Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Massachusetts Unitarians And The Laws of Nature

Massachusetts Unitarians: John Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine (although Paine was a Calvinist early on) understood The Laws of Nature, unless enumerated, included the Scriptures. The four men from Massachusetts Bay listed below, were the most respected men in the Colony. Here, in the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts Bay, these Founding Fathers, with John Hancock as President, show us the distinction; again, proving The Laws of Nature in the Declaration of Independence is the Christian God:
Province of the Massachusetts Bay

In Provincial Congress Cambridge
December 5th 1774.

Resolved, that the proceedings of the American continental Congress held at Philadelphia, on the fifth day of September last, and Reported by the honble Delegates from this Colony, have with the deliberation due to their high importance been considered by us; and the American Bill of rights therein contained, appears to be formed with the greatest Ability and Judgment; to be founded on the immutable Laws of Nature and reason, the principles of the English constitution, and respective Charters and constitutions of the Colonies, and to be worthy of their most vigorous support, as essentially necessary to liberty. Likewise the ruinous and eniquitous measures, which, in violation of these RIGHTS, at present convulse and threaten destruction to America, appear to be clearly pointed out, and judicious plans adopted for defeating them.

Resolved, That the most grateful acknowledgments are due to the truly honorable and patriotic Members of the Continental Congress, for their wise and able exertions in the cause of American Liberty; and this Congress, in their own Names, and in behalf of this Colony, do hereby, with the utmost Sincerity, express the same.

Resolved, That the Hon. John Hancock, Hon. Thomas Cushing, Esquires, Mr. Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, Esquires, or any three of them, be, and they hereby are appointed and authorized to represent this Colony, on the tenth of May next, or sooner if necessary, at the American Congress, to be held at Philadelphia, with full power, with the Delegates from the Other American Colonies, to concert, agree upon, direct and order such farther measures, as shall to them appear to be best calculated for the recovery and establishment of American rights and Liberties, and for restoring harmony between Great-Britain and the Colonies. [bold face mine]

A true copy of record,
Benjamin Lincoln, Secretary.1
[Note 1: 1 The original is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, Massachusetts, Credentials of Delegates.]
Furthermore, the Unitarians of the 18th Century adhered to Biblical Inspiration, differing from most of their 19th Century counterparts who believed the Bible was not inspired. The term "of God and Nature" was in common use by Christian Philosophers and the Founding Fathers:

The least of men is a man as well as a giant: And those in the West-Indies who have not above twenty or thirty subjects able to bear arms, are kings as well as Xerxes. Every nation may divide itself into small parcels as some have done, by the same law they have restrained or abolished their kings, joined to one another, or taken their hazard of subsisting by themselves; acted by delegation, or retaining the power in their own persons; given finite or indefinite powers; reserved to themselves a power of punishing those who should depart from their duty, or referred it to their general assemblies. And that liberty, for which we contend as the gift of God and nature, remains equally to them all."
--Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Section 44: No People That Is Not Free Can Substitute Delegates, [1698]. Ed. Thomas G. West (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1996).

John Adams also wrote of "God and Nature"
The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 3
J. Adams to the President of Congress.*
[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 137, with verbal changes.]
Paris, June 16, 1780
..."With the independence of America," says he, "we must give up our fisheries on the bank of Newfoundland and in the American seas." Supposing this to be true, which it is in part, but not in the whole, if Great Britain loses her fisheries, does not America gain them? Are they not an object then to America as important and desirable as to Great Britain? Has not America then at least as strong and pressing a motive to fight for them as Great Britain? The question then is reduced to another--Which has the best prospect of contending for them successfully? America, favored by all the world, or Great Britain, thwarted and opposed by all the world. And to whom did God and nature give them? The English lay great stress upon the gifts of God and nature, as they call the advantage of their insular situation, to justify their injustice and hostilities against all the maritime powers of the world. Why should the Americans hold the blessings of Providence in a lower estimation, which they can enjoy, without doing injury to any nation or individual whatsoever? ....
John Adams uses the phrase again to Presbyterian William Livingston:
Be assured that when contemptible discord, with its odious attendants, artifice and imposture, could effectuate nothing, absolutely nothing, at the moment when the present war broke out, to prejudice in the least the fidelity of the citizens of the Amstel, or to shake them in the observation of their duties, the inconveniences and the evils that a war naturally and necessarilly draws after it, will not produce the effect neither; yes, we will submit more willingly to them, accordingly as we shall perceive that the means that God and nature have put into our hands are more and more employed to reduce and humble a haughty enemy."
--John Adams, letter to Livingston*, March 19, 1782, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 5. [* - MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 562.]

