The First Libertarians

This week in my Western Civilization course on the Ron Paul Curriculum, I learned about the Levellers, the first organized Libertarian society.  Now, I will answer this question from my instructor: Dr. Tom Woods.

Who were the Levellers, and what did they believe in?”

(Just a quick note, all words or sentences in “” are from a quote I will be sharing with you later.)

The Levellers, a political movement during the 17th Century, were one of the first libertarian societies to exist.  I am sure others in the past had considered these ideas but not with the same intent of creating a party.  Please do not confuse this group with another group called the Diggers.  The Diggers and Levellers couldn’t be more different.  While the Levellers believed in private property, the Diggers believed in common property.  They were the exact opposite from each other.

Levellers were libertarian but who are they and what do they believe in?  Their leaders and founders were these three men:

  • Richard Overton
  • John Lilburne
  • William Walwyn

These men, together, were able to create a whole system of how things should be run from a libertarian perspective.  This included certain rights like, private property, self-ownership and religious freedom.

Now, if what I said didn’t make any sense, just read this quote by Murray Rothbard,  he was an economist, libertarian and professor at Mises Institute.  This is what he said about the 17th Century libertarians:

the world’s first self-consciously libertarian movement. … In a series of notable debates within the Republican Army — notably between the Cromwellians and the Levellers — the Levellers led by John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn, worked out a remarkably consistent libertarian doctrine, upholding the rights of self-ownership, private property, religious freedom for the individual, and minimal government interference in society. The rights of each individual to his person and property, furthermore, were natural, that is, they were derived from the nature of man. … And therefore were not dependent on, nor could they be abrogated by government. And while the economy was scarcely a primary focus of the Levellers, their adherence to a free market economy was a simple derivation from their stress on liberty and the rights of private property.”

This quote just summed up everything that I was talking about!  Rothbard explains who the Libertarians were and who they were led by.  He also explained what their beliefs were.   I don’t think there is much more for me to explain.  Here is where I got the quote, if you are interested in learning more about the Levellers.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

 

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Anonymous Journal Found in France! Sheds New Light On French Wars of Religion

An amazing new insight into French history!  Just a few weeks ago, in an Estate sale in France, a man opened up an old wooden trunk in the attic, and inside was a very old journal from an anonymous writer.  The entries were dated back to 16th Century France and were based around the French Wars of Religion, and the relationship between Catholics and Huguenots.   (Full Disclosure: There was no real journal…I wrote this as historical fiction and thought this format would be a fun way to answer my Western Civilization instructor’s assignment–“Who were the contenting parties in the French wars of religion? What was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre? What was the Edict of Nantes?”  Enjoy!)

Continue reading “Anonymous Journal Found in France! Sheds New Light On French Wars of Religion”

The Dutch Revolt

During the 16th Century, when Philip II was King of Spain, he was also governor of the Netherlands.  Unfortunately, he was not very tolerant of any religion other than  Catholicism.  So this made it hard for him to deal peacefully with the Protestants.  While Philip was never actually in the Netherlands, his sister Margaret, Duchess of Parma was living in the Netherlands as regent.   And what she saw was that the Protestants were very tolerant towards all and that nobody was forced to do anything against their will.  However, because Philip didn’t believe in religious toleration, he tried to stem the protestant growth in the Netherlands by instating the Inquisition.  There were many different times in Europe when the Inquisition was used, but this was a time when the Protestants were not allowed any religious freedom and were persecuted.  It was religious prejudice.

A bit fearfully, Margaret wrote to Philip pleading with him to stop the Inquisition because in the Netherlands was very happy.  So Philip did the right thing and gave the Protestants some space.  But what worried him next was that the Protestants were now having large gatherings, and they were all showing up armed.  This made Philip start to think that maybe he had been too nice to them.  Had he?  Philip began receiving reports about more large gatherings and how Catholic churches and houses were being vandalized by Protestants now as well.  Now that was it for Philip, he immediately organized a 10,000 strong army, led by the Duke of Alba to get the Protestants under control.  He didn’t reinstate the Inquisition, but it was still just as bad.  The Duke of Alba also issued a 10% tax increase, which added to the mix of the Protestants’ anger and frustration.  No matter what the King did, he could no longer contain the revolting Protestants.

The revolt finally ended in 1648, long after all the people who had started it in 1568 were dead, and when the Treaty of Münster was signed and gave the Protestants religious freedom.  The Netherlands as a whole was also given its own freedom.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

 

You can read more about the Dutch Revolt and the Treaty of Münster here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Revolt#Peace

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_of_Münster

Elizabeth I Chooses…?

