Monday, May 14, 2007

British-Israelism, America and the Philippines (Article)

With the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the first British settlement in the Americas, commemorated today, we can explore the link of this event with the theme of our blog.

When Philip II united the Spanish and Portuguese empires under Spain, many thought he had become the prophesied Last World Emperor, a veritable second Solomon. However, in 1587 the Protestant princess Elizabeth ruined the king's hopes of placing a Catholic monarch on the English throne.

Elizabeth I became the queen of Protestant England and supported Dutch Protestant rebels against Spain. This set up the Anglo-Spanish War which outlasted both Philip II and Elizabeth I and led to the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Spain, only shortly after reaching its greatest height, now began a slow decline.

England, on the other hand, had imperial ambitions of its own as expressed by authors like Samuel Purchas and John Dee.

Dee, the sometime-astrologer of Elizabeth I, had weighted in on the "Ophirian Conjecture," and had even devised a plan for a new British empire in Europe and throughout the world.

Unlike the Catholics before them, the rising Protestant movement looked at the Jews in a favorable light and even sought association with the Jewish people. In the late 1600s, works like Abasalom and Achitophel brought to light analogies between the British and Jewish peoples.

In 1714, John Toland propounded a common descent of the British and the Hebrews. This might be considered the rise of what is known today as British-Israelism or Anglo-Israelism, the belief that the British were, like the Jews, God's Chosen People.

By the mid-1700s, British-Israelism had taken hold not only in Britain, as in 1783 the book The United States elevated to Glory and Honor by Ezra Stiles shows that the theory was also taking root in Anglo-America.

"Ophirian Conjecture"

The British-Israelists adopted Catholic ideas of Tarshish and Ophir to some extent while rejecting the idea of a Last World Emperor or Great Monarch that was so popular among Iberians, the French and the Catholic Germans/Austrians.

In the British view, Tarshish of the prophecies was not in the East Indies, but was a reference either to Britain or Spain. According to the former theory, Britain was Tarshish and its colonies particularly the United States were the "young lions of Tarshish" mentioned in biblical prophecy.

The other view, which seems to have become more prominent, stated that Spain was Tarshish and according to the theory was related to the ancient Iberian port of Tartessos. The "ships of Tarshish" mentioned in the Bible refer to the Spanish discovery of the Americas, which were supposedly known as the "isles."

"The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents" (Psalm 72)

The Anglo-Saxons, according to the theory, were descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes who had assimilated with the Scythians, and the British kings were said to be related to the Davidic line of Judah.

American believers in this world-view asserted that the United States would fulfill a role in end-times prophecies as the modern Tarshish that confronts the Antichrist in Ezekial's prophecy.

Of course, to some extent this required wresting Spain's title as the great Ophirian empire.

Ideas of Anglo-Saxon supremacy helped in the development of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the justification for American world expansion. Among Protestant, and especially Methodist ministers in America, the idea of America's prophetic calling was loudly trumpeted in the 19th century.

Methodist ministers like Lorenzo Dow, Fountain Pitts and Samuel Davies Baldwin spoke of America's part in the final battle of Armageddon.

"Surely the isles shall wait for me and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far." --- Isa. lx...America answers to the term "isles," and "the ships of Tarshish first," to the discovery of America by the ships of Spain, opening the way to the emigration of God's people, to form a nationality in "the isles."

-- Samuel Davies Baldwin, Armageddon: Or, The Overthrow of Romanism and Monarchy; the Existence of the United States

In an address at the U.S. Capitol on the anniversary of Washington's Birthday in 1857, Fountain Pitts delivered two discourses on "Defence of Armageddon, or, Our Great Country Foretold in the Holy Scriptures."

The waiting isles of Isaiaih are a sublime announcement of our great country and its early occupation by European emigrants. "Surely, the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring my sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord they God, and to the Holy One of Israel."

Pitts told of the last war with Gog and Magog, the monarchies of Russia and England, but in which "Republicanism every where prevail, and nations learn war no more. Then sets in that millenial day, when science, commerce, manufactures and the arts would spread, the religion of the Son of God have sway, "righteousness and peace among the people walk, Messiah reign, and earth keen jubilee a thousand years."

