Grover Cleveland on Christianity and the American Republic

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Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
Recently, I have been interested in the religious thought of President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was one of many Jacksonian Democrats who came from an ardently Protestant background. As I have demonstrated elsewhere, this group of Protestant Jacksonians actually included the original Andrew Jackson. Like Jackson, Grover Cleveland in his speeches and writings commonly referenced the Christian foundation of American republicanism. As he put it so brilliantly: "The success of a government by the people depends upon the morality, the justice and the honesty of the people."

Here are some wonderful quotes from Cleveland explaining the relationship between Christianity and the republic:

"I was reared and taught in the strictest school of Presbyterianism. I remember well the precious precepts and examples of my early days, and I acknowledge that to them I owe every faculty of usefulness I possess, and every just apprehension of the duties and obligations of life... The attendance upon church service three times each Sunday, and upon Sabbath school during the noon intermission, may be irksome to a boy of ten or twelve years of age to be well fixed in his memory; but I have never known a man who regretted these things in the years of his maturity. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, though thoroughly studied and learned, was not, perhaps, at the time perfectly understood, and yet, in the stern labors and duties of life, those are not apt to be the worst citizens who were taught: "What is the chief end of man?"

"All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christianity results in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship. Those who manage the affairs of government are by this means reminded that the law of God demands that they should be courageously true to the interests of the people, and that the Ruler of the Universe will require of them a strict account of their stewardship. The people, too, are thus taught that their happiness and welfare will be best promoted by a conscientious regard for the interest of a common brotherhood, and that the success of a government by the people depends upon the morality, the justice and the honesty of the people."

"We have been too much in the habit of regarding [Christian] institutions as entirely disconnected from any considerations of municipal growth or prosperity, and have too often considered splendid structures, active trade, increasing commerce, and growing manufactures as the only things worthy of our care as public-spirited citizens. A moment's reflection reminds us that this is wrong. The citizen is a better business man if he is a Christian gentleman, and surely business is not the less prosperous and successful if conducted on Christian principles... When we consider the difference, as a member of the community, between the young man who, under the influence of such an association, has learned his duty to his fellows and to the State, and that one who, subject to no moral restraint, yields to temptation and thus becomes vicious and criminal, the importance of an institution among us which leads our youth and young men in the way of morality and good citizenship must be freely admitted."

"We need a better appreciation of true American citizenship. I do not mean by this, that thoughtless pride of country which is everywhere assumed sometimes without sincerity, nor the sordid attachment born of benefits received or favors expected, but that deep and sentimental love for our citizenship which flows from the consciousness that the blessing of Heaven was invoked at its birth; that it was nurtured in the faith of God; and that it grew strong in the self-denying patriotism of our fathers and in their love of mankind."

As a final great quotation, here is his exhortation that the strength of American republicanism is the strength of the Christian family. This statement was made in the context of the debate about whether the Utah territory, dominated by polygamous Mormons, should be given statehood. Cleveland opposed it on religious grounds, saying:

"The strength, the perpetuity, and the destiny of the nation rest upon our homes, established by the law of God, guarded by parental care, regulated by parental authority, and sanctified by parental love. These are not the homes of polygamy.

The mothers of our land, who rule the nation as they mold the characters and guide the actions of their sons, live according to God's holy ordinances, and each, secure and happy in the exclusive love of the father of her children, sheds the warm light of true womanhood, unperverted and unpolluted, upon all within her pure and wholesome family circle. These are not the cheerless, crushed, and unwomanly mothers of polygamy.

The fathers of our families are the best citizens of the republic. Wife and children are the sources of patriotism and conjugal and parental affection beget devotion to the country. The man who, undefiled with plural marriage, is surrounded in his single home with his wife and children, has a stake in the country which inspires him with respect for its laws and courage for its defense. These are not the fathers of polygamous families.

There is no feature of this practice, or the system which sanctions it, which is not opposed to all that is of value in our institutions."
 

Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
Martin van Buren!

Very unique and uncommon choice--I love it.

Though, I have some questions about Martin Van Buren. Mostly because of his Machiavellianism and his apparent creation of the modern party system. John C. Calhoun, who often agreed with MVB on basic republican principles, nonetheless viewed him as a pretty sinister figure, if I remember correctly.

Of course, Calhoun could have been wrong about this (and I think he probably was). I don't honestly know enough about MVB to either condone or condemn him. Certainly, Jackson trusted in MVB, and Jackson was the man. I also have read that MVB was a Christian with Anti-Federalist sympathies, which suggests to me that I would like him.
 
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