The View From 1776
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Judeo-Christianity and the Constitution
In 1639 representatives from the Puritan towns of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield in the Connecticut River Valley assembled in Hartford to create the world’s first written constitution that established a functioning government. It was the progenitor of the Constitution of the United States.
Students are not told anything about this aspect of our history. Instead they are taught that Puritanism was a theocratic, and therefore wholly repressive and undemocratic, mode of society. Thus, in the left-wing liberal construction, to form the United States, Americans had to reject Judeo-Christianity and the Puritanism on which New England was founded.
What progressive historians such as Charles A. Beard and Vernon L. Parrington have taught since the early 1900s is that the true spirit of American history is rooted in the 1789 French Revolution, which suppressed Christianity and turned France toward the atheistic materialism of socialism. Students are taught, by implication if not directly, that the French Revolution’s stirring motto, “Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood,” expresses the true nature of American democracy.
Students are taught that the Declaration of Independence was a hypocritical document, because Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal (this is a deliberate misrepresentation, as Jefferson was speaking not of slavery but of the estate of mankind under God). Students are taught that the French Revolution’s Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen expresses the true aspiration of American democracy, which in liberals’ view ought to be the French-style socialistic welfare-state.
Such falsifications are the ideological basis upon which the mythology of our present-day left-wing liberalism rests.
The truth is starkly different.
Bancroft Prize-winning historian Clinton Rossiter, who described himself as a centrist, somewhere between labor union radicals and the late Senator Barry Goldwater, wrote in “The First American Revolution”:
?Finally, it must never be forgotten, especially in an age of upheaval and disillusionment, that American democracy rests squarely on the assumption of a pious, honest, self-disciplined, moral people. ? Whatever doubts may exist about the sources of this democracy, there can be none about the chief source of the morality that gives it life and substance. From Puritanism, from the way of life that exalted individual responsibility, came those homely rules of everyday conduct ? or, if we must, those rationalizations of worldly success ? that have molded the American mind into its unique shape. ? The men of 1776 believed that the good state would rise on the rock of private and public morality, that morality was in the case of most men and all states the product of religion, and that the earthly mission of religion was to set men free.?
Nowhere was this better exemplified than in the Connecticut River Valley in 1639.
Puritanism was indeed exclusionary in the sense that the settlers of the Plymouth and Boston colonies had come to these shores to establish Christian communities that conformed as nearly as possible to the pious and moral life prescribed by the Bible. Excluding individuals who rejected Bible-based Christianity was the settlers’ right, because they had purchased the king’s colonial charters with their own money and had endured great suffering and death to establish their new homes.
For many decades this had no practical effect of excluding individuals from church membership and civil government, because with very few exceptions everyone was of like mind.
Nonetheless, groups who differed about specific Christian doctrinal matters continually arose within older congregations and left to form new church communities. In this manner, led by their minister Thomas Hooker, dissidents in the Newtown, Massachusetts, congregation went to the Connecticut River valley in 1636 and over the next few years settled the Puritan communities of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield.
Because their existence was threatened both by hostile Indians, and by Dutch settlers from the Hudson valley to the west, they sought mutual protection. A General Court was established at Hartford. It opened with a sermon by minister Thomas Hooker who asserted among other things that:
“.... the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people…. that the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance…. [and that] they have power to appoint officers, and magistrates have the right also to set bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them.”
These ideas of representative democracy were incorporated in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut adopted in 1639, the first written constitution in history to establish a continuing civil government.
As historian John Fiske expressed it in “The Beginnings of New England”:
“The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of [Puritan] Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies. The most noteworthy feature of the Connecticut republic was that it was a federation of independent towns, and that all attributions of sovereignty not expressly granted to the General Court remained, as of original right, in the towns. Moreover, while the governor and council were chosen by a majority vote of the whole people, and by a suffrage that was almost universal, there was for each township an equality of representation in the assembly.”
That constitution continued as the basis for the government of State of Connecticut until 1818. Because of our socialistic educational doctrines, very very few people today know that its adoption is the reason Connecticut is known as the Constitution State. Nor do they know that Puritanism was the source of our earliest institutions of representative democracy.