Postmillennialism and the War of Independence - RR144G13

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 13. Postmillennialism & the War of Independence
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 13
Length: 0:43:38
TapeCode: RR144G13
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(2).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


In 1759 to 1760, an English clergyman, Andrew Burnaby, visited the middle colonies of America. And he reported with some distaste and I quote: “An Idea, strange as it is visionary, has entered the minds of the generality of mankind,” that is, here in the colonies. “that empire is traveling westward, and everyone is looking forward with eager and impatient expectation to that destined moment when America is to give law the rest of the world.” Now this is an amazing fact. Here they were, little colonies yet, and yet the belief had developed that empire was traveling westward, the center of the world was going to be America, and America was going to give law to the rest of the world. We saw last hour that this new faith had revived, a little before the reformation and had become very powerful in the Puritan element. But that about 1650, it began to fade, in America. About 1740, it was revived with a great awakening in New England, and spread from there throughout the colonies. The man who was largely responsible for its revival was a great American, who himself sometimes had ideas that had an unhappy influence but also had a very good influence. Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards revived the old Puritan Eschatology, and then one person after another picked this up. Bellamy and Hopkins were very influential in this regard. Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins, two great theologians, some scholars have said that it was their influence that led to the war of Independence, that without this eschatology the colonies would have submitted to Britain. You see if you believe in retreat or rapture you are not going to feel that the present world is very important or anything to get involved in.

For example those who follow Hal Lindsey in California have an eschatology that leads them to withdraw, because they feel that they are going to be raptured any day now in a few years. In fact they are expecting it so much that Hal Lindsey has to actually advise them: “Don’t give up your jobs. It may be a few years yet, but it’s almost any time.” They don’t feel that it is important to get involved in anything in the world. One very prominent minister in Southern California nationally known, has advised against any attempt at social reform. His word is: “You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” Now you see if the colonists had continued in that kind of position, they would have said: “Oh well, what’s the use, Christ may return at any moment, or the world is just going to get worse and worse, in terms of Saint Augustine and his beliefs, so the thing for us to do is just to bear up under it and wait for the end.” [00:04:00]

The minute they picked up this new belief, this new...[edit]

The minute they picked up this new belief, this new eschatology, their entire perspective was changed. And as a result, increasingly the new scholars who have for the first time gone back and really looked at what these people believed, not just at their politics, but at the total belief of the colonists, have concluded that this eschatology was basic to the War of Independence.

Some of these scholars are: Ernest Lee Tucson, Redeemer nation, they are also, Alanheimert, Religion and the American mind, Bushman and his study of the colonial mind from Puritan to Yankee, and a number of other scholars who have given careful attention in the last 5 to ten years to this issue. And as a result there has been a new awareness of what happened in the War of Independence. As a matter of fact Alanheimert believes that all of American history has to be understood in terms of this kind of thinking. Now this is also true of Conrad Cherry, God’s New Israel. It doesn’t mean of course that these men agree with this eschatology, in fact Cherry is rather contemptuous of it. None of them to my knowledge are actual believers in this, they are just good historians who are reporting on what has happened.

This position was commonplace, not only to church men, but politicians. For example John Addams in his diary in February 1765, declared: I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scheme and design in Providence, for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” As a result among these people the idea progressively developed that not only did America have a great destiny, but it’s destiny also was to become a liberator of all the earth. That the influence of the American, the Christian American, was not only going to change a continent that was still a wilderness with savages, but it was going to go to Africa, Asia, Europe, to the Isles of the Pacific, and change the whole world. [00:07:09]

John Adams expressed this there...[edit]

John Adams expressed this there. It was a routine faith with all of them. They’ve all picked this up in varying degrees. To give you another example of this kind of thinking, Samuel Hopkins I mentioned as one of the major thinkers of the day, a theologian and a pastor, in fact (Stutesman?) calls him one of the major theologians that the United States has produced, and says: “He composed a treatise on the millennium which perhaps is the most substantial work on the subject ever publish in this country. If California and Virginia were not so far I would have brought the works of Bellamy and Hopkins, and read passages from their book on this. As a matter of fact, they believed that America was going to go through some very great difficulties between their time and the year 2000, that they were going to be tempted and tried by the Lord, and prepared for a great work.

