Politico: It's Good to Be a Falwell at Liberty University

Building where Trey Falwell's hostel is located. Courtesy of Brandon Ambrosino
Building where Trey Falwell’s hostel is located. Courtesy of Brandon Ambrosino

It is good to be a Falwell at Liberty University. At least, that’s the impression I got from reading today’s Politico article by Brandon Ambrosino about dealings at the largest Christian college in the U.S. According to Ambrosino, the son of LU’s president got a nice deal on his home and the elder Falwell gave the younger Falwell $4.65-million to buy a very shady hostel in Miami Beach.
It has long been known that Jerry Falwell, Jr. has a different set of standards than his faculty and board members. But the South Beach hostel where sins at LU are advertised attractions was not well known. According to the article, an LLC controlled by Trey Falwell (Jerry Jr’s son) purchased the hostel while renting a house on Liberty property. Later the property was sold to Falwell by the school. Although no one expects Trump’s IRS to go after LU, the transaction was not disclosed on IRS documents as required by law.
The article is chock full of revelations and if you are interested in LU, Christians and wealth or Trump’s court evangelicals, this would be an interesting read.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – What Biblical Principle Inspired Protection of the Slave Trade?

August 25, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


The delegates approved a provision on debt and allowed for the common defense. The big news was that the delegates decided to prohibit Congress from abolishing the slave trade until 1808.

Influences on the Delegates

One reason I started this series was to test David Barton’s claim that every clause of the Constitution has a biblical foundation. My efforts have not substantiated that claim. There are many influences ranging from Greece and Rome to the experiences of the delegates in their home states. It has been rare for the Bible or Christianity to come up at all.
In the session of August 25, the delegates voted to keep Congress from acting against the slave trade until 1808. I must ask David Barton what biblical principle was at the root of that clause? What biblical principle allowed the Northern delegates to acquiesce to the Southern delegates? What principle animated the resolute efforts of the Southern delegates to threaten to leave the union over human bondage?
Below is the debate over the matter.

The Report of the Committee of eleven (see Friday, the twenty-fourth), being taken up, —
General PINCKNEY moved to strike out the words, “the year eighteen hundred,” as the year limiting the importation of slaves; and to insert the words “the year eighteen hundred and eight.”
Mr. GORHAM seconded the motion.
Mr. MADISON. Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character than to say nothing about it in the Constitution.
On the motion, which passed in the affirmative, — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 7; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, no, — 4.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS was for making the clause read at once, “the importation of slaves into North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, shall not be prohibited, &c.” This he said would be most fair, and would avoid the ambiguity by which, under the power with regard to naturalization, the liberty reserved to the States might be defeated. He wished it to be known, also, that this part of the Constitution was a compliance with those States. If the change of language, however, should be objected to, by the members from those states, he should not urge it.
Colonel MASON was not against using the term “slaves,” but against naming North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, lest it should give offence to the people of those States.
Mr. SHERMAN liked a description better than the terms proposed, which had been declined by the old Congress, and were not pleasing to some people.
Mr. CLYMER concurred with Mr. SHERMAN.
Mr. WILLIAMSON said, that both in opinion and practice he was against slavery; but thought it more in favor of humanity, from a view of all circumstances, to let in South Carolina and Georgia on those terms, than to exclude them from the Union.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS withdrew his motion.
Mr. DICKINSON wished the clause to be confined to the States which had not themselves prohibited the importation of slaves; and for that purpose moved to amend the clause, so as to read: “The importation of slaves into such of the states as shall permit the same, shall not be prohibited by the legislature of the United States until the year 1808; which was disagreed to, nem. con.1
The first part of the Report was then agreed to, amended as follows: “The migration or importation of such persons as the several states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the legislature prior to the year 1808,” —
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina. South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 7; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, no, — 4.
Mr. BALDWIN, in order to restrain and more explicitly define, “the average duty,” moved to strike out of the second part the words, “average of the duties laid on imports,” and insert “common impost on articles not enumerated”; which was agreed to, nem. con.
Mr. SHERMAN was against this second part, as acknowledging men to be property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves.
Mr. KING and Mr. LANGDON considered this as the price of the first part.
General PINCKNEY admitted that it was so.
Colonel MASON. Not to tax, will be equivalent to a bounty on, the importation of slaves.
Mr. GORHAM thought that Mr. SHERMAN should consider the duty, not as implying that slaves are property, but as a discouragement to the importation of them.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS remarked, that, as the clause now stands, it implies that the Legislature may tax freemen imported.
Mr. SHERMAN, in answer to Mr. GORHAM, observed, that the smallness of the duty showed revenue to be the object, not the discouragement of the importation.
Mr. MADISON thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men. The reason of duties did not hold, as slaves are not, like merchandise, consumed, &c.
Colonel MASON, in answer to Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. The provision, as it stands, was necessary for the case of convicts, in order to prevent the introduction of them.
It was finally agreed, nem. con., to make the clause read: “but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person”; and then the second part, as amended, was agreed to.

