Above: John Adams, President of the United States from 1797 to 1801
Image in the Public Domain
The administration is not the nation-state. This is a simple fact that political dissidents keep having to repeat, even in my native land, the United States of America. To oppose the presidential administration is not to be disloyal. The Constitution of the United States even builds debate and dissent into the political system, complete with contested elections.
The failure to acknowledge the fact that the administration is not the nation-state during the Quasi-War with France during the administration of President John Adams (1797-1801) contributed to the abomination that was the Sedition Act of 1798.
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty, and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court may be ho]den to find sureties for his good behaviour in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.
SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in Republication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause, shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, that the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.
APPROVED, July 14, 1798.
Source = The Avalon Project, Yale University
Adjusting dollar amounts for inflation is crucial. Know then, O reader, that $2000 (1798) is $39,800 (2015) and that $5000 (1798) is $99,400, according to MeasuringWorth.com.
It was a partisan law applied to opposition newspaper editors and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont. One might also notice that the law permitted (by omission) all manner of negative press and speech regarding the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the opposition party. Newspaper editors went to prison, newspapers closed, and Lyon became a federal inmate. Lyon was hardly the most polite of Congressmen, but all that he had uttered and published negatively regarding the Adams Administration fell within the bounds of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Federalists who supported the Sedition Act of 1798 mistook partisanship for treason and trampled upon the First Amendment. Lyon had argued in a letter to Spooner’s Vermont Journal that the allegedly power-hungry president had “swallowed up” “every consideration of public welfare.” He had written this letter prior to July 14, 1798, so the legal principle of ex post facto protected him prior to the date that Adams signed the Sedition Act into law. After the law had gone into effect, however, Lyon repeated those charges repeatedly and added more criticisms of Adams and the Federalist majorities in Congress (such as that Adams fostered “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” and Congress should send the President to a mad house). The federal indictment (October 5, 1798) accused Lyon of having “malicious intent to bring the President and the government of the United States into contempt.” The verdict was guilty. Lyon went on to win reelection from his prison cell.
Alas, Jefferson was not a paragon of virtue with regard to freedom of the press. Although he, as Vice President, opposed the Sedition Act of 1798, which expired in 1801, he encouraged partisans to use similar state laws against Federalist critics of himself and of his administration. There was, for example, People v. Croswell (1804), which targeted Harry Croswell (1778-1858), editor of The Wasp, a Federalist newspaper in Hudson, New York. Croswell was openly critical of President Jefferson. Croswell lost that case, in which the prosecution convicted him of having committed both libel and sedition. The editor kept losing libel lawsuits. In 1814 he left journalism for the Episcopal priesthood.
The unfortunate tendency to confuse the presidential administration for the nation-state has recurred frequently, drawing support from the “rally around the flag” mentality. Resurgence of this confusion in the form of jingoism has been especially egregious during times of war, whether declared or otherwise. During World War I, for example, the federal government sent some antiwar activists to prison not for inciting violence, but for inciting nonviolence. Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., disappointingly, compared the rhetoric of nonviolence during time of war to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. “My country, right or wrong” has never impressed me, for as the great Voltaire wrote,
It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
And, as the moralist Samuel Johnson observed,
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Dissent is as American as the First Amendment. That is a patriotic statement. Those who enter public life should either have thick political skins already or grow them quickly. President Harry Truman‘s maxim that those who want a friend in Washington, D.C., should bring a dog remains true much of the time.
I am convinced that another contributing factor to the identification of the administration with the nation-state is fear. Out of fear individuals and institutions tend to trample people and ideals–even foundational principles. A time of crisis, however, is properly a time to double down on acting in accordance with those foundational principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the fact that dissent is patriotic. As Tom Dobbs, the character the late, great Robin Williams portrayed in Man of the Year (2006), said,
If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.
I bristle whenever I read or hear someone accuse dissidents of being stupid at best or treasonous at worst. One reason for my bristling is principled; I affirm that, in the words of The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),
If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
What I think of the content of that dissent is irrelevant with regard to my estimate of the patriotism of the dissident. Another reason is personal; I know the feeling of hearing and reading people question either my intelligence or my patriotism or both because of a political difference. Dissent, however, is as American as the First Amendment.
Administrations come and go, but the United States of America persists. The administration is not the nation-state.
As Martin Luther probably did not say,
Here I stand; I can do no other.
I will do no other.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA
I derived much material for this post from Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company, 2004).
