Sunday, November 1, 2009

FLG Is Rereading Mrs. P's Family's Preacher

The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis, by Timothy Dwight (July 04, 1798)

FLG felt he should reread the text a year later to see how his perception changed.


Miss Self-Important said...

I have since had occasion to read some excerpts of the Abbe Barruel, who is perhaps the originator of the conspiratorial connection between masonry, anti-Christianity, and the French Revolution (a view also approved by Edmund Burke), and I have to say that I am even less convinced now that Dwight was crazy than I was last year.

First, the same conspiratorial tone is taken by American patriot writers against the British--accusations that Parliament was scheming to establish an Anglican bishop in the colonies and tax them to support the Church, that they planned to gradually reduce the colonists to slavery starting with a three-cent tax, etc, all sound kind of disproportionately paranoid to us. Even if they were, the colonists borrowed this tone from English Whigs, who employed it against the Tories. So conspiratorial rhetoric has a long pedigree by the time Dwight takes it up.

Second, Voltaire (the main target of the French Revolution/Masonist antipathy) and other philosophes (Condorcet, etc) were outspokenly anti-Christian and particularly anti-Catholic. They did hate religion, and the French Revolution did involve, as Burke reminds us, expropriating the Church's land and assets in France. Dwight, being a Congregationalist, is not unhappy about the anti-Catholicism, but he's not wrong to see the danger to his own faith that the universal scientific rationalism of the philosophes posed.

I think it's hard to accept Burke's appraisal of the French Revolution w/o sympathizing with Dwight's. It's hard to determine precisely what role secret societies played in transmitting the views that culminated in the French Revolution, but I don't think it was entirely negligible. Tolstoy also suggests they had an important role in spreading Enlightenment ideas among the elites, at least in Russia.

Anonymous said...

When you're done with Dwight, please reread David Brooks from a year ago and see if your perception has changed.

Mrs. P

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