Champion of Liberty: Charles Montesquieu

Dinner Topics for Thursday

key“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”~ William Penn

Charles Montesquieu

Famous for his theory of Separation of Powers

montesquieuCharles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (/ˈmɒntɨskjuː/;[1] French: [mɔ̃tɛskjø]; 18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French lawyer, man of letters, and political philosopher who lived during the Age of Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He did more than any other author to secure the place of the word despotism in the political lexicon,[2] and may have been partly responsible for the popularization of the terms feudalism and Byzantine Empire.[citation needed]

Montesquieu’s early life occurred at a time of significant governmental change. England had declared itself a constitutional monarchy in the wake of its Glorious Revolution (1688–89), and had joined with Scotland in the Union of 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In France the long-reigning Louis XIV died in 1715 and was succeeded by the five-year-old Louis XV. These national transformations had a great impact on Montesquieu; he would refer to them repeatedly in his work.

Montesquieu withdrew from the practice of law to devote himself to study and writing. He achieved literary success with the publication of his Lettres persanes (Persian Letters, 1721), a satire representing society as seen through the eyes of two imaginary Persian visitors to Paris and Europe, cleverly criticizing the absurdities of contemporary French society. He next published Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, 1734), considered by some scholars, among his three best known books, as a transition from The Persian Letters to his master work. De l’Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws) was originally published anonymously in 1748. The book quickly rose to influence political thought profoundly in Europe and America. In France, the book met with an unfriendly reception from both supporters and opponents of the regime. The Catholic Church banned l’Esprit – along with many of Montesquieu’s other works – in 1751 and included it on the Index of Prohibited Books. It received the highest praise from the rest of Europe, especially Britain.

Montesquieu was also highly regarded in the British colonies in North America as a champion of liberty (though not of American independence). Political scientist Donald Lutz found that Montesquieu was the most frequently quoted authority on government and politics in colonial pre-revolutionary British America, cited more by the American founders than any source except for the Bible.[9] Following the American revolution, Montesquieu’s work remained a powerful influence on many of the American founders, most notably James Madison of Virginia, the “Father of the Constitution“. Montesquieu’s philosophy that “government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another”[10] reminded Madison and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.

Besides composing additional works on society and politics, Montesquieu traveled for a number of years through Europe including Austria and Hungary, spending a year in Italy and 18 months in England where he became a freemason, admitted to the Horn Tavern Lodge in Westminster,[11] before resettling in France. He was troubled by poor eyesight, and was completely blind by the time he died from a high fever in 1755. He was buried in the Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris.

Read more about Charles Montesquieu

 

 

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Benjamin Franklin: America’s Greatest Diplomat

Book review: The Real Benjamin Franklin

By Andrew M. Allison and the National Center for Constitutional Studies

Dinner Topics for Monday

key“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” ~Benjamin Franklin

225px-BenFranklin2At sixteen, he was the youngest printer in America. He often wrote under pen names, making  quotations that are powerfully relevant today.

Freedom of speech (this was written under the name of Silence Dogood)

Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another; and this is the only check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know.

This sacred privilege is so essential to free governments that the security of property and the freedom of speech always go together; and in those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything else his own. Whoever would over throw the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. . .

A renowned scientist and inventor. His kite experiment proved lightning was electricity. Inventions included lightning rod, Franklin stove, bifocals, flexible catheter, daylight savings time.

Pride

There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive and will every now and then peep out and show itself. . .Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.  P. 61

I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of Deity, that he made the world and governed it by his providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished and virtue rewarded either her e or hereafter. P.62

He wrote short maxims with the youth in mind.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Would you live with ease, do what you ought and not what you please.

Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.

God helps them that help themselves.

Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools will learn in no other.

The used key is always bright.

A stitch in time saves nine.

He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.

Franklin taught himself several languages—French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and German—chiefly to enable him to increase his knowledge by reading various important works that had not yet been translated into English. He also learned to play the harp, violin, and the guitar (later he would add an unusual instrument of his own design, the “armonica”).

Franklin served on a committee with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to draw up a proposal for the Great Seal of the United States, for which he suggested a motto that Jefferson later used on his own seal: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” P. 205

 

Champion of Liberty: Edmund Burke

Dinner Topics for Thursday

Champion of Liberty, Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

keyThose who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. ~Edmund Burke

From Wikipedia

Edmund Burke 12 January [NS] 1729[1] – 9 July 1797) was an Irish[2][3] statesman born in Dublin; author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party.

