The History of Liberty, Part II
By Reed Benson
With every passing year, the liberties we enjoy as Americans are nibbled away just a bit more. As a boy growing up in the 1970s, no law compelled us to wear seat belts in our cars. It is a good idea, I admit—but there was no penalty for not wearing one. As a young man in the 1990s, I was fortunate to visit the capitol of the United States in Washington. I could just stroll right in and gaze up at the vast rotunda—with no searches through my bags or daypack. And until last year, I was free to not purchase health insurance; my physical welfare was my business alone. Now, however, much-loved Obamacare is limiting our options. These are just a few examples of the steady increments in which we are losing our liberty in this nation, a country originally forged on principles of freedom that were obtained at great personal cost to the founding generation.
The first portion of this article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of the Watchman and described the fragile nature of liberty across the pages of world history. Two vital precepts were expounded. First, liberty cannot exist without a corresponding high degree of personal responsibility. The abandonment of the spirit of self-reliance always erodes freedom. And more to the point, responsible living cannot be separated from application of God's Law. Second, liberty has flourished among only one race on earth. Only among the Caucasian race, those who are the direct genetic descendants of the ancient Israelites, does one find that the impulse of liberty results in true exercise of the same. In part one of this article, we traced the history of national liberty from its biblical origin when the Hebrews escaped from the bondage of slavery under the Egyptian Pharaohs, established the Hebrew Commonwealth under the Mosaic Law-code (the most generous of all ancient systems of law), eventually abandoned Jehovah, lost their freedom, and were returned to slavery under the fierce Assyrian regime. We further traced liberty in world history as the Israelites again escaped from slavery, migrated to Europe, and founded the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political freedom that found expression in more than one European nation. The first portion of this essay finished with a profile of one of the most eloquent proclamations of liberty: the Scottish Declaration of Independence of 1320. Regretfully, we were forced to conclude that even among the Israelite people of the world, the only people on our planet with an innate passion for freedom, true liberty, is not always realized. It is among the most fragile of flowers.
A Coffin for King Charles
As we take up the story once again and trace liberty through history, we find ourselves at a most distasteful moment in time: the English Civil War. Englishmen do not always relish the retelling of these episodes, but a brief rendering is quite important and, in fact, has a happy outcome. The 1640s witnessed a bitter conflict between two opposing parties, both of whom were somewhat misunderstood by each other. On the one side was the royal Stuart dynasty, sincerely convinced that they ruled by divine right, and any perceived opposition to their authority was also rebellion against God. Known as Cavaliers, the royalists sought to bring broad powers to the hands of King Charles I and maintained a generous measure of sympathy for the Roman Catholic tradition. The other camp was that of Parliament. Known as Roundheads (for their shorn hair), they believed the King's powers should be limited, and they scorned Roman Catholicism in all its forms, preferring the high ideals of the Puritan way. After four years of bloody battles and the ripping asunder of towns and families, the conclusion of this ugly affair was that the king's cause was lost, and he was a captive in the hands of his adversaries. But what should they do with him? To release him would surely re-ignite this horrible war. So, after much soul-searching and hand-wringing, the Roundheads executed their king, Charles I. England would now be a true republic, without any royal master!
This proved harder than it looked. Oliver Cromwell, the brilliant commander of the Roundheads, was obliged to assume the powers of a de-facto dictator until his death some ten years later. But after a full decade of his severe regime, the old king did not seem so bad! So rather than run any risk of another dictatorship, the English brought back the Stuarts, enthroning Charles II, the son of the slain king. He ruled quietly for some years until his death, when his brother James II took the reins. Now James was not content to be the passive figurehead his deceased elder brother had been. He wanted full power restored! By now, some time had gone by. It was the 1680s—and he assumed the English would accept a tough, hard-nosed monarch who did as he pleased.
That was a mistake. In short order, another great rupture occurred between the king's authority and Parliament. War again loomed on the horizon. Then, in 1688, a sudden surprise: James II ran away! His supporters had evaporated, and he simply decided to flee to the continent of Europe, never to return, permanently damaging his cause. As you surely can imagine, the great majority of the English rejoiced at having avoided another bitter civil conflict and exulted in the rights of the people being upheld against what they believed were kingly abuses of power. So thrilled were they at this outcome that from henceforth, this event was known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Another royal relative was snatched from near obscurity to sit on the throne, one who was both devoutly Protestant and also willing to share real power with parliament. This was Mary, who with her husband William of Orange, ruled as joint heirs, William and Mary.