Above: The Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereschchagin
Image in the Public Domain
PAUL JONES (NOVEMBER 25, 1880-SEPTEMBER 4, 1941)
Episcopal Bishop of Utah and Peace Activist
JOHN NEVIN SAYRE (FEBRUARY 4, 1884-SEPTEMBER 13, 1977)
Episcopal Priest and Peace Activist
The Episcopal Church commemorates the life of Bishop Paul Jones on September 4. On this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I do the same and add to the feast his colleague and fellow Episcopalian, John Nevin Sayre.
PAUL JONES (I)
Jones, born on November 25, 1880, at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was a cradle Episcopalian and a son of a priest. After graduating from Yale University he attended the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, in 1906, Jones heard the Bishop Franklin S. Spalding, of the Missionary District of Utah, speak of the challenges of evangelizing in the Mormon-dominated state. Our saint volunteered to serve in Utah. And he did, at St. John’s, Logan. In 1914 Jones became the archdeacon in the missionary district. Later that year he succeeded Spalding as bishop. Our saint built up the diocese well during his tenure (1914-1918).
Jones got into deep trouble for speaking out based on his conscience. He was a pacifist, for he was convinced that Jesus disapproved of settling conflicts violently. Jones also argued for recognizing the moral validity of conscientious objection to war. Both church and society, he insisted, should respect the choice not to engage in violence. All of this was politically dangerous to advocate for in the United States in 1917 and 1918, a time when much of the population contracted war fever. In the realm of the ridiculous, Dachshunds became Liberty Hounds, German Shepherds became Alsacian Shepherds, and frankfurters became hot dogs, among other examples of renaming dog breeds and food products. The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned the performance of the music of Ludwig von Beethoven, who had been dead for 90 years. Besides, given the composer’s political position regarding Emperor Napoleon I (he considered Bonaparte’s self-promotion a betrayal of principles), would Beethoven have supported German imperialism in 1914-1918, had he been alive? Reason be damned, this was wartime panic and intolerance. States and the federal government passed laws suspending the freedom of speech and redress of the government. Certain opponents of U.S. involvement in World War I went to prison for their nonviolent activities, such as giving speeches and distributing leaflets. (The First Amendment to the United States Constitution be damned also, apparently.) Jones had to contend with false allegations of being pro-German and anti-American. He got off relatively lightly, though; the Episcopal House of Bishops forced him to resign from both the Missionary District of Utah and the House of Bishops. Years later he got to rejoin the House of Bishops yet without a vote therein.
Jones served as the executive secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, devoted to the nonviolent resolution of conflicts, from 1919 to 1929. A colleague there was John Nevin Sayre.
JOHN NEVIN SAYRE (I)
With Paul Jones
Sayre came from a distinguished family. He, born on February 4, 1884, at South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was a grandson of John Williamson Nevin (1803-1886), the great German Reformed minister and Mercersburg theologian. Our saint’s aunt was Alice Nevin (1837-1925), who contributed much to the life of the Reformed Church in the United States and to the civil life of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sayre’s mother was Martha Finley Nevin (1824-1917), daughter of John Williamson Nevin and sister of Alice. Our saint’s father was Robert Heysham Sayre (1844-1917), the manager of the Bethlehem Iron Works and the founder of the Sayre Mining and Manufacturing Company. Sayre’s brother was Francis Bowes Sayre, Sr. (1885-1972), an attorney and diplomat. Francis Sr. was a professor at Harvard Law School (1917-1923), the Advisor in Foreign Affairs to the King of Siam (1923-1925), the U.S. Ambassador to Siam (1925-1932), the Director of the Harvard Institute of Criminal Law (1932-1933), the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (1933-1939), the High Commissioner of the Philippines (1939-1942), and the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Leadership Council (1947-1952). In 1913 he married Jessie Woodrow Wilson (died in 1933), daughter of President (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921). Through Francis Sr. our saint was able to gain access to prominent people, such as President Wilson, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (in office 1933-1945), General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), and Emperor Hirohito (reigned 1926-1989).
Our saint was a well-educated man. He graduated from Princeton University (B.A., 1907) and the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts (B.D., 1911). He also studied at the Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York (1908-1910) and the University of Marburg, Germany (1913-1914). Sayre also taught at Princeton University (1911-1912) and at Boone University, Wuchang, China (1913).
