The Stamp Act Congress believed kings were divinely authorized

Now when I say divinely appointed, I mean in the sense of Romans 13:1-4 “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.” and in 1 Peter 2:1-14 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” Do notice, however, that both Apostles add a caveat about governments doing good for those who do good and punishing those who do wrong. The idea that “divine right of kings” meant that kings could do whatever they want is not biblical. That is an idea from the so-called enlightenment anti-theists that tried to discredit everything that had a Christian basis.

Now on to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765.


The members of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to His Majesty’s person and government, inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the Protestant succession, and with minds deeply impressed by a sense of the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent; having considered as maturely as time would permit, the circumstances of said colonies, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations, of our humble opinions, respecting the most essential rights and liberties of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labor, by reason of several late acts of Parliament.

Notice that even though they are asserting their rights, they do so with the respect due the king. The “present happy establishment of the Protestant succession refers to the fact that this is King George III who has ascended to the throne upon his father’s death. The members of Congress are “sincerely devoted”and have the “warmest sentiments of affection and DUTY to His Majesty’s person and government.”

1st. That His Majesty’s subjects in these colonies owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the Parliament of Great Britain.

2d. That His Majesty’s liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.

Here they call themselves subjects and liege subjects. Now a subject is someone who is simply subject to the rule of someone else. A liege subject, however, is in a mutual bond. The liege subject obeys and serves the ruler and the liege ruler sustains and defends the subject.It is a mutually beneficial allegiance. This specific use of the term liege links their ideas to those of Romans and 1 Peter.

The Declaration of Rights closes with this:

Lastly, That it is the indispensable duty of these colonies to the best of sovereigns, to the mother-country, and to themselves, to endeavor, by a loyal and dutiful address to His Majesty, and humble application to both houses of Parliament, to procure the repeal of the act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, of all clauses of any other acts of Parliament whereby the jurisdiction of the admiralty is extended as aforesaid, and of the other late acts for the restriction of the American commerce.

Again they mention duty and also qualify that it is to the best of sovereigns, a term they apply to the current king out of respect and because they believe a good king would give them what they want, the repeal of the Stamp Act.

An association and agreement

If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed…to separate them from all the civil parts of the world. — William Bradford

The first document of self government was written in 1620 by the male passengers of the Mayflower. It is known today as the Mayflower Compact, but was known at the time only as “an association and agreement”.

In the original:

In ye name of God Amen· We whose names are vnderwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c

Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia· doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie:  vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cape
Codd ye ·11· of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom ·1620·

In modern American English:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Notice that the king is such “by the grace of God” and that they write “in the name of God”. They undertook the trip “for the glory of God”, “the Advancement of the Christian faith”, and “the honor of the king”. They make the agreement “in the presence of God” as well as each other.

Notice also that it is a “civil body politic” not a religious order. This does not mean that religion was not important, it was because it governed their personal lives and consciences. However, not all of the men were part of the church, but they would be part of the community. The Saints (the people we call pilgrims) were Congregationalists and believed that God governed them individually, not corporately, as this would keep the people in the most direct relationship to God.

Additionally, they would “enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony;”. The government would not make rules for everything and would not be a constant presence in the lives of the people. The people were expected to be self-governed, which means responsible for their own behavior. [Self government and self-government are not the same thing. The first means that people have a voice in their community government, the second means they have self-control and bear personal responsibility for their actions.]

The phrase continues: “unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.” This means submission and obedience was DUE (that is owed or deserved) to those laws that are just and equal, and “most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony”. Just and equal are self-explanatory. General good means for EVERY person in the colony, not just some. The phrase meet (adj. from the Greek meaning “suitable, fitting) and convenient (the archaic meaning of “proper” not the modern meaning of easy or nearby) has the same meaning as “necessary and proper” that appears in the Constitution. The AND is important in that the laws must meet two requirements, not just one. A law might be thought suitable or fitting by some, but not be in the proper purview of the government. The law might be in the purview of the government, but not be suitable because it can be handled in some other way. The implication of the word due (which will be repeated in future documents) is that only laws that are “just, equally applied, and both necessary and proper” deserve to be obeyed. This is well supported in scripture such as in the book of Daniel and also in the lives of the Apostles, who “obeyed God rather than men”. However, it was not license to disobey a law that was simply disagreed with, nor did it mean there would be no consequences. When the people in the Bible disobeyed human laws they were still subject to the authorities and took their punishment, which may or may not have been mitigated by God’s intervention. This is what the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. These words of Jesus should govern the actions of all: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 22:35-40

To summarize: this document clearly contains the idea of divine authority vested in a king and respect and reverence for that authority. However, there is the reminder that justice will play a part in whether or not obedience is deserved.

