Monday, May 10, 2010

Locke, Ponet, and the Universal Law

Over the last months, Jon Rowe and I have been involved in a conversation about key influences on the American Founding. While we both agree that many varied and diverse ideas were foundational to the founding, I think he errors when he exaggerates the impact of Enlightenment ideas in this process. His line of reasoning can be seen in the following comment to one of my last posts:

"Well I think we can point by point show the differences between Ponet and Locke. However, the burden still remains on the other side to show a connection between Locke and Ponet et al. AND to show that the American Presbyterians and Congregationalists who argued pro-revolt relied on *those* Calvinists like Rutherford more so than on Locke."

For those who have not been following this discussion Ponet is refering to John Ponet the reformed theologian that was a contemporary of John Calvin. Locke refers to John Locke. This response is connected to a discussion about interpostion/resistance theory and its intellectual roots. Jon contends that the founding generation looked to Enlightenment sources to get around a supposed ban on resistance to tyrants as taught by John Calvin and others. My view is that the reasoning/theology they used was part of a the long tradition of Protestant and Catholic teachings on this subject that by far pre-dated the Enlightenment.

Furthermore, I have challenged Jon's notion that Locke's writings on this topic are much different than Ponet and others. I contend that perhaps the "Harvard Narrative's" poster boy for the Enlightenment is in fact more correctly understood as part of the continuation of the long tradition of political theology alluded to above. In other words, Locke had more in common with Ponet than one might think. Below is the beginning lines of both Ponet's A Short Treatise on Political Power and Locke's Second Treatise. I will allow both men to speak unmolested other than to say that the foundation of both of their arguments seems to be a case for inalienable rights grounded in the imago dei and the "universal law."

John Ponet:

"As oxen, sheep, goats, and other such unreasonable creatures cannot for lack of reason rule themselves, but must be ruled by a more excellent creature, that is man: so man, although he has reason, yet because through the fall of the first man, his reason is radically corrupt, and sensuality has gotten the upper hand, he is not able by himself to rule himself, but must have a more excellent governor. Those of this world thought that this governor was their own reason. They thought that they by their own reason might do the things they lusted for, not only in private matters, but also in public. They thought reason to be the only cause that men first assembled themselves together in companies, that commonwealths were designed, that policies were well governed and long continued: but those of that mind were utterly blinded and deceived in their imaginations, their works and inventions (though they never seemed so wise) were so easily and so soon (contrary to their expectations) overthrown.
Where is the wisdom of the Greeks? Where is the fortitude of the Iberians? Where is both the wisdom and the force of the Romans gone? All have vanished away, nothing almost left to testify that they were, but that which declares well, that their reason was not able to govern them. Therefore, such were desirous to know the perfect and the only governor of all, constrained to seek further than themselves, and so at length to confess, that it was one God that ruled all. By Him we live, we move, and we have our being. He made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. He made all things for man: and man He made for Himself, to serve and Glorify Him. He has taken upon Himself the order and government of man, His chief creature, and prescribed a rule to him, how he should behave himself, what he should do, and what he may not do.
This rule is the law of nature, first planted and grafted only in the mind of man, then after that his mind was defiled by sin, filled with darkness, and encumbered with many doubts. God set this rule forth in writing in the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments: and after that, reduced by Christ our Savior to just two commands: You will love the Lord your God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself. The latter part He also expounded on: Whatever you would want done unto yourself, do that unto others."

John Locke:

"TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man. A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.
This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. His words are, 'The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no less their duty, to love others than themselves; for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men, being of one and the same nature? To have any thing offered them repugnant to this desire, must needs in all respects grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should shew greater measure of love to me, than they have by me shewed unto them: my desire therefore to be loved of my equals in nature as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to them-ward fully the like affection; from which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn, for direction of life, no man is ignorant'
But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's." (Bold print was added by me for effect)


Jonathan Rowe said...


I see a HUGE difference between the two passages. Don't you see it?

Ponet's is typical Calvinism -- that man has an utterly depraved nature. Yes, the belief in "Nature" -- something God put in men's head and heart -- something that man can discover thru reason -- connects both Locke and Ponet.

But where Ponet (after Calvin) seems absolutely dreary about man's prospects for "discovering" truths of Nature from reason, Locke seems absolutely optimistic.

Daniel said...

There was a school of Scottish Presbyterian thought that followed pretty directly in the footsteps of Newton and Locke. In this country, Witherspoon would be a prime exemplar. While their roots were Calvinist, they seemed to abandon the notion of 'the depravity that filled the mind,' claiming instead that the mind can perceive the truth, including moral truths.

