Seven Miracles that Saved America – by David Forsmark


Seven Miracles that Saved America
Why they Matter, Why We Should Have Hope

By Chris Stewart and Ted Stewart
Shadow Mountain, $27.95, 311 pp.
Review by David Forsmark

“In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. … I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs the affairs of men!”

—Benjamin Franklin, 1787

“There is no overwhelming proof, but deep inside we know. And to those who believe, it also seems clear that these events took place with the direction and purpose. Despite our weaknesses, which are many, and our failings, which have existed since our inception, God has been willing to intervene so that this nation might survive.”

– Chris and Ted Stewart, 2009

The Founding Fathers regularly wrote that they considered themselves to be doing God’s work in establishing the United States. This habit was not just confined to the conspicuously devout, such as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams but also to such secular saints as Jefferson and Franklin, the so-called Deists.  More to the point, they fervently believed — and often asserted — that God in his Providence actively intervened in events to make their efforts successful.

Today, we often dismiss such rhetoric as “just the way people talked back then” and explain how politicians of a certain era used it to rally an overwhelmingly religious populace behind them.

In their terrific new book, Seven Miracles that Saved America: Why they Matter, Why We Should Have Hope, former Air Force officer Chris Stewart and his brother, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart, argue forcefully that the Founders not only meant what they said, but they were right.

The Stewarts look at seven instances in which overwhelming odds had to be beaten for the United States to exist in its current form. While some might argue over their meaning or the significance of some of their “miracles,” the unlikely circumstances that saved the day in several cases will have even a hardcore secularist taking a second look:

·         The extraordinary unlikelihood that America was colonized due to the efforts of an ambitious navigator with humble beginnings  — rather than perhaps the greatest fleet ever assembled for just such a purpose– which “discovered” North America about 70 years before Columbus.

·         The million-to-one odds that saved the English colonization of America as a fleet crossing the Atlantic arrives in Jamestown minutes before it was to be abandoned.

·         The fortuitous fog that saved Washington’s army that was as well-timed — and accurate — as any artillery smokescreen.

·         The discovery of the Japanese fleet heading toward Midway in the vastness of the Pacific during World War II by an American reconnaissance airplane extending its search well beyond its operational range.

While this book makes a theological and political point, the emphasis in Seven Miracles that Saved America is on storytelling. The Stewarts employ an unusual device — novelizing part of each chapter, much like the Shaaras or Alan Eckert — while sticking to known facts and actual quotes. This makes for an extremely engaging, if rather quirky, narrative.

The authors open with the fascinating — and not well known account — of how America should have been colonized by the Chinese, rather than by Western Europeans.  Even if the Chinese did not discover the American continents, though it seems likely they should have, with their massive fleet and more advanced technology.

However, the glorious fleet that was sent on a mission of discovery, returned to a China that had changed and become inward-focused and xenophobic. The records of the exploration were burned, and the fabled fleet was left to rot, along with China’s expansionist ambitions.  (For more on this, check out last year’s interesting, if flawed, book, 1421.)

The next chapter, The Miracle at Jamestown, continues the discussion of the religious and cultural nature of those who colonized America and why it was important. While the Stewarts propose the obvious, that those who followed Columbus were culturally very different than the navy of Zheng He, the authors assert it was also very important that a Protestant presence be established in America. They contend the competition among Christian sects led to the religious diversity and tolerance that formed the basis of the United States.

Their story of how close Jamestown came to failure and abandonment is gripping reading.  How it was saved is one of the more convincing cases for the word “miracle” in the book—along with the “mysterious fog” that saved Washington’s army in New York in the Revolutionary War, allowing him to pull off a Dunkirk-like evacuation and live to fight another day.

Many might put the circumstances of extraordinary events down to the American character that results from free men, for the first time in history, being allowed to operate on principles of liberty.  It’s not unusual, for instance, to hear the term “the miracle of the Constitution.”  It’s just unusual — today, at least — for it to be meant as literally as the Stewarts’ assert.

This is particularly true in the chapters in which the authors see the hand of God in the timing of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan assuming the presidency in times of crisis.

Easily the most controversial chapter — and the most likely to raise the ire of some country club Republicans, much less Democrats — is the chapter saying that Ronald Reagan not only won the Cold War but also saved America.

The Stewarts, however, point out that George H.W. Bush, while a good man, did call the Reagan economic agenda “voodoo economics” during the Republican primaries. Even if Bush 41 truly was aboard, he would not have had the political oomph to push it through a Democrat-controlled Congress.

More importantly, Bush was from the “realist” foreign policy tradition, which would have looked for “stability” and détente over real change. The most persuasive point the authors make here is to remind us that, after all of Reagan’s successes in putting the USSR on the ropes, Bush ordered a “reassessment” of U.S. relations with the Soviets upon taking office.

While the first Bush administration was “reassessing,” communism collapsed, and 41 was too surprised to even celebrate the Berlin Wall coming down, as Reagan had predicted.

Of course, such pivotal battles as Gettysburg and Midway had hundreds of little moments that one could argue “changed the course of history.” In the case of Midway, for example, the authors are persuasive in their argument that nearly every one of those moments miraculously went the Americans’ way.

