1-16-21 Unwrapping – ‘Stand alarm’d, O ye Americans!’

Unwrapping the John Lewis 1772 Sermon Unwrapping 'Stand Alarm'd, O ye Americans!'

The Program Podcast is where the real Unwrapping is occurring. This writing is background for the program.

The Unwrapping of ‘Stand alarm’d, O ye Americans!’ is directly related to what I noted in last weeks program – differentiating ‘Liberty and Freedom.’ Consider first a statement of Montesquieu:

‘Law in general is human reason insofar as it governs all the peoples of the earth; and the political and civil laws of each nation should be only the particular cases to which human reason is applied.

Laws should be so appropriate to the people for whom they are made that it is very unlikely that the laws of one nation can suit another.’

The reason I introduce these statements from Montesquieu’s ‘Spirit of the Law’ is to bring a broad understanding that laws affect ‘freedom’ where as ‘liberty’ is God given. So, how does Montesquieu describe the ‘spirit’ that is considered in laws? Here is is summary statement that he unwraps in the full treatise:

‘They should be related to the physical aspect of the country; to the climate, be it freezing, torrid, or temperate; to the properties of the terrain, its location and extent; to the way of life of the peoples, be they plowmen, hunters, or herdsmen; they should relate to the degree of liberty that the constitution can sustain, to the religion of the inhabitants, their inclinations, their wealth, their number, their commerce, their mores and their manners; finally, the laws are related to one another, to their origin, to the purpose of the legislator, and to the order of things on which they are established. They must be considered from all these points of view.’

I’m not sure that modern legislators even know this concept was ever written.

How does this tie into the HMS Gaspee incident that gave the impetus to Rev John Lewis to give an oration to the Earl of Dartmouth and the sermon? It is about ‘the degree of liberty’ that is affected by laws. The Oration and the Sermon both focus on God given Liberty.

Rev. Lewis points out how arbitrary regulations and law violate the Charter of Rhode Island which gives a self-governing political system. Additionally is addressed the violations of The Law of Nature and Natures God. He also directs attention to the last statement in his Biblical texts, “SO THEY WRAP IT UP.” He uses this four times in both the oration and the sermon. This is directed at the end of the sermon by delineating the arbitrary policies coming from the mother country with:

‘But I close with the last remark from the text. So they wrap it up. It will do; it will do, say they. The King, say they, has a right to appoint judges, courts of admiralty, impose revenues, lay taxes, send military forces, block up their harbours, command them — compel them by arms — pay their judges — get the key of their laws, rights and liberties into our hands, this will do! and so they wrap it up, as fine and smooth as can be:’

Jefferson on Freedom vs. Liberty

Before do the Unwrapping of ‘Stand alarm’d, O ye Americans!’ – I wanted to very quickly give a thought to Freedom vs. Liberty as noted by Thomas Jefferson. This is expeditious paragraph is from the essay ‘Freedom, Liberty, Rights and Their Limitations.’

‘One should distinguish between the terms “freedom” and “liberty.” Speaking generally, Freedom usually means to be free from something, whereas Liberty usually means to be free to do something, although both refer to the quality or state of being free. Jefferson’s use of the terms almost always reflected those meanings. Thus, he never spoke of freedom as a right, though liberty is listed in the Declaration as one of our inalienable rights. It is safe to say that whenever Jefferson spoke of freedom, he referred to that state that is free from despotic oppression. The thought of “limitations to freedom” in its general sense was never addressed as such because freedom was not used in the sense of our being free to do anything we want. Consequently, when he spoke of freedom of religion, or of the press, or any other freedom, he was always referring to the release from despotic restraints; nevertheless, one might always assume that there were limitations of one sort or another. But it was not the limitations he was addressing, rather the release from oppressive restriction. All laws can be viewed as a restrictions on freedom, and such restrictions are proper in any well-regulated society. Jefferson recognized that freedom coupled with self-government in improper hands might subvert orderly restrictions and take freedom to extremes, as in the following passage:

“Everyone, by his property or by his satisfactory situation, is interested in the support of law and order. And such men may safely and advantageously reserve to themselves a wholesome control over their public affairs and a degree of freedom which, in the hands of the canaille of the cities of Europe, would be instantly perverted to the demolition and destruction of everything public and private.” –Thomas Jefferson to J. Adams, 1813.

If we think of an activity as existing along a continuum from total oppression to totally without restraint, Jefferson used the term freedom in speaking of the lower end of the scale, free from oppression. He used specific language in his references to the higher end, but rarely if ever in terms of a general “limitation of freedom,” as in the following passage:

“Considering the great importance to the public liberty of the freedom of the press, and the difficulty of submitting it to very precise rules, the laws have thought it less mischievous to give greater scope to its freedom than to the restraint of it.” –Thomas Jefferson to the Spanish Commissioners, 1793.

This might seem pedantic, but you will notice that when he speaks of restraint, it is to be taken as applied to a particular subject, namely the press, not to freedom itself. Restrictions to “freedom” are much too abstract and theoretical a consideration; restrictions are to be applied on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the particular matter at hand.’

Enough for today and more to develop if you are interested.

Unwrapping

At this very moment there are numerous pundits, bloggers, podcasters and vlogs taking to ‘unwrapping’ what occurred on November 3rd and on January 6th of this political season. Yet, Rev. Lewis and the Founding Era had it ‘unwrapped’ during their time and America has, for the most part, rejected it!

What is ‘it’? It is the Reformation revival of the First Great Awakening. David Barton in a recent lecture (Run to the Roar! UPDATE for the NATION & CHURCH!) nails it as well as he is encouraging in that he thinks that these United States have been and are in a spiritual reawakening.