Kings and Kingdoms

In discussing divine right from the viewpoint of the American founding, one must follow the thread of history’s tapestry back to ancient Israel. After the nation of Israel was established by God in the land of Canaan, it was ruled by God through judges and guided by prophets. That changed into kingship at the request of the people. The story is told in 1 Samuel, chapter 8:

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”

In 1 Samuel, chapter 10, verse 1 the king is annointed:

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?

Although the Lord had already shown Samuel who was to be king, and Saul had been told and anointed, the people had not been told yet. The announcement is made later in chapter 10:

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others.24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

The only other king directly appointed by God was David. David was chosen to replace Saul after God removed the kingdom from him due to his disobedience.

1 Samuel, chapter 13:

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; theLord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept theLord’s command.”

1 Samuel, chapter 16:

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsomefeatures.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

From then on it was kingship by inheritance and God did not directly intervene to choose a king. But the people understood that this was the will of God and that kings would rule and should be honored and that they would be punished and removed at His timing.

An aside about kings and kingdoms in ancient history: the reign of kings was not neat and orderly the way we think they should be – one king dies and a new one takes the throne on a specific date. In ancient times kings sometimes overlapped because of rival claims over the same land and people. Don’t get stuck on dates and territories. Here I am just discussing the general idea of kingship and where if came from to explain the belief system of the founders.

There are too many verses to list them all here, but the Old Testament is full of stories of kings both good and bad. Kings used as examples to follow and not to follow. And kings being confronted by God’s prophets telling them what to do or how to behave or warning them of punishment to come. The  New Testament has few mentions of earthly kings, but does have verses that pertain to this discussion of divine right in light of the American founding:

Christians are instructed to treat the government and God as separate, not one and the same – Luke 20:25 (also in Matthew 22:21 and Mark 12:17)

He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christians are to put God above the government – Acts 5:29

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Christians are to pray for kings and other leaders – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And most critically, Christians are to obey authority – Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Note especially verse 7:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Verse seven is the most important in relation to the founding as will be shown when I discuss the documents of the settlement and founding of the United States. Christians only owe obedience to kings that act in accordance with God’s law.  The Old Testament habit of confronting kings who behaved badly will figure prominently in the founding.

Back to Basics

There are many blogs that talk about current events in both politics and economics that say pretty much what I would want to say only better, so I think I will go back to what I know best and what I have not seen much of – explicating the Constitution and it’s origins.

I will be starting with the topic of kings/rulers/authority from the Judeo-Christian viewpoint. I had this in mind before the royal baby mania, so this only appears to have a pop culture reference.

In most, if not all, textbooks on government, the four “theories of government” are listed as evolutionary (family), force, divine right, and social contract. They are often spoken of as mutually exclusive but should be seen as more of a continuum along which one can move in either direction.

The evolutionary, or family, government is still with us in every society. The first government system everyone is born into is some type of family wherein an adult or adults are in charge and teach and guide children. With extended families tribal governments based on kinship would naturally develop. This type of government is still in existence in many parts of the world as is seen on any news story about the developing world.

As family groups traveled, following game or other resources, and came across one another, what would usually happen is that there would be a fight over the resources. Conflict was the natural outcome of most encounters, not a “let’s all sit around the campfire and sing Kum By Ya” kind of situation. One group would prevail over the other and then one or some combination of three things happened: annihilation, assimilation, or/and enslavement. Annihilation would eliminate the need to share scarce resources. Assimilation (generally only females of child bearing age) would be used if the winner deemed it beneficial to them. Enslavement was used if extra labor was needed and the winning group was confident of maintaining control or if the slaves could quickly be sold to another group. With assimilation or enslavement there is a change from family government, with allegiance based on kinship ties, to force government, with rule through fear.

Ruling by force requires surveillance and a large military or security presence. This type of government uses resources to keep the security forces happy lest they overpower the ruler and take over for themselves. Rule by force is inherently unstable.

Ruling by force and fear doesn’t keep everyone in line, so the usefulness of divinity becomes obvious as it is much easier to maintain control over people by ruling with the authority of the religion of the people. By claiming either divinity in oneself or the direct support of the god of the people, many simply obey through allegiance with the religion. Even though the fear of punishment was still there, since disobeying the king would be disobeying the god, there was still the desire to please that is not present in a pure forced government.

It is important to understand the idea of what political scientists call the “divine right” theory of government. European kings are always mentioned as the main or even the only supporters of the theory of divine right government. Sometimes a magical story of how a man became a king is used to discredit the idea and make people seem foolish to believe in the concept, such as the story of King Arthur. However, people in Europe didn’t actually believe that receiving a sword from a lady in a lake is how someone gets divine authority. (I do, however, enjoy the “Dennis the Peasant” scene form Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie and I have shown it to my students every year.) European Divine right is also said to mean that the ruler’s power was unconditional, that is, unrelated to behavior. It is contrasted with the Asian idea of the Mandate of Heaven, which is conditional on the ruler’s behavior. The subtext is that the Christian idea of divine authority is inferior to the Asian idea of divine authority. A proper analysis of the Biblical text and historical documents of the American founding will show that the behavior of the ruler does matter. While earthly authority might rest only in the king, he was subject to God and His laws.

