OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANTS
June 19, 2020
We continue today with our discourse on Daniel Webster and his history. As noted last week, few names are more discussed or mentioned in today’s discussions than that of Daniel Webster.
Losing a race in 1836 for the Presidency on the Whig ticket, he nonetheless gained more in national prominence, and when William Henry Harrison ran for President in 1840, he was offered the position of Vice-President. He declined with a dry but humorous phrase he would use again eight years later when Zachary Taylor ran for Presidency, "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead."
He did, however, accept Harrison's offer to become Secretary of State, and it was a position he held during the Tyler administration following Harrison's death. In 1845, he was reelected to the Senate where he took up a very strong abolitionist stance, allying himself with Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. When Henry Clay proposed what later became the Compromise of 1850 in which an effort was made to make peace between the northern non-slave and southern slave states, and Webster joined his effort, preachers vilified him with the kinds of accusations we've heard in the past few years against President Bush.
Rev. Theodore Parker said in one of his sermons that, "No living man has done so much to debauch the conscience of the nation." Horace Mann described him as being "a fallen star! Lucifer descending from Heaven!" James Russell Lowell called Webster, "the most meanly and foolishly treacherous man I ever heard of." Webster's attempt to bring a compromise between the North and South cost him dearly in public opinion, and he never regained his popularity.
Riding his horse one October day in 1852 at his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, the horse suddenly reared knocking Webster from his seat. The fall caused a crushing blow to his head, and he died the morning of October 24, 1852 from a resulting brain hemorrhage.
Over the years, Daniel Webster had given some notable and some phenomenal speeches. He never argued anything for the sake of political expediency, and because he believed so firmly in the causes he represented, his arguments gained all the more in forcefulness.
It was in 1820 that a decision was made to separate Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusetts' Constitution to this time was the same one adopted in 1780. Inasmuch as its constitution was an adaptation of John Winthrop's original charter which held (in part) that "no man shall be qualified to hold office unless he be a Christian, swearing allegiance to Jesus Christ,"delegates thought to modify the wording so that "a simple oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth, together with the oath of office, should be taken by all persons chosen or appointed to office. . . . and that a profession of belief in the Christian religion no longer be required as a qualification for office." (source: The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, Little, Brown & Co., Boston 1903)
Daniel Webster was the chairman of this convention and he took to the floor to argue against this change. His speech was easily one of the most powerful and effective in his entire life and career. It puts the lie to the specious "separation of church and state" claim of the liberal left, demonstrating constitutionally the right of the people to make such requirements without impinging on the liberties of those who choose otherwise.
Following is a small extract of Webster's speech:
"It is obvious
that the principal alteration proposed by the first resolution is the omission
of the declaration of belief in the Christian religion as a qualification for
office in the cases of the governor, lieutenant-governor, councilors, and members
of the legislature. I shall content myself on this occasion with stating,
shortly and generally, the sentiments of the select committee, as I understand
them, on the subject of thisresolution.
Two questions naturally present themselves. In the first place, Have the people a right, if in their judgment the security of their government and its due administration demand it, to require a declaration of belief in the Christian religion as a qualification or condition of office? On this question, a majority of the committee held a decided opinion. They thought the people had such a right. By the fundamental principle of popular and elective governments, all office is in the free gift of the people. They may grant or they may withhold it at pleasure; and if it be for them, and them only, to decide whether they will grant office, it is for them to decide, also, on what terms and what conditions they will grant it. Nothing is more unfounded than the notion that any man has a right to an office. This must depend on the choice of others, and consequently upon the opinions of others, in relation to his fitness and qualification for office. No man can be said to have a right to that which others may withhold from him at pleasure.
