Liberty: the demon that succeeded

This might have been a more appropriate name for Christopher Ferrara’s important 2012 book Liberty:  the God that Failed.

After all, the story Ferrara tells is of an ideological/Constitutional machine set up by John Locke and the American Founders that has, from 1787 to the present, has been successfully cleansing America from all taint of our classical-Christian heritage.  And Liberty is certainly demonic, in that its only consistent content is opposition to God’s sovereignty.  Nor is its outworking unintended; Ferrara easily shows that the major Founders were Deist philosophes (often freemasons to boot) committed to marginalizing a Christian religion they despised.  And they manufactured their revolution against Britain–a distant government so mild and benevolent that they could only incite the people by initiating unprovoked mob violence and stoking insane paranoid fears about popish plots–with conscious intent to overthrow the ancient order of throne and altar.  Since that time, America has had its share of controversies–Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist, Union vs. Confederate–but reactionaries have had no dog in any of those fights, because each side was as Lockean as the other.  The only American movement Ferrara does pause to praise is the National Reform Association, a group of nineteenth-century (mostly) Presbyterian intellectuals wishing to amend the Constitution to recognize Christ and His sovereignty.  As we know, America has instead followed the path of a “separation of Church and State”, meaning in practice the subordination of Christians to a State operating according to its own aggressively secular religion of Liberty.  As Justice Scalia decreed in Employment Division v. Smith

To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is ‘compelling’…contradicts constitutional tradition and common sense’….The right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a ‘valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes)’

Note well, a State recognizing no restrictions of natural (let alone divine) law claims that it can order you to act against your conscience (not just preventing you from doing good, but commanding you to do evil) without even bothering to claim a compelling need.  We were promised that disestablishment would give us religious freedom, but it has secured us nothing.

My main criticism is that Ferrara harps too much on the hypocrisy of the Founders in crushing rebellions against their new republic when others decided to play by the same Lockean script.  As I see it, since the social contract/right of rebellion theory is nonsensical, the fact that the Founders didn’t bind themselves to it speaks in their favor.  I actually came away with a higher opinion of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson after reading about how they crushed threats to their own authority.

Liberty:  the God that Failed is the only full-length American history book I know of written from a reactionary perspective.  Given such a radically unique perspective, it’s amusing that the conclusions Ferrara argues are mostly conventional wisdom for everyone but conservative Republicans.  The Founders were guided by John Locke.  The South seceded over slavery, an institution it practiced in a grossly unethical manner.  And so forth.  To understand his odd insistence on commonplace observations, one must remember that Ferrara is primarily arguing against American conservatives letting their imaginations run wild looking for an American lineage for their movement.  Hence their implausible claims of a “moderate” Enlightenment meaningfully distinct from its radical variety, a conservative War of Independence (a revolution not made but averted, don’t you know?), an outpost of Christian feudalism in the South, and so forth.

It is also a challenge to my own writings on American conservatism.  In my essay Can there be an American Conservatism?, I consider the dilemma of being a traditionalist in a country that has been liberal from its inception.  What tradition am I trying to conserve?  I answered by distinguishing America’s official ideology from the claims of authority and loyalty that ideology is used to justify.  Americans claim to base everything on freedom, equality, and social contract, but our social order belies this in many taken-for-granted practices.  Conservatives want to preserve our citizens’ implicit sense of legitimacy and group solidarity, but I claimed we must be cautious in weaning our fellow citizens from their false mythology of Liberty lest we destroy their patriotism altogether.  Ferrara obviously thinks that it’s better to just give people the whole truth.  And in fact, the truth, when presented whole–as opposed to being snuck in piece by piece–is a compelling thing.  So I guess I was wrong; the time for circumspection is over.  Things have come to a point now that Christians are better off being fortified in the knowledge that the government that oppresses them was rotten from the beginning.

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93 thoughts on “Liberty: the demon that succeeded

  1. Thanks for the write up. I’ve seen this book mentioned elsewhere so it was already on my radar, but your summary of its contents gives me reason to put it on the short list.

  2. Bonald, Liber was an Italiote god sometimes identified with Bacchus, whose worship in the form of the Bacchanalia the Senate outlawed in 186 BC. Liber was associated with inebriation, sexual license, and sacrifices, including human sacrifice. In another thread recently someone asked what ever happened to the pagan and heathen gods? If Liber weren’t alive, we’d have to call him actively undead.

  3. Pingback: Liberty: the demon that succeeded | Reaction Times

  4. In a democracy the oligarchs must appear as more-or-less regular guys. They may have better seats at basketball games, but they will at least feign a love for basketball. Jacques Barzun called such a culture demotic–which with the substitution of only one letter becomes demonic. In the old aristocratic societies, the oligarchs wore distinctive garb, indulged in distinctive pastimes, sometimes spoke a distinctive language. They did not pretend to be more-or-less regular guys.

    Demotic culture partly explains why conservative Christians could, until recently, imagine that the United States was a “Christian nation.” Oligarchs feigned respect for Christianity. Conservative Christians were also, I’m afraid, complicit in their own deception. The dishonest effort to cast Abraham Lincoln as a Christian is a good example of this self-deception at work. One can see the same thing in their effort to “baptize” Washington, and even Jefferson.

  5. I remember reading Russell Kirk, in his “Roots of American Order”, spending a lot of space trying to argue that the Founders weren’t really influenced by John Locke and didn’t believe the stuff in the Declaration of Independence, and I thought “Why in the world does he feel the need to defend such an implausible position?” Some feel the need for a Christian founding, others for a conservative founding. It’s understandable, but the truth doesn’t oblige. In my original version published last night, I made more of the Ferrara / Kirk opposition, but I regretted it this morning, deciding I had that one book by Kirk too much in mind.

  6. Thanks for the review. I’ve been planning on reading this for a while myself.

    As I see it, since the social contract/right of rebellion theory is nonsensical, the fact that the Founders didn’t bind themselves to it speaks in their favor. I actually came away with a higher opinion of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson after reading about how they crushed threats to their own authority.

    While it might not have been very fruitful to focus on the hypocrisy, it does show how practically unworkable the Social Contract and Classically Liberal theories of most of our founders were and are. At best, the Founders not abiding by their rhetoric shows that the Founders weren’t as naive as a little school girl or an anarchist, but that isn’t much of a redeeming quality, just common sense. At worst, it shows that the Founders were really the self-interested, traitorous usurpers the Tories suspected them of being from the beginning. I’m inclined towards the latter, which inclines me towards thinking they were hypocrites and really just unforgivable as a lot, with maybe a few exceptions (Adams seems to have regretted the Revolution to some extent sometimes). Personally, the one thing I despise more than liberalism itself is double-standards. However, the two usually go together like a hand in a glove.

    What tradition am I trying to conserve?

    It seems to me that these aren’t really that hard to identify, if we come from the perspective that our nation is a British Nation, as we most certainly are. Almost every decent thing about our law and custom, which admittedly gets fewer and farther between by the day, comes from a long tradition in British law and custom. Even the best parts of our Constitution are unintelligible apart from an English Common Law background. It seems to me an American Conservative would attempt to preserve as much of the English Common Law as possible, perhaps even expand its influence where possible, and in foreign affairs they would seek close partnership with the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms. That has been the policy of the American Right practically from the beginning. Even more conservative Whiggish folks tend to adopt that approach.

    • English is a better word than British, which is already an abstraction (the United Kingdom and all that). The rights we prize are the rights of Englishmen.

      • “English is a better word than British, which is already an abstraction (the United Kingdom and all that). The rights we prize are the rights of Englishmen.”

        I think the nations of the British Isles are of their own unique variety, enough to say they are part of the same family of nations, or more like tribes within a nation. They also share a legal and cultural tradition and the differences are more like regional distinctions than thoroughgoing cultural differences. Basically, I don’t just think that “British” is an abstraction or that the United Kingdom is an artificial entity. It refers to a group of tribes/nations that share much common history and culture.

  7. This sort of silliness may be why the readership of the Orthosphere is declining. Targeting the America Founders, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution is likely to win few American friends and influence few of the American people. If this is Catholicism’s new Evangelization, I would like to hear how that is working out in your parish.

    Nor does it address the fact that the most liberal American states are the most Catholic ones. How does Ferrara explain that?

    At the time of the American Revolution and afterwards, those who favored monarchy had the option, which many took, of moving to what became Canada or returning to England. Those were not particularly bad choices as Canada and England in due course became more democratic and less monarchial than they had been, with political systems ultimately offering considerable liberty. Had England won the Revolutionary War, the American state church would be Anglican, probably not the ideal result from Ferrara’s standpoint. I would argue that the U.S. is somewhat more religious and more conservative than Canada or England or most of Europe.

    Real monarchies are hard to find these days. North Korea has one. The demon of Liberty does not stalk Kim Jong-un’s realm. The Supreme Leader, the Great Successor to the Dear Leader, would be unlikely to allow blog posts such as this, though he might be impressed with Ferrara’s support of monarchy and his condemnation of Liberty in general and America and its founders in particular.

    • Real monarchies are hard to find these days. North Korea has one. The demon of Liberty does not stalk Kim Jong-un’s realm.

      Reality Check: North Korea has a Leftist Regime. Comparing North Korea’s Communist dictatorship with a traditional monarchy is like comparing a mother and a father with being raised by wolves.

      This sort of silliness may be why the readership of the Orthosphere is declining. Targeting the America Founders, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution is likely to win few American friends and influence few of the American people.

