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Proceedings of the Fourth Congress at Atlanta, GA., April 28 to May 1, 1892
Three American Ideals—The Puritan, Cavalier, and Scotch-Irish.

By Henry Alexander White, M.A., Ph.D., D.D., of Lexington, Va.


In 1636, that central period in Wentworth's seven-year game of thorough on the Irish chessboard—when Laud began his fourth year as Archbishop of Canterbury by replacing a Romish crucifix in Lambeth Chapel—when the constables of King Charles I. were knocking at the gates of John Hampden for ship money—in that year were planted three ideals of government: the Puritan, the Cavalier, and the Scotch-Irish.

I. The Puritan Ideal.
The year 1636 saw the corner stone of Harvard College set in place. The Puritan ideal held aloft the torch of learning. But in its very foundations the ideal of the New England Puritan was a narrow one. The Puritan immigration from the east Anglian counties of England came to an end in 1640. That year in which the Long Parliament began its work saw twenty-six thousand souls gathered within the colony of New England. More than a century was to pass away before any great addition should be made to this number. About five hundred of these colonist came before the year 1629. When Eliot went to prison in 1629, there to end his days as a martyr in the cause of English liberty, the stream of Puritan immigration began to flow more rapidly. During the eleven years (1629-40), when the iron hand of the despot, Charles, was felt; when the Eliots, the Hampdens, the Pyms were struggling to maintain the rights of Englishmen, New England was gradually filling up with those who represented the spirit of flight. King Charles thought seriously of stopping the "exodus," but "amid the first mutterings of the great rebellion, the proceedings against Massachusetts were dropped, and the unheeded colony went on thriving in its independent course; possibly, too, some locks at Whitehall may have been turned with golden keys, for the company was rich, and the king was ever open to such arguments." [John Fiske, the "Beginnings of New England," p. 113. (120)]

The year 1640! The cause of human liberty in the balance! The Ironsides of Cromwell are getting ready for Naseby and Marston Moor. Where is Puritan New England? Closing her gates. The migration is ended. Her passports are paid for—two hundred thousand souls are shut up in the new colony.

Have the Puritans come in search of religious liberty? "The notion that they came to New England for the purpose of establishing religious liberty in any sense in which we should understand such a phrase is entirely incorrect. It is neither more nor less than a bit of popular legend. . . . There is nothing they would have regarded with more genuine abhorrence." [John Fiske, the " Beginnings of New England," p. 145.]

Further than this, is there any foundation for civil liberty in their form of government? They have "township meetings," in which "the people" take part in ruling. But who are "the people?" The members of the Congregational Church. Toting and officeholding are limited to Church members. The right of citizenship is decided • by the Church register. The form of government is a theocracy. The real rulers are the Church officials, more intolerant of personal liberty than Archbishop Laud himself.

In this close corporation there was not room for even the peaceful Quaker. The scale of punishment for Quakers who persisted in remaining was flogging, cutting off the ears, boring the tongue with & hot iron, death. The only crime chargeable to the account of the Quaker was his unbelief in the Puritan form of government. The Quakers preached against the union of Church and state. For that were they called upon to suffer and to die. The year 1659 saw two Quakers hanged on Boston Common, and their bodies denied Christian burial. The year 1660 saw a Quaker woman suffer the same fate. The following year (1661) another Quaker man paid the penalty of martyrdom for his boldness in refusing to leave the colony. The persecution was finally checked only by that arch-tyrant, King Charles II.

Throughout the seventeenth century there was little in New England that deserves the name of civil liberty. "Under the influence of the clergy justice was administered in somewhat inquisitorial fashion. There was an uncertainty as to just what the law was, a strong disposition to confuse questions of law with questions of ethics, and great laxity in the admission and estimation of evidence." [Ibid., p. 250.] Hardly one-fifth of the adult population belonged to the Congregational Church, but this oligarchy of "saints" ruled the rest with a rod of iron.

The revolution of 1688 made a change in the charter of Massachusetts: no longer was Church membership made a requisite for voting. But the old spirit of intolerance was still present. The clergy continued to hold the reins of government. The year 1692 witnessed a woeful spectacle of priestly tyranny. Cotton Mather sat on horseback at the foot of a scaffold denouncing a brother minister, George Burroughs, who died before his eyes for no other crime than a denial of belief in witchcraft.

With such a record as this did the Puritan ideal enter into the eighteenth century.

II. The Cavalier Ideal.
This is the charter ideal. Its first typical scene is Runnymede, when the barons compelled King John to sign Magna Charta. This is the ideal of chivalry. The subject renders obedience to his king only in accordance with the feudal oath. The charter marks out the privileges of the subject. If the king invades these chartered rights, then the sting that wounded honor feels stirs up the knight's pride to resistance. The king has "divine right" to give the charter, but the charter makes the subject himself a king within the limit of his accorded privileges.

The Virginia cavalier held his laws and his rights as an English freeman by the charter of King James I. That charter united Church and state. Hence was the cavalier a royalist and a Churchman.

But the year 1636 found the Virginia House of Burgesses engaged in a quarrel with King Charles I. In the previous year (1635) they had "thrust out" Sir John Harvey, the king's Governor, because he had violated the chartered rights of the colonists.