Brad Hart said...

First off, I'm with Jon on the fact that these two passages do reveal a difference in thinking.

Second, and I certainly mean no disrespect to either Jon or King, but don't you think we might be over-complicating things here a bit? I've mentioned before (whenever this resistance to leaders/Romans 13 type debate comes up) that I believe this issue may have been of some importance to a select few, but the overwhelming majority of those who advocated for independence didn't care at all about such matters. Issues like taxation, freedom for self-government etc. were much more pressing than what Romans 13 said. Simply put, war was gonna happen no matter what some holy book or preacher was saying.

Again, I'm not saying that these issues are irrelevant. All I am saying is that the masses were not going to be deterred by any philosopher, theologian, etc.

The American Revolution had lots of catalysts and yes, religion was an important one. But it wasn't the only factor.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's deeper digging to do. Natural law, folks.

King of Ireland said...

The natural law is what I was getting at. Depravity or not is not really the issue when it comes to resistance.

With that said, as a side point this brings up an interesting discussion. Calvinism is not Christianity. Thus all views that are more optimistic about the nature of man are not less Christian. This concept goes back back to my original posts on the difference between Locke style Christianity and Augustinian style.

I agree they were different. But contend they are both historically Christian. But this is all for some later posts to dissect what I think both men are saying here.

Anonymous said...


I think the fact that it seems that whole parts of the DOI where changed by Adams and the Congress refutes your claim. I also would point you to John Adams and his quotes about how influential Mayhew's sermon was. Finally, it seems clear that the Presbyterians were perceived by the King himself as the main catalyst to the Revolution. Do you have any evidence that this huge and influential block cared nothing about what God had to say about resistance and what was legitimate or not?

King of Ireland said...

Last comment was me

Daniel said...

Generally, I agree with Tom that, if you want to find historical Christian thought backing the Framers, look to Aquinas. However, the role of the Great Awakening is interesting. I don't know of any Edwardsians involved in writing the DofI or the Constitution, but many were fighting the revolution. The theology of the Awakening was not a theology of revolution, but it did tend to undermine traditional and established authority. It may have greased the skids for revolution with great numbers of people.

I use the word "may" advisedly. I am speculating and would be very interested in actual research. Of course, that goes back to the recurring difficulty that going beyond the "key founders" creates a monumental task of examining the thought of hundreds of ratifiers or thousands of supporters.

Daniel said...

K of I,
You can't consider the relationship between Calvinist thought and Lockean and exclude depravity. The "T" of TULIP means that, although God created a law of nature, we are so depraved that we cannot knkow or understand it except by divine revelation. Locke says we can know and understand it. You can't minimize this difference. Calvinism without Total Depravity is simply another form of Scholasticism.

King of Ireland said...


Scholasticism and Calvinism are both CHRISTIAN is my point here. As far as the Awakening, key founders and the rest that is good themes to study but not really my focus and not so germane to this post.

The link Tom gave makes a very good point about a lot of these writings being a turning point in political theory in the West. I am not expert in Aquinas. But Tom seems to have read at least a little and seems to tenatively conclude that Aquinas planted the seeds that germinated in the thoughts of others.

The real questions is whether this evolution in political theory can be claimed by the Enlightenment? I think the fact that the foundation of both men's arguments are imageo dei and the universal law of love. Or maybe better stated the golden rule. Does not sound real secular to me?

King of Ireland said...

From the Farmer Refuted:

"In short, when human laws contradict or discountenance the means, which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and so become null and void."

Sounds like the basis for the concept of nullification to me which is directly linked to interposition. Jefferson and Madison used similar arguments in the Doctrine of 98. Many of these same arguments are coming alive again today as part of the 10th Amendment movement.

King of Ireland said...

Daniel stated:

"The "T" of TULIP means that, although God created a law of nature, we are so depraved that we cannot knkow or understand it except by divine revelation. Locke says we can know and understand it."

This is the whole reason trumps revelation debate that I do think we need to explore more. My questions are:

What is reason?
What is revelation?

It seems that they mean different things to different people. For instance it seems revelation to Gregg Frazer means the Bible which would seem to exclude much of what is said in Romans 1 and 2 about what Aquinas called general revelation which Jon and others seem to think is something different from natural law as well. At least this is what I gather and could be misrepresenting their views.

King of Ireland said...

Jon state in a much older comment to a post:

"When I note shorthand "reason" trumps "revelation" what I meant by that was man's reason trumps what's written in the Bible as a whole. (Revelation is shorthand for the ENTIRE Bible, which they believed on parts to be inspired.) Perhaps that's sloppy wording on my part."