      “Targeting” is a bit strong, don’t you think? This is merely an argumentum ad populum. Furthermore, it’s hardly like bonald was suggesting starting your messaging off with “Do you hate the Constitution? So do we!!! Join Christian Traditionalists United!!” No, that’s a conclusion from a long line of reasoning that begins in the much more common line of reasoning that somewhere along the way we seem to have taken the wrong fork in the road and it might not be the best idea to getting even more lost.

      Had England won the Revolutionary War, the American state church would be Anglican, probably not the ideal result from Ferrara’s standpoint. I would argue that the U.S. is somewhat more religious and more conservative than Canada or England or most of Europe.

      1) The British would not necessarily have established Anglicanism after the war. Most states had established Churches, and not all were Anglican. Massachusetts and Connecticut established Congregationalism, and in Quebec Roman Catholicism was established (actually, that’s a complaint in our Declaration of Independence). There is no reason to think any of that would have changed post-revolution. Personally, I’m an Anglican and establishmentarian myself, so I wouldn’t consider it the beginning of a Dark Age to see Anglicanism established in a theoretical post-revolution American colonies.

      2) Maybe we are more conservative to some extent, but the Monarchist right in Europe has a greater consistency to its philosophy, and, therefore, is more rationally compelling. The American Right is, for the most part, built off founding myths and half-truths. There might be a few small corners that recognize the flaws in our liberal Founding and press on anyway, but by-and-large the American Right is stuck defending a stale brand of liberalism with a religious flare to it.

      • “Where”

        This is in reference to the Quebec Act, which guaranteed the rights of Catholics, but my understanding is that their grievance was seeing a massive territorial bloc being established in territories the colonists wanted for themselves: “For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies”

      • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

        Most of this at the time would have been a euphemism for either Roman Catholicism or absolutist monarchy. At the time there was much belief, particularly amongst Puritans in New England, that King George III tolerating the establishment of Roman Catholicism, combined with his well-known Toryism (Tories had rarely had power under the Hannoverians until George III), would lead to the institution of absolute monarchy, James II style, and that the colonies were his laboratory for getting away with it.

    • Thank goodness. I was afraid this post wasn’t going to draw any controversy.

      Hello Leo,

      Thank you for your concern, but the Orthosphere’s readership has been steady at roughly 1000 hits per day since shortly after its establishment. If there is a downward or upward secular drift, it is small enough that I haven’t noticed it.

      I’d like to avoid anyone getting the impression that this is an issue of distinctly Catholic aggressiveness. If it makes you feel better, I’m sure Chris Ferrara and I have a much more positive attitude toward Protestantism than the Founding Fathers did.

      North Korea is a Leftist dictatorship, not a democracy. It is an extreme form of the Liberty ideology, whose essence is the belief that “the people” has absolute sovereignty and owe no allegiance to God Himself. That the people’s collective rebellion is run by a single man rather than a Parliament is of little interest to reactionaries. After all, you wouldn’t tell a French Royalist that he should be happy with Napoleon in a quasi-monarchical role, would you?

      Incidentally, isn’t it weird how even the mainstream media has turned on North Korea and seems to be trying to write it out of the Left? It makes me worry that the Cathedral has started thinking about imposing something even worse than the current situation, although I can’t imagine what that would be.

      I recommend anyone who finds that my post offends their patriotism to read my linked essay and ask yourself whether what you really love about this country is inseparable from the rebellion of a bunch of heathen Freemasons.

      • Don’t write the protestants out of the revolution. They may have lost the peace, but they certainly helped start the war. Sam Adams was not a freemason as far as I know.

      • “Few freedoms are more fundamental to our way of life—and few so clearly differentiate our democracy from the rival system which seeks to bury it—than the freedom from the midnight knock on the door, from the arbitrary invasion of a man’s home by soldiery or police.”

        In 1761 thirty-six year old James Otis, Jr. argued a case that laid the groundwork for the American Revolution before five scarlet-robed judges in the council chamber of the Town-house in Boston.

        “Although his oration covered some four or five hours and was not taken down stenographically, it left on [John] Adams an indelible impression. With a ‘profusion of legal authorities,’ Adams tells us, ‘a prophetic glance of his eye into futurity, and a torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away everything before him.’ Adams continued: ‘Every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance.’ And he concluded: ‘Then and there the child Independence was born.’ ”

        “ Anticipating ideas that would be set forth in the Declaration of Independence fifteen years later, Otis argued that the rights to life, liberty, and property were derived from nature and implied the guarantee of privacy, without which individual liberty could not survive. (Venturing beyond the immediate issue, Otis declared that liberty should be granted to all men regardless of color—an abolitionist note that startled even the sympathetic Adams.)”

        “With remarkable prescience Otis’ words captured the mood of the midnight visitation by totalitarian police which would terrify a later era less sensitive to individual freedom.”

        See http://www.americanheritage.com/content/%E2%80%9Cthen-and-there-child-independence-was-born

        North Korea is not troubled by advocates of the traditional rights of Englishmen, by an appeal to English Common Law, or by the “demon” liberty. North Korea has a hereditary dynasty and one-man (the “mon” in monarchy) rule (the “archy” in monarchy). Left and right have no meaning when everything revolves around one “luminary.” The maximum leader claims to represent the people, but, of course, he does not, and if his people had the liberty to leave, they would vote with their feet. North Korea is, indeed, a dictatorship. The thing about absolute power is that you have to use it or lose it. With absolute power, the maximum leader’s police can knock on your door at any time, midnight or noon. Your home is then no longer your castle. It isn’t even yours.

        I am not questioning anyone’s patriotism, rather their reading history, modern and ancient (see Judges 9, 1 Samuel 8).

        Granted, advocates of monarchy don’t usually have North Korea in mind, but I don’t see any way to impose a monarchy on America, even a restoration of a defanged British monarchy, without disenfranchising and disarming the populace. And if it is to be a Catholic monarchy, which Catholic leader would it be? Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, or Anthony Kennedy?

      • I recall a mention, elsewhere in this thread, of Peter Oliver’s Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion. Oliver was a Tory and his Origin and Progress is a very unflattering account of the acts and principal personages of the “patriots” around Boston. Otis is a major villain in Oliver’s rendition of the rebellion of the “patriots,” and Adams doesn’t appear a much better light. Oliver is not altogether reliable, but he does make clear that Otis had no compunction against rousing a mob to assault British officials and Tories in their homes. Otis did not believe that “a man’s home is his castle” when that man disagreed with Otis–in fact, men who disagreed with Otis would have done well to live in real castles!

      • > Granted, advocates of monarchy don’t usually have North Korea in mind

        Ah, but communist states like North Korea match the predictions of classical political theory quite well. The natural progression and fulfillment of democracy and liberty in lawless tyranny was laid out in detail by Plato. If freedom is the highest good, and the commonwealth is ordered to no transcendent Good, then constraint and hierarchy must be smashed. The republic must profess an absolute neutrality between high and low, noble and base. But such an equality is unnatural, and can only be maintained through mobilized envy and escalating government force. Eventually the chief demagogue and vice-enabler must assume absolute power. Communism is one manifestation of this, although it is not the purest form. The communists focus on economic hierarchy (as did the demagogues in Socrates’ telling), which is only indirectly tied to the true hierarchy in a Christian order. Western Leftism has advanced to higher levels of devilry, directing the full force of its attack on the authority of God, husbands, fathers, priests, and human nature.

      • JMSmith,

        Curious, in what way is Oliver unreliable? Is it merely reading between the lines, realizing that not every rebel was a murderer or a madman? Does he often indulge the rumor mill? I’m curious, because I’m probably going to order this soon and want to know what to be wary about.

      • I don’t have any special insight into Oliver’s weaknesses, and only know what the editors wrote in the introduction to his published manuscript. From that I gathered that Oliver did not knowingly misrepresent the facts, but he did write amidst the smoke of battle and there are some matters about which he was mistaken.

      • Hi Bonald,

        The harshest reviews of Ferrara’s book come not from liberals or Protestants or even Freemasons, who seem to have generally ignored it as a fringe phenomenon and an internal argument among Catholics (all very much allowed and approved of in a land of liberties), but from Catholics who are taking it seriously and are very seriously opposed to it. See

        http://www.aleteia.org/en/politics/article/illiberal-catholicism-6333360653729792

        http://the-american-catholic.com/2014/03/11/illiberal-catholicism-a-sharp-critique/

        http://www.thenewamerican.com/reviews/books/item/15452-review-of-christopher-ferrara-s-liberty-the-god-that-failed

        I am sure you are familiar with these articles.

        From the first article:

        “The growth of illiberal Catholicism will strengthen the power of the intolerant secular left, revive (and fully justify) the old anti-Catholicism that long pervaded America, and make Catholics in the United States as laughably marginal as they now are in countries like Spain and France — nations where the cause of the Church was linked for centuries to autocratic government and religious intolerance.”

        Your post does not offend me because I view it as a fringe phenomenon that will pass, but it clearly offends, threatens, and divides a lot of Catholics. Somehow I don’t see the current Pope or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as your champion, but perhaps you can correct me on that.

      • It doesn’t surprise me that liberal Catholics are the ones most opposed to this book, since it was primarily written against them. After all, mainstream secular historians pretty much all agree with Ferrara’s historical claims; they just reverse the value judgements. It’s only a small group of neo-Confederates and libertarians who actually dispute that the secularism of the Founders and their rebellion, America’s aggression against her neighbors to the north, south, and west, the centrality of slavery to the Southern cause, and so forth. However, this group has acheived a disproportionate influence over mainstream-conservative Christians.