Some delegates were embarrassed to use the word slaves and Madison didn’t want slavery in the Constitution. The Northern delegates thought it more important to keep South Carolina and Georgia than to have a slavery-free nation.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)

An Open Letter from Christian Scholars on Racism in America Today

Although my name won’t show up for awhile, I just added my name to the signers of the letter below. It appears to me that the letter is clearly aimed at Donald Trump, his evangelical defenders and particularly Trump’s ambiguous response to the racist protests in Charlottesville.

The letter was posted this morning at the Gospel Coalition blog and reblogged by John Fea, which is where I saw it. Below the letter is reproduced in full and I have taken the liberty of adding my name to the list of signers. Other profs who want to sign should contact Mark David Hall using the instructions below.

An Open Letter from Christian Scholars on Racism in America Today

​Like many Americans, we are grieved by recent events in Charlottesville. The white supremacist rally there showed that overt racism is alive and well in America, and that it can turn violent and murderous. As Christian scholars of American history, politics, and law, we condemn white supremacy and encourage frank dialogue about racism today.

​As Americans, we love our country. As Christians, we know that no individual, people, or nation is perfect. Among the most grievous sins committed by early Americans was the enslavement of and trafficking in Africans and African Americans. Slavery was formally abolished in 1865, but racism was not. Indeed, it was often institutionalized and in some ways heightened over time through Jim Crow legislation, de facto segregation, structural inequalities, and pervasively racist attitudes. And other persons of color, including Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans, have often been subjected to official and unofficial discrimination. What we have seen in Charlottesville makes it clear once again that racism is not a thing of the past, something that brothers and sisters of color have been trying to tell the white church for years.

​Racism should be denounced by religious and civic leaders in no uncertain terms. Equivocal talk about racist groups gives those groups sanction, something no politician or pastor should ever do. As Christian scholars, we affirm the reality that all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated with respect and dignity.  There is no good moral, biblical, or theological reason to denigrate others on the basis of race or ethnicity, to exalt one race over others, or to countenance those who do.

​Even as we condemn racism, we recognize that the First Amendment legally protects even very offensive speech. Rather than trying to silence those with whom we disagree, or to meet violence with more violence, we encourage our fellow citizens to respond to groups like the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the Ku Klux Klan with peaceful counter-protests. (Indeed, this has been the approach of the vast majority of counter-protesters in recent weeks.) No one is beyond redemption, so we encourage our fellow believers to pray that members of these groups will find the truth, and that the truth will set them free.

We also recognize that white-majority churches and denominations have too often lagged in discussions of racial injustice and inequality, or have even been sources of the perpetuation of white cultural dominance and racial injustice. Because of that history, we pray that America’s churches and Christians will renew their commitment to practical, proactive steps of racial reconciliation and friendship in our cities and towns.

Mark David Hall, George Fox University
Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University

