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From Essex England to the Surry Southern USA

by: Robert E. Harris

CHAPTER 9
SOME REFLECTIONS CONCERNING WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED

ABOUT THESE FAMILIES
A COMMENTARY

Pages 934-943

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The Harris family Coat of Arms bears the motto (in French): Ubique Patriam reminisci - To remember your country everywhere.

The foregoing text contains abundant evidence that this family, generation after generation, has lived up to that motto. They came to North America to establish a new community in a hostile environment in support of their country - England. The fifth and sixth generations of this family in America found that their country was, indeed, America. They fought for the independence of their country. They fought in the Indian wars and in all of the other wars in which this country has engaged. Many of those who fought gave their full measure of devotion - their lives - for their county.

This particular Harris family, being southern to the core, came down on the side of the Southern States in the most tragic of all our wars, the Civil War, also called the War Between the States. Afterwards, they took pride in fighting for the reunited U. S. A. In so many ways, they continue to remember and to love their country. One would have to search hard to find any sympathy for flag burners in these families.

Everyone serves in his or her own way.

There is a great diversity of talent in these families. The foregoing text has described those who are (or were): artists, musicians, entertainers, playwriters, writers, historians, teachers, university professors and department heads, lawyers, judges, justices on state supreme courts, doctors, nurses, surgeons and other medical specialists, engineers, builders of transportation facilities, railroaders, mechanics, farmers, secretaries, and many others. There have been and are many leaders in industry and trade.

There are and have been a large number of ministers of the Gospel. There is about an even division between Baptists and Methodists, with some other denominations represented among the ministers.

There has been widespread involvement in the political and governmental activities of this country by members of these families. This includes service in the House of Burgesses in Virginia and in other colonial state houses of representation. Many have served in city and county governments as councilpersons, mayors and commissioners. Many have served in state legislative bodies and as congressmen in the national government. We have also had at least one governor and one United States senator.

There have been many who have served their country in the Armed Forces as careers.

The faith of our fathers - and mothers

We have learned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached in northern and western Europe by the Sixth Century A. D. Many of our Norman ancestors heard the Gospel and accepted Christ in Normandy, prior to their moving into England. Christianity came taco England in 597 A. D. when Monk Augustine led a mission from Rome to Kent.

The Celtic church, an early Christian church, began in 653 A. D. to spread among the middle Angles. By 677 A. D. the English of Northumbria (many of them were of Angle descent) were sending missionaries to Germany.

Guthrum, a leader of the Danes, accepted Christianity in the Ninth Century A. D. and tied his group in east Anglia.

These church organizations were locally controlled.

We learn a great deal of information about our ancestors' personal involvements through the very few personal documents they left - mostly their wills - which were made a part of the public records. The following are excerpts from a few of these wills and obituaries:

From the will of Sir William Harris of Creeksea, Essex, England: "In the name of God, Amen I---bring thanks to God----.--In the---unto the---of Jesus Christ, my only savior and redeemer---". 1615.

Sir William lived most of his life during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. His will gives unmistakable evidence that he was a member and supporter of All Saints Church of Creeksea. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and afterwards, at least, All Saints was Church of England.

Some historians have stated that Sir William's mother, Dorothy Waldegrave, was a Roman Catholic.

Sir William's grandfather, another William Harris, requested the Catholic rites as a part of his funeral. This William Harris died just prior to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and near the end of the reign of Queen Mary I.

From the will of William Harris, son of Sir William Harris of Creeksea, Essex, England: "In the reign of God Amen in the year 1621 and in the reign of our sovereign Lord James, King of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith--- First, I do commend my soul unto my God and Savior Jesus Christ."

From the will of Thomas Harris, son of Sir William Harris of Creeksea: "In the name of God Amen the year of our Lord 1616---above all things do I commend my soul into the hands of the Almighty God, my maker, assuredly believing through the precious death and bloodshedding of Jesus Christ, my only savior and redeemer to give free redemption and forgiveness of all my sins and to be saved and my body I commit to the earth to be buried in a Christian and decent manner."

