Sunday, April 13, 2014

'We The People' Eventually Freed The Slaves

"if there is once a will in the people of America to abolish slavery, there is no word, no syllable in the Constitution to forbid that result" - Frederick Douglass

In a 1860 speech in Glasgow Frederick Douglass writes on the Constitution of the United States: 'Its language is “we the people;” not we the white people, not even we the citizens, not we the privileged class, not we the high, not we the low, but we the people'. The opinion that the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally anti-slavery is reflected in the 1860 Republican Platform, put together two months later, which declares: "That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, "That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved." Or, as Jim DeMint recently put it, 'the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the mind of God'.

Over against the revolutionary tabula rasa of the Garrisonians, Frederick Douglass puts reform. The move to free the slaves came from the people, says Jim DeMint. People that refused to dissolve the Union, people that voted Lincoln into office. Let's listen again to Frederick Douglass: 'If the South has made the Constitution bend to the purposes of slavery, let the North now make that instrument bend to the cause of freedom and justice.'

The Constitution of the United States was no doubt 'a product of an enormous set of compromises' but slavery was not one of these compromises. As Lincoln argued in his 1857 speech on the Dred Scott ruling: "The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States, through the action, in each State, of those persons who were qualified by its laws to act thereon in behalf of themselves and all other citizens of the State. In some of the States, as we have seen, colored persons were among those qualified by law to act on the subject. These colored persons were not only included in the body of `the people of the United States,- by whom the Constitution was ordained and established; but in at least five of the States they had the power to act, and, doubtless, did act, by their suffrages, upon the question of its adoption.”

Abraham Lincoln's actions concerning slavery were based neither 'on a love in his heart', nor on some form of Christian fundamentalism but on a specific interpretation of the Constitution of the United States and it's context. A context formed by people like Anthony Bénezet, Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Finley. And by politicians like John Adams and Elias Boudinot. What this meant for discussions concerning the Constitution read this and on the 3/5 clause read this. Lincoln rejects Chief-Justice Taney's view that the public estimate of the black man was more favorable in 1857 than it was in the days of the Revolution. The Lincoln-Douglas debates draw a sharp distinction between proponents of popular sovereignty and Lincoln's stance:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.

In their blogposts Peter Wehner and Jamelle Bouie seem to disagree with Abraham Lincoln's basic argument that slavery runs counter to the intentions of the founding fathers. These intentions were eloquently summarized by Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately'.

The founders were no demi-gods, but they did bring forth "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the preposition that all men are created equal."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kuyper's Stone Lectures In Redemptive-Historical Context

Recently it occurred to me that Abraham Kuyper's stone lectures at Princeton are just a picture in a bigger narrative. The narrative of his 1898 US tour. At first I was attracted to the idea that this trip to the US was part of a premeditated campaign strategy. The reports on this trip, Varia Americana, in his newspaper De Standaard certainly helped him in the years leading up to the 1901 election victory. And the visits to the Dutch in the American diaspora no doubt helped as well.

But I would want to go one step further. This trip to the US should be placed in the overriding framework of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics as discussed in a previous post: Grace Restores Nature. It's this redemptive historic framework that helped keep the diverse family of Dutch reformed together in the years following the merger of Afscheiding & Doleantie in 1892. In his book 'Christ in his suffering' Klaas Schilder points precisely to this framework when he writes on Jesus silence in front of Pontius Pilate: 'God's painter does not defend himself with pictures - this would have been self-rejection.'

When we keep that in mind it suddenly reminded me of the link between Apostle Paul's (forced) trip to Rome and his letters. Instead of reading the letters as pictures, they should be seen as part of a bigger narrative. The framework of Paul's trip from Jerusalem to Rome, yes. A metaphore for the spread of the gospel across the world. But also the redemptive historic framework of Grace Restores Nature. In the chapter on the silence of Christ in front of Pontius Pilate Klaas Schilder's focuses on the heart of his discussion of what this Grace Restores Nature framework actually is: 'only in the absolute enforcement of the transcendence of the coming of the revelation in both the spoken word & silence has He retained the immanence of the fruit of revelation for us.'

