Archive for the ‘Samuel Johnson’ Tag

Feast of Hannah More (September 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  Portrait of Hannah More, by Henry William Pickersgill

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Poet, Playwright, Religious Writer, and Philanthropist


I see, by more than Fancy’s mirrow shewn,

The burning village, and the blazing town:

See the dire victim torn from social life,

The shrieking babe, the agonizing wife!

She, wretch forlorn! is dragged by hostile hands,

To distant tyrants sold, in distant lands!

Transmitted miseries, and successive chains,

The sole sad heritage her child obtains!

Ev’n this last wretched boon their foes deny,

To weep together, or together die.

By felon hands, by one relentless stroke,

See the fond links of feeling nature broke!

The fibres twisting round a parent’s heart,

Torn from their grasp, and bleeding as they part.

Hold, murderers, hold! not aggravate distress;

Respect the passions you yourselves possess.

–From “Slavery” (1788), by Hannah More




Hannah More comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Episcopal Church.  Her feast day in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is September 6.

More was simultaneously of her time and ahead of it.  She was simultaneously a conservative, a social reformer, and a revolutionary.




Our saint, born in Fishponds, Bristol, England, on February 2, 1745, grew up in The Church of England.  Her father, Jacob More, was the master of Fishponds Free School.  He taught his five daughters, and elder daughters taught younger daughters.  The More sisters emerged as young women well-educated in mathematics, Latin, French, and literature, among other topics.  Young Hannah, as a girl, began writing poems.  As a young adult, she taught (1758f) at the girls’ boarding school her father had founded in Bristol.

Like many other well-educated English women of the time, our saint was a literary figure.  She, engaged to William Turner of Belmont Estate, Wraxall Somerset, from 1767 to 1773, never married.  Her fiancé’s unwillingness to commit to a wedding date ended that engagement.  Immediately afterward, More suffered a nervous breakdown.  After she recovered, our saint devoted herself to literary, moral, and social causes.

More wrote plays from 1762 to 1779.  Her earliest plays, for girls at the boarding school to perform, came from her pen while she was a teacher.  Her last play written (yet not published) was The Fatal Falsehood (1779).  When our saint complimented Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) the first time, he dismissed her kind words.  He replied:

Madam, before you flatter a man so grossly to his face, you should consider whether or not your flattery is worth having.

Nevertheless, the Great Moralist eventually changed his mind regarding our saint.  He came to think of her as

the finest versafatrix in the English language.

More, an active member of the female Bluestocking Group, devoted to pursuits of the literary and intellectual variety, became a religious writer, moral activist, and social reformer in the 1780s.  She befriended General James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), the founder of Georgia.  Our saint also befriended William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and other abolitionists.  More became more active in the abolitionist movement; she wrote antislavery prose and poetry.  Our saint, a member of the Evangelical wing of The Church of England, applied her faith to the world around her.  As the decades wore on, subsequent works included Practical Piety (1811), Christian Morals (1813), and The Character of St. Paul (1815).  She also composed pamphlets.  One was Village Politics (1792), a rebuttal of Thomas Paine‘s Rights of Man (1791).  Another anti-French Revolution tract from our saint’s pen was Remarks on the Speech of M. Dumont (1793), which condemned atheism, in particular.  In 1795-1798, More composed tracts for the Association of the Discountenancing of Vice.

More’s conservative streak was decidedly anti-feminist.  Her reaction to the French revolutionary government improving the education of women was telling:

They (women) run to study philosophy, and neglect their families to be present at lectures in anatomy.

When More and her sister Martha founded schools for poor girls, the sisters also established a narrow curriculum.  It included the Bible and the catechism yet not writing.  More opposed transforming her students into

scholars and philosophers.

Yet even these schools were too liberal and revolutionary for many conservatives.  The More sisters contended with allegations that they were, by teaching basic literary, doing too much and, thereby, lifting the girls above their proper station in society.  The More sisters were also allegedly advancing Methodism, according to one conservative Anglican cleric.

Our saint affirmed the “separate spheres” theory.  More accused Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), the author of Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), of possessing a

moral antipathy to reason.

According to our saint, women were not “fit” for government, on the grounds of being unstable.  She also refused an invitation to join the Royal Society of Literature, on the grounds that no woman should belong to it.

More, a philanthropist, donated money to help Bishop Philander Chase (1775-1852) found Kenyon College, which opened in 1825.  In her will, she bequeathed funds to various charities, mostly religious.

More, aged 88 years, died in Clifton, Bristol, on September 7, 1833.




My moral relativism is very limited.  I live in a moral universe with plenty of black, white, and gray.  Furthermore, I, as one trained in historical methodology, grasp the importance of interpreting people’s lives in context.  Nevertheless, I also state that wrong is wrong and right is right.  I ask:

What is wrong with educating poor girls to become scholars, philosophers, and policy-makers?  

