A Christian Survey of World History
England 18th & 19th Century, I
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:00 Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank thee that thou hath called us to be thy servant in thy world. The age-old struggle between God’s people, the army of thine son, and the [inaudible 00:00:18] of governments. [inaudible 00:00:20] by thee, our Father, to be better soldiers in thy service, and grant us the joy of seeing thy victory [inaudible 00:00:32], thy standard advanced, thine cause, [inaudible 00:00:37] of the generations to come. Thus [inaudible 00:00:41] us, we study the things in this world in the perspective of thy word. Grant that we be drawn closer to thee, and become more faithful servants of thee by means of this message, in Jesus’ name, amen. Last week, we analyzed the centrality in the 17th century and in the 18th century, France, especially the greatness of France under Louis XIV and his successors. We saw, also, something of the significance of the enlightenment and its thinking, as it laid the groundwork for a new world perspective. Reviving the motifs that had been so powerful in the renaissance, carrying them forward and making them more vocal.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:45 We saw, for example, that the man of the enlightenment was an urban man, divorced from the soil seeing things without the fullness of context that a rural perspective would have given him. We saw, also, that the total hatred of Christianity was openly stated by these men. Moreover, they were militantly humanist. They were bent on tolerating any human practice, other than the worship of God in Christ. They felt that the new priests of civilization should be the humanists, the [inaudible 00:02:30]. They took over the churches and began their dismantling and destruction. Moreover, homosexuality was a mark of being a member of the “in” group with these people. They had made, we saw furthermore, as their great cultural hero, Cicero. As I pointed out, Cicero is again a hero in many quarters. They despised science and business as puritan and [inaudible 00:03:05] characteristics, and they felt that they had been given by destiny, the duty to rule over the common people who were too stupid to be able to rule themselves and needed an elite group like themselves.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:27 Now, this movement, of course, was common to all of Europe. In some respects, it originated, as I indicated, in Britain; England, in particular. It would be easy in dealing with the history of England from the early part of the 16th century into the 20th century to make England the villain of the peace. It would be just as easy and, in fact, easier, to make England the center of the stage, for the whole period.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:09 And I think this tells us why, in some respects, some of the most incredible aspects of western history in that era took place in England. After all, that was where the action was. And where the center of the stage is, you’ll see there are also the greatest concentration of evil. Hence, where the action is. That’s where the issues are going to be threshed out.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:42 And so, in England, you had some tremendous forces at work. The puritan regime was put down when in 1660, Charles II came to the throne, not too long after the death of Cromwell. With Charles II, the emphasis was on anything and everything goes, except the old faith and morality. One of his own friends remarked of him that he had never said a foolish thing, nor never done a wise one.
R.J. Rushdoony: 05:35 He prided himself on being a wit. He was, during the whole time of his rule, and this is a matter of record now, in the pay of Louis XIV. He was a secret Catholic. He worked against the interests of his own kingdom to further the cause of Louis XIV. And it was only that parliament again and again overruled him, that England was not made a virtual tool of Louis XIV.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:16 Charles II at least, had the common sense not to go too far. This was not true of his brother and successor, James II, who lacked common sense, who began the bloody persecution of the Protestants in Scotland, in particular, and then also, in England. And therefore, lost his kingdom in the glorious revolution of 1688.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:46 William and Mary were called to the throne. After William and Mary, there was a long era of weak monarchs. And this, of course, was made to order, for the aristocracy. They took over the kingdom and from 1688 on, they wanted neither the people, nor the church to be a problem to them. Some years ago, I made a lengthy study of the Church of England, from its very beginning through the ’30s. Some day I want to do some revision on the work and publish it.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:42 There was a period there when, for 70 years, no convocation of the Church of England was called. They did not want a church coming together to decide anything. They had only political bishops. Men who rarely even saw their seize. The aristocracy wanted to rule, and rule they did, under Queen Anne, and then she, dying childless, it went to the House of Hanover of Germany. And the Hanoverian monarchs took the throne of England, but they spent as much of their time in Germany, at Hanover, as possible.
R.J. Rushdoony: 08:29 George I didn’t even bother to speak English, to learn it. George II knew it, but not any too well. Their contempt for England was very open. They were not interested in it. They allowed the aristocracy to rule, and it was not until the grandson until George II, George III came to the throne, that you had for a long, long period of almost 75 years or so, a truly popular monarch.
