For the Catholic homeschooled high school student, I highly recommend “Christ and the Americas” for an American history text. It is written by Dr. Anne W. Carroll, founder Seton Junior and Senior High School in Manassas, Virginia. She has also written Christ the King: Lord of History, and Following Christ in the World, among others, and co-author of The Church in the Pentateuch..
The following is a short excerpt of text from Christ and the Americas, from Chapter 7 – The Eve of the American War for Independence. It is in a section called “A Note on Liberalism”:
The word “liberal” has been used in this chapter to describe the views of Thomas Jefferson, especially those he enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. The word has a wide variety of meanings, but when it is used in the pages of this book, it refers to a specific political philosophy.
This philosophy was a long-term outgrowth of the Protestant Revolt, which had rejected the authority of the Church and made the individual conscience the sovereign judge of religious truth. But Liberalism was not fully developed nor widely accepted until the 18th century. Leading French philosophers – atheists, agnostics, deists – formulated the philosophy which may be summarized as follows: Liberalism rejects moral absolutes and authority, especially religious authority. It is usually opposed to hereditary monarchy. It emphasizes that men should be free to do whatever they want in moral matters and that political authority comes from the people themselves who should be free to overthrow existing governments – by violence if necessary – and to set up new governments based on the will of the majority, as interpreted and guided by intellectual leaders.
This philosophy sparked the French Revolution, where it was carried to its logical extreme, with mob violence, followed by a dictatorship of terror, all in the name of “the will of the people” and in opposition to the Church and the Monarchy.
In America, men such as Jefferson, Franklin and Patrick Henry, who were familiar with the writings of the French philosophers, adopted much of the liberal philosophy and applied it to the American situation. We Americans are so used to thinking that governmental authority should come from the people that we might see nothing wrong with the political ramifications of Liberalism. We need to be reminded that all authority comes from God, and if authority is not exercised in harmony with God’s law, then it is not legitimate. The standard is not, “Is is the will of the people?” but, “Is it the will of God?”
I found the excerpt very interesting, because we live in the world that she describes. In our democracy in the United States (and indeed most democracies), we have “left God behind”, and through “the will of the people” now vote for what we believe, or rather want, to be good and evil. In the U.S. we do a very good job of “voting” our favorite sins to be legal, and use educational institutions and the media to shame anyone who disagrees with us. Examples include contraception, abortion, no-fault divorce, homosexual marriage, etc.
Considering all the West has gone in this direction, I find myself wondering if moral degradation, and making the “will of the people” sovereign rather than the will of God, is a natural consequence of democracy.
Lastly, I heavily recommend another book, called The Guillotine and the Cross, by Warren H. Carroll. It is about the French Revolution, and is quite an eye-opener on the horrors of that war.