Mainly, he is remembered for his support of the cause of the American Revolutionaries, and for his later opposition to the French Revolution. The latter led to his becoming the leading figure within the conservative faction of the Whig party, which he dubbed the “Old Whigs”, in opposition to the pro–French Revolution “New Whigs”, led by Charles James Fox.[4]

Burke was praised by both conservatives and liberals in the nineteenth century.[5] Since the twentieth century, he has generally been viewed as the philosophical founder of conservatism.[6][7]

American War of Independence

EdmundBurke1771Burke expressed his support for the grievances of the American Colonies under the government of King George III and his appointed representatives. On 19 April 1774 Burke made the speech, On American Taxation (published in January 1775), on a motion to repeal the tea duty:

Again and again, revert to your old principles—seek peace and ensue it; leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions; I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. … Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. … Do not burthen them with taxes. … But if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question. … If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. No body of men will be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentlemen on the other side … tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their property and industry by all the restraints you can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least share in granting them. When they bear the burthens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burthens of unlimited revenue too? The Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery; that it is legal slavery, will be no compensation either to his feelings or to his understandings.[48]

On 22 March 1775, in the House of Commons, Burke delivered a speech (published during May 1775) on reconciliation with America. Burke appealed for peace as preferable to civil war and reminded the House of America’s growing population, its industry, and its wealth. He warned against the notion that the Americans would back down in the face of force, since the Americans were descended largely from Englishmen:

… the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. … They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles. The people are Protestants … a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but built upon it. … My hold of the colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government—they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation—the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution.

As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But, until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you.[49]

Burke prized peace with America above all else, pleading with the House of Commons to remember that the interest and money received off of the American colonies was far more attractive than any sense of putting the colonists in their place:

The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war, not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations, not peace to arise out of universal discord…it is simple peace, sought in its natural course and in its ordinary haunts. It is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific.[50]

Burke wasn’t simply promoting peace to Parliament; rather, he stepped forward with four reasons against using force, carefully reasoned. He laid out his objections in an orderly manner, focusing on one before moving to the next. His first concern was that the use of force would have to be temporary, and that the uprisings and objections to British governance in America would not be. Second, Burke worried about the uncertainty surrounding whether Britain would win a conflict in America. “An armament”, Burke wisely says, “is not a victory”.[51] Third, Burke brought up the issue of impairment; it would do the British Government no good to engage in a scorched earth war and have the object they desired (America) become damaged or even useless. The American colonists could always delve back into the mountains, but the land they left behind would most likely be unusual, whether by incident or design. The fourth and final reason to avoid the use of force was experience; the British had never attempted to reign back in an unruly colony by force, and they didn’t know if it could be done, let alone accomplished thousands of miles away from home.[51] Not only were all of these concerns reasonable, but some turned out to be prophetic—the American colonists did not surrender, even when things looked extremely bleak, and the British were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to win a war fought on American soil.

It wasn’t temporary force, uncertainty, impairment, or even experience that Burke cited as the number one reason for avoiding war with the American colonies, however; it was the character of the American people themselves:

In this character of Americans, a love of freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole…this fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth…[the] men [are] acute, inquisitive, dextrous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources…”.[51] Burke concludes with another plea for peace, and a prayer that Britain might avoid actions which, in Burke’s words, “may bring on the destruction of this Empire”.[51]

Burke proposed six resolutions to settle the American conflict peacefully:

  1. Allow the American colonists to elect their own representative, thus settling the dispute about taxation without representation;
  2. Acknowledge this wrong and apologize for grievances cause;
  3. Procure an efficient manner of choosing and sending these delegates;
  4. Set up a General Assembly in America itself, with powers to regulate taxes;
  5. Stop gathering taxes by imposition (or law), and start gathering them only when they are needed; and
  6. Grant needed aid to the colonies.[51]

The effect of these resolutions, had they been passed, can never be known. Unfortunately, this speech was given less than a month before the explosive conflict at Concord and Lexington,[52] and as these resolutions were not passed, little was done that would help to dissuade conflict.