R.J. Rushdoony: 09:13 George III was a very simple family man. He tried very earnestly to cultivate the middle class virtues. In that respect, he did recognize the old puritan backbone of the country. The common people loved him. The aristocracy despised him. They thought he was a staid, prosaic fool, and his wife a frump. The tragedy, of course, of King George III was that the family did have a great deal if in-breeding, and as a result of this in-breeding, a particular ailment, [inaudible 00:10:00], worked quite a havoc on him.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:06 Very few people realize that he was not only a monarch for 60 years, that’s a long reign, but off and on and increasingly towards the last, totally insane. Later on, I’ll show you a picture of him. Quite tragic. You would think to see the picture that it was one of the old King Lear in his grief.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:34 But, Napoleon rose to power, and the Napoleonic Wars took place and Napoleon disappeared, and the King of England never knew what was going on. He was out of his mind. The aristocracy ruled. And the general position of the aristocracy was an elitism, of course. But moreover, deism, a white term, really, for unbelief. The deists, technically, had a god. Somebody had to start the whole thing. And then, he was absentee god who had nothing more to do with the universe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:18 And therefore, there was nothing that mattered. No law, no morality. Man was making his own way in the world. The deists were very cynical about the Bible and Christianity. And as a result, their contempt began to filter down. They wrote their books, the expressed their opinions, but they vowed that this is for the elite. For example, Anthony Collins, who wrote Priestcraft in Perfection, and another book, Discourses on Free Thinking, was once asked why, in view of his contempt for Christianity, he would insist on sending his servants to church.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:59 And his answer was, “That they may neither rob nor murder me.” Voltaire gave a similar answer. But, when you have the thinking people holding such opinions, and when they have captured the church and virtually gutted it, what are the people going to get when they go to church? The consequence was that within a generation, the people were like the leaders; Without faith, without morality. The figures on the consumption of liquor in the early part of the 18th century and the early 1700s in England are staggering. They are really, almost beyond belief.
R.J. Rushdoony: 12:59 In some streets of London, every fourth of fifth house was a bar. I’ll show you later on, a picture Hogarth painted from life, and over one basement barroom, the sign reads, “Drunk for one penny, dead drunk for two pennies, free straw. Free straw to sleep it off on.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:28 We do have evidence from various writers of the day that other places, which were of a little better quality, would advertise “clean straw.” We know for example, from Robert [Woelful’s 00:13:45] own account, and he thought nothing of it. This was routine, that when he was a small boy, he was regularly made drunk by his father. And he, himself, reports that his father would say, “Come Robert, you shall drink twice while I drink once. For I will not permit the son and his sober senses to be a witness of the intoxication of his father.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:17 Now, the consequence of all of this was a decline of the will to live. A decline of the will to live. The mortality of people was frightening. People died like flies. You can say it was poor medicine, but it was poor medicine 50 and 100 years later. Not any different, no improvement, and people did not die the same way. And at the same time in America, the mortality rate was nowhere near the same.
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:55 The mortality rate, also, was very high for children. Somehow, this loss of the will to live communicated itself almost, you might think, with the mother’s milk to the children. And there wasn’t a sane care. I’m going to read some of the London Bill of Mortality figures for the era, because they’re so startling. In 1730 to 1749, these are 20-year periods, 74.5 percent of all children died. That’s three out of four.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:38 Then, at the end of that period, the evangelical revival began, Witfield and Wesley, and the various evangelicals within the Church of England. In 1750 to 69, the next 20 years when this movement was beginning, the mortality was 63 percent. It dropped 11 and a half points. In the next 20 years, 1170 to ’89, 51.5 percent. Then, 1790 to 1809, 41.3, and 1810 to ’29, 31.8 percent mortality.
R.J. Rushdoony: 16:26 Of course, from our modern point of view, that’s a high rate. But the significant fact is, without any real medical progress in those years, the evangelical re-awakening and its growing impact on the population made for this much difference in the mortality. It was a time of considerable brutality in sports. And morality, in fact, is called a sport of the period.
