Oscar S. (Oscar Solomon) Straus.

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u The name of Republic will be exalted, until every neighbor, yield-
ing to irresistible attraction, seeks new life in becoming part of the
great whole; and the national example will be more puissant than
army and navy for the conquest of the world." CHARLES SUMNER'S
41 Prophetic Voices Concerning America."

Second Edition Revised


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Second Edition



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THIS book was first published in 1885, and
two editions were exhausted shortly there-
after. The present edition has been corrected
and revised by the addition of some new ma-
terial, by reconstructing the concluding pages,
and by incorporating an introductory historical
essay, written for the French edition, by the
late M. Emile de Laveleye, the eminent Belgian
publicist and professor of the University of


THE reasons why the people in the thirteen
American colonies, when they dissolved their
connection with Great Britain, adopted as their
form of polity a Democratic Republic, are usu-
ally taken for granted and accepted as a matter
of course. I have nowhere been able to find
more than a passing allusion to this important
subject. During the winter of 1883-4, I de-
livered two lectures, one in the city of New
York and the other before the Long Island
Historical Society in the city of Brook-
lyn. The interest awakened by these lec-
tures induced me to further investigate the
subject and embody the result in a more per-
manent form. That this little treatise is ex-
haustive of the subject is not claimed, but some
facts are presented which I trust may be deemed
worthy of consideration. The older and more
permanent our government becomes, the greater
will be the interest that attaches to its origin


viii Preface.

and development. Historians have traced the
various stages of this development, but I am
not aware that it has ever been attempted
to present the reasons why the Republican
form of government was selected in preference
to every other form of polity. I have been led
to ascribe its origin mainly to ecclesiastical
causes, which operated from the time the Pil-
grims set foot upon our continent, and to the
direct and indirect influence of the Hebrew
Commonwealth. Through the windows of the
Puritan churches of New England the new
West looked back to the old East.



The influence of religion on political institutions
Primitive Christian communities democratic Ro-
manism and monarchy The Reformation was a
return to primitive Christianity France of to-day
suffers from the consequences of St. Bartholomew
The influences of Hebraism.




Other revolutions Forms of government in the various
colonies Passing of stamp act Action of colonial
assemblies First colonial congress Petition to the
king Declaration of Independence Revolutions of
1688 and 1776 " Divine right " of kings Important
questions of political development Course of William
III. Authorities for doctrine of " divine right."


Desire for independence of slow growth in the colonies

Nationality of the various colonists Contributions of

colonists to England Ambition of England Molasses



act and its results Birth of independence Greed of
England Stamp-act congress American sympathies
in England Franklin before the House of Commons
Resistance to parliamentary encroachments Boston
massacre Boston tea party Port bill England's
treatment of Canada Action on port bill.


Distinction between Puritans and Pilgrims Colonists
not adventurers Roger Williams Settlement of
Rhode Island Its Jewish form of government
Religious intolerance in Virginia and Massachusetts
Acts of Virginia Assembly Attempt to erect an
episcopate in the colonies Parsons' salaries in Vir-
ginia Attitude of different sects toward revolution
Sects in the various colonies Protestant majority in


Disturbances in England not felt by the colonies
Bible and theocracy in New England Cotton Mather
Hebrew commonwealth as a model of government
Election-day sermons English commonwealth and
its failure Other republics.


Primitive Christians Catholicism Union of church
and state Doctrine of " divine right " Execution of
Charles I. Church of England Episcopalians in

Contents. xi


Model for United States History of children of Israel
Separation of church and state Recognition of civil
equality Theocratic government not in the hands of
priests Division of Hebrew government The ' ' con-
gregation" Sidney on Hebrew government Laws of



This influence not always recognized Jonathan
Mayhew Other sermons Americans compared to
Israelites in many discourses Hebrew commonwealth
also held up as a model in political writings Offer of
the soldiers to Washington Monarchical party spirit
Thomas Paine Device for seal Conclusions.