I affirm the equality of the sexes, of course.  X chromosomes and Y chromosomes should never function as excuses for not granting social and legal equality.

Hannah More was right more often than she was wrong.  She was correct, for example, to oppose slavery.  She was right to draw attention to its immorality via her writing.  And she was correct when she donated to Kenyon College.  More was correct when she established Sunday schools, too.

Being right more often than one is wrong is good and wonderful.  At the end of your life, O reader, may an honest evaluation of you be that you were right more often than you were wrong.






Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son led captivity captive:

Multiply among us faithful witnesses like your servant Hannah More,

who will fight for all who are oppressed or held in bondage;

and bring us all, we pray, into the glorious liberty

that you have promised to all your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 3:1-12

Psalm 146:4-9

John 15:5-16

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018


Feast of Saint Glyceria of Heraclea (May 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thrace in the Roman Empire

Image in the Public Domain



Martyr, Circa 177

Also known as Saint Glyceria of Trajanopolis

St. Glyceria is a saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.  Given the antiquity of her hagiography, one may reasonable expect that hagiographers can and do consult a list of Roman Emperors, in her case, and correctly identify the emperor during whose reign she died.  Various accounts place her death from 171 to 177, but always in the 170s.  Nevertheless, some of these accounts identify the emperor at the time of St. Glyceria’s martyrdom as Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161).  No, the emperor was Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180).

Offering to the gods on behalf of the Roman Empire was a patriotic and civic duty of Gentiles.  (The empire exempted the Jews.)  The rationale for the offering was that the gods would continue to bless and prosper the Roman Empire as long as its subjects honored the gods–a divine quid pro quo.  The growth of Christianity, therefore, constituted a perceived threat to the empire.

National and imperial security have long provided excuses for a host of sins.  To quote Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the British linguist and “Great Moralist,”

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

St. Glyceria (literally, “Sweetness”) came from a prominent family.  Her father, Macarius, was a governor, in modern political terms.  The family moved to Trajanopolis, Thrace, when our saint was quite young.  Her parents died when she was a minor.  The orphan met Christians and eventually converted.  St. Glyceria was a secret disciple until she had to risk her life to avoid betraying her faith.  St. Glyceria was at Heraclea (near Propontius, the modern-day Sea of Marmara) when she disobeyed the imperial order to sacrifice to the gods on behalf of the Roman Empire.  She died of torture.  Then wild animals consumed her corpse.

The last vestiges of the Roman Empire collapsed in 1453.









Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Saint Glyceria of Heraclea

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember her in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with her the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever, and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 714


Devotion for Independence Day (U.S.A.) (July 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

God and Country–God First and Foremost



I realize that one might arch an eyebrow over the timing of this post, inside the month of July 2018 yet after July 4.  There is a good reason for the timing, though; I am updating ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, for which I wrote a new July 4 post.  This slightly altered version of that post replaces my older July 4 post here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.



Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.








Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453


Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63


Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)


Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816


Feast of Blesseds Ralph Milner, Roger Dickinson, and Lawrence Humphrey (July 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain





English Roman Catholic Martyrs, July 7, 1591

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), that great English conservative, debater, moralist, and linguist, was correct when he asserted,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

National security has long been a justification scoundrels have cited when appealing to a perverted variety of patriotism to justify the morally unjustifiable.  In the process, so much for freedom!

Consider the aftermath of the failed Spanish attempt to invade and conquer the British Isles in 1688, O reader.  Also consider the then-recent religious politics of the English Reformation, with some Roman Catholics becoming martyrs during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I, and some Anglicans and Protestants experiencing persecution (sometimes to the point of martyrdom) during the reign of “Bloody” Mary I (1553-1558).

“Live and let live” would have been an appropriate religious policy for the English government to follow.  Alas, simply being caught being a Roman Catholic priest in England was, for a time, sufficient for a charge of treason, usually punishable by hanging, drawing, and quartering.

Ralph Milner had long been a conventional Anglican.  He, born in Flacsted, Hants, was a farmer, a husband, and the father of eight children.  Lives of Roman Catholics in his region convinced Milner to convert to Roman Catholicism.  That decision changed his life, for there was no policy of religious toleration.  On the day Milner was to make his first communion as a Catholic authorities arrested him.  Milner was a prisoner for the rest of his life.  Nevertheless, he became such a trusted prisoner that the spent much time on parole and held the keys to the jail.  Milner helped other Catholic inmates and aided priests.  For a time he escorted Father Thomas Stanney (1558-1617), who, after expulsion from England, transferred to Belgium.  Then Milner escorted Father Roger Dickinson, a native of Lincoln.

Father Dickinson, who studied at Rheims, risked his life for his faith.  He, sent to England in 1583, served in Hampshire until arrest and exile.  He returned to England anyway, and served in Worcestershire.  Authorities arrested Milner and Dickinson together.  Milner even rejected the pleas of his children and an offer to spare his life if he attended Anglican services.

