Tuesday, September 3, 2019

An Understanding of Columbus and the Divine Forming of America – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding how the Lord blessed the development of the Promised Land.
Nephi further saw that “the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them” (1 Nephi 13:16). This pleasing combination explains much of their prosperity, which soon reached such proportions that alarmed British authorities decided to end what had been a “soft” policy of “benign neglect.” Under the British policy of mercantilism, the colonies existed to be sources of raw materials and a controlled market for British manufactured goods. To establish firm control, the British imposed forms of economic sanctions. Besides increased taxes and import duties, the colonies were specifically forbidden to coin money or manufacture specific items such as iron and hats. Colonial reaction to such infringements on their freedoms and prosperity led to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.
    The American Revolution was a war the colonies won with divine assistance. In his vision, Nephi saw that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle. And I…beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. (1 Nephi 13:18–19.)
    It is an axiom of history that temporary, ill-equipped and poorly trained militia such as those available to the colonies cannot prevail over regular, well-equipped and well-trained forces backed by the resources of a wealthy nation, precisely the type of forces available to England. General George Washington often complained about the reliability of the militia, saying at one point: “It takes you two to three months to bring new men in any tolerable degree acquainted with their duty…Before this is accomplished, the time approaches for their dismissal, and you are beginning to make interest with them for their continuance on another limited period; in the doing of which you are obliged to relax in your discipline, in order as it were to curry favor with them, by which means the latter part of your time is employed in undoing what the first was accomplishing” (Lynn Montross, War Through the Ages, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1960, p419).
The British surrender to Washington at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War

The eventual victory of the Continental forces was indeed miraculous and was so recognized by many political and spiritual leaders of the time. And no man understood this better than George Washington, who spoke frequently of the influence of “Divine Providence.” During the colonial siege of Boston, for example, Washington was gravely concerned that the British might learn his soldiers had fewer than nine rounds of ammunition per man. Well aware that they could not stop a British advance, he wrote, “If I shall be able to rise superior to these…difficulties…I shall most religiously believe, that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies” (John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington. 31 vols. [Washington: GPO, 1932–1944], 11:243).
    The British missed a golden opportunity to end the revolution at Boston, at least for the time being. Other opportunities would be soon forthcoming, however. The British won at Long Island, Harlem Heights, Fort Washington, and Fort Lee while Washington was able to keep his demoralized troops intact only by retreating. The Continental Army won victories at Trenton and Princeton, but they were of little consequence other than to give the troops the will to endure Valley Forge. After the hard winter of Valley Forge, Washington wrote that: “Providence has a joint claim to my humble and grateful thanks, for its protection and direction of me, through the many difficult and intricate scenes, which this contest hath produced; and for the constant interposition in our behalf, when the clouds were heaviest and seemed ready to burst upon us.”
    For all his tribulations, Washington was much heartened after Valley Forge. He wrote: “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude, enough to acknowledge his obligations.” Washington firmly believed that without divine assistance, any one of several events could have brought the war to an unhappy conclusion. General Charles Lee’s irresponsible if not cowardly retreat at Monmouth, for example, so disorganized colonial forces that, in Washington’s words, it would have “proved fatal” to the cause except for “that bountiful Providence which has never failed us in the hour of distress.” With that help, Washington was able to rally a “regiment or two” from the chaos and drive the enemy from the field.
The fortuitous discovery of Benedict Arnold’s (left) attempt to betray the post and garrison at West Point into the hands of the British touched Washington deeply. “That overruling Providence which has so often, and so remarkedly interposed in our favor, never manifested itself more conspicuously than in the timely discovery of [Arnold’s] horrid design.” While Washington personally experienced divine intervention again and again, many other Americans also saw and appreciated its results. According to historian James Hutchinson Smylie: “The clergymen had compared America to Israel during the war…Again and again they referred to the new nation as God’s “American Israel,” or as God’s “New English Israel,” or as “God’s American Zion,” and they were positive that God was involved inseparably in America’s destiny as he had been involved in Israel’s (James Smylie, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (Princeton Theological Seminary, 1946), cited in pamphlet by Michael L. Chadwick, God’s Hand in the Founding of America as Acknowledged by the Early Clergymen of the United States, The Center for Constitutional Studies, Salt Lake City, 1980, p3).
    Equally if not more dangerous to the growing tradition of freedom in America were the “mother Gentiles” in Europe who “gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle” (1 Nephi 13:17) with the new inhabitants of the land of promise. Some, such as the French and the Spanish, incited the Indians to harass the settlers and discourage their westward expansion. Indeed, between 1688 and 1815, six general European wars spilled over into the New World.
George Washington in 1754 during the French Indian Wars
A number of colonial wars were fought between England and France in the New World and one—the French and Indian War (1754–1763)—spread to Europe where it became known as the Seven Years’ War. When the English colonies broke from the parent government and the French government helped the Americans, it was not out of sympathy for the American effort but for revenge against England. Even so, France had no desire to see America become a great nation and at times conspired to limit its expansion.
    During the Napoleonic Wars, which began in 1803, Napoleon sought to build a colonial empire in the New World. Its center would be in Haiti, but its breadbasket would be the vast Louisiana Territory, a sparsely inhabited wilderness west of the Mississippi River, as large as the United States itself. France, however, did not own the territory, having ceded it to Spain in 1762 to compensate her for her losses to England in the Seven Years War. Thus, Napoleon first had to extract it from Spain, a matter of grave concern to the Americans, for the territory included the mouth of the Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans. The Spanish had periodically closed the port to the Americans, disrupting American trade from as far away as the upper Ohio Valley. The idea of this port being in the hands of the French so alarmed President Thomas Jefferson that he seriously considered the possibility of a forced alliance with Great Britain. In a letter to Robert Livingston, the American minister in Paris, he wrote:
    There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans…The day that France takes possession of New Orleans, fixes the sentence which is to restrain her [the French Nation] forever within her low-water mark…From that moment, we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation (Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1974), p105).
(See the next post, “An Understanding of Columbus and the Divine Forming of America – Part II,” for more on how the Lord blessed the development of the Promised Land)

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