Now Hopkins said, and I quote: ”It appears reasonable and desirable, that Jesus Christ who suffered shame and reproach in this world, and was condemned and put to death as a malefactor by men, should have this reproach wiped off in the sight of all men, and that the cause in which he suffered and died should prevail and be victorious in this same world in which he suffered and died.” In other words, these men felt that the resurrection was the beginning of the conquest of the world. [00:09:16]

That instead of the world being set aside, all men...[edit]

That instead of the world being set aside, all men would have a resurrection spiritually from sin, and then be empowered to make all things new in Christ, to exercise dominion, and to subdue one area of the earth after another. Then, for example, Ezra Stiles, one of the great reformed men of that day, Ezra stiles wrote about the future of America. What he had to say is sometimes rather startling. “Our degree of population is such as to give us reason to expect that this will become a great people.” And he was writing in 1783, the population then was about 3 million, and that’s all. “It is probable that within a century from our independence, the sun will shine on 50 million of inhabitants in the United States. This will be a great, a very great nation.” Nearly equal to half of Europe. Already our colonization extended down the Ohio, to (Causcacia?) on the Mississippi. These were just a few little out posts. “And if the present ratio of increase should be rather diminished in some of the elder settlements, yet an accelerated multiplication will attend our general propagation, and overspread the whole territory westward for ages. So that, before the millennium, the English settlements in America may become more numerous millions then that greatest dominion on earth, the Chinese empire.”

Quite a prediction; some of them actually said by the year 2000 there would be 300 million Americans. They were pretty good prognosticators. And there are people that believe it would be true if it weren’t for the Zero Population movement now. Should this prove a future fact, how applicable would be the text: “When the Lord shall have made his American Israel.” His American Israel. “High above all the nations which he has made in numbers, and in praise and in name and in honor. I am sensible some will consider these as visionary Utopian ideas. And so they would have judged had they lived in the apostolic age, and had been told that by the time of Constantine the empire would become Christian. As visionary that the 20 thousand souls which first settled in New England, should be multiplied to near a million in a century and a half. AS visionary that the Ottoman Empire must fall by the Russians. As visionary, to the Catholics, that the certain downfall of the pontificate. As Utopian would it have been to the Loyalists as at the battle of Lexington that in less than 8 years, the independence and Sovereignty of the United States should be acknowledged by four European Sovereignties, one of which would be Britain itself. How wonderful the revolutions, the events of Providence. We live in an age of wonders. We have lived an age in a few years. We have seen more wonders accomplished in 8 years, than are usually unfolded in a century.” [00:13:43]

Then he goes on to speak about how God has blessed...[edit]

Then he goes on to speak about how God has blessed this place. He said: “We have trusted in the Lord, we have believed that God has called us to conquer the earth in his name, not militarily, but with the Gospel. And so, look at the way he has blessed us.” He said Britain was the greatest naval power in the world. How ridiculous for us to think that we could deal with so tremendous a naval and a land power. Now remember we dealt with Washington’s army the night before last, and we saw that he never commanded more than 25,000 men. And usually it was 3,4, 5 thousand. Now listen to Ezra Stiles, who was there, giving you some of the data. He is preaching a sermon, and he is telling people: “You see, God has blessed us for our faith.” To think of withstanding and encountering Britain by land was bold, and much more bold and daring by sea, yet we immediately began a navy, and built ships of war with an unexampled expedition. It is presumed never was the 35 gun ship before built quicker than that well-built and noble ship the Raleigh, which was finished from the keel and equipped for sea in a few months. Soon had we got those small of very gallant initial navy, which fought gallantly, and wanted nothing but numbers of ships for successful operations against that superior naval force before which we fell, We had however exhibited proof to posterity and the world that a powerful navy may be originated, built, and equipped for service, in a much shorter period than was before imagined.

The British navy had been many centuries growing. And France, Holland, the Baltic powers, or any of the powers of this age in twenty years may build maybe to equal in magnitude, if necessary for dominion, commerce, or ornament. A variety of success and defeat has attended our warfare both by sea and land, in our lowest and most dangerous estate in 1776 and 1777; we sustained ourselves against the British army of 60,000 troops, commanded by Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton, and other the ablest general England could procure throughout Europe, with a naval force of 22,000 seamen and above 80 British Men of War. Now do you understand why they felt the hand of God was upon them, blessing them for their faith? 60,000 men, and in those years that was when the army was at its lowest. And 22,000 sea men, against a few hundreds of American seamen. Well the whole project was insane wasn’t it, for the Colonists to think that they could beat an empire like that. These Generals we sent home one after another, conquered, defeated and convinced of the impossibility of subduing America. While oppressed by the heavy weight of this combined force, evidence inspired us with resolution to cut the Gordian knot, when the die was cast irrevocably in the glorious act of independence.