The glory of this event was the development of a remarkable document that codified all of this: the English Bill of Rights. Taking its cues from the old Anglo-Saxon traditions of Alfred the Great, and later the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights established clear principles that protected the people from governments that sought to trample the rights of the people.
No King but King Jesus
The spirit of liberty followed the pathway set forth by Jacob's ancient prophecy: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches have run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). The well of water was the great Atlantic Ocean, and the wall was the barrier that ocean represented. Joseph's seed, the Anglo-Saxon people of Britain, did indeed run over the wall, fruitfully spreading themselves in a distant land, America. Freedom became the pre-eminent theme of American history, and despite setbacks in recent decades, remains so today.
By far, the most important expression of liberty in America's history was the American War of Independence. It is a saga beloved and well known and need not be repeated here except for a few overlooked elements that provide the connective tissue for this essay.
First, the colonists most responsible for launching the American War of Independence were Israelites of a noble and somewhat tempestuous tribe in Israel. No, not Joseph, but another of the sons of Jacob that walked with Joseph. A single simple heraldic symbol identifies them as Hebrews and further marks many of the most important Revolutionary War patriots as being members of the tribe of Dan. How? It is an established fact that in the eighth and ninth centuries of the Christian era, large numbers of Danes settled in northeastern England, a region often called East Anglia. So numerous were these Vikings that moved there from Denmark that it was simply referred to for a long period as "Danelaw." They became permanent residents; as further centuries rolled by, they were absorbed into the mainstream of the English population. What is also known, but with little significance attached to it, is this fact: most of the Separatists and Puritans that left England in the 1600s to settle in New England came from this precise region. For example, Scrooby, the original home of the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth in Massachusetts, is in this portion of England. The great wave of Puritans who followed them in the 1630s were mostly from East Anglia, the old settling grounds of the Danes. These Puritans, although thoroughly English in speech and custom, were genetically Danish. As readers of this publication know, that means they were descendants of the tribe of Dan. Now, connect this to the American Revolution, and what do you have? The movement for independence was spawned by Massachusetts men in the 1770s. And what symbol was among the most prominent in their banners? The serpent. An odd one to choose, it would seem, but there it was: both in the "Don't Tread on Me" flag and the "Join or Die" banner. Yet, it fulfills precisely the ancient prophecy of Jacob that Dan would be independent, headstrong, freewheeling, and reckless: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward" (Genesis 49:17). Just like the most famous biblical Danite of all, Samson, the modern Danites of New England were ready to take care of themselves without any regard for protocol and orthodox expectations. Over a few small taxes, they were eager to fight. The spirit of liberty was alive and well, brought to the New World by Hebrews descended from the tribe of Dan.
While the Danites of Massachusetts provided an impetuous lurch toward freedom in the English colonies, a second more deliberative impulse was percolating among others. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and even some staid Lutherans were challenging the premise that King George III had the right to rule as he pleased. Like the Stuarts who were determined to defend the "divine right of kings," George also, albeit more softly, subscribed to this theory. For many colonists who did not care for the stuffy Anglican church, of which George was the head, this was too much. You see, too many Anglicans were eager to support George's "divine right" and use this tool to suppress other denominations as best they could. As the commotion that the Massachusetts Danites had stirred up gradually spread to other colonies, a new cry was soon heard: "No King but King Jesus!" This call rejected the "divine right of kings" and made it plain that the unwanted taxes that had so irritated the New Englanders was not the only issue in dispute. Broader theories about the nature of human government were now open for scrutiny.
This takes us to one of the unsung heroes of the American republic and the eventual form of government that nation took, the Constitution. George Mason, a Virginian, was no rabble-rouser like the fire-breathers from Boston. Neither was he a religious idealist hoping to inaugurate the millennial reign of Jesus, although he was faithful churchman. And for certain, he was not a natural warrior, like his famous neighbor George Washington. But Mason was a deeply thoughtful man who knew history and had a good grasp on the frailties of human nature. A member of the Virginia legislature, he labored to open up considerable liberties to people in his state in 1776, with his draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, modeled on the English Bill of Rights of 1688. Later, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he led the movement to compel a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution before ratification. Indeed, without Mason, it is almost certain that this bulwark of liberty, the American Bill of Rights, would never have been a reality.