From the will of Sir William Harris of Shenfield, first cousin of Sir William Harris of Creeksea, Essex: 1634 "--thanks be unto Almighty God---I bequeath my soule into the hands of Almighty God, hoping and believing to be saved by the sole merits and passion of Christ Jesus my only savior and redeemer--"

From the will of Thomas Harris; b. 1614; d. 1672 (dl): "—In the name of God, Amen,--praise be unto Almighty God---my will is to commend my soule unto God, my Maker and Redeemer and my body to the earth."

From the will of Thomas Harris; b. 1636; d. 1688 (d12): "In the name of God, Amen---I do first and primarily bequest my soul unto God Almighty who gave it and secondly, my body to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian like manner,---"

From the will of Edward Harris; b. 1663; d. 1734 (d121): "—committing my soul to Almighty God and my Body to the Earth---".

From the will of Edward Harris; b. 1698; d. 1740 (d121/2): "all praise be given to God---first and principally and far above all worldly things and enjoyments, I commit my soul to God the Father of Spirits, Trusting and firmly believing through the merits of Bitter Passions of his Son and my soul's Savior, Jesus Christ, to receive full pardon for my sins when ever this mortal life shall cease. I commit my Body to the Earth from whence it was taken to be Decently Entered after the manner of Christian Burial."

From the will of Robert Harris; b. 1674; d. 1740 (d125): "I Bequeath my soul unto God who gave it---".

From the will of Thomas Harris; b.                     ; d. 1730 (d124/1): "---thanks be unto

God---committing my soul to Almighty God and my Body to the earth".

From the will of Matthew Harris; b. c. 1722; d. 1813 (son of Robert Harris) (d125/7): "—In the name of God, Amen--thanks to God for it and calling into mind the mortal­ity of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die—first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God that first gave it and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a Christian like manner---".

From the will of Nelson Harris; b. c. 1756; d. 1820 (son of Matthew, above): "---In the name of God, Amen---thanks to God for it and calling into mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die---first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God that first gave it and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a Christian like manner---".

From the obituary of Lucy Hudgins McNeal; b. 1891; d. 1990 (d125/7115/55) of Ocala, Florida: "Lucy was a faithful and active member of the First Baptist Church of Ocala. She kept her faith childlike and simple, and instilled in each of her children the same Christian principles she lived her own life by. She set her sights high, kept her feet on the ground and never ever wavered".

From the funeral sermon for Rosie Belle Morgan Jones; b. 1891; d. 1987 (d125/7116/13)
of Rex, Georgia: "Rosie Belle lived a beautiful Christian life. She was a faithful wife and mother. She was a lifelong and faithful member of the Methodist Church--".

From the Womens Christian Temperance Union resolution concerning Lula Majors Harris; '1). 1888; d. 1961 (d125/7115/16) of Fort Payne, Alabama: "She was a great Christian and a noble mother. She kept her heart from guile and her mind from doubt. She lived simply, expecting little and giving much. She forgot herself in serving others. —

The above are a few of the many words of record left by the members of these families who have passed on. There are many other examples which could have been chosen.

 

Personal Freedom and Religious Liberty

 

Perhaps it would be appropriate to discuss what we have learned from our own experiences and from the experiences of our ancestors in these matters,--in the United States, the American colonies and in the British Isles.

We, today, in the United States enjoy a great amount of personal freedoms. These freedoms include religious liberty. We may worship as we please or not worship, so long as we do not interfere with the rights of others to do the same.

No religious organization has the right or power to compel us, against our wills, to either become a member of such organization or to participate in the functions of such organization. Likewise, an individual cannot be compelled to remain as a member of any religious organization after he or she has clearly expressed his or her will to withdraw from the same.

This has not always been true for our ancestors who lived in the American colonies and/or in the British Isles.

Let us take a quick stroll down the paths our ancestors walked and review what they experienced in these matters.

When William I (the Conqueror) became the King of England, he found several Christian church organizations growing and thriving in the British Isles. These churches were locally controlled and free of foreign domination.

William came under heavy political pressure from Pope Gregory VII who wanted to obtain control of these churches. After some thought, William refused the Pope's request. He based his refusal on English tradition.

William handled the issue of supervision of the churches by Archbishop of Canterbury. Lanfranc was Italian in origin and matters. His influence extended to the Christian churches in Ireland, Scotland and Normandy.