Sunday, April 6, 2014

America & The Church

Michael Gerson stated recently in the context of Obama's visit to the Pope:

'And, though it is sometimes hard for Americans to comprehend, the church is working on projects and problems — like grace, mercy and original sin — that preceded the American experiment and will outlast it.'
Is he suggesting there is no link between the Great Awakening and the American revolution & it's influence across the world?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The College of Teachers

In Skrabec's interesting book 'William McGuffey: Mentor to American Industry' we read:

'Western Pennsylvania today remains the best linguist legacy of the Scots-Irish with strong accent of the population  and the unique vocabulary, such as hollows, burghs, and runs. The accent of Western Pennsylvania combines the burr of the Scots with the brogue of the Irish and adds the gutturals of Germany.'
How does Benjamin Parham Aydelott fit into the picture Skrabec draws of the College of teachers?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Taking The GOP Back To It's Abolitionist & Whig Roots

In his speech at Berkeley Rand Paul quoted his independent colleague from Vermont and linked the debate on NSA to the burning of bibles in 16th century England. Both signal that he is not just a 'libertarian' but is aiming to emphasize his links to the abolitionist movement, Thaddeus Stevens was from Vermont, and the roots of the Whig struggle in Britain that eventually led to the glorious revolution in 1688. That, as Ruth Marcus writes in the WaPo, is the reason 'Rand Paul is the most intriguing — and for Democrats, perhaps the most frightening — figure in today’s Republican Party'. Vincent Harris, a veteran GOP digital strategist (Mike Huckabee's campaign in 2008) who counts Texas Sen. Ted Cruz among his current clients recently said: “He is the default leader on privacy in the Republican Party, and I think there’s a big segment of even the conservative primary electorate who are against big government and the nanny state and are very appreciative of Sen. Paul’s comments, think it’s a positive in a presidential primary.” Social conservatives have been a coveted segment of the American electorate. Think for example of the polygamy issue added to the Republican platform in 1856. But connecting policy today to the much deeper roots of the American revolution and abolitionism will be very hard to brand as 'liberal' by movement conservatives inside the Republican party. Sofar Paul's critics, folks like Colson aid and Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, the perennial Jennifer Rubin or the Salon crowd don't seem to notice what he is actually trying to do. Even Kevin D. Williamson, in his piece Ready for Rand?, does not notice the underlying strategy of taking the party away from movement conservatism to it's Gettysburg roots.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Democratisering & Logika

Een clausule in het verdrag van Ghent uit december 1814 die de afschaffing van de internationale slavenhandel betreft wekte mijn interesse in John Quincy Adams (& Henry Clay). Beiden onderhandelaars in Gent. Het is opvallend hoe John C. Calhoun als warhawk bekend stond, samen met Andrew Jackson, en hoe vervolgens John Quincy Adams en Henry Clay de rotzooi op moesten ruimen. Het citaat, dank aan Ben Domenech, van John Quincy Adams over oorlog steekt dan ook mooi af in deze context:
"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled...there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy..."
Vervolgens stuitte ik op de Groen van Prinsterer lezing van Gover Buijs over de vorming van burgers. Natuurlijk brengt mij dat onmiddelijk bij de log colleges, maar zeker ook bij Benjamin Rush en John Quincy Adams. De briefwisseling tussen John Quincy Adams en Benjamin Rush waarin hun visie op de betekenis van de Amerikaanse revolutie een belangrijke plaats inneemt is een mooie link naar het belang, volgens Adams, van rhetorica voor democratie:
"Just as civic eloquence failed to gain popularity in Britain, in the United States interest faded in the second decade of the 19th century as the "public spheres of heated oratory" disappeared in favor of the private sphere"

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Grace Restores Nature

Bavinck's statement on the equality of man and woman in book four of the Reformed Dogmatics, ''so that life in the household & extended family is restored to honor, the woman again viewed as the equal of the man', is a beautiful illustration of Bavinck's interpretative key 'grace restores nature'.

It gives insight into how Kuyper and Bavinck's organicism undermines both Scottish common sense realism and German idealism by providing a bridge between the two.

Neocalvinism isn't so much a third way between capitalism and socialism, but a third way between realism and idealism. As with Jonathan Edwards and John Witherspoon, the focus on redemptive-history is at the heart of this approach. Redemptive-history also provides the key to Bavinck's epistemology and Bavinck's organicism.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Abraham Kuyper's Organicism

In october Tracy Kuperus wrote on Abraham Kuyper's inheritance: 'Some might argue that Kuyper's philosophical and theological contributions to our understanding of politics are esoteric or outdated. Some of them are questionable (for example, his borrowing liberally from organicist philosophy to undergird sphere sovereignty), but much of his work extends a Reformed understanding of politics that, to my mind, contributes positively to discussions about the role of politics in society'. Jeremy George Augustus Ive writes 'in working out what 'sphere sovereignty' actually means, Kuyper is still deeply influenced by 19th century currents of thought, namely historicism and organicism'.