One of the reasons this speech was greatly admired was the passage on Lord Bathurst (1684–1775). Burke imagines an angel in 1704 prophesying to Bathurst the future greatness of England and also of America: “Young man, There is America—which at this day serves little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men, and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, shew itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world”.[53] Samuel Johnson was so irritated at hearing it continually praised, that he made a parody of it, where the devil appears to a young Whig and predicts that in short time, Whiggism will poison even the paradise of America.[53]

The administration of Lord North (1770–1782) tried to defeat the colonist rebellion by military force. British and American forces clashed in 1775 and, in 1776, came the American Declaration of Independence. Burke was appalled by celebrations in Britain of the defeat of the Americans at New York and Pennsylvania. He claimed the English national character was being changed by this authoritarianism.[9] Burke wrote: “As to the good people of England, they seem to partake every day more and more of the Character of that administration which they have been induced to tolerate. I am satisfied, that within a few years there has been a great Change in the National Character. We seem no longer that eager, inquisitive, jealous, fiery people, which we have been formerly”.[54]

Regarding the French Revolution

In January 1790, Burke read Dr. Richard Price‘s sermon of 4 November 1789 entitled, A Discourse on the Love of our Country, to the Revolution Society.[75] That society had been founded to commemorate the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In this sermon Price espoused the philosophy of universal “Rights of Men”. Price argued that love of our country “does not imply any conviction of the superior value of it to other countries, or any particular preference of its laws and constitution of government”.[76] Instead, Price asserted that Englishmen should see themselves “more as citizens of the world than as members of any particular community”.

A debate between Price and Burke ensued that was “the classic moment at which two fundamentally different conceptions of national identity were presented to the English public”.[77] Price claimed that the principles of the Glorious Revolution included “the right to choose our own governors, to cashier them for misconduct, and to frame a government for ourselves”.

Immediately after reading Price’s sermon, Burke wrote a draft of what eventually became, Reflections on the Revolution in France.[78] On 13 February 1790, a notice in the press said that shortly, Burke would publish a pamphlet on the revolution and its British supporters, however he spent the year revising and expanding it. On 1 November he finally published the Reflections and it was an immediate best-seller.[79][80] Priced at five shillings, it was more expensive than most political pamphlets, but by the end of 1790, it had gone through ten printings and sold approximately 17,500 copies. A French translation appeared on 29 November and on 30 November the translator, Pierre-Gaëton Dupont, wrote to Burke saying 2,500 copies had already been sold. The French translation ran to ten printings by June 1791.[81]

Later life

In November 1795, there was a debate in Parliament on the high price of corn and Burke wrote a memorandum to Pitt on the subject. In December Samuel Whitbread MP introduced a bill giving magistrates the power to fix minimum wages and Fox said he would vote for it. This debate probably led Burke to editing his memorandum, as there appeared a notice that Burke would soon publish a letter on the subject to the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture (Arthur Young), but he failed to complete it. These fragments were inserted into the memorandum after his death and published posthumously in 1800 as, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity.[129] In it, Burke expounded “some of the doctrines of political economists bearing upon agriculture as a trade”.[130] Burke criticised policies such as maximum prices and state regulation of wages, and set out what the limits of government should be.

The economist Adam Smith remarked that Burke was “the only man I ever knew who thinks on economic subjects exactly as I do, without any previous communications having passed between us”.[132]

Read more about Edmund Burke

 

Champion of Liberty: Alexander Hamilton

Champion of Liberty: Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton Quotes

keyFor it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those [toward] whom they entertain the least suspicion. (Federalist Papers, No. 25, p.164)

Every unconstitutional action has usually been justified because it was for a “good cause.” Every illegal transfer of power from one department to another has been excused as “necessary.”

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.
Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

A promise must never be broken.

It’s not tyranny we desire; it’s a just, limited, federal government.
Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.
alexanderhamiltonAlexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was a founding father of the United States, chief staff aide to General George Washington, one of the most influential interpreters and promoters of the U.S. Constitution, the founder of the nation’s financial system, and the founder of the first political party.

As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the primary author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration, especially the funding of the states’ debts by the Federal government, the establishment of a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. He became the leader of the Federalist Party, created largely in support of his views; he was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Hamilton played a major role in the American Revolutionary War. At the start of the war in 1775, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. He later became the senior aide to General Washington, the American forces’ commander-in-chief. Washington sent him on numerous important missions to tell generals what Washington wanted. In 1798-99, Hamilton called for mobilization against France after the XYZ Affair and secured an appointment from President John Adams as commander of a new army, which he readied for war. However, the Quasi-War, while hard-fought at sea, was never officially declared and did not involve army action. In the end, Adams found a diplomatic solution which avoided a land war.