This could be a good point to take off from for anyone who would like to explore the whole reason and revelation thing. I for one do not know what the "whole Bible" means. If Jon is stating that sum of what is written is not a direct revelation from God like when Paul gives his opinion then I surely believe this and still consider myself a Christian.

I think our different uses of the word revelation has caused confusion in my mind as to what he has been getting at. It is certainly not Calvinsim per se but I would not call it Enlightenment either. There are about 2,000 more shades of gray in there somewhere.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm a little too rushed to join in, but my point was that Calvinism isn't just John Calvin but men like Beza and Ponnet all the way through the Scottish/American presbyterianism, and natural law, as the jstor link suggests, was not eradicated from Protestant thought by the T in TULIP.

Brad Hart said...

KOI writes:

It seems clear that the Presbyterians were perceived by the King himself as the main catalyst to the Revolution. Do you have any evidence that this huge and influential block cared nothing about what God had to say about resistance and what was legitimate or not?

I think that Presbyterian/King link gets too much play than it deserves...but hey, that's just me. I know it was pushed pretty hard by some historian that I can’t recall at the moment, but was also criticized for the same reasons that I dislike the Romans 13 debates: it’s too one-sided and doesn’t take into account other factors. What evidence do I have? Well, the "rabble masses" sure seemed pretty worked up over taxes, British infringement, etc. Everything from the Stamp Act, Tea Party (the original one) Lexington & Concord and everything else in between seems to support that. Again, I'm not saying that religion wasn't on people's minds, but PLEASE, let's be careful to not insinuate that the entire revolution was over religion. This is historically inaccurate and I think we all realize it. Sometimes, when we focus on one particular angle of a historical topic even the best of historians can exaggerate their hand a bit.

Here's my question: do you honestly believe that the entire American Revolution hung on religion? Or more specifically on the interpretation of Romans 13? Or could it be that early colonial Americans, like any group of people, got really pissed off at the repeated perceived abuses of the British and were ready to throw down as a result? And didn’t really need too much justification to break out a can of whoop-ass on their European brethren? Bible or no bible, preacher or no preacher, natural law or no natural law, this fight was a’gonna happen. Yes, religion is an important factor, and the purpose of our blog is sound, but let’s not assume that it was the ONLY factor.

Yeah, I realize that this is overly-simplistic, but I think that is sometimes the appropriate medicine to this topic. But again, that's just me.

Daniel said...

For those of us interested in the intellectual roots of the Founding (religious or otherwise), your comment raises the disturbing question whether the rabble supporting the revolution had any interest in Ponnet or Locke. Maybe the masses were exercised about numerous slights and abuses and cared nothing about Interposition or Enlightenment. Am I overstating the matter? I hope so, but how do we know that?

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks for these two quotations and the ensuing discussion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

In 2010, it's easy to discount the importance of religion in that day.

You have to explain Tocqueville c.1831

In the United States the sovereign authority is religious,... there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.


The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.


Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts-the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.

Or simply ignore the evidence that God and liberty were intermixed in the American mind, "endowed by their creator," etc.

Phil Johnson said...

My guess is that it was in the days--when DeToqueville travelled up into Saginaw, Michigan--that employing the fear of God to get Americans to follow was as important to leaders as it is today.
As church authority was important to the rulers in the "old country", America's politicians used and continue to use religious belief for authority to govern here in the U.S.A..
While worship may not have been a part of governing, religious beliefs most certainly entered in as they continue to do so now in the twenty-first century.
That is no attack on religion; but, a statement of apparent fact.

Joe Talmadge said...


I followed your link on deTocqueville. I was shocked, to put it mildly, to see the statement that

"In the United States the sovereign authority is religious,... there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America..."

The sovereign authority is religious!!??? Not the Constitution?

I went back to the original source and to me it appears the website has engaged in some selective editing.

Here is how it reads in context,

"It may fairly be believed that a certain number of Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship from habit more than from conviction. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

I have remarked that the American clergy in general, without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are all in favor of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular political system. They keep aloof from parties and from public affairs. In the United States, religion exercises but little influence upon the laws, and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the manners of the community, and by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state."

I'm no expert on deTocqueville, but the gist of what I read here is that separation of church and state is working. The system of government is secular and yet religion flourishes. A little different than the impression the doctorsenator website conveys.

King of Ireland said...

