Jesuit Theologian and Canon Lawyer Saint Robert Bellarmine’s influence on the birth of the United States of America

As July 4th approaches, and the nation prepares to celebrate the individual liberties our forefathers staked out for us two centuries ago, names like Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Washington are rightly praised for their contributions to our freedom. But most Catholics are unaware of how the writings of Saint Robert Bellarmine, SJ, (1542-1621) influenced the development of our rights, and that this influence came indirectly through one of the chief defenders of the so-called Divine Right of Kings, the Protestant writer, Robert Filmer. In most American colleges and High Schools, the development of Constitutional law is traced along lines that begin in ancient Greece and Rome lead to the philosophies of Algernon Sydney (who was executed for treason in 1683) and John Locke. It is undeniable that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and George Mason, author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, were intimately familiar with the classical and contemporary scholars from Aristotle onward. And it is not unreasonable to conclude they were familiar with writers who opposed popular sovereignty and defended the absolute power of kings, like St. Robert Bellarmine.