19 December 2012

America has never been a "Christian Nation"

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.” – Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791)

Christians are no more persecuted in America than strictly observant Shia Muslims loyal to “the system” are in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Christians here who complain that they are being persecuted are like the slave owners, and wannabe slave-owners, in the antebellum Old South who constantly complained that their rights were being violated by those who wanted to abolish slavery, or their Jim Crow successors who complained in the mid-20th century that their rights were being violated because they couldn’t discriminate against African-Americans.

The Treaty of Tripoli

Much has been made by both sides of Article 11 in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli between the new United States of America and the Bey of Tripolitania (essentially Libya) that, “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”  The treaty was negotiated by Consul-General John Barlow with full authority from President Washington, a fact with which then Vice President and later President Adams was completely aware and in full agreement. 

It is irrelevant to the mind of Congress and of the President at the time of its passage that this treaty was later superceded by another and that the English translation of the Arabic original may not have been the best.  The word-for-word accuracy of Consul-General John Barlow’s English translation of the Arabic original he himself had written does not matter.  Whether the Article 11 of his translation exists in that Arabic original is immaterial.  The one thing which does count is that Consul-General Barlow’s translation was the one presented to the Senate, read aloud in chambers to the entire body, approved unanimously, signed into law by Pres. John Adams, and published in every major newspaper in the country to little but yawns in response.

Christian Dominionists and other theocrats doth protest too much.  On the other hand, the opposing position, that the treaty and its Article 11 establish under the law that America was not founded as a “Christian Nation” is equally flawed.  And also unnecessary, since history already does that better than any single piece of legislation could do.

Religion in the English Colonies

The colonization of North America by the kingdom of England rested in the hands of two stock corporations, Plymouth Company (later succeeded by Massachusetts Bay Company) for the northern territories and London Company for the southern territories, both owned by the greater Virginia Company.  Yes, investors bought shares with money which the companies used as capital for the colonization ventures, and for one reason and one only: to make a profit.  Had not the stock companies’ capital existed and had they not expected to make more money than they had invested, none of the colonies would have been established. 

America may have been colonized by both pulpit and profit, but the latter weighed much more in importance.

True, the colony at New Plymouth counted among its founders English Separatists (Calvinists who wanted to separate completely from the Church of England), but the entrepreneurs and soldiers who were mainline Anglicans that came with them, “The Strangers” as they were called by the Separatists, made a 60% majority.  That majority was recruited and paid by the Merchant Adventurers of London.

The earlier colony at Jamestown had a religious component too, but it was mainline Church of England and its entrepreneur element was overwhelmingly dominant. 

The later colony at Massachusetts Bay established a government which restricted its electorate, and most of its profits, to the Puritan sect of the Church of England.  Puritans were Calvinists much like their Separatist cousins but considered themselves Anglicans whose duty it was to purify their church and force everyone else to worship their way.  But even there, and in its spin-offs, the profit motive trumped the desires of the pulpit.

Celebrations, even the observances of, Christmas and Easter were forbidden by law with harsh penalties attached in the colonies of New England, by the way.  The Puritans, both here and on the other side of the Great Pond, launched the original “war on Christmas”.

Besides the 19 unfortunate persons hanged, the one tortured to death because he wouldn’t make a plea, and the 50 who were thrown in prison under such harsh conditions that 5 died during the Salem witch hysteria, Massachusetts Bay Colony also persecuted Christians of other faiths, hanging 4 Quakers and imprisoning countless others.

In Puritan New England, there was no singing of anything but hymns unaccompanied by instruments, no dancing whatsoever, no toys for children and especially not dolls, no education but religious education, nothing but work and church and more work.  They did, however, drink beer and later rum in moderation, carrying over from Europe where no one in their right mind drank water (nearly all sources were polluted).  The overwhelming majority of weddings occurred because of pregnancy, but kissing one’s spouse after six months at sea in public could land a man in the stocks for three hours.

