A few days ago on Fox News, Duck Dynasty star and Ted Cruz supporter Phil Robertson explained to Neil Cavuto why he supports Cruz:
At about 1:20 into the video, Robertson says:
"The reason I'm going for Cruz is that Cruz loves God and James Madison, for crying out loud. James Madison, Neil, was the man who said 'We've staked the whole of American civilization not upon the power of government - not on the power of government - far from it.' He said 'We've staked all of our political institutions on the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves, control ourselves, and sustain ourselves based on the ten commandments of God.' Therefore, Cruz trusts God, Cruz trusts James Madison. That's why, Neil, I trust Cruz."
What Phil Robertson shouldn't trust are quotes from the internet.
This spurious James Madison ten commandments quote has been around for a long time, and, despite the fact that even David Barton, the most popular of all Christian nationalist history revisionists (and head of the pro-Cruz super PAC Keep the Promise), has admitted that this quote is "unconfirmed" and now tells the readers of his website to refrain from using it, it continues to be used as much as ever.
While others have traced the first appearance of this bogus Madison quote back to a 1958 calendar, I was determined to hunt down its exact source and prove once and for all that this quote did not come from James Madison. I began looking into this back in 2007, and after quite a bit of hunting found what I was certain was the exact source of the misquote in 2009 - a speech that conservative leader Clarence Manion was traveling the country delivering in the early 1950s. But as certain as I was that Manion's speech was the original source of this misquote, there was on little problem - one of the sources cited by David Barton for the quote was a book from 1939, thirteen years before Manion even began giving this speech. Further research, however, indicated that Barton's 1939 source was fabricated. With Barton's alleged 1939 source out of the way, there is no question that the source of the infamous Madison ten commandments quote was Clarence Manion's speech, and I'd stake the whole future of American civilization on that.
In my new book, Liars For Jesus, Volume 2, I devoted an entire chapter to my research into this extra special Madison misquote (and while sitting here writing this post decided to put a free PDF download of that whole chapter on my website). But for those who want the short (well, at least relatively short) version, here's the excerpt from my book showing that Clarence Manion's speech is unquestionably the source of the misquote, and explaining why David Barton's alleged 1939 source for this bogus quote appears to be bogus as the quote itself.
From my book:
Others who have investigated the history of this quote, most notably the late Robert Alley, have all stopped at the same point - the earliest verifiable appearance of the quote, a 1958 calendar published by an organization called Spiritual Mobilization.
While a number of slightly differing versions of this alleged Madison quote now appear in various revisionist history books and on countless Christian nationalist websites, the following was the original version, as quoted from the 1958 Spiritual Mobilization calendar in the January 1958 issue of Progressive Calvinism magazine:
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government: upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.
But the question that has remained unanswered for decades is: Where did the publisher of the 1958 calendar get it from? That question can now be answered. The James Madison ten commandments quote was the result of someone's misquoting of a speech that Clarence Manion was traveling the country delivering in the early 1950s. It is in Manion's speech that every phrase in the alleged Madison quote can be found.
Now, it wasn't that Clarence Manion was deliberately misquoting Madison. There was a part of his speech, which he was delivering to countless business associations and conservative organizations across the country, in which Manion would quote something that Madison really did say, albeit a paraphrased version of Madison's words. This real, although paraphrased, quote from Madison was all that Manion was presenting as a quote from Madison. The rest of what Manion would say when using this Madison quote, either when speaking at an event or using the quote on his radio show, was his commentary about what Madison said, and it was Manion's comments about what Madison said that included the ten commandments statement.
We'll get to how Manion's comments got mixed up with James Madison's words to result in the Madison ten commandments quote in a minute, but first a bit about who Clarence Manion was and why he was traveling the country speaking in the early 1950s.
Clarence Manion was the Dean of the law school at Notre Dame and one of the big conservative leaders of his day. He was a Joseph McCarthy supporter whose particular theory as to what would stop communists from being able to take control of America was the decentralization of power from the federal government to the states. His reasoning was that if communists infiltrated the federal government, they wouldn't be able to take control of anything that was under the jurisdiction of the individual states rather than the federal government, proclaiming that "States' rights is your best defense against Communism."(2)
To get a sense of what Manion was like, just imagine Glenn Beck without a blackboard to connect all his conspiracy theories on. Manion, whose speaking style as well as his conspiracy theories were much the same as Beck's, would say things like: "The left wing, please remember, is strong, well-organized and well-financed. Many gigantic fortunes, built by virtue of private enterprise under the Constitution, have fallen under the direction of Internationalists, One-Worlders, Socialists and Communists. Much of this vast horde of money is being used to 'socialize' the United States." And, also like Beck, Manion's speeches and radio addresses were always chock full of Christian nationalism.
