Mandeville, LA – Orestes Brownson was one of the most celebrated and controversial statesman of the last half of the 19th century. He was born on September 16, 1803 to Sylvester Augustus Brownson and Relief Metcalf. Around 1830 Brownson began a long publishing & ministerial career that included his conversion to Catholicism in 1844. Brownson remains controversial today, Historian Joseph Stromberg commented, critically on Brownson, at Anamnesis.
Brownson cared deeply about order. Locked in combat with a world of rebels without proper causes (Confederates, workers, socialists) he became, beyond all necessity, an apologist for centralizing sovereignty. Integral nationalism was his cornerstone and his nationalist conservatism ran on New England lines. But a faulty New England history of Americans’ revolutionary and founding era may not suffice, even when propped up with Hegel and De Maistre and sprinkled with holy water. With such foundations, Brownson’s system may have been no conservatism at all. There may be a case for a sacral state on Roman or Catholic grounds (the two are not the same), but Brownson has not made it; nor does it seem likely that the United States are, were, or ever will be any such thing. There are more concrete and prosaic explanations for the course of American history, through Revolution, federation, salvation through violence, on down to World Empire.
It is generally agreed that his finest work is American Republic which was originally published in 1844 and then edited by Brownson after his conversion and republished in 1866. The following chapter is taken from that edition and is the concluding triad of 3 chapters on the “Origin of Government”. I will continue to read and select the finer chapters from this very voluminous work and publish them for Founders Pass Members.
Here is a snippet for non- members….
The people, holding their authority from God, hold it not as an inherent right, but as a trust from Him, and are accountable to Him for it. It is not their own. If it were their own they might do with it as they pleased, and no one would have any right to call them to an account; but holding it as a trust from God, they are under his law, and bound to exercise it as that law prescribes. Civil rulers, holding their authority from God through the people, are accountable for it both to Him and to them. If they abuse it they are justiciable by the people and punishable by God himself.
Here is the guaranty against tyranny, oppression, or bad government, or what in modern times is called the responsibility of power. At the same time the state is guarantied against sedition, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, by the elevation of the civic virtues to the rank of religious, virtues, and making loyalty a matter of conscience. Religion is brought to the aid of the state, not indeed as a foreign auxiliary, but as integral in the political order itself. Religion sustains the state, not because it externally commands us to obey the higher powers, or to be submissive to the powers that be, not because it trains the people to habits of obedience, and teaches them to be resigned and patient under the grossest abuses of power, but because it and the state are in the same order, and inseparable, though distinct, parts of one and the same whole. The church and the state, as corporations or external governing bodies, are indeed separate in their spheres, and the church does not absorb the state, nor does the state the church; but both are from God, and both work to the same end, and when each is rightly understood there is no antithesis or antagonism between them. Men serve God in serving the state as directly as in serving the church. He who dies on the battle-field fighting for his country ranks with him who dies at the stake for his faith. Civic virtues are themselves religious virtues, or at least virtues without which there are no religious virtues, since no man who loves not his brother does or can love God.