We, the undersigned, are Christian scholars who endorse this letter.  Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.  [If you would like to add your name to this letter, please send an email to Mark David Hall at mhall@georgefox.edu.]
Scott Althaus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bryan Bademan, Anselm House
Richard A. Bailey, Canisius College
Scott Barton, East Central University
David Beer, Malone University
Daniel Bennett, John Brown University
Thomas C. Berg, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Amy E. Black, Wheaton College
Edward J. Blum, San Diego State University
Bradley J. Birzer, Hillsdale College
William S. Brewbaker III, University of Alabama
Margaret Brinig, University of Notre Dame Law School
Matthew S. Brogdon, University of Texas at San Antonio
Thomas E. Buckley, Santa Clara University
Sean R. Busick, Athens State University
James P. Byrd, Vanderbilt University
Jay R. Case, Malone University
Justin Clardie, Northwest Nazarene University.
Robert F. Cochran, Jr., Pepperdine University School of Law
Elesha Coffman, Baylor University
Kimberly H. Conger, University of Cincinnati
K. Scott Culpepper, Dordt College
Michelle D. Deardorff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Michael J. DeBoer, Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
Jonathan Den Hartog, University of Northwestern-St. Paul, MN
Daniel Dreisbach, American University
W. Cole Durham, Jr., J. Reuben Clark Law School
Mark Edwards, Spring Arbor College
John Fea, Messiah College
Joel S. Fetzer, Pepperdine University
Nathan A. Finn, Union University
Kahlib J. Fischer, Liberty University
Matthew J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute
Beverly A. Gaddy, University of Pittsburgh
Edward McGlynn Gaffney, Valparaiso University School of Law
Loramy Gerstbauer, Gustavus Adolphus College
Naomi Harlin Goodno, Pepperdine University School of Law
Christopher R. Green, University of Mississippi School of Law
Jay Green, Covenant College
John G. Grove, Lincoln Memorial University
Darren Guerra, Biola University
Barry Hankins, Baylor University
Rusty Hawkins, Indiana Wesleyan University
Gail L. Helt, King University
Nicholas Higgins, Regent University
Lia C. Howard, Saint Joseph’s University
Andrew Kaufmann, Northwest University
Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College
Douglas L. Koopman, Calvin College
Wilfred M. McClay, University of Oklahoma
Gerald R McDermott, Beeson Divinity School
Tracy McKenzie, Wheaton College
Ron Miller, Liberty University
Christopher D. Moore, Bethel University
Lincoln A. Mullen, George Mason University
Miles S. Mullin II, Hannibal-LaGrange University
Paul Otto, George Fox University
Mikael L. Pelz, Calvin College.
Jonathan R. Peterson, North Park University
Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame
Otis W. Pickett, Mississippi College
Richard Pointer, Westmont College.
Charles J. Reid, Jr., University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Sosamma Samuel-Burnett, G.L.O.B.A.L Justice
Shelley Ross Saxer, Pepperdine University School of Law
Gregory Sisk, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Corwin E. Smidt, Calvin College
Brian A. Smith, Montclair State University
Gary Scott Smith, Grove City College
Sarah A. Morgan Smith, The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University
Chris Soper, Pepperdine University
Andrew Spiropoulos, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Susan J. Stabile, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Justin Taylor, Crossway Books
Boz Tchividjian, Liberty University School Law
H. Paul Thompson, Jr., North Greenville University
Warren Throckmorton, Grove City College
Benjamin Toll, Lake Superior State University
Noah J. Toly, Wheaton College
John Turner, George Mason University
Andrea L. Turpin, Baylor University
Patrick Van Inwegen, Whitworth University
Robert K. Vischer, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Jennifer E. Walsh, Azusa Pacific University
Micah Watson, Calvin College
Virgil Wiebe, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
John Wigger, University of Missouri
Daniel K. Williams, University of West Georgia
James E. Wren, Baylor Law School
Paul D. Yandle, North Greenville University
John C. Yoder, Whitworth University

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – No Decision on the Slave Trade

August 24, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)


The delegates heard a committee report which recommended prohibiting interference with slave trade until 1800. No decision was made on that matter. The delegates agreed to one executive titled the President of the United States but didn’t decide about how to elect the President.

Influences on the Delegates

Roger Sherman did want to require the president to appoint new senior military officers. So he objected to the motion by Morris which seemed to suggest those officers would have to be appointed by a new president:

Mr. SHERMAN objected to the sentence, “and shall appoint officers in all cases not otherwise provided for in this Constitution.” He admitted it to be proper that many officers in the Executive department should be so appointed; but contended that many ought not, — as general officers in the army, in time of peace, &c. Herein lay the corruption in Great Britain. If the Executive can model the army, he may set up an absolute government; taking advantage of the close of a war, and an army commanded by his creatures. James the Second was not obeyed by his officers, because they had been appointed by his predecessors, not by himself. He moved to insert, “or by law,” after the word “constitution.”