[Translated from the French edition.]

IN studying the science of institutions and
governments, most writers have failed to recog-
nize that overwhelming influence exercised by -/
the religious ideas of the people in the shaping
and in the practical working of political con-
stitutions. Recently, Count de Franqueville,
in a careful work treating upon the subject of
government in England, stated that Protestant-
ism had in no way contributed to the develop-
ment of English liberty.

It was Montesquieu, however, who said,
' The Catholic religion is better adapted to a ^ ,
monarchy, Protestantism the better suited to
a republic." I do not think this truth has
been more clearly demonstrated than by Ed-
gard Quinet in his " Revolution Franchise."


xiv Introductory Essay.

Here the author shows that the prodigious
/ effort made by France to obtain and organize
liberty simply ended with the Caesarism of
Napoleon. The reason for this was that
political reform did not have for its founda-
tion the principle of religious reform.

To-day we can demonstrate by evidence
what intelligent thinkers only began to discern
in the eighteenth century, because the decisive
influence which forms of worship had, not only
on politics but also on political economy, was
not visible then. To-day this principle shines
forth, throwing increasing light on contempo-
raneous events. The influence which religion
f exercises on man is so profound that its con-
stant tendency must be to shape State in-
stitutions in forms borrowed from religious
organization. * * * A question so often
asked is this: " Why have there been success-
ful revolutions in the Low Countries, in Eng-
land, in America, while the French Revolution
came to naught ?" M. Guizot has written a
monograph to elucidate this subject which,
thoroughly replying to the question, contains
the secret which rules our destinies. On my
part I do not hesitate in saying this much : It

Introductory Essay. xv

is because in the first of these examples revo-
lutions were carried out in Protestant countries,
and on that account were successful. In the
other case, it failed because the country was

Voltaire, before this, said as much. He
asked: " How is it that the governments of
France and England are as different as those
of Morocco or Venice ? Is it -not because the
English, always wrangling with Rome, finally
shook off a hateful yoke, while a lighter-
minded people pretended to laugh and dance
in their chains ? " Voltaire spoke the truth,
but did he not excite to laughter and lead in
the dance ? There was a closer touch between
France and England when the French freed
themselves from the yoke of the Church.

Wherever the sovereign lays claim to di-
vine right, there liberty cannot be established.
The reasons are evident. The power which
talks and acts in the name of God is necessa-
rily absolute. Orders from Heaven are not to
be discussed. Simple mortals can only bow
and obey. I know of no exception to this
rule. * * * Primitive Christianity favored
most particularly the establishment of liberal

xvi Introductory Essay.

and democratic institutions. Doubtless, on
its ascetic side, it detached man from his
worldly interests, while it did not lessen his
claims as a citizen. But in elevating and puri-
fying morals he became better fitted for self-
government and a free existence. During the
early centuries in Christian communities there
was perfect equality, because all the power
was derived from the people, whose decision
and opinion controlled the government. There
were no purer democratic republics than the
primitive Christian communities. Accordingly,
when the Presbyterians of the sixteenth century
returned to their old Church organization, they
could not help but found a State with republi-
can institutions. * * *

The history of the institution of the Church
shows a steady progress towards concentration
of power. Drawing itself away from that de-
mocracy, that equality of early Christianity, the
Church has finally in the nineteenth century
become the exponent of papal infallibility; a
more complete despotism than this it would
be difficult to imagine. It was a democratic
republic at the start, but at the finish an aris-
tocracy of bishops independent of the Pope. If

Introductory Essay. xvii

civil society tends to mould itself within the
lines of a religious association, the facts show
that it is invariably under the control of a
despotic absolutism. It is so understood by
the partisans of the Church.