The third martyr on July 7, 1591, was Lawrence Humphrey, a convert to Roman Catholicism.  He, while in a fever-induced delirium, had denounced Queen Elizabeth I as a heretic.  Humphrey, when recovered, stated that he had no memory of making that statement.  Nevertheless, his offense was legally and politically sufficient to send him to a horrible death.

The fate of these three men at Winchester on July 7, 1591, was hanging, drawing, and quartering–certainly a Foucaultian form of execution, as well as excessive.  The men were innocent of treason, after all.  Besides, the form of execution was excessive, even for actual traitors.  Then there was the moral question of execution by any method.

Pope Pius XI beatified these martyrs, killed because of religious bigotry and fears related to national security, in 1929.








Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs

Blessed Ralph Milner,

Blessed Roger Dickinson, 

and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey,

triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with them the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 714




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

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.




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).


Feast of Ben Salmon (February 15)   Leave a comment


Above:  Icon of Ben Salmon

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Pacifist and Conscientious Objector


War is the health of the state.

–Randolph Bourne (1886-1918), 1918


It is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities are wrong.

–Francois-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire (1694-1778)


I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

–Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956); frequently attributed to Voltaire erroneously


To refuse to commit or be complicit in violence when one’s government encourages violences can be dangerous and fraught with legal difficulty.

Consider, O reader, the case of Ben Salmon, born in Denver, Colorado, on October 15, 1889.  He grew up in a desert and working-class Roman Catholic family.  Our saint became involved in leftist social justice movements, in particular, with labor unionism.  According to some, he was even an agitator.  Salmon, who attended Mass frequently, married his longtime sweetheart in 1917.  Shortly thereafter, due to U.S. involvement in World War I and official intolerance of antiwar activism, his life changed for the worse.

President Woodrow Wilson, about whom I harbor mixed and mostly negative opinions, had predicted prior to April 1917 that, if the U.S.A. were to enter World War I, many Americans would forget that there was no such thing as tolerance.  He was correct.  He also led the charge of intolerance.  In 1917 and 1918 state and federal laws incarcerated peaceful opponents of that war.  The U.S. Government even treated Amish (yes, Amish!) conscientious objectors harshly.  Authorities, suspecting Amish and Mennonites of being pro-German, kept them under surveillance.  (For details, O reader, consult Steven M. Nolt, A History of the Amish, Revised and Updated Edition, 2003, pages 266-273.)  Laws in some states targeted those who worshiped in a language other than English, so populations ranging from Dutch-psalm-singing members of the Christian Reformed Church to Lutherans who worshiped in Danish or German felt pressure (sometimes in the form of vandalism) to assimilate.

The Amish had been pacifists since their founding, centuries prior to World War I, yet they were not safe from the assaults of the U.S. military over their refusal to fight in a war.  Neither was Salmon, whose pacifism, rooted in Roman Catholicism, put him at odds with the American bishops of his own church.  He responded to the draft by applying for conscientious objector status.  The Army refused to grant him that status, but offered non combatant status instead.  Even that constituted a violation of Salmon’s conscience.  In 1918 the military police arrested our saint.  In short order he had gone through a court-martial and received a guilty verdict and a death sentence, reduced to a term of 25 years.  For more than two years Salmon suffered as he refused to cooperate with his persecutors and oppressors, who retaliated by treating him inhumanely–including with much solitary confinement, sometimes in a vermin-infested cell above the prison sewer.  When, in 1920, our saint started a hunger strike, guards force-fed him.  Then the Army, arguing that he was not only a criminal but an insane person, had him committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.  The new American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) defended Salmon and other war resisters, sent to prison.

In prison Salmon, consulting only the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Bible, composed a 200-page refutation of just war theory.  No modern war, he argued, can fit that theory.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, militarism had become the new idolatry.  Such arguments did not convert many enemies into allies at a time when the “rally around the flag” mentality turned into jingoism, vigilantism, and religious intolerance–all in the name of national security.

President Warren G. Harding, of whom I also harbor mostly negative opinions, at least pardoned Salmon and other war resisters in late 1920.  The Army issued our saint a Dishonorable Discharge, however.  Salmon returned to his wife, with whom he had three children.  His prison experiences had broken his health.  He died, aged 42 years, at Chicago, Illinois, on February 15, 1932.

I have attempted and failed to be a pacifist.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that most violence is both avoidable and wrong.  I have also concluded that the mistreatment of pacifists is always wrong.  I have decided to place the persecutors and oppressors of Salmon in the same category as the Puritans who hanged Quakers in New England in the late 1600s:  evildoers who reacted out of fear.

National security is an invalid excuse for trampling the rights of people, in this case, a man who simply refused to commit violence or to be complicit in it.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Or at least a jingoist.









Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 736


Feast of Blessed Filip Siphong Onphithakt (December 16)   Leave a comment


Above:  Map of the Germane Region of Thailand

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Catechist and Martyr in Thailand

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated.  He was correct.  More specifically, an appeal to national security has frequently become a justification for engaging in immoral actions.  In the case of the saints listed in this post, the context was the (Vichy) Franco-Thai War (1940-1941), during which Thai police forces in the vicinity of French Indochina persecuted Roman Catholics, suspected of being spies for the Vichy French.

Blessed Filip Siphong Onphithakt, born at Nong Seng, Nakhon Phanon, Thailand, on September 7, 1907, became a martyr.  In 1931 he married Marie Thong; the couple had five children.  Our saint, a catechist since 1926, assumed the leadership of his parish in Songkhon village in 1940, when persecution of Christians by police forced the priest to depart.  Onphithakt protested this persecution.  In December 1940 police summoned him to their headquarters at Mukhadon.  Our saint answered that summons.  He was en route when police ambushed, tortured, and murdered him at Muang Phaluka Phanom.

Ten days later police shot, killed, and martyred six nuns.  They were:

  1. Blessed Akatha Phutta Bi (born in 1882),
  2. Blessed Agnes Phila (born in 1909),
  3. Blessed Bibiana Khamphai (born on November 4, 1925),
  4. Blessed Cecilia Butsi (born on December 16, 1924),
  5. Blessed Lucie Khambang (born on December 22, 1917), and
  6. Blessed Maria Phon (born on January 6, 1929).

These martyrs had disobeyed police orders to cease speaking of Jesus.

Pope John Paul II declared the Seven Martyrs of Thailand venerable on September 1, 1988.  He beatified them on October 22, 1989.





Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of the Seven Martyrs of Thailand,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59


Feast of Samuel Johnson (December 13)   14 comments


Above:  Samuel Johnson

Image in the Public Domain



“The Great Moralist”

With this post I add a second Samuel Johnson to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  The other Samuel Johnson, his contemporary, was an American, a convert from Congregationalism to Anglicanism, the creator of a system of organizing library books, and a president of what became Columbia University, New York, New York.  Both Samuel Johnsons, I write without fear of contradiction, enrich this calendar of saints’ days and holy days.

Page 16 of Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists December 13 as the date to recall the life of “Samuel Johnson, Moralist, 1784.”

The Great Moralist, also an essayist, literary critic, poet, translator, and influential lexicographer, came from Lichfield, England.  There he entered the world on September 7, 1709 (Julian Calendar)/September 18, 1709 (Gregorian Calendar).  His mother was Sarah Ford, an Anglican with Calvinist leanings.  She taught her son to memorize the collect for the day.  Our saint’s father was Michael Johnson, a bookseller and, at the time of Samuel’s birth, the Sheriff of Lichfield.  Michael was also a High Anglican with Jacobite sympathies.  The family was not prosperous.  That fact created much stress in Samuel’s life, as did his persistent bad health.

Johnson became well-educated.  The informal part of his education occurred at home and at his father’s bookstore.  The young bookworm read many books at his father’s place of business.  He also attended Lichfield grammar school (1717-1728) and Pembroke College, Oxford (1728-1729).  The Great Moralist had to drop out of college for medical and financial reasons, but his informal education continued.  Eventually he received two honorary doctorates–from Dublin University (1765) and Oxford (1775), hence “Doctor Johnson.”

Johnson became an educator.  In 1731 he accepted the position of undermaster of the Market Bosworth Grammar School, Leicestershire.  Four years later our saint married Elizabeth “Tetty” Potter, a widow 20 years his senior.  They remained married until she died in 1752.  In 1735 Johnson founded a boarding school at Lichfield.  He led that institution and taught Greek and Latin there until the school closed after two years of operation.

Then Johnson relocated to London.  He had already begun to compose and translate works.  Our saint had also contributed to the Gentleman’s Magazine, founded in 1732.  In London, starting in 1737 and continuing for years, Johnson picked up the pace of his literary efforts, which included poems and satirical prose.  Some of the writing was political.  Although our saint was no Jacobite, he was critical of governments during the Georgian Age.  The Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the basis of many subsequent dictionaries, set him on the road to financial security.  His education of Shakespeare (1765) also proved to be a classic.

Johnson was a High Anglican influenced by Greek stoicism.  [Stoicism (frequently misunderstood by many) recognized the difference between those things we can change and those we cannot change.  It is actually an optimistic philosophy, one which teaches a person to delight in the pleasure of life and to refrain from fretting about not doing what one cannot do.]  The basis of our saint’s faith was an understanding of human sinfulness and the necessity of redemption by Jesus Christ.  Johnson, who tolerated Roman Catholicism at a time when that attitude was frequently unpopular, did not hide his dislike of Calvinism.  His Prayers and Meditations debuted in print posthumously in 1785.