The Popes of Rome, over many generations, used their political powers in struggles to control the churches in the British Isles. Generally, these political battles were centered around the issues of who would succeed to the throne of England and would be named to be Archbishop of Canterbury. The efforts were more successful generations after William I.

The Pope succeeded in gaining control of the churches in England when an Archbishop of Canterbury surrendered such control over the objections of the King. At the time, this king was heavily engaged in other fights.

The Pope excommunicated at least one King of England, John I.

During the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47), the church at Rome was at a low ebb respectability and acceptability in Europe. This was during the time of Martin Luther in Germany and when the memory of John Wycliff was still quite strong in England. Underground movements seeking a Christianity independent of Rome were flourishing in England. These events coincided with King Henry VIII's problems in gains the Pope's approval for an annulment of his marriage.

Henry broke with the Pope. The Parliament, in April 1533, dissolved the reaming powers of the Pope over the churches of England.

Once again, the churches of England were free of foreign domination. The problem local political control was still present. Control of these churches, from one time to another, was either by the politics of the Pope or by the politics of the Kings and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Six years or so after the death of King Henry VIII, his daughter by his first wife Catherine of Aragon, became the reigning monarch of England. Queen Mary I of England was born on February 18, 1516 and died on November 17, 1558. She reigned from 1500 until the day of her death.

Mary was a Roman Catholic. She married Philip of Spain, her cousin, on July __ 1554. Mary placed the churches of England under the control of the Pope at Rome and at her urging, Parliament enacted heresy laws with the death penalty.

Mary's actions triggered a rebellion in England. She pursued a bloody tyranny, burring many protestants at the stake and jailing others. So widespread was the carne in England that the Queen became known as "Bloody Mary".

Mary's death in 1558 was hailed with joy by the people of England.

The lessons learned by the English during the reign of Queen Mary I were an example to the world of how cruel and barbaric the politics of religion can be when they are united with the politics of the civil government. Such lessons were well remember by those who established the government of the United States of America.

Mary was succeeded on the throne of England by her half-sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. Elizabeth was born on September 1533 and died on March 23, 1603.

The crowning of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 was an event of joy and relief in England

Elizabeth severed the English ties with the church at Rome.

She reached accord with Parliament and declared that through the House of Commons and the House of Lords every Englishman of every estate should be represented. She, in 1601, urged Parliament to enact laws to deal with the conditions of poverty in the land.

The Pope, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, continued the political struggle to regain control over the English churches. One of the figures in these plots was Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary was a descendant of King Henry VII of England. She had been Queen of Scotland for a period of time. The people of Scotland had removed Mary from the throne because she had strongly supported the Pope's efforts to control the churches in Scotland.

Mary made herself available to the groups who favored church control by the Pope. Mary had ties to the English royal family sufficient for her to claim the throne in case the childless Queen Elizabeth died.

The political pressures mounted until Mary was executed in the Tower of London on the charge of treason.

Queen Elizabeth was a strong ruler. She was greatly loved and honored by the English people as "good Queen Bess".

Elizabeth had, during her reign, built up the English military and especially the naval fleet.

The Virginia Colony was named for Elizabeth, the virgin queen.

Queen Elizabeth sent help to the protestants in Holland after their leader, William of Orange, was killed in 1584. This event incited the wrath of the Pope and Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Armada was sent to battle the English Navy. The British ships were superior in design and numbers. The Spanish were defeated.

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 after a reign of about 45 years.

Her reign strongly established the churches of England as free from foreign domination.

Elizabeth named King James VI of Scotland to succeed her on the throne of England.

James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. Unlike his mother, James was a Calvinist. In his theology. James was also a descendant of Robert the Bruce of Scotland.

James King of Scotland had already experienced the battles as to who would control the churches in Scotland. He received requests from several religious groups to control the churches of Scotland, including the Pope. He turned them all down.

James retained nominal control of the church himself. He relied on the Erastian theory that the state should be supreme in church matters.

The record of James in church matters was well known in England. He came into England in 1603 and was well received.

When James VI of Scotland became also James I of England, the countries of Scotland and England were united under one government.

James I of England heard from the Pope. The Pope wanted to control the churches of England. The answer was, no. Other groups of religious leaders also asked for special favors from James.

