The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “History”

The American Presidents BEFORE George Washington

Presidents Before The Constitution

The American Revolution was a counter-revolution against the encroachment of the British Parliament. The independence movement released the thirteen colonies from foreign control. It is important to remember the American Revolution was a battle between Britain and the thirteen individually sovereign states, each with their own state governments. During the War, the state legislatures granted enumerated portions of their own limited sovereignty to an entity called the Continental Congress.

A congressman was elected by the other delegates to serve as this body’s President-his role was largely as an impartial moderator. Later in the war, the States transferred more responsibilities to the central government in the Articles of Confederation (1781). This stood as the nation’s first established constitution until the Constitutional Convention ratified the current U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Fourteen Presidents Before George Washington

George Washington was the first President to be elected under the 1788 Constitution Model. While many know of George Washington, the Presidents under the Continental Congress are largely unknown to modern Americans. They were men of great moral vigor, who stood strong for liberty, and held at the center of their ambition the glory of God.

Below is a list of the pre-constitution Presidents, along with inspiring quotes from these men who did not shy away from leadership when times were trying.

First Continental Congress

Peyton Randolph, Virginia (Sept 1774 – Oct 1774)

Often called the “father of our country,” the courageous Peyton Randolph led the charge against the Stamp Act as one of the most revolutionary Patriots. He also intitated the practice of prayer before conducting of government business.

In a letter to British General Thomas Cage, Randolph protests his occupation of Boston,

“Your Excellency cannot be a stranger to the sentiments of America with respect to the Acts of Parliament, under the execution of which those unhappy people are oppressed, the approbation universally expressed of their conduct, and the determined resolution of the Colonies, for the preservation of their common rights to unite in their opposition to those Acts. In consequence of these sentiments, they have appointed us the guardians of their rights and liberties…” [1]

Henry Middleton, South Carolina (October 1774)

Only serving four days, Middleton resigned in opposition to independence to Great Britian. He was succeeded in Congress by his son, Arthur Middleton (1742–1787), who was more radical than his father and became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[2] Middleton’s first official act, was to execute a letter as President supporting the efforts of oppressed colonists. In the letter Middleton wrote,

“So rapidly violent and unjust has been the late conduct of the British Administration against the colonies, that either a base and slavish submission, under the loss of their ancient, just, and constitutional liberty, must quickly take place, or an adequate opposition be formed.” [3]

Second Continental Congress

John Hancock, Massachusetts (May 1775 – October 1777)

Hancock was President of the Congress when the Declaration of Independence was prepared. He was the first to sign what most men understood to be a note of their own death. The Declaration was received as treasonous by the British, making the signers traitors to the crown.

“In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent Measure should be taken to ward off the impending Judgements….All confidence must be withheld from the Means we use; and reposed only on that GOD who rules in the Armies of Heaven, and without whose Blessing the best human Counsels are but Foolishness–and all created Power Vanity…” [4]

Henry Laurens, South Carolina (November  1777 – December 1778) Read more…

Jeb Bush as the New Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson had a dream. Following Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Johnson moved speedily to embody Kennedy’s vision for the country. After Roosevelt’s New Deal, Johnson’s vision for a post-Kennedy country was as ambitious as FDR’s. With only 11 months before the elections of 1964, Johnson had to prove to the country that his presidency wasn’t just due to Kennedy’s departure, but that he also deserved a chance by his own merits to lead the country for four more years. Johnson wooed Congress to pass his agenda. He continued JFK’s vision for a Civil Right’s Act, which was passed. Johnson also instituted a vision for a Great Society, which included a War on Poverty. At that moment, Liberalism’s goal to crown the Federal Government as the giver of life was achieved in a way Roosevelt could not.

Under Johnson’s presidency, Liberalism gained a powerful ally. The following agenda reveals the genesis of some of our current woes:

  • The Wilderness Protection Act saved 9.1 million acres of forestland from industrial development.
  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided major funding for American public school.
  • The Voting Rights Act banned literacy tests and other discriminatory methods of denying suffrage to African Americans.
  • Medicare was created to offset the costs of health care for the nation’s elderly.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities used public money to fund artists and galleries.
  • The Immigration Act ended discriminatory quotas based on ethnic origin.
  • An Omnibus Housing Act provided funds to construct low-income housing.
  • Congress tightened pollution controls with stronger Air and Water Quality Acts.
  • Standards were raised for safety in consumer products.

Vietnam, of course, shattered Johnson’s vision for a New Heaven and Earth. Now the attention of a nation was drawn to the disastrous Vietnam War.

