Happy Independence Day!
I hope everyone has a festive and enjoyable holiday, and I very much hope that you are not wasting it reading this on the day it was posted. Regardless, here are some remarks from three years ago that are worth re-posting:
The Declaration did also include a number of rhetorical nods to the early Enlightenment and Whig thought of late seventeenth century Britain, as Locke and Sydney, among others, had sought to justify the Great Rebellion and, in the case of Locke, also the “Glorious Revolution.” The constitutional guarantees confirmed in the Bill of Rights of 1628 and the Petition of Right of 1689, and secured by the main force of regicide and foreign invasion, had become the patrimony of our forefathers and represented the established and venerable custom that they then sought to preserve against perceived innovation and usurpation. Though exceedingly minor, the infractions against which they rebelled represented for them the thin end of the wedge and, if left unchecked, the source of future usurpation based on the precedents then being set.
Fidelity to their republican spirit and their constitutionalism would seem to me to be an important element of what it means to be American, just as the defense of their constitutional patrimony represented for our forefathers their identity as Englishmen. However, even that standard would be to make American identity dependent principally on the acceptance of a certain political regime; defense of the constitutional inheritance should be done in the spirit of preserving the broader cultural patrimony we have received from our British ancestors.
For those of you inclined to spoil your holiday by reading an annoying apologia for the “freedom agenda” (which was neither an agenda nor was it about freedom), here is Kori Schake’s article at Foreign Policy.