In the case of Gettysburg, for instance, they could easily have titled the chapter, “The Miracle of Friendly Fire.”  Had Stonewall Jackson, the South’s best tactician and Lee’s greatest commander been with him at Gettysburg … who knows?  Jackson was easily the most important figure in American military history to be mistakenly shot by his own troops.

Those of a determinedly secular mindset may be apt to dismiss this book too quickly.  Even if you reject the premise out of hand and prefer to think of it as “Seven Statistically Wildly Improbable Coincidences that Saved America,” this book is worth your time.

In each case, the Stewarts do a masterful job of setting the stage of not only why the odds were stacked against the outcome we take for granted but also in reminding us of what was at stake.  Each chapter, it could be argued, is as good a one-chapter treatment of a momentous time as you are likely to find anywhere—particularly setting the stage for the Civil War, and demolishing the notion that slavery was a side issue.

Which brings us to the authors’ ultimate point. As bad as things seem now, America has been much closer to the precipice in its history. The Stewarts write that if God did not let the nation fail, or fall to its enemies then, there is no reason to suppose he is done with America yet.

The end may not be near after all.

  • fredglass

    “God protects drunks, fools & the United States of America” Chancellor Bismark circa 1900.

    • TBK,History geek

      Huh!? Just WHAT WAS H Brole in the JKK asassination? Please eplain ( BS free) documented assertions.

  • doc1956

    I can think of only one miracle that will save America..get rid of the New World Order. This author is terribly misguided about Stonewall Jackson and doesn't mention H.W. Bush's involvement in the JFK assassination.

  • Kellon

    The South's loss led directly to the secular perversion we live with today. God had NO hand in it.

  • Watch The Mighty Boosh

    I’m not sure if I agree with everything written but this was definitely informative and written nicely.

  • debbie 1960

    Just finished the book this am, anyone else read it yet. Maybe you shouldn't comment on what you haven't read. The authors bring up many interesting points that I was not really aware of. The Civil War chapter is great. I have heard a lot of history, and this was looking at it just a little different. I wonder if Lincoln was surrounded by men who were waiting for the US to fail, which I had not considered. Read the WHAT IF's before you judge this book.

    And the Reagan chapter reminds me of today. Obama is Jimmy Carter on crack, I just hope that somewhere we have a Reagan waiting to help us out.

    • Matt

      I did read the whole book and I do like parts of it, but I think they draw some wrong conclusions. The civil war chapter in particular did bring up some interesting things but I did not like it overall. Just because Lincoln prayed doesn't mean he was an instrument of God for good. I am sure many in the South were praying as well. And not all inspiration comes from God. I think the "what if's" of that chapter are way off many times. The authors say that if the south had won the war, that it would have sent the signal that freedom and constitutional republics don't work and would have led to more tyranny around the world. I see it completely opposite. It was the North's aggression and use of force to make the south submit that was a detriment to liberty. Supporting the actions of the North gives a nod to rulers to use force to prevent independence movements. Some people at the time may have seen it the way the authors were portraying, but not everyone. Lord Acton clearly thought that it would have been better for the cause of liberty for the South to be able to secede peacefully.
      What better example of the virtue of a constitutional republic can there be, than that when there is a major disagreement, the parties agree to separate instead of killing each other. England was in the wrong for not allowing the colonies to secede peacefully and the North was in the wrong for not allowing the South to secede peacefully.

      • debbie1960

        I have thought about why not let the south secede and become its own nation. For me, the bottom line is the US would not have become the beacon of freedom that it is if the south had been allowed to leave. What kind of battles would have ensued over the years. The wars in Europe would have come over here. Some people realized that together, united, we were stronger. What kind of problems would there have been to have two such conflicting ideologies on the same continent? The natural man craves freedom. The war was unavoidable. You can not keep man in chains, he will rebel, it is around us today.

        • Matt

          I don't accept the premise that the US would not be a beacon of freedom if the south had been allowed to leave. I think the US could have been an even greater beacon of liberty if the South seceded. Nobody knows what history would be like if the Civil War wasn't fought. I see massive problems around the world that stem from the massively centralized US government that has gotten out of control. I do not think most of the founders would be happy with the size and powers of the current federal gov. So it could be a major plus if we didn't have such a huge US government in the world. A major reason that it has been allowed to expand so much without restraint is because states have lost their ability to stand up to the federal gov through nullifying laws, or seceding. The south was planning on eliminating most tariffs and basically opening up a free trade zone. That would have created great market competition between the north and the south for shipping and forced the North to give up it's high tariffs and the free trade would have been a boon to progress in both the north and south.
          I also do not accept the premise that the war was unavoidable. Even if it was "unavoidable" (whatever that means) it doesn't mean it was right, or that God helped Lincoln win, or that we should not learn from it. If the South had been allowed to leave peacefully, there would not have been a federal gov upholding fugitive slave laws and it would have been much easier for slaves to escape, and with all the other forces at play, I believe the Confederacy would have been peacefully forced to eliminate slavery relatively quickly. The conflicting ideologies did not have to create war. The South wasn't trying to take over the North, and many of the most ardent abolitionists did not call for war either. Earlier, many abolitionists actually called for the North to secede from the Union so that they were not in league with the slave holders. I do agree that you can not keep man in chains and that is why I do not think slavery would have lasted long under the confederacy, and without the large federal government upholding fugitive slave laws.