Born out of wedlock to a Scottish-French mother and raised in the West Indies, Hamilton was orphaned at about age 11. Recognized for his abilities and talent, he was sponsored by people from his community to go to North America for his education. He attended King’s College (now Columbia University), in colonial New York.[1] After the war, Hamilton was elected to the Congress of the Confederation from New York. He resigned, to practice law, and founded the Bank of New York.

Hamilton was among those dissatisfied with the Articles of Confederation—the first attempt at a national governing document—because it lacked an executive, courts, and taxing powers. He led the Annapolis Convention, which successfully influenced Congress to issue a call for the Philadelphia Convention, in order to create a new constitution. He was an active participant at Philadelphia; and he helped achieve ratification by the thirteen states, by writing 51 of the 85 installments of the The Federalist Papers, which supported the new constitution. To this day, The Federalist Papers are the single most important reference for Constitutional interpretation.[2]

In the new government under President George Washington, Hamilton was appointed the Secretary of the Treasury. An admirer of British political systems, Hamilton was a nationalist, who emphasized strong central government and successfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, assume states’ debts, and create the government-owned Bank of the United States. These programs were funded primarily by a tariff on imports, and later also by a highly controversial excise tax on whiskey.

Embarrassed when an extra-marital affair became public, Hamilton resigned his Cabinet position in 1795 and returned to the practice of law in New York. He kept his hand in politics and was a powerful influence on the Cabinet of President Adams (1797–1801). Hamilton’s opposition to Adams’ re-election helped cause his defeat in the 1800 election. When in the same contest, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied for the presidency in the electoral college, Hamilton helped defeat Burr, whom he found unprincipled, and to elect Jefferson despite philosophical differences.

After failing to support Adams, the Federalist Party candidate, Hamilton lost some of his national prominence within the party. Vice President Burr later ran for governor in New York state, but Hamilton’s influence in his home state was strong enough to again prevent a Burr victory. Taking offense at some of Hamilton’s comments, Burr challenged him to a duel and mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day.

Constitution and The Federalist Papers

In 1787, Hamilton served as assemblyman from New York County in the New York State Legislature and was the first delegate chosen to the Constitutional Convention. Even though Hamilton had been a leader in calling for a new Constitutional Convention, his direct influence at the Convention itself was quite limited. Governor George Clinton‘s faction in the New York legislature had chosen New York’s other two delegates, John Lansing and Robert Yates, and both of them opposed Hamilton’s goal of a strong national government. Thus, whenever the other two members of the New York delegation were present, they decided New York’s vote; and when they left the convention in protest, Hamilton remained but with no vote, since two representatives were required for any state to cast a vote.

Alexander Hamilton

Legacy

Hamilton’s interpretations of the Constitution set forth in the Federalist Papers remain highly influential, as seen in scholarly studies and court decisions.[144]

From his first days as a cabinet member Hamilton set a precedent by formulating federal programs, writing them as reports, pushing for their approval by arguing for them in person on the floor of the United States Congress, and then implementing them. Hamilton and the other Cabinet members were vital to Washington, as there was no executive branch under the Articles of Confederation, and the Cabinet itself is unmentioned in the Constitution that succeeded it.

Read more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton

Parenting: Teaching Loyalty

Parenting: Teaching Loyalty & Dependability

Dinner Topics for Thursday

By Richard and Linda Eyre

Loyalty to family, to employers, to country, church, schools, and other organizations and institutions to which commitments are made. Support, service, contribution. Reliability and consistency in doing what you say you will do.

Parenting Value for January: Loyalty and Dependability Part 1

family4General Methods for teaching Dependability and Loyalty

So . . . loyalty and dependability means doing what is right even when it is hard (and even if it means missing a party).

Children can learn what loyalty and dependability are through stories, games, role-playing, and discussion, but they can learn to have it only through your example and through your lavish praise of their example (or even of their attempts).

Highlight your own dependability. Make your children aware of your own example. Parents do things every day that illustrate their loyalty to their children and that exemplify dependability in the home setting. But so many of these things are so automatic that they are seldom noticed and seldom used as visible examples of this important moral value. Instead of saying, “I’ll pick you up after school,” say, “I’ll be there at three-thirty — you can count on it.” Instead of just going to a child’s soccer game or music recital, say, “I’ll be there no matter how busy I am because I want to be with you and support what you do!”

Tell children more often that you will always be there for them, that they can depend on you, that you’ll be behind them in hard times. Take credit for your dependability and loyalty, because it is the best way to instill the same qualities into your children.

