Initial Search for Sources

As I ended my previous post [footnote]Robert Kuropkat, “Sensational Trials to Choose From”, September 23, 2016,[/footnote] I had pretty much narrowed my research choices to two; the Constitutional Convention and the impact of Martin Luther over the centuries.  My approach for researching the Constitutional Convention would run similar to researching any trial and would involve researching documents from the time of the event.  For the second however, I would be less interested in the documents of Martin Luther (and others from that precise time) as I would in later discussions about those documents, Martin Luther himself and the resulting Protestant movement and the impact they had on the current day.

The second idea (Impact of Martin Luther over the Centuries) was inspired by two things.  The first being a lack of readily available primary sources at the time of Martin Luther and they likely fact those available would be in German or Latin.  The second reason was the article mentioned in my first post from an 1883 Catholic World [footnote]LUTHER AND THE DIET OF WORMS. (1883, 11). The Catholic World, A Monthly Magazine of General Literature and Science (1865-1906), 38, 145.[/footnote] magazine.  I found it surprising the Catholic Church, 300 years later would find it needful to still address the writings of Martin Luther, not in an historical sense, but rather in how his writings and efforts still affect the current day.

While I was now fairly certain there were discussions in every century following Luther, I was not sure how much I would find, especially in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century.  Thus, I was beginning to lean more towards the Constitutional Convention, which should not only have readily available sources, they would be in English.

I began my search with Google and made the obvious start with Wikipedia.  I did not read the article in depth as I mainly wanted to ascertain the availability of primary sources.   I generally hoped there would be some sort of newspapers from the time available, but was not sure what else.  The Wikipedia article also gave me a quick introduction to the players of the time.  I quickly found several unexpected sources.  The first was “The Virginia Plan.” [footnote]James Madison, et al., “The Virginia Plan” also known as “The Randolph Plan” also known as “The Large State Plan”, May 29, 1787[/footnote]

Prior to the convention, the Virginia delegates drafted an outline of their interests to help focus and guide the upcoming discussions.  It was not a complete plan stated in full, but just an outline.  None the less, it was largely accepted and formed basis of the final document.  As it turns out, there were in fact several plans from other delegates, each generally response to the plans preceding it.  What I did find surprising was there appear to have been no official minutes kept of many of the proceedings and those kept were sparse.  The most complete information on the convention itself has come from “Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787″ by James Madison [footnote]Gordon Lloyd, editor, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 [of James Madison], September 5, 2013,[/footnote] as well as notes made by Robert Yates. [footnote]”Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787, Taken by the Late Hon Robert Yates, Chief Justice of the State of New York, and One of the Delegates from That State to the Said Convention, by Robert Yates,” The Avaolon Project, Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman School of Law Library, accessed October 08, 2016,[/footnote]

The next big sources, or sets of sources are what later became known as the “Federalist Papers” [footnote]”The Federalist Papers”,, accessed October 8, 2016,[/footnote] and the opposing “Anti-Federalist Papers” which it seems are harder to find and less studied.  The best known compilation of these papers is a seven volume series compiled by Herbert J. Storing.  [footnote]Herbert Storing, Murray Dry, The Complete anti-Federalist, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981)[/footnote]  In short, after the convention, many of the participants, some under pseudonyms, wrote a series of essays on the pros and cons of the proposed constitution.  Think of them as unofficial opinions and dissenting opinions of the participants.

When I started to chase these down, I was eventually lead to the Library of Congress’ web site [footnote]”Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789,” Library of Congress, accessed Octber 8, 2016,[/footnote] where many of these documents and others of the time have been digitized and/or transcribed.  In fact, I may have also found my newspapers in the form of “broadsides” from the time.  In one path of link chasing, I also found what might have newspapers from this time frame also at the University of Wisconsin – Madison History Departments Center for the Study of the American Constitution. [footnote]”American Newspapers during Ratification, 1787-1788,” University of Wisconson – Madison, Center for the Study of the American Constitution, Department of History, accessed October 8, 2016,[/footnote]  The title of the page and links seemed to be exactly what I wanted but many of the links had either essays instead of the promised news clippings and or nothing more than the heading from the newspaper.  However, a few did have transcriptions of actual articles and it is possible there is enough information in the site to chase down the original articles still.

