“National Reform Reading of History” The American Sentinel 4, 2, pp. 11, 12.

WERE it not for the solemn ending that there is to be to the work of the National Reform party, their claims, and the arguments, speeches, and propositions by which they attempt to set them forth, would be a constant source of amusement. And we recollect no single statement in all of theirs that we have seen that is more absurdly ridiculous than the following, taken from the very first speech of the Cleveland Convention:—

“As a grain of corn does not grow but in harmony with the laws which the Creator has ordained for corn, a Nation does not prosper but in harmony with the laws which the God of Nations has ordained for Nations.”

Now the veriest tyro knows that this proposition, in the sense in which it is meant, is contradicted by the unanimous voice of all history; and the most cursory glance over the field of history will discover the strongest kind of contradictions. Take, for an instance, Frederick the Great, an out-and-out infidel, if not an entire atheist, who always spoke of Christianity in a mocking tone, and of whom it might almost he said that Voltaire was his “patron saint;” who in affairs of statecraft pretended to no form of virtue, but was moved solely by sheer, unhallowed ambition. To quote his own words, “Ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk about me, carried the day.” He broke his plighted faith with the queen of Hungary, and deliberately plundered her of one of the richest provinces of her dominions, and for no purpose whatever but to “extend his dominions, and see his name in the gazettes.” To more effectually accomplish his robbery, he had leagued himself with France and Bavaria; but when he had torn away Silesia, and France and Bavaria were about to help themselves as he had done, he saw that it would add too much to the strength of France for his safety, and he withdrew from the league, and concluded a treaty with the queen. When she was relieved of his opposition, Maria Theresa easily conquered both France and Bavaria; but when Frederick saw how easily she had swept-them from the field, he became alarmed for his possession of Silesia, and again broker faith with her, and allied himself closely with France, again invaded the queen’s dominions, took Prague, and threatened her capital, and the very next year again broke faith with France, and concluded another, peace with Maria Theresa.

Here, then, we have four times that he had broken his plighted faith, and all inside of four years. Yet for all this his kingdom so prospered that in just two years after his last peace with Maria Theresa, through the seven Years’ War, he was able to hold his own during the whole seven long years against the allied powers of the continent. France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the body of German States, were all allied against him. His little kingdom, all told, contained less than five millions of people, and the stolen province of Silesia was the fourth part. The population of the countries leagued against him was fully a hundred million. His army was less than a hundred thousand. The army of the confederates was six hundred thousand. Yet against all this vast odds he maintained his cause, and at the end of the Seven Years’ War concluded a peace in which he ceded nothing, not even a foot of the stolen province. “The whole continent in arms had proved unable to tear Silesia from that iron grasp.”

It was not alone in a military point of view that his kingdom prospered. It prospered civilly as well. At the close of the war, his kingdom was one scene of desolation, but “his energy soon brought back the national prosperity.” And when he died, in 1786, he left 70,000,000 thalers in the treasury, and an army of 200,000 men, of the best soldiers of Europe. Civilly his rule was remarkable in other things. Freedom of speech and the press was so absolute that, outside of the United States, to this day it would be difficult to find its equal. “Order was strictly maintained throughout his dominions. Property was secure.” “Religious persecution was un known under his government. The scoffer whom the Parliaments of France had sentenced to a cruel death, the Jesuit who could show his face nowhere else, who in Britain was still subject to penal laws, who was proscribed by France, Spain, Portugal, and Naples, who had been given up even by the Vatican, found safety and the means of subsistence in the Prussian dominions. His policy with respect to the Catholics of Silesia presented an honorable contrast to the policy which, under very similar circumstances, England long followed with respect to the Catholics of Ireland.”

He was one of the very first rulers who abolished the cruel practice of torture. “No sentence of death was executed without his [12] sanction, and that sanction was rarely given except … of murder.” And so he prospered, and … kingdom prospered, through all his absurd infidelity as a man, and his faithlessness as a king.

Another instance we have in the Empress Catharine, of Russia, who, among the rulers of that country, may fairly rank as second only to Peter the Great. She greatly enlarged on the west, the south, and the east, the dominions which she, a foreigner, had obtained by dethroning her husband and excluding her son; the conquered her enemies by land and sea, wrought real improvement in the administration of justice, the furtherance of education, industry, and commerce. She, too, was a disciple of Voltaire, and was shamefully and systematically immoral. And, too, the Nation prospered.