A book based on Pitts sermons sold in four editions and was highly popular.

Methodist views, William Mckinley and the Philippines

William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States, the leader who fought the war against Spain, the other Ophirian candidate from Europe.

McKinley was a Methodist and would have been exposed to the American Israelism of Methodist ministers like Dow, Pitts and Baldwin.

Spain had sought Tarshish and Ophir in the Philippines and other islands of the East Indies and the West Pacific. When McKinley chose to take possession of the Philippines as part of the "white man's burden" he later explained his decision to a delegation of Methodist ministers.

Hold a moment longer! Not quite yet, gentlemen! Before you go I would like to say just a word about the Philippine business. I have been criticized a good deal about the Philippines, but don’t deserve it. The truth is I didn’t want the Philippines, and when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them. When the Spanish War broke out Dewey was at Hongkong, and I ordered him to go to Manila and to capture or destroy the Spanish fleet, and he had to; because, if defeated, he had no place to refit on that side of the globe, and if the Dons were victorious they would likely cross the Pacific and ravage our Oregon and California coasts. And so he had to destroy the Spanish fleet, and did it! But that was as far as I thought then.

When I next realized that the Philippines had dropped into our laps I confess I did not know what to do with them. I sought counsel from all sides—Democrats as well as Republicans—but got little help. I thought first we would take only Manila; then Luzon; then other islands perhaps also. I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way—I don’t know how it was, but it came: (1) That we could not give them back to Spain—that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) that we could not turn them over to France and Germany—our commercial rivals in the Orient—that would be bad business and discreditable; (3) that we could not leave them to themselves—they were unfit for self-government—and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was; and (4) that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed, and went to sleep, and slept soundly, and the next morning I sent for the chief engineer of the War Department (our map-maker), and I told him to put the Philippines on the map of the United States (pointing to a large map on the wall of his office), and there they are, and there they will stay while I am President!

In the the 1898 edition of American Monthly Magazine published by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary S. Lockwood explained the American victory in the Spanish-American War as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy:

"Howl ye ships of Tarshish, for your strength is laid waste."

We know the disasters that befel the ships of Tarshish and the above quotations are prophetic of disasters that have fallen upon Spanish fleets, which have floated on the Spanish waters that have laved the shores of Guadalquivir since the days that Hiram brought the ships of Tarshish to the day that the Spanish flag was struck over the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and "Old Glory" floated over the waters at the command of Dewey. The great naval expedition planned and sent out by King Philip of Spain against England in the days of Queen Elizabeth, known as the invincible armada, was collected at Cadiz...Admiral Drake made a dash into the harbor of Cadiz and destroyed one hundred ships, with abundant arms and stores, repeating the prophecy, "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish."

Lockwood noted that Anglo-Saxon America and Britain should now take the world stage as divinely-ordained protector of humanity.

Now, what is our duty? To establish a solid, orderly government and to occupy these islands until such an government obtains, if that means that "Old Glory" shall forever float over them. Our second duty: Let us make an alliance of hearts if not of hands with our kinsmen over the sea. The God of their battles has been the God of our battles, their prophecies have been our prophecies. We are of one tongue, one blood, one purpose -- the uplifting of humanity. Cruel as is war, its results, it is well if out of it comes a day when "the Star-Spangled Banner" and the Union Jack float together protecting the human side of the world.

America had willingly assumed the Ophirian mantle, the culmination of centuries of Anglo-Israel thought development.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Baldwin, Samuel Davies. Armageddon: Or, The Overthrow of Romanism and Monarchy; the Existence of the United States, Applegate, 1863.

Dow, Lorenzo and Peggy Dow. History of Cosmopolite, Or the Four Volumes of Lorenzo Dow's Journal, J. Martin, 1848.

Lockwood, Mary and Daughters of the American Revolution. The American Monthly Magazine, R.R. Bowker Co., 1898, pp. 326-329.

Pitts, Fountain E. A Defence of Armageddon, Or Our Great Country Foretold in the Holy Scriptures: In Two Discourses, J. W. Bull, 1862.

Weinbrot, Howard D. Britannia's Issue: The Rise of British Literature from Dryden to Ossian, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 419-422.