R.J. Rushdoony: 17:02 I’d like to read something from the work of Dr. Brady. Just a page or two; I could select much more frightful passages, but just to give you something of the picture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 17:17 I quote, “Even in morality under the cloak of the nature worship and natural expression, propounded by deism, was during most decades of the century, largely winked at as sport. George II, Woelful, and the Prince of Wales were but representatives of a large section of high society who lived in flagrant, shameless. William Montagu in October, 1723, writing to the Countess of Mar, declared that in society, the Appalachian of rake is as genteel in a woman as in a man of quality. The Drury Lane District of West London was an extensive [inaudible 00:17:56] in such terms as Drury Lane vestals, Covent Garden, Virgin and Newgate Saint, were ironical designations of different classes of prostitutes. The court masquerades, moreover, which continued till the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, when the moral and religious feelings of the country procured their suppression, were scandalously central. While the popular subscription receptions and masquerades were copiously tarred with the same brush. Champaign, dice, music, or your neighbor’s spouse, were among the contending attractions …” That’s a literal quote, that expression.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:36 “… of the midnight orgy and the [inaudible 00:18:38] dance. Horace Woelful writing to man, May 3rd, 1749, concerning a subscription masquerade at which George II was present, said that Miss Chudley, a popular maid of honor, masquerading as if [inaudible 00:18:52] was so naked that she would have taken her for Andromeda, who rose naked out of the sea. And they sought one thing together, the masquerades of the time describes them as scenes of dissipation.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:04 “The [inaudible 00:19:04] discovery, 1770, the House of Commons adjourned to attend the subscription masquerade held in Soho. Among the illiterate and outcast multitude to such a pitch of barbarity did sensuality rise. But frequently, it was seen on parade. Every new parliament, for example, the [inaudible 00:19:24] of Garrett, the settlement of straggling cottages near Wandsworth, held a mock election. And the qualification of a voter was that he had enjoyed a woman in the open air in that district. The occasion with all its obscene humor and tawdry horseplay drew swarming crowds of debutees from London. And so much custom resulted that the local publicans, they found it in their interest to contribute largely to the expense of the ceremony. So utterly depraved, too, were some rural areas that laborers actually sold their wives by auction in the cattle market. And baptism registers show how rampant was immorality in the villages.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 20:10 Moreover, because the lords were ruling with a radical hatred of the middle class, the productive, the merchant class, they were, of course, not contributing anything to the development of society and to the progress of that particular element that could create work; The producing element, the middle class merchants. The result was that their answer to the situation where so many of the lower classes were desperately poor, had to rob to eat, was to pass more, more severe laws. This is in a fact that is familiar to most people, how people were hung for next to nothing in those days.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:01 There were 160 offenses for which you could be hung. They were things like, to pick a pocket for more than a shilling. To grab food and run. To grab goods and run. Shoplifting, five shillings value. To steal fruit. To snare a rabbit as a poacher on a man’s estate, and so on. Charles Wesley, on one occasion, preached in a jail to 52 persons waiting hanging. One of them was a child of 10.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:38 The ruling class at this time was made up of men of the worst caliber. Lords and aristocrats who organized an organization of secret society and club called the Hellfire Club. It was an organization given to the systematic destruction of every kind of moral standard, practiced deliberately, including incest. The Hellfire Club was bitterly hostile to the colonies, to America, and to William Pitt, the great English statesmen who was the champion of America.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:20 One of the members of the Hellfire Club, John Wilkes, supported American and many American communities, and a county or two was named after him. But, we have the right to question his integrity in this support, because he was urging them not to fight. And he was telling the American colonies, “I’m with you. Just leave it to me, and I can handle the King and the King’s friends.” And I’ll spell King’s friends with capital letters. Who were the King’s friends? They were the ruling cliché, the Hellfire Club. Thus, this Hellfire Club and their associates were very much like the philosophs of France. But, all the while that this was going on, there was another force building up from the ground up. The evangelical movement. Both in and out of the Church of England. Under Whitfield, under Wesley, under Barrage, and Fletcher in the Church of England, and many, many others. It’s impact was tremendous. It began to revive a great deal of the old puritan spirit. There are many who criticize it savagely, many historians. They point out how, what killjoys they were, and how much against many things that the people loved, who they were, and what strict Sabbatarians they were.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:05 Well, they were all those things, perhaps. And yet, one of the things that led to trouble very early was their insistence on closing everything down on the Sabbath. And you can go to some of these historians and find perfectly horrible accounts of how repressive these evangelicals were. But, they do not give you the other side of it. It was the practice of people in those days to pay off workers and servants on Sunday when the only things that were open were the bars.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:52 Moreover, they would make an appointment in a bar to pay them off. You can imagine the consequences of that, especially if the lord or gentleman paying them off set up a drink to start things off for everybody. They were gonna spend all the money there, which is what most of them did. And this is why the evangelicals both struck hard at Sabbath laws and anti-liquor legislation. This led, ultimately, to the prohibition movement throughout the world, which was a misguided movement. But very few people now realize that the prohibition movement was also a movement very closely connected with Marxism and with the various socialist movements.