In 1775, all the southern colonies of the kingdom of Great Britain (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland) had the Church of England as their established church, while in New England were nearly all Congregational (as the Puritans had become), the one exception there being Rhode Island.  The Church of England was also established in New York, but the colony there also had a long-established tradition of tolerance for differing, including non-Christian, creeds.  Pennsylvania and Delaware had no established church; the former never had and the second had none after becoming part of Pennsylvania (it was first New Sweden, and later part of New Netherlands beforehand).

However, the basis upon which English (later British) colonies were founded and governed, including what status religion had within them, has no bearing whatsoever on the foundation of the United States of America as a separate free and independent nation.  As a matter of fact, only 7% of Americans had any church affiliation by the end of the Revolution, largely due to a lack of religious interest, particularly in orthodox denominations.  Many of the “sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God” Calvinists in the New England states had become Unitarians, Universalists, Transcendentalists, and Spiritualists, for example.

Not one of the first six U.S. Presidents was an orthodox Christian.  George Washington was a practicing Episcopalian but his personal were Deist and Freethinking and fit in with what is called the Broad Church that had existed in the Church of England (and the rest of the Anglican Communion) since the 17th century.  John Adams was a Unitarian who started as an orthodox Congregationalist.  Thomas Jefferson grew up Church of England and was technically an Episcopalian, but his own ideas were Deist and Unitarian.  James Madison and James Monroe were both Deists who attended the Episcopal Church.  John Quincy Adams was, like his father, a Unitarian.  Andrew Jackson didn’t join a church (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.) until after leaving office.

A New Order for the Ages

What is relevant in that regard is the collection of documents upon which that Nation was founded:  the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Bill of Rights.  In not one of those documents is Christianity, or any other religion, mentioned or alluded to.  The sole one of those four in which “God” is mentioned (Declaration of Independence) specifies “Nature’s God”, the Enlightenment concept of God held by deists and other freethinkers rather than by that of any denomination of the religion of Christianity or of any other religion.

In establishing a “New Order for the Ages” (Novus Ordo Seclorum; one of the three mottos on the Great Seal adopted in 1782), the Founding Fathers rejected the hereditary monarchy and both its Lords Spiritual (religious prelates) and Lords Temporal (hereditary nobility).  If they saw themselves as a light shining on a hill, it was as the light of reason in a New Rome.

Indeed, when seeking a location for a national capital, they seized upon the community of Rome, Virginia, with seven hills and a river named Tiber.  The Mall between the Capitol and the White House was consciously built in imitation of the Roman Forum.  In the Capitol itself, an eternal flame burned in the basement could be viewed through a large circular hole with a rail in the ground floor until the mid-19th century.  The first Congress convened on 25 December 1789, Christmas Day.  Mail ran seven days a week, including Sundays.

The earliest document, the Declaration of Independence of 1776, contains, as stated before, a reference to “Nature’s God”, which is specifically a freethinking deistic concept of God.  There is also a mention of “trusting in Divine Providence”, another deist concept.  But it does need to be highlighted that the Declaration of Independence is not law.

The Articles of Confederation of 1781, which preceded the Constitution, contained nothing about religion at all, being too short. 

It was, however, the Congress of the Confederation which in 1782 adopted the Great Seal of the United States which remains today.  On its obverse (front) side is a bald eagle with an olive branch in its right claw and arrows in its left, with a banner in its beak which reads “E pluribus unum”, or “From many one”.  That was the design and motto proposed.  The originally proposed design for the reverse, the Eye of Providence over a thirteen-level pyramid, was also retained but its mottoes were changed.  “Deo favente” (God favors) became  “Annuit coeptis” (He approves) and “Perennis” (Everlasting) was  discarded in favor of “Novus ordo seclorum” (New order for the ages).  Less religious theism in favor of more Enlightenment.

