30 June 2009

Still More New Sightings of Old Fakes

Still flogging away at those same old dead horses, sbh? Well, yeah. How dead can they be when they keep turning up again and again in new documents?

From Abbie Smith's country comes an insane "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality," sponsored and perhaps written by local legislator Sally Kern. (See Ed Brayton for the details.) It is brim-full of crazy, but I'm only going to examine two of her seventeen Whereases, the two Ed Brayton conveniently put in bold. The first of the two is the pseudo-Madison "ten commandments" quotation, and the second is the pseudo-Henry "religionists" quotation.

About the pseudo-Henry quotation I have written ad nauseam; the language alone shows it could not have been by Patrick Henry (or his uncle as one ludicrous suggestion has it); it was of course written in 1956 for The Virginian, a short-lived pro-segregation periodical. (See here for a summary view.) Only a fool or a liar would continue to quote this after it has been so thoroughly debunked. (The entire "proclamation" suggests that the author may well be both.)

About the other fake quotation, the pseudo-Madison, I've written relatively little, partly because I am aware that Chris Rodda is going to do her usual thorough demolition on the thing, and I'd really like to see what she's turned up before engaging in my own observations. Still, my research gives us a picture of the course of events in the development of this fake, and I'm going to make a few notes on it here.

First, the forger has taken for his inspiration something Madison actually did write in the Federalist Papers (XXXIX):

The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican? It is evident that no other form would be reconcileable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the revolution; or with that honourable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government. If the plan of the convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.

The portion in bold above became the basis for a new quotation that surfaced some time in the 1930s. (My notes show that I had found an example from 1933; today's Google book search only came up with examples from 1954.) Here is the new creation:

We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it, but upon the capacity of mankind for self-government.

The portion in bold the forger boldly lifted from the genuine bit given above. I have previously noted objections to the words future and civilization as used here; Madison preferred to use future as an adjective rather than as a noun, and typically used civilization in its sense of the process of becoming civilized, rather than as here the result of that process. However.

A second, seemingly independent version of the saying also circulated. In this case the circulator, and possibly the author, was Dean Clarence Manion, one-time right-wing radio commentator. In a 1950 speech he said:

"The Founding Fathers of the American Republic remembered this when they wrote our Declaration of Independence, and The First American state and Federal Constitution. As soon as these documents had been promulgated, one of the most erudite of the Founding Fathers, James Madison, said that 'we have staked the whole future of our American Political Institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government'. He meant the Constitutional freedom of the American citizen will last just so long and only so long as that citizen keeps the capacity to govern himself according to the moral and legal standards of personal conduct that run through the Christian era all the way back to the time of Moses. [Cleveland Bar Association Journal, 1950, page 21]

Of particular interest is the reference to "our American Political Institutions," the words perhaps suggested by Madison's original "all our political experiments". Were it not for the part about staking the whole future this might pass as a misremembered version of the genuine quotation. With this Dean Manion version, however, we can see the "ten commandments" fake quotation in embryo. Note that the sense of the "ten commandment" version is found in Manion's interpretation immediately following the fake quotation. Indeed, making it even tighter, Manion earlier defined self-government as "the government of each individual person by himself according to the set-standards of the Ten Commandments". With this the stage was set for what would be the definitive version of this fake Madison quotation.

That came when some unknown person took the two versions and melded them together into a single Frankenstein quote, adding material to the end very like Manion's commentary. To make the process clearer I have placed the words taken from the first version in blue, those from the second (Dean Manion) version in orange (the struck-out words were not used by the forger), and the part seemingly suggested by Dean Manion's commentary in red:

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the whole future of our American political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government: upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.

It is notable that in all this verbiage one fragment of genuine Madison survives: the phrase "the capacity of mankind for self government." All the rest is completely bogus.

As far as I've been able to determine this version first appeared in the 1958 calendar of Spiritual Motivation, a source I personally have never seen. At least this is where Frederick Nymeyer says he got it in a piece of column-filler on page 31 of the January 1958 issue of Progressive Calvinism: Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association (PDF). From here we find it showing up in works by the usual suspects: The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) by Rousas John Rushdoony p. 541; Listen America! (1980) by Jerry Falwell p. 51; America's God and Country (1994) by William J. Federer p. 411, and so on. Liars for Jesus, all of them.

These two tired fakes (the pseudo-Patrick "religionists" and the pseudo-Madison "ten commandments" quotations) have been repeatedly debunked, and even some in the lunatic fringe have begun distancing themselves from them. Isn't it time to retire them permanently? I know I'm ready to see them shipped out to the south forty of the old propaganda homestead, plowed under, and used for organic fertilizer.

No comments:

Copyright © 2005-2017