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:54 Right through the ’20s, the Soviet Union was very strongly prohibitionist. Why? Because for a couple of centuries, liquor and bars have meant the deliberate exploitation of the workers, very often by people who owned the bars and made sure the worker spent his money there, and remained forever in debt to them, borrowing money from them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:23 So, you can understand something of the picture that faced the evangelicals. So they hit at these two points. They may have been misguided in their extremes sometimes, but basically, they were dealing with a very real problem. The evangelical movement, thus, began to work from the ground up. And it began to make a tremendous impact on the country as it progressively reached more and more of the people.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:58 Meanwhile, a book had been written in 1776 that also had an impact. Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations. A classic statement of free enterprise economics. As a result, by 1838 to ’41, a free trade movement was under way in England in strength. Sir Robert Peel, when he became prime minister in 1841 through 1846, favored it. And he reduced the tariffs drastically in 1842, with an immediate increase of prosperity. Peel was very savagely attacked for this, again and again in Parliament by the lords.
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:56 He was also attacked by one of the most brilliant men who ever was in Parliament in England, Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli was very much a champion of the lords and of the aristocrats. Disraeli was a man who was to the core, a champion of the empire of tradition, of the high church establishment, not necessarily because of any faith, and of the crown. And he was militantly against Sir Robert Peel.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:36 Peel, however, was able to prove that every time the tariffs were decreased, there was an increase of business and employment. He went to Parliament with the cold, hard facts, and he said, “True enough, when we lower the tariff, it’s going to hurt someone in a particular industry. In a particular line of work for our agriculture. But, it is going to help the consumers, who are everybody. And it will ultimately help the nation as a whole. It will eliminate the business that need to be illuminated, and it will give new opportunity as foreigners selling their goods to us have pounds, sterling, to buy our goods.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:32 He made his case. He was in spite of the fact that Disraeli could make him look like a monkey, because Disraeli was one of the most brilliant debaters Parliament has ever known. A man of tremendous wit and intelligence, who could have your own friends laughing at you. In spite of that, Sir Robert Peel went there repeatedly, with the hard, cold facts. Employment increased, and business increased. Every time the tariffs were lowered. And to the degree they were lowered, to that degree, there was an improvement.
R.J. Rushdoony: 30:20 The lords, however, fought back bitterly, the aristocracy. And one of the things they did was to launch a series of investigations of conditions in industry. Now, you hear a great deal of horrible accounts of how terrible things were in the minds and in the factories in England with the industrial revolution. These reports are in a sense true, but in a much more important sense, they are a fraud. A total fraud. The lords produced them, and the man who was the greatest in his use of them was Carl Marx. And it’s interesting that the lords and Marx and the socialists, together, united against the manufacturers. The merchants.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:24 Now, let me illustrate why these accounts were a fraud. First of all, let us assume that we are an investigating committee, investigating aerospace in Los Angeles. Now, we are out to do them in. We hate them with a passion. So, what do we do? We go into a plant and we look for every instance of dirt. Here is a supervisor in a department who is seducing as many of the girls as he can and in fact, telling them, “If you want this job or if you want a promotion, you come across.” You get the picture. There isn’t any kind of sizable industry or business operating where you cannot go in and find enough dirt, if that’s what you’re interested in. In fact, if you want to find fault with any one of us in this room, you can. Because none of us are perfect. But that isn’t a true picture, you see. Now, there were instances of minds that were terrible. Some frightening reports of girls of nine and 10, crawling through a shaft on hands and knees, the shaft no more than this, dragging a cart of coal. True. There were mines like that. But that isn’t the whole picture, you see.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:03 If you’re looking for the worst examples, you can always find them. If you want to prove that every mechanic is a bum, a cheat, you can go through Los Angeles and find enough mechanics who, to change a spark plug, will bill you for anything they figure that they can make you a sucker for, to say that mechanics are a fraud. You can prove that the clergy are all fraud, which may not be too far off. You can make a case for almost anything, you see. And this is exactly what those investigations were intended to do. A few years ago, a group of scholars from America, from South Africa, and from England, did a re-examination of these reports that were issued at that time. And they conclusively demonstrated that they were not representative of the reality.
R.J. Rushdoony: 34:17 Now, every textbook was carrying those horror stories before that book came out in the ’50s. They’re still carrying the horror stories. Because they’re not interested in a good case for capitalism. However, as a result of this type of thing, the free trade movement plus the evangelical impulse, within 10 years after they cut the tariffs, they had abolished welfare. That’s the impact. Now, a lot of people lost money in the process. But the country, as a whole, gained. And it embarked England on its greatest period of power and prosperity, the Victorian Era.
R.J. Rushdoony: 35:25 The Victorian Era was an evangelical triumph. Ironically, Victoria, herself, belonged to the opposition. She was not a religious woman. She was very happy when Darwin’s book came out, because now she wouldn’t have to believe a lot of those things in the Old Testament. She thought very highly of Disraeli. And basically, her entire sympathy was with the aristocracy and the lords.