Despite what Christian Dominionists and other theocrats who advocate that America abandon its founding principles in order to erect a so-called “Christian Nation” mirroring the Islamic Republic of Iran in all but name on the ashes of the Constitution claim, nothing in the original Constitution of the United States of America of 1789 mentions religion, except to forbid religious tests for office or public trust.  Those who claim that Article 1 sets a provision for chaplains in one or both houses of Congress have either not read the document or are outright lying.  While some might call the latter a “pious fraud”, it is nevertheless bearing a false witness and therefore not simply lacking in piety but an affront to it.

The Bill of Rights of 1791, in its Article 1 (aka First Amendment or Article 8 of the Constitution), guarantees freedom of religion and forbids the establishment of religion.  Neither of those are provisions which would be welcome to the government of the current Islamic Republic of Iran, though I know that many of its citizens, especially the sincerely religious, devoutly wish to be governed under those standards.

Of course, the Bill of Rights only applies to the government of the United States of America, but the 14th Amendment to the Constitution (aka Article 22) of 1868 guaranteed the rights of citizens of the United States to every citizen of each of its constituent states and territories.  However, Thomas Jefferson oft-debated letter indicates the founders probably intended those rights to extend to citizens of states as well as of the nation.

Wall of Separation

 The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” as it is used in current American legislation and jurisprudence comes directly from the 1802 letter of then President Thomas Jefferson to the head of the Danbury Baptist Association in Virginia.  Unlike many of their modern incarnations, late 18th and early 19th century Baptists were absolutists on church-state separation.  The Danbury group’s fears were that Virginia was about to declare the Protestant Episcopal Church (successor to the Church of England) its established church.

To them, Jefferson replied, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Jefferson borrowed the phrase from America’s first Baptist, Roger Williams, founder of Providence Plantation, the first colony in Rhode Island.  Williams, himself a victim of religious persecution under the Puritan regime in Massachusetts Bay, stated in a 1644 book that there needed to be a “…wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world.”  In Williams’ colony, not only was tolerance for all religions law, but slavery and other obnoxious practices then current were abolished.

Regardless of where the phrase “separation of church and state” came from, however, that is the law under American jurisprudence, which follows its predecessor English common law.  In the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education, Justice Hugo Black writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court included the following: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Jesus’ position

I’m going to list these quotes without comment.

“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God the things that are God’s.”

“No one can serve two masters, for either they will love one and hate the other, or they will hold to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

“My kingdom is not of this world.”

“The kingdom of God is inside each of you.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in secret.”

Would the man who said these things be in favor of idols to the so-called “Ten Commandments” being placed in courthouses and government squares?  Would the man who said these things want prayer in his name before government meetings or public school sporting events?  Would the man who said these things wish for prayers and/or Bible readings over public school intercoms?  Would the man who said these things like to see the name of his father taken in vain with “In God we trust” emblazoned all over our currency?  Perhaps he would reply that it is emblazoned on the only God that America really trusts.

11 December 2012

Confederate surrenders

Contrary to common assumption, the American Civil War (War Between the States, War of the Rebellion, War for Southern Independence, War of Northern/Southern Aggression, War for the Union, or, to most other countries, War of the Secession) did not come to a screeching halt after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  The Army and Navy of the Confederate States of America did not surrender all at one time, but rather in a piecemeal fashion over a widely dispersed geographic distribution, including one unit overseas.  Some units, in fact, never surrendered at all. 

The Confederate Navy was composed of ironclads, submarines, gunboats, torpedo boats, various supports ships, and a number of blockade-runners and commissioned privateers.

For most of the war, the Confederate Army was composed of three major field commands (Army of Northern Virginia, Army of Tennessee, and Army of the Trans-Mississippi), with a number of smaller independent field units such as Forrest’s Cavalry Corps (in the latter stages of the war), the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders, and Mosby’s Partisan Rangers, and of geographic units (Division, Department, District, in decreasing order of size). 

The three field commands mentioned above were the most enduring, but several other short-lived commands designated as armies were formed at times, particularly early in the war. 