Sherman referred to the experience of Britain during the term of James the Second. 

The slave trade report was not acted on during this session.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Supreme Law and State Militias

photo-1444850321296-e568c6a10d26_optAugust 23, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


The delegates declined titles of nobility either here or from other lands while serving in the new government. The delegates showed distrust of standing armies during a discussion of the role of the general and state governments. Some wanted more national control over the militias while others believed more national control would not be accepted by the state governments. The delegates approved a clause which described the Constitution as “the supreme law of the several States and of their citizens and inhabitants.”

Influences on the Delegates

The delegates considered many things today although it is not obvious what influenced their opinions. On one occasion, the delegates referred to the King of England as a way to illustrate their various points regarding the making of treaties. Wilson wanted to give Congress power to ratify all treaties.

Mr. WILSON. In the most important treaties, the King of Great Britain, being obliged to resort to Parliament for the execution of them, is under the same fetters as the amendment of Mr. MORRIS will impose on the Senate. It was refused yesterday to permit even the Legislature to lay duties on exports. Under the clause without the amendment, the Senate alone can make a treaty requiring all the rice of South Carolina to be sent to some one particular port.
Mr. DICKINSON concurred in the amendment, as most safe and proper, though he was sensible it was unfavorable to the little States, which would otherwise have an equal share in making treaties.
Doctor JOHNSON thought there was something of solecism in saying that the acts of a minister with plenipotentiary powers from one body should depend for ratification on another body. The example of the King of Great Britain was not parallel. Full and complete power was vested in him. If the Parliament should fail to provide the necessary means of execution, the treaty would be violated.

The matter was deferred for the time being.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)

Trump Supporter Hates on Cherokees, Mormons, and Slavs on National TV During Phoenix Speech

At the Phoenix Trump rally, the guy in the red circle below has a shirt on which advertises websites called Gods2.com and blacksfortrump2020.com. When clicked, the websites go to honestfact.com. The website targets Cherokees as the KKK, and blames Mormons and Slavs for many things, although it is hard to follow the whole thing. It is mostly an incoherent mess.
Trump said hate has no place in America. But apparently, it has a place at his rally.
trump supporter 5
So I went to the website and it is a pretty strange space. Here is the first message there:
Gods2 excerpt
Cherokees? The real KKK is made up of Native American Cherokees? So says the man within a few feet from the president.
Also, Mormons are apparently blocking something:
Gods2 mormons
Apparently Trump doesn’t screen his stage supporters very well.
Even though I am watching the speech, I can’t believe I am listening to the president of the United States.
Apparently, this guy has quite a past and shows up at all Trump rallies (source).

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Southern States Stand on Slavery

August 22, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)


The delegates debated slavery’s place in the new nation and prohibited bills of attainder and ex post facto laws. The delegates referred the slavery question to a committee.

Influences on the Delegates

The delegates began the slavery debate the day before today’s session. In essence, they were debating these sections of Article VII:

Sect. 3. The proportions of direct taxation shall be regulated by the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, (except Indians not paying taxes); which number shall, within six years after the first meeting of the Legislature, and within the term of every ten years afterwards, be taken in such a manner as the said Legislature shall direct.
Sect. 4. No tax or duty shall be laid by the Legislature on articles exported from any State; nor on the migration or importation of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall such migration or importation be prohibited.

I wrote yesterday that the debate left me with little doubt that many of the delegates did not attempt to incorporate Christianity into their thinking. They didn’t appeal to religion and in fact South Carolina’s Rutledge denied that religion or humanity had anything to do with the matter.
In today’s discussion, Christian delegate Roger Sherman sounded the voice of compromise.

Mr. SHERMAN was for leaving the clause as it stands. He disapproved of the slave-trade; yet as the States were now possessed of the right to import slaves, as the public good did not require it to be taken from them, and as it was expedient to have as few objections as possible to the proposed scheme of government, he thought it best to leave the matter as we find it. He observed that the abolition of slavery seemed to be going on in the United States, and that the good sense of the several States would probably by degrees complete it. He urged on the Convention the necessity of despatching its business.

In what has become a famous speech, George Mason ranted about how evil slavery was and attempted to integrate Christian ideas. However, as a slave holder, his rant rang a little hollow.

