A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.
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The Americanness of the American Revolution « Back to Story
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Looking forward to reading this and other articles.
I have seen some very interesting articles on your Website; I'd like to see more!
"A key reason the revolution succeeded was its strictly limited scope. The Founders sought only liberty, not equality or fraternity."
Some might disagree...
"... seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
The American Revolution radically altered social arrangements. Read Gordon Wood's great book, "The Radicalism of the American Revolution." It is discouraging that the author of this article is unfamiliar with one of the greatest volumes of scholarship ever done on the American Revolution.
Your article on the success of the American Revolution was everything I would have said were I able.
I am in your debt.
My 17 year old is homeschooled. Have been searching for some extra activities for him. Will use your article as a source. We have reviewed the Massachusetts Laws and Liberties of 1648 by the Huntington Library. How that ever got in my library I will never know. That being said, together we reviewed the moral and ethical laws of Massachusetts, which when compared to today is almost embarrassing. Folks then knew well what they believed. Would not ever be possible to have such Scriptural advances in our post Christian nation.
Got carried away. Just wish to express my thanks for your most excellent article.
Blessings grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ,
P.S. I will look next fall for The Founders at Home: The Building of America.
Myron Magnet the Magnificent. "The Americanness of the American Revolution" is masterful. This morning while my 16 year old son was driving (me in the passenger seat -- driver's ed) I read this article to him. 10 minutes of reading and I asked him, "Do you want me to continue?" "YES!" he said. By the end I was holding back tears because of Mr. Magnet's profound presentation of America's founding. I love his line about America exemplifying "unexampled freedom and prosperity." This was a perfect article to explain how honored we should be to live in and preserve this great country. Thank you, Mr. Magnet.
Wonderful information, well presented.
Our current political, social and cultural environment is the bitter fruit of what the Founders feared most of all; an intrusive, overbearing, greedy and self-serving central government - very similar to George III and Parliament of the time...
God willing, may we find a way of restoring those natural rights and individual freedoms on this soil once again.
GREAT article !!! Elegantly expressed.
Why, oh why, didn't our American History books and teachers explain this so succinctly and forthrightly?
Fantastic read. Every time I find articles describing the Founders intent, I think of the state of current republic, and the erosion of those Rights and liberty's by the usurpation of the Constitution by our current King...and I do mean king. For Obama to claim the right to kill American citizens..for all intents and purposes he has claimed the same throne as pre Magna Carta kings. And it makes me puke.
“It is irrelevant to argue … as to the behaviour of the American people over a period of time.”
This may be so in the context of certain debates but Magnet cites French and Soviet behaviour over a period of time so inviting the discussion of what the US government did over a period of time.
Frankly to cite Soviet Russia and Lenin in order to make the Founding Fathers look good is an insult to the latter.
And other commentators are ignoring the libertarian nugget slipped into to Magnet’s argument that the Constitution was only about liberty. The Constitution does not lay out political policy – that is not the purpose of a constitution but what it does is to set out a whole federal constitution permitting the elected to make laws and direct policy.
In spite of this, the Constitution does state that the Congress must “establish Post Offices and Post Roads” – an enormously far-sighted vision of the state as provider of public services for 1787.
And the Declaration of Independence of 1776 says”… it is the right of the people to … institute new Government … organising its Powers … to effect their Safety and Happiness”. Of course you can interpret these words as you wish but it would seem common sense to imagine that Signatories meant social and financial well being and security - or something very like that. In the Declaration the word “liberty” is used once, “happiness” twice.
To say, the Founders were only interested in liberty injects a libertarian bias into their intentions and their acts that has no historical foundation. Of course, their immediate concerns were to be free of the British yoke but their vision for a federal state that provided far more than that.
Let's discuss the Founders. That process should never stop, but let's listen to them not put 21st century interpretations on their words
It is interesting always to observe the comments of readers. Like artists who want to have something to say (that includes me), they read through their own prism - as well they should. The point of comments, though, should be to respond to the author's ideas (or his something to say).
As for me, I think that Myron Magnet is attempting to re-phrase the commonly understood 'exceptionalism' of America in a way that is clear for all to see and comprehend, whether or not agreed with.
It is irrelevant to argue this and that as to the behaviour of the American people over a period of time. The question is are we informed by principles that we as a nation accepted in our founding? We may err, we may reject, we may ignore and, of course, we may follow, but all of these actions must be done in full recognition of what is expected of us under this Constitution (Contract or Covenant depending upon which political philosopher you read). We cannot substitute our fancy for an allegiance, equally assumed by Locke, that most assuredly was a given for the Founding Fathers.
Well and succinctly stated. A celebration of America's founding principles, instead of the usual liberal revisionist self-flagellation.
To the person hiding their identity behind "Anon". You write
"your take on history displays a bias or ignorance in the other direction."
I thought it was obvious to anyone that my account was to demonstrate how ridiculous was Magnet's account of France was. I was just making a point.
I could write about the American Revolution in an interesting nuanced way that would bring out its virtues in the round - not Magnet's one-sided hagiography. That was a disgrace.
I repeat what I said: "I am in awe of the vision and wisdom that the Founding Fathers displayed in drafting the constitution setting an example for history to look to."
This was what I was taught from youth. How we need it for today!