Johnson was neurotic and he knew it.  He was prone to melancholy and indolence.  Our saint also knew how to overcome these weaknesses:  surround himself with people.  Johnson’s household included the following, among others:

  1. Robert Levett, a doctor who tended to poor people;
  2. Francis Barber, a former African slave, whose education he financed; and
  3. Anna Williams.

She was the daughter of Zechariah Williams, with whom Johnson had written Longitude at Sea (1755).  Anna visited our saint at his home for years before moving in.  Eventually she went blind and he took care of her until she died in 1783.

Johnson, a loyal subject, supported his government’s position during the American Revolutionary period.  His Taxation No Tyranny (1775) argued that colonists should pay their taxes dutifully.

Johnson died at Lichfield on December 13, 1784.  He was 75 years old.  His legacy has remained impressive and instructive.  For example, his reminder that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” has been relevant for a long time.  Johnson also elevated the tone of debates and the quality of arguments, for his intellectualism and manner forced his debating partners to improve their cases, to prepare to argue as effectively as possible against him.

The world needs more people of the caliber of Dr. Samuel Johnson.





O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Samuel Johnson and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34






Feast of Alfred the Great (October 26)   Leave a comment

England 878

Above:  Map of England in 878

Image in the Public Domain



King of the West Saxons

An old saying tells that power wears down those who do not have it.  That is certainly true in the Turkish Republic.  Even before the recent failed coup President (previously Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the judiciary to imprison journalists whose reporting was critical of him.  He thereby proved that he lacked respect for the freedom of the press.  Now, after the coup, he is targeting not only soldiers but journalists, judges, academics, and civil servants en masse.  It is a witch hunt.  The republic is really a dictatorship.  Erdogan’s power wears down those who do not have it.  Patriotism and law and order are the last refuges of a scoundrel, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

Power need not wear down those who lack it, however.  If the right person uses power for proper purposes it builds up the nation–or, in the case, of King Alfred the Great, the only monarch in English history to be “the Great,” the kingdom as a whole.

Alfred the Great was the last King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex) and the first King of the Anglo-Saxons (from 878).  His mother was Osburh/Osburga (died in 854), a noblewoman.  Our saint’s father was King Aethelwulf (reigned 839-858).  Alfred, born in 849, was the youngest of five children who survived to adulthood.  Aethelwulf sent his four-year-old son to visit Rome, where Pope St. Leo IV (reigned April 10, 847-July 17, 855) sponsored the prince at his confirmation.  Two years later Alfred accompanied Aethelwulf on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The prince learned to read English prior to his twelfth birthday.  He did not learn to read Latin until 887, when he had been king for some time.  Aethelwulf’s three elder sons succeeded him, in order, prior to Alfred’s accession:

  1. Aethelbald (reigned 858-860),
  2. Aethelberht (reigned 860-865), and
  3. Aethelred I (reigned 865-871).

Alfred’s public life spanned 866-899.  That public life began with Alfred assisting his elder brother, Aethelred I, resist Danish invaders, a persistent threat for generations.  In 868 the prince married Ealhswith/Ealswitha (died 902), from the Mercian royal family.  Alfred succeeded Aethelred I in 871, becoming the King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex).  The fight against Danish invaders continued throughout his reign.  One phase of that struggle ended in 878, when Alfred took the title “King of the Anglo-Saxons.”  In that year Alfred did not kill Guthrum, the leader of the Danish invaders; no the monarch forced Guthrum to convert to Christianity and stood as his godfather.  Another stage of that struggle ended in 896.  Alfred left behind a military legacy, including a naval fleet and reorganized militias.  He was, in fact, the “Father of the English Navy.”

Alfred did more than maintain the independence of his realm and became one of the greatest early English monarchs.  He also built up his realm and improved the lives of his subjects.  The monarch, for example, issued a law code, joining the ranks of Hammurabi (reigned 1792-1750 B.C.E.) and Justinian I (reigned 527-565 C.E.).  He also encouraged art, architecture, education, and monasticism.  Alfred recruited experts from the continent of Europe to revitalize learning.  He also ordered that children in his court learn both English and Latin.  Furthermore, the king, in 892, began to translate major Latin texts in theology and philosophy.  Other also translated major Latin texts.  Over time confusion regarding which of these Alfred translated has developed.  The monarch also founded a convent and a monastery.  His attempt to revive monasticism failed, however, due to a lack of public interest.  Alfred was ahead of his time in that regard.

Alfred died on October 26, 899.  He was about 50 years old.  His son, Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924), succeeded him.

