Re: [asa] Samuel F. B. Morse as model or detractor for evangelical faith??

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Jan 28 2008 - 16:38:10 EST

I realize this is an old thread, but apropos is an article by Notre Dame law
prof. Rick Garnett in today's USA Today:

On Dec 18, 2007 2:27 PM, Clarke Morledge <> wrote:

> I recently finished reading David Bodanis' _Electric Universe_. Bodanis
> gives some biographical information about how Christian faith influenced
> some of the early electricity scientists/inventors in the 19th century.
> But one of the disturbing accounts he gives is about Samuel F. B. Morse,
> the talented painter who patented the telegraph and co-invented the Morse
> code. Several strikes are made against Morse:
> 1. He basically stole Joseph Henry's work on the underlying principles of
> the telegraph and patented it for himself.
> 2. He ran for mayor of New York on a "nativist" platform, the "Know
> Nothing" party, protesting against the immigration of non-Protestants to
> America. The implication is that not only was he anti-Catholic, he was
> also racist and anti-semitic. Furthermore, he had a peculiar conspiracy
> theory about how Catholic immigration was a papal/Jesuit plot threatening
> to undermine American society, and that he developed the telegraph as a
> means to subvert this threat (Morse's book, "Foreign Conspiracy Against
> the Liberties of the United States - The Numbers of Brutus").
> I also did a little more research on Morse and the Wikipeadia article
> suggests that Morse had more Unitarian leanings than his famous,
> staunchly-Calvinist preacher father, Jedidiah Morse. Samuel Morse was
> also staunchly pro-slavery, but it might be difficult to hold that against
> him since there were so many evangelicals during his time who agreed with
> him.
> In a number of evangelical "providentialist" approaches to American
> history, Morse is upheld as an evangelical role model; e.g. Stephen K.
> McDowell's _Building Godly Nations_, or on the AIG website:
> And even this perhaps surprisingly positive portrait from the Christian
> History Glimpses that appear in many church Sunday bulletins:
> But the way Bodanis approaches Morse, holding up Morse as a model
> Christian is rather ill fitting.
> So which description is correct here: Morse the thief and conspiracy
> theorist as Bodanis portrays him, or Morse the humble Christian as the
> "providentialists" argue --- or perhaps somewhere in between?
> Clarke Morledge
> College of William and Mary
> Information Technology - Network Engineering
> Jones Hall (Room 18)
> Williamsburg VA 23187
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Received on Mon Jan 28 16:39:24 2008

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