      • The debate is not going to pass. I predict that Catholic illiberalism will continue to rise in two forms, be it in a traditionalist or liberationist form. If anything is passing it is tea-party like mainline conservatism. Fewer than 10% of Americans actually identify with the tea-party. The tea party cannot even win in deep red states like Kentucky. The recent spectacle of Cliven Bundy was such a spectacular blunder for what is left of American conservatism’s image. Do conservatives really think that resonated with people? Why didn’t people like Zmirak call out that outburst of right-liberal stupidity?

      • There are a lot of causes for concern with Pope Francis, but he is certainly no fan of liberal economics. That strikes at the heart of Americanism.

    • The fact that a Truth is inconvenient–or even apparently “useless” and counter-productive under the circumstances–does not make it any less true. Bonald is not the font of truth. There have been others in the land of good will and intelligence… who have always simply accepted the spin of “The Founding,” and tried to work with it. And look where it has gotten them. Bonald has simply asked, ‘I wonder what would happen if we sobered up?’

      Whether the U.S. are more religious than Europe begs the question of what one considers, “religious.”

      • There have been others in the land of good will and intelligence… who have always simply accepted the spin of “The Founding,” and tried to work with it. And look where it has gotten them.

        Right on.

    • “Outside of the (Ana)Baptists”

      nathanjevans | June 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      There are about 33 million Baptists in the U.S. Roughly 70% of all Baptists reside in the U.S. While there are not as many Baptists as Catholics in America, they are too large a group to be so easily dismissed, and outside of liberal circles, they exercise wide influence, especially in the South. If you are looking for churches and neighbors who support traditional marriage and other conservative culture war stances, you should be on good terms with the Baptists.

      “how silly and utterly disconnected from reality” referring to the American Revolution

      Bonald | June 4, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      I would say sufficiently connected to reality to win and maintain independence from the most powerful empire of the day.

      Few things could be sillier and more disconnected from reality than to expect conservative or liberal or moderate Americans in serious numbers to support or endorse an American Catholic monarchy. Such a project would requite both disenfranchising and disarming the American public. Short of a modern Gunpowder Plot and military coup, it is hard to imagine a scenario that would bring this about. Even if such a scheme should come to pass, the result might well be a monarch such as Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, or the late Ted Kennedy, all prominent Catholic officeholders. Be careful what you wish for.

      • There are about 33 million Baptists in the U.S. Roughly 70% of all Baptists reside in the U.S. While there are not as many Baptists as Catholics in America, they are too large a group to be so easily dismissed, and outside of liberal circles, they exercise wide influence, especially in the South. If you are looking for churches and neighbors who support traditional marriage and other conservative culture war stances, you should be on good terms with the Baptists.

        I went to Liberty University, so I am well aware of the role conservative Baptists play in the culture wars, especially south of the Mason-Dixon. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them theologically. In fact, Baptist theology is a hazard to social conservatism and has been from day one.

  8. “I think the nations of the British Isles are of their own unique variety, enough to say they are part of the same family of nations, or more like tribes within a nation. They also share a legal and cultural tradition and the differences are more like regional distinctions than thoroughgoing cultural differences. Basically, I don’t just think that “British” is an abstraction or that the United Kingdom is an artificial entity. It refers to a group of tribes/nations that share much common history and culture.”

    There are very many here in Ireland who would find much to dispute in that summary. We certainly share much with the English, as it was imposed on us very forcibly. They wiped out our Gaelic culture, although we managed to cling on to our Catholicism (we are not so successful at resisting the lures of Liberalism, unfortunately).

    • There are very many here in Ireland who would find much to dispute in that summary. We certainly share much with the English, as it was imposed on us very forcibly.

      The English didn’t “wipe out” Gaelic culture amongst the Celtic people anymore than was naturally happening in their own countries. While the Anglo-Saxons were uniquely successful at dominating English politics before the Norman invasion, they had settled the whole of the British Isles. Germanic peoples influenced the entirety of the British Isles prior to the King of England becoming Lord of Ireland.

      The Irish did not have anything imposed on them “forcibly” that wasn’t imposed forcibly on the entire rest of the British Isles. The Celtic culture of Ireland wasn’t disturbed by some random, out-of-nowhere English invasion that shoved English down Ireland’s throats. Ireland’s Celtic culture had already been disturbed by the prior settlement of Germanic peoples, just as England itself was.

      That’s what I mean by shared history and culture. Post-Roman Occupation, the story of the British Isles is a common history. The Irish and English experienced the same things together for over a thousand years before the Irish decided to up and take their marbles home, and they experienced those things as a genetically related family of tribes/nations.

      • Obviously, all the history I learned at school was wrong. That was all lies we were told about the Norman settlers becoming more Gaelic than the Gaels themselves. It seems we were all transformed by an Anglo-Saxon occupation I had heard nothing about. Maybe it was these, not the Danes that Brian Boru defeated at Clontarf? Perhaps you could supply me some references whereby I can relearn my national identity?

      • Obviously, all the history I learned at school was wrong.

        You’re telling this to an American who rejects the Revolution. That makes “all” the history I learned in school wrong just as much as it does what I’m saying to you about Ireland.

        All I said was that the English have just as much of the old pre-Saxon blood in them as the rest of the British Isles, and all have been influenced politically, genetically, and culturally by the migrations of the different Germanic groups. They are a family of nations, with a common cultural heritage. English has been spoken in Ireland and Scotland almost as long as it has been spoken in England itself. The major cultural difference, the predominance of Roman Catholicism in Ireland, is not enough to thoroughly overthrow everything else they share in common.

        The myth of the Irish as some kind of perpetual victim at the hands of the perfidious (and German) English is the same myth of the poor citizen being oppressed by those evil (and German) kings up top. Ireland is not some isolated piece of territory where the pure Celtic blood survived while those English became half-bloods who then went on to steal Ireland’s resources. Irish blood has been influenced just as much by Germanic Settlers as the English. The myth of the Anglo-Saxon becoming the dominant progenitors of the English has been thoroughly debunked by modern genetics.

        As for Brian Boru, the Battle of Clontarf was fought between different Irish rulers. It was not a foreign invasion despite whatever myths you might have learned in school.

      • The major cultural difference, the predominance of Roman Catholicism in Ireland, is not enough to thoroughly overthrow everything else they share in common.

        Well… I don’t contest your other points, but until recently at least Catholicism really was the backbone of Irish identity.

        At least here in the states the cultural differences between the Catholic Irish, and the”Scots-Irish” from Ulster are very distinct.

      • Well… I don’t contest your other points, but until recently at least Catholicism really was the backbone of Irish identity.

        At least here in the states the cultural differences between the Catholic Irish, and the”Scots-Irish” from Ulster are very distinct.

        True enough. However, there have been Protestant ethnic Irishmen since the Reformation, even though Roman Catholicism came to define the differences between the Irish and the rest of the British peoples. The Protestant Irish tended to assimilate more into other British ethnic groups, so Roman Catholicism came to dominate the self-identified native Irishmen as part of a natural drift. My maternal family were ethnic Protestant Irish (last name Dolen) that came over along with other Ulster Scots. The fact that Catholicism is the thing that defines Irishness is itself kind of confirmatory of the idea that they really aren’t that different otherwise.

  9. Just to be clear from the get-go: I am a huge fan of John Rao, from whom Ferrara seems to have drawn much of his inspiration.

    That said, even though I agree with many of his points and am as “un-American” as the next traddie, Ferrara rubs me the wrong way. If we tear into our own ancestors’ memory without pain, or even with glee, then we seem to me to have adopted the bloodless, deracinated, and rationalist mindset that is part of the problem.

    Nor do I think Ferrara is quite so un-PC as he might like to think; do the thought-police really care if you attack the founders? Maybe his next target should be Christopher Columbus — a decidedly significant American symbol, by the way, wouldn’t we agree, and hardly a herald of liberal democracy?

    It is also extremely interesting that, for all his supposed iconoclasm, Ferrara never touches the Rev. Dr. King. Thomas Jefferson, yes, Robert E. Lee, yes, even Abe Lincoln, yes, but King … oh, no. To the contrary, he sees fit to quote King favorably during an interview. If in 21st Century America you present yourself as being in the business of knocking over idols and then in the next breath invoke a man whose Ozymandian statue looms over the Washington Mall, well….

    Nobody ever got into trouble for sneering at white Southerners, which seems to take up a disproportionate amount of Ferrara’s time and energy. There has been a longstanding quarrel between the Distributists on one hand and pro-South Catholic libertarians (Tom Woods, etc.) on the other; this book should be read with that context in mind. The libertarian Southerner — I sometimes joke that Woods with his rants against protectionism is the best apologist Lincoln ever had — is a straw man for the real Southern position, which is only rarely articulated nowadays precisely because it would instantly spell death for the career of anybody who dared do so. Just as pro-South libertarians pretend classical-feudal figures like George Fitzhugh never existed or are irrelevant to understanding the South, so too would Ferrara, I suspect, be loath to admit how much paternalist Southern thinkers have in common with anti-capitalist Catholic tradition.

    I mean, Jefferson Davis was educated by Dominicans who came to Kentucky to escape the French Revolution. That’s supposed to be irrelevant in understanding what the man stood for?

    At any rate, men are flesh-and-blood, and multi-dimensional beings, not ciphers whose existence must be interpreted solely in the light of a political theory — be it a good one or a bad one. Somebody who refuses to acknowledge a difference between the traditional hierarchy of the Old South versus the capitalist-industrialist regime that smashed it is utterly overlooking culture and reducing real, once-living people to one-dimensional game pieces.

    Right or wrong our forebears are our forebears; we’re obliged to learn from their mistakes, true, but piety also demands we try to honor what was good and noble in them too. Ferrara seems to forget that at times, in his (understandable) zeal to correct classical liberal errors.

