Skip to comments.The World of English Freedoms
Posted on 11/17/2013 7:22:22 AM PST by grimalkin
Asked, early in his presidency, whether he believed in American exceptionalism, Barack Obama gave a telling reply. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
The first part of that answer is fascinating (we'll come back to the Greeks in a bit). Most Brits do indeed believe in British exceptionalism. But here's the thing: They define it in almost exactly the same way that Americans do. British exceptionalism, like its American cousin, has traditionally been held to reside in a series of values and institutions: personal liberty, free contract, jury trials, uncensored newspapers, regular elections, habeas corpus, open competition, secure property, religious pluralism.
The conceit of our era is to assume that these ideals are somehow the natural condition of an advanced societythat all nations will get around to them once they become rich enough and educated enough. In fact, these ideals were developed overwhelmingly in the language in which you are reading these words. You don't have to go back very far to find a time when freedom under the law was more or less confined to the Anglosphere: the community of English-speaking democracies.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
The 85 essays of THE FEDERALIST were intended by the Framers of America's Constitution to provide explanations for "the People's" constitutional limits on their government as a means of gaining their ratification of that Constitution.
Whatever meaning may be attributed to the phrase "American Exceptionalism"--if it is to have any meaning at all, must take into account the remarkable seedbed of ideas and principles which produced the Constitution and the individual freedoms it was to protect.
For an American President to offer such a flippant "equivalency" remark related to America's unique experiment in liberty displays a great disrespect for the millions of oppressed persons who have fled other lands to choose America as a refuge for themselves and their families.
The following excerpted portion of Madison's Federalist #57 provides an example of the founding generations' diligence and dedication in structuring a limited government to protect liberty:
The Federalist No. 57
The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation
New York Packet
Tuesday, February 19, 1788
To the People of the State of New York:
THE third charge against the House of Representatives is, that it will be taken from that class of citizens which will have least sympathy with the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at an ambitious sacrifice of the many to the aggrandizement of the few.
Of all the objections which have been framed against the federal Constitution, this is perhaps the most extraordinary. Whilst the objection itself is levelled against a pretended oligarchy, the principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government.
The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust. The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are numerous and various. The most effectual one, is such a limitation of the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people.
Let me now ask what circumstance there is in the constitution of the House of Representatives that violates the principles of republican government, or favors the elevation of the few on the ruins of the many? Let me ask whether every circumstance is not, on the contrary, strictly conformable to these principles, and scrupulously impartial to the rights and pretensions of every class and description of citizens?
Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State.
Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the inclination of the people.
If we consider the situation of the men on whom the free suffrages of their fellow-citizens may confer the representative trust, we shall find it involving every security which can be devised or desired for their fidelity to their constituents.
In the first place, as they will have been distinguished by the preference of their fellow-citizens, we are to presume that in general they will be somewhat distinguished also by those qualities which entitle them to it, and which promise a sincere and scrupulous regard to the nature of their engagements.
In the second place, they will enter into the public service under circumstances which cannot fail to produce a temporary affection at least to their constituents. There is in every breast a sensibility to marks of honor, of favor, of esteem, and of confidence, which, apart from all considerations of interest, is some pledge for grateful and benevolent returns. Ingratitude is a common topic of declamation against human nature; and it must be confessed that instances of it are but too frequent and flagrant, both in public and in private life. But the universal and extreme indignation which it inspires is itself a proof of the energy and prevalence of the contrary sentiment.
In the third place, those ties which bind the representative to his constituents are strengthened by motives of a more selfish nature. His pride and vanity attach him to a form of government which favors his pretensions and gives him a share in its honors and distinctions. Whatever hopes or projects might be entertained by a few aspiring characters, it must generally happen that a great proportion of the men deriving their advancement from their influence with the people, would have more to hope from a preservation of the favor, than from innovations in the government subversive of the authority of the people.