Sayre became a pacifist in 1914. He agreed with Jones that warfare was incompatible with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Sayre, Assistant Rector (1915-1916) then Rector (1916-1919) of Christ Church, Suffern, New York, found his congregation to be less than fully supportive of his pacifism. He resigned and helped to found Brookwood School (1919-1921), where he taught nonviolence for two years. In 1921, when Brookwood School became Brookwood Labor College, an experimental residential two-year institution for workers, he transferred to the U.S. branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. (He had helped to found that branch six years earlier.) Sayre edited The World Tomorrow from 1922 to 1924 and served as the organization’s associate secretary from 1924 to 1935, serving under Jones during part of that time. Sayre traveled the world as he sought to resolve conflicts nonviolently. In 1927, for example, he, via Francis Sr., gained access to U.S. senators and State Department officials and thereby succeeded in halting the planned U.S. bombing of innocent civilians during a conflict in Nicaragua.
PAUL JONES (II)
With John Nevin Sayre
Jones spent his final years as the chaplain of Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. He also functioned as a spiritual advisor to students and a member of the faculty, as a well as a traveling speaker. Other causes for which our saint advocated were economic justice (from a Christian Socialist perspective) and civil rights for African Americans. In 1939 he and Sayre helped to found the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship (now the Episcopal Peace Fellowship). Toward the end of his life Jones helped to resettle European Jews fleeing the Nazis. He died of multiple myeloma at Yellow Springs on September 4, 1941. He was 60 years old.
JOHN NEVIN SAYRE (II)
With Francis Bowes Sayre, Jr.
Sayre, active in pacifist activism for most of his life, spent most of that life with Kathleen Whitaker, also his partner in activism. She and her mother, pacifists, had emigrated from England in 1916. Kathleen became the second Mrs. Sayre in 1922; the marriage ended when Sayre died in 1977. (Sayre had married his first wife, Helen Augusta Bangs, on June 28, 1910. She died two years and two days later.) Other organizations through which the Sayres worked for peace and reconciliation included, of course, the Episcopal Pacifist/Peace Fellowship, the National Peace Conference and the International Fellowship of Witness. Their pacifism translated, not surprisingly, into opposition to the Vietnam War.
Other favored causes included helping conscientious objectors in Europe and the United States during World War II, sparing the lives and facilitating the release and repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war after that conflict, advocating for civil liberties, and working for civil rights for African Americans. Sayre died at South Hyack, New York, on September 13, 1977. He was 93 years old.
A nephew, Francis Bowes Sayre, Jr. (1915-2008), a grandson of Woodrow Wilson, became an Episcopal priest, and from 1951 to 1978, the Dean of Washington National Cathedral. True to his family heritage, he opposed Jim Crow, McCarthyism, and the Vietnam War.
As time moved on, so did ecclesiastical institutions. The Lambeth Conference of 1958 approved the following resolutions:
Resolution 101 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations
The Church’s Work of Reconciliation The Conference urges all members of the Anglican Communion to further the ministry of reconciliation by: (a) developing deeper understanding and fellowship with churchmen of every land; (b) extending the use of clergy and lay workers in lands other than their own, the exchange of teachers and seminarians, and the participation by lay visitors in the Church life of the countries they visit; (c) the general use of the Anglican Cycle of Prayer to undergird this wider sense of community; (d) participation everywhere in the wider community of all Christian people in the ecumenical opportunities open to them.
Resolution 102 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Christian Citizenship
The Conference calls upon all Christian people to recognise their duty of exercising to the full their responsibility as citizens in the national and international policies of their governments.
Resolution 103 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Christian Citizenship
The Conference calls upon all Christian people to strive by the exercise of mutual understanding, calm reason, and constant prayer, to reconcile all those who are involved in racial, political, economic, or other conflicts.
Resolution 104 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – The Rights of Men and Nations
The Conference declares that the Church is not to be identified with any particular political or social system, and calls upon all Christians to encourage their governments to respect the dignity and freedom of people within their own nations and the right of people of other nations to govern themselves.
Resolution 105 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Sharing Material Resources
The Conference draws attention to the widespread poverty in many parts of the world; it notes with thankfulness the measures taken to help under-developed countries to become self-supporting, and calls upon Christians in more favoured lands to use their influence to encourage their governments in the task of relieving poverty by a generous sharing of their material and technical resources with those in need.
Resolution 106 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Modern Warfare and Christian Responsibility
The Conference reaffirms that war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and declares that nothing less than the abolition of war itself should be the goal of the nations, their leaders, and all citizens. As an essential step towards achieving this goal the Conference calls upon Christians to press through their governments, as a matter of the utmost urgency, for the abolition by international agreement of nuclear bombs and other weapons of similar indiscriminate destructive power, the use of which is repugnant to the Christian conscience. To this end governments should accept such limitations of their own sovereignty as effective control demands. The Conference further urges the governments of the leading nations of the world to devote their utmost efforts at once to framing a comprehensive international disarmament treaty, which shall also provide for the progressive reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments to the minimum necessary for the maintenance of internal security and the fulfilment of the obligations of states to maintain peace and security in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Resolution 107 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Modern Warfare and Christian Responsibility
The Conference calls Christians to subject to intense prayer and study their attitudes to the issues involved in modern warfare, and urges the Church to continue to consult regularly with scientists and political leaders about the many problems of ethics and conscience which arise from advances in nuclear research.