    • If we tear into our own ancestors’ memory without pain, or even with glee, then we seem to me to have adopted the bloodless, deracinated, and rationalist mindset that is part of the problem.

      But he is not doing that. Ferrara agrees with and references the anti-federalists. He approves of the movement of Protestant ministers and their attempt to enshrine Christ in the Constitution.

      Nor do I think Ferrara is quite so un-PC

      Ferrara is very un-PC. He attacks the sacred cows of left and right- capitalism, socialism, Zionism, abortion the American founding, libertarianism.

      You hit the nail on the head in noting that Ferrara is addressing a certain type of Catholic enraptured with myths of America’s founding. These types also tend to idealize the American ante-bellum South. But as Ferrara I think convincingly shows the South was also heavily imbued with Lockean notions. Whenever I hear about the so-called feudalism of the South, I have to roll my eyes. The South was feudal in the way moderns negatively caricature medieval feudalism. I also note that it typically was in the parts of the South that were truly “localist” and distributist that tended to not be the most avid supporters of the cause.

      On the whole Ferrara’s critique is better than the arguments put forth by “Front Porcher” types. I could never understand why self-described localists locate a genuine localist tradition in the American South, the land that gave us Coca-Cola and Walmart. I could ask the same question of you – why do porchers who claim to reject liberalism, constantly relate back to the arch-liberal Jefferson?

      If we are going to find a refuge “beyond liberalism” it is simply going to necessitate rejecting Americanism.

      • 1.) “On the whole Ferrara’s critique is better than the arguments put forth by “Front Porcher” types.”

        2.) “If we are going to find a refuge “beyond liberalism” it is simply going to necessitate rejecting Americanism.”

        Heartily agreed on both counts. To avoid confusion, I should mention that I am no longer affiliated with FPR. And while I respect Jefferson in somewhat the same way I might respect some impressive personality from Herodotus — or a brilliant but dotty uncle — I could hardly be described as a Jeffersonian.

        It is quite true that the South was imbued with Lockean notions; it is also quite true that the South was imbued with other notions, too. Wal-Mart and so on are products of the occupied, reconstructed New South.

      • Hello Dr. Salyer,

        May I ask if you left FPR for practical or ideological reasons? The main reason I was still checking that site now and then was to see if you’d made any new contributions. I guess I’ll still check from time to time to see if John Médaille has anything new, but FPR just doesn’t seem to have been nearly as interesting lately as it used to be.

    • There’s little doubt that Ferrara has bought into the cult of white moral inferiority. Fortunately, “Liberty: the God that Failed” doesn’t discuss the era of Saint Martin, so I’m choosing to ignore this.

      I think it might well be that those of us who most consistently defend patriotism in the abstract are most deficient of this virtue in the concrete. I feel no visceral loyalty toward any groups except the Catholic Church and the reactionary movement, but I realize that this is a defect on my part. It has made me less tempted to believe my own tribe’s universalist claptrap, but while helping me escape a trap that has ensnared better men, it is a defect nonetheless.

  10. I think Leo’s objection more or less explains Russell Kirk. Kirk’s aim was to found a conservative intellectual tradition in the United States, and to do this he had to recruit Americans who were conservative by disposition. Americans who were conservative by disposition felt piety towards the founding fathers, the originating documents, the history of the nation, and so it was unthinkable to attack these icons head-on. Americans who were conservative by disposition had to be told that liberalism had arisen because something had “gone wrong” with the American experiment because they would never face the fact that it had arisen because everything was going “according to plan.”

    Kirk’s strategy, by my reading, was to introduce a manner of political thought that ran contrary to the American tradition but did not appear impious. I think this strategy is correct because impiety offends dispositional conservatives and intellectual conservatism cannot succeed without the support of dispositional conservatives. So we should not make “Dynamite Mount Rushmore” a plank in our platform, even if we think it is a monument to four scoundrels.

    The remark by Ita Scripta Est, immediately above, is basically correct, but rejection of Americanism must not appear as rejection of Americanism. Those of us who are religious traditionalists should understand how this works because it is precisely the way modernist heresies were introduced into our churches. The symbols were not changed, but the doctrines represented by those symbols were changed. The Unitarians discarded Christ long before they discarded the symbol of the cross! Iconoclasm is not a viable strategy in a movement characterized by instinctive piety.

    • Kirk’s strategy, by my reading, was to introduce a manner of political thought that ran contrary to the American tradition but did not appear impious. I think this strategy is correct because impiety offends dispositional conservatives and intellectual conservatism cannot succeed without the support of dispositional conservatives.

      I’m a neophyte here, I’ll admit, but this seems like shoveling sand against the tide. Furthermore, it basically accepts the liberal narrative as a given. Maybe it doesn’t do so quite as completely as out-and-out liberalism (right or left), but it does accept it to some degree. It makes it out like the American nation just came onto the scene by legislative fiat through the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. To reject the Founders isn’t impious towards our heritage, it’s a rejecting a false myth built on liberal hot air and propaganda.

      Furthermore, it doesn’t mean you make a line on July 4, 1776 and reject everything afterwards, as if common sense left the borders of the United States forever afterwards. It also doesn’t mean making the United States out to be the Big Bad Guy of world history, when we’ve done plenty of good as well. The defeat of Nazi Germany and pushing the USSR into collapse were unqualified goods that the United States played a large role in accomplishing.

      Our heritage and traditions are British heritage and traditions. Rejecting the Founders doesn’t mean rejecting our heritage, it means finding our real heritage again. This narrative would have our history start in 1776, when really it starts when the last Roman Legion made the trip back across the Channel. Yes, we’ve grown distinct since then, but I don’t see why that’s any reason to throw off that heritage and adopt one that is totally antithetical to that heritage.

      Also, where does this brand of piety towards our heritage go? I believe in the Biblical Command to honor mother and father and, beyond them, our ancestors. However, let’s remember that the early Christians were accused of impiety towards Roman tradition. Were they? Yes, in a way. But they did not dishonor their ancestors in the process. They merely embraced the True God instead of the false ones their ancestors worshiped. In the United States, our Founders are treated as a Pantheon and you have to pick your favorite to praise and push their brand of liberals beyond the realm they themselves didn’t even think possible in the name of “progress” or “American values” if you are a conservative-minded person. Well, I reject that whole baloney system.

      • My comment was meant as a suggestion as to how we ought to proceed with respect to practical politics, not with respect to the development of political theory. Political theory should be internally consistent, so a reactionary political theory cannot incorporate the principles of, say, the Gettysburg Address. If the principles of the Gettysburg Address are wrong, then those principles must go. However, as a matter of practical politics, many of our prospective allies are dispositional conservatives who feel a natural piety towards the Gettysburg Address and its author, and so it is foolhardy to offend their sensibilities with direct denunciation of these symbols.

        If I became principal of a Catholic school with the intention of introducing heresy and undermining the faith of the students, I’d probably begin by installing a larger crucifix in each classroom. I would be scrupulously pious with respect to symbols and forms, and steadily subversive with respect to doctrinal content.

        One way to do this when it comes to the heroes in the Whig history of the United States is to praise them, but not for the same reasons Whigs praise them. For instance, praise Jefferson (or Thomas Paine) as a writer, passing over in silence his merit as a political philosopher.

        Radicals can use iconoclasm as a political tool because a large part of their natural constituency rejoices when venerated symbols are smashed and destroyed. That tool is not available to us because a large part of our constituency rejoices to see venerated symbols venerated

      • So we should hope to “win” by being “better” entryist deceptive propagandists than liberals? We need a strategy of ecumania, e.g., we should adopt the language of “freedom of religion” in the hope of deconstructing it and then reconstructing it to mean what we want it to mean? Meanwhile, nobody will be led astray by our adoption of the language and formal doctrinal statements of heretics.

        That’s sure to work.

      • I am not advocating true entryism, which would entail infiltration of the SPLC, GLAD, and dozens of gender studies departments. And I’m not advocating dissembling and deceit. There are institutions through which it is impossible to make a long march without grave risk of spiritual corruption. What I am saying is that a hammer-and-tongs attack on cherished icons will alienate dispositional conservatives, who are naturally inclined to piety. I am aware of, and unsettled by, the fact that my proposal would result in a gnostic or illuminati-like social structure, in which an an inner circle possesses a gnosis that is hidden from the outer circle, but I do not see how this can be avoided when one must seek popular support among dispositional conservatives who have developed pious attitudes towards revolutionary persons, institutions, and principles. As a matter of practical politics we should probably avoid loud proclamations that George Washington was a traitorous hound. The Left can use the tactic of épater le bourgeois because iconoclasm is red meat to the mob that supports them. We certainly aim to change sensibilities, but the nature of our target audience demands that we do so slowly.

      • Why must Christians seek popular support if doing so involves “hiding the ball” and pretending that rebellious scoundrels were virtuous? It seems to me that “ecumenism” of this sort is inherently deceptive. Celebrating rebellion and error is celebrating rebellion and error, however one tries to justify it.

        I don’t discount an honest ecumenism which amounts merely to approaching other human beings with respect and courtesy. At most this might involve strategically keeping one’s mouth shut. But marketing the iChrist 7S to the modern world seems like a foolish endeavor for Christians, at least to me.

      • When seeking support from dispositionally conservative Catholics, condemning the Founders *should* (although for some reason it doesn’t) work in our favor. After all, to admire these miscreants means you regard such great and holy popes as Gregory XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII as either wicked or stupid for condemning Liberty and Americanism. One must think that the one true Church was mired in error while the light of the world was carried by a bunch of Christ-hating Freemason traitors. Why the hell don’t more Catholics find this as repugnant as I do?