This was sealed and confirmed by God almighty, in the victory of General Washington at Trenton, and in the surprising movement and battle of Princeton, by which astonishing effort of generalship General Howe and a whole British Army in belated confidence and in open mouth marched for Philadelphia was instantly stopped, remanded back and cooped up for a shivering winter in the borough of Brunswick. [00:18:23]

“Thus God "turned the battle to the gate," and this gave a finishing to the foundation of the American Republic. This, with the Burgoynade at Saratoga by General Gates, and the glorious victory over the Earl of Cornwallis in Virginia, together with the memorable victory of Entaw Springs, and the triumphant recovery of the southern states by General Greene, are among the most heroic acts and brilliant achievements which have decided the fate of America. And who does not see the indubitable interposition and energetic influence of Divine Providence in these great and illustrious events? Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have struck out the great movement and maneuver at Princeton? To whom but the Ruler of the winds shall we ascribe it that the British reinforcement, in the summer of 1777, was delayed on the ocean three months by contrary winds, until it was too late for the conflagrating General Clinton to raise the siege of Saratoga? What but a providential miracle detected the conspiracy of [Benedict] Arnold, even in the critical moment of the execution of that infernal plot, in which the body of the American army, then at West Point, with His Excellency General Washington himself, were to have been rendered into the hands of the enemy? Doubtless inspired by the Supreme Illuminator of great minds were the joint counsels of a Washington and a Rochambeau in that grand effort of generalship with which they deceived and astonished a Clinton, and eluded his vigilance, in their transit by New York and rapid marches for Virginia. Was it not of God that both the navy and army should enter the Chesapeake at the same time? Who but God could have ordained the critical arrival of the Gallic fleet, so as to prevent and defeat the British, and assist and cooperate with the combined armies in the siege and reduction of Yorktown? Should we not ever admire and ascribe to a Supreme Energy the wise and firm generalship displayed by General Greene when, leaving the active, roving Cornwallis to pursue his helter-skelter, ill-fated march into Virginia, he coolly and steadily went onwards, and deliberately, judiciously, and heroically recovered the Carolinas and the southern states?

Whence is it that so few of our army have deserted to the enemy? Whence that our brave sailors have chosen the horrors of prison ships and death, rather than to fight against their country? Whence that men of every rank have so generally felt and spoken alike, as if the cords of life struck unison through the continent? What but a miracle has preserved the union of the States, the purity of Congress, and the unshaken patriotism of every General Assembly? It is God, who has raised up for us a great and powerful ally--an ally which sent us a chosen army and a naval force; who sent us a Rochambeau and a Chastelleux, and other characters of the first military merit and eminence, to fight side by side with a Washington and a Lincoln, and the intrepid Americans, in the siege and battle of Yorktown. It is God who so ordered the balancing interests of nations as to produce an irresistible motive in the European maritime powers to take our part.” [00:21:40]

Now this they believed, God was not something that...[edit]

Now this they believed, God was not something that was remote for them, God was the one who had blessed their faith (?) because they had believed in a victorious God. Now you can go and find page after page, sermon after sermon of this sort. This is what they believed, this is what they preached. They expected victory, and they got victory. They expected great things from God and gained great things. Now after the war they similarly held to a faith in conquest, now they were to go out and subdue the earth, exercise dominion over it. In a sermon preached at concord New Hampshire before the general court by the reverend Samuel Langdon, June 5 1778, it is titled The Republic of the Israelites, an example of the American States. They saw themselves as the New Israel of God. And his text was, Deuteronomy 4,5-8.

5Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

 6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

 7For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

 8And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”

Now Langdon’s point was we too, if we hearken to the word of God, and if we obey the Law of God, shall be blessed by God, with a mighty conquests, and so he begins by saying: “Here Moses recommends to Israel the strict observance of all the Laws which he has delivered to them, by Gods command, relating both to their civil polity and religion, as the sure way to raise their reputation high above all nations as a wise and understanding people, because no other nation was blessed with such excellent national laws, or the advantage of applying to the oracle, the living God, and praying to him in all difficulties with assurance that all their requests would be answered.” [00:24:36]

And so he goes on to tell them what they need to do...[edit]

And so he goes on to tell them what they need to do. And, it is interesting that he stresses one thing in this sermon. For at the last, very emphatically, can you guess what it would be? There is no war now, he has told them they must obey God, and now he is telling them a practical thing they have to emphasize. No, he began with that. What else? Something very practical that you should be able to guess. What? No. Christian Schools. Christian Schools, this is what he says. “I call upon you also to support schools in all your towns, that the rising generation may not grow up ignorant. In ignorance. Grudge not any expense proportionate to your abilities; it is a debt you owe to your children, and that God to whom they belong, a necessary evidence of your regard for their present and future happiness, and of your concern to transmit the blessings you yourself enjoy to future generations. Train them up in the fear of God, in an acquaintance with his word. To all such useful knowledge as your abilities will allow, and they will soon know how to provide for themselves, and perhaps may take care of their aged parents, and fill the various stations in life with honor and advantage.” [00:26:30]