Thank children and praise them for every evidence of their own dependability. Reinforce the value and show them how often it can be used. Thank your children when they are on time for dinner or when they support or help a smaller brother or sister. Praise them when they finish an assignment or task. Work hard this month at never taking for granted any act or evidence of dependability or loyalty.

Sample Method for Preschoolers:

Ask Small Children to Do Things Instead of Telling Them

You’ll obtain their answer, which you can use to teach dependability. When children are told to do something, they can learn and practice only the principle of obedience. But when small children are asked to do something in a firm but respectful way, they can learn both obedience and dependability.

Children actually say no, complain, and make excuses more when they are told than when they are asked. Use the word please, and let them know that you expect a yes. That yes then becomes a commitment to which you can tie the principle of dependability . . . of doing what you say you will do.

Sample Method for Elementary Age:

The Synonyms and Antonyms Game

This game will help late elementary school or early-adolescent children be clear in their understanding of both words. Simply ask, “What are some synonyms or close synonyms for dependability?” (Reliability, trustworthiness, consistency, predictability, etc.) “For loyalty?” (To stand up for, to be part of, to be true to.) “What are some antonyms or near antonyms for dependable?” (Can’t be counted on, unpredictable.) “For loyal?” (Uncommitted, traitor, spy, out for oneself.) Then discuss how dependability helps people and how its opposites hurt people.

Sample Method for Adolescent Age:

Lists

These help children pinpoint who and what they want to be loyal to and what things they want to be dependable on. Work together with the children on forming a loyalty list (family members, school, church, friends, etc.) and a dependability list (family job, school assignments, music practice, etc.)

U.S. Constitution Series 1: Founding Fathers and Cicero

U.S. Constitution Series 1:

Founding Fathers and Cicero

Cicero was born January 3, 106 B.C.

The Founders’ Basic Principles: 28 Great Ideas that changed the world

keyWorldly philosophies endeavor to blur the distinction between good and evil and eliminate accountability. However, the foundation of Natural Law (the law of the Creator) is the reality of good and evil. The U.S. Constitution was successful in creating a free and prosperous society because its foundation of Natural Law is based on moral accountability to a just God. ~C.A. Davidson

5000leapFrom The 5,000 Year Leap—A Miracle that Changed the World

By W. Cleon Skousen

1. First Principle: the Genius of Natural Law

(Notes from pp. 37-47)

What is Natural Law?

The Creator’s order of things is called Natural Law.

The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.

Cicero

Cicero cut through the political and philosophical errors of both Plato and Aristotle to discover the touchstone of good laws, sound government, and the long-range formula for happy human relations. (p.37) He was the only Roman political writer who has exercised enduring influence throughout the ages. He studied law in Rome and philosophy in Athens.

Cicero’s compelling honesty led him to conclude that once the reality of the Creator is clearly identified in the mind, the only intelligent approach to government, justice, and human relations is in terms of the laws which the Supreme Creator has already established.

In the Declaration of Independence Jefferson referred to the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

In Natural Law we are dealing with factors of absolute reality.

Since the Biblical God is the author of Natural Law, the first two great commandments indicated by Jesus Christ provide the standard for government and human relations.

Internal and External Government

Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. ~Edmund Burke

1. The first great commandment is to love and honor God (the God of Israel).  The simplest way to honor God is to abide by the Ten Commandments. These provide moral absolutes, which if obeyed, build in us a strong internal government, or good moral character.

2. The second great commandment is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This commandment is based on love. When we serve our fellow man, we are serving God. Jesus taught that we should treat others as we would like to be treated. If we have strong internal government, (we discipline ourselves and do no harm to others, by our own choice), then there is little need for much external government, which forces people to obey the rules of civilization.  Internal government is based on love of God, ourselves, and our neighbors. External force is not based on love.

Legislation in Violation of God’s Natural Law is a Scourge to Humanity

All Law Should Be Measured against God’s Law

ciceroCicero set forth the means by which people may discern between good and evil laws. All laws must be measured by God’s Law, which he described as follows:

Therefore Law [of the Creator] is the distinction between things just and unjust, made in agreement with that primal and most ancient of all things, Nature; and in conformity to Nature’s standard are framed those human laws which inflict punishment upon the wicked and protect the good. (Dr. William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, p. 135)

It was clear to Cicero as he came toward the close of his life that men must eliminate the depravity that had lodged itself in society. He felt they must return to the high road of Natural Law. They must pledge obedience to the mandates of a loving and concerned Creator. (Skousen, pp. 45-46)

The Following are Examples of concepts based on Natural Law

  • Unalienable rights
  • Unalienable duties
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Limited government
  • Separation of powers
  • Checks and balances to correct abuses by peaceful means
  • Right of contract
  • Laws protecting the family and the institution of marriage
  • Justice by reparation or paying for damages
  • Right to bear arms
  • No taxation without representation

Principle # 2:  Moral and Virtuous Leaders

Christian Themes: Lord of the Rings

Christian Themes, Tolkien, and Lord of the Rings

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

keyThe world Tolkien constructed is a world of providence, with purpose for life, and it mirrors our Christian world.