      • I believe there are three reasons dispositionally conservative Catholics do not find this repugnant. First, to recognize the contradiction requires an understanding of political philosophy and history that they do not possess. Second, American Catholics spent a hundred years persuading the Protestant majority that they were not a threat to republican institutions and religious pluralism. Third, they swallowed the Protestant’s soothing story that all of the Founders were Christian in some profound but esoteric sense.

      • On that, we sure enough agree. Messaging is important and coming off as iconoclastic for the sake of being iconoclastic won’t get you anywhere. However, I think the way to do that is not feigning agreement with the consensus, but rather showing your own piety to our heritage. Emphasize positives, not your opposition to the negatives, and don’t even bring those up at all if not necessary. I would praise our cultural and legal heritage in common with Britain, which is uncontroversial enough, especially amongst ordinary conservative Republicans whose second idol to Ronald Reagan may very well be Winston Churchill.

        Perhaps I’m being naive, but I do think there is almost as much innate piety for our British heritage as our Founding. Often our Founding is justified as some kind of extension of that, as if we more fully embody that heritage than our Mother Country itself. I went to a conservative Evangelical University myself (being a Protestant does help me appreciate our British heritage a bit more!). I signed up for a few government classes because I was thinking about going to law school. One of my instructors in “Constitutional History” spent a lot of time justifying the American Revolution and her general vociferous anti-monarchism (it was rather annoying to anyone but Jefferson and Cromwell Fanboys). How did she do this? One of the things she did is build the typical myths of British Whiggery, say that those were our British heritage, and then hop on a healthy load of outright lies about how the Bible is anti-monarchy. She even said the Law of Moses doesn’t mention the monarchy; I was too stunned at the time to object to this outright fabrication.

        Another reason she did this is because every serious Evangelical (or Christian in general I suppose) runs up against seven verses in Romans Chapter 13 that flat out say that the type of things our Founders did is wrong (not to mention countless more that militate against it). The only way you can overcome that is by building up a bias in favor of the Founders and then hop on some meaningless platitudes invented, unsurprisingly, by our Founding Propagandists or their predecessor Roundheads. That’s the only way you can keep this sort of myth up when it runs into cognitive dissonance amongst people whose theoretically higher commitment.

        Admittedly, that’s just conservative Evangelicals. However, that’s a significant element of our population.

        For instance, praise Jefferson (or Thomas Paine) as a writer, passing over in silence his merit as a political philosopher.

        I’m just not sure how this will help us with political messaging. When I was an active political campaigner, if I ran across a seemingly ordinary voter than knew Thomas Jefferson had made the Louisiana Purchase I’d have thought they were relatively knowledgeable, and at the time I lived right near the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. The point being that there is no need to even mention Jefferson or the Founding Fathers to appeal to most people. The ones who have built idols out of them, those might need to be challenged in the most tactful way possible.

      • I’m just spit-balling here, but what if we created an organization where we carefully selected men to join who might further our political goals. Who could present them with a partial narrative where we claim to respect (in the weakest terms possible) the founders, liberty, etc. Then we could select among those among the most committed and most useful to present a more nuanced critique of political liberty. And so on and so on until we reveal the Truth only to those who have been properly initiated. Sort of teaching them by degree as they are more fully prepared. The lower degree wouldn’t be privy to the knowledge possessed by the higher degrees, but they would be eager to learn so as to advance. What do you think? Could it work?

      • This is the organizational structure of illuminate freemasonry, and that is why I wrote, somewhere in this thread, that we should approach it with caution. The truth should not be seen as permanently esoteric, as the exclusive possession of an inner elite of that the Gnostics called pneumatics. With that said, you are certainly correct when you write that some truths are so shocking that they must be received gradually, through a process of initiation. This appears to have been the idea among the illuminated freemasons when they gradually disclosed the scope of their revolutionary intentions to new recruits. To have done so all at once would have sent the recruits running away (and to the authorities).

      • One must think that the one true Church was mired in error while the light of the world was carried by a bunch of Christ-hating Freemason traitors.

        Forget just the Roman Catholic Church. Outside of the (Ana)baptists, there is no mainstream version of Christianity that is in any way compatible with American Founding Principles. Outside of Baptists, the ones you would think would be most compatible would be the Presbyterians, but their Catechism on the Fifth Commandment reads:

        Question 124: Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

        Answer: By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

        Question 127: What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?

        Answer: The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

        Not exactly the statements of radical revolutionaries, which is why the Scottish Presbyterians raised arms against Cromwell because of the regicide in an attempt to restore Charles II to the throne, at least in Scotland. In order to make Presbyterianism nominally compatible with the new American Government, their Confession of Faith had to be amended. Notably, the Episcopalians/Anglicans refused to amend their 39 Articles that promote the establishment of Christianity.

        Why the hell don’t more Catholics find this as repugnant as I do?

        I’m guessing it’s similar to the reasons why most Protestants don’t find it as repugnant as they should. The more conservative among them simply develop a myth that the Founders were really Christians, despite hard evidence against the primary conspirators and agitators. In order to aid that myth, they make half-baked arguments that Church Establishment and the Monarchy are really anti-Christian, usually on the premise that Jesus didn’t raise an army to establish an earthly kingdom. Adding the words “earthly” or “worldly” into a Christian argument is the equivalent of adding “racist” or “bigoted” to a secular one: Cheap hit points scored. Also, never mind that the arguments they make, if one actually used the premises of the Holy Writ, would actually work against the Revolutionaries.

      • This is the organizational structure of illuminate freemasonry.

        That was the joke. I should have made it more explicit.

  11. I have a hard time believing that the Confederacy did not involve a certain amount of Reactionary sentiment. George– “We want no New Worlds!”– Fitzhugh began to cite Sir Robert Filmer and Toryism with approval for instance. Although certainly neo-Confederates today tend to gloss over that trend in Southern thought, and it is undoubtedly limited to the secular world; yet it represents an application of critical reason to political assumptions and perhaps a rudder order on the Titanic.
    After all, it is alleged that Jefferson Davis and Bl. Pope Pius IX exchanged correspondence after the war, and Mary Surratt was Roman Catholic.

    • Hello Rob,

      I’ve also seen it go the other way. Many of the southern agrarians of the Depression era were admirably conservative and revered a Confederacy that they remembered as being more feudal and reactionary than it actually was (or at least than its leaders and defenders at the time understood it to be).

      I don’t have much sympathy for the Confederacy, but I have a lot of sympathy for people with sympathy for the Confederacy. It’s a funny quirk of mine, but I only ever seem to be able to experience patriotism at second hand.

    • You are quite right; the US had its reactionary and anti-liberty rebellion already, which failed ignominiously and the perpetrators are reviled, although not as universally as they should be. You want to align yourself with evil losers, go right ahead, let’s see how that works out.

      You people must be very unhappy living in a country where you are entirely at odds with its foundational principles and overall culture. Or maybe not, I’m guessing you get off on it somehow.

      • You want to align yourself with evil losers, go right ahead, let’s see how that works out.

        If I recall correctly, this was the subtitle of the American Studies class I took in college.

        You people must be very unhappy living in a country where you are entirely at odds with its foundational principles and overall culture.

        Nah. Three kids, a wife, a house with a pool in the backyard, mass on Sunday, fish on Friday, a library card, friends, golf, backyard bbqs. Simple pleasure and difficult questions. Joy and grief. Finding our end in God. All good things and all part of the “overall culture”.

        However, the political philosophic tradition of certain of our historical elites is significantly less great.

        Not that this is some ivory tower irrelevancy. The good life was more difficult to obtain for me than it was for my parents and will be more difficult still for my children. Who will my daughters marry when there is no social restraint on cads? But come on a.morphous, we have more in common than you think.

        Do you like Wal-mart, fast food and strip malls? Do you like fat people, NBA jerseys, crystal meth, and ignorance? Do you like the suburbs, isolation, the decline in civic virtue, and the military-industrial complex? Are you very unhappy being at odds with an entire culture?

      • When the present liberal dispensation was coming into being in the 18th century, the attitude one finds on today’s Orthosphere was called “free enquiry,” “mental liberty,” or “skepticism.” The titles are somewhat tendentious, since “free thinking” was then really just dissent from conventional wisdom, but in theory these terms meant a willingness to engage in speculative reconsideration of settled opinions. You are right to say that some people “get off” on holding minority opinions, and all of us should beware of contrarianism for its own sake, but I think you are wrong to suppose that most of us here are motivated by a will to disagree. It could be that we are entirely lacking in self-awareness, but we are, at least by profession, deeply suspicious of “private judgment.”

        I’m not a staunch defender of the Confederacy, but I have never heard anyone describe the failure of the Rebellion as “ignominious.” Nor have I ever heard the perpetrators “reviled.” Slavery and secession have been denounced in the strongest possible terms, but the officers and enlisted men of the Confederate Army were respected as valiant and honorable. An ignominious defeat is a rout of cowards and traitors, and that is not how the Confederacy fell.

      • Yes, I think we are very unhappy.

        But we are not hypocritical.

        And I think I am right in saying that the “evil losers” would be gratified by our respect… and equally gratified that someone like yourself would revile them.

