Christian Nation-For Which Christians? re: John Jay, Founding Father


 
Christian Nation Only for Some Christians

Christian Nation-For Which Christians? re: John Jay, Founding Father
 


30 June 2011 at 2:37:40 PM
salon

In a conversation about whether war is moral, John Jay said.

It certainly is very desirable that a pacific disposition should prevail among all nations. The most effectual way of producing it is by extending the prevalence and influence of the gospel. Real Christians will abstain from violating the rights of others, and therefore will not provoke war.

Almost all nations have peace or war at the will and pleasure of rulers whom they do not elect, and who are not always wise or virtuous. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

I've read recently people quoting the part about the christian nation as if a Christian Theocracy is what was called for officially. (We remind that the constitution is a godless document). The context of the quote above, as I read it, is that christians would endeavor to be pacifists, as opposed to other religions, and thus would heavily consider whether war should be entered into, although they still might do so. John Jay is discussing the issue and doesn't seem to come to any conclusions about whether waging and participating in war is moral for a christian; I believe that's in large part because different parts of scripture are in juxtaposition to each other.

Since John Jay, in this context, talked about our Christian nation, I wondered what his idea of a christian nation included. Apparently only protestant christians, not Catholics. From Wikipedia regarding anti-catholicism.

Because many of the British colonists, such as the Puritans and Congregationalists, were fleeing religious persecution by the Church of England, much of early American religious culture exhibited the more extreme anti-Catholic bias of these Protestant denominations. Monsignor John Tracy Ellis wrote that a "universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigorously cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia."[21] Colonial charters and laws often contained specific proscriptions against Catholics. For example, the second Massachusetts charter of October 7, 1691 decreed "that forever hereafter there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God to all Christians, except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within, such Province or Territory."[22]

Monsignor Ellis noted that a common hatred of the Catholic Church could unite Anglican clerics and Puritan ministers despite their differences and conflicts.

Some of America's Founding Fathers held anti-clerical beliefs. For example, in 1788, John Jay urged the New York Legislature to require office-holders to renounce foreign authorities "in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil.".[23] Thomas Jefferson wrote: "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government,"[24] and, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."[25]

Some states devised loyalty oaths designed to exclude Catholics from state and local office.[26]

So the sentiment at that time, which led to some pretty ugly instances of bigotry, was that Catholics were Not Christians. In fact, there was a period in American history between about 1851-1858 in which Irish Catholic immigrants were treated poorly. Read this link about the KnowNothing party which not only put in proscriptions to prevent Irish Catholics from becoming citizens or holding office, but incited acts of mob violence against Catholics. (One branch of my own ancestors are Irish  Catholics who came here in the mid-1800's) Pic at right is from 1871 (Thomas Nast)

The Tory element in the population, composed almost wholly of adherents of the Church of England, was most prominent in its resistance to that principle. Many of these were secretly opposed to the total independence of the colonies. In New York, where they were most numerous, they had been the governing class; theirs was the state Church; their wealth and social standing gave them a large share in the direction of public affairs which they rightly judged would be lost to them by the establishment of the republic on the principles of freedom and equality declared by Thomas Jefferson, and, when their mother country was compelled to acknowledge the independence of the colonies, over 30,000 of these Tories voluntarily deported themselves, most of them to England and Canada. Those who remained became identified with the political party known as the Federalists. Successful for a time in retaining the control of the newly-organized government, the leaders of that party "strove to preserve the political ascendency of Protestantism in the states both by Federal legislation affecting the naturalization of emigrants and by preventing legislation in their respective states for the relief of Catholics from their religious disabilities which was necessary to give effect to the liberal spirit and purpose of the Constitution" (see "U.S. Catholic Historical Records and Studies", Vol. III, p. 95).

Thus, John Jay, of New York, who afterwards became Chief Justice of the United States, succeeded in fastening upon the Constitution of his own state a provision which denied the privilege of citizenship to every foreign-born Catholic unless he would first abjure and renounce all allegiance to the pope in matters ecclesiastical. This provision remained in force until 1821, when the power and influence of the Federal party had well nigh disappeared. During the administration of the Federalist president, John Adams, 1798-1802, that same party forced the passage of the Alien Act, under which the president might expel from the county all aliens whom he might regard as disaffected towards the Government, as well as that other Act requiring a residence of fourteen years in the country before any foreign-born person could be admitted to citizenship. In brief, the Federalists were the Native Americans of their day, and Knownothingism, as the latest and, because of its excesses, the most odious manifestation of the Native American spirit, may be said to have had its genesis in the prejudices nursed by the Federalists against foreign-born citizens and in their intolerance of their fellow-citizens professing the Roman Catholic faith. These offensive, not to say unlawful, sentiments found numerous advocates, not only among political demagogues and aspirants for public office, but also in the pulpit and in the religious press of those days. The tide of immigration which had set in was largely Irish and soon became distinctively Catholic in character. One of the inducements to this immigration was the hope it held out of release from the civil disabilities and the religious proscription under which the immigrants had laboured in their native land. When, therefore, a powerful party was founded exerting itself to exclude these immigrants from the privilege of citizenship because of their race and creed, it was most natural that they and their co-religionists of whatever race should, as they did, ally themselves with the opposing political party which supported those principles of political equality and freedom of religion which had been proclaimed as distinctive principles of the American scheme of government. The growing immigration and the increase in the number of naturalized citizens strengthened the party with which these immigrants had become identified, and the extension of their political influence, as shown at the elections, was used by the advocates of proscription as a justification of their policy. Throughout the various Native American and Knownothing movements which America has witnessed, political hostility and religious prejudice, the one supplementing the other, appear as the motive and inspiration. Knownothingism was only the development and application of the principles of Native Americanism whose character and origin we have briefly sketched.