I personally don't believe it to be possible to understand either Kuyper or Bavinck outside of this organicist context. In the introduction to the book Abraham Kuyper's Commentatio (1860): The Young Kuyper about Calvin, a Lasco, and the Church, Jasper Vree and Johan Zwaan write: 'The work also offers the initial impetus for the idea with which Kuyper would later exert great influence on Dutch nation and society: the Church as a free, democratic society of Christians, which manifests itself as a living organism in all spheres of life.' This quote indicates, unsurprisingly, a link between Kuyper's democratization project, the reformed understanding of the clarity of Scripture and his organic understanding of the Church.

In his 2012 dissertation Jeremy George Augustus Ive writes 'in the later 1920s and 1930s Dooyeweerd saw historicism, with its organic conception of society, leading to the rise of Fascisim and Nazism. The extreme emphasis on history as the self-attesting basis of norms and values, such as was held by the different forms of historicism, seems to have led Dooyeweerd in reaction to seek a non-historical, supra-temporal vantage point, free of the relativising tendencies of the historicistic approach.' To a superficial observer this might seem laudable.

The problem with Dooyeweerd's approch, among other things, is that the antirevolutionary party, Abraham Kuyper's strategy during ARP's social conflict, the struggle for a free university and the democratization project inside the church (doleantie) had succesfully challenged the extreme emphasis on history of conservatives in the church and in politics. Abraham Kuyper succeeded in moving the ARP away even from Groen's 'moderate' (debatable) organicism and historicism. Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck's approach worked and was actually an effective weapon against both the extreme and the milder forms of organicism and historicism. Unlike Dooyeweerd, Klaas Schilder grasped this.

Several elements necessarily shape(d) Kuyper and Bavinck's organicism: their link with Groen van Prinsterer's organicism and historicism, the antithesis (Kuyper's speech Maranatha), perspicuitas (see Bavinck's dogmatics) and the merger of doleantie and afscheiding.

James Eglinton writes in an article that one of four guiding principles within Bavinck's organic worldview is that 'the created order is marked by simultaneous unity and diversity. This is essential if God is triune. As the universe itself is a general revelation of God, it must reflect this identity as three-in-one.' This reminds of the people that look for traces of the trinity, 'vestigia trinitas', in creation. But maybe I'm not smart enought to grasp this unity-in-diversity concept and it's added value to reformed theology.

It seems to me, to understand the role organicism plays in Bavinck (& Kuyper's) theology, we should look at how Bavinck's (and Kuyper's) organicism relates to the clarity of scripture and presbyterian church governance (directly related). Both the emphasis on biblical theology at Princeton and the centrality of the clarity of Scripture in reformed theology in Kampen from Helenius de Cock in 1834 until Klaas Schilder's inauguration in 1934 are the framework within which Bavinck's organicism takes shape. Karl Barth's claim that the Apostle Paul:
'As an apostle- and only as an apostle - stands in no organic relationship with human society as it exists in history; seen from the point of view of human society, he can be regarded only as an exception, rather, as an impossibility.'
seems at odds with Bavinck's claim in this statement:
'In Christ, in the middle of history God has created an organic center; from there the circles are getting drawn ever wider, on which the light of revelation shines..While head and heart, the totality of man in his being and consciousness has to be renewed, the revelation in this dispensation continuous through Scripture and church together.
'Scripture is the light of the church, the church is the life of the Scripture. Outside of the church Scripture is a riddle, an annoyance'
'Therefore Scripture does not stand alone. She should not be considered Deistically. She is rooted in a history of ages and is the fruit of the revelation under Israel and in Christ....The H. Scripture is the always living, eternally youthful word, which God sends now in this day and always to his people.'
This is Bavinck and Kuyper's organicism which shapes Klaas Schilder's writings, also concerning the trinity. For now I conclude that the attempt to see the trinity reflected in the world around us isn't the real reason organicism plays such an important role in reformed theology.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Russell Kirk's 'Conservative' Coalition & Presbyterian Theology


The question wether conservatism is compatible with the ideas of the founders of the Republic is directly related to presbyterian theology is my contention. Anthony Bradley tweeted recently 
Cornel West/Robbie George attacked by the most arrogant student ever, then rightly slammed. @ -37mins.