  12. As I am sure you all would guess, I strongly endorse Ferrara’s overall thesis. That being said I had some problems with the book especially in its presentation. As Bonald, and other reviewers have noted, Ferrara overplays the founder’s hypocrisy on liberty v. government. It almost seems like Ferrara uses the framer’s own purported standards because he in some sense agrees with them. He constantly uses lines like “government was smaller under the kings of Christendom” etc. Again I appreciate his zeal in cutting through the BS, but as a reactionary I find judging the Framers by their own standards a bit too easy. States are not meant only to promote liberty and guard property rights, but to promote the common good. Liberty if it is a good, is limited good subordinate to others in a hierarchy of goods. Of course Ferrara does mention this a lot as well so maybe I am making too much of it.

    The other issue I had was Ferrara’s support for Rick Santorum. Santorum’s politics are in no meaningful way Catholic despite his purported pro-life credentials.

  13. I wrote several very long replies, taking several hours, but I could never get my words right. So I will spare you them.

    I also have not yet read the book.

    I agree with many things, especially that I am uncomfortable by way conservatives view the founders and the documents signed, treating them as holy relics. I think it idolatry. The fact that they have to refer to amendments to the constitution, over half the time is an irony that appears to be lost on both the liberals and the conservatives. And they always refer to the amendments as if they were unchangeable (it would be funny if they weren’t so serious about it).

    But I still must ask: why do you throw over 50,000 lives lost on our side (assuming you are American) in the garbage bin on account of what some Freemasons may have been heard saying later? Do you think all of those people fought for over a decade against a much larger enemy on account of some illogical-cotton-candy-philosophy? Remember, this is a world without electricity, without cars. nor planes, boats traveled on wind, people rose on animals, a world without the mass media, without email, without internet. They were people in the real world, fighting a very real war, that they could very well lose, and not university professors arguing over semantics.

    The Americans list their complaints against the British in the Declaration. They do not mention “creating a new world” or a “grand experiment” or any of that stuff. Their complaints do not seem benign to me. Nor do they seem like some sort of “watch-out-becuase-the-vatican-is-sneaky-sneaky” popish plots. They seem very serious. And they are the sort of things that, unlike Popish Plots, are either actually happening or are not. If these complaints are true, who could blame them for what they did?

    From the Declaration:

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

    Cause and effect didn’t just start in the year 1776. America didn’t just pop out of some libertarian manuscript. The monarchy is as much a founder of America in a (twisted) sort of way, much like the (twisted) sort of way as Judas Iscariot brought about the salvation world.

    [This is, however, a flawed metaphor, in that someone may think I am claiming America brought about something akin to the salvation Christ brought about. It has done no such thing. That's not what I meant by it. Only that the English king is an (albeit unwitting) cause of the existence of America the sovereign state.]

    Perhaps the book goes into debunking that these things were actually happening, that Britain was all sugar and spice and everything nice. You seem to claim it does, so I will have to read it and find out. I think: perhaps I have spoken too soon. But then I think: somewhere around the same period of time in question, England became the first country to respond to the issue of pirates by hiring pirates to pirate the pirates… as well as everyone else, all with the goal of getting their hands on some of that New World gold. So forgive me for thinking that they cannot be all that harmless…

    As they say: “let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

    • Note how vague a lot of these complaints are. Also, some are built off of flawed premises even if true. For instance:

      He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

      The fact that rebel legislatures were dissolved is well known, but they were dissolved because they were rebelling against the lawful authorities. They practically admit that, but call it “resisting with manly firmness” instead of rebellion. Rebelling against the King, and then turning around and complaining that the King fights back and using that as justification for doubling down on your rebellion isn’t exactly a very rational argument. This is like complaining about “police brutality” while you are in the act of resisting arrest.

      Read Samuel Johnson’s pamphlet “Taxation No Tyranny” if you want to see American arguments of British Tyranny thoroughly debunked in a relatively succinct manner. The entire rotten edifice was built off of complaints against what was the legitimate imposition of taxes and the legitimate imposition of the Proclamation Line. The rest of what the British did was in response to rebellion against these legitimately imposed ordinances.

      But I still must ask: why do you throw over 50,000 lives lost on our side (assuming you are American) in the garbage bin on account of what some Freemasons may have been heard saying later?

      What about all of the lynched Tories who lost their lives? What about the Loyalist militiamen who lost their lives or were forced into exile and had their property stolen? These types of arguments cut both ways.

      • It’s funny to actually read the Declaration to see how silly and utterly disconnected from reality it was. The revolution is justified by the fact that, after the colonists started a war, the legitimate authorities fought back. Or does anyone imagine that the king was randomly burning cities, looting, murdering, and siccing Indian savages on the colonies before the insurrection? Even after the war started, this is an inaccurate description of English practice.

      • Thanks for the replies. I found the Samuel Johnson pamphlet online, it is not too long but give me a day to read it. I need a rest from this.

        And yes, some of the complaints are questionable to me, because I do not know what the status quo was at that time. That one about the legislatures was one of them I found questionable. Another was the trial without jury, since I don’t know whether or not this was common practice. It does not seem to me that trial by jury is a thing one can claim a “right” to, unless it was already an established law, in which case one can complain that you are being slighted out of spite and thus justice is being hindered.

        And thanks for your reply Bonald, but I still do not think it is so funny. I am trying to imagine how things looked for them. I do not necessarily agree with the revolution, I think that one should never create a schism, because schisms are almost always permanent. But I just said “who could blame them?” I don’t necessarily agree with the thought process behind the revolution in a strict sense, but I can sort of “get it.” Like, “you shouldn’t have, but if I was in your place, I would’ve probably done the same.”

        I think I am having two issues, one is a sense patriotism. I mean were do kings come from? You’re just given the country your given, very few actually get to choose it, and then that’s your country. My country is America. Here I was born. When I hear things like those who fought in the revolution were traitors I think, “Who the hell is this traitor? He wants to praise the enemy, and drag our people through the mud.” This is ingrained in me and mostly an emotional reaction. I don’t care so much for the individual founders, and I’ll gladly join in for a round of Jefferson-dissing, but it’s the idea that the entire country is a mistake that irks me. It’s like telling someone that they were conceived illegitamitly, and that if people had done the right thing, he should have never been born. Like I think “why are you still here, then, if you think so? Go apply for a British citizenship, maybe beg that queen of yours to take you back, tell her of your undying loyalty to the crown and of your hatred for those traitors who betrayed your country, tell you repent of the revolution, and formally renounce your citizenship here, the country you don’t even think has a right to exist. Maybe she’ll even knight you, won’t that be special?”

        And I will swear, I am not trying to be rude or hurtful, I’m just speaking honestly stream of thought. I apologize if I am speaking too strongly. Please delete this if it offends you, it was not my intention.

        If I’m feeling this strong of a reaction, I can only imagine how it must feel to those who can trace their family history to those who fought in the revolutionary war.

        The second issue that bothers me is, I think, an issue in scale. the British are all the way over there, they have to sail to you to fight you. And the king doesn’t come over here, he stays in Britain sending others to fight for him.

        Imagine that, them, all the way over there, and you live here, and the now the British, who now talk differently from you, and eat different things, and wear different clothes, are at your door, sans their king, who is apparently not angry enough to make his way over here himself. They then tell you that you must supply them with food and shelter and water. And you know that they are here to stifle the rebellion, they are armed, they are here to shoot some people, and you know that your neighbors and your friends and your friends are the ones behind the “insurrection”, which you think think is not an “insurrection” because they aren’t attacking the king, who is all the way over in far far away land.

        So these guys are here, wanting to shoot your friends, and what is this all about? The king across the ocean wants your money, he wants his taxes, and with those taxes what does he do? He sends people from his island, the people who are now different than you, to shoot your friends, for not sending him the money. That’s what he does. He takes your money to hire guys who come from the island you’ll never see to shoot your friends who can never hurt him all because they don’t send over their money to the king in a land far far away. And these soldiers who are here to shoot your friends also want to eat your food at your dinner table and they are not going to reimburse you for it.

        Surely the Lord spoke truly when He said: “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle, and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.” (1 Samuel 8)

        Maybe that’s not how it was, but I can certainly see how it looked.

        The Americans couldn’t leave, but the British could leave whenever they wanted to. They could always go home.
        The Americans couldn’t escape by going home, the British came to shoot them at their homes.

        I can only say of them, the Americans: “I understand why you thought what you thought and why you did what you did.”

        But to the British, I don’t know what to say. What were they hoping to accomplish? Why was it so important that the American colonists stay under them. Why did they go from there to here just to put down rebellions that did not threaten the king nor anyone one his island at all? What did the king want?

        Quick correction to my previous post: the war did not last over a decade, I forgot the time in between the end of the war and drafting of the constitution.

      • Americans shouldn’t feel too bad about all of this. After all, most countries were founded on usurpation and conquest if one goes back far enough, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t eventually become legitimate nations. Other countries are luckier only in that their founding usurpation didn’t bequeath a spiritually noxious justification that all subsequent generations have felt obliged to defend.

        If I were a colonial, it shouldn’t have been too hard for me to understand why the King had some claim to my tax money. Even apart from his being my lawful sovereign (since remember I would have grown up considering myself an Englishman), England had just fought a very expensive war with France in part over supremacy of North America.

        In any case, I’m just finding it perverse that anyone would think governments have a huge hurdle of justification to clear before they can suppress rebellions. I mean, maintaining itself is one of authority’s most important duties; saying it shouldn’t do this is anarchism. Imagine a self-appointed “Continental Congress” of Alaskans declared Alaska an independent republic tomorrow; surely it’s not hard to imagine the U.S. government sending troops from other states to suppress the rebellion. That’s what we did when some other states tried this trick.

      • FHL, Thomas Hutchinson’s Strictures is an item by item fisking of the Declaration.