"We could have contrasted the American Revolution to the French as a cosy compact between uninvited settlers based on an absolute division between citizens and slaves that stole the land from the indigenous people, virtually exterminated them, proceeded to war on all its borders usurping land from the Spanish and the Mexicans, and then violated the federal constitution it was built on by declaring bloody war on states who just wanted out. That is without mentioning its crimes in Latin and South America that continue to this day."
We could have, if we were going to lie and heavily exaggerate.
By all means, there are fair attacks to be brought up (for instance, slavery and stealing land from the Indians).
However, as much as you want to complain about smugness, your take on history displays a bias or ignorance in the other direction.
“The French Revolution, by contrast ... collapsed into a blood-soaked tyranny much worse than the monarchy it deposed. It spawned a military dictatorship that convulsed Europe and roiled half the globe for over a decade with wars of grandiose imperial aggression that slew at least 3 million”
We could have contrasted the American Revolution to the French as a cosy compact between uninvited settlers based on an absolute division between citizens and slaves that stole the land from the indigenous people, virtually exterminated them, proceeded to war on all its borders usurping land from the Spanish and the Mexicans, and then violated the federal constitution it was built on by declaring bloody war on states who just wanted out. That is without mentioning its crimes in Latin and South America that continue to this day
If Magnet is right in suggesting the American Revolution is built on nothing but liberty then that may be the problem. A civilisation has to be based on more than everyone just doing what the hell they like and stuffing the rest
I am in awe of the vision and wisdom that the Founding Fathers displayed in drafting the constitution setting an example for history to look to. But this smug article only does damage to the United States, confirming the (entirely wrong) view of some that Americans are incapable of self-analysis – a dangerous fault in today’s world
An altogether well set out exegesis on the foundations of the American
experiment. However, all ideas need opposition, if for no other reason
than that this may reveal their virtues. The natural order then would seem to be that the US Constitution embodies the founding ideas and any
opposition must of necessity question that document and its interpretation.
This simplifies the political struggle in that the population seems to
naturally divide itself between those who profit from its precepts and those
who question it because they do not. The opposition does not seem to grasp the central idea that all men are created equal but after that you
are on your own.
Very nice over view of the founding brothers in a 'nutshell.' These self evident truths that are granted by a higher power are very basic and far reaching in their simplicity. What that higher power is will always be up for debate but the apparent reality of human nature is, I think, undeniable. Hamilton was right in including the base nature of some of these all to human attributes. The trick is achieving the delicate balance of govermental power in relation to individual freedom. Without some form of government I belive we will drift towards anarchy and loss of civilized values. So we as Americans are always looking for that balance in the elected officials we choose to support. As life evolves, different situations call for different kinds of leaders... some more conservative some more liberal, in the broad sense of those words, depending on whats best for that time period. I guess when you boil it all down today... we are all in this together... and should approach our governance with that in mind... fair and balanced. Money and wealth will always be unbalanced with so many levels of skills out there... some compensated at ridiculous levels and others at
not so well... that is the nature of who values what at what rate. Again the trick is providing a parameter that gives everyone a reasonable chance at achieving their goals no matter how lofty or avaerage they are. The imbalance will remain ...but then the goal isn't and can't be, to achieve a balnce of wealth ... only the framework in which to live. I could go on and on but I do have to get back to work to try to achieve my very average results while not begrudging anyone who achieves more loftier goals.
Superb content! I am eager to have Myron Magnet's new book in my hands. The Founders at Home: The Building of America,1735-1817.
Americans have been subjected to paralyzing conscience-abuse... the open violation of the God-given right ...to THINK!
It is a noteworthy article that should be distributed to all politicians.
Especially, with regard towards the Oval Office, framed, made prominent and permanently located in full view of the occupant.
Wonderful article--and wonderfully written. Conservatives need to educate the populace, if we want to win elections. We must undue, somehow, what the public education system has done these last 50 years.
"The slaughter of the native population, the enslavement of the blacks the menial status of women..."
The problem is you don't bring people to your side by engaging in hyperboleat the other end.
1. The enslavement of blacks is obviously a fair thing to note.
2. The slaughter of the native population isn't, because it didn't happen. War against them? Sure, but if we're bringing that up and putting all facts on the table it's worth mentioning that such natives were often not peacefully minding their own business, but being quite brutal to the colonists. The decline in the native population in America was overwhelmingly due to diseases, not any such wars.
As far as actually slaughtering them, your left with Lord Amherst (a British army officer) and the small pox blankets. Now there seems to be some debate today over whether that actually happened I believe it did. However, I think it's a stretch to blame Americans for the actions of a Swiss-born British army officer and another British army officer who ended up being Commander-in-Chief of the British army during the American Revolution.
As far as stealing land from Native Americans, *that* unfortunately would often be a fair criticism.
3. I don't see how women had a particularly more menial status in America in the 1700s than just about any other part of the world.
Perhaps you should mention that one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was not only a Roman Catholic but at the time the richest man in the colonies.
Huzzah, huzzah! Splendid! Well researched and thought-out summary of America's beginnings.
It was and is still a miracle but not,sadly, an unalloyed miracle. The slaughter of the native population, the enslavement of the blacks the menial status of women among other defects in our "cultural DNA" should be recognized. As Lord Acton said, "We have the power to be more rigidly impersonal, disinterested, and just than they(historians of former ages):and to learn from undisguised and genuine records to look with remorse upon the past, and to the future with assured hope of better things; bearing this in mind, that if we lower our standard in history, we cannot uphold it in Church or State."