The particular issue that had Manion crisscrossing the country speaking from 1952 to 1954 was the Bricker Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment, named for Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio, to limit the president's power to negotiate with foreign countries and make treaties. Several versions of this amendment were proposed in the first half of the 1950s, and Manion supported the most extreme version, which would have required a referendum in every one of the forty-eight states in order for any treaty to go into effect. To give a sense of the kind of crazy arguments that were being used in favor of the Bricker Amendment, one example that was used to explain how a treaty could take away the rights of American citizens was that, because treaties became the law of the land, if the president signed a treaty with India, that treaty could make it illegal for an American citizen to butcher a cow here in America.
Now, getting back to how Clarence Manion's words ended up being misconstrued and turned into the alleged Madison ten commandments quote, we need to look at the speech, or actually two speeches, that Manion was giving from 1952 to 1954. The first of the two speeches, titled "Blueprint for Freedom" was the speech Manion was giving in 1952 and 1953. The second, titled "The Constitution is Your Business," which was Manion's standard speech by 1954, contained much of the same material as his "Blueprint for Freedom," including a version of what would be turned into the Madison ten commandments quote. His "Blueprint for Freedom" speech, however, is clearly the speech that spawned the Madison misquote.
As already mentioned, in his speeches, Manion would present a real, although paraphrased, quote from James Madison. The real Madison quote that Manion was paraphrasing is found in the following passage from Federalist No. 39 (emphasis added):
The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican? It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.(3)
Over the years, other researchers investigating the alleged Madison ten commandments quote have noted that this one phrase from Madison - "to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government" - is very similar to the phrase "We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government" in the alleged ten commandments quote, and that this might be where at least this one part of the alleged quote came from.
The name Clarence Manion has also been brought up by a few of these other researchers, but never as the direct source of the misquote. Robert Alley, for example, mentioned Manion in the paper that he wrote for the 1995 symposium at William and Mary mentioned in the previous chapter. But Alley only brought up Manion as an example of the "numerous commentators from the political right over the past several decades"(4) who have tried to advance a connection between James Madison and the ten commandments. As part of his using Manion as an example, Alley quoted a passage from something written by Manion in 1964 in which Manion had referenced both the ten commandments and what Madison wrote in Federalist No. 39. Alley, however, dismissed Manion at this point as being the direct source of the misquote, saying, "while Manion espouses generally the same sentiment about the Ten Commandments as does the Barton material, the references to the Decalogue are utterly different from the Barton version."(5) And, because Alley had dismissed what Manion wrote as close but no cigar, so did other researchers who followed him. Had Alley pursued this Manion angle further, however, he might have eventually discovered that he was on the right track, and that Manion was, in fact, the direct source of the misquote.
As already mentioned, Manion was not deliberately misquoting Madison in his speeches. He was paraphrasing him, but it is very clear from where Manion put the quotation marks in printed versions of his speeches exactly what he was presenting as a Madison quote and what were his own comments. Although it was his "Blueprint for Freedom" speech, which we'll get to in a minute, that contained all of the phrases that ended up becoming the alleged Madison quote, you can see very clearly in the printed version of his "The Constitution is Your Business" speech that the only thing he was presenting as a quote from Madison was the one sentence beginning "We have staked the whole future of American civilization ...," and that the words "the Ten Commandments of God," which in this speech came before the paraphrased Madison quote, were his own words, and not part of what he was presenting as a Madison quote (emphasis added):
There are three things that you must sell. You must sell the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and, yes, the Ten Commandments of God. Because when all this was done, somebody asked James Madison why this government won't work. "Nobody has ever done this to government before. It won't function. You can't treat government like this; it has no power." And Madison answered classically. He said, "We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it, but upon the capacity of mankind for self-government."(6)
Now, let's look at Manion's "Blueprint for Freedom" speech, the speech that contained all of the phrases that ended up in the alleged Madison ten commandments quote. For this speech, we also have a printed version, this one unquestionably supplied by Manion himself, showing exactly where he put the quotation marks:
Then Madison added this, and here is what we have really forgotten. He said, "We have staked the future of our American political institutions" not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of our civilization "upon the capacity of mankind for self-government."