        Peter Oliver’s Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion is a pretty incredible resource from a guy who was there and is actually trying to explain rather than obfuscate. I’m not asserting that he is objective, but he clearly has a point that he actually wants you to understand.

    • All good points. All reasons why coming out and questioning the Revolution will get you a lot of opprobrium. However, I think they are, ultimately, misplaced.

      If I’m feeling this strong of a reaction, I can only imagine how it must feel to those who can trace their family history to those who fought in the revolutionary war.

      Personally, I can still remember how much I felt like a traitor I felt when I was assigned in school to be a Tory, worse, a prominent one, during the traditional 8th Grade Williamsburg Project. I mean, wasn’t being a Tory like being an 18th Century Nazi, worse yet, a traitorous Nazi? Safe to say, I don’t think that now, but I can empathize with such feelings. Though, admittedly, my patriotism has always included the British to some extent; I was surprised when I discovered other people didn’t think the fact that the UK is our mother country was good enough justification for entering the World Wars on their side.

      However, let’s back off from these emotions to see if they are well-placed. First of all, it wasn’t like the British shipped over an utterly foreign army. When Washington crossed the Delaware, there were more Americans under General Howe’s command than there were under Washington’s. I don’t have a source for this off the type of my head, but I’m pretty sure that over the course of the war 50,000 Americans served in various Loyalist units while an estimated 100,000 served in rebel armies. In 1783, there were around 3 million people in the then former colonies. Of those, somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand would emigrate because the British lost the war. Think about the commitment it takes to pick up and leave a life that you’ve built and leave behind friends and family, most likely for the Great White North.

      Furthermore, even down to the present day, I have trouble with identifying the British as foreign. Maybe modern technology has helped this, but how foreign is a person who speaks your language, practices your religion (at least historically), and with whom you’ve fought multiple wars? Our only significant difference seems to be our form of government. Both of those were just as true then as they are today, even more true in some cases. Having lived on both coasts, it seems to me there are as many cultural differences between different regions of the United States as there are between those and the United Kingdom. In the 18th Century, the difference between a Massachusettsian and a South Carolinian, or even a Pennsylvanian, would have been even more pronounced. Also, think about this: From Boston, it’s only ~400 more miles to Cornwall than it is to San Francisco (2,700 vs. 3,100 as the crow flies).

      Just a couple of observations. I could go on forever about this, but I’ve already sunk too much time into this.

  14. Interesting. If you type out “” but leave out the quotations, it blanks it all out and nothing shows up in that spot. I guess it assumes the form is a command and doesn’t display the characters, but since there is no command inside, it does nothing.

    Another correction, last paragraph should read “debunking that these things were actually happening” and NOT “debunking that these things were not actually happening.” Sorry to post corrections and then post more corrections after my corrections, but the meaning is completely flip-flopped because of that typo.

  15. Americans shouldn’t feel too bad about all of this. After all, most countries were founded on usurpation and conquest if one goes back far enough, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t eventually become legitimate nations.

    The problem here is that this country(ies?) has never been permitted to develop into a legitimate nation. The problem here, and in distinction from any other country coming to my mind, is that the “American Founding,” its alleged purposes and animating charism, is regularly employed to inform the scope of American governance, i.e., the political system, the universe of its perceived legitimate role and goals. No other “nation” has ever winked into existence through encapsulation of individual liberty–which is the American theory of its own existence, its metaphysic, and the only theory permitted political standing.

    For instance, in a current if off-topic comparison, if I expressed support for Russia, with the aspirational goal of seeing it reform a Holy East Roman Empire, I would be viewed as not only a kook, but un-American to boot. I know whereof I speak.

    While Englishmen today do have the baggage from the Infamous Revolution of 1688, they don’t really have to engage in politics with an eye toward any ideology in particular, certainly not William the Conqueror’s intentions, nor those involved with the ancient Roman evacuation or Saxon invasions.

    So I do not feel bad about the historical fact… but I do bemoan today’s consequences.

    Imagine a self-appointed “Continental Congress” of Alaskans declared Alaska an independent republic tomorrow; surely it’s not hard to imagine the U.S. government sending troops from other states to suppress the rebellion. That’s what we did when some other states tried this trick.

    This is a mischaracterization. Seceding States of 1860-61 (as I interpreted the allusion) were using the same mechanisms to secede, as they used to accede originally to the Union, and with the same purposes in mind (the good of their individual State communities). They were not rebelling. They had no duty of loyalty (In contrast, there had been a duty of loyalty to the Crown in 1776–which the “patriot” colonists summarily violated). Ironically, it was Mr. Lincoln who was engaging in a rebellion. Whether one believes this rebellion to have been justified is of course a different matter.

    • The problem here is that this country(ies?) has never been permitted to develop into a legitimate nation.

      I agree. We were no more a nation on July 4, 1776 than we were on July 3, and we are no more one now than we were when we declared independence. That is to say, we remain fundamentally a British Nation. Our national identity is no more distinct from Great Britain’s than Canada, Australia, or New Zealand’s are, save for the fact we have abolished the monarchy over a dispute on a few pence tax.

      This is a mischaracterization. Seceding States of 1860-61 (as I interpreted the allusion) were using the same mechanisms to secede, as they used to accede originally to the Union, and with the same purposes in mind (the good of their individual State communities). They were not rebelling. They had no duty of loyalty (In contrast, there had been a duty of loyalty to the Crown in 1776–which the “patriot” colonists summarily violated). Ironically, it was Mr. Lincoln who was engaging in a rebellion. Whether one believes this rebellion to have been justified is of course a different matter.

      I get your point, but I disagree. Just because the United States exists in a prodigal state doesn’t justify our own dismemberment. Making the United States into a loose confederacy only exacerbates the problem of a lack of legitimate authority. Just look at the utter failure of the Founders’ original vision in the Articles of Confederation.

      • I grew up near the Canadian border, and also lived for a while as an adolescent in England. When we would cross the border into Ontario, I was struck, even as a callow youth, how much more “English” it was up there. Of course, back then, Ontario was very largely populated by the descendants of immigrants from England, Scotland and Ireland. In western New York State, on the other hand, there was a substratum of the population descended from New Englanders who moved in at the turn of the eighteenth century laid over with some very thick layers of Italians and Poles. It is not just a matter of immigration. By the end of the nineteenth century the United States was large and powerful enough to declare cultural independence, and no longer looked to London as the cultural metropolis. Obviously the common language has had a very large effect on our cultural and political relations with the British Isles, and a powerful strain of anglophilia runs through certain segments of American society, but the vast majority of Americans have no sentimental attachment or special regard for English society, the English people, or English culture. There was a time when Americans, such as I, who have a strong English heritage, could look to England as a sort of spiritual homeland. Much of this was mythical, of course. The England we dreamed of was not a real place. But the dream was a real dream. But the England of today is rapidly making itself over into a truly foreign country, increasingly populated by people whom we do not resemble in body or spirit.

      • Hmm…that’s interesting. I was always more struck more by the similarities than the differences when I’ve been to Canada and been friends with Canadians (I’ve only know a couple of Brits). It seemed to me to be the same, save for the fact they kept the red uniforms (and the Crown obviously). Also, having known Canadians from both coasts, it seems to me the similarities between Canadian East Coast culture and American East Coast culture are stronger on a practical level than the similarities within those countries overall (and this is true for each region and its Canadian counterpart). Being raised in Washington State, I’d say I share more practical cultural similarities with a British Columbian than I do with a Virginian, my new home state. At times the mindset on the East Coast seems as foreign to me as I could possibly imagine Britain being. Maybe I’m wrong; I’ve never been to Britain, after all.

        As for cultural independence from London, it seems to me that’s more because we have become the center of the Anglosphere’s cultural gravity since the late 19th, early 20th centuries. I think this has had a deleterious effect on the overall Anglosphere culture as we have become the dominant partner.

        But the England of today is rapidly making itself over into a truly foreign country, increasingly populated by people whom we do not resemble in body or spirit.

        I agree. However, this is happening to us as well. We are becoming diluted by foreign cultures. I think the only long-term solution to this, if we are truly to survive as the nations that we have historically been, is strengthening the bonds between our societies, not abandoning them. Now, admittedly, I can’t imagine a more impractical goal politically, but that doesn’t make it something not worthwhile. Furthermore, it is a positive reactionary agenda instead of just a “Dr. No” approach.

      • Well I am not quite sure you did get my point. It is not the prodigal/illegitimate nature of a unity called the USA, which I believe justifies secession. Rather I deny that there was a unity in that sense at all, that it is an ahistorical construct.

        While cessions of sovereign authority may have been made by the States in 1789, they were made by those State communities individually (for provincial purposes, as identified by the provincials), and thus were reclaimable by those communities (for provincial purposes, as identified by the provincials). As such, Lincoln launched an invasion, in order to recast the American order into a univocally unitary one. Whether one thinks this justifiable under the circumstances or not, he was not putting down a rebellion.

        Interestingly and ironically (from my standpoint) many neo-Confederates speak of secession as a right, in its revolutionary (and Lockean) nature. I am the last person in the world to defend such a thing (“Unidad!”). In this sense, the “secessions” of 1860-61 were no secessions at all. I do not defend that kind of secession.
        Perhaps matters could be thought of like this: At the beginning of 1788, there were the 13 States (set Vermont aside) of the Union, governed by, and members of, the Articles of Confederation. By drafting the Constitution, and acceding to it, one by one those States left the Union of the Articles, for the Union of the Constitution. They seceded from the former to join the latter. Perhaps the last hold out—Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations—should have launched a war against her deserting Sister States, as being “damned rebels”?

        No.

