American Sovereignty and “Unconditional Loyalty”

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free:
Beginning of Jefferson’s Statue for Religious Freedom, passed by the Virginia Legislature in 1786

I

With one intro line Jefferson explains the core of human liberty. Our minds, a composite of intellect and heart that defines us as human, are forever free to choose what to believe, where to inquire, who to love and who to turn from, including the Ineffable God who created us. If you wish to bootcamp humanity into armies of belief or regiments of affection, first you must remove our Creator. Both our Infinite God and our own minds recoil at the militarization of our lives. If we need not bow to our Creator, we never need bow to anyone or anything.

Here is the core of free will. Hebrew/Christian scriptures explain we are created in the image of our Creator. It is our minds, the seamless Being of our hearts and our intellects that are created in the image of our God. If our minds were not free, we would not be like our Creator. It is in our freedom that we are like God and, therefore, we must neither be enslaved nor enslave others.

Jefferson added something perhaps to explain the Ineffable to a strictly intellectual mind –

That (because) all attempts to influence it (our mind) by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore, are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;(emphasis added)

But can that be true?  That our Creator can create a Being that is not free? Such a Being would not be “like unto God”. The question is its own answer: any mind that God creates can only be ‘enslaved’ if it is not “like unto God”. We are not God but our Creator’s Life flows through us as the waters flow through the gills of fish.

The power of free will is quintessentially the power of sovereignty. Such power only makes sense when choices are individually made. Free will does not enforce a groupthink modality.

In our Founding, America accepted Jefferson’s view that personal sovereignty underlies our personal creation by Nature’s God. Personal sovereignty is the personal power to decide, to craft beliefs and loves and life and living. This means our Creator expects all people to self-govern themselves. It is our core duty. Yet not only may we differ, person to person, in fundamental beliefs of Life and Death and Transcendence, but in the mere earthly beliefs of how best to govern ourselves.

Our Founders believed in the ability and inevitability of human nature and existence to change. If systems of law are made, they must reflect this changeable world by providing a capability to adapt. Our inalienable powers of self-reflection, self-will and self-inquiry are parcel to our power to change. There is no Public or Governmental Natural Law, therefore, no Public or Governmental sovereignty over us. For our Creator has created neither. The public square and public government are our creations.

When individuals gather into a polity, they share their personal sovereignty with one another through compact or covenant to create a structure for their governance. But this sharing does not produce a separate sovereignty in their governmental structure because sovereignty is only and always personal. Sovereignty is seamless and cannot be divided in the same way you cannot axe a human mind into two minds and have the person continue to exist. What our Creator has not forced on us, our Creator has not provided to any of our artifacts.

Therefore, the powers of any government are wholly rooted in the personal sovereignty of every citizen. We are free to join or leave, to believe in this way or that way, in one God or another God or no God, in this government or that or none. Our God has forgone unconditional loyalty and we must also. For what Almighty God has decided not to do, no human person may decide to do … there lies the world of Cain. And there is the vanity of vanities.

II

“There are times when to invent a happy phrase is equal to the winning of a martial victory. As Mr. Seward’s phrase ‘the irrepressible conflict’ formulated the situation which preceded and developed the war, so Dr. Bellows’ phrase ‘Unconditional Loyalty’ formulated the necessity of the time when war had actually begun”.
William E. Dodge, wealthy New York merchant, industrialist, supporter of the Republican Party and close friend of Henry Whitney Bellows.

Enter Henry Whitney Bellows, born in 1832 in Boston, a man of self-assuring energy who marched to New England time. It was important to Bellows not only who he knew but who knew him.

He graduated both Harvard College and Divinity School. After a short ministry in Mobile, Alabama, he became pastor in 1839 of the First Congregationalist (Unitarian) Church, later renamed All Souls Church, in New York City and ministered there until his passing in 1882. Bellows greatest work was as Christian orator, editor and publisher of Unitarian papers and magazines and as pastor.

He was preeminently a tireless and superb organizer of public activities. He would become the first President of the Civil Service Reform Association of New York City in 1877, a founder along with Peter Cooper of Cooper Union and one of the founders of the Union League of New York established to counter New York City’s ruling class who sympathized with the Confederacy and the large populace of immigrant Irish who fiercely opposed the war.