All these securities, however, would be found very insufficient without the restraint of frequent elections. Hence, in the fourth place, the House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people. Before the sentiments impressed on their minds by the mode of their elevation can be effaced by the exercise of power, they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it.
I will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America -- a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.
Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty, gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the chords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people. It is possible that these may all be insufficient to control the caprice and wickedness of man. But are they not all that government will admit, and that human prudence can devise? Are they not the genuine and the characteristic means by which republican government provides for the liberty and happiness of the people? Are they not the identical means on which every State government in the Union relies for the attainment of these important ends? What then are we to understand by the objection which this paper has combated? What are we to say to the men who profess the most flaming zeal for republican government, yet boldly impeach the fundamental principle of it; who pretend to be champions for the right and the capacity of the people to choose their own rulers, yet maintain that they will prefer those only who will immediately and infallibly betray the trust committed to them?
(End of excerpt from #57)
Obama lies. That is all anyone has to know. Obama lies and we all suffer because of it.
Obama’s infamous statement shows that he doesn’t get it. Americans are exceptional because our thought has been built on the thought of exceptional civilizations. British and Greek but also Roman from the days of the Republic and Hebrew. Key values refined over the centuries — liberty, reason, rule of law, one transcendent God.
When the term "exceptionalism" is tossed around by so-called "conservatives," it should never be divorced from a founding principles context. Without that context, America would have been just another nation in the history of the world.
Liberty, under the Founders' Constitution, as Freepers often note, depends upon a virtuous and knowledgeable citizenry.
John Adams stated:"The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the People."
The Founders' principle was LIBERTY. The virtue among the people often referenced by the Founders was linked to this love of liberty referenced by John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:
"Let virtue, honor, the love of liberty . . . be the soul of this constitution, and it will become he source of great and extensive happiness to this and future generations. Vice, ignorance and want of vigilance, will be the only enemies able to destroy it."(Quoted in "Our Ageless Constitution" Essay entitled, "Virtue Among the People" available here
Rediscovering and understanding the principles which made the American Constitution a protection for liberty may be the most important task of our day, and time is running out. The "enemies" already have censored these principles from the nation's textbooks and much of our public discourse.
If every person on this thread and every person gravely concerned about the ACA intrusion on liberty would commit himself/herself to understanding and then sharing the ideas of liberty with at least 3 people, what a difference that might make! Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny," Schweikart's "A Patriot's History of the U. S." and other books, and Stedman & Lewis's "Our Ageless Constitution" lay out these principles in easy-to-understand language and are an excellent means by which our own "dumbed-down" generations can be exposed to the truly revolutionary principles by which our liberty was obtained.
I’ve long since concluded that the struggle in which we are engaged can be summarized as a war, waged by enemies both without and within, against Anglo-American civilization. That the putative leader of the country sides with those enemies is a major victory for them. I’m hopeful however that our polity is durable enough to survive and recover from his assault.
BTW what exactly is a ‘ramshackle obscurantism’?
Well said, I agree with you, a War against the free state of man is precisely what we face.
That is from his Thoughts on Government, April 1776. George III had determined we were in a state of rebellion and no longer under his protection, so it isn't a far stretch to say that we were booted out of the Brit empire before we declared independence from it. A good, moral people have the best chance to form good government.
So a few months before our Declaration, John Adams put down some thoughts for the soon to be independent states to consider. They were prescient, and the new states would have been better off if they paid more attention to them.
In John Adams vision of America, a virtuous people would send similar men to represent them for single year terms. Despite the supposition of a virtuous people, Adams did not assume his fellow citizens to be angels. (Perhaps this is the origin of Madison's famous, "If men were angels . . . " in Federalist 51) No matter how virtuous, no people in the aggregate were capable of resisting tyrannical powers if the means to collect them were made available. Representatives would inevitably pass laws that favored their continuance in office and line their pockets. Thus, it would be dangerous to liberty to vest legislative, executive and judicial functions in a single representative assembly.
