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Self-Rule Is the Basis of American Nationalism . . . Not Natural Rights

Steve Hayward has usefully introduced two key problems with the word “nationalism,” one historical and the other conceptual. He is right, furthermore, to note in his Liberty Forum essay that without understanding these problems, we cannot properly assess any claims made about an “American nationalism.” Hayward is wrong, however, about the nature of American nationalism.

First, he notes that the experiences with nationalism in the first half of the 20th century have given a bad odor to the word and any idea that attaches to it. He calls it “the German question,”  and rightfully so. German nationalism, in the form of Nazism, has become almost paradigmatic in our thinking even though, in some ways, it was a strangely novel and eccentric form of nationalism—an expression, as Modris Eksteins explored in his brilliant 1989 book Rites of Spring, of a modernist impulse prone to glorify nihilistic, irrational acts of creation and destruction. The association of “nationalism” with the hideous excesses of the Nazi regime helped spur an almost unthinking rejection of nationalism, particularly among the Germans, who today are among the most anti-nationalistic of all Europeans.

Hayward’s exploration of the effects of such beliefs are important and telling, including his excellent point that the rejection of nationalism at this level contributes to a deeper hostility toward the historical and rooted European civilization that, among other things, produced the nation-state. This hostility to their own historical civilization is perhaps the deepest pathology in Europe, now spreading to the United States.

A Protean Term

Second, Hayward explores the protean quality of “nationalism,” observing that even leftist opponents of the idea are capable of discovering examples of a healthy or favorable sort. But the point is that the word does not have a clear meaning outside of context, such that nationalism for China is radically different from Canadian nationalism, even if the two share enough to bear the same label. We cannot ask whether nationalism is healthy or destructive without understanding the nation (its character, as it were), its context, and the forms or manifestations it takes.

Nationalism for totalitarian regimes is almost always going to look different from nationalism as expressed by a self-governing people. And while self-governing peoples might produce many different forms of nationalism depending of their respective cultures, totalitarian regimes are likely to produce forms that look rather similar to one another.

We are left wondering about American nationalism—the nationalism of a self-governing people. Hayward does not go here—his essay is about what constitutes the American character, with the implication that this character determines what shape nationalism takes in America. His argument is not focused on our tradition of self-rule. For me, this is its primary flaw. Instead of rooting American nationalism clearly in its tradition of self-rule, Hayward claims that it flows out of American exceptionalism. Hayward connects this exceptionalism with the Declaration of Independence generally and with natural rights particularly.

Before we unpack the meaning and significance of the universal creed of America as found in the Declaration, let me note that I’m puzzled by the exceptionalist label—have been for years. I have heard defenders stress that America is the exception to the rule, the rule being that nations are built on power, on tribal associations that are connected to soil and that come with old grievances and irrational attachments that supply the cultural glue. I’ve even heard those who use the word “exceptional” to refer to the best, or to the one that got it right. For those who see America in this light, we are a model for others to follow, even if, as Hayward notes, the particulars of securing these universal rights must vary.

Hayward uses the term “exceptional” to assert that America is an “idea” or a creed, and that what we mean by America and by the emotional attachment to it is fidelity to the true moral principles on which the nation was founded. If we take equality as one of America’s Founding principles and therefore a part of our creed, we discover ever-greater complexity as we look more deeply into the historical record. It is beyond question that, long before 1776, Americans (colonials) operated with various ideas of equality and that to invoke equality at certain points and for certain purposes resonated with their moral compass.

But that is a far cry from saying that our nation was founded on the idea of equality. Some attachment to equality, defined variously, has been and will continue to be a deep part of our story and therefore a part of us. Abraham Lincoln’s brilliant use of the Declaration’s emphasis on equality served the nation well because it was part of our heritage that, highlighted and even abstracted from its original context, served to address a political and moral pathology in ways that no other part could.

Do Not Forget Experiences, Attachments, Affections

The problem with defining American character this way—as grounded on a set of universal ideas—is that it conflates the fact that these ideas are part of our history (and most Americans tend to believe them in some form or another) with much deeper sources of our national character. When talking about something as elusive as a national character we are prone to abstract claims that help us escape the messy, often ironic, but always complex, empirical and historical evidence. If we can call upon sacred texts and well-stated expressions of principles, we effortlessly gain the conceptual clarity that often hovers above the tangled webs of beliefs, hopes, dreams, actions, of a living people who operate in a living tradition and also in changing circumstances that require them to adapt, change, and redefine.

But what if we attempted to assess an American character that, without losing sight of our most eloquent and persuasive articulation of principles, emerges from what we know about how people really live and think, and what it is that makes most Americans patriotic? Would America look the same as it does when we view it through the lens of one document and its many uses over the centuries?

Such an alternative assessment is well beyond the scope of this essay, but it is worth presenting some ways of thinking about who we are that begin in a different place but don’t ignore our most beautiful national expressions of moral principles. I do not believe that most patriotic Americans are such because of a set of universal principles. Rather, those principles become part of a story that is rooted in experiences, attachments, affections, that emerge from, to put it succinctly, a self-ruling life in partnerships with families, churches, communities, governments, to name a few.

American patriotism is not, of course, connected to blood and soil; and while we are not alone in that respect, it is key to our self-understanding. So, if an American nationalism does not express itself in the ways that Japanese nationalism does, but neither are we devoted to our nation primarily because it stands for high moral principles, what is the source of our national affection and collective identity?