The second typical scene of the cavalier ideal is the rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon. Of high birth, university training, a member of the Governor's council, Bacon drew sword for his charter rights against the tyranny of Gov. Berkeley. In the light of midnight torches at Williamsburg Bacon's followers lifted hands to swear opposition even to the king's troops if they should come to transgress the privileges accorded in the royal charter.

Civil and religious liberty were preserved to a greater extent by the Cavalier than by the Puritan ideal. Every freeman had a right to vote. There was no death penalty against dissenters. But the problem of Democratic, free government was not solved even by the Cavalier. Representation in the House of Burgesses was after the order of representation in the English House of Commons before the passage of the Reform bill. Then, too, every colonist was taxed for the support of the Church of England. The charter gave certain privileges, but it likewise imposed certain restrictions upon the freedom of the individual.

III. The Scotch-Irish Ideal.
This ideal upholds the "divine right" of the enlightened conscience. In government it supports that system where laws are made and administered by representatives who are coequals with those represented. This ideal represents a century of growth, a century of special revelation.

The year 1636 saw its beginning. The "Eagle Wing" set sail from Ulster, Ireland, with one hundred and forty passengers, in September, 1636, bound for New England. The storm winds carried the ship back, and the passengers were left in Ireland as the seed plants of the Scotch-Irish ideal. Two leaders of this band, Blair and Livingston, had already been ordained by a Presbytery of associated ministers in Ulster, a Presbytery in which a bishop of the Established Church had stood as a mere presbyter among coequal ministers.

In 1638 the "Eagle Wing" leaders went over to Scotland to assume a prominent part in stirring up the League and Covenant. A little later they sat in the Glasgow Assembly which denied the "divine right" of bishops, and made Presbyterianism the established creed.

It must be admitted that in 1640-50 the ideal of the Ulsterman was as intolerant as that of the Puritan of New England. But the man of Ulster was called to learn higher things through suffering. Like Elijah at Horeb, he must hear the wind and the earthquake, and see the fire, and then learn that God speaks in the "still, small voice." During the "killing time," from 1661 to 1688, on the lonely moor and in the mountain glen, at Bothwell Bridge, and in Killicrankie Pass, must he listen for his only comfort to the " still, small voice " of God in the upright conscience.

The last half of the seventeenth century saw the Cavalier upholding the royal charter, saw the Puritan strengthening the reign of bigotry, saw the Ulsterman enduring torture and death. The Ulsterman could claim naught of advantage over the others, except that God had chosen him to learn toleration by suffering from intolerance.

The eighteenth century opens her doors to admit the three ideals.

As the Puritan enters, we behold in the background the death scene of Burroughs. Cotton Mather, at the foot of his brother minister's scaffold, typifies the theocratic ideal of New England.

As the Cavalier ideal enters, we see as its typical scene Nathaniel Bacon crossing swords with Gov. Berkeley—the privileged right contending with the king's man.

The Ulster ideal presents a scene of legal strife. The year 1707 finds Francis Makemie arraigned before the bar of Lord Cornbury, in New York, for preaching the gospel without license. Makemie's training at the University of Glasgow, his principles imbibed from the men of Ulster, have equipped him well for the battle of religious freedom. He pleads, with success, the Toleration act. He has learned the lessons of a hundred years, and successfully upholds the divine right of the individual conscience in religious matters.

Makemie is the forerunner of the Ulster clans. The spirits of freedom are loosed from the narrow limits of the province of Ulster to make their home on the Alleghany slopes.

Why do they not go to New England? The Puritan ideal holds them away. A detachment does migrate thither to guard the frontier, and bold up another ideal in the very face of Massachusetts.

Why not to the Chesapeake Bay? The intolerance of the Cavalier drives them away. Between the two enter the Ulstermen, a political and religious wedge. Up the Delaware and into Charleston Harbor zigzag their ships. Along the crested ridges of the Alleghanies do they fortify themselves. There rise up the church, the schoolhouse, the military fort—all in the same inclosure.

On that castled fortress they face westward in 1755 to withstand the onset of the French and Indian war. They are the leaders in this "war of Anglo-American advance."

In 1763 they face eastward to resist the power of British aggression.

The Ulster ideal leads now in the sentiment for independence. It represents military bravery and skill, the result of the training gained in the seven years' war. It represents the cause of education, pointing in proof thereof to the "log colleges'' scattered along the Alleghanies from north to south.

The Ulster ideal is a religious ideal, championed by the able ministers of the gospel, trained in the log colleges, who are now foremost as soldiers, statesmen, and patriots.

From Fincastle and Mecklenburg come the first declarations of independence.

Throughout the war of the Revolution, the men of Ulster lead the way—chiefly because they are the only people who have, from the first, made up their minds to fight until freedom is gained. They supply the moral force that carries the revolution to a successful issue. At the turning point in many critical battles their mountain rifles gain the victory.

When a Constitution is sought to crown the work of revolution, from which ideal is it drawn? Not from the Puritan. The theocracy is not in sympathy with the new instrument of government. The vote of Massachusetts in the convention of 1787 is divided, and hence becomes a nullity in the framing of the government.

The Cavalier subordinates his ideal to that of the Ulsterman. The Constitution of 1787 is a declaration that the enlightened conscience has the "divine right" to issue a new charter, more authoritative than that of king or Parliament. In form, the Constitution is drawn from the ideal of the Cavalier; but in spirit it is the embodiment of the ideal wrought out by the Scotch-Irish race: a free conscience in a free home.


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