George P. Knapp, late Professor of English at Columbia University, wrote:

It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the magnitude of Alfred’s military achievements, nor the extent of the country which he governed, that lift him into the ranks of the world’s great men, but the beauty and moral grandeur of his character.  In him were combined the virtues of the scholar and the patriot, the efficiency of the man of affairs with the wisdom of the philosopher and the piety of the true Christian.  His character, public and private, is without a stain, and his whole life was one of enlightened and magnanimous service to his country.

–Quoted in The Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 1, page 380







O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might

establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people:

Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world,

and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom 6:1-3, 9-12, 24-25

Psalm 21

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Luke 6:43-49

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 653


Feast of Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, Daniel Browne, and James Wetmore (August 17)   2 comments

Founders of Yale University

Above:  Founders of Yale University

Image in the Public Domain



Congregationalist Minister, Anglican Priest, Philosopher, President of King’s College, “Father of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut,” and “Father of American Library Classification”


TIMOTHY CUTLER (MAY 31, 1684-AUGUST 17, 1765)

Congregationalist Minister, Rector of Yale College, and Anglican Priest


DANIEL BROWNE (APRIL 26, 1698-APRIL 13, 1723)

Educator, Congregationalist Minister, and Anglican Priest


JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (DECEMBER 31, 1695-MAY 15, 1760)

Congregationalist Minister and Anglican Priest




The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives of Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, and Thomas Bradbury Chandler on August 17.  That is a logical grouping of saints, for they worked toward the goal of the establishment of the Anglican episcopate in North America.  Furthermore, Johnson and Cutler were friends, and Johnson taught and mentored Chandler.  However, I, for other logical reasons, have assigned a Chandler the feast day of May 17 and grouped him with two Episcopal bishops in his family tree.  Furthermore, here at the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I have expanded the grouping of Johnson and Cutler to include Daniel Browne and James Wetmore (Sr.), thereby commemorating the Congregationalist ministers from New England who became Anglican priests in March 1723.


SAMUEL JOHNSON (1696-1772) I


The name “Samuel Johnson” is commonplace.  A perusal of entries in old encyclopedias reveals the existence of several prominent Samuel Johnsons over time and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  One might think first of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the great English poet, lexicographer, and essayist who noted in 1775 that

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,

thereby condemning false patriotism.  One might also think also of the Reverend Samuel Johnson (1822-1882), an American Transcendentalist, minister, and hymnodist who found the American Unitarian Association (1825-1961) too theologically rigid.  (He would fit in well in the Unitarian Universalist Association today.)  Or one might recall other noteworthy Samuel Johnsons, such as Dr. Samuel William Johnson (1830-1909), a prominent American chemist.  The Samuel Johnson I add to the Ecumenical Calendar today is the American clergyman and educational pioneer, however.

Samuel Johnson

Image in the Public Domain

Samuel Johnson, born on October 14, 1696, was a native of Guilford, Connecticut.  His parents were Samuel Johnson (1670-1726), a fuller and a Congregationalist deacon, and Mary Sage Johnson (1672-1726).  The couple had twelve children, at least five of whom lived to adulthood.  Our saint was the third of their children.  William Johnson (1630-1702), also a Congregationalist deacon, was our saint’s grandfather.  The grandfather taught the grandson how to read English and Hebrew and guided him in committing the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other portions of scripture to memory.  All this happened through Johnson’s sixth year of life.  The elder Samuel Johnson sought properly challenging educational opportunities for his bookish son.  Some of them proved more helpful than others.  Finally, at age 14, our saint, having mastered both Latin and Greek and having proved to be too much for some teachers, began his studies at the relatively new Collegiate School at Saybrook (founded in 1701), which became Yale College then Yale University.  He graduated four years (in 1714) later with his A.M. degree, having commenced work as a teacher at the grammar school in Guilford in 1713.

Johnson was quite a scholarly young man.  He did, for example, complete the Revised Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1716), unpublished.  Then he became a Yale tutor during a time of schism in the college.  From 1716 to 1718 Johnson was the only faculty member and administrator at New Haven, Connecticut, teaching fifteen students and laboring with the assistance of a minister.  Our saint was also cataloging the 800 books colonial agent Jeremiah Dummer (1681-1739) had donated to the college library in 1714.  This process continued until 1719.  These volumes included works by Enlightenment figures such as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727).  Such material was, according to the dominant Puritan orthodoxy of the college, forbidden, corrupting, and faith-destroying.  The process of cataloging the books expanded Johnson’s mind, and he, without permission, introduced the forbidden knowledge into the curriculum at New Haven.


DANIEL BROWNE (1698-1723) I


In 1618 Daniel Browne became the second tutor at New Haven, joining Johnson on the faculty.  He, born at New Haven on April 26, 1698, had been a classmate of Johnson, graduating at the age of 16 1/2 in 1715.  Next Browne had worked as the assistant to Samuel Hopkins, the Rector of the Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, for a year, then as Hopkins’s successor for two years.  Browne worked as a tutor at New Haven for four years.