Besides, All Souls, his greatest public work was as President of the U.S. Sanitary Commission that he and others convincingly urged Seward and Lincoln to establish. The Commission gave the best available care for wounded soldiers and veterans. It was a precursor but not direct progenitor of the American Red Cross. Bellows would be the Commission’s initial and only President serving from 1861 to 1878. He was unapologetically and wholeheartedly pro Union and pro Lincoln.

*******

9 days after Sumter, the aptly named Reverend Bellows stood before his congregation at All Souls and intoned, “We have a holy war on our hands, a war in defense of the fundamental principles of this government, a war in defense of American nationality, the Constitution, the Union, the rights of legal majorities, the ballot box, the law. We must wage it in the name of civilization, morality, and religion with unflinching earnestness, energy and self-sacrifice.”

Without yet one battle casualty, this religious and political firebrand was urgent to secure righteousness on the side of the National government. Soon enough, the bodies began to pile high in the fields of Manassas (twice), Ball’s Bluff, Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Seven Days, Shiloh, Antietam, Fredericksburg. The casualties fell heavily on the spirit of the war.

Early 1863 was a bad time for Lincoln’s administration. A desperate President issued an Emancipation Proclamation in hopes the slaves of the South would rise against white people (it failed), the Mississippi was still n a battleground, Virginia was in a stalemate or worse, Vicksburg and Gettysburg were near but unseeable. The bloodbath of Fredericksburg in December ’62 brought forth political cartoons savaging the President. Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863 showed an angry and distraught Columbia her arm outstretched accusingly pointing at Lincoln and saying, “Where are my 15,000 sons  – murdered at Fredericksburg?” and Lincoln replying, “This reminds me of a little joke”.

Lincoln’s recurrent practice to joke through serious, even deadly matters of the war remains humanly despicable to this day. It was a practice the public once knew too well. And people today wonder why Lincoln was so unpopular a President. Bellows felt the need to bolster support.

**********

“Thus, brethren, do I commend to you the cause of unconditional loyalty. … Require of all your friends to be first the friends of the nation! Have nobody’s love that does not love the country more! Make a religion of patriotism! …” Henry W. Bellows, February 1, 1863 in “Unconditional Loyalty“, at 12 (emphasis added)

From the pulpit that Sunday evening in early 1863, Bellows began with these words, “And the Government shall be upon his shoulders, Isaiah 9.6. The educated in his congregation knew where he was going. Civil theocracy was on its way to America.

For Bellows and other Divines in the North, what better way to support such a President than appeal to his “divine” mandate to govern? The Isaiah fragment he lifted as introduction, he fleshed out in his oration:

“For unto us a Child is born,

            Unto us a Son is given:

            And the government shall be upon His shoulders.

            And His name will be called

            Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

            Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah is speaking of the Messiah. Bellows is speaking of Lincoln. But does any of this even sound like a compact of States or a clustering of undifferentiated or differentiated people called “We, the People …”?

Unitarians can point out their acceptance that you can deny divinity and still have a religion. They can thank our Creator for that power. Or they can just thank Jefferson if they wish to keep things rooted here on earth. But no one can deny that when all things civil can be glossed into a religion, it becomes necessary to create gods and bring forth the sanctification of government. In that realm unconditional loyalty is a simple affair with the illusional clarity of a moonbeam. In that light dies liberty.

Can anyone imagine Lee, Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, Judah Benjamin – name almost any Southern leader that you wish – and find them groveling in the self-negation of unconditional loyalty? Unconditional love of our Creator is never unconditional loyalty to a government here on earth.

The Creator of our personal sovereignty has ever been truly universal and not stuck in a political backroom protected by unconditional loyalty. The New England Divines have had particular confusion about that. Yes, we are all persons and yes, we are all inflicted and conflicted with faults. But the South crafted and cradled a heart for human nature while New England has forever crafted a whip and stockade.

If you are to believe in any compact among peoples or between our Creator and a person or a people, then you must accept more than the fruit of our intellects. You must accept the abundance of our intuitive hearts. They are the harbors of Infinity, the Ineffable, not our intellects. Our hearts open arms of loyalty but raise no armies to kill for loyalty. Our hearts work affection among friends and neighbors, they till the ground of respect between families and foreigners. In our hearts grows the reverence between our Creator and ourselves.

With his sermon and pamphlet Unconditional Loyalty Bellows did what he set out to do. 10,000 copies of his oration were printed and distributed to the officers of the Army and Navy by the national government. His theocracy was worming its way through the country. The Union had a new flagship motto urging troops to battle and a new blasphemy to calm citizens through the blood-stained days to come.