Bossuet, in his " Politique Tire de 1'ficri-
ture Sainte," traces those conditions which
must exist in a Catholic country. " God
established kings as His ministers, and through
them He reigns over the people." " Royal
authority is absolute." " The prince need
render account to no one for his actions."
!< Princes must be obeyed as you would obey
the dictates of justice." ' They are the gods
and participate in some way in divine inde-
pendence." " As for the subjects, who may
oppose the violence of a prince, they may
only remonstrate in a respectful manner, but
without mutiny or murmur."

The logical deduction from all this must be,
that in a Catholic country the government is
necessarily despotic ; first, because such is the
manner of the Church ; secondly, because kings
held, as it was taught, their power direct from
God or the Pope, which power could be neither
curtailed nor controlled.

xviii Introductory Essay.

Bossuet, in his own singularly pompous and
vigorous language, gives the definition of a
monarchy formed in accordance with Roman
Catholic tradition, just as it shaped itself from
the Rome of the Caesars and the popes.

4 You must obey the prince, as you would
justice itself. Princes are gods and somehow
participate in divine independence. As in
God is united all perfection, so in the personal-
ity of the prince is the concentration of all
power. If God were to withdraw His hand,
the world would lapse into chaos. Were
authority to cease in the kingdom, all would
fall into confusion. Bethink you of the king
in his closet. From thence speed the orders
which govern the magistrates, the officers, the
provinces, and the armies. It is the semblance
of God, seated on His throne in the heavenly
heights, commanding all the forces of nature.
The wicked may try to hide their heads, but
the light of God follows them everywhere.
This is why God gives the prince the power of
discovering all secret wiles. His eyes and
hands are everywhere. The birds in the sky
tell him all that happens. He has received
from God a certain circumspection which is


The first design of the Seal of the United States, recom-
mended by Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, the Committee
appointed immediately after the Declaration of Independence
had been read, July 4, 1 776.

[From a drawing by Benj. J. Lossing from the description ]
(See p. 140)

Introductory Essay. xix

akin to a divine penetration. If he discovers
an intrigue, his arms are so long that he can
seize his enemies. From the most remote
regions of the world he can drag them from the
bottom of abysses. There is no refuge from
such a power.'*

The Reformation, on the contrary, was a
return to primitive Christianity, and above all
towards the democracy of the prophets of the
Old Testament, which was alive with the /
breath of liberty and resistance to absolutism.
It tended towards the birth of republican and
constitutional institutions.

The Protestant acknowledges in his religion
but a single authority, that of the Bible. He
would not bow before the authority of a man
as would the Catholic. He examines, he dis-
cusses all questions for himself.

Calvinists, Presbyterians, having reestab-
lished republicanism within the Church, the
Protestants in logical sequence brought into l^
their social polity the same principles and
habits. The charge brought by Lamennais
against the Reformers is perfectly true. He
said : " They denied that power was derivable
from religious bodies. It followed that they

xx Introductory Essay.

also denied that power was derivable from
political bodies. They substituted in both
cases such reason and will as man might pos-
sess, in opposition to the reason and will of
God. Hence, man was independent, and bent
on perfect liberty. He was his own master,
his own king, his own God."

Luther and Calvin did not advocate resist-
ance to tyranny ; they rather condemned it and
extolled obedience. Neither did they admit
the fullest liberty of conscience. Despite
them, however, the principle of political and
religious liberty, that of the sovereignty of the
people, is the logical outcome of the Reforma-
tion. The proof of this was discoverable in
the natural fruitage. The writers of the Ref-
ormation invariably advocated the rights of
the people, and wherever Protestantism tri-
umphed, there free institutions were estab-
lished. Their enemies were not deceived.
They declared it an evil thing, this union of
reform and liberty.

' The Reformers," said a Venetian envoy
in France during the sixteenth century,
" preached that the king has no authority
over his subjects. This way of thinking must

Introductory Essay. xxi

lead them towards a government something
like that existing in Switzerland and to the de-
struction of monarchical form of government." !

