tucker and Price's DIY theology has nothing to do with Blackstone. I you wish to argue to the contrary, you need to do better than merely assert it and post a link to a paper."

Are you challenging me to make my case on the frontpage? You are right that such theology has nothing to do with the defective Tory teachings of Blackstone. [Defective from the perspective of America's Whig Founding.]

What it DOES have something to do with is Tucker's American project of rehabilitating Blackstone defects for newly founded America! Tucker put it into such project that's now part of Kurland's "The Founders' Constitution" archive!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tucker's book held sway for 17 years [1803=1820], according to your own sources, when the republic was trying to figure out where English common law fit. It was agreed only until sufficient positive American law was legislated to replace it.

English common law was a patchwork developed by English judges over the centuries to fill in where the crown and later the parliament did not. It held force only in America until we decided these things for ourselves.

Far more relevant in all this is not Tucker's idea of God and religion, but how it vindicates the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that 'living constitutionalism' is no different than the unlegislated hodgepodge of English common law!

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