A frank discussion.
My hardback biography of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, is on sale for only $6.25! Great stocking stuffers for the whole family.
[Original source: Catholic Information, “Did Bellarmine Whisper to Thomas Jefferson?” in The Brookfield (Missouri) Argus (October 17, 1947), page 3. Reprinted in dozens of papers over the next several years.]
Nearly two centuries apart they lived—Robert Bellarmine, Catholic theologian, and Thomas Jefferson, an American patriot. Yet their pens inked out philosophies so similarly sound and God-like that we wonder, we Catholics, whether at least a whisper from the great theologian did not reach the ear of the great statesman as he pondered and wrote his historic document. Read the extracts below from the Declaration of Independence, 1776 and from Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, 1576:
“All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” (Declaration)
“All men are equal, not in wisdom or in grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind.” “Political right is from God and necessarily inherent in the nature of man.” (Bellarmine)
“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” (Declaration)
“It is impossible for men to live together without someone to care for the common good. Men must be governed by someone lest they be willing to perish.” (Bellarmine)
“Governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Declaration)
“It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is indeed from God but vested in a particular ruler by the council and election of men.” (Bellarmine)
“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute a new government. . . . Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons.” (Declaration)
“For legitimate reasons the people can change the government to an aristocracy or a democracy or vice versa.” “The people never transfers its power to a king so completely but that it reserves to itself the right of receiving back this power.” (Bellarmine)
“Government by consent of the governed” has been Catholic teaching down the ages. The 16th century doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings” was, and is, as repellent to the Catholic as it is to the American and when one is both Catholic and American, it is just twice as repellent. So here’s to Cardinal Bellarmine and Statesman Jefferson! May their philosophies ever govern our land and may they conquer those poor lands where ‘kings still can do no wrong’ and where no man dare say them “nay”!
A rather beautiful description of the 54th Massachusetts attacking Fort Wagner in South Carolina, July 18-19, 1863, a pivotal moment in black history but also, frankly, in world history. The first serious (recognized) battle black Americans participated in during the American Civil War.
“Every one knows the story of the attack on Fort Wagner; but we should not tire yet of recalling how our Fifty-Fourth, spent with three sleepless nights, a day’s fast, and a march under the July sun, stormed the fort as night fell, facing death in many shapes, following their brave leaders through a fiery rain of shot and shell, fighting valiantly for “God and Governor Andrew,”–how the regiment that went into action seven hundred strong came out having had nearly half its number captured, killed, or wounded, leaving their young commander to be buried, like a chief of earlier times, with his body-guard around him, faithful to the death. Surely, the insult turns to honor, and the wide grave needs no monument but the heroism that consecrates it in our sight; surely, the hearts that held him nearest see through their tears a noble victory in the seeming sad defeat; and surely, God’s benediction was bestowed, when this loyal soul answered, as Death called the roll, “Lord, here am I, with the brothers Thou has given me!”
The future must show how well that fight was fought; for though Fort Wagner still defies us, public prejudice is down; and through the cannon-smoke of that black night the manhood of the colored race shines before many eyes that would not see, rings in many ears that would not hear, wins many hearts that would not hitherto believe.
When the news came that we were needed, there was none so glad as I to leave teaching contrabands, the new work I had taken up, and go to nurse “our boys,” as my dusky flock so proudly called the wounded of the Fifty-Fourth. Feeling more satisfaction, as I assumed my big apron and turned up my cuffs, than if dressing for the President’s levee, I fell to work on board the hospital-ship in Hilton-Head harbor. The scene was most familiar, and yet strange; for only dark faces looked up at me from the pallets so thickly laid along the floor, and I missed the sharp accent of my Yankee boys in the slower, softer voices calling cheerily to one another, or answering my questions with a stout, “We’ll never give it up, Ma’am, till the last Reb’s dead,” or, “If our people’s free, we can afford to die.””
SOURCE: Louisa May Alcott, “The Brothers,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1863), 593.