Feb 172010

I was pleased to see John Willson talking up George Washington’s reaction to the Newburgh Conspiracy over at Front Porch Republic. It’s a fitting topic to think about on President’s Day. My response is here:

Now there’s an idea! Let’s abolish the stupid President’s Day holiday and replace it with Newburgh Day on March 15.

King George 3 appreciated the significance of that event. We should, too.

Several years ago when some of us were compiling our lists of the Ten Most Significant Political Events of the Millenium, I put this Newburgh event close to the top of my list, if not at the very top.

Ah, I found it in my e-mail archives. What follows was my contribution back in the closing days of the last millenium.

1. Martin Luther’s speech to Emperor Charles V, ending with “Hier steh’ ich. Ich kann nicht anders.” Actually, he probably didn’t say those exact words, but the meaning was clear. This example paved the way for a later hero such as Linda Tripp to stand tall and resist the full force and fury of a trillion dollar government and its hate-spewing groupies.

2. George Washington’s gentle refusal to take part in the Newburgh Conspiracy in 1783. His willingness to relinquish power, and his refusal to grab more power when it was there for the taking, is an event almost without parallel even in American history, but it was the defining moment for the political history of the United States.

3. The invention of the Printing Press

My response to Dr. Willson’s response is below. I think we’re straying a bit from the original topic.

Dr. Willson, you could have written a lot about Martin Luther vs the Roman Church that could have set a Lutheran like myself to squirming. You could have taken the side of Thomas More in the debates over the issues of authority and unity, for example. You could have poked at Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura. But to compare the courage of Luther with that of the Holy Roman Emperor? There was little risk of Charles having to give up life and fortune. He knew where his social status and bling-bling came from. He was taking the side that kept his bread buttered. As to his sacred honor, it would have been honorable to honor the safe-conduct that he had used to get Luther to come to Worms. Then he could have had the courage to give his speech to Luther’s face instead of talking behind his back after the good monk had escaped his treachery. Yes, Luther had an escape planned, and good for him. There was no need for him to be a passive martyr, any more than Linda Tripp or any of Clinton’s victims should have been criticized for having a possible “book deal” by which they might support themselves in the face of ostracism and blackballing. Luther needed an escape route. Charles V had no need of one.

It’s unfortunate that we’re not spending more time talking about how to celebrate Newburgh Day. Where do we buy Newburgh Day greeting cards, for example? What would be an appropriate gift for one’s spouse?