Many people today struggle with finding or staying with a religion.  This isn’t a new problem.  Many people, especially important people,  sometimes struggled with this.  Elizabeth I, Queen of England was one of these.

In the 16th Century, while Elizabeth I, was able to create a system of order and a thriving economy with low taxes in her England.  Being queen for 45 years probably helped too!  I’m sure many people were happy to have Elizabeth as their queen.  However,  she struggled to pick a religion for her country to use.  Did she want Protestantism?  Or would she try something relatively new?  Did she want Catholicism?  If she did,  she would have to share power with the Catholic church which was not what she wanted to do.  She most definitely wanted to be absolutist or the only one in charge of church and state.  But, Catholicism was the religion that was accepted by previous monarchs.  And although, she did like some views of the Catholic church, she was reluctant to share any power.  She abandoned trying to choose between Protestantism or Catholicism and chose, instead, the religion of Anglicanism.  She even forced Ireland to abandon Catholicism and have Anglicanism as their religion.  They had no choice.

Unfortunately, this confirms  one of humankind’s major weaknesses: That powerful people will often do anything to keep their  power and have it all.  In Queen  Elizabeth’s case, there’s a good chance that she didn’t believe in or truly want Anglicanism for England — except as a wise political move.  Maybe she just did it to avoid the Catholics and to keep the Protestants ‘Okay’  with her decision.   Looking back, history must ask if she ever picked a national religion for the benefit of her people?  Or just to stay in power?  Maybe she felt it was both.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

 

Four Simple Steps to Take Over a Country

What I am about to tell you is the best way to take over a country!   But, in order for you to understand why this strategy works so well, I have to tell you a story:

Charles V lived in the 16th Century and was originally from the Lowlands or Netherlands.  When he inherited the crown and became King of Spain, he was only king for a couple of years  before he was elected to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.  In order to be coronated, he had to leave Spain and go to Germany.  During his absence he left one of the officials in charge — an official he had brought from the Netherlands.  Charles was likely scared that if he left a Spaniard in charge then they would take over and he would lose the crown.  His fears were not made-up because the Spanish people and government did not care much for their foreign king, especially that did not speak Spanish.  In his defense, he was learning! Just not very fast.  But now, they REALLY hated him for leaving a bunch of lowlanders who thought that they were better than the Spanish people in charge of their country.  Like me, you can now understand why my instructor, Tom Woods, points out that “the various provincial assemblies (known as the Cortes) hesitated to accept Charles as their king.”

When Charles got back, having been successfully coronated as H.R.E, Spain was in a mess.  The Spanish people had revolted against the foreign officials and the officials had lost control.  The Spanish aristocrats had sided with the officials though, not to help put down the threat of a revolt, but so that they, the aristocrats, could avoid a ‘class war’ and keep their power and wealth.   Meanwhile, all that the Spanish people wanted was self-government within their own provinces.  Maybe they went about it in the wrong way?  But Spain had been completely spent.  While Charles was not.  So it was really easy for him to take back control and reorganize Spain.

The best way to take control of a country is to make the citizens angry, leave for a while, (hint: take a vacation!), put some friends from another country in charge, come back when both sides are just exhausted from fighting and arguing, and “Voila!”– take back control!  Perfect.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

A Thesis on the 95 Theses

 

I was recently asked by Dr. Tom Woods, instructor of my on-line Western Civilization course, to consider: “What were the 95 Theses about? What was the basic message of Luther’s complaint?

Here are my thoughts.

Martin Luther, who is sometimes referred to as the ‘father’ of the Protestant Reformation, wanted to reform the Catholic church.  In a sense, he wanted to reboot the whole system.  If possible, his goal was to replace all the Catholic beliefs with new ones.  And, naturally, preferably with his.  As one can imagine, this did not go over well with the Catholic leadership or even normal, everyday parishioners so he ended up forming his own sect of religion instead.  What he is most known for was the bold way he and ‘hand-delivered’ his complaints, nailing 95 statements against the selling of indulgences.

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Martin Luther ‘hand-delivering’ his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg

An indulgence was a slip of paper that, when purchased, declared you forgiven of your sins.  Along with a few required actions, like saying a prayer, all you really had to do was purchase one every time you needed to do some repenting.  For instance, Theses No. 27 chides, “They [Catholic bishops and other authorities] preach man that as soon as the penny jingles in the money box, the souls fly out of purgatory.”  I am curious to know if the Catholic  bishops back then actually believed that divine forgiveness required money more than a change of heart, but either way it is easy to understand how this could get out of hand.  For the poor, what was it like if they had to choose between buying food or indulgences?

Another one of Luther’s arguments that kills the practice at its core, and one that I particularly liked, is  No. 36: “Every truly penitent Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt without letters of pardon.”  He is saying that not just some  Christians have the chance to be saved, but all of them!