The Yale schism ended in 1719, with Johnson become the sacrificial victim.  Did he resign or did his superiors fire him?  It was a distinction without a difference.  Timothy Cutler became the new college rector, with Browne as the only other faculty member.  Johnson, ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1720, remained in the immediate vicinity, serving at West Haven.  Cutler, his friend, permitted him to design the college curriculum.

A vital aspect of the context of the Yale-related content in this post is that the intention of Yale’s founders in 1701 was to establish an educational institution which would be a conservative alternative–a bastion of Puritan orthodoxy–in contrast to Harvard College, which many New England Puritans considered to be too liberal.  Yet Yale began to liberalize before the end of its second decade of existence.


TIMOTHY CUTLER (1684-1765) I


Timothy Cutler

Image in the Public Domain

Timothy Cutler, born at Charlestown, Massachusetts, on May 31, 1684, was a son of John Cutler (1650-1708) and Martha Wiswall Cutler (b. 1645).  The family had Jacobite sympathies.  Our saint, baptized in 1684,  graduated from Harvard College in 1701, at the age of 17 years.  Four years later he joined the Congregational Church at Charlestown.  Shortly thereafter the Congregational Church at Dartmouth, Massachusetts, invited him to become their minister, but he declined, citing parish dynamics.  In 1709, however, he accepted an offer to become the minister at Stratford, Connecticut; he was especially interested in combating the Anglican presence in the community.  The following year Cutler married Elizabeth Andrew (1690-1771), daughter of the Reverend Samuel Andrew, the Acting Rector of the Collegiate School at Saybrook.  Our saint and his wife had seven children from 1711 to 1724; five of them lived to adulthood.

Circa 1720 seven respected Congregationalist ministers formed a group to study the early church.  They were:

  1. Timothy Cutler;
  2. Samuel Johnson;
  3. Daniel Browne;
  4. Jared Eliot (1685-1763), minister at Killingworth and one of Johnson’s former teachers;
  5. John Hart (1682-1732), minister at East Guilford;
  6. Samuel Whittesley (1686-1752), minister at Wallingsford; and
  7. James Wetmore (Sr.) (1695-1760).


JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (1695-1760) I


James Wetmore (Sr.), born on December 31, 1695, was a son of the Reverend Izrahiah Wetmore (Sr.) (1656-1743) and Rachel Stow Wetmore (1666-1722), of Middletown, Connecticut.  Our saint, the third of nine children, at least seven of which lived to adulthood, came from a civic-minded family.  His father was not only a minister but a magistrate and a deputy of the General Court.  Wetmore, a classmate of Johnson at Yale, graduated from the college with his A.B. degree in 1714 and his A.M. degree three years later.  This saint became a Congregationalist minister in 1718 and served at North Haven, Connecticut, for four years.  Also in 1718 he married Anne Dwight (1697-1771).  They had six children from 1727 to 1737.




On September 13, 1722, the seven ministers presented the conclusion of their study of the early church in writing to the Trustees of Yale College.  Some of these clergymen were certain of the invalidity of their orders and others merely harbored doubts due to the lack of “visible communion with an Episcopal Church.”  This, the “Great Apostasy” at Yale College, founded as a bulwark of Puritan orthodoxy in contrast to the relatively liberal Harvard College, proved controversial in New England.  Three of the ministers recanted under pressure, but Johnson, Cutler, Browne, and Wetmore (Sr.) lost their positions.  By the end of the year they departed for England, where in March 1723, they became priests of the The Church of England.


DANIEL BROWNE (1698-1723) II


Browne, a bachelor, died of smallpox in London on April 13, 1723.  He was 24 years old.  In 1765, the Reverend Ezra Stiles (1722-1795), the President of Yale College from 1778 to 1795, wrote of Browne:

He was a gentleman of the most superior sense and learning of the four.




Wetmore (Sr.), Cutler, and Johnson remained in England for much of the year.  Johnson and Cutler received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.  The three men returned to North America under the auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG).

Cutler went to Boston, Massachusetts, where, at the end of 1723, he held the first service at Christ Church, or Old North Church, of Midnight Ride of Paul Revere fame.  He served as the rector of the parish for the reset of his life.  He also founded other congregations, advocated for the advocacy of the Anglican episcopate in North America, criticized revivalism, founded an Anglican library in Boston, and resisted the Puritan theocracy in New England.  In April 1756 Cutler suffered a stroke.  The assistant priest assumed many of his duties.  Our saint died at Boston on August 17, 1765, aged 81 years.


JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (1695-1760) II


Wetmore became the Rector of Grace Church, Rye, New York, in 1726.  He served there for the rest of his life, dying on May 15, 1760.

A son, James Wetmore (Jr.), seems to have been a Loyalist, for he, born at Rye in 1727, died in Kings County, New Brunswick, in 1798.