For instance, the earliest field army in the western theater was Gen. Sidney Johnson’s Army of Mississippi, which later combined with the Central Army of Kentucky (originally under Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner) to become the Army of Tennessee.  Two other commands were also named Army of Mississippi, one formed around what had been Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee, the other, under Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton, later merged into the Army of Tennessee, or at least its remnants did so. 

There was also an Army of Middle Tennessee under Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge which became a division of Hardee’s Corps in the Army of Tennessee.  The Army of East Tennessee formed under Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith became the Army of Kentucky before merging into the Army of Tennessee after Kirby-Smith’s promotion and transfer to head the Army and Department of the Trans-Mississippi.

None of these Confederate armies of Tennessee should be confused with Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee, which was named for the river.

The surrenders of Confederate forces

The first attempt by a large field army or geographic section to try to surrender took place in the southwest.  On 11 March 1865, Brig. Gen. James Slaughter and Col. John Salmon “Rip” Ford met with Union Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and agreed to terms of surrender for all forces in the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona that included an amnesty for former Confederates and the gradual emancipation of slaves.  Slaughter’s and Ford’s superior, Maj. Gen. John G. Walker, temporarily commanding the District in the absence of Maj. Gen. Bankhead Magruder, refused the terms, however.

On 9 April 1865, General-in-chief Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army and Department of Northern Virginia to General-of-the-Army Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.

On 12 April 1865, Brig. Gen. John Echols disbanded the Department of East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia at Christiansburg, Virginia, upon learning of Lee’s surrender through a telegram waiting for him when he mustered his forces in Christiansburg.  The command’s sixteen artillery piece carriages were cut apart, the gun barrels were spiked, and the ammunition was destroyed.  All who wished were allowed to return home.

After Echols dissolved the Department, Brig. Gen. George Cosby took his the remainder of his brigade west into Kentucky to surrender to federal authorities.  Echols led the remaining troops of Brig. Gen. Vaughn’s Brigade and Brig. Gen. Basil Duke’s Brigade, toward North Carolina hoping to link up with Gen Joe Johnston and the Army of Tennessee.  The former Department’s District of Western North Carolina remained unaffected and intact.

On 16 April 1865, the remnant force from East Tennessee-Southwest Virginia split, with some few following Brig. Gen. Echols toward the Army of Tennessee and the remaining majority, under the overall command of  Brig. Gen. Vaughn, hoping to meet up with Gen. Joe Wheeler’s cavalry. 

The two brigades under Echols joined the bodyguard of President Jefferson Davis on 19 April 1865, under command of Gen. John C. Breckenridge made up of Brig. Gen. George Dibrell’s Brigade, Brig. Gen. Samuel Ferguson’s Brigade. and Col. William Breckenridge’s Brigade.

On 20 April 1865, Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb surrendered the District of Georgia and Florida to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at Macon, Georgia.

On 21 April 1865, Col. John S. Mosby disbanded Mosby’s Partisan Rangers, (also known as 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) at Salem, Virginia.

On 26 April 1865, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Division of the West under himself, the Army of Tennessee under Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia under Gen. Braxton Bragg, the Department of the West under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, and the Department of Tennessee and Georgia under Lt. Gen. William Hardee to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina.  Brig. Gen. Echols, formerly of the Department of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, was by this time with Johnston, having left the column of Vaughn’s and Duke’s brigades on 16 April.

On 27 April 1865, Confederate Secret Service operative Robert Louden used a coal torpedo (a bomb made to look like a lump of coal) to sink the SS Sultana on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee, killing 1600-1800 of its 2400 passengers, most of them former POW’s from the Union Army.  It remains the biggest maritime disaster in U.S. history and arguably the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11/2001.

On 3 May 1865, Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton surrendered Hampton’s Cavalry Command to Col. Willard Warner of the 180th Ohio Volunteers at Charlotte, North Carolina.