While I’m sure the Catholic church has changed and moved on since the 16th Century, I believe God inspired Martin Luther, and other truth seekers like him, to courageously stand up against what they felt was wrong for the benefit of believers.

 

How broken legs created a theologian

During a recent lesson in my Western Civilization course, I had the opportunity to read a small part of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.  First though let me briefly tell you a little bit about this religious man then I will mention what I found about his religious and doctrinal opinions.

Ignatius lived in 16th Century Spain.  When he was a young man, he joined the Spanish military.  While serving in the military, he was shot in the legs by a cannonball and he survived!  Unfortunately for him, he was discharged from the military.  That incident left him with a limp for the rest of his life.  When he was in the hospital he read some religious texts that sparked an interest in religion.  In 1540  he and a few other theologians, including St. Francis Xavier, were granted permission, by Pope Paul III, to organize the Society of Jesus or Jesuits.

You cannot read Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and not get the sense that he really was a committed Catholic.  However I found it interesting in the reading that he does not want time to be wasted explaining faith vs. good works in depth.  Instead, he felt that people should decide on their own whether they faith or did good works.  He argued that there would be no need for faith if everybody practiced good works and no need for good works if everybody had faith.

In many ways Loyola accomplished much, but his greatest contribution was to the betterment of the current state of the world that he lived in.  And even though he is not alive today, his contributions, such as his Spiritual Exercises can still be read and have the same impression it had on someone then as it does today.  That is the great thing about religious books and texts, they will always be applicable no matter where and when you live!

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

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Xavier’s Mission

Do you know who St. Francis Xavier was?  No, you say? Well, then let me tell you about him!  This man was a Spaniard who was one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  He was a missionary, and was sent all over Europe and Asia to teach and spread Catholicism.  At one point, while in India he wrote a letter to the Society. He titled his ‘Letter from India’  and shared his recent experiences.  I want to share some highlights that I found with you.

Francis mentions all the children he is teaching and how he tasks them with sharing what they are learning with their friends and family.  In one excerpt of the letter, he told the children that all idol, not made for the intention of worshipping the one, true God, it was to be torn down.  And the kids took them down!  Sometimes very violently!  This did not go over very well with the Brahman worshippers in Hinduism (which is a polytheistic religion).  The Brahmans would sometimes test Francis on his knowledge of the Catholic religion.  They tried to trip him over his words so they could argue.   He was able to report one of his amazing accomplishments – his successful teaching and conversion of a Brahman worshipper to Catholicism.  This Brahman man did not care about whether or not his religion was correct.  This man was “a man of learning” as quoted by Xavier.  This man answered questions that Francis had, and had his questions about Francis’s religion answered as well.  Francis made the man promise that he would publish all that he had just told him so that other people could read for themselves all the answers to their questions pertaining to Francis’s religion.  The man later asked Francis to secretly make him a Christian and Xavier also gave him the task of teaching all people.

“I charged him to teach the ignorant and unlearned that there is only one God, Creator of  Heaven and Earth.”

This may not be the 16th Century or a time when religion defined just about everything you did,  but it still is just as important then as it is now.  Many people, young and old, teaching their religion to all no matter where or who they are.

Why the 16th Century Catholic Church was ready for reform

How would you describe the condition of the Catholic Church on the eve of the Protestant Reformation?
In the 16th century, the Catholic church was very lazy in following their rules and exercising authority.  One big event in a series of many changed all of this.  It was started by Martin Luther and it came to be known as the Protestant Reformation.  People were searching for something new because they did not like the corruption and inefficiencies of the church.  Due to hundreds of years of being a main religion it had fallen into disarray.   For example, Catholic bishops would take on the duty of looking after multiple villages and hamlets to spiritually help them.  For money.  Sometimes the bishops didn’t even visit their area because all they wanted was money and to be lazy.  Maybe they didn’t know how to spiritually help a village!
One way to get roasted (figuratively) in those days was to bring a bishop and university professor together and see who who was more knowledgeable in theological matters.  Usually the professor won.  I am surprised at this!  The bishops were very untrained and not taught in theology, but the Church seemingly found a warm body and told them to help the people however they could.  All without training!  No wonder they struggled.  This made the bishops pretty useless.
Not all followers, like normal church-goers or bishops were like this, whether they cared or were untrained, but there were enough of those kind of people, that the Church was in need of desperate reform.  Many people, like Martin Luther took the incentive and made other paths for people to meet their spiritual needs.  The Catholic Church was paying the price of not functioning at its best, and the people voted with their feet to switch their religion.
Quinn Palmer
RPC Student
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