With that, here are a few bullet points to consider from Rev. Lew are:

  • As with Our Constitution he notes under charter: “…And that no man of what state or condition soever shall be put out of his lands or Tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor BANISHED (observe this, my Lord), nor any ways destroy’d, or MOLESTED, without being, for it, brought to answer by a due course of Law of this COLONY”

  • Regarding arbitrary authority to the governor of the Colony: I HAVE seen what is said to be an authenticated copy of your Lordship’s Letter to the Governor of Rhode-Island, in which there are such DICTATIONS, DIRECTIONS, and positive COMMANDS to oppress, with tyranny, a free People, which is inconsistent with a good man or a Christian to have any concern or agency therein.

  • Regarding political or bureaucratic leaders: being ‘well acquainted with the Divine Oracles..’ ‘…I therefore take this leave as a fellow Christian, as one that loves, as the highest happiness of his existence, the Beauties, Spirit, and LIFE of Christianity, to ask your Lordship how your Lordship would like to have his Birthright, Liberty and freedom, as an Englishman taken away by his King, or by the Ministry, or both? Would not your Lordship immediately say it was Tyranny, Oppression and Destruction by a despotic power? Would not your Lordship be ready to alarm the Nation and point out the STATE upon the brink of destruction?’

  • Brings up the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates

  • Americans do have greater privilege: ‘They never were in bondage to any man, and therefore it is more for them to give up their RIGHTS, than it is for all Europe to give up their RIGHTS into the hands of the TURKS; consider what English tyranny their forefathers fled from, what seas of distress they met with?’

  • Remembering that God is over earthly authority

  • Americans will unite in arms if need be to secure Liberty… ‘that the Americans will not submit to be SLAVES’

That is from the Oration… The sermon has more that is Unwrapped during the program. Please refer to the Sermon Link.

Conclusion: Tyranny and Despotism Rejected

Unwrapping the key observations that reject tyranny and despotism are:

1st – ‘IT is then plain that a craving, absolute Prince is a great distress to a people.’ Arbitrary rulers are destructive to society and the nation.

2nd – THAT when the king, judges, and senates unite to destroy the rights of the people by a despotic power, or as the text expresses it, that they may do evil with both hands, then the prosperity of the nation totters; the crown shakes, and the destruction of the people’s rights is near at hand.

3rd – Arbitrary despotic power is the destruction of everyone, society, property and the nation as a whole.

Next – It is not rebellion to stand agains tyranny and despotism. ‘That it is no rebellion to oppose any king, ministry, or governor, that destroys by any violence or authority whatever the rights of the people.’

Last – THAT when the rights and liberties of the people are destroyed, it is commonly by the mischievous design of some great man.

Sam Adams Wisdom

The clamor is echoing regarding Sedition. What is Liberty and Loyalty? It was clearly addressed in 1748 and readdressed in 1765.

Background from 1765: ‘Still another consideration must have weighed with Samuel Adams aside from those mentioned here. He well knew how great the departure had been in England from the primitive institutions and standards of the old Teutonic freedom. Liberty seemed to be sinking before the encroachments of arbitrary power. Corruption was universal and scarcely noticed ; the great masses of the people, practically unrepresented in the government, apathetic or despairing, were losing the characteristics of freemen. Already he had begun to cherish the idea of independence in his own mind.’

… ‘In ways which the wisest of them did not fully appreciate, the constitution had under gone deterioration through the carelessness of the people and the arbitrary course of many of the rulers, until the primeval Anglo-Saxon freedom was scarcely recognizable, and liberty was in great jeopardy. Following usages and precedents, learned lawyers could easily find justification for an arbitrary course on the part of the ministers,…’

Quote from Sam Adams 1748 ‘Loyalty and Sedition’:

‘But we oftentimes perceive such significations assumed by those who find the wrong use of the words conducive to the increase of power or gain, that it is difficult to tell whether loyalty is really commendable or sedition blameworthy. True loyalty in the sense just now explained is the beauty and perfection of a well-constituted state. It cannot indeed subsist in an arbitrary government, because it is founded in the love and possession of liberty. It includes in it a thorough knowledge of our Constitution, its conveniences and defects as well as its real advantages; a becoming jealousy of our immunities, and a steadfast resolution to maintain them. It delights in the quiet and thankful enjoyment of a good administration, and it is the scourge of the griping oppressor and haughty invader of our liberties.

But sedition is founded on the depraved and inordinate passions of the mind: it is a weak, feverish, sickly thing, a boisterous and unnatural vigor, which cannot support itself long, and oftentimes destroys the unhappy patient. It proceeds from gross mistake or great wickedness, from lust of power or gain, in the first promoters of it, and from untamable obstinacy and a vitiated palate that cannot relish the happiness of a free state in the creatures of their designs.’



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References:

The video of the program is available on Saturday at the SamuelAdamsReturns YouTube channel.

1. Montesquieu – Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws [1748]

2. Rev. John Lewis Sermon – Stand alarm’d, O ye Americans! An ORATION upon the BEAUTIES of LIBERTY; Or, The Essential RIGHTS of the AMERICANS

3. The Gods of Civil Unrest and Jesus Mobs, by Doug Wilson

4. Pearl-Clutchers on Parade, By Joan Swirsky

Liberty Vs. Freedom essays:

3. The Jefferson Perspective – Essay ‘Freedom, Liberty, Rights and Their Limitations

4. What We’re Fighting For, By Andy Snyder. Originally posted May 14, 2020 posted in: Investment U

5. Freedom vs. Liberty: How Subtle Differences Between These Two Big Ideas Changed Our World, from Ammo.com

6. Forget Multiculturalism: Restore The Anglo-Saxon Philosophy Of Liberty, Bill Flax – Forbes Contributor

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