Self-government - you say, well that means politics, voting. No, Madison meant what he said, that the future of this country depended upon our capacity to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to restrain ourselves, under the Ten Commandments of the Creator.(7)
The above version, which appeared in a number of newspapers in Texas in March 1853, came from a printed copy supplied to a reporter by Manion of the version of the "Blueprint for America" speech that he had delivered in November 1952 at the 64th Convention of the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association in Chicago. You can see two things from this version. First, you can see that the only words that Manion put in quotation marks as a quote from Madison were "We have staked the future of our American political institutions" and "upon the capacity of mankind for self-government." And, second, you can see, almost verbatim, the rest of what ended up in the alleged Madison ten commandments quote - "upon our capacity to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to restrain ourselves, under the Ten Commandments of the Creator."
While a few of the words in the above version differ slightly from the alleged Madison ten commandments quote - like his saying "the Ten Commandments of the Creator" rather than "the Ten Commandments of God," as he did in his "The Constitution is Your Business" speech - Manion's words are so incredibly close to the exact wording of the alleged Madison quote that there can be no question that Manion's speech was the source of the alleged quote. Bear in mind, of course, that Manion was giving this speech over and over to so many groups that he no doubt had it memorized and would not likely have been reading it word for word from the printed copy in front of him, which would account for any slight variations in his wording here or there.
The only other difference is the word "restrain" rather than the word "sustain." Manion always used the word "restrain" in this part of his speech, but its ending up being "sustain" in the alleged Madison ten commandments quote could easily be explained by the fact that the words "restrain" and "sustain" are similar enough that someone transcribing the speech from a recording or taking notes at one of Manion's speeches could have misheard "restrain" as "sustain."
So, while we'll probably never know the exact version of Manion's speech that was misquoted to combine Manion's ten commandments comment with his paraphrasing of Madison to turn the whole thing into the infamous Madison ten commandments quote, or exactly who it was that misquoted Manion to create this Madison misquote, there is no question that the source of the misquote was Manion's speech, where every phrase that appears in the alleged Madison quote can be found.
But here's where things get interesting. Manion didn't start giving his "Blueprint for Freedom" speech until 1952, but one of the sources cited by David Barton for the alleged Madison ten commandments quote is from 1939. If this alleged Madison quote appeared in a book that was published in 1939, thirteen years before Manion began giving his speech, then the theory that Manion's speech was the original source of the misquote is obviously out the window, right? Well, not so fast. There's a little problem with this 1939 source that Barton cites. It doesn't appear to exist.
In the 1992 edition of his book The Myth of Separation, Barton cited two sources for the alleged Madison quote. One was the 1958 issue of Progressive Calvinism, in which, as mentioned earlier, the quote was reprinted from the 1958 Spiritual Mobilization calendar. Barton's other source was a book titled Liberty! Cry Liberty! written by Harold K. Lane and published by the Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society in Boston in 1939. An exhaustive search, however, has turned up no trace of this 1939 book. And, it isn't only that no trace of the book can be found. No trace of its author or publisher can be found either.
Here, I need to jump into the first person to explain the exhaustive search that I have done for this 1939 book, and why I began to doubt that this book actually existed.
When I first began looking into this alleged Madison quote, I did what I always do when looking into what appears to be a fabricated or altered quote in a David Barton book - I looked to see what his sources were so that I could check them for myself. In most cases, the sources cited by Barton are readily available and easy to check, either online or by finding a copy of whatever he's citing from a used bookseller. Sometimes, however, he'll cite a source that's obscure enough to require some hunting, but it's very rare not to be able to find a library or an archive relatively quickly that has a copy of even the most obscure of these sources and order photocopies of them. In fact, I don't recall any case in which I was completely unable to locate a source cited by Barton - until I tried to find this 1939 book Liberty! Cry Liberty!