To the modern ear, separation of power sounds so obvious as to not need mentioning. However, radical Whig theory in 1776 overwhelmingly placed immense trust in the people to safely govern themselves.
Federalist ad anti-Federalist ping. A great article by Daniel Hannan in the WSJ and some good arguments firming up on this thread.
I really enjoyed Hannan’s piece, as the insights, information and context he provided help me flesh out my notion. He’s always a worthwhile read.
Ramshackle obscurantism had me scratchimg my head too.
Who said anything about being talked out of action? There is much that States can do, short of a Art V. that would go far to take back the govt. The Federalist Papers talk about this at length. The authors defended a federal government because the States were armed with enough tools to ensure that the fedgov didnt get out of its box.
Try reading Federalist #46. It talks about the civil disobedience of States, basically telling the fedgov to go shove it.
Your excerpt of Federalist #57 cites the need "for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
Madison continues with "The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are numerous and various. The most effectual one, is such a limitation of the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people."
The poster who prompted me referred to Federalist #46 as also possessing the "means" for "preventing their degeneracy" within the Federal government, in this case the means and prevention falling to the states.
Below is my response to Federalist #46 as excerpt and commentary, as it compares (and even forecasts) the situation we find ourselves in today. I offer it here for thoughtful Constitutional discussion.
I don't think is the case anymore. Federal handouts have made people more beholden to the federal government. In fact, liberals are at war with state governments. Take Gay Marriage as an example. They pit one state against another, taking an advantageous result in one state to the federal level to force it upon the rest.
Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective States. Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of offices and emoluments will flow.
People have become more partial to the federal government, but not because of better administration. They're being bought by taxpayer monies approved by a Congress that no longer feels beholden to their respective states. The states have much to fear, because of federal encroachment of federal power.
If, therefore, as has been elsewhere remarked, the people should in future become more partial to the federal than to the State governments, the change can only result from such manifest and irresistible proofs of a better administration, as will overcome all their antecedent propensities. And in that case, the people ought not surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where they may discover it to be most due; but even in that case the State governments could have little to apprehend, because it is only within a certain sphere that the federal power can, in the nature of things, be advantageously administered.
The 17th amendment has upended this assumption. The roles have been reversed.
It has been already proved that the members of the federal will be more dependent on the members of the State governments, than the latter will be on the former. It has appeared also, that the prepossessions of the people, on whom both will depend, will be more on the side of the State governments, than of the federal government. So far as the disposition of each towards the other may be influenced by these causes, the State governments must clearly have the advantage. But in a distinct and very important point of view, the advantage will lie on the same side. The prepossessions, which the members themselves will carry into the federal government, will generally be favorable to the States; whilst it will rarely happen, that the members of the State governments will carry into the public councils a bias in favor of the general government. A local spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members of Congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures of the particular States.
And if they do not sufficiently enlarge their policy to embrace the collective welfare of their particular State, how can it be imagined that they will make the aggregate prosperity of the Union, and the dignity and respectability of its government, the objects of their affections and consultations?
Because of the 17th amendment and the need for raising campaign funds, Senators are now more interested in the "collective welfare of their particular" party, not their state, because it is the party that drives much of their campaign financing. All of the liberal agenda in Washington was driven by party and national special interest, not state issues. States are pawns, a means to a national agenda end.
Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty.
We saw this play out in Arizona over their immigration policy. Holder sued Arizona to prevent them from enforcing state immigration laws that the federal laws already permitted them to do.
On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.
We saw this play out with the recent federal government shutdown and retaliation of closing national parks in all the states. The militarization of civil police are becoming much more intimidating to the average citizen of a state who is considering civil unrest.
But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole.
This is exactly what the Article V movement is trying to accomplish. Rally the states around the idea of taking back control of the federal government through exercising their Article V power to propose the amendments of change that Congress is unwilling to.