The question wether Robert P. George's 'conservative' views can be reconciled with Evangelical theology is at the heart of this discussion. Is the coalition around Chuck Colson and Robert P. George undermining or building on the legacy of people like Samuel Davies and Samuel Finley? I have already formed my opinion on the legacy of these two men and how their influence stretched across America. Bill Dennison's writings indicate that these questions are hotly debated among American evangelicals today. Dennison's debating 2K's, neocalvinism & natural law here, is at the heart of this debate.


Now let's look at this question from the other end. Let's start with Russell Kirk and his American friends and work back to the civil war. Once I have connected both sides we will be able to see how conservatism fits into the larger narrative of American history since the revolution and presbyterian theology in general.

In a 1957 article 'the essence of conservatism' Russell Kirk claims 'The system of ideas opposed to liberalism and radicalism is the conservative political philosophy'. Bradley J. Birzer wrote last year 'Russell Kirk adored a wide assortment of thinkers and artists and enjoyed serious friendships with most of them: Robert Nisbet, Flannery O’Connor, Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, and Ray Bradbury.' Russell Kirk wrote his dissertation on Randolph Of Roanoke, mentor of Slave Power leader Calhound, and labeled it 'a study in conservative thought.' This dissertation mentions Charles Sydnor as one of the people who made suggestions for this dissertation  who previously served as professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College. The educational background of this man, a son of a presbyterian minister, might give us more information on how his reading of American influenced Russell Kirk.
We read there that Charles Sydnor (who's chosen interest was English and medieval history!) was appointed in the newly created position as professor of history and political science at Hamden Sydney College: 'Sydney was deeply committed to its elitist Presbyterian heritage, its ideals for liberal education, and its determination to educate properly the embryonic leaders of the future South.' In 1925 he quit. Ten years later Francis Schaeffer graduated from this same elitist college.

At the University of Mississippi under President Albert Hume, a Presbyterian elder 'of conservative temperament' (whatever that means), Charles Sydnor became chair of the history department. In 1933 Charles Sydnor published a textbook on Slavery in Mississippi which buttressed the racist positions of confederate history societies.

In a piece on Lincoln Russell Kirk claimed 'the Northern, which practically was the New England intellect'. This reminds of the South's railing against 'yankee textbooks'. Especially this last clame betrays his attempt to rewrite history. Both Abraham Lincoln's background, linked to that of Kentucky abolitionist John Finley Crowe's Hanover seminary in Indiana, and his speech at Gettysburg, which is directly linked to Princeton and the Lutheran abolitionist movement are sufficient to show that Russell Kirk's claim is false. Add to that the evangelical exodus from the South.

Darryl Hart confirms most of what I write above, stating for example:
'evangelicals are starry-eyed activists masquerading as thoughtful conservatives'
Not surprising and not a bad thing in the context of Presbyterian history.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Abolitionist Origins of Hanover Seminary

"good classical education (is) essential to a full development of the human mind and to that discipline of its powers."  - John Finley Crowe
Kentucky Presbyterians played a central role in the efforts to use local, regional and national Church governing bodies to implement steps that would put slavery on the road to extinction. Central among these Kentucky Presbyterians was Reverend James Blyth President of Transylvania University in Lexington and later President of the seminary in Hannover (see also article by Andrew Lee Feight).


By 1835 the Presbyterian Church in the US harbored six theological seminaries: Princeton in New Jersey, Auburn in New York State, Western in Pennsylvania, Lane in Ohio, Columbia in South Carolina and the school founded in Indiana which later moved to Chicago.

In may 1822 the first issue (of 12) of the Abolitionist Intelligencer and Missionary Magazine came out. One of only two national abolitionist papers in the US. It's editor, John Finley Crowe, was to be the founder of Hannover Theological Seminary (1825,1826), a log college, the predecessor of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. In the history of this seminary in Hannover we can read that John Finley(Many of his line believe he added Finley later to have a middle name.) Crowe, after two years of private study,
'entered Transylvania University at Lexington, from which he was duly graduated in 1813, at the age of twenty-six. During his student days Mr. Crowe devoted a part of his time and energy to the rather irregular publication of an abolitionist paper, which did not contribute to his popularity in the Blue Grass country. He also became a member and an elder in the church of Rev. James Blythe whom he later induced to become the first president of Hanover College.'
In the Kentucky context 'John Finley' obviously refers to the Scots-Irish pioneer who explored Kentucky at the end of the 18th century together with Daniel Boone.