There are certain rights, no doubt, which the whole people, or the government as representing the whole people, owe to each individual in return for that obedience and personal service, and those proportionate contributions to the public burdens which each individual owes to the government. These rights are stated with sufficient accuracy, in the tenth article of the Bill of Rights, in this constitution. “Each individual in society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to the standing laws." Here is no right of office enumerated; no right of governing others, or of bearing rule in the State. All bestowment of office remaining in the discretion of the people, they have of course a right to regulate it by any rules which they may deem expedient. Hence the people, by their constitution, prescribe certain qualifications for office respecting age, property, residence, and taxation. But if office, merely as such, were a right which each individual under the social compact was entitled to claim, all these qualifications would be excluded. Acknowledged rights are not subject, and ought not to be subject to any such limitation. The right of being protected in life, liberty, and estate is due to all and cannot be justly denied to any, whatever be their age, property, or residence in the State.
These qualifications, then, can only be made requisite as conditions for office on the ground that office is not what any man can demand as matter of right but rests in the confidence and good-will of those who are to bestow it. In short, it seems to me too plain to be questioned that the right of office is a matter of discretion and option, and can never be claimed by any man on the ground of obligation. It would seem to follow, then, that those who confer office may annex any such conditions to it as they think proper. If they prefer one man to another, they may act on that preference. If they regard certain personal qualifications, they may act accordingly, and ground of complaint is given to nobody. Between two candidates otherwise equally qualified, the people at an election may decide in favor of one because he is a Christian and against the other because he is not. They may repeat this preference at the next election on the same ground and may continue it from year to year."
As David Barton (President and Chairman of Wallbuilders) notes, "Daniel Webster's remarks regarding the committee's report provides compelling reasoning which should be considered by every American voter today. Webster's comments emphasize the importance of Christian leaders and Christian principles in civil government."
We've spent most of today's Coffee Break, thus far, dealing with the historical outline of Daniel Webster's life but let’s dig into more of his speech to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention along with portions of other speeches and forceful arguments in favor of Christianity and Christians in government.
Let's take a look at an address he made at Dartmouth. This speech must easily have taken an hour or more to deliver, and it would take a week of Coffee Breaks to try and cover the whole thing, so let me rather take some extracts from his address -- and address which clearly denotes his personal convictions and thought processes concerning the Lord and His interaction with mankind.
Darwin had not yet published his "Origin of the Species," but it is clear that the concept of evolution had already begun to run amuck among atheists. Webster ridicules the concept and refutes it with his inestimable logic.
Take a look at a small portion of what he had to say:
"It is an account of the good effects upon our own happiness and the welfare of Mankind, that we are commanded to love God with all our powers and affections. But in order to obey this command, it is indispensably necessary that we should form for ourselves such a character of God as is altogether lovely.
"This character of God we may imperfectly form, from a correct intelligent and enlarged examination and contemplation of his works, as exhibited to our senses on this globe; in which we cannot fail at every glance to discern evidence of his infinite power and wisdom. Mankind has in every age been struck with the power of these two attributes. But not so with his goodness, the most important attribute of all and which essentially constitutes his moral character; without which we might indeed fear and revere, but never love him.
"The belief that this globe existed from all eternity, or never had a beginning; never obtained a foothold in any part of the world, or in any age. Even the infidel writer, of modern times, however, in the pride of argument they may have asserted it but believed or not, for they could not help perceiving that if mankind with their inherently intellectual powers, and natural capacities for improvement, had inhabited this Earth for millions of years, the present inhabitants would not only be vastly more intelligent than we now find them, but there would be vestiges of the former races, to be found in every inhabitable part of the Globe. Floods and Earthquakes notwithstanding; Unless we adopt Lord Manboddo's supposition that Mankind were originally Monkeys, it is impossible to admit the idea that they could have existed millions of years without making more discoveries & improvements than the early histories of nations warrant us to believe they had done.
"The belief in an uncreated, self existent intelligent first cause, takes possession of our minds whether we will or not, because if Man could not create himself nothing else could; and matter, if it were not external could produce nothing but matter. It could never produce thought, nor free will, nor consciousness.