Another instance we find in Henry IV. (Navarre), of France, the greatest of the Bourbon line, “who restored order, terminated a terrible civil war, brought the finances into excellent condition, made his country respected throughout Europe, and endeared himself to the great body of the people whom he ruled.” Yet he changed his religion four times. First he was a Huguenot; but to escape the consequences of St. Bartholomew’s day (1572), turned Catholic. As soon as that danger was fairly past, and he made his escape from Paris, he was a Huguenot again; then soon after, when all that stood between him and the throne was his Huguenot profession, it was again conveniently renounced, and he was again converted to the Catholic faith. Nor in his private life was he under much more restraint from any regard to the principles of morality.

But not to multiply instances, we will come at once to the great prototype of National Reformers, the uniter of Church and State, Constantine. Surely the National Reformers will not deny that the Nation prospered under his rule. Yet he was a hypocrite from the day that he crossed the Milvian Bridge, faithless, if not a perjurer, and a quadruple murderer,—a hypocrite, as his whole future life shows; faithless, in that although he gave his solemn promise and confirmed it by an oath, that if Licinius would resign his claims to the purple, he should be permitted to pass the remainder of his life in peace, and this promise and this oath were made not alone to Licinius but also to his wife, the own sister of Constantine, in behalf of her husband, yet, notwithstanding all this, only a little while after Licinius reached Thessalonica, the place appointed for his abode, he was foully murdered by order of Constantine. And the circumstance that Licinius had at the time fully reached the allotted threescore and ten years, added to his murder the element of wanton cruelty. But Constantine did not stop with this, his first murder. This was in A. D. 324. In 326 his own son Crispus was put to death by his orders and for no other crime than his abilities; and at the same time he murdered his nephew, the son of the murdered Licinius, “whose rank was his only crime,” and the obdurate heart of the emperor “was unmoved by the prayers and tears of his favorite sister, pleading for the life of a son who loss she did not long survive.”

But this is enough mention of his fearful crimes, and we gladly turn from it without narrating the bloody tragedy of his own wife. And all this while he professed to be a Christian, It was before the battle of the Milvian Bridge (312) that he professed to have had his vision of the flaming cross and its inscription. In 321 he issued his Sunday edict. It was in 324 that he murdered Licinius. In 325 he convened the Council of Nicea, presided over its deliberations, took part in its discussions, and published and enforced its decisions. In 326 he murdered his nephew and Crispus. And in 330, May 11, his new capital, Constantinople, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In 337, May 22, he died, and there ended his evil life. To quote the words of another, “Tested by character, indeed he stands among the lowest of all those to whom the epithet [Great] has in ancient or modern times been applied.”—Encyclopedia Britannica, ninth edition, art. Constantine. Yet through all this defiance of all principle, of all the laws of God, and of civilized men, he prospered as a ruler, and the Nation prospered under his shameful rule.

Again, upon their own claims, our own country is a positive contradiction of this proposition. They say that this Nation is, and has been from the beginning, governed by a “Constitution so very wicked, so entirely godless, that a man who fears God and honors Christ cannot support nor swear allegiance to it.” Yet in spite of all this, this Nation has prospered most, has grown most rapidly, has reached the highest place in the shortest time, of any Nation that the world has ever seen.

And in the bright shining of the light of the last years of the nineteenth century, and flatly in the face of universal history, which is in itself a universal refutation, they set forth the proposition that Nations do not prosper except as they “recognize and obey the moral laws which God has ordained.” We verily believe that such another set of blunders and misreading of history and human experience as is held to by the National Reform party, cannot be found outside of the history of the Jesuits. And if that party does not yet fairly out-Jesuit the Jesuits themselves, we shall be willing to learn that we have mistaken them. The fact of the matter is that this party utterly mistakes the functions of human government, and consequently views everything in connection therewith in its reverse. But when men deliberately turn their backs upon the nineteenth century, and seek to revive the forms and methods of government of the Dark Ages, we cannot expect from them any other than the forms and methods of argument of the Dark Ages.

A. T. J.

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