*********

“The unfortunate and defenseless public, however, is almost powerless to protect itself from Lincoln hysteria. If it attempts to get the truth about Lincoln, it is confronted with a mountain of fable and froth, foolishness and fancy, through which it must dig to obtain, only an occasional gem of truth – and even after a truth has been obtained, doubt may now be thrown around this truth by an over-powering blast of vulgar advertising propaganda. As the public welters in a morass of balderdash and buncombe, it is little wonder that discouragement and distrust may finally overcome the honest efforts to unscramble fact from fable.”The Deification of Lincoln, at 80 -81

“Now it is not so important whether Lincoln may have indulged in an occasional prayer after he became president, though there is no reliable evidence he ever did. The really interesting feature of the religious hysteria concerning Lincoln is, that previous to his nomination for the presidency, he was roundly condemned by the clergy as an infidel, while after his martyrdom, the same clerics were loud in their claims of his piety -“(emphasis in original) The Deification of Lincoln at 39

After Lincoln was assassinated, Bellows (who backed Lincoln from before his election) was back with a dynamic unctuousness that amounts to no less than dangerous spiritual prattle. Murdered on Good Friday, Lincoln rose from the dead on Easter Sunday as Bellows rose and bellowed the first strands weaving Christ and Lincoln together. He began:

“Sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless, I will tell you the truth. It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you.” John xvi. 6,7. So … robbed by violence of their accustomed leader; … snatched wickedly and ignominiously from their side; all their hopes of prosperity and power in this world utterly destroyed …

The oration (tediously, redundantly long), creates a balm for Lincoln’s war:

“… Nothing can touch him (Lincoln) further. Standing the central form in the field of this mighty, providential struggle, he fitly represents the purity, calmness, justice, and mercy of the loyal American people; their unconquered resolution to conquer secession and break slavery in pieces; their sober, solid sense; their religious confidence that God is on their side, and their cause the cause of universal humanity!

And seeing it is God who has afflicted us, … let us believe that it is expedient for us that our beloved chief should go away. He goes, to consecrate his work by flinging his life as well as his labors and his conscience, into the nation’s cause. He that has cheered so many on to bloody sacrifice, found unexpected, surprising opportunity, to give also his own blood! He died, as truly as any warrior dies on the battlefield, in the nation’s service, and shed his blood for her sake! It was the nation that was aimed at by the bullet that stilled his aching brain … His life and career now have the martyr’s palm added to the statesman’s, philanthropist’s, and patriot’s crown. … His name will match with Washington’s. …”

It is an oration in frenzy. For Bellows the pulpit was a stage he felt compelled to adorn. Finally, and much later, the Great Blasphemy –

Meanwhile Heaven rejoices this Easter morning in the resurrection of our lost leader, honored in the day of his death; dying on the anniversary of our Lord’s great sacrifice, a mighty sacrifice of himself for the sins of a whole people … he treads today the courts of light, radiant with the joy that even in Heaven celebrates our Saviour’s resurrection from the dead!His hearse is plumed with a nation’s grief; his resurrection is hailed with the songs of revolutionary patriots, of soldiers that have died for their country. He, the commander-in-chief, has gone to his army of the dead! The patriot President has gone to our Washington! The meek and lowly Christian is today with him who said on earth, ” Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” and who, rising today, fulfills his glorious words, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoso liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (emphases added)

This is no more than spiritual narcissism, not less than neurotic blasphemy. But it continues to tick within the hours of today’s America, stitching a false and pretentious history.

Bellows would his entire life bring theology to the forces of the State.

Both were to adorn one another, a symbiosis countering the Biblical instruction of free will and its injunction against false gods.

III

“… my friends, there is nothing in life more beautiful than the soldier … the truth is we fought the holiest fight ever fought on God’s earth. (emphasis added)
W.T. Sherman, addressing the Society of the Army of the Tennessee in Cincinnati, 1890

Bellows was not alone. The Divines and the Generals had common cause, if not spiritual, still subject to the same religion of loyalty. Lincoln would explain how they could combine.

In his 2d Inaugural Lincoln declared, “… The Almighty has His own purposes. If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? …  we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Here was the ultimate craft of the fervidly endless politician. He had never accepted a Creator and now stood hip deep in political caricature aligning himself with the Ineffable. He used our Creator as the necessary foundation of his own lie. For God did not bring this terrible war. The war came as President Lincoln had all along and long from the beginning decided it must come unless the Southern States remained in place as he wished them to. The lie was not glory enough: he committed himself and the country to unlimited war.