Classic Tolkien fiction conveys Christian faith

tolkeinBy Stacy Long
On December 14, a long-awaited event comes to pass, as Americans fill theaters on the opening night of The Hobbit, the first installment of another movie trilogy based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). For those who are neither moviegoers nor Tolkien fans, discussing his work means exploring the Christian worldview Tolkien articulated in his stories. With that discussion comes a reminder of how worldviews are expressed in film and literature. It also reminds Christians of the need to be aware and discerning in their entertainment choices.

Built on a Christian worldview

One may ask how Tolkien’s books are Christian, since they never mention Christ, God or religion. Quite simply, it is because the author was a Christian and wrote from a Christian understanding. As Tolkien said, “I am a Christian and what I write will come from that essential viewpoint.”

Dr. Devin Brown, Tolkien scholar and literature professor at Kentucky’s Asbury University, described Tolkien’s works as indirectly Christian.

“They were written by a Christian author with a Christian worldview,” Brown explained in an interview with AFA Journal. “Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are not evangelistic books. People don’t read those and decide to become Christians, but they work as pre-evangelism for people who were pre-disposed to be anti-Christian. When they read those books, they say, ‘I love this story; I love this world that has purpose and meaning and morality.’ The world Tolkien constructed is a world of providence, with purpose for life, and it mirrors our Christian world.”

Brown said that Tolkien’s books mirror the Christian world by exhibiting two central Christian truths: God is a Creator, and man is created in His image and reflects that creativity.

“As we function in God’s image, we will also be creators,” Brown said. “Tolkien as a writer created a world of his own, and he called Middle-earth [the setting for the books] the ‘sub-creation.’”

Even while he set his story in pre-Christian times, Tolkien filled it with Christian truth. Yet, Tolkien intentionally distanced readers from Christianity, and in doing so makes them see it anew.

Brown explained, “Tolkien was influenced by G.K. Chesterton, who said, ‘The best way to understand Christianity is from being inside it; the second best way is to be very far away from it so you can really see it for what it is.’ And so Tolkien created an earlier version of our world. Middle-earth is really our earth, ages and ages ago.”

Also, Tolkien demonstrated the coherence of Christian truth, which transcends time in light of the eternal existence of the triune God. As Brown pointed out, “[Christian truth] didn’t just start in the first century when Jesus came, but it has been a part of this world since the Creation of the world.”

Full of Christian truth

Another Tolkien scholar, Dr. Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University in Texas, joined Brown in pointing out Christian themes in Tolkien’s work.
The most obvious evidence of Christian worldview in the books is in the providence and purpose ascribed to Middle-earth and the lives of the characters.

Markos told AFAJ, “There is a trusting to providence, trusting that there is an overarching plan to history and you’re a part of it. One line from the book says, ‘The great stories never end.’ There is this idea that the characters are part of a story that started thousands of years ago and is slowly working its way out.”

Another noticeably Christian theme in Tolkien’s fiction is a strongly defined morality.

“Although moral decisions are often complex and difficult, there is always a choice that is right – in a universal sense – and a choice that is wrong. In his portrait of absolute truth, Tolkien presents a world that will feel familiar to Christian readers,” Brown wrote in an article titled “Five faith lessons from The Hobbit.”

A third predominant theme in the books is that ultimately, good always prevails over evil. In fact, Tolkien coined a word to express the idea that disasters can bring about the accomplishment of good.

“Tolkien coins this wonderful term, ‘eucatastrophe,’ which literally means ‘good catastrophe,’ meaning it looks like everything is going to collapse and then good comes out of it,” Markos explained. “The eucatastrophe of the Fall of Man is the birth of Christ and the resurrection. Of course, there are lots of little eucatastrophes in Tolkien’s stories, where a terrible event, when viewed in terms of overall providence, turns out to be a good event.”