Montluc wrote: " The Ministers preach that
kings have no other power but that which
pleases the people. Others preach that the
nobility are no better than they are. That is
the spirit of this liberal Calvinism which tends
towards equality." a

Tavannes, time and time again, notes the
democratic tendency of the Huguenots.
' They are republicans within the royal states,
having means of their own, with their soldiery,
their distinct finances, and bent on establishing
a popular and democratic government." 3

The great jurist Dumoulin denounced the
Protestant pastors before the Parliament. He
said: " They have no other desire than to re-
duce France into a popular state, and to make
it a republic like Geneva. They are trying to
abolish hereditary rights by placing on an
equal footing the lowest-born with the most
exalted. They think that all men, as the

1 M. Laurent, " La Revolution Franchise," t. I., 2, ^[ 3.

2 Blaise de Montluc, " Collection de Memoires de Petitot."

3 Tavannes, meme collection, t. XXIII., 72.

xxii Introductory Essay.

children of Adam, are equal by divine and
natural law."

The thoughts attributed to the Reformers
have the same fundamental ideas as those of
the Revolution. If France had adopted them
in the sixteenth century she would have en-
joyed liberty, self-government, and would have
kept to them.

In 1622 Gregory XV. wrote to the King of
France, begging him to end the quarrel in
Geneva, which was then the headquarters of
Calvinism and republicanism. In France, after
the death of King Henry IV., the Duke de
Rohan, who was a Huguenot, wanted to form
a republic, declaring that the time for kings
had passed away.

The reproach has been cast on the Protestant
nobility for seeking to split up France into
petty republican states like Switzerland, and
the chief merit of the Ligue so it was argued
consisted in having maintained French
unity. What the Huguenots wanted were, un-
questionably, local autonomy, decentralization,
and a federal system which would foster com-
munal and provincial liberty. That is what
France is endeavoring in vain to establish to-

Introductory Essay. xxiii

day. It was the blind passion for unity and
uniformity which wrecked the Revolution, and
which too often caused France to revert to
despotism. Calvin wished that " the ministers
of the Sacred Writ should be elected by the
consent and with the approbation of the
people, and that pastors should preside over
the elections." That was the system Calvin-
ists wanted to introduce into France.

l< In the year 1620," says Tavannes, " their
state was certainly a democratic one, with
mayors and ministers holding all authority.
They did not belong to the noble class. Had
they accomplished their purpose, the condition
of France would have become about the same
as that of Switzerland, with the abolition of
princes and of the gentry."

No sooner had the Reform placed the gos-
pel in the hands of the peasants, than they
clamored in the name of Christian liberty for
the abolition of serfdom and a recognition of
their ancient privileges. Everywhere claims
were advanced for natural rights, liberty, toler-
ance, and the sovereignty of the people. The
writings of the period show this condition of
thought. There may be cited, among many

xxiv Introductory Essay.

publications of the time, a celebrated pamphlet
written by Languet, " Junii Bruti Celtae vin-
diciae contra tyrannos, de principe in populum
populique in principem legitima potestate."
In the dialogue he writes about " the author-
ity of the prince and the liberty of the peo-
pie." '

These ideas, which stand at the base of
modern liberty, always found their most elo-
quent defenders in Protestantism. Jurieu, the
minister, stood as their champion against Bos-
suet in a celebrated debate. Locke was their
exponent in a scientific form. Montesquieu,
Voltaire, and other political writers of the
eighteenth century all borrowed arguments
from Locke, and from them was born the
French Revolution. But long before that,
these ideas had found their application, and
with lasting effect, in Protestant States. First
it came about in Holland, then in England,
and above all in America.

The famous Edict of July 16, 1581, in which
the States-General of the Low Countries pro-
claimed the forfeiture of the King of Spain, is

1 " Memoires de 1'Etat de France sous Charles IX.," t. III.,
57-64. See also " Revolution Fran9aise," I., 345.

