Wednesday, August 25, 2021

FH Buckley: The Patriot King's American Friends

This was from the Winter 2016 edition of National Affairs by F.H. Buckley. It's on Bolingbroke's influence on the American founding. A taste:

While they abhorred the corruption of British politics, the framers turned to British writers, notably Bolingbroke, for diatribes on just how vicious such corruption could be. Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), was virtually the prime minister for a time, and his skill in state affairs was celebrated by his friend Jonathan Swift. Bolingbroke was a Tory and a sometime-friend of the Stuart Old Pretender. Some in late-18th-century British politics thought history had passed him by — or at least wished it would. "Who now reads Bolingbroke," Edmund Burke asked. "Who ever read him through?" But then Burke was a Whig who took his political principles from the Revolutionary Settlement of 1689, and a romantic Christian, while Bolingbroke was a deist from the arid Augustan age. 

For the founders, however, Bolingbroke's jeremiads were essential reading. Adams, Madison, and Jefferson, among others, were all serious students of his works. For them, Bolingbroke was first and foremost an enemy of political corruption and an advocate for republican virtue. But if the Americans thought that British corruption might justify the creation of a republic, Bolingbroke had something else in mind. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Jefferson, Priestley, and Bolingbroke

Thomas Jefferson, after around 1800 was under the influence of the unitarian Joseph Priestley. And Priestley did, if I understand him right, think "the plenary inspiration of the Bible" was a "corruption of Christianity." (Meaning he didn't think the Bible was inerrant.)

However, I don't think Priestley ever, like Jefferson did, cut out entire books of the canon and bitterly ridicule various apostles and the books of the canon they wrote. (Like everything St. Paul wrote and the Book of Revelation.)
The English Deist Bolingbroke did, however.
Jefferson was likely influenced by Bolingbroke prior to Priestley. Yet, as an old man, Jefferson was still slamming St. Paul and the Book of Revelation like Bolingbroke did prior thereto.
So I conclude the old Jefferson's creed was like a cross between Bolingbroke's and Priestley's. (Jefferson also named Conyers Middleton as a key influence.) That's my preface to linking to a post I did in 2013 where I researched Bolingbroke's religion. Check it out! (Good comment section too.)