Now, we cannot understand this country apart from this...[edit]

Now, we cannot understand this country apart from this kind of preaching. You see every time they went to church in those days from 1740 on, this was the kind of preaching they got. As a matter of fact, there is a very famous sermon by Timothy White I think in 1795, which I wish I had with me, but I don’t. But Timothy White summoned the men of Connecticut and men of New England to educate the young, to conquer in one area after another, to have as tremendous and influence in every area in the name of the Lord that they possibly could. And it is interesting that, that sermon which was repeated over and over again, re-printed, circulated far and wide, had a profound influence, for a few generations. And it was New England men who migrated Westward, and their influence in the new country which they settled was tremendous.

Now De Tocqueville in volume one makes this statement: “A single fact will suffice to show the prodigious number of individuals who leave New England, to settle themselves in the wilds. We are sure that in 1830 that 36 of the members of Congress were born in the little state of Connecticut.” Well that is a remarkable fact, is it not. And Timothy White had a great deal to do with it. In every area of life they felt after they read that sermon of Timothy White’s which was reprinted over and over again as one of the most extensive publishing histories in America. Well we’ve got a duty to conquer in every area, to exercise authority, to rule, and remember that I said earlier that Timothy White wrote a long poem on the conquest of Canaan in which he saw the colonists as the new Israel of God, and George Washington as the new Joshua. So now in his sermon he was telling them that God required them to go out and to conquer, or if they stayed where they were to conquer where they were, and to exercise dominion. [00:29:26]

‘We are assured in 1830, 36 of the members of Congress were born in the little state of Connecticut. The population of Connecticut which constitutes only 1/43rd part of the United States, does furnish 1/8th of the whole body of representatives. The state of Connecticut however only sends five delegates to Congress, and the 31 others sit for the New Western States. If these 31 individuals had remained in Connecticut it is probable that instead of becoming rich landowners they would have remained humble laborers. That they would have lived in obscurity without being able to rise in public life, and that far from becoming useful members of the legislator they might have been unruly citizens.’

Well, that is questionable, but the point is De Tocqueville saw how tremendous an impact these men were having wherever they went, because of the very great extent of the influence of the preaching upon them. [00:30:54]

Now he deals also, De Tocqueville, with the education...[edit]

Now he deals also, De Tocqueville, with the education in (?) particular in New England. And this is important to realize, because the New England men in particular were going out with this vision. He says: ‘In New England every citizen receives the elementary notion of human knowledge. He is moreover taught the doctrines and evidences of his religion, the history of his country and the leading features of its constitution. In the States of Connecticut and Massachusetts it is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is a sort of phenomenon. When I compare the Greek and Roman Republics with these American States, the manuscript libraries of the former and their rude population, with the enumerable journals and the enlightened people of the latter, when I remember all the attempts which are made to judge the modern republics by the assistance of those of antiquity, and to infer what will happen in our time from what took place 200 years ago, I am tempted to burn my books, in order to apply none but novel ideas to so novel a condition of society.’

De Tocqueville saw that here was something new in history, so you couldn’t go back to Greece or Rome or any other period because here was an age in which people knew what they believed. So that he said: ‘If you found someone that was ignorant of what the Bible taught, and of the doctrine thereof, in Massachusetts and Connecticut in particular it was a remarkable fact. And he said, ‘never before had there been more knowledge, more of a grasp of the fundamentals.’ So, he said: ‘I am tempted to burn my books because you can’t take any ideas from the past in order to understand this new country.

“What I have said of New England however must not be applied indiscriminately to the whole Union. As we advance to the west or the south, the instruction of the people diminishes.” Now we will come to that later, how little knowledge there was in the west. Remember I cited the example of the boy, who said to the preacher: “Are you the man who talks to his plate?”