Reverend James Blythe was a graduate of Hampden Sidney College (1789) and studied theology under the direction of Reverend Dr. James Hall of North Carolina, who had graduated at Princeton under John Witherspoon in 1774. He was, for fifteen years, the president of Transylvania University in Lexington. In 1814/1815 John Finley Crowe studied at the Princeton theological Seminary and became pastor and teacher in Shelbyville in Kentucky. This would mean he studied under Archibald Alexander. The before mentioned Rev. James Blythe was the moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1816.

David Rice wrote a letter to James Blythe in 1799 which is mentioned here:
'he (David Rice) was educated at the College of New Jersey at Princeton before undertaking further studies under John Todd, who had spent a great deal of time working with Samuel Davies among slaves. Rice would eventually follow in Todd and Davies’ footsteps, working among slaves as an ordained Presbyterian minister in Virginia for over twenty years. After being forced out of Virginia, Rice joined the efforts of the Kentucky Abolition Society, serving also as a member of the 1792 Kentucky Constitutional Convention. It was as a member of the convention that Rice pleaded for a gradual emancipation initiative, giving an address entitled, Slavery Inconsistent with Justice and Good Policy. Ultimately, Rice saw the institution of slavery as not only unconstitutional, but as that which violated the most basic tenets of a natural, moral law. He believed, moreover, that it was especially the responsibility of the church to lead the cause for emancipation, expressing in 1799 in a letter to a friend that he wanted Christians to adopt “a rational plan for the gradual abolition of slavery; and do it under the influence of religion and conscience, without any regard for law” (Letter to James Blythe, 1799).'
At his graduation from Hampden-Sidney college in 1789 James Blythe had angered some attendants with his 'plea for black men' speech. James Blythe helped Barton W. Stone take over as minister the congregations of Cane Ridge and Concord in Bourbon County where Princeton educated Robert W. Finley had been expelled from the pulpit for drunkenness. Robert W. Finley, a biography by his son can be read here, had freed his slaves and moved to Ross County Ohio (where he became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church). In similar fashion James Blythe emancipated his slaves when he moved to Hanover Indiana to become President of the seminary 'which was primarily supported by anti-slavery migrants'. He stated in 1833 in his inaugural address: 'Christianity has taught the world to abhor slavery'. He however resigned in 1836 likely over his commitment to gradualism (writes Andrew Lee Feight). Hanover sacrificed it's President instead of having it's abolitionist scolars leave to Oberline, as had happened at Lane Seminary in 1834.

Three years later, november 7th 1837  a mob killed Elijah Parish Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois, who had moved the press for his abolitionist paper from St Louis to Alton in 1835. Abraham Lincoln referenced Lovejoy's murder in his Lyceum address in January 1838. James Blythe was succeeded by Dr. Erasmus Darwin MacMaster, one of the strongest anti-slavery men in the Old School Presbyterian Church. November 7th 1838, exactedly one year after the murder of Elijah Parish Loveoy, Erasmus D. MacMaster delivered his inaugural Address as new President of Hanover College. Macmaster had graduated from Union College in 1827, the school where Knox College founder George Washington Gale had studied under Eliphalet Nott.

In 1846 MacMaster had presented his views at the Presbyterian General Assemmbly and was there identified by the Princeton Review as one of two abolitionists. In 1847 New Albany Seminary was established. MacMaster became it's first President (1849-1857) Two of it's first students were sons of John Finley Crowe: James and Thomas. The school closed and moved to Chicago: the McCormick Seminary, a history.

An 1835 alumni of Hannover College, Jonathan Edwards, was President of Hannover College from 1855-1857 and went on to become President of Washington and Jefferson College, of Pennsylvania from 1866-1869. This Jonathan Edwards was a son of US Vice-President Aaron Burr.

John Finley Crowe stayed on the faculty of the College until 1857, but died january 17 1860. The rich McCormick taking over the seminary in 1859 to counter it's abolitionist teachings might have had something to do with Crowe's death. His son Samuel S. Crowe became member of the Indiana 93rd Infantry during the Civil War.