The 1492 Project: The Founding
The American Founding is a complex event for Catholics, but the politics the founders preached were unwittingly tied to classical Catholic political thought.
The 1492 Project is a multi-part series to analyze America’s Catholic Founding.
The Founding Fathers created a great nation, but as with every nation, it was imperfect.
Previously, our unwritten constitution, America’s Catholic Founding, was discussed at length, showing the original tradition in America was Catholic. The discovery of America, spearheaded by Christopher Columbus, was a Catholic event, and the subsequent French and Spanish voyages were also Catholic. Though not united as one Catholic nation, the initial colonies baptized the American continent into Catholicism. The rising English settlements comprised different Protestant sects and would overtake Catholic America. By 1763, Protestant America emerged as the dominant force on the continent.
However, the Revolutionary War gave rise to one of the most critical moments in the 18th century. The American Revolution would permanently alter the continent, and Protestant America would soon become the United States of America. But the religious sentiment underpinning the Revolution and the founders' beliefs on religion is seldom discussed.
The Founding of America had both conservative and liberal elements. As much as our Founding was influenced by Christianity, republicanism, and British law, it was also influenced by Enlightenment ideas of Freemasonry and Deism. The influence of these ideas on our Founding poses a complex question for Catholics. Recognizing these Enlightenment ideals is difficult, but it is important to be transparent about the entire intellectual tradition of the American Founding. However, respecting where the Founders laid the foundation for something better is equally important.
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