Colonel MASON. This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British Government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns not the importing States alone, but the whole Union. The evil of having slaves was experienced during the late war. Had slaves been treated as they might have been by the enemy, they would have proved dangerous instruments in their hands. But their folly dealt by the slaves as it did by the tories. He mentioned the dangerous insurrections of the slaves in Greece and Sicily; and the instructions given by Cromwell to the commissioners sent to Virginia, to arm the servants and slaves, in case other means of obtaining its submission should fail. Maryland and Virginia, he said, had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be in vain, if South Carolina and Georgia be at liberty to import. The Western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves, if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia. Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. He lamented that some of our Eastern brethren had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic. As to the States being in possession of the right to import, this was the case with many other rights, now to be properly given up. He held it essential in every point of view, that the General Government should have power to prevent the increase of slavery.

While we can commend Mason for his negative comments about slavery, we can’t say as David Barton did recently, that American slavery was a human issue and not a race issue to the founders. At least in the case of Mason, he clearly preferred whites over blacks coming into the country.
Connecticut’s Ellsworth called out Mason (by implication) as a slave holder.

Mr. ELLSWORTH, as he had never owned a slave, could not judge of the effects of slavery on character. He said, however, that if it was to be considered in a moral light, we ought to go further and free those already in the country. As slaves also multiply so fast in Virginia and Maryland that it is cheaper to raise than import them, whilst in the sickly rice swamps foreign supplies are necessary, if we go no further than is urged, we shall be unjust towards South Carolina and Georgia. Let us not intermeddle. As population increases, poor laborers will be so plenty as to render slaves useless. Slavery in time, will not be a speck in our country. Provision is already made in Connecticut for abolishing it. And the abolition has already taken place in Massachusetts. As to the danger of insurrections from foreign influence, that will become a motive to kind treatment of the slaves.

Sadly, Mason was more right than Ellsworth on the eventual result of slavery. We did suffer a national calamity because slaves were not considered useless by Southern states leaders.
Next, the delegates Pinckney justified slavery and invoked fairness as a value. It wouldn’t be fair to Georgia or South Carolina if slavery were curtailed.

Mr. PINCKNEY. If slavery be wrong, it is justified by the example of all the world. He cited the case of Greece, Rome, and other ancient states; the sanction given by France, England, Holland, and other modern states. In all ages one half of mankind have been slaves. If the Southern States were let alone, they will probably of themselves stop importations. He would himself, as a citizen of South Carolina, vote for it. An attempt to take away the right, as proposed, will produce serious objections to the Constitution, which he wished to see adopted.
General PINCKNEY declared it to be his firm opinion, that if himself and all his colleagues were to sign the Constitution, and use their personal influence, it would be of no avail towards obtaining the assent of their constituents. South Carolina and Georgia cannot do without slaves. As to Virginia, she will gain by stopping the importations. Her slaves will rise in value, and she has more than she wants. It would be unequal, to require South Carolina and Georgia to confederate on such unequal terms. He said the Royal assent, before the Revolution, had never been refused to South Carolina, as to Virginia. He contended, that the importation of slaves would be for the interest of the whole Union. The more slaves, the more produce to employ the carrying trade; the more consumption also; and the more of this, the more revenue for the common treasury. He admitted it to be reasonable that slaves should be dutied like other imports; but should consider a rejection of the clause as an exclusion of South Carolina from the Union.

Did the delegates respond to Mason’s warnings about God’s disapproval? Not at all, the arguments here were not religious or even designed to counter religious arguments. If theology had been argued here, one might suggest that the delegates wanted a Christian republic but disagreed about doctrine or points of theology. The only reference again to religious arguments was Randolph’s fear that the Quakers and Methodists would oppose the Constitution over slavery.

Mr. RANDOLPH was for committing, in order that some middle ground might, if possible, be found. He could never agree to the clause as it stands. He would sooner risk the Constitution. He dwelt on the dilemma to which the Convention was exposed. By agreeing to the clause, it would revolt the Quakers, the Methodists, and many others in the States having no slaves. On the other hand, two States might be lost to the Union. Let us then, he said, try the chance of a commitment.

In the end, the delegates committed the question to a committee.

