Friday, July 04, 2008

4th of July : Schall and Chesterton on America

wherein he said:

Chesterton said someplace that the United States is almost the only country ever to have been founded on an idea. [1] That is to say, it was founded by men who knew well the English and Western Christian tradition, themselves thinking with principles formulated in that tradition. These men who signed the Declaration also knew their Cicero and Aristotle, their Bible. They were presenting before mankind an argument that explained the validity of their political action. They did not intend to act unwisely or unreasonably. They knew it was a delicate situation that merited rational statement. They did not know whether they would succeed or not. No small part of their eventual success was in fact the persuasive force of their principles. But we know that rightness of cause does not, in world history, always assure political success. They had to risk, as they said at the end of the Declaration, their lives, their fortunes, and their "sacred honor." Not all men are so willing. Men who have no conception of what this "risk" means have no grounds for freedom or to the truth on which it is based. Nor should they really live in regimes based on "sacred honor."

Speaking of Chesterton, in his What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton, he writes:

The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism. and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

1 comment:

JS said...

Check out the interesting, strangely timely article about Jefferson in today's LATimes. It's old news, of course, but it throws a wrench into pervasive Christian mythology about the Founding Fathers and the origins of America.