A remonstrance

A remonstrance October 23, 2007

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were “brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen.”
— Gov. Mike Huckabee

Few years back I got a call from a friend who was putting on a community theater production of 1776, the musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s an audience-pleaser, but it’s not done that often since it requires a large and overwhelmingly male cast and the gender ratio in community theater tends to tilt the other way. Hence the phone call.

I’m not a musicals guy, but I thought this might be interesting since it might mean a chance to play Abraham Clark, an ancestor of mine who signed the Declaration as part of the delegation from New Jersey. (Plus “Sit Down John” would be fun.) Turns out, though, that the play only includes three members of the Jersey delegation — John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton and Francis Hopkinson. No Abraham Clark (or John Hart, for that matter — Trumbull dissed him too). So I said no thanks.

My great-great-great-great (great?) uncle was a lawyer as were Stockton and Hopkinson. Hart was a farmer. Witherspoon was a minister and a college president.

The point here is that in the case of the New Jersey delegation, it would be wrong to say, as Mike Huckabee did Sunday, that “most” of the signers of the Declaration “were clergymen.” One out of five is 20 percent — that’s not “most.”

New Jersey’s 20-percent clergy delegation, by the way, was actually the most clerical of any of the colonies, since Witherspoon was the only signatory serving as an active minister. Give Huckabee the benefit of the doubt for the three others who had, at one time, been members of the clergy and you’ve got a grand total of four out of 56. Seven percent isn’t usually referred to as “most,” either, but if you’re trying to portray America as a sectarian nation you have to be willing, like Huckabee, to use words in new and unusual ways.

The sadly neglected Hart, by the way, was a descendant of Edward Hart, who in 1657 wrote the “Flushing Remonstrance.” That sounds like a reference to the epic collapse that occurred this September at Shea Stadium, but it’s actually a rather important little piece of American history.

Gov. Peter Stuyvesant had ordered the good people of Flushing to expel Quakers and other “damnable” heretics from his colony. The good people of Flushing responded with their Remonstrance:

Wee desire therefore in this case not to judge lest we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand or fall to his own Master. …

Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall provide our consciences …

In short, “We’re for religious freedom, so take a hike guv.”

Stuyvesant retaliated by declaring a colony-wide “Day of Prayer for the purpose of repenting from the sin of religious tolerance.” The dispute continued for several years before the Remonstrance won the day. The name of the colony was then changed to reflect this new official policy that everybody is welcome and nobody can tell anybody else what to believe. That’s what “New York” means.

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  • G-Do

    RE: evolution, it was Tancredo, Brownback, and Huckabee who said they didn’t believe in it.

  • Nate, Ron Paul has a long history of association with white supremacist organizations. I have to agree that this makes him a “horrible man”.

  • Jannia

    And besides, if the Treaty of Utrecht is invalidated, would we also have to give Quebec back to France?
    Oh, please, can we? Pretty please?

  • Nate Winchester

    Doctor Science,
    Ah, I hadn’t seen those links yet.
    Color me disappointed. =(

  • G-Do

    The best Ron Paul bit was the fundraising letter he wrote in which he claimed that the UN is trying to take away the guns of American citizens (actually, looking back upthread, this is described in the first link posted by hapax). That is almost certainly disingenuous pandering to the far right. I don’t buy the “Paul is secretly an insane extremist” theory, as I think it should have shown up by now either in his voting record or in the debates, and to my knowledge it hasn’t.

  • The Quaker Meeting House in Flushing is still standing. It’s down the street from the gym where the kid took gymnastics and a bunch of really good Korean restaurants and the oldest public high school in America.
    No wonder New York pisses these people off so badly.

  • Drak Pope

    A small but vocal group of his followers seem to responsible for some kind of campaign to portray Ron Paul as some kind of incorruptible warrior-saint of the Constitution, so that’s probably why the actions of his supporters are placed under such intense scrutiny. It’s actually not more severe than what his (or any of the other candidates on both sides running) deserve but if they’re going to play holier-than-thou then they’ll need to make sure that they can answer for the few really questionable things that Paul has said.
    Pah, you’re all a bunch of rebellious colonialists… ;-)
    Shut the hell up, you crazy limey. You weren’t complaining about the rebelliousness when you suckered us into all of your stupid wars.

