Herman Husband: The Forgotten Founder

Herman Husband.(Author’s note.  The original head photo was John Adams.  This composite sketch was lent to me courtesy of http://wethepeoplegame.com/ and Bob Snizek.  They hold all legal rights to it.)

 

His hair was unkempt for it had not been brushed in years.   His clothes were tattered and mended; they were meant for farm work and not for addressing the members of the Pennsylvania Assembly.  Yet he stood before the assembled leaders of colonial Pennsylvania and he preached fire and brimstone.   He called down the wrath of God upon the crowned heads of Europe and the land speculators in New York.  He preached the New Jerusalem on the American Continent.  His America was one that Superman would be proud of for it was founded on Truth and Justice. Staring at his audience, no, his congregation, with eyes of fire, he preached the damnation of slaveholders, and condemned those who abused the natives to eternal hellfire. When he was finished, his audience rose to applaud their hero. His name was Herman Husband. His detractors called him the Mad Man of the Mountains, but his fellow members of the Pennsylvania assembly called him a man of God.

Born to a wealthy family in Maryland, Husband got religion from working for his tavern keeper uncle. That same uncle also taught him the value of hard work. Those lessons were so well learned that young Herman could not readjust to the frivolous life of a Maryland plantation owner’s son. He found their vapid imitation of British court life sinful, and he could not abide slavery. He soon moved away and bought his own plantation. He left the Anglican Church, which he felt was the home of the antichrist, and joined the Quakers. Proving that there was no fanatic quite like a convert, Husband became the most dedicated of Quakers. Forsaking all vanity, he refused to brush his hair and wore only work clothes. Even though his plantation and business interests made him a very wealthy man, he lived as frugally as a pauper. Despite his frugality and his uncompromising religious beliefs, his children adored him, and all three of his wives felt he was the world’s greatest mate.

His first wife gladly converted to the Society of Friends, his second wife joined him in exile when the Quaker elders banished him, and his third wife and all his children helped him escape when King George had a price on his head. Husband refused to compromise when it came to religion. It was his firm belief that God spoke to each and every human being regardless of race or gender. When he criticized the Quaker elders for forbidding revelation contrary to Quaker doctrine, the elders banished him. Husband could care less. His church was the invisible church on the right hand of God. No earthly authority had the right to tell him he wasn’t one of the elect.

Husband joined with fellow banished Quakers, angry Baptists, defrocked Methodists, and other heretics who became what is known as the Regulators. They did not earn that name for their religious beliefs. On the contrary, religion was the most unregulated thing about them. To them, accepting Jesus as their lord and savior automatically made them the equals of any popes or bishops. They could not care less about historic inaccuracies in the Bible. To them, the book was a divination tool. The will of God was revealed through relating the Bible stories to the modern world. It mattered not to them that there was no historic Moses, the Ten Commandments were still God’s own truth.

While the Regulators could not agree on dogma or ritual, they did agree on politics. Amazingly, the Regulators were in total agreement that God wanted a progressive tax on wealth. It also came to a surprise to George Washington that God hated land speculators and wanted title given to the people who actually developed the land. Alexander Hamilton was not amused to hear that God demanded low interest loans to farmers. Imagine Thomas Jefferson’s outrage when he discovered that the Almighty not only wanted him to free his slaves, but to pay reparations for the indignities of being owned. The Regulators also felt that Africans and Native Americans had equal rights in the eyes of God and both should enjoy full civil rights on earth.

The name Regulators came from their belief that good government was government that protected the rights of the poor from the depredations of the wealthy. Laws should be passed to assure everybody of equal opportunities, and that everybody had an equal voice in government. Back when George Washington was still having tea with the Royal Governor of Virginia, and John Adams was campaigning for a British peerage, the Regulators were calling for an America free of European tyranny. The King was not happy, nor were the governors of Maryland and Virginia. It was not long before the Regulators became an illegal organization and Herman Husband fled into the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Husband the fugitive came to settle in the Allegheny Mountains. Known only as the Quaker, he worked amongst the the trappers and hunters who settled around Pittsburgh. Eventually he built a homestead where his wife and children joined him. His neighbors respected him not just as a farmer but as a preacher. He shared his vision of the American West as a new Jerusalem, and his dream of welcoming the reign of Christ through establishing just laws. In those days before the Rapture became dogma, Christians believed that the reign of Christ could be brought into existence through the efforts of human beings. Husband had a vision of the New Jerusalem ruled through a complex legislature based on strict term limits. His neighbors so loved his vision that they elected him to the Pennsylvania legislature twice.

There was no greater champion of the American Revolution than Herman Husband. To him, George Washington was a latter day Joshua, bringing down the walls of the British Jericho. Later, Husband would be shocked and dismayed by his hero. Not only was Washington an absentee land owner in Husband’s own beloved Alleghenies, but Washington’s presidency was a repudiation of everything Husband lived and worked for. The grand old man of the Regulators saw the Constitution as a work of Satan, and a means for the rich to exploit and abuse the poor. Having the general who led the revolution as the first president under that Satanic document almost shattered Husband’s belief in God.