On 4 May 1865, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor surrendered the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at Citronelle, Alabama.

On 5 May 1865, Maj. Gen. Dabney Maury surrendered the District of the Gulf to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at Citronelle, Alabama.

Also on 5 May 1865, Pres. Jefferson Davis met with his Cabinet for the last time in Washington, Georgia (Wilkes County), to dissolve the government of the Confederate States of America.  The next day Pres. Davis continued on with a small bodyguard under Capt. Given Campbell.

On 6 May 1865, Brig. Gen. Joseph Lewis surrendered the Kentucky Orphan Brigade along with the remnants of Ferguson’s and Breckinridge’s brigades to Capt. Lot Abraham of the 4th Iowa Cavalry in Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson’s cavalry corps at Washington, Georgia.

On 8 May 1865, Capt. Jesse McNeill surrendered McNeill’s Partisan Rangers to Maj. Gen. (and future U.S. President) Rutherford B. Hayes at Sycamore Dale, West Virginia.

On 9 May 1865, Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest surrendered Forrest’s Cavalry Corps to Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson of the Cavalry Corps of the Military Division of the Mississippi at Gainesville, Alabama.

Also on 9 May 1865, Brig. Gen. James Martin surrendered the District of Western North Carolina and Col. Will Thomas the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders to Col. William C. Bartlett at Waynesville, North Carolina, after the Thomas Legion surrounded and captured Bartlett’s entire command the previous day.  The units of the Legion present included the Cherokee Battalion, Love’s Regiment, and Barr’s Battery.

Again on 9 May 1865, Maj. S. G. Spann surrendered his mostly Choctaw Battalion of Independent Scouts at Meridian, Mississippi.

Yet again on 9 May 1865, Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn surrendered his remnant brigade to Capt. Lot Abraham of the 4th Iowa Cavalry at Washington, Georgia.

On 10 May 1865, Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones surrendered the Department of South Carolina, Florida, and South Georgia to Brig. Gen. Edward M. McCook at Tallahassee, Florida.

Also on 10 May 1865, COMO Ebenezer Farrand surrendered the CSS Nashville, CSS Baltic, CSS Morgan, and several other vessels, nearly all the remaining warships in the Confederate Navy, to RADM Henry Thatcher at Nanna Hubba, Alabama.

Again on 10 May 1865, Brig. Gen. Basil Duke surrendered his remnant brigade Capt. Lot Abraham of the 4th Iowa Cavalry at Washington, Georgia.

Finally on 10 May 1865, former Pres. Davis and his party were captured in Irwinsville, Georgia, by the troops of Lt. Col. Henry Haruden from Maj. Gen. Wilson’s cavalry corps.

On 11 May 1965, Brig. Gen. George Dibrell surrendered his remnant brigade to Capt. Lot Abraham of the 4th Iowa Cavalry at Washington, Georgia.

On 12 May 1865, Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford surrendered the Department of North Georgia to Brig. Gen. Henry M. Judah at Kingston, Georgia (Bartow County).

Also on 12 May 1865, Capt. Stephen Whitaker surrendered Walker’s Battalion of the former Thomas Legion, detached from the rest of the command, to Col. George W. Kirk at Franklin, North Carolina, upon hearing of the surrenders of Thomas and Martin.  This was the last surrender of Confederate troops east of the Mississippi River.

On 13 May 1865, the last land battle of the war was fought at Palmito Ranch in Texas, near Brownsville, with Confederate forces under Col. Rip Ford (incl. his own 2nd Texas Cavalry) defeating decisively the Union forces under Col. Theodore Barrett.

On 26 May 1865, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner surrendered the Army of the Trans-Mississippi and the District of Arkansas and West Louisiana to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at New Orleans, Louisiana.  Buckner was in direct field command of the army at the time it was surrounded by Union forces.

On 30 May 1865, Brig. Gen. Slaughter and Col. Ford disbanded the remaining field forces of the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona at Brownsville, Texas.

