Young was a doctor and also a major player in the Boston Tea Party.
In the colonies it was illegal to be vaccinated against disease because people thought disease was a punishment from God and to vaccinate was taking God's right to punish away from Him. So Ethan Allen decided he would very publically get vaccinated in the town's square in front of everybody.
He had Thomas Young vaccinate him against small pox. Young vaccinated him and immediately skipped town. Ethan Allen stayed in town and was arrested for blasphemy. Isn't it amazing how times change? Now we frown upon people who don't get their children vaccinated.
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Two hundred and fifty years ago, we'd arrest people for getting vaccinated. Advance Reading Copy review Publication date July 1, While I enjoyed this book more than 3 stars may indicate, sections of the book were just too dense and repetitive to really recommend it higher. The premise is basically that America was never a Christian nation as many of the Founding Fathers were deists who believed in private, independent spirituality.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, would be surprised that we haven't all become Unitarians by now. The book centers Advance Reading Copy review Publication date July 1, While I enjoyed this book more than 3 stars may indicate, sections of the book were just too dense and repetitive to really recommend it higher. The book centers on Ethan Allen's auto-biography which bears a striking similarity to the writings of Thomas Young one of the Boston Tea Party perpetrators.
Young's writings, in turn, are based largely on the works of Spinoza and Locke who can trace their philosophies back to Lucretius and Epicurus. This is where the reader's eyes are likely to start glazing over. The best parts are the when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are interpreted to prove the founders' underlying deism. The chapter on the pursuit of happiness alone was worth the time and effort leading up to it. Unless you are a hardcore student of philosophy, best to skim over the deep end and head straight to the shallower, more enjoyable parts.
View 1 comment. Matthew Stewart's book is not a comfortable read, but I think he does have some valuable things to say about the philosophical ideas in which several important members of the Founding Fathers were grounded. I will note here that Stewart clearly has an agenda, and tends to view Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen, et. My opinion is that it's more complicated than that, though it's certainly clear that they had an understanding of the problems inherent in all sorts of organized Matthew Stewart's book is not a comfortable read, but I think he does have some valuable things to say about the philosophical ideas in which several important members of the Founding Fathers were grounded.
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My opinion is that it's more complicated than that, though it's certainly clear that they had an understanding of the problems inherent in all sorts of organized religion. Anyway, since many historians have made facile religious connections for various of the Founding Fathers, seeing the situation through a different lens is valuable.
Certainly those who set out on the path of revolution were indeed heretics and radicals, whose ideas about freedom, government, and the nature of the world would change everything for future generations. Jul 31, David Melbie rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Everyone. This is a superb account of what was really going down in the eighteenth century and prior with respect to how our founders were motived by some of the great thinkers and philosophers of the ancient and modern ages. In essence, the American Revolution is, according to Stewart and I wholeheartedly agree , an ongoing affair.
As long as all of our freedoms are intact we should be able to keep this ship afloat. An astonishingly good summary of the role of religion - or lack thereof, to be more precise - in the creation of the American Republic, with special attention given to the issue of Epicurean philosophy, Deism, and Jefferson's conviction that not a living man existed in America who would not die a Unitarian, so great was his belief in the power of reason and that liberal religion compatible with reason would triumph. A very interesting book that probably has the right-wing, tea party fools frothing at the mouth.
The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God
Stewart presents the truth about the individual philosophies of the "Founding Fathers". America's revolutionaries were a group consisting of men educated in the Enlightenment and who followed radical ideas, many of which originated in the classical pagan past. This is a well-researched, well-thought out book that is also surprisingly easy to read.
I highly recommend it. There is an ongoing argument surrounding American beginnings as to whether these were Christian or more attributable to a kind of vague deism. While I as a Christian would love to believe it was the former, when I read the writings of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and other founders, I find that while they recognize the place and importance of Christian churches, they are not Christian in any orthodox sense in the personal beliefs that shaped the thinking behind our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution which omits even the mention of "God".
Matthew Stewart explores the intellectual genealogy of the founders, but does so in an unusual fashion. This inelegantly written book conveys Allen's repugnance of the idea of the Christian deity, argues for a god of nature, the place of reason "self evident truths" and a state free of control by the church. Where did Allen get these ideas, as an uneducated man?
From Dr. Thomas Young, who exists around the edges of the more famous founders.
Nature’s God - Matthew Stewart
Stewart will weave these two characters throughout the narrative. What I think Stewart is trying to demonstrate is how widely held these ideas, often classed under deism, but in fact were closer to pantheism "all is god" or even outright atheism. He then follows back the lineage of these ideas to Lucretius, and Epicurean philosophy, which rather than being hedonistic, actually talked about the idea of living well, or moderately.
Stewart follows these ideas into Europe to Benedict de Spinoza, Hobbes, and John Locke, who may clothe them at times in Christian language, but actually lays the groundwork for a view of reality that is sees God and Nature as synonymous hence making this either pantheism, or outright atheism if nature is viewed simply as matter.
Truth is "self-evident" in that what we think has an existence of its own that precedes all else. As with Lucretius, the pursuit of happiness is not wild pleasure-seeking but virtuous living. This leads to an "empire of reason," a rational rule of law that recognizes the equality of all, unalienable rights, government by the consent of the governed, the right to abolish governments that do not serve these ends and to institute new ones.
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The concluding chapter is titled "The Religion of Freedom". It explores the fact that the founders, while protecting the free exercise of religious faith, believing that popular religion served a certain good in inculcating morals necessary for a good society, ultimately envisioned a government free of religion's control, where the individual could believe what he or she wants without constraint. Stewart argues that many of the founders were free-thinkers who might be classified as atheists today.
And while religion went through a resurgence, and continues to play an important role, by and large it conforms to liberal ideals and only causes problems when it is not content to exist in a very privatized form. One gets the sense in reading Stewart that he thinks that this is not only the truest account of the genealogy of ideas that formed our beginnings as a nation, but that this is as it ought to be, and that the continued existence of religion is an annoying hindrance. He writes, "The main thing we learn now from the persistence in modern America of supernatural religion and the reactionary nationalism with which it is so regularly accompanied is that there is still work to be done.
For too long we have relied on silence to speak a certain truth. The noise tells us the time has come for some candor. It points to a piece of unfinished business of the American Revolution" p. What bothers me in Stewart's work is not the accuracy of the case he makes for the ideas that undergird our republic, but rather the selective treatment of Christian faith that presents a caricature featuring its most invidious expressions. Little attention, for example, is given to the educational enterprise, an extension of the churches, that brought together such a learned generation.
No attention is given to another founder, Reverend John Witherspoon, President of the College of New Jersey later Princeton , who thoughtfully sought to integrate Christian ethics and enlightenment thought, serving in the Continental Congress from to It seems to me that Stewart's intent is to marshal his evidence, as have some of our popular militant atheists, to make us want to eradicate "supernatural religion" and one wonders if this also includes those who embrace it.
Likewise, for all it vaunting of reason and virtue, the tacit admission of the power of religious faith to foster morals, and public order suggests a certain weakness in this "empire of reason. Jun 01, Damon Glassmoyer rated it it was amazing.
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If you truly want to understand the foundations on which the American experiment rests, read this book! Stewart traces the history of thought and philosophy which formed the thoughts of the Founders. A densely-packed read that amply rewards your effort. Mar 12, Robin Friedman rated it really liked it. In his Preface, Stewart quotes the American Revolutionary figure Joel Barlow: "The present is an age of philosophy, and America the 'empire of reason'".
Stewart tries to explain the way in which America is an "empire of reason" and to show that Barlow was correct in his assessment.