“In the states which are adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, a certain number of individuals may be found as in our own countries, (that is, in Europe.) Who are devoid of the rudiments of instruction. But there is not a single district in the United States, some in complete ignorance. And for a very simple reason. The peoples of Europe started from the darkness of a barbarous condition, to advance for the light of civilization. Their progress has been unequal; some of them have improved apace, while others have loitered in their course, and some have stopped and are still sleeping upon the way. [00:34:20]

Such has not been the case in the United States...[edit]

Such has not been the case in the United States. The Anglo Americans, settled in a state of civilization, upon that territory which there descendants occupied, they had not to begin to learn, and it was sufficient not to forget. Now the children of these same Americans are the persons who year by year transport their dwellings into the wilds: and with their dwellings, their acquired information and their esteem for knowledge. Education has taught them the utility of instruction, and has enabled them to transmit that instruction to their posterity. In the United States society has no infancy, but it is borne in man’s estate.

The Americans never use the word peasant, because they have no idea of the peculiar class which that term denotes; the ignorance of more remote ages, the simplicity of rural life, and the rusticity of the villager, have not been preserved among them; and they are alike unacquainted with the virtues, the vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces of an early stage of civilization.” [00:35:31]

Now, he was overly generous in describing the Americans...[edit]

Now, he was overly generous in describing the Americans there, as we shall see when we deal with the frontier, and religion on the frontier. And he was overlooking the fact that not all the settlers of America were of the families. I indicated earlier that very small percentage of those who came over were Christian. So, from the very beginning the colonists had a work of Christianization to do. There are those who say that, America was settled like Australia as a prison colony, and a lot of prisoners were dumped here. That is both true and false. We shall come back to that, in the 1800’s.

But it is true, especially in one or two of the southern states, a great many prisoners were brought over here, by the English and dumped. However, when we consider that fact, we must not look upon it in the same way you would look upon the situation today. It is not as though the kind of people say in your state prison here would be taken and dumped, someplace as colonists. If you studied English history you are no doubt aware of the fact that in this period, 1700’s, not only were the vast majority of English peoples very poor, but there were fearful prison offences, for (vengeance?). If you stole something, even if you were starving, above the value of just a few shillings, you could be hanged for it. And there were cases of boys, or women or men stealing just to survive. They were so desperately hungry, and being executed for it. Now these are not people we would call hardened criminals. [00:37:50]

And so, when some for lesser crimes, you could be hung...[edit]

And so, when some for lesser crimes, you could be hung for stealing, a loaf of bread, or being arrested and transported to the colonies we would have to say, those were very poor people, they were very unfortunate people, but it did not mean that they were hardened criminals. So the attitude of some, that: “Well it was the scum of England that were brought to the colonies,” is false. First, only a limited percentage were transported as criminals. And that limited percentage, did not represent what we would call a criminal class. Now some bondservants were brought here, they represented very often a problem. Bondservants were people who were anxious to get over here and did not have the money. So you would become a bondservant, you would work for seven years, like a slave you had to be a houses servant if you were a woman or sometimes a field hand if you were a man, and at the end of the seven years you would be given your freedom, your transportation had been paid to the country, and you would be paid a small sum. Many were coming over as bondservants. Now these, some were very fine people who wanted to come to America and had no other way, others were real problems. So from the very earliest days, from the first settling of Boston for example, and other parts of New England and Virginia, some of these bondservants were problems. They were people who were coming to the New World for no other reason than to get a free ride here, to get away from law and order, and to get rich. And they were a source of lawlessness. A real problem to the people who brought them over because they very often had no way of knowing the kind of person they were getting, until they arrived. It was a real task therefore to keep law and order with these people, but it was accomplished, and a great deal of work done to evangelize people, and those that could not be converted, to keep them in line. As a result, while the majority cannot be called Christians, the majority were brought into line with Christian faith. [00:40:43]

Now are there any questions? No questions about anything...[edit]

Now are there any questions? No questions about anything we have been dealing with? Well, as I indicated, the second hour of tomorrow we will have a test on what we have covered thus far this week. Yes.

[Question]

[Rushdoony] It will be, short essays on ten questions, and you will give an answer on those questions, for example--- well, I’ll tell you one of the questions: “Describe the two motives inspiring the explorers and discoverers of America.” That type of question. And I want you to write a paragraph about that. Now to give you an idea of the areas we have covered apart from today, this week we have gone over the motives of exploration, and mercantilism, we dealt with feudalism, and its impact on this country, the Fairfax Resolves, the Articles of Confederation, George Washington, the Constitution, and chapters 3-5 of De Tocqueville. We also have dealt with the tithe agencies of voluntary association, of which De Tocqueville speaks. So our test will be on those subjects. So, we will have perhaps ten questions on each of those areas, and a paragraph, maybe some of the questions will require two or three paragraphs to answer. Any other questions?

Well, if not we can adjourn. [00:43:25]