Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Quotables: The Roots of American Order

    May 17, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    The Roots of American Order
    by Russell Kirk

    Was that war fought merely to avoid payment of a threepenny duty on a pound canister of tea? If so, the Revolution would have been a bad miscalculation, economically: for material damage to Americans’ property was tremendous during those years of violent conflict, and many of the men who led the resistance to Britain…lost their fortunes by the war, when not their lives. {p. 393-394}

    What Whiggish America stood for was the long-established chartered right of the colonies to govern themselves. They looked upon George III as a monarch who intended to make a revolution, by subverting their old ways of self-government they protest that they, in resisting Crown and Parliament, were preventing this royal revolution. {p. 395}

    [T]he American Revolution differed vastly from the French Revolution. The Americans, in essence, meant to keep their old order and defend it against external interference; but the French rising was what Edmund Burke called “a revolution of theoretic dogma,” intended to bring down the Old Regime and substitute something quite new. {p. 395-396}

    By the power of his pen, the obscure Gentz…rose to be the associate of kings and a designer of the concert of Europe. {p. 397}

    [T]he French revolutionaries were hoping to transform utterly human society and even human nature, broke with the past, defied history, embraced theoretic dogmas, and so fell under the cruel domination of Giant Ideology. {p. 398}

    “However radical the principles of the Revolution may have seemed to the rest of the world, in the minds of the colonists they were thoroughly preservative and respectful of the past…The political theory of the American Revolution, in contrast to that of the French Revolution, was not a theory designed to make the world over.” –Clinton Rossiter {p. 399}

    “I know of no way of judging the future buy by the past.” –Patrick Henry {p. 401}

    In the last sentence of the Declaration, …the signers express reliance upon “the protection of Divine Providence”–a concept more orthodox Christian than Deistic. That affirming of trust in God’s presence in the world does not appear in Jefferson’s early drafts of the Declaration; it was added by the Congress, many of whose members were uneasy with Deism {p. 404}

    The men of the Continental Congress, however, did not take Jefferson’s equality clause as an affirmation of  literal equality in body and mind…They did subscribe to two venerable concepts of human equality: equality before the law, and equality in the judgment of God. {p. 408}

    The question for the Patriots was whether George III had any right to govern them, beyond the rather vague sovereignty that English kings had asserted over the colonies from the beginning–whether he had the right to terminate the policy of salutary neglect and commence a policy of unhealthy meddling. It was George III and his ministers, the Patriots contended, who were trying to work a revolution. {p. 411}

    [F]rom the earliest times in America the colonial people had been a people separate from the British people, though linked to the British by willing ties of culture and friendship, and by common allegiance to a king. Rather than pulling down a government, the Patriots were defending their own prescriptive governments against what had become an alien government. {p. 414}

    The word “republic” means public concerns–the general welfare as expressed in political forms…What took form in America was a democratic republic, but not a “totalitarian democracy,” or government directly and absolutely controlled by the masses. {p. 415}

    [T]he Constitution became the monarch. {p. 418}

    [T]he office of President really is the office of a king–the chief difference being that the American President is subject to election, at fixed terms, and that the office is not hereditary. {p. 427}

    The first six presidents, from Washington to John Quincy Adams, were men of good education and a high sense of duty who deliberately restrained themselves in the use of their powers; had they been autocrats or demagogues, the executive branch of the American government might have reduced the legislative and judicial branches to insignificance. {p. 428}

    The wise politician, according to Alexander Hamilton, “knows that morality overthrown {and morality must fall with religion}, the terrors of despotism can alone curb the impetuous passions of man, and confine him within the bounds of social duty.” It would be better far to turn back to the gods of the Greeks, said John Adams, than to endure a government of atheists. {p. 433}

    By both factions, this clause of the First Amendment was looked upon as a safeguard of religious convictions, not as an act of disavowing religious principles. {p. 436}

    Now the First Amendment…[was] binding only upon the national government, not upon the states–until 1925. {p. 437}

    “To hold that government may not encourage religious instruction would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups,. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe…We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.” –Justice William O. Douglas {p. 438}

    [P]ractical government in the United States, and in every other nation, is possible only because most people in that nation accept the existence of some moral order, by which they govern their conduct–the order of the soul. {p. 439}

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit

    1 Comment

  • Reply Go quickly and tell May 18, 2012 at 12:04 am

    from my high school Latin days….

    res publica = republic

  • Leave a Reply