Resolution 108 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – The United Nations
The Conference affirms the need for strengthening the United Nations and to this end: (a) urges that serious consideration be given to the revision of its Charter, the more effective use of, and respect for, the existing processes of international justice, and to the creation of adequate means for enforcing its decisions; (b) commends wholeheartedly the work done under the aegis of the United Nations, whereby the skills and resources of member nations are made available for the benefit of the whole of humanity; (c) recommends that all Church people be asked to pray for God’s blessing upon the officers and declared purposes of the United Nations; (d) urges that all Church people be asked to encourage community study regarding the constitution, the plans, and the needs of the United Nations.
Resolution 109 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – The United Nations
The Conference draws attention to the work of the Committee of the Churches on International Affairs (within the World Council of Churches) and urges Anglicans to support its efforts to bring an informed Christian opinion to bear on international issues.
Resolution 110 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – Condemnation of Racial Discrimination
The Conference affirms its belief in the natural dignity and value of every man, of whatever colour or race, as created in the image of God. In the light of this belief the Conference affirms that neither race nor colour is in itself a barrier to any aspect of that life in family and community for which God created all men. It therefore condemns discrimination of any kind on the grounds of race or colour alone. The Conference would urge that in multi-racial societies members of all races shall be allowed: (a) a fair and just share in the government of their country; (b) a fair and just share in the control, development, and rewards of the natural resources of their country, including advancement to the highest level of attainment; (c) the right to associate freely in worship, in education, in industry, in recreation, and in all other departments of the common life.
Resolution 111 The Reconciling of Conflicts Between and Within Nations – The Church in an Industrial Age
The Conference urges the provinces of the Anglican Communion to give special study to the task, strategy, and ministry of the Church within industrial society, and by the use of bold and imaginative experiments to strengthen the impact of the Christian faith upon the whole life and pattern of industry.
Source = link
I am not a pacifist. I have tried to become one, but I have not been able to, pardon the term, reconcile certain uncomfortable realities with idealism. Sometimes the best choice is a bad one, albeit the least or lesser bad choice. I write this post on the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945. As much as I deplore the human costs (including to innocent civilians) inherent in that act, I also know that the human costs (including to innocent civilians) would have been far worse had an invasion of the Japanese home islands occurred. Forcing Japanese surrender also kept Soviet troops out of Japan. President Harry Truman made the decision he had to make; he chose the lesser of two evils when no good option was available. I also recognize the fact that reconciling with, not antagonizing, Japan after World War II made the world a better place for Allies and Japanese alike. I wonder world history would have been different had the victorious Allies been kind to Germany and nicer to Japan at Versailles Palace in 1919.
Although I am not a pacifist, I refuse to condemn those who are. They remind the rest of us of the importance of seeking peace–not just the absence of conflict, but the reality of reconciliation. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” may have been originally a moral step forward, insofar as its purpose was to curtail violence, but reconciliation is superior. As Delenn, the Minbari Ambassador to Babylon 5, said in Passing Through Gethsemane (1995), one of my favorite episodes of Babylon 5 (1994-1998), “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves many people blind and toothless. Is it not better for all of us to retain our eyes and teeth and to strive for peace, or at least the absence of conflict? Some violence is necessary, sadly, but most of it is morally unjustifiable. Frequently the motivation for violence is revenge or pride, not self-defense. Even when violence is in self-defense, it might damage the one who commits it. Wildred Owen (who died a week before the armistice in 1918, wrote a poem in the voice of two soldiers. One soldiers tells the other:
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in the dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
Let us sleep now….
Also, given the long tradition of people from various religions (including, unfortunately, Christianity, named after the executed Prince of Peace) engaging in violence at the proverbial drop of a hat, from antiquity to the present day, I derive comfort from the fact many faithful people seek to incite nonviolence in the name of God.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 6, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
Merciful God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near:
Raise up in this and every land witnesses who, after the examples of your servants
Paul Jones and John Nevin Sayre,
will stand firm in proclaiming the Gospel of the Prince of Peace,
our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Peter 3:8-14a
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 561