Grace Church, Rye, became Christ’s Church, Rye, in 1795.




Johnson returned to Connecticut.  He founded Christ Church, Stratford, the first parish in the colony.  By 1752 he had founded 24 more congregations, becoming the “Father of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut.”  He was an ardent controversialist, engaging in written conflict with Puritans via pamphlets, starting in 1733.  Johnson, like Cutler, resisted the Puritan theocracy in New England, argued against revivalism and the (First) Great Awakening, and lobbied for the establishment of the Anglican episcopate in North America.  The last matter was controversial, for many Congregationalists and Presbyterians considered it contrary to scripture and politically perilous, and many Southern Anglicans enjoyed their relative independence.

Johnson married twice and became a widower as many times.  His first wife was Charity Nicoll (1692-1758), a widow.  Thus our saint became a stepfather on September 26, 1725.  He raised William Nicoll (1715-1780) and Benjamin Nicoll (1718-1760) as if they were his own sons.  Charity and our saint had two sons, William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819) and William Johnson (1730-1760).  The younger son died of smallpox in England.  William Samuel Johnson opposed the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Duty Act (1767) actively and served as the colonial agent for Connecticut from 1767 to 1771.  He became convinced that the U.S. War for Independence was both unnecessary and unwise yet made his peace with the result of the conflict.  He served in the Confederation Congress from 1785 to 1787, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787), presided over the drafting of the document, signed the Constitution, served as President of Columbia College, New York, from 1787 to 1800, and was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut from 1789 to 1791.  His wife (from 1749) was Elizabeth Ann Beach (1729-1796), daughter of William Beach (1694-1751), a businessman of Stratford, and his wife, Sarah Hull Beach (1701-1763).  Charity died on June 1, 1758.

Johnson’s second wife (from 1761) was Sarah Hull Beach (1701-1763), who died of smallpox on February 9, 1763.

Johnson continued to be an educator.  He opened a school at Stratford in 1723.  For decades he also operated a home-based seminary for students at Yale, educating and training 63 priests.  He also developed a system of classifying library books, hence his title, “Father of American Library Classification.”  In the early 1700s our saint redefined the curriculum at Yale College again, for it had reverted to an earlier state after the “Great Apostasy” of 1722.  In 1729-1731 Joseph Berkeley (1685-1753), later the Bishop of Cloyne, visited New England.  Johnson met him then and convinced him to donate land, money, and books to Yale College.  Our saint also became enamored of Berkeley’s philosophy, immaterialism.  The two men corresponded for decades.  Johnson, who received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University in 1743, wrote and revised his textbook of moral philosophy several times.  The basis of his philosophy was the pursuit of happiness rooted in realism with regard to how things are.

Johnson, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the leaders Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York, and others spent years discussing details of founding a “new model” college.  There would be no religious test for admission.  Instruction would be in English, not Latin.  The study of theology would be optional, but the study of moral philosophy would be mandatory.  There would be a focus on professional preparation, and the curriculum would include the new discipline of English literature.  The result of these conversations was King’s College, later Columbia College then Columbia University, New York.  Some Presbyterians in the colonial government of New York tried to prevent the chartering of the college, labeling it an insidious Anglican plot.  The royal charter came through in 1754, however.  Johnson served as a professor and the first president, retiring in 1763, after the death of his second wife.

Johnson’s retirement (1732-1772) was active.  He returned to the office of Rector of Christ Church, Stratford, and performed his duties faithfully.  He also reopened his home-based seminary for students at Yale College.  Our saint also taught his grandsons William and Charles to read English and Latin, as his grandfather had instructed him.  Johnson wrote the first American grammars of the English and Hebrew languages and dedicated them to his grandsons.

Johnson’s accomplishments caught the attention of his English contemporary, Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the essayist, poet, and lexicographer, who was a friend of William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819).

Samuel Johnson, the American, died on January 6, 1772, the Feast of the Epiphany.  He was 75 years old.




I realize, O reader, that I have asked you to follow some proverbial bouncing balls, but that is simply the nature of the material.  The legacies of Johnson, Cutler, and Wetmore are obvious.  That of Browne, however, is incomplete, due to circumstances beyond his control.  If he had lived he would have done much for the glory of God and the expansion of The Church of England.







God of history, science, art, philosophy, and majesty, we thank you for the faithful quests of

Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, Daniel Browne, and James Wetmore (Sr.),

whose intellectual inquisitiveness and fidelity to you led them to pursue Anglican Holy Orders.

May we never fear new knowledge.

May we seek the truths of you wherever we can find them

then pursue paths consistent with them,

for your glory and benefit of your people;

in the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Kenneth Randolph Taylor, May 3, 2016 Common Era


Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 24:1-8

Psalm 32:8-12

1 Peter 2:1-10

Matthew 16:13-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 531