Introductory Essay. xxv

the clearest consecration of the sovereignty of
the people. To dethrone a king it was neces-
sary to invoke this principle : " Subjects are
not created by God for the prince, so that the
prince must be obeyed in all matters and
things, according to his pleasure, but rather
the prince depends on his subjects, and over
these he may not be the prince save to govern
them according to right and reason." The
edict went on further to say that the people,
in order to escape from the tyranny of a
despot, were forced to withdraw their obedi-
ence. " There remains no other method
whereby we may conserve and defend our
ancient liberty, our women, children, and our
descendants, in whose behalf, in accordance
with the laws of nature, we are ready to risk
our lives and our means."

In England the Revolution of 1648 was car-
ried out on the same principles. Milton and
other republicans of that epoch defended these
principles with admirable vigor and spirit.

It has been our custom to honor the famous
principles of '89 as born of the French Revo-
lution. This is a decided historical error. In
France eloquent discourses have been devoted

xxvi Introductory Essay.

to this subject. It is only recently that the
most sacred of all rights, liberty of conscience,
has been respected. 1 Puritans and Quakers,
proclaimed and practised it two hundred years
before in America, and it is from there and
England that Europe took the idea, towards
the close of the eighteenth century.

As early as 1620 the constitution of Virginia
established a representative government, trial
by jury, and the principle that taxes should
be only voted for by those who had to pay
them. * * * A man arose (1633) who
claimed not alone tolerance, but complete
equality in all worship before the civil law,
and on this principle he founded a State. The
man was Roger Williams, and his name, barely
known in our continent, is worthy of being
inscribed among the benefactors of humanity.
He it was who first spoke out for liberty of
conscience in a world which for four thousand
years had been steeped in the blood of intoler
ance. Descartes had declared only in favor of
free research in philosophy. Roger Williams
was the champion of religious liberty as a

1 See a very instructive article by Prevost-Paradol, Revue
des Deux Mondes, 1858.

Introductory Essay. xxvii

political right. " Persecution for cause of con-
science," he said, " is most evidently and
lamentably contrary to the doctrine of Jesus
Christ." ' He who commands the ship of
state can maintain order on board and conduct
his vessel into port, even though the entire
crew does not attend divine service." ' The
civil magistrate's power extends only to the
bodies and goods and outward estate of men ;
it cannot intervene in matters of faith, even
to stop a church from apostasy and heresy."
' The removal of the yoke of soul-oppression
will prove an act of mercy and righteousness
to the enslaved nations, so it is of binding
force to engage the whole and every interest
and conscience to preserve the common liberty
and peace."

In Bancroft's admirable history you may
read how Roger Williams founded the city of
Providence in the State of Rhode Island, on
principles then unknown in Europe, save per-
haps in the Low Countries. In 1641, when the
constitution was established, all the citizens
were called on to vote. The founders styled
themselves a " democracy," and it was one in
the fullest sense, just as Rousseau afterwards

xxviii Introductory Essay.

understood it. The people directly governed
themselves. All citizens, without distinction
of belief, were equals before the law, and all
the laws were confirmed in the popular assem-
blies. It was the most radical self-government
ever known among human societies, and it has
lasted for over two centuries without trouble
and without revolution.

The Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jer-
sey founded their States on similar principles.
The power dwells with the people. " We put
the power in the people." That is the basis
of the New Jersey constitution. The principal
clauses are as follows: No man, nor assem-
blage of men, has power over conscience. No
one at any time nor under any pretext can be
persecuted or harmed in any manner whatever
on account of his religious opinions. The
General Assembly is to be named by secret
ballot. Every man may elect and be elected.
Electors give their deputies obligatory instruc-
tions. Should a deputy not fulfil his functions
he can be prosecuted. Ten commissioners,
elected by the Assembly, exercise executive
functions. Judges and constables are elected
by the people for two years. Judges preside

Introductory Essay. xxix

over the jury, but the deciding power is exer-

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Online LibraryOscar S. (Oscar Solomon) StrausThe origin of republican form of government in the United States of America → online text (page 1 of 10)