I will answer your question later tonigHt in a post. I am not sure that you understand my angle here. It is about rights not so much religion. I think Tom's quote is taking us in the right direction here.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Talmadge, I'm in a hurry this week and grabbed the first Tocqueville I could find. That website is crap in its editing, and I apologize for my haste.

The underlying truth is simply that God and liberty are intermixed in the American mind. I would never for a moment argue that Americans at the Founding or the Tocqueville period would ever want the clergy running the government.

On the other hand, the facile term "separation of church and state" is often offered as meaning much more than not wanting the clergy running the government.

Brad Hart said...

I'm no expert on Tocqueville but my understanding is that he saw America after the so-called "Second Great Awakening"...or around that time, so his view of America was NOT representative of the America during the Revolution. As Gordon Wood mentions at the beginning of his new book, Empire of Liberty the country changed dramatically in a single generation. Using the analogy of Rip Van Winkle, Wood points out how the generation AFTER the revolution became more pious in their religion. Joyce Appleby makes the same observation in her book, Inheriting the Revolution. Now, I'm not saying that the founding generation didn't care about religion, but I think the evidence shows that the role of religion changed dramatically in the early decades of the 19th century...when Tocqueville was making his observations. So while Tocqueville is a great source on American religion, I think it would be a terrible mistake to say that he observed religion and its influence on the founding.

Daniel states:

For those of us interested in the intellectual roots of the Founding (religious or otherwise), your comment raises the disturbing question whether the rabble supporting the revolution had any interest in Ponnet or Locke.

Yeah, I guess that is what I am getting at. I don't mean to suggest that the intellectual roots are unimportant. I've been with this blog since the beginning and I enjoy dissecting those roots as much as the next guy. However, I think these Romans 13/God's sanctioning of resistance to authority discussions do tend to take matters a bit too far. And yes, I think this same "rabble" cared for what Locke said about as much as they cared about Romans 13...which, in my opinion, wasn't very much.

jimmiraybob said...

In counterbalance to the mined Tocqueville quotes above. It's a short essay and might help in the discussion. It's from a 1831 letter so may speak more candidly and might be considered a snapshot of the time.

Excerpts from Tocqueville's Essay On American Government And Religion* in Tocqueville and Beaumont in America by George Wilson Pierson (essay starts on page 152 of the Google preview).

*Extracted from letter, Toc. to L. de Kerdolay, Yonkers, 29 June 1831, 20 miles from New-York (YT, quoted in part, O.C., V, 312-319). By this time Tocqueville and Kergolay were again on terms of friendship.

Excerpts copied from here.


'Thus, Ist, I haven't yet been able to surprise in the conversation of anyone, no matter to what rank he belongs, the thought that the republic is not the best possible government, and that the people haven't the right to give themselves the government that pleases them. The great majority understand republican principles in the most democratic sense. … But that the republican is a good form of government, that it is natural to human societies, those are things no one seems to doubt, priests, magistrates, merchants, artisans. It's an opinion so general and so little disputed, even in a country where the freedom of speech is unlimited, that one might almost call it a faith.

'There is a second idea which seems to have the same character. The immense majority have faith in the wisdom and good sense of human kind, faith in the doctrine of human perfectibility. That's another thought that finds few or no denials. That the majority may be mistaken once, no one denies; but they think that necessarily in the long run it will be right; that it is not only the sole judge of its interests, but also the surest and most infallible judge.


'The consequence of this idea is that enlightenment ought to be spread in profusion among the people, that one cannot enlighten it too much. … A hundred times already it's happened to me to propose it to the most thoughtful men; I saw by the positive way in which they decided it that they had never stopped to consider it, and that the very statement of it seemed to them in a way shocking and absurd. Education, said they, is the only guarantee we have against the aberrations of the masses.

'There, my dear friend, are what I should call the faiths of this country. They honestly believe in the excellence of the government which rules them; they believe in the wisdom of the masses provided they are enlightened, and don't seem to suspect that there is a certain instruction which can never be the lot of the masses and which may nevertheless be necessary to govern a state.

Continued below...

jimmiraybob said...


'As for what we generally understand as faiths, such as customs, ancient traditions, the strength of memories, up to the present I don't see a trace of them. I even doubt whether religious opinions have as much influence as one at first thinks. The religious state of this people is perhaps the most curious thing to examine here.

