Quote of the day—Robert J. McCracken

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.

Robert J. McCracken
[This ignores the Vikings who probably were looking for plunder rather than liberty. The American Indians probably crossed the Bearing Strait instead of the Atlantic and my guess is they were looking for happy hunting grounds instead of liberty. But still he has a valid point.

We are mostly descendants of people who desired to be free from rulers in Europe. Sometimes they wanted to create new rules which stifled liberty such as the Puritans and the Mormons but there was plenty of space where they could pretty much leave each other alone. The First Amendment insists they leave each other alone and lubricates the interactions sufficiently that for the most part things move along fairly smoothly.

When newcomers or mutants come along and start creating new rulers in this new land it creates friction, resentment, and resistance at a subconscious level. It’s in our genes. This is particularly true in the west. Most of the people who moved to the western part of this continent in the 1800s were twice filtered for freedom. Once with the migration of their ancestors from Europe and then again with the migration across the plains and the Rockies.

Those in Washington D.C. who aspire to be our rulers should never forget our minds do not think the same as those who remained in Europe or even on the east coast. We are like a domestic animal bred and selected for a particular personality. They would be well advised to think of us as irritable sheep dogs rather than as sheep. We can feed and take care of ourselves if needed. And most importantly we have a vicious bite when treated like sheep to be shorn or butchered.—Joe]


10 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Robert J. McCracken

  1. Actually, depending on who you count, I’d make the case that the first settlers who crossed the Atlantic to what is now the US – the colonists who established Jamestown, VA – were looking to get rich. They were first looking for gold, with subsequent waves looking to make their fortunes growing tobacco.

    Everyone likes the Pilgrim story, coming here for religion freedom. It’s all wonderful and noble. But the folks at Jamestown got here first, and they came to make $$$. (Sorry, I can’t figure out the symbol for Pound Sterling.)

  2. To be fair to Puritans and Mormons:

    When the Puritans first came to the Americas, they had a socialist “constitution”. After two years, it became clear to them that it wasn’t working, so they adopted a new “regime” where each individual was free to keep the product of their labor, rather than have it contributed to the community store…and that year was so productive, they had a special harvest celebration we now call Thanksgiving.

    While it’s true that Mormons can have wacky ideas of what should be restricted, in terms of government, we also have wacky ideas about choice and accountability–and, ultimately, it is up to us to decide what is right and what is wrong, and to do what is right. This is why I do not consider “libertarian Mormon” to be an oxymoron.

    Mormons also had their experiments in “United Order”; unlike the typical Socialist equivalent, however, individuals were free to leave, and even to take their allotted land with them.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing sentiment in the Mormon community that government welfare and programs are ok. To me, this goes against the basic strain of Mormonism–that we are free.

  3. Heartless,

    Actually making money (acquiring wealth, however you want to define it) requires either social position with, or freedom from interference by, the rulers. I won’t disagree about the fundamental motivation but freedom was an important component.


    There were times when the Mormons did not allow members to leave and take their belongs with them. My Great-Great Grandfather was one of those that had to leave in the middle of the night and was tracked down and had a gunfight over it.

    I am generally quite approving of the Mormon culture as they apply it to themselves. I would identify with them fairly well if it weren’t for that little sticking point of believing in a god and a tendency to treat nonbelievers as second class citizens.

  4. I don’t know enough about the Puritans to add to what’s already been said, but being a lifelong Mormon, I was surprised by your characterization of the religion. One of the most fundamental beliefs of the Mormon faith is that agaency, the freedom to choose for ourselves, is essential to our mission on Earth, and that we are accountable for the choices we make. Our eleventh article of faith, written by Joseph Smith, articulates our view on the freedom of religion:

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

    As for your great-great grandfather’s experience, I’ve never heard of anything like that happening. I know that local leaders had lots of autonomy in how they managed community affairs, and some of them strayed off the path quite a bit. My great-great-great-great grandfather was once sent on a mission to reign in another leader who was governing contrary to church instructions.

    I do admit that some Mormons do look down on nonbelievers, and that reflects negatively on the rest of us. You’ll find that this gets less and less common the further you get from Utah.

  5. My experience with Mormons in the Seattle area has been absolutely wonderful. They have been some of my best friends (and boss) at work. In Idaho and from stories of friends in southern Idaho, the experience is not quite as good.

    My Great-Great-Grandfather’s story is written up in some history books. I’ll see if I can find something about it on-line. You also might want to check out the Meadow Mountain Massacre. My brother went to school with the Great Grandson of a surviver of that event. He was kept as a slave for many years.

  6. It was the Morrisite War. Our family history (including that written down many decades ago) has a much different version of things. But W. W. Davies was in that group and went on to Deer Lodge Montana afterward.

  7. I’m familiar with the Mountain Meadow Massacre; it’s something that I sort-of understand intellectually, but still disturbs me (as well it should). It’s my understanding that certain descendants of the victims are Mormon, and they haven’t fully reconciled their faith with the event either.

    And I would understand why your great-great grandfather would want to leave that community afterward. I’m sad to hear he wasn’t allowed to leave peacefully; it’s also undoctrinal–but that doesn’t always stop people from attempting to enforce their beliefs (whatever the belief might be).

    I would also second what JMD and you have said about Mormons looking down on unbelievers, especially the closer that you get to Utah; I try not to look down on people, but as a mathematician, a Pythonista, a Linux user and wannabe Lispnick, I’m probably not as good at not looking down on people as I’d like to pretend to be :-(.

  8. I would just as soon tread lightly on most of this topic. What our ancestors did or didn’t do 100+ years ago shouldn’t really affect how we interact with each other today. I prefer to focus on aspects of things we can agree on and work together on rather than our differences.

    I regard Mormons as close political allies and good neighbors. As a named group there are very few I would rank higher in desirability to have as work associates or even elected officials.

  9. I agree that there’s a need to tread lightly on this topic. Having said that, it’s important to remember and to study things like the Mountain Meadow Massacre, and to do all in our power to understand what happened, and why.

    I have the impression that some people study this so that they could bash the incident over the heads of those who believe. Rather, we need to study it, so that atheists, agnostics, and believers alike, could ask themselves, “If I were put in a similar situation, what would I do?”

    I’d like to believe that I’d stand up for the right thing, but I’ve had too many experiences in my own life, where I knew what was right, but I didn’t stand up for it, or if I did, I didn’t do enough to stop what was wrong. Fortunately, they were small things, but even small injustices are still injustices.

    Thus, my answer to the proposed question is, “I don’t know what I would have done.”

    And that’s the scary thing: to think about something horrible, like the Mountain Meadow Massacre, and to realize that out of fear, and peer pressure, and even a little bit of anger and hatred, I might have chosen to do evil, and then regret it for the rest of my life. And this, even despite having thought about it!

    At the same time, though, in having thought about it, and having thought about it deeply, I’m a little bit more prepared to do the right thing, if a similar situation arose, than I would be if I were completely naive about what had happened.

  10. Come to think about it, for some time I have been meaning to visit Topaz Mountain for the purpose of reflection, and to ask myself, “What would I have done about the internment of Japanese Americans? And what could I have done?”

    It would be a wise thing to add Mountain Meadows to that list, and to reflect there on the same things.

    I’ve been to Topaz Mountain a couple of times, and I have even been there knowing about the internment camps there; I have never been there, though, for the purposes of solemn contemplation.

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