Monday, September 29, 2014

Constitution Day - In the Company of Heroes

On 9/18/2014, over at The Jackson Press website, MarkAlexander, in his commemorative article,  ConstitutionDay - In the Company of Heroes, included this snippet:

On 30 April 1789, America’s first commander in chief, George Washington, took this presidential oath of office with his hand on a Bible opened to Deuteronomy 28. He ended his oath with “So help me God,” which was added to military oaths for officers by Act of Congress 29 September 1789.

In contrast, the U.S. Army Center of Military History website, Oaths of Enlistment and Oaths of Office says:

The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress 29 September 1789 (Sec. 3, Ch. 25, 1st Congress.) It applied to all commissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States. It came in two parts, the first of which read: “I. A, B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United Sates.” The second part read: ” I, A. B., do solemnly swear or affirm to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve honestly and faithfully, against all enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers over me.” The next section of the chapter specified that “the said troops shall be governed by the rules and articles of war, which have been established by the United States Congress assembled, or by such rules and articles of war as may hereafter by law be established.”

No matter how fervently convinced Mark Alexander may be regarding his claim that George Washington elected to use those same words in conclusion to the first oath of office as president, he is definitely mistaken when he says that "So help me God" "was added to military oaths for officers by Act of Congress 29 September 1789.”


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Koppelman: "The religious roots of modern secularism"

You can see Andrew Koppelman inform us on this here. A taste:
[Charles] Taylor offers an invaluable map of how the modern religious-secular divide came into being. He concludes that modern Western secularism has its roots in Christian theology and that secularism and Christianity reveal a common ancestry in their shared commitment to human rights—a commitment that does not follow from atheism as such.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aitken anniversary

The good people at 18th Century Bibles, craftsmen who preserve and reproduce historic Bibles and, in the process, hand off “historical accuracy of the great Christian literature of the 1700s” to posterity, cite today as the 232nd anniversary of Congress’ authorization of the Aitken Bible—the first English-language Bible to be printed in America. (However, I think the actual anniversary is September 12, per the Congressional resolution. Click here and scroll down.)

Here’s what 18th Century Bibles has to say:

Courtesy 18th
Century Bibles
Before the Revolution, it had been impossible to print an English language version of the Bible in the colonies, because no American printers held a license from the King granting permission to print the Bible. The war cut off shipments of Bibles from Great Britain, but also got rid of the need for the license; thereby creating a shortage of Bibles and the ability to print them in America. Robert Aitken stepped in to fill this void.
Beginning in 1777, Aitken began publishing and selling New Testaments. Aitken made the first New Testament printed in this country in 1777. After this first printing, he had to bury all of his equipment. The regulars were headed to Philadelphia and would have looked very unfavorably on any printer that they came across. Robert Aitken first advertised his New Testament for sale in the August 28, 1777 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. The transcription of this ad is below:
“Just printed (bound and ready for sale) by R. Aitken, printer and bookseller, opposite the London Coffee-house, Frontstreet, a neat edition of THE NEW TESTAMENT for the use of schools, where may be had writing paper of different kinds, particularly letter paper of the first quality, and several hundreds of excellent quills.”
There are only three known copies of Aitken’s 1777 New Testament still in existence today. One can be found in the New York Public Library’s collection. Another belongs to the Philadelphia Historical Society. The last was auctioned off by Bloomsbury Auctions in London November, 2011 by an undisclosed seller. Demand was heavy, so every year, for the next five years, Aitken published a new edition of his New Testament. In total, he published five editions: Aitken’s second edition was published in 1778; his third in 1779; his fourth in 1780; and finally his last and fifth edition was published in 1781. I am unsure of the number of New Testaments Aitken printed each year, but I expect that it was somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand.
It was not until 1782 that Aitken had his first complete Bible. He printed his 1782 Old Testament and added it to his previously printed 1781 New Testament. I believe that Aitken planned ahead and printed about ten thousand additional New Testaments in 1781 and had them waiting to be bound with the ten thousand Old Testaments he printed in 1782. If you look at my web site, you will notice that the 1782 Bible’s New Testament title page is dated 1781, while the Old Testament is dated 1782. 1782, or maybe 1783, was the only year that the Aitken Bible was published. I am pretty sure that these Bibles were not available (bound) until 1783.
After the war, America was once again flooded with inexpensive Bibles from England. Aitken was stuck with way too many Bibles and was near financial ruin. The Presbyterian Synod stepped in and purchased Aitken’s remaining stock and gave them to the poor.

My own photograph of an Aitken Bible, taken July 2011 at the American Bible Society in New York City.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

FRC Robert Morrison touches on Feeling Our History

FRC Robert Morrison has posted a historical travel log with the title, Feeling Our History, that can be found over at the Family Research Council blog. (Previously, on March 4, 2014, I featured Robert Morrison in an American Creation blog you can see here.)

At the concluding part of his recollections of visiting the Induction Day ceremonies at the Annapolis, Maryland, United States Naval Academy, the reminiscing Morrison has this to say:
And the Plebes raise their right hands and recite the Oath of Office. Many of their parents and many of us assembled as a cloud of witnesses will be in tears as these vibrant young people pledge their lives to protect and defend our Constitution. 
They end their recitation of the Oath with the same words spoken by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and by every other commander-in-chief: 
So Help Me God
You can run your hands over these words. They are engraved on a plaque affixed to the bulkhead (wall) in Bancroft Hall. You can feel your country’s history.
Robert Morrison is not the first person to promote this blatantly false notion that every president has ended a four-word religious codicil to their presidential oath. But it is a new twist when he identifies the president as the commander-in-chief , because he is now suggesting  that ending a military oath with "So help me God" should be understood as if it were a command issued by the President, as Commander in Chief.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lillian Gobitas Klose, RIP

See the NYT obit. A taste:
Lillian Gobitas Klose, whose refusal, on religious grounds, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as a seventh grader in a Pennsylvania public school in 1935 ignited national indignation, as well as a roiling legal fight that led to an expansion of First Amendment rights, died on Aug. 22 at her home in Fayetteville, Ga. She was 90.
Her daughter, Judith Klose, confirmed the death.
Lillian Gobitas’s family belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and heeded a leader’s call to refuse to recite the pledge in compliance with biblical commands against idolatry....

Volokh: "Should atheists who refuse to say ‘so help me God’ be excluded from the Air Force?"

Check it out here. A taste:
So 10 U.S.C. § 502 expressly says that each person may swear or affirm. Likewise, 1 U.S.C. § 1 expressly says that an oath includes an affirmation. And an affirmation means precisely a pledge without reference to a supreme being. Given this context, it seems to me quite clear that “So help me God” in the statute should be read as an optional component, to be used for the great bulk of people who swear, but should be omitted for those who exercise their expressly statutorily provided option to affirm — because that’s what affirming means (omitting reference to a supreme being).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

‘Our Strongest Tower’

The British Museum, in its Twitter feed today, observes the anniversary of the departure of the Mayflower for the New World in 1620. The tweet contains this photo of a commemorative bronze medal struck in 1970:

The Latin inscription on the reverse translated: “The name of the Lord is our strongest tower,” which originates in Proverbs:

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is set up on high.” (18:10)

It is the motto of Plymouth, England.