It was his party’s war as he intimately knew and as he admitted to both Gustavus Fox (Letter to G. F., May 1, 1861) and Orville Browning (Diary of Orville Browning, July 3, 1861). And as he wrote, the day after South Carolina seceded, to Elihu Washburne what he intended to do (Letter to E.W. December 21, 1860), , with instructions for General Scott to prepare “to either hold, or retake, the forts, as the case may require”. (emphasis in original)

The next day, December 22, 1860 Lincoln answered Major David Hunter’s suggestion that he should assemble 100,000 from the Wide-Awakes, the paramilitary force of the Republican Party, to prevent any effort at disruption of the Inaugural:  “I am much obliged by the receipt of yours of the 18th. The most we can do now is to watch events, and be as well prepared as possible for any turn things may take. If the forts fall, my judgment is that they are to be retaken. When I shall determine definitely my time of starting of Washington, I will notify you. Yours truly, A. LINCOLN. (emphasis added)

*******

All Sherman truly wanted was to be sure why the war was being fought. Like Lincoln, he had no God. He left the Ineffable to the Ineffable. Leaving the meeting at City Point, Virginia, with Grant, Porter and Lincoln on March 27, 1865, Sherman was convinced Lincoln never fought the war because of slavery. That was a great comfort to him. He never would have himself. It was all about loyalty for the Union.

Conquered by sorrow on the death of his child, Willy, from typhoid fever the day before, he wrote on October 4, 1863 to Captain C. C. Smith, Commander of the 13th Regulars Battalion, struggling to accept the death of his son who had once been made an honorary Sergeant of the 13th.

“The child who bore my name, and in whose future I reposed with more confidence than I did in my own plans of life, now floats a corpse, seeking a grave in a distant land, with a weeping mother, brothers and sisters clustered about him. But, for myself, I ask no sympathy. On, on I must go till I meet a soldier’s fate, or see my country rise superior to all factions, till its flag is adored and respected by ourselves and all the Powers of the Earth. (emphasis added)

His allegiance was to further the adoration and respect of all the powers of the earth to his national government. No wonder the world thought him mad. ‘Unconditional loyalty’ is personified madness.

*******

“It is a black mark against his presidency that at no time did he speak out against the mobs attacking unpopular (news)papers. Nor did he speak out in favor of freedom of the press or maintaining America’s core values during wartime. Lincoln did not object to the suppression of the loyal opposition and this later caused him and his party to suffer in the mid-term elections.” Lincoln’s Wraith pp 140-141

“The telegraph made field reporting a reality during the war. It was such an accurate reality that the federal government, specifically William Seward, began to censor the news by seizing control of all telegraph wires out of Washington in April 1861. This was, in fact, the first step in the administration’s unprecedented muzzling of the news … it would soon become the first step in controlling all news, of whatever sort, not sympathetic to the administration.” Lincoln’s Wraith p 73

President James Buchanan in 1859 had named the ranting, violent-prone abolitionism of Parker, Sumner, and Garrison et al, “a disease in the public mind” that had produced the vicious hatred of John Brown. The same disorienting disease produced the unconditional loyalty of the Republican Reverends, Republican Generals and the first Republican administration with itsown newspapers preaching about the glory befitting a generation that can die for their Government. Sherman became the living poster boy for such loyalty and its violence.

The Realm of Government was their Realm. If a citizen accepted the sovereignty of the national government before all others, Sherman, Lincoln, Bellows et al were with you to death. If you were folks, North to South, East to West, who moved to your own hearts and intellects and did not honor unconditional loyalty to the national government, they saw no obstacle to killing you.

In truth, if things are called what they are rather than assumed to be, the National Government, not the States, not the people of the States, is America’s treasure. Loyalists called it a ‘Union’ but meant obeisance. The States and the people have no place at that throne.

Today our understanding strains to accept they saw no mist or fog.

They re-concocted American Sovereignty to reside solely in their National government. They only half believed in self-government, the half that would obey. War was a spiritual act of homage to the new Sovereign and Loyalty was the coinage of the Realm.

But they were all mad: the Reverends, the Generals, the Lincoln acolytes, the Republican establishment and its press, finally Lincoln himself. Stung by Southern States wishing to stand on their own away from the rabble of northern belligerence and greed, these dim-souled people, entranced by the specter of wealth moving South, flung American lives into the composting manure for Empire.

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