        There were certainly more than thirteen British colonies in existence throughout the world with governments in 1776. In that year, some of them declared their independence; some did not. Only by their individualized community participation in that rebellion, did they gain independence. One does not suppose that the Declaration of Independence applies to Quebec, Ontario, or Jamaica, does one? The ex-colonies bound themselves, individually, to the Confederation that they formed. They later bound themselves, individually, to a Constitutional Union. Some of them, individually, left the latter in 1860-61. On a more organic and tangible level—as a book such as The Cousins’ Wars points out—these different colonies were really different, in circumstances, in temperament, in legal-political terms, in religion, even in ethnicity and language. By what surfeit of magic would a High Kirk Scot and a Kentish Englishmen become one nationality simply because they crossed an Ocean? Keep in mind that they were more physically distant one from the other, on that other continent, than they had been on the Isle of Britain.

        Because I adjudge the claims of the Enlightenment, in terms of politics and formulations of the nature of Man, to be fundamentally in error; I must take this position. The opposing position is necessarily one grounded upon the notion of a philosophical unity of “Americans,” and the notion that this unity is both cause and effect of the “nationality.” And, in reality, this unity expresses the unity of all men and Man. “Everyone has a right [and the desire, whether they realize it or not] to be an American.” Men like Thomas Paine might say, “the cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind,” but of course he might be dismissed as an outlier. However, I like to recall Justice James Wilson’s (signer of the Declaration, the Constitution, and justice on the first U.S. Supreme Court) quote from Chisholm v. Georgia: “A State, I cheerfully admit, is the noblest work of Man: But Man, himself, free and honest, is, I speak as to this world, the noblest work of God.”

        I dissent.

      • Perhaps I did misunderstand your point, but I think the (counter)revolution you are talking about occurred at the Philadelphia Convention itself. In between a unitary state and a confederacy exists the federation, and we went from a confederation to a federation at the Philadelphia Convention. A federal government, as opposed to confederation government, is the supreme legal authority, but unlike a unitary authority, the political subdivisions cannot be destroyed by an act of the central authority (this is the cases whether no matter whether the government is a republic or a monarchy). Consider the two supremacy clauses (emphasis mine):

        Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them.

        vs.

        This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

        The Articles of Confederation are much weaker than the Constitution is. The Constitution asserts supreme lawmaking authority. The States are bound to it as the Supreme Law, unless, one can argue from a social contract viewpoint, the Federal Government breaks the explicit social contract.

        This is also backed up by the “state sovereignty” clauses of the two (emphasis mine again):

        Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

        vs.

        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

        The Tenth Amendment is essentially the Articles of Confederation clause minus the important “sovereignty, freedom, and independence” bit. The States do not retain their absolute sovereignty under the Constitution, but only the typical reserve state authorities of a federation. And this is absolutely essential for what the purposes of the Founders was: The establishment of a powerful central authority with the ability to raise taxes, suppress rebellions and effectively wage a war with a foreign power. Ironically, these were all the things they rebelled against the British to prevent, which is why the Constitution is a Counter-Revolutionary document, even if it didn’t go full bore and just give up on the whole foolish enterprise.

        On a more organic and tangible level—as a book such as The Cousins’ Wars points out—these different colonies were really different, in circumstances, in temperament, in legal-political terms, in religion, even in ethnicity and language.

        I agree to some extent. The United States might include many distinct national identities. I have no problem with saying the South has a distinct culture from the North. However, I don’t think they are organically disconnected from each other. We share a common origin and heritage, and, religiously, we all share Christianity even if the colonies had different established version of the religion. In other words, we belong to the same family of nations. The most organically disconnected state is Louisiana, but it is less organically disconnected from the rest of the country than Quebec is from Canada.

      • “Ironically these are all the things they rebelled against the British to prevent.”

        Well, sort of, yes. On the other hand the assertion doesn’t strike me as terribly accurate, given their pronouncement in the Declaration of an independent right to declare war, conclude peace, and all other things independent nations may do (that last bit, one assumes, would include raising taxes and so forth). I figure the founders just didn’t want the British to rule over them anymore, not that they were out to destroy government per se.

        Also, making it unlawful for a people to manufacture their own hats and that sort of thing doesn’t strike me as the type of thing that would engender deep feelings of loyalty from the King’s subjects affected by such laws. So, essentially, I’m saying that “they started a war over a few pence tax,” or however it was stated above, isn’t exactly accurate either.

        Notwithstanding all of the above, I’ve enjoyed reading the conversation and all the excellent points made. And I am definitely going to read the book. Given our current situation, one would have to be an absolute moron to simply reject, out of hand, arguments tracing it all back to a (thoroughly) flawed founding.

      • Terry Morris,

        Perhaps I did overstate things a bit. They obviously were not out to destroy government. However, they did abolish one central legislative authority only to impose another. Furthermore, that central authority would in short order start imposing a relatively more burdensome tax regime than the old one under the Crown. The legal justification for the Revolution, which theoretically makes it more legitimate than the later French or Russian Revolution, if the premise is correct, was that the Colonial Assemblies were sovereign parliaments and the Imperial Parliament had no authority to tax the colonial citizens. Little more than a decade after the peace was concluded, Washington would be leading an army to suppress a rebellion over the same type of excise tax the British imposed, and this was imposed by the previously non-existing Federal Government which assumed many of the sovereign authorities of the state assemblies.

        Also, I said that they rebelled over a “few pence tax” merely because their actual material causes seem relatively petty compared with the broad sweep of history, but they did fight for many reasons beyond the mere taxes themselves. However, I do believe that even many of the Founders, especially the later Federalists, would never have rebelled in the first place if they knew what road we would go down afterwards. I don’t believe the ordinary rebel, or even some of the leaders, had utterly terrible goals. Many rebelling because they legitimately believed traditional English liberties were at stake. However, the rights that were supposedly threatened by British encroachment seem quaint compared to what we face from our Courts today, and I believe that they are merely taking the next step in American Liberalism. I know the writers and signers of the Declaration are probably turning over in their grave that their phrases “the pursuit of happiness” and “all men are created equal” are being used to justify forcing Christian bakers to bake cakes for sodomite “weddings,” but I will blame them for opening Pandora’s Box in the first place.

        It seems to me rebelling over something illegitimate makes you near powerless to stand up to illegitimate laws later. By imposing Enlightenment ideals in the name of defending traditional English liberties, we have rendered ourselves powerless before the mob who do not seem to care one whit about God or England. It’s all been turned over in the name of cheap Enlightenment sloganeering. To be fair, on the other side, I also think a lot of this might not have happened had Charles I not been overly aggressive in pushing the Prayer Book on Scotland. Not that I oppose his goals, just he didn’t have to rush the imposition of it on the populace.

  16. nathanjevans,

    Well said, sir. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can’t disagree with anything you wrote.

    • Thanks for the link. There is a relatively strong current of anti-Constitutionalism in some circles of Protestantism. However, as a Protestant (albeit, a High Church Anglican, but not Anglo-Catholic), I find the Catholic-oriented critiques better. For instance, on perusal this website launches all sorts of ill-informed garbage about not just the American Constitution, these attacks would apply to all government at all whatsoever. It has a problem with the Common Law tradition because of a late definition that was defined in the United States as a means of diluting the fact that the Common Law is fundamentally based on the Law of Moses. The Common Law originated with a decree of King Alfred of Wessex that declared that the Ten Commandments should be the fundamental basis of law in his kingdom. Hardly anti-Biblical origins, unless you are a dogmatic anti-monarchist nutcase, as many Protestants are.

      This is the critique of a small band of fundamentalists. I am an ardent anti-Radical Two Kingdoms theology guy, but this is the kind of garbage half-baked reasoning that they thrive on from some of their opponents. Look at how ridiculous the first clause of their “Biblical Constitution” is:

      All executive authority resides in Almighty God and is, therefore, vested in Almighty God by Almighty God.

      Two Kingdom dualism will tell you that this is an “intrusion of the Eschaton” and then try to tar those of us who believe in the application of God’s Law to Modern Polities with this kind of unworkable nonsense. If you applied the sort of reasoning used on this website consistently, you would have to get rid of parents because Jesus said to call no man father. Heck, let’s just get rid of marriage because Jesus said it won’t be there in Heaven, so what’s the point?

      Sorry, but I just think this kind of viewpoint does more harm than good to the cause of Christ. Also, if I was conspiracy-minded, I would think it was a psyop, but I know these people are probably legit.

  17. I still need to read Ferrara’s book. Meanwhile, you may enjoy some quotations from Solange Hertz’s excellent book “The Star-Spangled Heresy: Americanism.” Catholic Americans will pay the book special attention, I hope. Notice, I wrote “Catholic Americans,” not “American Catholics,” because too many Catholics seem to believe that their American citizenship is more important than their religion.

    http://www.catholictradition.org/masonry1.htm

  18. This quotation from paragraph 21 of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum probably will astound some Catholic Americans who believe that American religious liberty is incompatible with some Catholic teachings.

    Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engravers upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide – as they should do – with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man’s capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.

  19. I don’t see why smart conservatives/traditionalists/reactionaries don’t just start new own societies and try to grow them into something much bigger. Millions of people would join because there is nothing else good out there. Everyone just blogs on the interwebs, very depressing.

    • I completely disagree. First of all, you are smarter than most because you write very well. Second, the left is not any smarter and it seems that they used to start three organizations every morning before breakfast. C., we used to start, join, and run dozens of successfull organizations of our own. Now that liberalism has taken them all over, however, few of us even bother to go anymore and if we do we simply try to get along best we can. Except for homeschoolers and a few scattered bloggers, we don’t even try anymore.

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