James held a convocation of Anglican Bishops and Puritans to discuss a petition of the Puritans. James construed their request to be a revival of the Puritan claim in Scotland that the church was superior to the government.

The convocation, in 1604, passed canons of church law which included severe penalties for anyone who "impugned the royal supremacy".

Many of the Puritans were enraged and fled to Holland. From there some crossed the Atlantic as Pilgrims and landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

Some of the Puritans in the American colonies controlled the villages in which they lived. They forced all who lived there, by penalty of civil law, to abide by the rules of their religion. They appeared to want religious liberty for themselves but . not for others. This is another example of the tyranny of the union of state and religion.

The Puritans did gain an authorization from the convocation (Hampton Court Confer­ence) for a new translation of the Bible - The King James Version - used by all English speaking Protestants until well into the Twentieth Century.

Confrontations between the Scottish Parliament and King James also resulted in more democracy for Scotland.

Our English ancestors learned the hard way that the mixture of church and state diminishes the freedoms of citizens in the harshest of ways.

Our present situation in the United States concerning personal freedoms and religious liberty has come into being because of a remarkable balancing of powers, rights and restraints involving three elements of our society: the individuals, the civil government and religious organizations.

The struggle for religious liberty through the ages has usually involved these described elements of society - individuals, the civil government, and the leaders of religious organizations. Religious intolerance has existed in the past because individuals had no rights and powers and either the civil government and/or a religious organization had excessive powers over individuals.

The most extreme abuses appear to have come about where some particular religious organization either wielded the powers of or else dominated those in charge of the  civil government. Where this situation has existed, individuals have enjoyed diminished personal rights and freedoms.

Individuals, in the American system of government, exercise significant rights and powers in this triad with the civil government and religious organizations. The civil government and religious organizations have both been restrained, not only in their authority over individuals, but, also, in the ways they deal with each other.

The American system of government begins with the assumption and declaration that all legitimate authority and powers to govern are vested, first, in the people; a government is created by the people; such government, so created, has only the authority and powers that have been granted by such people to such government; and that remaining authority and powers in such matters are reserved and remain vested in the people of such state.

Some public and declarative documents, present and influential, when the American system of government was formulated, speak of certain inalienable rights of men - received from their Creator -, and natural rights of men. These rights are not to be (or cannot be) given away to any government.

The "establishment clause" in the first amendment (the Bill of Rights) to the Federal Constitution is intended to remove the government from active participation in religious matters. The government must not establish or favor any religious Organization. The government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion.

We understand that governments are merely the creations and tools of human beings. Such governments have no souls and lack; the abilities to worship, to believe in God, or not to believe in God. Any action by such government in the field of religion is simply by the manipulations of the human beings who have the operative control of such government. It is better that such persons should worship in their own churches and leave the government as neutral, but not antagonistic, toward religion.

The "free exercise of religion" clause does not include the right to abuse people. A religious organization has no greater right, than any other element of society, to commit civil wrongs and crimes against individuals. The Constitution, also, prohibits involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime. The laws and courts of this land are available to protect people from such wrongs.

The role of the civil government in religious matters is to insure the rights of individuals and the rights of religious organizations to engage in the free exercise of religion.

Many of our existing laws, which are intended to protect persons and property, came, originally from religious writings such as the Bible. Such origin does not violate the "establishment clause".

The government or system of governments in the United States of America is, indeed, a Peoples' government. It belongs to all of the citizens of this great "land of the free and home of the brave".

Perhaps, our system of government is best described by the words of former President, Abraham Lincoln. It is a government, "of the people, by the people and for the people".

The laws enacted in this land are man made and are enforced for the benefit of the people. Such man made government is imperfect. It has always been imperfect, and it will continue to be imperfect. All other governments in the world are, of course, man made. They are also imperfect. Fully considering the imperfections of our own government, it is still the best and we should protect it against it's enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

The individual, in this country, votes as he or she participates in the affairs of civil government. Such individual may or may not be a member of a religious organization. Religious organizations, of course, do not vote and have no direct way to participate in the affairs of government.

As between the civil government and the churches, the individual is the common denominator. Such individual may participate in both.

One might conclude that this system would satisfy all concerned. After all, religious organizations have full freedom to persuade individuals to accept their doctrines and beliefs and to participate in their organizations. These same members, as citizens of the state, participate in running the government.