R.J. Rushdoony: 35:57 The important person in the palace then, was the Prince Consort, Albert. A very brilliant man. Something of a genius, who organized the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was a pure and simple, a kind of a World’s Fair to demonstrate the importance of British industry. It was a tremendous success. Prince Albert saw where the leadership was, the leadership of the future. It was in the merchants and the businessmen, in the manufacturers. And he strongly favored them. The work of Prince Albert in the history of Britain is a very, very important one.
R.J. Rushdoony: 36:48 He was a great man, and he accomplished a great work. I indicated how unhappy the work of the lords was, but I should make an exemption or two, because there were some lords who were very great evangelicals. Lord Shaftesbury, for example, this book Lord Shaftesbury and Social Industrial Progress, tells us how much Lord Shaftesbury accomplished in a number of areas. For example, the treatment of lunatics, the lodging house scandal. The health, sanitation and recreation efforts. Popular education, the ragged schools. The ten-hour bill. Anti-slavery, and a great many other things, including the opium traffic.
R.J. Rushdoony: 37:43 Lord Shaftesbury is an evangelical among the lords, together with a handful of others in the House of Lords, who were very influential in further the evangelical revival and getting through a different perspective, a free enterprise perspective through Parliament.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:08 The industrial revolution, of course, took place in Britain. It was the center of it. It was the center because it was the country with the puritan background. It had also gained because of the Revocation of Nantes, the Edict of Nantes, many Huguenots, as did America and the Netherlands. These men were the middle classes, the entrepreneurs of France. So, it had the cream of two countries. These were the men of science, these were the inventors. These were the manufacturers.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:52 The inventions that the industrial revolution produced were many. The flying shovel, the spinning jenny, the water loom, the pottery and iron industries. Canals were built and canal transportation. James Watt and the steam engine. The factory system. Then the railroads, the growth of the merchant marine because of free trade. And England became the civilizer of the western world and of the far colonies throughout all of the world.
R.J. Rushdoony: 39:28 The lords were hostile to all of this. There was a long tradition, by the way, the kind of thing I’m describing began before the renaissance and the years before. Do you know that when movable type was first invented and the printing press appeared, it was fought by the lords of the day? And they considered it a mark of being lower class to own a printed book. So it was many, many years before a lord would consider a printed book as worth buying, and wouldn’t sneer and deride anyone who owned a printed book. The people who put over printing were the students. This was a chance to get books cheaply.
R.J. Rushdoony: 40:25 Britain, through free trade, became a great exporter to all the world. But she was an exporter of more than goods. When you consider the empire that Britain had, up until World War II, an empire going back to the 18th century, what you must realize is that Britain exported throughout all the world into its empire, education. Stack up the colonies of any other countries against those of Britain, and you find that the British colonies had an amazingly high number of university graduates. And these men got their education at the expense of the British people.
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:23 Britain was an exporter of science. Science was introduced into one country after another, and financed so that scientific institutes and agencies were established throughout Asia and Africa and the Pacific. Everywhere. She was a great exporter of health, of medicine, of hospitals, of roads, highways, everything. When people talk about colonialism as though the colonies were milked, they’re talking nonsense. Especially in the case of Britain, because Britain paid for it, and the returns were meager by comparison.
R.J. Rushdoony: 42:19 The horrors of colonialism apply to one situation in particular, the Congo, when it was under Leopold of Belgium. Not under Belgium, but Leopold owned it outright for a time, and it was an era of tremendous and brutal treatment of the natives. Incidentally, up until Congo received its freedom, it had almost no university graduates. Whereas other parts of Africa did have many, and the British so many, that the figures are really staggering. Also, Britain was an exporter of law and order. The only law that vast portions of Africa and Asia had came with the advent of the British Colonial Government. Consider, for a moment, do you realize there were only about 6,000 Englishmen in all of India before they left? Before they turned it over to the Indians and the Pakistans? Only 6,000, and they were running that country very efficiently, better than it’s been run since. That’s good administration. And it certainly is not exploitation.
R.J. Rushdoony: 43:54 Six thousand Englishmen, that was the colonial administration. The rest of the administration, the Army officers and all, were the people of India. And this was the way it was throughout the empire. A handful of men, then utilizing native resources and developing them, systematically, conscientiously with the utmost concern for the welfare of the people they were ruling. It was one of the great achievements of civilization. On top of that, it made possible the extensive propagation of Christianity, because you had an orderly situation throughout the empire, whereby it was possible for missions to function.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder