Thursday, March 24, 2005

This Day in History and its (apparent) Irrelevance to Today

March 24, 1818, from Henry Clay:

'All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All separated from government are compatible with liberty.'

Apparently, that phrase is just so much bullshit nowadays.

"It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"—this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios."

BTW, George Bush might ask, who is Henry Clay?

Well, he was not a founder, but he was of the first generation, a great political generation, that succeeded the "Founding Fathers"; and a generation that while it doesn't quite get the ink the originals do, still produced its own series of giants.

Most Evangelicals may not have heard of these folks, but more than a few of our readers probably have:

...Andrew Jackson
...John C. Calhoun
...Daniel Webster
...Thomas Hart Benton
...John Quincy Adams
...James K. Polk

and of course, Henry Clay

All giants of their time, and some of them as important in their own fashion as the founders, some more accomplished. While the originals may have established a republic, it was this generation that insured that the Republic would get its roots into the ground and who actually set about encouraging democracy on a broad scale.

A trio of them, never President, though they dearly wanted to be, dominated the era (apart from Jackson), each from a different region.

Daniel Webster, from Massachusetts, by and large representing free commercial states;

John C. Calhoun, from South Carolina, by and large representing the slave-based agricultural South;

and Clay, the Kentuckian, representing the growing and slavery ambivolent West.

The Great Triumvirate they were called.

Henry Clay's famous nickname was "The Great Compromiser" such did he work on keeping the Union together and avoiding Civil War, as did, in their own fashion Webster and Calhoun -- okay, Calhoun perhaps a bit less.

Not surprisingly, when they died in the decade before the war (they all died between 1850 and 1852), the compromises they tried so hard to reach and hold fell completely apart.

Henry Clay, it should be noted was Abraham Lincoln's greatest political hero.

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