In other link chasing about the various participants, I got some interesting insight into the times including external events and associations and relations between the various participants.  I found it interesting that many of the members were members of many of the same societies including, Freemasons (not actually mentioned in Wikipedia), Society of the Cincinnati and the American Philosophical Society.  What I quickly saw was an interesting state of tension between old and new.  These men were reformers, but they were by and large, educated and brought up in the same society they were rebelling against.  This meant they often did things out of habit that at times made them appear to be nothing more than the new representation of the old world.  This often caused some to reject out of hand, any idea or association that smacked of England and the Monarchy, while others naturally formed themselves around the same ideals and social structures they were used to, presumably either not initially seeing the impact or feeling they need not through out everything, just those parts that were in fact bad.

At this point, having convinced myself I had sufficient material to do research on the Constitutional Convention, I set out to prove to myself I did NOT have enough to do the research I envisioned on Martin Luther.  What I in fact found, rather surprised me.

Straight of, a search on Google lead me to several online magazines such as Catholic World Report which from the last few years with discussions of Martin Luther.  These included titles such as “Hovering Over Rome, the Ghost of Martin Luther” [footnote]Alessandra Nucci, Hovering over Rome: The Ghost of Martin Luther, The Catholic World Report, March 16, 2016, accessed October 08, 2016,[/footnote] and “The Pope, Martin Luther and Our Time.” [footnote]Mark Brumley, Hovering over Rome: The Ghost of Martin Luther, The Catholic World Report, September 25, 2011, accessed October 08, 2016, [/footnote]  I found other articles announcing various accords and agreements between the Catholic and Lutheran churches.  So now I had at least a sampling of articles from the nineteenth and the twenty-first centuries.  I assumed the twentieth century would be easy enough to find and found it in a rather interesting way.  I stumbled onto the Evangelical Catholic Church, but let me get back to that in a moment.

As I searched further, I found the “Book of Concord” [footnote[Jakob Andreae and Martin Chemnitz (compilers), “The Book of Concord,” (Dresden, Germany, 1580)[/footnote] from 1584 and a modern website, [footnote]”The Book of Concord, The Confessions of the Lutheran Church,” accessed 08 October 2016,[/footnote] about forty years after the death of Martin Luther and nearly seventy years after Luther posted his “95 Theses”. [footnote]Martin Luther, “Ninety-five Theses” also known as “Disputation on the Power of Indulgences,” letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, October 31, 1517[/footnote] I also found Joseph Lortz, a Roman Catholic Church historian who lived from 1887 – 1975.  It seemed even a cursory search was starting to fill the gaps.  I even found a couple random mentions that composers such as Johann Sebastian Back were influenced by the works of Martin Luther, though I would need to search deeper than the few blog posts I stumbled on.

So to close with, let me jump back to the Evangelical Catholic Church.  This lead me on a tour of Protestant religions, something I had done before, but not with this particular focus.  I had often heard the Lutheran Church being referred to as “Catholic Lite” and I knew the Lutheran Church was part of a movement to build new relations with the Catholic Church.  However, I always assumed the various Protestant religions were by and large formed on their own ideals.  In some cases, there were similarities to Lutheranism and the ideals of Martin Luther but I assumed those were easily attributed to being a response to the same source, during the same time, with the same influences and so would naturally have some common ground.  However, the more I look, it appears many of the other Protestant religions of this time are actually a response to TWO major influences; the long standing traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and how well they believed Martin Luther responded to the many perceived flaws of the Roman Catholic Church.  As such, it seems any discussion about any Protestant religion must inevitably compare itself to BOTH the Catholic teachings AND the writings of Martin Luther.

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