Also, the foremost authority on the Laws of Nature understood the distinction by using the of "God and Nature" This proves James Wilson, in his "Lectures on Law" viewed God's word superior to Natural Law,which many have apparently missed from his writings. There are those who claim Wilson believed Revelation could not supercede Reason. Here Wilson destroys that argument, as he writes God first, then reason, as though reason could be superior to God:
But however great the variety and inequality of men may be with regard to virtue, talents, taste, and acquirements; there is still one aspect, in which all men in society, previous to civil government, are equal. With regard to all, there is an equality in rights and in obligations; there is that "jus aequum," that equal law, in which the Romans placed true freedom. The natural rights and duties of man belong equally to all. Each forms a part of that great system, whose greatest interest and happiness are intended by all the laws of God and nature. These laws prohibit the wisest and the most powerful from inflicting misery on the meanest and most ignorant; and from depriving them of their rights or just acquisitions. By these laws, rights, natural or acquired, are confirmed, in the same manner, to all; to the weak and artless, their small acquisitions, as well as to the strong and artful, their large ones. If much labour employed entitles the active to great possessions, the indolent have a right, equally sacred, to the little possessions, which they occupy and improve. [bold face mine]
--James Wilson, 1791, "Lectures on Law". [The Works of James Wilson. Edited by Robert Green McCloskey. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.]

Unitarians respected probable unitarian, John Locke:
The obligations of the law of nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have by human laws known penalties annexed to them, to inforce their observation. Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions, must, as well as their own and other men's actions, be conformable to the law of nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good, or valid against it. [bold face mine]
--John Locke, "The Second Treatise of Government" - Chapter 11 - Of the Extent of the Legislative Power. (1690).

The Father of the Bill of Rights declared the distinction in a Court of Virginia:
The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth.
--George Mason, 1772 [Robin v. Hardaway, General Court of Virginia]

Revolutionary General Arthur Lee differentiates the two components of The Laws of Nature:
"...At the same time he trusts that the Spanish nation will receive no inconsiderable retribution from the freedom of that commerce the monopoly of which contributed so much to strengthen and aggrandize her rival and her foe; nor can anything give more lasting satisfaction to the royal mind than the reflection of having employed those means which God has put into his hands in assisting an oppressed people to vindicate those rights and liberties which have been violated by twice six years of incessant injuries and insulted supplications; those rights which God and nature, together with the convention of their ancestors and the constitution of their country, gave to the people of the States. Instead of that protection in those rights which was the due return for sovereignty exercised over them, they have seen their defenseless towns wantonly laid in ashes, their unfortified country cruelly desolated, their property wasted, their people slain; the ruthless savage, whose inhuman war spares neither age nor sex, instigated against them; the hand of the servant armed against his master by public proclamation, and the very food which the sea that washes their coast furnishes forbidden them by a law of unparalleled folly and injustice. Proinde quasi injuriam facere id demure esset imperio uti. Nor was it enough that for these purposes the British force was exhausted against them, but foreign mercenaries were also bribed to complete the butchery of their people and the devastation of their country. And that nothing might be wanting to make the practices equivalent to the principles of this war, the minds of these mercenaries were poisoned with every prejudice that might harden their hearts and sharpen their swords against a people who not only never injured or offended them, but who have received with open arms and provided habitations for their wandering countrymen. These are injuries which the Americans can never forget. These are oppressors whom they can never again endure. The force of intolerable and accumulated outrages has compelled them to appeal to God and to the sword. The King of Spain, in assisting them to maintain that appeal, assists in vindicating the violated rights of human nature. No cause can be more illustrious, no motive more magnanimous. [bold face mine]
--Arthur Lee, March 17, 1777, Letter to Florida Blanca, [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2]

Again, the Continental Congress differentiating the laws of Revelation and the law of Nature:
Friends and Countrymen: Three years have now passed away, since the commencement of the present war: a war without parallel in the annals of mankind. It hath displayed a spectacle, the most solemn that can possibly be exhibited. On one side, we behold fraud and violence laboring in the service of despotism; on the other, virtue and fortitude supporting and establishing the rights of human nature...Trust not to appearances of peace or safety. Be assured that, unless you persevere, you will be exposed to every species of barbarity. But, if you exert the means of defence which God and nature have given you, the time will soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid...." [bold face mine]
--AN ADDRESS OF THE CONGRESS TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. MAY 8, 1778.

Even Deists, like James Monroe make the distinction:
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 22
James Monroe to Joseph Brant
Dear Sir,(1) (Copy) New York. Febry. 5th. 1785
It is the earnest disposition of the States to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, and of course, the less they are connected with other powers, the more agreeable it will be to them; and the greater confidence they will be able to place in them. Examine your own situation; look to the Powers of Europe; mark their objects and progress on this Continent; then look to the united States; with whom does the powerful impulse of nature, or the God of nature bid you ally yourselves!

1 comment:

Our Founding Truth said...

But, if you exert the means of defence which God and nature have given you, the time will soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid...." [bold face mine]""

What God has given in his word, and it says we are given are own property to be at peace.


then look to the united States; with whom does the powerful impulse of nature, or the God of nature bid you ally yourselves!""

Even theists like Monroe saw the difference between nature and God