During the half-century preceding the Knownothing era, the questions involved in that movement had been frequently agitated. Catholics and foreigners were denounced, mainly from Protestant pulpits, as enemies of the Republic. Books and newspapers calculated to inflame the passions of the mob against their Irish and Catholic neighbours were extensively circulated. Catholic bishops and priests were maligned, their religion misrepresented and ridiculed, and acts of violence were committed against Catholics and their property. The burning of the Convent of the Ursuline nuns at Charleston, Massachusetts, in 1834, by a Native American mod, and their cruel treatment of the unoffending nuns and their pupils, were the most notable manifestations, up to that time, of the evil effect of religious hatred. In 1835 the first formal organization of the partisans of the Native American movement under that name, was effected at New York City. Various newspapers, such as "The Protestant", "The Protestant Vindicator", "The Downfall of Babylon", and the like, were established in New York and New England as aids to the movement. The "evils of Popery" and the danger to arise to the Republic from tolerating the practice of the Catholic religion were staple topics of discussion by no inconsiderable number of ministers of religion, and under the impulse of these incitements the spirit of religious prejudice was kept alive; there were new aggressions upon the rights of Catholic citizens, the peace and order of the community were occasionally disturbed by acts of violence, and another decade in the history of Native Americanism terminated in the bloody riots which occurred at Philadelphia, in 1844, when several Catholic churches were attacked by the Native American mob, and two of them, St. Michael's and St. Augustine's, were deliberately fired and reduced to ashes, and the safety of those that remained were so endangered by the hostile demonstrations of the mob that public worship was suspended by order of Bishop Kenrick, and on Sunday, 12 May, 1844, all Catholic churches in that city were closed. Many houses tenanted by Irish Catholics were likewise wantonly destroyed by fire, some of the inmates were shot down at their doorsteps, and a number of other unoffending citizens lost their lives.

From Separation of Church and State by Hamburger

In justifying constitutional prohibitions on the admission of ministers to state legislatures, Americans typically questioned whether it was proper for men of hte cloth to hold office of a sort that could only distract them from higher obligations. For example, the 1778 South Carolina Constitution declared "And whereas the ministers of the gospel are by their profession dedicated to the service of God and the cure of souls and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function, therefore no minister of the gospel or public preacher of any religious persuasion, while he continues in the exercise of his pastoral funcation, and for two years after, shall be eligible either as governor, lieutenant governor, a member of the senate, house of representatives, or privy Council in this state.

And that brings up back to John Jay. John Jay advocated that no Catholic should ever hold public office. Again from Separation of Church and State.

Notwithstanding that this constitutional exclusion purported to be sympathetic toward the clergy, some exclusion clauses clearly attempted to elicit anti-Catholic support. For exmaple, the 1777, the earlier New York version of the provision quoted above specified that "no priest of any denomination whatsoever" should be eligible for office. This anti-Catholic wording came from teh document's primary drafter, John Jay, whose preamble to the Constitution's religious freedom clause pointedly declared that "we are required, by the benevolent principles of religious liberty, not only to expel civil tyranny, but also to guard against that spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests and princes have scourged mankind".

Again, From John Jay, bigot against Catholics. (To be fair quite a few came to this country to escape religious persecution that came from quasi theocracies. Nonetheless, it was bigotry to espouse freedom for protestants as the *approved* religion and deny it to catholics)

So his idea of a *christian nation* only included protestants and the freedom to run for office would have been limited to ONLY protestants. In fact, a number of other founding fathers and heroes of the American Revolution were anti-Catholic. Witness this picture by Paul Revere at right.

Samuel Adams warned that the law “to establish the religion of the Pope in Canada [would mean] some of your children may be induced instead of worshipping the only true God, to pay his dues to images made with their own hands.”

The Continental Congress expressed its outrage at the Quebec Act by penning an open letter to "the People of Great Britain" (the authors were John Jay, Richard Henry Lee, and William Livingston), proclaiming the colonies' surprise that Parliament would support the Catholic religion in Canada, a religion that "disbursed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellions through every part of the world." Its conspiratorial tone could rival Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, the authors convinced that Canada's Catholic population would set its sights on invading the colonies, and once having converted Protestant Americans, would enlist them in a vast popish army to attack and enslave England's Protestants.

Evenn though the constitution says "No Religious Test shall be required as a qualification to any office", it seems that the Christian Nation folks who may be the WASPS of old, still want one. Also seems that the Catholic bigotry may have shifted a little to Mormons, including the side-eye question of whether Mitt Romney should be voted for on the basis of his religion.Imagine still living in the time of the Founding Fathers, when slavery was around, women were not allowed to vote, and there was freedom of religion and office holding AS LONG AS YOU WERE PROTESTANT. That's why what Obama said makes perfect sense... because we have MOVED on, except for those who still want to be bigots.

P.S. I just realized reading this that I haven't heard the term WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) in a long time. Here's an interesting perspective from a self-described WASP descendant of John Jay.

I wonder what John Jay would think about Elena Kagan if he were here now. He once wrote a clergyman friend, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

He believed Catholics should not hold office. There are now six Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Kagan makes the third Jewish justice. So perhaps he would oppose Kagan, who had her bat mitzvah in the Lincoln Square Synagogue on New York City’s Upper West Side.

And a professor who points out the bigotry against Muslims mirrors the bigotry Catholics experienced in the mid 1800s


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