On 2 June 1865, Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith surrendered the Department of the Trans-Mississippi to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at Galveston, Texas.

On 3 June 1865, CAPT Jonathan H. Carter surrendered the CSS Missouri to LCDR William E. Fitzhugh at Alexandria, Louisiana.

On 23 June 1865, Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, surrendered the Indian Division of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi (including the First Indian Cavalry Brigade, the Second Indian Cavalry Brigade, and the 7th Mounted Artillery Battalion) to Lt. Col. Asa C. Matthews at Doaksville, Choctaw Nation (Indian Territory).

On 6 November 1865, CMDR James Waddell surrendered the privateer vessel CSS Shenandoah and its crew to CAPT R.N Paynter of the HMS Donegal at Liverpool, England.  It was the only Confederate Navy ship to circumvent the globe.  The crew remained in Europe for several years afterward, for the most part, and eventually returned home.  The Shenandoah was sold to the Sultan of Zanzibar.

On 20 August 1866, President Andrew Johnson declared the War Between the States officially over and peace restored.

Non-surrenderees, exiles and expatriates

On 4 July 1865, Maj. Gen. Joseph Shelby led his Iron Brigade and other troops in his Missouri Division across the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass, Texas, into Piedas Negras, Empire of Mexico, to avoid surrender. 

Accompanying Shelby’s column were former Confederate governors Pendelton Murrah (Texas), Henry Allen (Louisiana), Thomas Reynolds (Missouri), and Isham Harris (Tennessee), as well as ex-generals Edmund Kirby-Smith, Sterling Price, Bankhead Magruder, Alexander W. Terrell, and other officers of the former Trans-Mississippi Department and their families.

Under the direction of former COMO Matthew Fontaine Maury of the Confederate Navy, the ex-officers and troops who had crossed into the Empire of Mexico established the New Virginia Colony in the state of Veracruz at the invitation of Emperor Maximilian.  Its central city was Carlota, named for Maximilian’s empress.  Slaves were not allowed, slavery still being against Mexican law.  When the republican Juaristas (supporters of Pres. Benito Juarez, whom the French ousted in 1864) overthrew Maximilian’s government in 1867, these former Confederates returned north, many becoming prominent citizens.

Interestingly, in 1851 Maury had once formulated a plan to both eradicate slavery from within the borders of the U.S. and slow or end Brasil’s slave trade with Africa.

Between ten and twenty thousand former Confederates emigrated to the Empire of Brasil at the invitation of Dom Pedro II, who wanted to encourage the growth of cotton.  The now multi-racial Los Confederados are extremely proud of their history and send young people to the American South every year to see the former homeland.  The original settlers included an ancestor of former First Lady Rosalyn Carter.

A large number of Los Confederados stayed in Rio de Janero.  Led by Col. William H. Norris of Alabama, others founded Norris Colony near Santa Barbara (now Americana); Col. Charles Gunter founded Gunter Colony on Lake JurapaƱa and Rio Doce; Dr. James McFadden Gaston of South Carolina founded Gaston Colony near Xiririca; the Rev. Ballard S. Dunn founded Lizzieland on the Juquia River; Frank McMullen established New Texas on the Sao Lourenco River; Col. M. S. Swain founded Parangua on the Assunguy River; and Lansford Warren Hastings organized Santarem at the confluence of the Amazon River and Rio Tapaj.

Other former Confederates settled in what was then British Honduras (now Belize), a group of Virginians under the Rev. B. R. Duval establishing New Richmond near San Pedro, the seat of the community, as well as Toledo, Manattee, and eight others on the New River south of Orange Walk Town (most of these being Louisianans) and around the town of Punta Gorda, in addition to the majority of the former Confederate expatriates who remained in Belize City.  Within a few decades, these groups had assimilated and lost their distinctiveness.

