Ethan A. Hitchcock (1798 - 1870) VS-Legergeneraal verdiepte zich in Spinoza en Swedenborg

Ethan A. Hitchcock was beroepsmilitair in het leger van de VS. Gedurende de Amerikaanse burgeroorlog (1861 – 1865) was hij generaal-majoor. Daarnaast was hij ook schrijver. Hij was de kleinzoon van de Amerikaanse revolutie-held Generaal Ethan Allen. In 1814 begon hij aan de Militaire Academie West Point en van 1817 tot 1825 doorliep hij verscheidene promoties, waarna hij in 1825 terugkeerde naar West Point als assistent instructeur en vervolgens als Commander of Cadets. Vanaf 1833 nam hij deel aan militaire acties in de tweede Seminole oorlog, een van de bloedigste indianenoorlogen uit de geschiedenis, en bij het uitbreken van de Burgeroorlog werd hij wederom ingezet en werd hij tevens adviseur van President Abraham Lincoln. In 1867 ging hij met pensioen.

Tussen zijn vroege militaire dienst en z'n terugkeer naar West Point ontluikte zijn interesse in filosofie, wegens problemen die hij had met de geloofwaardigheid van delen van de Bijbel. Hij wendde zich vooral tot alchemistische, esoterische en Hermetische teksten. Hij was een verwoed verzamelaar van alchemistische werken, waarvan de St. Louis Marcantile Library er meer dan 250 van hem bezit. Hij zag Swedenborg als een Hermetisch filosoof, maar ontkende dat die 'het geheim' van de Hermetische filosofie had ontraadseld. Ook hield hij zich intensief met Spinoza bezig. Hij hield niet van een meer 'mystieke lezing' van Swedenborgs teksten. Hij publiceerde twee teksten over Spinoza en Swedenborg tussen wie hij vergelijkende studie maakte. Hij is, als ik het wel heb, de enige die dit ooit deed.

  Ethan Allen Hitchcock, The doctrines of Spinoza and Swedenborg identified: so far as they claim a scientific ground: in four letters. Boston, Munroe & Francis; New-York, Charles S. Francis & Co., 1846 - 36 pp.

  Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Swedenborg, a Hermetic Philosopher: Being a Sequel to Remarks on Alchemy and the Alchemists. Showing that Emanuel Swedenborg was a Hermetic Philosopher and that His Writings May be Interpreted from the Point of View of Hermetic Philosophy. With a Chapter Comparing Swedenborg and Spinoza. D. Appleton, 1858 –

In Chapter XII [comparing Swedenborg and Spinoza, p. 263-331 – books.googlelezen we over die eerste publicatie:

“Some years ago, in 1846, I printed for circulation among my friends a series of parallel extracts from the writings of Spinoza and Swedenborg, the object of which was to show, as a speculative curiosity the remarkable identity of the doctrines of the two men regarded from a scientific point of view. I called attention to the fact that while one of the two men had been reviled as the veriest Atheist the world has produced, the other has been held forth by a considerable body of followers as expressly illuminated for the purpose of teaching the True Christian Religion. It struck me that reflecting men might see in the parallel I presented, matter worth their serious consideration, and I still think the subject worthy the attention of all considerate men. [p. 264-65]

In een volgend blog breng ik het eerste deel van dit 12e hoofdstuk. Hier citeer ik het begin van een stuk over hem: “Ethan Allen Hitchcock and the Mexican War Spy Company”:

What makes the military career of Ethan Allen Hitchcock so remarkable, is not that he was the grandson of the revolutionary war hero, or that his life encompassed the War of 1812, the 1846 War with Mexico, and the Civil War. The reason his life bears examination is not because he was devoted to scholarship, an avid reader of philosophy, a correspondent with the leading minds of the 19th century, and a soldier known as the Pen of the Army, although these attributes certainly attract us to him. The fact that he was General Winfield Scotts right-hand man during the Mexican War and a Civil War military advisor to President Abraham Lincoln serve to show the respect he earned for his professional astuteness, but do not alone make for him a place in history.

The chief reason we come to know Ethan Allen Hitchcock is that he is a moral man. He lived his life, not just as an aficionado of the abstract ethics of Spinoza, but as a principled man who was willing to speak out for what he believed. Veritas was the nom de plume he chose when writing to newspapers to defend his commander from the slanders of political opponents, and it serves him well as an epitaph.

Born in 1798 into a prominent Vermont family, he entered West Point in 1814 and graduated three years later. His early career alternated between garrison duty and West Point teaching assignments.

As an adjutant general on the staff of General Edmund Pendleton Gaines in the late 1830s, he saw service in the Seminole Wars. Hitchcock was opposed to the government policy toward the Seminoles and a critic of the actions of president Andrew Jackson. He wrote in his diary at the time: The treaty of Paynes Landing [which called for the Seminoles to move out of Florida] was a fraud on the Indians: They never approved of it or signed it. They are right in defending their homes and we ought to let them alone.” This wouldnot be the only time, in a 47-year military career packed full of moral choices, when he would be required by duty to prosecute a war that he did not believe right.

Hitchcock had spent many years along the Texas border, beginning in 1836. He disagreed with the U.S. eagerness to annex the newly created republic of Texas, seeing it as the outgrowth of greed and expansionism. He foresaw it would lead to war, a war that he thought would be both wrong and unnecessary. It did lead to war and he would play a key part in it. Hitchcock was the commandant of the U.S. Army garrison at Corpus Christi, Texas, when the war broke out. In a diary entry for 20 September 1845 he talks about his feelings about a war with Mexico, which by now appeared unavoidable, and his opinion of General Zachary Taylor. General Taylor came into my tent this morning and again, as frequently of late, he introduced the subject of moving upon the Rio Grande. I discovered this time more clearly than ever that the General is instigated by ambition - or so it appears to me. He seems quite to have lost all respect for Mexican rights and willing to be an instrument of Mr. Polk for pushing our boundary as far west as possible. When I told him that, if he suggested a movement (which he told me he intended), Mr. Polk would seize upon it and throw the responsibility on him, he at once said he would take it, and added that if the President instructed him to use his discretion, he would ask no orders, but would go upon the Rio Grande as soon as he could get transportation. I think the General wants an additional brevet, and would strain a point to get it.

Uit: “Ethan Allen Hitchcock and the Mexican War Spy Company” [PDF]




Lemma Hitchcock, Ethan Allen in: John R. Shook, Dictionary of Early American Philosophers. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2012 - -  

Murphy Givens is in de Caller Times bezig met een serie over Ethan A. Hitchcock, waarin Spinoza regelmatig voorbij komt, b.v. "Hitchcock copies Spinoza as the army prepares to move" [Cf.]

E.A. Hitchcock, Fifty years in camp and field, diary of Major-General Ethan Allen Hitchcock U.S.A. -

Biographical Sketch of Ethan A. Hitchcock in: George W. Cullum's Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates  of the United States Military Academy [cf.]