For example, in The Hobbit, the main character, Bilbo, gives up what is most precious to him and receives little in return. However, in the end, he finds that the sacrifice was the making of him.

hobbitshire1“Bilbo’s living a narrow, confined, fearful life, and then he’s called to save Middle-earth, and in doing so he saves himself,” Brown said. The Hobbit shows that if you want to find yourself, the real way is to be a servant, to lose yourself.”

The Hobbit tells us a central truth: happiness does not come through material wealth,” Brown added. “There is a line where Bilbo is told, ‘The adventure will be very good and profitable for you.’ In the end, Bilbo does profit, but it is the kind of treasure Jesus talks about that rust and thieves will not corrupt.”

And in the ultimate losing of self – in death – Tolkien describes another eucatastrophe for the Christian.

“In Middle-earth, death is described as the gift of God to man. Tolkien has this incredible vision of understanding that death is good,” Markos said. “Death is still in a way a part of the fall, but death also releases us from our fallen state to heaven.”

Looking at our world

Tolkien’s stories point to the truth of the Christian worldview that they were constructed upon. When a person enters the world of Tolkien’s fantasy, there is an encounter with purpose, Providence, morality, hope – made startlingly and beautifully real.

“There is something insightful about human nature in these books, but Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit also have this underlying spiritual element that believers quickly latch onto,” Brown concluded. “One man described it as ‘a light from an unseen lamp.’ There is a light shining there, and you can’t quite see its source, but the story tells us about what’s important in life, what should be valued, where happiness lies. And that draws non-believers also. Tolkien takes us to Middle-earth and holds a mirror up to us, and what he shows us gains a poignancy in his imaginary world that it might not have had in our world.”

Finally, the popularity of these books, even among nonbelievers, suggests that the truth of Christianity they present is something that the world desires, despite its deep, desperate denial.

Related Post

Christian Fiction Literature: The Hobbit Party

 

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What are parents to do?

Movies and books are powerful vehicles for presenting worldviews. Christian parents can train themselves and their children to recognize and analyze the worldviews presented in film and literature:

• Be well acquainted with the Christian worldview and with Scripture.
• Monitor what children read and watch.
• Don’t trust movie ratings. A PG or PG-13 movie may still have an anti-Christian worldview.
• Discuss the ideas presented through entertainment choices.

Sources used for this story:

The Christian World of The Hobbit, Devin Brown
On the Shoulders of Hobbits, Louis Markos
Philosophy of Tolkien, Peter Kreeft

From AFA Journal

Arts and the Italian Renaissance

Dinner Topics for Monday

Lorenzo_de_Medici2Lorenzo de’ Medici (1 January 1449 – 9 April 1492) was an Italian statesman and de facto[1] ruler of the Florentine Republic during the Italian Renaissance. Known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo il Magnifico) by contemporary Florentines, he was a diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists, and poets. Perhaps what he is most known for is his contribution to the art world, giving large amounts of money to artists so they could create master works of art. His life coincided with the high point of the mature phase Italian Renaissance and his death coincided with the end of the Golden Age of Florence.[2] The fragile peace he helped maintain between the various Italian states collapsed with his death. Lorenzo de’ Medici is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

Childhood

Lorenzo’s grandfather, Cosimo de’ Medici, was the first member of the Medici family to combine running the Medici bank with leading the Republic. Cosimo, one of the wealthiest men in Europe, spent a very large portion of his fortune in government and philanthropy. He was a patron of the arts and funded public works. Lorenzo’s father, Piero ‘the Gouty’ de’ Medici, was also at the center of Florentine life, active as an art patron and collector. His mother Lucrezia Tornabuoni was a poet and writer of sonnets. She was also a friend to figures such as Luigi Pulci and Agnolo Poliziano and became her son’s advisor when he took over power.

Lorenzo was considered the brightest of the five children of Piero and Lucrezia, tutored by a diplomat, Gentile Becchi. He participated in jousting, hawking, hunting, and horse breeding for the palio, a horse race in Siena. His own horse was named Morello di Vento.

Piero sent Lorenzo on many important diplomatic missions when he was still a youth. These included trips to Rome to meet with the pope and other important religious and political figures. [3]

Patronage

Lorenzo’s court included artists such as Piero and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Michelangelo Buonarroti who were involved in the 15th century Renaissance. Although he did not commission many works himself, he helped them secure commissions from other patrons. Michelangelo lived with Lorenzo and his family for five years, dining at the family table and participating in the discussions led by Marsilio Ficino.

