COUP WATCH: Theocracy -- From Red Rock Eater News Service
WATCH: Theocracy -- From Red Rock Eater News Service
Published By Phil Agre,
Article On Theocracy By Sean Wilentz
Thu, 18 Jan 2001 10:47:21
[Why haven't the Republicans
accused John Ashcroft of perjury? Those same Senators issued such
accusations against Clinton Cabinet members who made less much clear-cut
misstatements to Congressional committees and investigators than those
that Senator Ashcroft has made. Have they decided that the politics
of personal destruction is a thing of the past? We'll have to see
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License to Kill?
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Some Politicians Still
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Ashcroft Fallout May Cost
Bush in 2004
A Surreal Sleepwalker
with Little Right to Wield Power
Map of Inaugural Parade
Inauguration 2001 Schedule
of Official Events
Bush, GOP Stole Election:
But They Did It Fair and Square
Passing the Buck in Florida
article on the Voting
Get Yer Vote Machines
Slander Suit Turns Spotlight
New York Post, "Wacky"
for W., Takes New Rightward Plunge
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Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001
From: Sean Wilentz <swilentz@Princeton.EDU>
John Ashcroft's critics are divided over whether his address to Bob Jones
University in May 1999 might jeopardize his confirmation as attorney general.
Historians, however, will find much to criticize in the transcript of Mr.
Ashcroft's brief remarks, recently released by the Bush-Cheney transition
team. Mr. Ashcroft has already drawn fire from Civil War historians
for an interview he gave in 199tk to Southern Partisan magazine, in which
he defended Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. The Bob Jones transcript
shows that Mr. Ashcroft holds erroneous and equally dubious views about
the American Revolution, with troubling implications about his understanding
of the separation of church and state.
Mr. Ashcroft began his Bob Jones speech by citing what he claimed was "a
slogan of the American Revolution", supposedly directed by the patriots
at George III's emissaries -- that "we have no King but Jesus". He
repeated that view under questioning by Arlen Specter before the Senate
Judiciary Committee on January 17.
Which is all very interesting but highly misleading. The line Mr.
Ashcroft quoted is best known as the slogan of a radical religious sect
of the 17th century English Revolution, the Fifth Monarchy Men. The Fifth
Monarchists took their name from the biblical prophecy in the Book of Daniel
that four successive monarchies would precede the coming of an eternal
kingdom. Like other millenarians of the time, they believed that,
following the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Fifth Monarchy was nigh,
and that its King would be Jesus.
"The Fifth Monarchists", writes B. S. Capp, the leading scholarly authority
on the group, "were a political and religious sect expecting the immanent
Kingdom of Christ on Earth, a theocratic regime in which the saints would
establish a godly discipline over the unregenerate masses and prepare for
the Second Coming".
by the royalist restoration in 1660, the Fifth Monarchy Men faded into
oblivion. Their beliefs survived in the radical plebeian English
underground, and popped up here and there in the colonies. But their
battlecry -- "No King but King Jesus" -- was hardly "a slogan of the American
Revolution", along the lines of "no taxation without representation", or
"give me liberty or give me death". No major patriot leader took
the Fifth Monarchist line. In his Bob Jones address, Mr. Ashcroft
confused his centuries, his slogans -- and his revolutions.
He also mistakenly implied that the Declaration of Independence was a Christian
text. The "no king but Jesus" motto, he said at Bob Jones, eventually
turned up in what he called our nation's "fundamental documents".
After all, he noted, the Declaration spoke of rights "endowed by [the]
The uncomfortable historical fact is that the author of the Declaration,
Thomas Jefferson, was a deist, who doubted the divinity (let along the
kingship) of Jesus. But no matter: to Mr. Ashcroft, the Creator could
only mean Christ. "America has been different", he explained.
"We have no king but Jesus."
No one, anymore, expects our public officials to be well-versed in history
(although maybe we should). But for a prospective attorney general
to endorse the motto of an old English theocratic sect -- to proclaim it,
mistakenly, as a motto of our Revolution and, indeed, of our nation --
is troubling. And it is no less troubling for that same man to suggest
that Jefferson's Declaration conveyed some deep Christian message.
In America, we have no king. Period. That is what the Revolution
achieved -- not the vaunting of Jesus Christ. In his speech at Bob
Jones University, Mr. Ashcroft asserted the opposite view. Senators
considering Mr. Ashcroft's nomination as attorney-general should ask him
to explain himself.
Sean Wilentz is the Dayton-Stockton
Professor of History at Princeton University.