Almost, but not quite. Despite the unfair taxation that exploited his neighbors, and laws that protected land speculators from prosecution from their tenants, Husband continued to believe. He continued to preach his New Jerusalem based on the equality of man. He continued to preach a progressive tax against wealth, civil rights for all, and an end to the damnable institution of slavery. When his neighbors rebelled against the Federal Government over Hamilton’s Whiskey Tax, which provided the likes of George Washington with a lucrative monopoly, Herman Husband was the first to join in.

He was also to be the first of many to be arrested without due process and the only one to be prosecuted for the crime of sedition. There were many Federalists who heard him preach against a government that forced hard working farmers off their land, and imposing taxes that sent working men into the poor house. Worse of all, he preached against slavery, and in the early days of the US government, that was a constitutional violation. Out of the 28 people to be prosecuted for the Whiskey Rebellion, Herman Husband was one of two to be found guilty. The rest were found not guilty despite judge’s orders to enter a guilty verdict. Washington, adroit politician that he was, pardoned him so he would not become a martyr to the anti Federalist cause. The pardon didn’t come a minute too soon. Herman Husband contracted pneumonia from being kept in an unheated cell in December and died soon after being released.

Poor Herman Husband never lived to see his American Jerusalem and was betrayed by the very heroes he prayed for. The religious movement he helped to found transmuted into today’s religious right. The social movement he helped start continued after his death, and later influenced such thinkers as Karl Marx and Charles Dickens. I find it funny that the only founding father I have any affection for was the great-grandfather of today’s born again movement. If there was any Christian who truly deserved heaven, it was Herman Husband, because it was he and not Washington or Jefferson, and especially not Hamilton, who embodied the American spirit of Liberty and Equality. Only Herman Husband embodied the best qualities of the religious and of the socialist. May his memory be restored as an example to us all.

Footnote

John Adams

Those White Savages Actually Think They Can Rule Themselves?


An Open Letter to Queen Elizabeth II

We Are Not Amused

We Are Not Amused

Your Most Gracious Majesty,

It has surely come to your attention that once again, your  North American Colonies  caused another worldwide stock market crash.  We realize this is the second time in eighty years that we have done this, and we  are very embarrassed about it.  We sincerely hope that it has not caused you any inconvenience. Our thanks to the Bank of England for lending us over 80 billion dollars to pull our economy out of a hole of our own digging.  Please extend our kindest regards to your loyal subjects in the Bank of England.  We would have been in a considerable amount of trouble without them.

As we are on the subject of embarrassing mistakes, we would like to make amends for a blunder we made about 230 years ago when we rebelled against His Majesty George III.  In hindsight we understand this to have been a very bad idea.  We were not capable of self rule in 1776, and we have failed to become competent in the last two and a third centuries.  Perhaps we  in the Colonies suffer from a form of cultural Attention Deficit Disorder.  Maybe we suffer from massive brain damage due to our low air pollution standards.  Whatever the reasons, we keep ruining things for the rest of the world.

It is not as if we deliberately keep destroying the world economy.  We have the very best intentions.  You see, our present leaders promised us prosperity.  They told us an unregulated market would create a stronger economy.  They promised us better paying jobs, the sun,  the stars, and the pretty moon.  They even told us  an unregulated market would be best for the whole world.  It seemed they were telling us the truth, until the Tech Bubble burst in 2000.   Next came the mortgage meltdown, and now the stock market crash.  We just can’t seem to do anything right.

Of course, one of the problems is the leaders we keep choosing.  I am sure Your Majesty can tell us a few stories about Lyndon Johnson’s  gallbladder and Richard Nixon’s drinking.  I can just imagine how difficult it was for you to make small talk with poor Mr. Reagan.  People with Alzheimer’s do ramble on so. Let us take this opportunity to apologize for young Mr. Bush.  We do hope your roses have recovered from him landing his helicopter on them.

Looking at Europe, it seems like you have grown since the last great war.  You have socialized medicine and and a minimum standard of living.    Meanwhile the United States keeps falling back to 1929.  Your World Court has guaranteed civil rights for gays, lesbians, and trans people, but American gays still fear for their lives in many parts of the country.  Your subjects enjoy all these benefits, and yet you have the prosperity to save the failing American economy.

There is no doubt about it.  We Americans are not capable of self rule.  We should not even let ourselves out of our homes without a keeper.  Your Most Gracious Majesty, we most humbly beg you to save us from ourselves and take us back as a crown colony. We are most terribly sorry about the misunderstanding  in 1776.  We will officially change its name from the Revolutionary War to the Failed Rebellion.  We will posthumously try Ben Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson for treason and symbolically hang them in the Washington Mall, which will be renamed the Cornwallis Memorial Park.  We will rename Washington, DC “Arnold” after Benedict Arnold, and place a statue of him on the White House Lawn.  The White House will be renamed the Lord Governor’s Residence.  We will even pay for the tea we so rudely dropped into Boston Harbor.

Please take us back. We’re sorry. We’ll be good. We’ll never do it again.

Yours Contritely,

The American Colonists

Our Country 'Tis of Thee, God Save Our Gracious Queen

Our Country 'Tis of Thee, God Save Our Gracious Queen