Pressure to erode the noble intentions of the Bill of Rights has been growing in recent decades. Yet this insightful addition to the Constitution remains the primary bulwark of liberty in the United States of America since its adoption over two centuries ago. It is a great treasure for the Caucasian Israelites who developed and preserved its precepts of limited government and freedom.
Few topics in American history arouse passions as much as the American Civil War, or as some prefer, the War of Southern Independence or even the War of Northern Aggression. Not only can Americans not agree on what to call this war, but also there is sharp division as to the real causes of the war, the true motivations of each side, and the nature of the consequences.
Ironically, both northern and southern apologists insist they were fighting for greater liberty. Some claim the northern Yankees sought to preserve the Union that had been formed in the American War of Independence and, of course, to free slaves held in servitude. Others argue that Southern secessionists hoped to preserve the freedom of the States and resisted centralized tyranny of the Federal government. How can it be that the men fighting in both armies were convinced that they were fighting for the true cause of liberty and their opponents were, therefore, agents of oppression?
Not only is this far too complex a question to answer in this short essay, but it also is a distraction from our central theme. What is vital to note for our purposes here is that the newly divided nation was universally consumed with the concept of liberty and dedicated to preserving their respective notions of what that meant—even at the high price of multiplied thousands of battlefield deaths and incalculable destruction of property.
Flowing in the veins of the Israelites of the United States of America were innate desires to be free, exercise their liberties, not be told what to do, and to spread that philosophy to as many others as possible. Only among the true descendants of the ancient Hebrews is this passion such a highly profiled portion of their innate nature.
The Anti-Imperialist Imperialists
Across the corridors of time, the world has seen many empires. Ancient empires followed a universal pattern: conquer the enemy, slaughter those that resist, enslave many young healthy survivors, and extract heavy tribute from the rest. Nations so subdued existed solely for the benefit of the conquering people and were treated with utter contempt. Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome did not veer from this cruel paradigm.
More recent European empires altered this formula dramatically, taking a paternalistic attitude toward the constituent parts of their realm. The British Empire, for example, felt duty bound to establish schools, build roads and bridges, and establish local, self-governing assemblies in the nations over which they had dominion. But no nation has been as generous, kind, and benevolent as the Unites States of America.
Indeed, every nation over which the Unites States has exerted control has been delivered a bequest that is quite uncharacteristic of superpowers. America is so besotted with the idea of liberty that we insist on exporting it to all nations that fall under our sphere of influence. Indeed, we invade nations to liberate them! Think about this irony: we forcibly enter countries that are internally at peace with themselves and need no rescuing from anyone. Then we impose our concept of freedom in full confidence that they will joyfully embrace it once they have tasted of its dainties. Liberty is so ingrained into our genetics, our culture, our collective essence that we have difficulty conceiving that anyone would not want it!
We are accused of being imperialists, of taking advantage of other countries; yet, if that charge has the slightest tinge of accuracy, we are surely the most anti-imperialist of all imperial states. The nations we allegedly harm we also give billions of dollars in benefits. (On second thought, make that trillions if the entire aggregate is calculated!) In the last century we have liberated, along with providing the consequent financial goodies, the Philippines, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, South Korea, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a bevy of smaller countries. In each case, we aided the development of self-government, fostered freedoms most never even imagined, and dug deeply into our own pockets to make it all possible. Meanwhile, few if any benefits ever trickled back our direction. Never has there been a nation so eager to export liberty.
It is in the United States of America, buoyed by the innate impulse of liberty among the genetic Israelites who still constitute the larger part of its inhabitants, that freedom is still celebrated. No other people on the planet talk about it, dream about it, and assume it will always be available to the degree that we do.
Perhaps, however, we should be asking ourselves this: how long will it prosper in our own motherland? Will its curtailment on our home shores continue? Is this beautiful yet somewhat fragile blossom destined to wither? Are the multitudes of non-Israelites flooding our soil capable of sustaining the spirit of liberty? Let us pray that God will show mercy on the Israelites of America and aid us in this time of growing darkness.
We would do well to remember that our political liberty is contingent upon our obedience to God's law. Time and again, our biblical ancestors found themselves in trouble at the hand of oppressors and were compelled to humble themselves before God. In closing, let us reconnect to one of these stirring episodes: "And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God . . ." (Judges 6:7-10). Perhaps we should be on our knees in repentance for our transgressions and remembrance of our need to obey God’s law to the best of our abilities—to the end that the Lord God extends our liberties or else sustains us as tyranny unfolds around us.