"There must have been therefore, a time when this globe and its inhabitants did not exist. The question then arises, what gave it existence? We answer God, the great first cause of all things. What is God? We know not. We know him only through his creation and his revelation. What do these teach us? They teach us, first this - incomprehensible power, next his infinite Mind, and lastly his universal benevolence - or Goodness. These terms express all that can know or believe of him; his omnipresence is included in the Idea of infinite power; his omniscience in that of infinite wisdom, and his justice, Mercy, Holiness and truth in that of infinite benevolence or Love. The whole of his attributes may therefore be expressed in three words Power, Wisdom and Goodness and these are inherent self existence eternal and unchangeable.
"We can only reason from what we know and believe; our knowledge is extremely limited, and our belief often unsound. It is therefore with great humility I venture to ask the question, What gave birth to Creation? Which of the qualities that we ascribe to the Universal father, could have induced this Infinitely Holy and consequently Infinitely happy being, to create any thing? So this we are forced to answer - Infinite Goodness. Wisdom alone may contrive; Power alone may create but neither, alone, or united, would suggest or prompt to action; because neither can desire, neither can furnish motive for itself. The first step in Creation was therefore made by infinite benevolence. Infinite Wisdom next devised the plan to satisfy the wishes of benevolence, and infinite power, executed the work without defect so that the divine mind when contemplating the principles and structure of its glorious work could truly say, - It is Good.
"How shall we cultivate and strengthen this glorious principle of Love? By endeavoring to obey the first and great commandment. But do we have no power over our love? Love is an effect resulting from a cause. True, but happily for us, Jesus Christ has furnished us with causes in abundance. The Apostle John says, "We love God, because He first loved us." This is the only true and natural foundation of love for God - in Man. Love as necessarily begets love, as Hatred begets hatred. Our task is easy! Our duty a pleasure! We have only to look around to scrutinize - to reflect. The proofs of God's love to us are presented at every glance are inhaled with every breath. As the Psalmist David says, "His mercies are over all his works."
"But how shall we reconcile contradictory facts? God is good, and yet man is not happy. He is incessantly looking beyond his possessions; forever coveting some unenjoyed good and trampling upon present blessings.
"This difficult problem admits of but one solution but it is a solution which unfolds the greatest and most important truth in nature; a truth that reconciles Man to his maker, and to the world; a truth which solves all mysteries and harmonizes all apparent contradictions.
"This glorious truth may be expressed in three words Man is Immortal! His body is but his habitation; his undying intellectual is himself and his moral feelings & capacity constitute his essence, and his worth.
"These spiritual qualities in Man, fit him for eternity; every other animal soon arrives at a fixed degree of perfection, of body and mind beyond which it cannot pass; But where can you fix limits to the reasoning power; to the very principle of intelligence? which like gravitation grows stronger and stronger as the material upon which it acts accumulates.
"In this view of human nature, and its intellectual, its moral, its spiritual endowments, we may justly say, If there be no resurrection (through Christ) into life eternal, we of all creatures, are the most miserable. Our wonderful powers are given us in vain; and our constant endeavors to attain happiness are also vain.
But thanks be to God, whose nature is love, Whose wisdom is infinite, who saw before creation the end & operation of His work, with whom nothing is uncertain, nothing contingent, He, has given us assurances both internal and external, that we shall all pass through those states or processes of purification which are necessary, to fit us, for the full enjoyment of the perfectly happy existence He originally designed for us, whose pain or sorrow shall be known no man for ever. Where discontent shall be swallowed up in Bliss."
Webster's thought processes are clearly a product of logic -- and his logic IS fascinating -- but what interests me the most in his commentary is the fact that this is a man who invested his life in the defense of a Constitution for these United States, who labored long and hard to establish right principles and foundations upon which future generations could build. We are blessed to have had this man among our nation's founding fathers.
Next week, we will take a look at the life of Alexander Hamilton.
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Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76502
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