Former Confederate cavalry Major Abednago Greenberry Malcolm led another group of mostly Kentuckians to establish a colony they called Medina in Spanish Honduras.

Ex-RADM John Tucker led a group of former Confederate expatriates into Peru to establish New Manasses and wound up being assigned to chart the Amazon River. 

Dr. Henry Price, former major in the Confederate medical corps, took another group into Venezuela to occupy large areas of the state of Guyana called the Price Grant, where they set up the short-lived settlements of Orinoco City, Las Tablas, Santa Cruz, Caroni, Paragua, Carratel, and Pattisonville.

Other smaller groups of Confederate became expatriates in Costa Rica, Cuba, and Ontario, the latter community including former Secretary of War John C. Breckenridge and several former Confederate generals.

Of all these, Los Confederados de Brasil is the only former community whose descendants still survive as a distinctive ethnic group.  The best account I have seen of these expatriate groups is the 2007 master’s thesis of Justin Horton at the East Tennessee State University: “The Second Lost Cause: Post-National Confederate Imperialism in the Americas”; it is online.

Brasil abolished slavery in 1888.  Former slave owners, backed by the military, overthrew the imperial government in 1889.  A military dictatorship ruled the country till civilian republicans came to power in 1894.

The Reconstruction of the former Confederate states lasted from the end of the war until the Great Compromise of 1877, which is also called the Corrupt Bargain.  The so-called Redemption Era of the South (which brought us Jim Crow, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and drastic historical revisionism) lasted from that time until the civil rights legislation of the mid-1960’s.

06 December 2012

Lost in Translation: Church and State

Many Christians prefer the King James Version of the Bible to any other because it is the “Authorized Version”, though authorized not by any body or official from the Church of England but by the king, who was then James I of England. 

One wonders why these same people do not likewise use the Book of Common Prayer which the good King James also “authorized” in 1604 (really just a slight revision of the 1559 BCP).  As well as why none of their Bibles contain the complete and unabridged Authorized Version, since they lack the books of the Apocrypha which were indeed a part of the full Authorized Version of the good King James.  Come to think of it, why, in the United States of America, is it important that King James “authorized” it?  Didn’t we fight an eight-year revolution to break away from the rule of the king of England and establish an elected republic?

True, in some passages, such as the Psalm 23, the poetry is unmatched in any subsequent translations.  I myself much prefer the KJV translation of Ecclesiastes 12 to that of any later version, for example.  But some of the wording throughout the KJV Bible, even many of the words themselves, is archaic or even obsolete, and carries an entirely different meaning than what it did in 1611.  Take, for instance, the word “comprehended” in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  Here, in King James time, “to comprehend” did not mean “to understand” but “to overcome” or “to conquer”.

Since we’re at that chapter, let’s look at how it opens:  “In the beginning was the Word…”  The English word “Word” here is translated from the Greek word “Logos”.  The word Logos can be translated as “speech”, “reason”, “study”, “statement”, or “wisdom”.  For example, in Decalogue, the Greek term for what may call the “Ten Commandments”, the –logue is derived from logos meaning “saying”.  The word logic is likewise derived from logos.

As used in the first chapter of John, Logos referred more to a concept than a dictionary meaning and isn’t readily translatable.  In Hellenistic philosophy, Logos was the principle governing the cosmos, the universe, especially among the Stoics.  To Neoplatonists, Logos was the mediator between Soul, Spirit, and the One.  To Jews, the Word of God (God’s actual words or voice, rather than the Tanakh) had always had special power, and among the Hellenistic Jewish mystics based in Alexandria (Philo in particular), Logos became God’s instrument in the creation of the universe and intermediary between creation and Creator.  All this led to the writer of the Gospel of John identifying Logos with Jesus of Nazareth.  Later Christian writers such as Justin Martyr and Augustine of Hippo expanded on John’s use.  The concept even crossed over to Islam through its Sufi mystics, especially the late 12th/early 13th century philosopher Ibn Arabi of Murcia in Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia).