On the question for committing the remaining part of Sections 4 and 5 of Article 7, — Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 7; New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, no, — 3; Massachusetts, absent.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Religion Unrelated to Slavery

August 21, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


The delegates discussed taxation and slavery. The topics were related because direct taxation was tied to the population of whites and 2/3 of “other persons.” The delegates also discussed the slave trade with no resolution during this session.

Influences on the Delegates

Britain was again an example, this time a negative one:

Mr. GERRY was strenuously opposed to the power over exports. It might be made use of to compel the States to comply with the will of the General Government, and to grant it any new powers which might be demanded. We have given it more power already than we know how will be exercised. It will enable the General Government to oppress the States, as much as Ireland is oppressed by Great Britain.
Mr. FITZSIMONS would be against a tax on exports to be laid immediately; but was for giving a power of laying the tax when a proper time may call for it. This would certainly be the case when America should become a manufacturing country. He illustrated his argument by the duties in Great Britain on wool, &c.

Slavery opponents again tried to limit the slave trade. South Carolina’s Pinckney said there would be no approval from SC if the slave trade was limited.

Mr. L. MARTIN proposed to vary Article 7, Section 4, so as to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. In the first place, as five slaves are to be counted as three freemen, in the apportionment of Representatives, such a clause would leave an encouragement to this traffic. In the second place, slaves weakened one part of the Union, which the other parts were bound to protect; the privilege of importing them was therefore unreasonable. And in the third place, it was inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character, to have such a feature in the Constitution.

Mr. RUTLEDGE did not see how the importation of slaves could be encouraged by this section. He was not apprehensive of insurrections, and would readily exempt the other States from the obligation to protect the Southern against them. Religion and humanity had nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations. The true question at present is, whether the Southern States shall or shall not be parties to the Union. If the Northern States consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of slaves, which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers.

Mr. ELLSWORTH was for leaving the clause as it stands. Let every State import what it pleases. The morality or wisdom of slavery are considerations belonging to the States themselves. What enriches a part enriches the whole, and the States are the best judges of their particular interest. The old Confederation had not meddled with this point; and he did not see any greater necessity for bringing it within the policy of the new one.

Mr. PINCKNEY. South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the slave-trade. In every proposed extension of the powers of Congress, that State has expressly and watchfully excepted that of meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States be all left at liberty on this subject, South Carolina may perhaps, by degrees do of herself what is wished, as Virginia and Maryland already have done.

This is a remarkable account of the discussion on slavery. Luther Martin who was a slave holder believed the slave trade was “dishonorable to the American character” and should not be allowed by the Constitution. Then South Carolina’s Rutledge and Pinckney dropped the threat of withdrawal. They were joined by Ellsworth of Connecticut who said the states could decide what was moral.

This is a devastating passage for those who want us to believe that the delegates were crafting a Christian biblically based Constitution. Not only did these delegates deny the role of religion, they took a terrible stance regarding human bondage. Some of the delegates had qualms about it (Morris was quite articulate on the subject) but they were not willing to risk the union over the matter.

In this exchange, it seems very clear that the delegates were not using Christianity or the Bible as a guide. They didn’t look to revelation for the principles of government we now live by. While they held true to Republican principles because rationally they seemed to be fair and respectful of natural rights, they didn’t self-consciously appeal to Christianity for the content of those principles.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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Wheaton College Faculty Issue Condemnation of White Supremacy

I commend the Wheaton College faculty for this public statement condemning white supremacy. Over 140 faculty members signed it. You can read it here. In contrast, some alums of Liberty University have returned their diploma to the school in protest over president Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s support for Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
Wheaton Cville Statement
I agree with my professor brothers and sisters at Wheaton and add my support.
Hat tip to Jim West

David Barton Says Lee Wasn't a Racist and Likens Statues of Stalin to Confederate Statues

David Barton
David Barton

On the Joe Pags Show last Friday, David Barton likened Confederate statues as historical icons to the Holocaust ovens and Gestapo headquarters in Germany. In response to my critique of this analogy, Barton gave extended remarks to Austin American-Statesman reporter Jonathan Tilove in an article published today.  In his remarks, Barton said Confederate statues were celebratory at the time they were put up  in the same way statues of Stalin were celebratory. He also said Confederate General Robert E. Lee was “not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form.”
Before I critique Barton’s statements about Stalin and Lee, let me observe that Barton clearly declared the evils of slavery and the Confederacy in this interview. While I disagree with his analogies and reasoning, I don’t think Barton intends for his defense of Confederate statues to encourage white supremacist Confederate sympathizers. Having made that important observation, I will say that his reference to Stalin doesn’t work and his defense of Lee is in line with the Lost Cause sanitizing of Lee’s life.