While the term “divine right of kings” is considered by many to apply only to the rulers of Europe from the early middle ages until the “Enlightenment”, the idea of divine rule is much older. The Pharaohs of Egypt were considered to be reincarnations of the god Horus. Before the Pharaohs, the fist written evidence of divine rule comes from Mesopotamia. The ruler who declared himself divine was Naram-Sin of Akkad. He identified himself as the husband of the goddess Ishtar. Divine rule was not claimed by every Mesopotamian king and some 200 years passed before another king claimed divinity. There is also some evidence that Babylonian kings used deification as a means of consolidating their power over regions. In the Roman empire the emperors claimed divinity for themselves.

In the next post I will address divine right in the context of the American settlement and founding.

New semester

So the whole semester passed with no posting until now. I could say I was busy, but really I was distressed at what I thought was a hopeless cause, the prevention of the re-election of Barack Obama. I did not believe the American people could see through the lies of the media and I was correct. While there is plenty of alternative media, most people still watch and/or read the old media which was 100% behind the re-election of Obama. The Republicans did not have enough coherence, and the Libertarians never had a chance.
This semester is economics, which may or may not be a depressing topic, depending on what happens. It is fitting since my last posts were all economic instead of government topics, so I will simply continue with other economic concepts. Currently the topic is money and personal finance with a side helping of the health insurance bill. I have a good group of students that I hope will take to heart the lessons of this semester.

Seen and Unseen

The concept of “the seen and the unseen” is one of the most famous ideas of the French classical liberal Frederic Bastiat. In his essay of “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” Bastiat explains that people only see the immediate effects of something and not the longer run effects. The famous story is told about a broken window and is often called the broken window fallacy.
It is a simple concept yet is so often overlooked, especially in this campaign season. The “stimulus”, the auto bailouts, other bailouts, “investing’ in green energy, all have immediate effects that may indeed be desirable, though often they fail to do even that. The problem is the part that is unseen. The jobs that were lost and will continue to be lost because the bankruptcy process was corrupted, or the money was ill spent, etc. An even worse problem is the damage done to the rule of law when contracts were violated by the government choosing winners and losers in the bailouts. But, the most egregious of the unseen damage, is that done to individual liberty. The more the government does, the more it puts its many tentacles into the lives of the American people, and the less free we become. Regulation and crony capitalism crush our prosperity, government schools snuff out individual thought, and the nanny state infantalizes a dependent populace. Instead of free thinking Americans we are becoming a nation of babies perpetually sucking at the government teat. When the milk runs out, what will we do then?

Guns and Butter

In every high school economics textbook that I have seen is the classic production possibilities problem known as “guns and butter”.
First a definition:
A production possibility frontier (PPF) or production possibility curve (PPC) is a graph that compares the production rates of two commodities that use the same fixed total factors of production. The commodity compared can either be a good or a service. Anywhere along the curve is a series of trade-offs but all are considered efficient. Outside of the curve is not possible without some new discovery of resources or technology. Inside the curve is inefficient use of resources.
The first problem with a “guns and butter” analogy is that it violates the parameters of the definition. Guns and butter do not use the same fixed total factors of production.
The second problem is that most of the time the book includes the idea that “society” must make the decision, which only works in collectivist imaginations. As I have said before, society doesn’t decide anything.
The third problem is the false choice between military goods and domestic goods, which is the real idea behind the analogy. The manufacture of military goods does not create wealth in the long run. In the short run, perhaps for the manufacturing companies, but not in the long run. This is because military goods are purchased by governments, whether ours or a foreign government. Government spending does not create wealth, it destroys it. Government can only spend what it takes from others – through taxation or by borrowing, which just pushes the taxation into the future. Either way it is confiscation from wealth creators.
I am not saying that military spending is unnecessary. At times it is since national defense is a constitutional duty of our government. I am just saying it is wrong to think that military spending is in and of itself beneficial spending. The myth that FDR got us out of the depression has been replaced with the myth that World War 2 did. There are several books out that address that so I won’t do that here. Suffice it to say it just isn’t true. See The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by
Amity Shlaes and America’s Great Depression by Murray Rothbard.

A PPC can be beneficial in determining the best mix of goods or services for a particular firm using identical or nearly identical factors of production, say bread and pastries.
They are also used in classroom practice problems with such items as fish and coconuts (the Robison Crusoe type problem). Beyond that they have little use except to muddle the minds of the masses.