We understand from public statements, oral and written, that some religious leaders are not content to simply persuade people. We understand that some have very urgent desires to acquire political powers, and to use such powers to dominate the government.

The "establishment clause", of course, has a dampening effect on those religious organizations which may desire to dominate the civil government. However, any group that is able to acquire sufficient power to take away significant portions of your rights is, surely, powerful enough to take away all of your rights. The losers, in such process, include the rank and file members of such organizations.

Remembering the painful and bitter experiences our ancestors suffered when religious leadership gained control of the civil government, the practices of some elements in our society are both ominous and threatening.

Those who cherish freedom in this country should be concerned about: religious organizations with political agendas; religious organizations participating in political campaigns as religious organizations; religious leaders using their church offices to discipline and to threaten their own members because of the choices they make in their legislative duties; and the activities of some religious leaders in mobilizing and coercing their own members to vote, as blocks, in civil elections.

Shared spiritual faith, not politics, is the "tie that binds". Jesus Christ did not involve himself in the politics of his day. No admonition for such involvement is contained in either the Great Commission (Matthew 28;19-21), or in any other teachings or personal examples in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Certainly, every person, including followers of Jesus Christ, should, in his or her role as a citizen of the state, participate fully in the affairs of government. Remembering, however, that God's House is a place of prayer, it should not be used as a den of politicians and secular political causes. There are more appropriate forums for such activities.

We should not be misled by those who have excessive appetites to have and to use political power. That "wall of separation between church and state", of which we sometimes speak, can be destroyed from either of its sides. That balancing of powers, rights and restraints that exists in this country to protect individual liberties:, could become unbalanced and those freedoms could be swallowed up in a "religious tyranny. Such event in world affairs is, of course, not a rare occurrence.

Another area of personal freedoms which requires improvements is that of our rights, As free individuals, to speak and to, peacefully and lawfully, express ourselves in spiritual matters. These rights are among those which are supported by the Declaration Independence, protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, and which are, to an inadequate degree, protected by the Supreme Court of the United States.

 The courts have correctly made the point that public officials must not, in their official acts, promote (or establish) religions. They also correctly made the point that public school officials must not formulate religious services (or establish religions) for those children who attend such public schools.

The Supreme Court, in going far beyond the measures that were reasonably necessary to implement those decisions, may have seriously diminished the rights of individual citizens to express matters relating to their personal faiths, especially when publicly owned lands are involved.

Imprimis, the Government - including the Supreme Court -, with some exceptions, does t have the power, under the Constitution, to prohibit the free exercise of religion. The Court, by reaching some judgments which denied to some the right to continue some ancient religious practices, and denied to others the temporary use of public lands for the purpose of religious expressions, may have demonstrated that the Court has not properly observed its own limits of power under the Constitution.

The Court's excesses in construing the activities that constitute the "establishment religion", by some state agencies, may have, unnecessarily, interfered with the rights of individual public school students to express themselves in spiritual matters.

The Court has not yet reached the proper balance between two of the First Amendment restrictions on the powers of government. These restrictions are linked together; i.e. ,-- no laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The Court should keep trying until it gets it right.

This "establishment clause" contain restrictions on the powers of all branches of government, including the Supreme Court, in the area of religion. This same "establishment clause" is a very strong source of power, with few exceptions, for individual citizens in their rights to worship.

One could and should be able to reason that the freedom of personal religious expression in this country should receive protection from the Court at least equal to that received for the freedom of political expression.

That, of course, has not been the case in recent years. The freedom of political expression has received extraordinary favor in recent Court decisions. The Court has not dealt so forthrightly with the rights of citizens to voluntarily express their religious convictions.

Eternal vigilance is still, in this year of our lives, the price of liberty.

Some  other thoughts: The rights of individuals to own land and their rights to participate as entrepreneurs in a free (economic) enterprise system are essential elements in a country where citizens are to be and to remain free.

 
 

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©  2009 Ginger L. Christmas-Beattie, Nola Duffy or individual contributors.    No portion of this any document appearing on this site is to be used for other than personal research.  Any republication or reposting is expressly forbidden without the written consent of the owner.07/16/2012