But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity. In the contest with Great Britain, one part of the empire was employed against the other. The more numerous part invaded the rights of the less numerous part. The attempt was unjust and unwise; but it was not in speculation absolutely chimerical. But what would be the contest in the case we are supposing? Who would be the parties? A few representatives of the people would be opposed to the people themselves; or rather one set of representatives would be contending against thirteen sets of representatives, with the whole body of their common constituents on the side of the latter.
We would have to see if this plays out. Would the whole of the people align with the states in support of an Article V convention, or would they align with the Congress and the President to maintain the status quo? There's the rub.
The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism.
This reads like a Nostradamus prophecy. It is exactly what has happened over the last decade, most recently accelerated.
Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence... Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
Here is a gem for the 2nd Amendment people. It is clear from this passage that the 2nd amendment was specifically intended to prevent a tyrannical government from forming, for fear of an armed populace.
And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.
The argument here is that the people will rise up in arms against a federal government that encroaches beyonds its limited, enumerated powers. And knowing that, it would be madness for the federal government to even try to engage with force, knowing that death and destruction that would naturally follow. Given the stockpiling of hollow-point bullets, and military anti-mine personnel carriers now being distributed across the United States, I think that our government is actually planning to do something just like this.
Given this dissection of Federalist #46, where in here do you see your hypothesis that the "were armed with enough tools to ensure that the fedgov didnt get out of its box" and that "It talks about the civil disobedience of States, basically telling the fedgov to go shove it?"
On summing up the considerations stated in this and the last paper, they seem to amount to the most convincing evidence, that the powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Union; and that all those alarms which have been sounded, of a meditated and consequential annihilation of the State governments, must, on the most favorable interpretation, be ascribed to the chimerical fears of the authors of them.
What I see is a discussion of brinksmanship and inevitable civil war instigated by a federal government that refuses to back down to states that push back on encroachment.
I see signs that our current federal government is planning for exactly such a crisis, and is actively trying to incite it.
The proponents of an Article V convention is an attempt to avoid a direct head-to-head conflict with the federal government by side-stepping them and taking a parallel path to making Constitutional change.
And so we see why the left has sought so relentlessly to insert itself into every institution--successfully, by the way-- to secure for itself the power of influence over our culture. Control that and all else of economic and social value that remains will eventually cascade down to them. They have dominion over education, federal and local government/bureaucracies, economy (via regulatory powers) entertainment, media...and they are working tirelessly on the military. Read the recent headlines for more on that.
The Anglo-American imperium is, by most measures, reaching its twilight.
And so it is quantitatively. All that is left is to eviscerate our spirit, by tyranny and oppression, via the plunder of our liberty.
In all fairness, Obama is obviously a socialist, and he is not alone. Likewise, the allies of socialism, using whatever justification they can, call themselves “internationalists”, but in effect, it means the same thing.
In the belief system of socialism, nations are unimportant at best, and obstacles, at worst. They see them as social contrivances that create war by creating different cultures, histories, languages, and homogeneous ethnic groups, all of which socialists deplore.
In their ideal world, nations and borders would not exist, nor would allegiances. Every place and people would be generic and heterogeneous. Economics would cause leveling, so there would be no wealthy or poor places.
And they imagine it a major purpose of socialists to rule over it all, the entire world, and keep it stirred up and blended.
Of course, there are more holes in their religious doctrines than there have been in every piece of Swiss cheese ever made. But they do not care, and forever push towards their “new Jerusalem”.
In any event, to ask a socialist about his nation, or patriotism, or even to show respect for his flag achieves nothing. Like Obama, instead of saluting, they grab their crotch. Then they lie about it.
You might as well ask a Taliban to praise Jesus. Socialists will never honor what they hate.
This is explored in Dr. Russell Kirk's Our British Culture and in his The Roots of American Order.
Loved this article, thanks.
Mohandas*, Indira, and Rajiv Gandhi were unavailable for comment.
*Was not in office at the time of his assassination.
Thanks for the ping. I enjoyed the article.
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