  • Craig

    Color me disappointed. =(
    Ditto.
    See, this is what I hate about politics. If you don’t temper political goals with ethics and general decency, you invite into office a lot of people that don’t belong there…except that very act automatically disqualifies anyone running for high office in the first place.
    It’s bloody annoying.
    (And don’t bring up that “politics of hope” crap. The Democratic candidates all have their own skeletons, or will the instant they lay their greedy, grasping hands on the Oval Office.)

  • Shut the hell up, you crazy limey. You weren’t complaining about the rebelliousness when you suckered us into all of your stupid wars.
    That’s true – back then I was cackling in maniacal glee between outbursts of “Burn in hell, suckers!”
    Ah, happy days.

  • Nate Winchester

    Craig, wasn’t it once said
    “Democracy is the worst form of government.
    Except for all the others.”

  • Jeff

    My point was (in the sentence you quoted), when Hiliary wins the nomination, what if there’s another left-leaning candidate running? It was merely a hypothetical (fun theorizing if you will).
    Who? Ron Paul isn’t “left-leaning” in my book — at best he’s right-centrist. I wouldn’t vote for Gore again — he missed his opening; jumping in now would be crass. And Nader is throrough scum.
    Now c’mon, I haven’t called any of you any names.
    I didn’t call you a name, either. I referred to the idiots who delight in a “double Gitmo” (“twice as many innocent people tortured! Yay!”) and think all individuals can afford their own health care (Tancredo got nary a boo for that statement). Only if you support these assholes do you deserve the name Republiscum.

  • ako

    I think most people on the left have been so thoroughly scarred by eight years of George Bush that everyone intends to vote for even the most Republican-light DLC candidate on offer if she wins the primaries. Because no one wants to risk another Bush.

  • Zyzzyva

    …Would this be a bad time to chortle about how moderate Canadian Conserevatives are?

  • Nate Winchester

    Who? Ron Paul isn’t “left-leaning” in my book — at best he’s right-centrist. I wouldn’t vote for Gore again — he missed his opening; jumping in now would be crass. And Nader is throrough scum.
    *sigh* not what I said. Here it is again (and read it VERY closely):
    Now a personal comment. Something that could be interesting… Hiliary certainly generates no love, so when she becomes the nominee, a lot of leftists might end up flocking to a 3rd party (especially if Bloomberg runs). Ironically if Guiliani wins the nomination, the exact same could occur on the right (with Ron Paul most likely getting the nomination of a 3rd party).
    So then, in theory, in 2008 we could actually end up with a serious 4-way contest for president.

  • Bold begone!

  • Jeff

    a lot of leftists might end up flocking to a 3rd party (especially if Bloomberg runs).
    OK: Bloomberg isn’t “left-leaning” in my book either — at best he’s right-centrist. I don’t think very many people would choose Bloomberg over Clinton.

  • MikeJ

    No. Bloomberg wouldn’t take one vote from Clinton. I would looooove to see a three way (or four way) race. Any way you slice it, you’ll take more votes from the Republican than the Democrat. I don’t think anybody who votes for Nader this time would have put down the bong long enough to go vote without him, so he’s a non-factor. I hope.
    I’m voting for Papi for president of Red Sox Nation.

  • Nate Winchester

    Jesu… according to the source, I did close my bold tags. ;-)
    As for the rest, Bloomberg was just an example off the top of my head, it could be anyone.
    And like I said, it’s just some theorizing. I’m sure I’ll be totally wrong, but then again…

  • Jeff

    I think the only one who could take lefty votes from Clinton would be someone further left (Biden, Richardson or Kusinich) and I doubt they’d do that. Hilary may be polarizing, but she’s on the right-wing of the Democrats running, so a centrist MIGHT get some votes, but not near so many as they would from the sane Republicans (I know there are some, for all they’ve been hiding the past 6 years).

  • Drak Pope

    …Would this be a bad time to chortle about how moderate Canadian Conserevatives are?
    Do it, and maybe we’ll decide to award you an all-expenses paid free trip to Syria.

  • txredd

    Hey Cousin!!
    My people signed the Flushing Remonstrance too. When I saw the topic for the thread I wondered if there were any other remonstrances in US history.
    Hm?

  • Zyzzyva

    Do it, and maybe we’ll decide to award you an all-expenses paid free trip to Syria.
    Granted, but by North American standards, getting other people to to your torturing for you is pretty moderate.

  • thirstygirl

    Zyzzyva- you chortle about Canadian Conservatives, and I’ll gloat about New Zealand’s utter inability to take evangelical Christianity seriously as an electoral power. [there were recent attempts to form a Christian political party- AGAIN and it fell apart AGAIN, this time after 1 day]
    Actually I don’t think the religion question even gets ASKED. Plus even our [centrist] right-wing party isn’t [publically] looking at repealing the Civil Union bill.

  • PurpleGirl

    (Plus “Sit Down John” would be fun.)
    Fred, your opening paragraph brings to mind my experiences helping a friend mount a production of selected scenes from 1776 for a number of Masonic lodges in the 1980s. “Sit Down John” is indeed a fun song and number to do, as is the song about a national symbol (turkey vs. eagle). And, as you note, the cast is almost all male. But the John/Abigail Admas duet “Yours, Yours, Yours” is a beautiful statement of continuing love. 1776 is one of my favorite shows/movies. (I also think William Daniels is very good as John Adams.)

  • Nate Winchester

    Just pointing out… that it looks like some on the left are set to make a 3rd party.
    Maybe I should start taking bets for my theorizing. ;-)

  • indifferent children

    > by North American standards, getting other people to to your torturing for you is pretty moderate
    It’s not “moderate”; it’s called “offshoring”. Torture isn’t special in this regard. Most of our industry has been “offshored”.

  • Patrick Spens

    I don’t buy the “Paul is secretly an insane extremist” theory, as I think it should have shown up by now either in his voting record or in the debates, and to my knowledge it hasn’t.
    Oh his voting record is plenty crazy. Among other things he wants to re-instate the gold standard, Remove the ability of the Supreme court to hear First Amendment cases, and get rid of birthright citizenship. He also voted to continue giving government money to companies that profit off of the genocide in Darfur.
    Oh, and he wants to bring back letters of Marque. How’s that for an expansion of executive power.
    I really do recommend people check out the bills he’s sponsored by going to THOMAS and seeing for themselves.

  • Ursula L

    350th anniversary of this, on Dec 27 of this year. I believe that some publicity and public celebration is needed.

  • cjmr

    We could all show up at Fred’s newspaper with cake?

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “Personally, I’d like to see Ru Paul run for President.” — Jim
    Personally, I wish Divine was still alive, so he could run for President…..
    Mr. Vader: Divine, could you tell us your political beliefs?
    Divine: Kill everybody now! Legalize first degree murder! Promote Cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics, filth is my LIFE!!!

  • Ursula L

    We could all show up at Fred’s newspaper with cake?
    I was thinking it would be a nice occasion for churches in a community to have celebratory ecumenical services. Perhaps contacting the local news to do a bit on the morning or evening news about why they’re doing the services – I’ve seen news coverage of things like ecumenical church choir concerts, so I figure they’d cover something like this. Perhaps have the remonstrance read aloud before the sermons, and have several clergy from different congregations give mini-sermons on it.
    A chance for public education both on US history and on the fact that most church folk don’t agree with the handful of high-publicity RTCs who claim they have the One True Way, and want to make their way the law.

  • fadsfsd
  • Ursula L

    Since it’s nothing but links, I’m assuming the post above is spam. Anyone want to break the links?