Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Franklin, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn


One of Ed Brayton's favorite whipping boys ... er ... blogs ... Stop the ACLU has posted a blatant self-promotion in the form of someone called Sharon Sebastian, self-described as "an author, writer and contributor for various forms of media including broadcast, print and online websites" (in other words, someone with no describable expertise whatsoever), humping her book Darwin's Racists – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, self-published by a vanity press.

Naturally, it is full of much hilarity, not least of all this:

Fascist/Socialist/Communist leaders and ideologists such a Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler all touted and relied on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to deny and denounce God as Creator. Top theologians say that Darwin's theory has done more to damage faith in America than any other philosophy. Top scientists today, many who once supported Darwin's theory, are now calling it flawed science and bankrupt. The reason Darwin's theory is taught in America's schools and championed by government is based on perpetuating the peoples' belief in government and not God. Charles Darwin's theory is a political tool for Marxists and Fascists.
For someone supposedly touting freedom of thought and conscience, there's a lot of appeal to authority there. And it doesn't end there. There is also an appeal to Benjamin Franklin, as if he represented the be-all and end-all of the thoughts of the Founders of America.

Note these words from the Constitutional Convention, 1787: "In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?" – Benjamin Franklin. America should be "sensible of danger" again and dare not imagine that we no longer need His assistance. Socialist, Communist and Fascist governments fear such a revival of the faith by the people.
This bit of palaver comes from "historians" of the ilk of David Barton. You can see Jim Allison's piece, "The Franklin Prayer Myth," at The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State for a nice debunking. Better yet, you can go to the sources.

The most authoritative source of knowledge of the events within the Constitutional Convention is James Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention which you can read here. From his notes on June 28, 1787, Madison summarizes Franklin's speech:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service-
Interestingly, the most prominent objection came from that hero of the right, Alexander Hamilton:

Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, [in the first place] bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & [in the second place] lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure.
In the end, the matter is tabled:

Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on [the] 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers ["&c to be read] in ye. Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2ded. this motion After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing [this] matter by adjourng. the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
In short, the delegates thanked Dr. Franklin for his stirring speech and promptly ignored him. A few days later, on July 2, 1787, Gouverneur Morris, one of the most influential delegates, had a wise thing to say: "Reason tells us we are but men: and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor."

More importantly, the Constitutional Convention produced a document without mention of God and which specifically held that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," a prohibition that was, after a bloody Civil War, extended to all state and local governments.

That was and is the "will of the people," whether or not pimples on the backside of the body politic such as Sharon Sebastian like it or not!

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