When the king of England’s translators sat down to begin work on that gospel, they had several options to choose for the meaning of Logos.  Perhaps since Logos stood for a concept rather than a word with a definite meaning they should have just left it as Logos.  But they chose to use “Word” instead, a mistaken if convenient translation (in 1st century Greek, the actual word for “word” was “lexis”).  They could just have easily, and if they had been working a century later may have, translated Logos as “Reason”, a much more correct translation, linguistics-wise anyway, than “Word”. 

Here’s how that might have looked:  “In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God, and Reason was God.  Reason was in the beginning with God.  All things were made with Reason; and without Reason was not anything made that was made.  In Reason was life; and that life was the light of men.  And the light of Reason shines in the darkness, but the darkness conquered it not.”

Note the KJV style; it’s the only translation not under copyright.

Greek is kind of a funny language, at least from the point of view of a native speaker of American English; I’m sure native speakers of Greek find English really weird.  In some cases where in English we might express several similar ideas with a single word, Greek uses different words for each.  For example, love.  In Greek, there is “eros”, for romantic or sexual love; “phileos”, for brotherly or platonic love; and “agape”, for unconditional love as for immediate family.  For all those varieties, in English we simply use the word “love”.

Some words in Greek have flexible meaning, like “logos”, while others have more specific meaning.  The Greek word “esothen” falls into the first category while the word “entos” falls into the second; both words, however, are translated in the KJV as “within”.

I mention entos because it figures in one of my favorite passages from the New Testament, one from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of Luke in which a group of Pharisees as Jesus about when the kingdom of God was coming.  He replied, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.  Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo, there!  For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  (Luke 17:20-21)  That passage was the first that made me interested in the lexicology of Greek words in the New Testament.

The Greek word translated by the scribes “authorized” by King James as “within” in this passage is “entos”.  The word “entos” is used only one other time in the whole New Testament, in Matt. 23:26 – “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” 

In other translations, “entos” is translated variously as “within” you, “in” your “midst”, “among” you, “already among” you, or “in the midst of” you, all of which are incorrect, or at the very best, inexact.  Given that the only other place in the entire New Testament in which the word “entos” is used in the original Greek talks about the inside of a cup or platter, the best and most obvious translation for the word “entos” would be “inside of”.  This would render the passage (in modern English):  “The coming of the kingdom of God can’t be seen.  No one will say, “Look here!” or Look there!”, because the kingdom of God is inside each one of you.”

I think what might be tripping up the translators is that Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and it’s clear from many other passages in the gospels that he didn’t think very much of them.  Often, the word Pharisees is paired with the words hypocrites.  The antipathy seems to have been two ways, as well.  So, it’s not unreasonable to see that a translator might find it hard to believe that Jesus would tell men who didn’t like him and whom he himself frequently called “hypocrites” that the kingdom of God is inside each of them.  Thus do we get the abundance of theologically-inspired mistranslations of this passage.

And since we’re on the subject of the kingdom of God, I have question…

-for all those who either believe America was founded as a Christian Nation or who want to make it one;
-for those who see in the the modern temporal state of Israel the ancient Israel of the Bible;
-for those who want to erect idols of the “Ten Commandments” in courthouses and town squares;
-for those who want to have prayer before local government meetings and public school sports events;
-for those who want to hold prayer meetings, have Bible readings over the intercom, or allow religious recruiting in public schools;
-and for those who want to retain the phrase “In God we trust” as our official national motto rather than the more historic and less sectarian “E pluribus unum” which had stood since the foundation of our Republic: 

What part of “My kingdom is not of this world” do you not understand?

ADDENDUM:  I was telling an atheist friend about the part of this essay dealing with the meaning of the Greek word “entos” and how the true translation of Luke 17:21 is “The kingdom of God is inside of each of you”, and he responded, “Yea!  It’s all in your heads!”.  Maybe that’s exactly what the man Jesus of Nazareth was trying to say.