Chesterton on “The American Creed”

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelat...

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelatin print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read here much, you already know how much I like G. K. Chesterton. In 1922 he visited America and he was struck by the questions he was asked as he came through customs. In fact, he compared them to the Spanish Inquisition, and he made it into a compliment, because of all the countries of the world, only America is founded on a creed, and a written one at that.

In many ways it seems that we have lost that specialness, maybe I should say exceptionalism, lately, and if we do, I think we lose the essence of America. I say that because America, since the time of John Winthrop, has never been a strip of dirt, or a bunch of people; it has been an idea. Steven Hayward on the Powerline Blog spoke of this yesterday, and I think it to be very important, as well.

Here’s GKC’s comment:

It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

Via Chesterton on “The American Creed” | Power Line.


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8 Responses to Chesterton on “The American Creed”

  1. Note, this sort of dovetails back towards Chesterton’s own book: Orthodoxy, written in 1908 when he was still an Anglican. (14 years later he became a Roman Catholic) A witness and statement by a man after freedom, both in religion and the truth for man or humanity, as to degree in the American Declaration of Independence. Which of course came from British influence and minds as well.


    • NEO says:

      It does indeed. GKC was quite consistent in his beliefs.


      • Indeed GKC is sort of a lost breed today! I can tell you that today the general mass of Brit’s don’t even know who he is? Only the intellectual type Catholics, both R. Catholics and Anglo-Catholics.


        • NEO says:

          True, and a lot of us traditionalists scattered across the world, as well.


        • Yes, thanks be to God he is still remembered by some true “traditional” minded Christians as well! He was a conservative intellectual Catholic-Christian Apologist. Every traditional Christian should read at least his book: “Orthodoxy”! As perhaps his book: ‘The Everlasting Man’! (Written in 1925, when he was a R. Catholic)… But the book is surely not written between the differences of any Catholic or Protestant, but towards the Pagans!

          *I still have my copy, 1952 I got way-back when!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Note, one of the long projects my oldest son (24, almost 25) has been doing for his old-man, is putting many of my Books on-line! At least the name and date of the book/books. And he has a good sense what to include, and what to leave off. He takes a day now and then to do this.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    I read these writings…and get a tingle up my leg. Because of truth, not hope and change.
    Dang I can make relevant connection out of any doofus’s quote. 🙂


    • NEO says:

      GKC is like that, Unit. Like Fr. Robert, I recommend almost anything he ever wrote. 🙂


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