While the last few decades have bestowed upon us considerable discussion in regards to the intended meaning of the separation of Church and State, one cannot deny the abundance of religious references which have peppered the language of Presidents, regardless of their personal faith (or lack thereof), from the onset of the Union through the present. One such example is found in the June 15, 1845 issue of The New York Times, which prints the text (see below) of the letter President Ulysses S. Grant wrote to the children and youth of America at the request of the editor of The Sunday School Times for insertion into their Centennial Edition. The letter emphasizes the importance of the Bible in regards to life and liberty: “My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter what their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your heart, and PRACTICE THEM IN YOUR LIVES. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ Yours respectfully, U. S. Grant”.
Mere religious blather, or good advice rooted in truth? Thoughts?
We recently discovered a report from Syria in the New York Observer, September 29, 1881 which had an interesting article discussing the existence of a document, signed by Muhammad, which provided for the protection of Christians. The article in its entirety is shown through the link. One website states:
“During our research with the Greek Orthodox Church, we have located numerous documents hand signed by Muhammad granting permanent protection to Christians and to their churches. These documents have been in existence since the original order given by Muhammad in 628 ACE. We have located several recent documents which sustain the original charter of rights. We question why are these mandates not known to the Muslim world? Why does the media avoid reporting these critical religious instructions?”
Can anyone comment on the authenticity of this covenant as described in the NY Observer?
The February 3, 1787 issue of The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser contains an 18th century translation of a letter self-described as being from Plubius Lutulus’ [Publius Lentulus’] to Caesar Tiberius (reg. 14-37 AD) which supposedly provides a contemporaneous description of Jesus Christ. Historians have spent countless hours trying to discover whether or not the letter is authentic. After more than a century of research, since there does not appear to be record of a Lentulus serving as Governor of Judea (which this letter suggests), most have come down on the side of it not being legitimate. Sadly, a 15 minute dig into the Bible could have saved them a considerable amount of energy.
The letter (see below) indicates the appearance of Jesus, with his long flowing hair, was quite a sight to behold. However, 1 Corinthians 11:14 makes it clear his hair could not have been long, and Isaiah 53:2 states: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” End of discussion. Case closed.
Thankfully, whether or not Jesus is God’s Son… the Messiah… the deliverer of all who might believe, according to the Bible, is not dependent on such works of man. He either is who He says HE IS, or he is not who he said he was – and the proof will be in the pudding. Still, the letter does make for interesting reading. Happy Easter.
As we approach President’s Day, there is a part of me which is somewhat sentimental about my childhood memories surrounding Washington’s Birthday. I sure do miss it as a stand alone national celebration. I fondly remember my father bringing home a cardboard version of an ax (with a chocolate-covered cherry hidden within) to present to each of us to commemorate the holiday, and without fail, reminding us to be just like George Washington – that is, to never tell a lie. Was there a bit of lore surrounding this sacred event? Sure. Did it teach us a valuable lesson? Absolutely. Somehow we’ve lost the innocence and value of oral tradition, and I wonder if we are the better for it.
Perhaps Washington never chopped down a cherry tree… and my guess is he probably told a lie at some point, but I challenge anyone to name another political leader who, in the face of such power, tradition, and popularity, was willing to hand over the reigns of power with such humility and grace. The Massachusetts Spy, Or Worcester Gazette for March 15, 1797 records much of the proceedings of this momentous event. The link provides access to considerable details. Of particular note is his response to the Massachusetts’ Representatives of Congress who basically asked him, “What now?” His response is precious (see below). Please enjoy!
While Christmas is certainly a time when many who would not normally do so reflect on the spiritual, historic newspapers reveal a time when the lines between the spiritual and the physical were not nearly so distinct. Religion, while largely stripped from the currently public square, was part and parcel of daily conversation in the not to distant past. An example would be the following report of the importance of religion in the lives of Civil War soldiers found in the Hammond Gazette (Point Lookout, MD) of September 22, 1863. My Christmas wish is that we would regain our previous understanding of the role of true religion in everyday life, minus the driving harsh conditions of the past. Please enjoy.
