Check this out:
. . .
The aim of conservatives was to protect liberty,
I understand him to be casting the Federalists as the "conservatives" here. I'm not sure that "liberty," "freedom," or the "rule of law" were the objectives that the Federalists had in mind when, during the Adams presidency, they enacted the Sedition Act just a few years after the adoption of the First Amendment. Maybe I'm missing his point.
Jefferson's own affection for the French Revolution explains the distrust many Founders had for him, and gives us ample reason to question the "good Jeffersonian" versus "bad Hamiltonian" view of American history. To be sure there were virtues in Jeffersonianism and dangers in Hamiltonianism. But the reverse was also true.
The article provides a good corrective to the naive worship of Jefferson. But America does benefit from the tension between Jefferson and Hamilton. Hamilton set the country on a safe path, but pure Hamiltonianism would also have been undesirable.
By the same token, republicanism is a double-edged sword. It did harken back to classical antiquity. And it did strengthen the defense of the people's liberties. But McDonald is right that there was something ferocious and utopian about it. The idea of recurrent revolutions and secessions, and "watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants" every generation is not, strictly speaking, a conservative idea.
The idea of republicanism as a modernism is an intriguing one. It's something that should be explored further. But it's worth noting that ideologies were very much mixed together in those days. In time of crisis, political figures naturally strained to strike republican poses, which they relaxed when tensions eased.
Englishmen looking back over to their own Civil War commonly took it as a victory of liberty against tyranny or, less commonly, as a defeat of tradition by modernity. What we can see now is that liberty, tyranny, modernity and tradition present in both camps. Not always to the same degree, of course. There were reasons why one fought on this side or that. There is a lot at stake in such struggles and sometimes the balance of the evil is on one side.
But the idea that all has to do is pick up the banner of Cromwell or Charles, Jefferson or Hamilton to automatically be right in all subsequent political conflicts is a mistake. I don't know how far I'd go with McDonald, but his article is a potent corrective to much of what one reads about the early years of our nation's history.
Interesting statement. It suggests that the only anti-dote to utopian dreams slipping in and out of our contemporary pundits (LewRockwell.com) is an historical understanding of millenialism. There's homework.
I could see how one comes to say this. The less we understand "millenialist", the less humble every political enterprise becomes, modernist or not.
Is he referring here to the Bill of Rights?!