Lorenzo was an artist himself, writing poetry in his native Tuscan. In his poetry he celebrates life even while—particularly in his later works—acknowledging with melancholy the fragility and instability of the human condition. Love, feasts and light dominate his verse.

Cosimo had started the collection of books which became the Medici Library (also called the Laurentian Library) and Lorenzo expanded it. Lorenzo’s agents retrieved from the East large numbers of classical works, and he employed a large workshop to copy his books and disseminate their content across Europe. He supported the development of humanism through his circle of scholarly friends who studied Greek philosophers, and attempted to merge the ideas of Plato with Christianity; among this group were the philosophers Marsilio Ficino, Poliziano and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.

In 1471 Lorenzo calculated that since 1434, his family had spent some 663,000 florins (approx. 460 million USD today) for charity, buildings and taxes. He wrote,

I do not regret this for though many would consider it better to have a part of that sum in their purse, I consider it to have been a great honour to our state, and I think the money was well-expended and I am well-pleased.[9]

Later years

During his tenure, several branches of the family bank collapsed because of bad loans, and, in later years, he got into financial difficulties and resorted to misappropriating trust and state funds.

Toward the end of Lorenzo’s life, Florence came under the spell of Savonarola, who believed Christians had strayed too far into Greco-Roman culture. Lorenzo played a role in bringing Savonarola to Florence.[10]

Lorenzo de’ Medici died during the late night of April 8 or during the early morning of April 9, 1492, at the long-time family villa of Careggi (Florentine reckoning considers days to begin at sunset, so his death date is the 9th in that reckoning). Savonarola visited Lorenzo on his death bed. The rumor that Savonarola damned Lorenzo on his deathbed has been refuted by Roberto Ridolfi in his book, Vita di Girolamo Savonarola. Letters written by witnesses to Lorenzo’s death report that he died a consoled man, on account of the blessing Savonarola gave him. As Lorenzo died, the tower of the church of Santa Reparata was allegedly struck by lightning. He and his brother Giuliano are buried in a chapel designed by Michelangelo, the New Sacristy; it is located adjacent to the north transept of the Church of San Lorenzo and is reached by passing through the main Cappella Medicea; the chapel is ornamented with famous sculptures, and some of the original working drawings of Michelangelo can still be distinguished on two of the walls of the Chapel and in the concealed corridor under the New Sacristy discovered only in 1976.[11]

YouTube Music: Puccini Classic

Dinner Topics for Wednesday

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. ~3 John 1:4

Luciano Pavarotti: Nessun Dorma

Maria Callas – Puccini – O mio babbino caro

 

Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini (full name:Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini) (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒaːkomo putˈtʃiːni]; 22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924) was an Italian composer whose operas musicnotesare among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire.[n 1]

Puccini was “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi“.[1] Whilst his early work was rooted in traditional late-19th century romantic Italian opera, he successfully developed his work in the ‘realistic’ verismo style, of which he became one of the leading exponents.

Tosca

Puccini’s next work after La bohème was Tosca (1900), arguably Puccini’s first foray into verismo, the realistic depiction of many facets of real life including violence. Puccini had been considering an opera on this theme since he saw the play Tosca by Victorien Sardou in 1889, when he wrote to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, begging him to get Sardou’s permission for the work to be made into an opera: “I see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music.”[12]

Madama Butterfly

The original version of Madama Butterfly, premiered at La Scala on February 17, 1904, was initially greeted with great hostility (probably largely owing to inadequate rehearsals). This version[13] was in two acts; after its disastrous premiere, Puccini withdrew the opera, revising it for performances in the USA and Paris. In 1907, Puccini made his final revisions to the opera in a fifth version,[14] which has become known as the “standard version”. Today, the standard version of the opera is the version most often performed around the world. However, the original 1904 version is occasionally performed as well.

YouTube Video, Christmas, and Charlie Brown

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

This comment was found at the site of this endearing Charlie Brown video:

keyMy wife teaches in a public elementary school and she told me it was amazing how many of the kids don’t even know the original Christmas story. You know, the shepherds and all. We are swiftly becoming a pagan nation. ~David Heesen (Thanks to the public schools~C.D.)

Linus explains: this is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

In fact, atheists even protested against this Charlie Brown message in a church.  Let’s not be intimidated by bullies who try to keep us from being who we are. Christians have always been persecuted, and it’s not going to go away. Wear it like a badge of honor. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can take a lesson from Linus, who inspired Charlie Brown. Watch how all Charlie Brown’s friends had a change of heart and caught the Christmas Spirit.