Jeb Bush’s Vision

In some ways, Democrats have attempted to continue the Johnson legacy. They have succeeded. $16.5 Trillion in debt reveals that the Democratic leaders paid careful attention to Johnson’s blueprint for the nation. But we have come to expect this type of consistent ideology from Democrats.

Enters Jeb Bush.

The former Governor has been deeply engaged in talks about a 2016 run. In comments made towards immigration Reform, the former Governor of Florida extolled Johnson’s skills as a legislator. Breitbart quotes Bush’s assessment of Johnson:

“He went and he cajoled, he begged, he threatened, he loved, he hugged, he did what leaders do, which is they personally get engaged to make something happen,’’ Bush said of Johnson.

To be fair, Bush did not praise Johnson’s Great Society or War on Poverty, but Bush’s invoking of Johnson positively in any way reminds Conservatives and Moral Libertarians of the misdirected attempts of healing the nation through unconstitutional means. It prompts us to ask, “what keeps Bush from incarnating Johnson’s presidency not only in the immigration issue, but other important matters as well? ”

Of course, the best read of this situation is that he is arguing for a hands-on presidency (like Johnson’s) in an attempt to discredit Obama’s hands-off presidency. But forgive the political pessimism from my perspective, but I seem to have a general distrust of the Bush brand of political reform.

Not All Turkey and Touchdowns

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. Thomas Kidd

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony weren’t the first Europeans to settle in North America, nor were they the first permanent English colonists. But because of our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, and our hazy images of their 1621 meal with Native Americans, the Pilgrims have become the emblematic colonists in America’s national memory. Although modern Thanksgiving has become largely non-religious—focused more on food, family, and football than explicitly thanking God—the Pilgrims’ experience reveals a compelling religious aspect of our country’s roots.

Although people often refer to the Pilgrims as “Puritans,” they technically were English Separatists, Christians who had decided that the state-sponsored Anglican Church was fatally corrupt, and that they should found their own churches. (The Puritans, who would establish Massachusetts in 1630, believed in reforming the Anglican Church from within.) Establishing independent churches, however, was illegal. Under heavy persecution, some Separatists decided to move to Leiden in the Netherlands around the same time that the Virginia Company founded Jamestown in 1607.

The Netherlands offered the Separatists religious liberty, but the Pilgrims also became concerned about the negative influences of living in such a culturally diverse society. So in 1620, 102 settlers sailed to America on board the Mayflower. Their final Old World port was Plymouth, England, which supplied the name for their new settlement in what became southeastern Massachusetts.

All adult men on board the ship signed the “Mayflower Compact,” which many consider the first written constitution in American history. It is a very brief document, but it powerfully articulated the colonists’ commitment to God and government by common consent. It reads, in part:

Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation.

Documents such as the Mayflower Compact leave little doubt that the New England colonies were founded primarily for religious purposes.

The Compact noted Plymouth’s legal connection to Virginia (they shared the same charter), but their southern neighbors were less motivated by religion than were the New England colonists. Some today may exaggerate the secular nature of Virginia, however; among the first laws of that colony was a demand that the people honor God, to whom they owed their “highest and supreme duty, our greatest, and all our allegiance to him, from whom all power and authoritie is derived.” The recent news that the foundations of the oldest Protestant church in America have been discovered at the site of the Jamestown fort also reminds us of the southern colonists’ faith.

Although our records for the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth are sparse, we do know that in 1621 the Pilgrims held a three-day celebration with allied Indians, in observation of a good harvest and in gratitude for God’s help in passing through the trials of the first year of settlement (half of the settlers had died in that scourging winter). And yes, they had a “great store of wild turkeys” to eat for the festival.

The American colonies, particularly in New England, continued the tradition of holding thanksgiving days into the Revolutionary era, when the new American nation also picked up the practice. The Continental Congress and American presidents, beginning with George Washington, regularly proclaimed days of thanksgiving. In 1789, the first year of his presidency, Washington declared that the last Thursday of November would be a “day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Thanksgiving became an annual holiday in America during the Civil War, and Congress made the fourth Thursday of November an official national holiday in December 1941, shortly after America’s entry into World War II.

Thanksgiving historically was about “thanks-giving” directed to God. This is an instructive lesson, not only for better understanding our history, but also for curbing the temptation to make Thanksgiving into a holiday of over-consumption. The Pilgrims remind us that Thanksgiving is not all about turkey and touchdowns.

(Article first published at Patheos)

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