Bonds of Affection
Civic Charity and the Making of America--Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Georgetown University Press
Series: Religion and Politics series
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I did not know it at the time, but this book really began in my late teens and early twenties. During these years I was fortunate to work closely with several remarkable leaders who, despite operating in very different fields and with very different styles, shared a common determination. Each was committed in some fashion to honoring the often...
Prologue: ‘‘Bonds of Affection’’—Three Founding Moments
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Like no other figure of founding importance for America, we remember his words but not his name. In the spring of 1630, John Winthrop, newly elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, gave a lay sermon to those sailing with him on the Arbella, flagship of what would become a massive, decade-long exodus of English Puritans...
PART ONE: Winthrop and America’s Point of Departure
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It is now quaint to presume, as Tocqueville did in the 1830s, that there is ‘‘not one opinion, one habit, one law’’ in this country that does not tie back to our Puritan past. Still, few writers of our history question Puritan New England’s decisive influence on American politics and culture. Even fewer dispute Cotton Mather’s early claim that John Winthrop...
1 A Model of Christian Charity
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In the spring of 1630, Christian love gave fertile seed to America’s political heritage. The key moment came in a religious service for members of the Massachusetts Bay Company sailing to New England on board the Arbella. Addressing those gathered not as their minister but as their recently elected governor, John Winthrop delivered a rigorously...
2 Two Cities upon a Hill
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Winthrop begins the last section of his ‘‘Model’’ speech by making ‘‘some application’’ of the previous material to present circumstances (¶ 37). He has four things in mind: a discussion of (1) the ‘‘persons’’ involved, (2) the ‘‘work’’ they are facing, (3) the ‘‘end’’ of that work, and (4) the ‘‘means’’ for accomplishing such. In this final section,...
PART TWO: Jefferson and the Founding
1776—The Other Declaration
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In May of 1776, George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which the Virginia Convention of Delegates adopted unanimously the very next month with only a few changes. The impact of this document was immediate and widespread. Thomas Jefferson was almost certainly guided by a draft of it as he sat in Philadelphia composing the Declaration...
3 A Model of Natural Liberty
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Very late in life, Thomas Jefferson claimed that the Declaration of Independence was not ‘‘copied from any particular and previous writing.’’ However, a side-by-side comparison of Jefferson’s ‘‘original Rough draught’’ and George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights reveals a conspicuous likeness in the language and logic of these two texts.1...
4 ‘‘To Close the Circle of Our Felicities’’
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Throughout his career Thomas Jefferson consistently held up the Declaration of Independence as the preeminent guide of American politics.1 Conversely, his regard for the public and personal relevance of the New Testament, Christianity’s paramount guide, changed significantly over time. This change and its subsequent shaping of Jefferson’s...
PART THREE: Lincoln and the Refounding of America
From Tom to Abe
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In the election of 1860, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s support for Lincoln was tepid. His first inaugural left her cold. She found it godless. And his first eighteen months in office only brought her more disappointment— at times even fury—as she observed what appeared to be his general passivism and occasional retrograde conservatism on the issue of slavery. In...
5 ‘‘Hail Fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, All Hail!’’
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Abraham Lincoln remains the best wordsmith who ever occupied the White House. Among the most quoted and lyrical presidential lines he ever composed are the last of his First Inaugural. Speaking to those who still ‘‘love the Union’’ even if wary of the direction they think he will take the country on the charged issue of slavery, he pleads,...
6 ‘‘This Nation, Under God’’
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The closing passage of Lincoln’s First Inaugural—‘‘though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection’’— affirms that as Lincoln begins his presidency, roughly two decades after delivering the Lyceum and Temperance Addresses, he remains as concerned as ever over the threat that ‘‘passion’’ poses to America’s constitutional...
7 A Model of Civic Charity
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Original in length, style, and content, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is without peer in presidential rhetoric—a point well acknowledged on the left (Alfred Kazin: ‘‘the most remarkable inaugural address in our history—the only one that has ever reflected literary genius’’) and the right (George Will: the ‘‘only’’ presidential inaugural that ‘‘merits a place in the nation’s literature’’). Especially when read...
Conclusion: Bonds of Freedom
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The current identity of any political regime is tied to its founding. The notion that cultural recollection of such beginnings never fails to shape a contemporary society’s moral vision, sense of purpose, and capacity to act is an insight as old as Plato. Thus, it still matters today that a number of key moments in the making of America were fashioned...
Appendix A: John Winthrop’s ‘‘A Model of Christian Charity’’ Speech
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Appendix B: Thomas Jefferson’s ‘‘original Rough draught’’ of the Declaration of Independence
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Religion and Politics series