As the so-called fiscal cliff rapidly approaches and political tension fills the air, let’s take time to reflect on a time when unity of spirit & purpose under the blessing of God were all we had going for us… and as time would quickly show, it was all that we needed. The September 3, 1777 issue of the Edinburgh Evening Currant, Scotland, contains George Washington’s Manifesto of America. As Tim Hughes describes it:
I’m not sure I’ve seen a newspaper from the UK so replete with American content than this one. One-third of the front page is taken up with the complete & lengthy text of: “The Manifesto of America, By George Washington, Esq., Commander in Chief of the Forces of the United States, In answer to General Burgoyne’s Proclamation“. This document begins: “The associated armies of America act from the noblest motives, and for the purest purposes. Their ‘common principle’ is virtue, their ‘common object’ is Liberty!…” followed by a litany of eloquence which must be read. In the document he makes much reference to Christian values and the guidance of God, bits including: “…that the content has been made a foundation for the completed system of tyranny that ever God, in his displeasure, suffered for a time to be exercised over a forward & stubborn generation…Thus hath God, in his divine and just displeasure, suffered for a time, the exercise of the completest system of tyranny…In our consciousness of Christianity we pray, in all humility, for peace and good will among men, & invite all nations to mutual friendship and brotherly love. These truly Christian objects, we conceive, are to be attained only by Christian means…” and near the end: “…Its event we submit to Him, who speaks the fate of nations, in humble confidence, that as his omniscient eye taketh note even of the sparrow that falleth to the ground, so he will not withdraw his countenance from a people who humbly array themselves under his banner in defence of the noblest principles with which he hath adorned humanity.” The document is signed in type: George Washington.
To view the entire content along with images, please go to: Washington’s Manifesto
Reading the entire Manifesto of America will be worth your time!
On this (American) day of thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reflect on such a day from the past through the eyes of those who were embarking on what may have been the most historic event in U.S. history – July 4, 1776. A special thanks is in order for our friends in Scotland who captured this significant moment on the pages of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated September 2, 1776. Please enjoy:
Today I journeyed to England through The Post Boy of September 9, 1712. There I found that Rome had been celebrating the canonization of Pope Pius V. They had festivities including “very curious artificial Fireworks”, windows illuminated with candles and tapestries, “abundance of Wine and Meat to be distributed to the Common People”, and more with “the Festival was concluded with the Discharge of the Cannon of the Castle St. Angelo, ringing of Bells, and an agreeable Consort of Vocal and Instrumental Music.”
The back page has an interesting article from Brussels “The 30th of last Month, dy’d at the Duke of Holstein’s Palace, while he was at Breakfast, a Man nam’d Anthony, 106 Years and 7 Months old: Head had been employ’d 84 Years in the Service of Spain in one Regiment only, in which there had been 26 Colonels, but never rose to any higher Post himself than a Sergeant… he was also a Foot-Sergeant, in the 100th Year of his Age, and the Duke of Holstein was his Colonel…” And we look forward to retirement at 65?? To view images of this content and more: The Post Boy of September 9, 1712
President George Washington is known for his letters to various Hebrew congregations (Newport, Savannah, etc.) and churches which are filled with spiritual references. Considering the recipients, such language might be expected even if the writer was not a person of faith. However, the following is a speech he gave to the leaders of Philadelphia upon his visit to the city while in transit to New York to take the oath of office. At a time when he could have said anything, what he chose to say and how he chose to say it speaks volumes. Please enjoy his address as it appeared in The Massachusetts Centinel, May 2, 1789:
The following is an interesting item printed in “The Floridian” newspaper from Tallahassee, August 12, 1848. The “Temperance Aphorisms” which follows it is worth a look as well: