In the four-hundred year history of this country, nothing illustrates better than the Civil War that just citizens eventually control civic governance. Yet, “we, the people” shun the civic goals in the preamble and look for personal gods to provide governance and are willing to accept the governance of gods, just or not. The lessons of the Civil War are that 1) injustice against persons cannot persist; 2) no god substitutes for just citizens in the defense of justice; 3) woe comes to the perpetrators of injustice; and 4) prolonged injustice creates consequences that are difficult for just citizens to overcome. The Iraq invasion demonstrates that the lessons are yet unlearned.
The causes of the Civil War stem from millennia-old ethnic discrimination, ignorance, fear, pride in theism, and force among humans. These five great travesties resist the objective truth. The five travesties empower perpetrators to impose regressive reality. Thus, whereas one person can observe connectivity and resist enslavement, they might willingly enslave the other, ruining the fact that each could live in peace. The objective truth that peace is available is changed into the reality of war. Starting four-hundred years ago, white, Protestant Europeans, armed with guns, enslaved Africans. America has yet to turn the harm into good.
The United States of America suffered slavery and faces recovery
The perpetrators of the Atlantic Slave Trade, including England, started importing slaves to the American colonies in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. The entire period of that awful enterprise extended from about 1490 until 1820. It is beyond the scope of this study to try to discover who is to blame, but apologies have come from European countries, America, and Africa. During about three centuries, slavery and the slave trade were commonly taken for granted except by a minority of people.
In 1749, Anglican preacher George Whitefield [claimed] that the territory would never be prosperous unless farms were able to use slave labor. Elihu Coleman of Nantucket, Massachusetts wrote against slavery in 1735. Slavery had no legal standing in England. In 1772 Lord Mansfield decided a case:
positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased
from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore,
may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must
rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the
savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every
principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.
Eleven years later, in the Constitutional convention to establish civic justice within the country and recognition without, slavery was discussed. Delegates could not negotiate abolition, but scheduled ending the slave trade in twenty years from ratification. Abolition would be faced in the future. The document signed in 1787 was civic, with neither authorization of religion nor specification of its opposite, secularism. The preamble to the Constitution for the United States of America is a civic sentence, not a secular sentence. It accommodates people who are anti-religious, anti-faith and anti-doubt as well as the religious people. However, during the ratification debates, amendment by a bill of rights was promised. Ratification by the required nine states happened on June 21, 1788, and the First US Congress ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791, when there were fourteen states. The religious clauses of the First Amendment protect religion, an institution, rather than state the human duty to think.
A revisionist President
Abraham Lincoln, who claimed to defend the Constitution for the USA, in reality, trumped it by citing the Declaration of Independence, both before and throughout his presidency. On June 26, 1857, speaking for the newly formed Republican Party, against the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court of the USA, Lincoln opined, “[T]he Declaration of Independence includes ALL men, black as well as white.” He was thus revising the Declaration’s claim that kings are not superior to the elites in the thirteen states—“all men are created equal,” to contradict himself--Abraham Lincoln, as he considered neither blacks nor American Indians as equal to white men. The 1787 Constitution for the USA held that blacks were property that counted as three fifths of a person. Instead of trumping the Constitution for the USA in 1857, Lincoln could have proposed the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. Thus, Lincoln could have both 1) exercised civic morality promised by the literal preamble and 2) protected the Constitution for the USA. No one knows if it would have cost him the 1861 presidency and/or saved him from assassination.
Precedent for trumping the Constitution for the USA occurred between its signing on September 17, 1787 and ratification of the Bill or Rights on December 15, 1791. During those four years, some American people cited the Declaration of Independence regarding “Consent of the Governed,” to defend their rights (without extending them to blacks). “John Bingham of Ohio, a principal framer of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868),” said that until the Bill of Rights, “Americans turned for a statement of their rights,” by citing the Declaration of Independence. However, since Lincoln’s revisionism, for many Americans, the Declaration of Independence has trumped the Constitution for the USA first to assert that this is not only a theist nation but a Christian nation (despite the deist language in the Declaration), to claim rights, and more recently to claim equal rights according to Christianity. Unfortunately, some citizens cite “all men are created equal” as their recollection of the preamble to the Constitution.
Some citizens don’t appreciate as crucial their contributions to fulfillment of “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble. "We the People," attests to total consensus to use the preamble to establish civic morality. However, a very small portion of inhabitants want to be of "A Civic People of the United States."
Lincoln added to his revisionism in the Gettysburg Address, which references 1776 as the date “our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.” In 1776, the Confederation of States, not a nation, declared liberty from England. In 1781, England’s Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, VA, to both French forces, whose leaders Rochambeau and De Grasse had planned the strategy. Cornwallis also surrendered to the continental army under General George Washington. In 1783, appropriately in Paris, England recognized the states as free and independent. (Unfortunately, seventy-seven years later, some states would contradict their own perpetual commitments by acting under the king of England’s grant as free and independent states to secede, which I will review below.) George Washington addressed the citizens to say they had won liberty and now needed to negotiate domestic justice with a citizens’ constitution instead of the Articles of Confederation, a states’ constitution, and to establish a nation that would be respected by other countries. In 1787, in the Philadelphia convention with George Washington presiding, laws and institutions to form a citizen’s republic were codified as the United States of America, and on June 21, 1788, the required nine states ratified “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble to the Constitution for the USA. Obfuscation of the preamble’s promise of just civic governance by justly governed citizens is one of the unintended consequences of Lincoln’s use of the Declaration of Independence to trump the Constitution for the USA. Unfortunately, his famous words, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” express a fantasy: Something that has never appeared cannot perish.
An iconoclastic President
Abraham Lincoln frequently used "God" to appear authoritative and appealed to citizens’ religious impulses. However, Lincoln’s religion was not conventional:
away from orthodox Christianity because of the emotional excesses of frontier evangelicalism, he found it easier as a young man
to accept what was called the Doctrine of Necessity, which he defined as the belief ‘that the human mind is impelled to action,
or held in rest by some power, over which the mind itself has no control.’ Later he frequently quoted to his partner, William H.
Herndon, the lines from Hamlet: There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.
true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in
general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.
to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will
not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to
destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not
break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living
heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be,
by the better angels of our nature.
The ravages of personal losses and the war increased Lincoln’s use of religion and "God," such that his second inaugural, on March 4, 1865, uses "God" fourteen times and refers to the Bible twice in only 698 words. The memorable sentence again blames the people, both sides, divided by war: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”
In a letter to Albert Hodges, April 4, 1864, Lincoln seems to blame "God" for the war, but may be referring to the people’s divided use of the Christian god. (The South Carolina declaration of secession, discussed below, claimed the North held “a more erroneous religious belief.”)
party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending
My lengthy coverage of Abraham Lincoln’s religious attitudes is not meant to disparage him as a human being, but to assert that any man’s invocation of "God" should not be followed. Presidents are only men, and their gods always represent a human mind: the President’s mind. The objective truth operates independently.
Residents of South Carolina contradicted themselves
On December 24, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the United States of America. The State contradicted its commitment in perpetuity to the Confederation of States, which, with France’s help, achieved independence from England after a declaration that pledged “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” They contradicted their May 23, 1788 ratification of “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble to the Constitution for the USA. Their agreement to end the slave trade implies they knew abolition would have to be faced.
But an era was ending: “On July 1, 1856, the city of Charleston outlawed the sale of slaves on the streets.” In the nation, on average, one in seventy free persons was a slave owner, but only 1% of them owned 20%-30% of the slaves. How did 99% of free persons convince themselves to pledge their lives, fortunes, and honor for slavery by the 1%? What if the people of Charleston had thought of themselves as “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble? They might have told the South Carolina legislation, “Not on my watch will you secede from the United States of America!” It is important for each citizen today to arbitrarily be of “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble.
Any citizen who purports to represent "God" is merely asserting that his/her opinion is the morally excellent opinion: believers subjugate, sometimes enslave, themselves. There is no case in history wherein politicians used a god to effect their citizens’ advantage: Politicians use "God" to gain power over citizens. In the relationship the spokesman for "God" is a villain and the believer is a slave. For this reason, "God" should not be a consideration in civic governance, in the United States--civic governance of neither self, nor state, nor the nation. Quoting Lincoln in his first inaugural address, “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” Yet "God" remains in civic governance. Why?
Political philosophers (politicians) are well aware of the principle Machiavelli expressed in Chapter 11 of The Prince, 1513--I call it Chapter XI Machiavellianism. He wrote, according to my paraphrase, that when citizens believe in a god, the governors do whatever they want and the citizens do not care, expecting fulfillment from their personal god; no sensible thinker could object, because she/he would have to write about the people's god—the unknown. Lincoln did not abide Machiavelli's advice, as he spoke of "God" often, but I would not say Lincoln proved sensible. I especially question Lincoln’s self-judgment in his letter to Albert Hodges, discussed above, and his self-contradictions regarding “created equal.” Many people theorize that Machiavelli was cynically instructing politicians to be dishonest, but my theory is that he was using irony to warn citizens: “Wake up to political use of theism for civic control!” (The irony was necessary to preserve the writer’s life.) Perhaps a modern example would help the reader understand my point.
Reporting on President George W. Bush’s order for March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bob Woodward reported:
Having given the order, the president walked alone around the circle behind the White
House. Months later, he told Woodward: "As I walked around the circle, I prayed that
our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty. Going into this period, I was praying
for strength to do the Lord's will. I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God.
Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I be as good a messenger of his
will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for forgiveness.”
We have examined two historic cases: The European slave trade imposed on the American colonies four-hundred years ago and the USA’s failure, so far, to turn it to advantage and the thirty-country invasion of Iraq led by President George W. Bush and England’s Tony Blair. In both cases, political representatives of the citizens used "God" to assuage civically moral objections to the actions taken. This misuse of "God" has existed for millennia. The organization of this country, specified during three months in 1787, debated for nine months before ratification, and in operation now for 226 years, promised just civic governance by justly governed citizens under the force of written law. However, just governance never emerged, because citizens, focused on personal gods, have individually waited for their personal god to deliver justice despite gradually increasing entanglement by laws. Informed by Chapter XI Machiavellinism, elected representatives are aware that the people are bemused by theism, and use gods to empower themselves. Citizens need to accept at last that religion is personal and not a factor in civic self-governance, state governance, or federal governance. Nobody is guilty of anything—it’s just the way the system works. We celebrate the system every Independence Day, when we celebrate liberty from England, always to be commemorated, but long since a completed task.
But if not "God," what?
After a few years’ practice we may be a majority of good neighbors—not a utopia, but just citizens working together.