I began with the methods I usually use to find an old book. I searched WorldCat.org, a site that searches university and public library catalogs around the world, but found nothing. I searched all the used and rare bookseller websites, again finding nothing. I searched the catalog on the Library of Congress website, still finding nothing. I searched the online book archives, such as Google Books, but nothing turned up in those searches except for a slew of other revisionist history books citing this 1939 book as a source.
Now, my initial search was back in 2007, when digital archives and other online resources were far from being as complete as they are today, so when I couldn't turn up any trace of this 1939 book online, I contacted several libraries - the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and also the Boston Public Library, since the place of publication listed in Barton's source was Boston. By this time, I had broadened my search to include not only the particular book Liberty! Cry Liberty!, but also any records of anything else written by its author, Harold K. Lane, or published by its publisher, the Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society.
None of these libraries could find any record of a book titled Liberty! Cry Liberty!, anything else written by a Harold K. Lane, or anything at all published by a Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society.
The reference librarian at the Library of Congress checked not only the library's digital catalog, but also its old card catalog in case the book hadn't yet been entered in the digital catalog. They also checked other listings, such as the National Union Catalog and the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, to see if any listing for it might turn up in those sources. But they found nothing.
A reference librarian at the Boston Public Library's Department of Rare Books & Manuscripts, who also brought in someone from the library's Social Science Department to assist with the search, couldn't find anything either. They also searched the Boston city directories for the years around the time that the book was supposedly published, but could find no listing for a Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society.
At some point during this search, it occurred to me that something seemed odd about the name of the publisher - that a publisher in Boston in 1939 was calling itself a "tractarian society." Why did this seem odd? Because the Tractarian Movement, also called the Oxford Movement, was a very specific, well-known, and highly criticized movement in the Anglican Church in England in the mid-1800s to make the Anglican Church more Catholic. It is extremely unlikely that anybody in 1939 would be calling themselves a tractarian society, not only because the tractarian movement had completely died out by the very early 1900s, but because any publisher of religious materials at that time would have known that calling themselves a "tractarian society" would imply a connection to the Tractarian Movement. In other words, it didn't seem likely that any publisher of religious materials in 1939 would be using the term "tractarian society" just in a general sense of meaning a publisher of tracts. But, as sure as I was of this, I nevertheless did an extensive search of religious periodicals and newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s to see if the term "tractarian" might have taken on a more general meaning by that time. What I found was that it absolutely had not. Every single instance of the use of the word "tractarian" that I could find during this time period was in the context of an historical reference to the Tractarian Movement.
With the Boston Public Library being unable to find any trace of the Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society, and with this oddity of a publisher in 1939 calling itself a "tractarian society" being interesting but not getting me any closer to tracking down this elusive publisher or the book Liberty! Cry Liberty!, I turned my attention to this mysterious book's equally mysterious author, Harold K. Lane.
The book's having been published in Boston didn't necessarily mean, of course, that its author lived in Boston, so, while I did do a search of the Boston and other Massachusetts city directories for a listing for a Harold Lane, I also searched the United States censuses for 1920 and 1930, looking for anyone named Harold Lane (or any variant, such as Harry Lane, H. Lane, etc.) who would have at least been of the right age in 1920 and 1930 to have made their age in 1939 an age at which they might have written a book. This ruled out most of the Harold Lanes listed in the censuses for those years (e.g., a Harold Lane whose age was listed as two years old in the 1930 census would only have been eleven years old in 1939). I then looked at the education levels and occupations of the remaining Harold Lanes, which ruled out even more of them (e.g., a Harold Lane who was an adult in 1930 but was listed as having less than a grammar school education and an occupation of a farm laborer was not likely to have been an author nine years later).
But, while this search of the 1920 and 1930 censuses did significantly narrow down the field of possible Harold Lanes, it still left a number who could have been the Harold K. Lane (e.g., a Harold Lane who was a teenager in 1930 and listed as a student could quite possibly have been an author in 1939).
At this point, which was around 2009, I temporarily put my search for Harold K. Lane on hold, knowing that the 1940 census was going to be made public soon (a U.S. census is made public seventy years after it is done). If I waited for the 1940 census, which was done just a year after the 1939 book was published, I would be able to look up any of the Harold Lanes that I had found in the 1930 census who were old enough in 1930 to have become an author by 1939, as well as do a search of the entire 1940 census for any other possible Harold Lanes.
