Following up on the previous posting on this subject, answering the question What is liberalism? is key to understanding the life and times of John Henry Newman, particularly since what has baffled many Newman scholars is the fact that he claimed to be against all forms of liberalism and yet held many opinions and took many positions that people today regard as liberal. Part of this may be due to the possibility that Newman seems to have had trouble viewing this world as anything other than a temporary stopping place on the way to the next.
Civil institutions, even the domestic society of the family simply did not hold Newman’s focus the way religion did. He accepted the world outside organized religion as a given, but at times seemed baffled by it, as well as by many human relationships and domestic institutions. It is probably safe to say he never truly understood how many other people, even those who seemed most receptive to the message and meaning of religion, could not seem to conform themselves as completely as they ought to the demands of a God-centered life.
Thus, the critical differences between the various types of liberalism in civil society, while essential to come to an understanding of how religious society — organized religion — fits into the rest of life, were not really of concern to Newman. His focus was the effect of liberalism on religious society, and what he saw appalled him.
|Pope Pius IX|
This is understandable. In English type liberalism, the unintended ideal (to invent a concept) was a Church controlled by the State, or a State controlled by the Church. Although the ostensible intent was to join the “two swords” of authority to avoid a conflict of interest on the part of citizens, the arrangement inevitably led to a religious or secular theocracy with those who were not members of the established church tolerated at best as second-class citizens. Religious doctrine would be subject to political expedience, or political decisions would be made to advance religion, depending whether the civil power or the religious power was in the ascendant.
European type liberalism cut out the intermediate step of establishing religion and asserted either a secular state or a religious state directly. Admittedly, in the nineteenth century few people would have tolerated the establishment of a new religious state, especially since under Pius IX an unsuccessful effort had been made to separate the civil and the religious powers in the Papal States.
|Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre|
Ultramontane proposals such as those of Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre (1753-1821) and Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1760-1854) before he renounced Christianity (yes, surprising many, ultramontanism is a school of thought derived from European type liberalism) never found many advocates. Nor were the “New Christian” and neo-pagan arrangements of Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) and Auguste Comte (1798-1857), respectively, any more attractive, although gaining sufficient adherents on occasion to justify experiments.
Only in the United States were utopian socialist experiments in any degree successful. In America enthusiasts (in the sense used by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, 1888-1957) established utopian communities as a matter of course. These included the Harmonist or Rappite (later Owenite) community at New Harmony, Indiana, the many “Phalanxes” established throughout the country under the initial leadership of Albert Brisbane (1809-1890) on a modified version of the detailed communities designed by François Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837), and the transcendentalist Brook Farm shareholding commune in Massachusetts (later a Fourierist Phalanx).
|Archbishop John Ireland|
Secularist proposals ostensibly separating Church and State — but really establishing the State itself as the official religion — were more successful in Europe. Secularism did, however, gain adherents in the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As Archbishop John Ireland (1838-1918) noted,
Secularists and unbelievers will demand their rights. I concede their rights. I will not impose upon them my religion, which is Christianity. But let them not impose upon me and my fellow-Christians their religion, which is secularism. Secularism is a religion of its kind, and usually a very loud-spoken and intolerant religion. Non-sectarianism is not secularism, and, when non-sectarianism is intended, the secularist sect must not claim for itself the field which it refuses to others. I am taking my stand upon our common American citizenship. The liberty that I claim, I grant. (Archbishop John Ireland, “State Schools and Parish Schools,” Address before the National Education Association of the United States, 1890.)
Obviously, the secularist type of separation of Church and State that came out of European liberalism was not the separation of Church and State as originally conceived in the United States Constitution, where government and organized religion kept to their own spheres, cooperating in areas of mutual interest. This was, rather, strict control of organized religion by the government, often quickly degenerating into suppression.
|Fulton J. Sheen|
The word [liberalism] can be used in three senses: (a) As a philosophy which believes in the progressive achievement of civil, social, political, economic and religious liberties within the framework of a moral law. (b) As an attitude which denies all standards extrinsic to man himself, measures freedom a physical power rather than a moral power and identifies progress by the height of the pile of discarded moral and religious traditions. (c) As an ideology generally identified with the doctrine of laissez faire. The first kind of liberalism is to be encouraged, prospered and achieved. The last two are false for reasons well known to those who are familiar with Laski Hocking, Tawney, Weber and the Papal Encyclicals. It is the third kind of liberalism, called historical liberalism, with which we are briefly concerned in this book. (Fulton J. Sheen, “Preface,” Communism and the Conscience of the West. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1948.)
The (a) type of liberalism is, obviously, American, (b) is clearly the European type liberalism that attempts to justify socialism of all kinds, e.g., the communism or “scientific” socialism with which Sheen was primarily concerned, while English type liberalism that underpins capitalism is recognizable in (c).
In short, they drew up, à la “glorious,” charges against their Protestant king, his late Majesty; and as the charges against James II. are found in an Act of Parliament, so the charges against George III. are found in an Act of Congress, passed on the memorable 4th of July, 1776. (William Cobbett, History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, 1826, § 425.)
In contrast, the French Revolution was the application of new ideas of sovereignty and of the Nation State, and the actual institution of a new world order. Despite repeated statements, and possibly even the sincere beliefs of America’s Founding Fathers, however, they did not seek a new world order in the same sense as that represented by the French Revolution. The essential difference in orientation is clearly evident when we examine the principles of political science used in forming the United States of America.
The English 1689 Bill of Rights was not the only or even predominant source for America’s founding documents, especially the Declaration of Independence, or “true bill” the Continental Congress drew up to justify the American Revolution, with themselves as Grand Jury. When the Virginia Convention met in the spring of 1776, the members of that body adopted a resolution to draft a declaration of fundamental natural rights that they believed King George III and his parliament had violated.
|George Mason of Gunston Hall|
That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
As drafted, then, the Virginia Declaration stated that all men have inherent (i.e., natural) rights, of which neither they nor their posterity can be deprived, regardless of the justification. All men have the right to live, to be free, and to acquire and possess private property. This was John Locke’s famous triad of fundamental human rights of life, liberty, and private property, but with a significant difference.
And that difference? Mason, in common with Bellarmine, whom Mason appears to have studied, ignored the “state of nature” theory that provided the foundation on which English liberalism was established. He simply declared that all men have rights by nature, not as a result of entering into a social contract and agreeing to enter into society.
Mason therefore agreed with Aristotle and Aquinas that man is by nature a political animal. People do not agree to enter society and subordinate their individuality to expedience. Instead, people realize their individuality to the fullest by being in society as full members of the pólis. People are already members of society by nature unless they remove themselves by the commission of crimes.
That man is naturally a member of society is not, however, a doctrine found anywhere in John Locke or Algernon Sidney! Both men were firm adherents of the “state of nature” theory, which was virtually their sole point of agreement with Thomas Hobbes. That man is naturally a member of society, however, is found throughout Bellarmine’s writings, notably in De Laicis, or, The Treatise on Civil Government.
And that was a problem for a slave-owning society. . . .#30#