Stalin and Confederate Symbols

Tilove asked Barton about his comparison of Nazi atrocities and Confederate symbols. Barton didn’t address that point but pivoted to a new analogy involving Stalin. From Tilove’s article:

I [Tilove] asked if there wasn’t a difference between the maintaining of Nazi sites in Europe as a grim reminder and the heroic glorification of Confederate memorials.
Aren’t the Confederate memorials celebratory?
They were for that period of time, in the same way that the Stalin statues that are still up in the Soviet Union were celebratory for him, but now you point at them and go, “Look, look at what they represented”, but that was in a period of time. They are up because they  were celebrated at the time.
And there’s no doubt in my mind that every one of those Confederate heroes was celebrated at the time because of where they were, the part of the country they were in, the people that supported them, but they were racist. That’s an easy teaching lesson at this point. Or it should be.

Stalin is not a good illustration for Barton’s case. In Russia currently, Stalin is returning to a position of esteem. According to USA Today, ten new statues of Stalin has gone up since 2012. Recently, Vladimir Putin criticized the “excessive demonization” of Stalin. Stalin is a respected figure in Russia as indicated by recent polls there.  Statues of Stalin were celebratory when they were put up and they are still celebratory in Russia. Barton isn’t correct that Russians look at the statues and derive some lesson about the evils of Stalinism.
Surely, Barton would not want the same result for Confederate symbols here. The Confederate statues were celebratory when erected and since the Confederacy shouldn’t be celebrated, it is past time for the monuments to come down.

Robert E. Lee

About Lee, Barton said:

What do you think is the appropriate approach to the Confederate memorials?
It is kind of a case by case thing. With Robert E. Lee, I totally dislike the Confederacy, I have no sympathy for them at all. But Robert E. Lee is not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form. He fought for Virginia, and there’s no indication of racism on his part. Now you want to go to Nathan Bedford Forrest, you bet, he’s a founder of the KKK. I’ve got all sorts of problems with him. What those guys did at Fort Pillow, the massacre there of black Union soldiers is unbelievable. So it is a case by case basis in some ways.

Barton’s statement about Lee is astounding. While some of Lee’s biographers have whitewashed his racism, other primary source evidence calls into question such a positive account. Surely Barton has read Lee’s letter to his wife dated December 27, 1856:

The views of the Pres: of the systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly Set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them, their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a civil & servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly interested in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is Known & ordered by a wise & merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who Sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences ; & with whom two thousand years are but a single day. Although the abolitionist must Know this; & must see that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not create angry feelings in the master; that although he may not approve the mode by which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same: that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every Kind of interference with our neighbours when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others.

Lee’s version of Christianity required him to fight for African slaves stay in bondage because God willed it. God may take thousands of years to correct the situation but, for Lee, that was preferable to the work of the abolitionist. He called the abolitionist’s work an “evil Course.” Lee’s viewed African slaves as needing “painful discipline” before they could be free. This can only be described as some “shape, fashion or form” of racial superiority which Lee justified with Christianity.
Furthermore, there is primary evidence that Lee was not kind to his slaves, especially those who were caught trying to escape. On such slave, Wesley Norris, told his story in 1866.  Lee was executor of the estate of his wife’s deceased father and as such administered the treatment of slaves. Norris described the beatings ordered by Lee for him and his sister. According to Norris, Lee told the overseer to “lay it on well.” I encourage readers to consult Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s book on Lee for a fuller picture of the Confederate General.
While I agree statues should be evaluated on a case by case basis, I think Barton’s view of Lee is informed more by the Lost Cause than accurate history. If Barton has evidence that Lee was not a racist nor a supporter of slavery, I encourage him to produce it.
Tilove’s post is fascinating and advances the discussion surround the monuments. I encourage you to read the whole piece.