There were about a hundred Harold Lanes (or Harry Lanes, or H. Lanes, etc.) listed in the 1940 census. Of this hundred or so, almost all could be eliminated for the same reasons that those in the earlier censuses seemed like extremely unlikely candidates - their education levels and occupations. The chances that someone who, in 1940, was a truck driver or factory worker with a grammar school education or less had written a book a year earlier in 1939 were obviously slim to none.
From the 1940 census, I was down to just a handful of possibilities. None of these remaining Harold Lanes had their occupation listed as a writer, or as anything else that would seem to be related to the writing of such a book. Nevertheless, for this handful of Harold Lanes whose age and level of education made it possible that, whatever their listed occupation, they could have been a writer on the side, I dug a bit further to find out more about them. I searched newspaper archives for anything about them in their local papers, and also looked up their obituaries - searching for anything about their lives that might indicate that they were a person who might have had some reason to write a book in 1939 containing the alleged James Madison quote. While nothing I found in this search that provided any information either way as to whether or not any of these remaining Harold Lanes might have written this book, the search did absolutely rule out a few of them because their obituaries gave their middle initials, which had not been listed in the census, and their middle initials were something other than K.
While the results of all my searching for the mysterious Harold K. Lane are, of course, not completely conclusive, there just doesn't seem to have been anyone named Harold K. Lane who was likely to have written the book Liberty! Cry Liberty! Putting that together with the fact that there is no trace of this book itself in any library, as well as no trace of anything called the Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society, the obvious next question is: Is it possible that this source was fabricated? And that's a question that can't be answered conclusively because you can't prove that something doesn't exist.
Now, so far, I've referred only to David Barton's citing of this 1939 book, specifically saying that it was the 1992 edition of his book The Myth of Separation in which he cited it. The reason for specifying the 1992 edition is that Barton did not cite this 1939 book as his source for the alleged Madison quote in his earlier editions of The Myth of Separation. The only source he cited for this alleged quote in the first four editions of The Myth of Separation was another revisionist book, America's Providential History by Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell, which contained the alleged quote but gave no source for it.
While Barton's The Myth of Separation is certainly the source from which most other revisionists have copied the Liberty! Cry Liberty! source, Barton wasn't the first revisionist to cite this book as a source. That honor appears to go to George Grant, who cited it as his source for several quotes, including the Madison ten commandments quote, in his 1989 book Trial and Error: The American Civil Liberties Union and Its Impact on Your Family, making it entirely possible that Barton simply copied this source from George Grant's book into the 1992 edition of The Myth of Separation, just as a slew of other revisionists have since copied it from Barton's book.
So, where does this leave us? We have a speech from Clarence Manion in which he used every single phrase that ended up in the alleged James Madison ten commandments quote. The first verifiable appearance of the alleged Madison quote was in 1958, just a few years after Manion was giving this speech. It can be found nowhere prior to Manion's speech. It would therefore seem unquestionable that a misquoting of Manion's speech, combining Manion's paraphrasing of Madison with Manion's own words about what Madison said, was the original source of the alleged Madison quote. The only thing that would seem to make it impossible for Manion's speech to have been the original source of the alleged Madison quote is the claim of David Barton and George Grant that this quote appeared in a book published in 1939, predating Manion's speech by thirteen years - a book that not only can't be found in any library anywhere, but for which no trace of the existence of its publisher can be found. With the evidence that the alleged Madison quote originated with Manion's speech being so incredibly strong, the burden of proof is on David Barton and George Grant to produce this 1939 book that they've cited as their source and prove that the infamous James Madison ten commandments quote didn't originate in the 1950s with Clarence Manion's speech.
2. Clarence Manion, "The Constitution is Your Business," Congressional Record, 83rd Cong., 2nd Sess., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1954), 15678.
3. The Federalist, (Hallowell, ME: Glazier, Masters & Company, 1831), 187-188.
4. Robert S. Alley, "Public Education and the Public Good," William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, Summer 1995, 318.
6. Clarence Manion, "The Constitution is Your Business," Congressional Record, 83rd Cong., 2nd Sess., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1954), 15677.
7. Pampa Daily News (Pampa, TX), March 11, 1953, 4.