'I was speaking of religion. Sunday is rigorously observed. I have seen streets barred off before churches during divine service; the law commands these things imperiously, and public opinion, much stronger than the law, obliges every one to show himself at church and to abstain from all diversion. And yet, either I am much mistaken or there is a great depth of doubt and indifference hidden under these external forms. No political passion mixes in with irreligion as with us, but for all that religion has no more power. It's a very strong impulsion which was given in former times and which is now diminishing every day. Faith is evidently inert. Go into the churches (I mean the Protestant ones) you will hear morality preached, of dogma not a word. Nothing which can at all shock the neighbour; nothing which can arouse the idea of dissent. The abstractions of dogma, the discussions especially appropriate to a religious doctrine, that's however what the human spirit loves to plunge into when a belief has seized it strongly. Of this character were the Americans themselves in former times.

'This pretended toleration, which, in my opinion, is nothing else than good round indifference, is pushed so far that in the public institutions such as the prisons, the houses of education for juvenile delinquents, etc.... seven or eight different ministers in succession come to preach to the same congregation. But, said I, how do these men and children, who are communicants of one sect, like hearing the minister of another? The infallible response is this: The different preachers, treating only the common grounds of morality, cannot do each other any harm.

'Besides, it's evident that here, generally speaking, religion does not profoundly stir the souls. … One follows a religion as our fathers took medicine in the month of May. If it doesn't do any good, one seems to say, at least it can do no harm.


'And besides, it is proper to conform to the common rule. ...


Tocqueville is broadly describing a people in a new nation habitually following the social custom of religion. No doubt there were truly pious and reverential souls among them. I don't say this to demean Christianity or religion in general but it appears to have been a complex culture very similar to what we find today.

What the founders, framers, and ratifiers all could agree on among the sea of sectarian and theological differences of their time was the value of distilling morality and public virtue as the touchstone of the new republic (qualities that are not exclusive to Christianity and as prevalent in republican Rome as in Imperial Rome and as in later Christian Rome). If Tocqueville’s observations of this time are correct, this attitude is consistent with that of 'the people' that followed.

It is a snapshot of a people not particularly caught up in sectarian dogma as a secular governing mechanism or heavily invested in the outcome of theological arguments to settle day to day concerns (i.e., Romans 13 v. rebellion, etc.). They appear to have been pragmatically concerned more with getting on with their lives while displaying proper deference to religious expression.

In reading the whole essay I get no sense of a a people hinging their everyday lives on theological doctrine. And this is one, maybe one and a half generations following the Revolution.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I agree with all the above from JRB---how couldn't one, when it's in the source documents themselves.

And I would add in support that federal legislation to close post offices on Sundays failed [1810-20, iirc].

Tocqueville is drawing a distinction between religiousness and outward piety. [As well as sectarianism and its dogmas.]


In reading the whole essay I get no sense of a a people hinging their everyday lives on theological doctrine.

..there is ONE theolgical doctine, that liberty is a gift from God, divinely ordained as natural rights, natural law, or whatever term you prefer.

To return to the starting point of the King's original post, it's in the development of this simple "self-evident" truth that the whole deal of Locke-Ponnet---Vincidiae contra Tyrannos---etc., etc. etc. is traced.

The relevance? Only that the concept God-given [and ordained] liberty was in the air they breathed, and it took centuries of thought and argument to put it there. John Locke and the Enlightenment [whatever that is] didn't just drop in from Mars one day in the 17th century.

King of Ireland said...

"To return to the starting point of the King's original post, it's in the development of this simple "self-evident" truth that the whole deal of Locke-Ponnet---Vincidiae contra Tyrannos---etc., etc. etc. is traced."

You summed up the point of this post entirely. It is about rights. Those rights happen to be grounded in theology. Most importantly, if the jstor link you provided is correct then a turning point in political theory of the Western World was marinaded in theological arguments! That is my angle and hopefully a masters thesis is seed form.

I am glad Tom brought up "self evident." It seems Hooker was using an Enlightenment word long before the Enlightenment?! The plot thickens...

Tom Van Dyke said...

I never tracked that quote down, Franklin apparently inserting "self-evident" into the D of I because "Hooker" used it.

But is that Richard Hooker or the Puritan governor Thomas Hooker?

A bleg, and a very relevant one.


As for K of I's key point, my own interest in religion and the Founding comes down to this key point, the origin of the concepts of rights and liberty.

It's not just about Aquinas, and I've been very surprised to see the road lead through Calvinism as well, although neither are their final destination, the Founding.

But the question remains, in 2010, just as when Jefferson first asked,

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?

Yes, the immediate context was slavery, but that makes the question even more poignant, as it shows that even as the Founders permitted slavery, they acknowledged its evil, and acknowledged that rights and liberty are divine in their origin in the mind of the new American nation.

The rest is detail and dogma, neither of which the Founders gave much of a damn about.