A beginning place to think about this would include the following elements.

First, the Founding should be understood not as a moment in 1776 but as a settlement of peoples, primarily from England, who established a hybrid cultural and political form (actually several hybrids) that stressed, among other things: inherited liberties, common law, and the fact that community is prior to government (that communities create government to serve the prior reality of the community). This beginning place stresses our most important characteristic, that we are a people who want to rule ourselves and that we do so typically through communities and associations.

Second, Americans were from the start more in love with opportunities, with chance-taking, with new starts (and start-ups), with the lure of making their fortune or finding a new opportunity out West, than they were with equality. In this context, Americans were less interested in equal opportunity (which is philosophically nonsense) than with an abundance of opportunities, and, as Wilfred McClay traces so well in his Land of Hope, the ever-fresh spring for new hope that opportunities supply.

Third, that the attraction among immigrants was not primarily our “idea” as expressed by Thomas Jefferson or anyone else, but the same sense that opportunities abounded and that America offered everything from a new profession to a new identity. The confining status and roles of traditional societies dissolved and each person (even if he or she faced all manner of other persecutions upon arrival) could chart his or her own course, craft his or her own identity, and live free from the cultural, social, economic, and political restrictions of Italy or Poland, or whatever the country of origin.

This is only a sketch of the currents of historical experience that shape an American character that is rooted in its 17th century origins and incorporates our most recent immigrants. Easily part of this story, of course, is the importance of our principles, which we have often expressed in creedal form and which reinforce rather than supplant our cultural sources of national affection.

An Illustrative Story

To show this, I might remind readers of a certain age of the great Western movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). It is about bringing law and order to, and through, a new community, a group of people who find themselves together and needing to both fight evil and create for themselves the institutions of self-rule suited to their communal needs. Diverse ethnically, with many recent immigrants, the new town is in need of a school. The lead character opens one that includes children, a former slave, and illiterate immigrants. The centerpiece of his teaching is the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, which convey, in their different ways, the governing ideals of the American polity. Each person, no matter his or her past, is heir to this tradition—both the particulars of the American Constitution (surely exceptional) and the national articulation of universal principles.

All of these ideals come in the context of a people who know that they have the right to rule themselves and that this is a precious inheritance. Self-rule is the means by which they attach themselves so fully to the abstract principles that take on emotional significance, not the other way around. In the movie, a recent Swedish immigrant, when asked to tell the class what she has learned about America, says that it is a republic, and this means that “the people are the boss.  That means us. And if the big shots in Washington don’t do what we want, we don’t vote for them, by golly, no more.”

American nationalism, when it is truest to our history, traditions, and ideals, is one in which our affection for something so abstract as a nation and that nation’s governing structure and animating principles, is cultivated in and modified by our most tangible partnerships, from family through local governments. We love our nation through our experiences with real people and the institutions we help make and support. Our love of nation, including the creedal elements, is rendered both more moderate and more fervent to the degree that we live in healthy self-governing communities that promise us opportunities more than equality; attachments to real people more than to abstractions; and meaningful participation in the political process rather than a deracinated democracy. If we want to encourage a healthy American nationalism, we must begin by focusing on healthy self-rule.

Reader Discussion

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on September 11, 2019 at 07:18:53 am
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Mark Pulliam
on September 11, 2019 at 08:12:37 am

It would do well to note the distinction with a difference between nation and nationalism, and then further distinguish the latter from patriotism. Our heritage is not an idea, much less idealism, predicated on abstraction, but historical based on the factual inter-workings of religion and law resulting in a social mores religiously informed and revered emphasizing individual faith, virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, in that order. All of that giving rise to and bounded and protected by an UNIQUE Constitution, historically distilled from the seedbed of human experience from time immemorial, a great and miraculous experiment, continuing in its refinement toward a perfection already decreed, yet continuing to weather the fire necessary to that end. It is time to end the academic theatrics and restore confidence in a heritage grounded, not in the basic of mere economic relation, but in the essential of that great universal attribute of mankind, morality, and that of the indisputably highest order, one demanding unity out of diversity, the former the human condition, the latter humanity's perfection, ultimately beyond condition to satisfaction in the absence of any law, the 'tutorial' dispensed with. Let us be like minded, and revive that waning Assurance, that our confidence may be restored to more than contentment. How many of us realize what we have been given?

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gdp
on September 11, 2019 at 08:14:04 am

Hear! Hear!

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Max Hocutt
on September 11, 2019 at 08:38:25 am

Self-rule itself requires justification. See Aristotle, Politics book I.

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Michael Kochin
on September 11, 2019 at 09:21:34 am

"Democracy" is not self-rule.

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Jim
on September 11, 2019 at 10:14:03 am

Aristotle was no Christian.

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gdp
on September 11, 2019 at 16:27:53 pm

I'm glad I read through to the very end of this article. I agree with much that the author says. However, I am unable to understand his concept of Natural Law. To the Founders, Natural Law was not separate from Self-Rule or the Christian religion.

They believed Self-Rule is one of the rights God gives to every individual human being. This does not mean everyone is automatically able to exercise it--humans are flawed and their social organizations are flawed, so it depends upon the time and place you are born, and live. That there has never been a society or system that perfectly lived up to this promise does not mean there is something wrong with this principle. What it means is that if we are prevented from exercising this right, the bullies and tyrants who stand in our way are violating the Laws of God and Nature. And it is our God-given right to resist them as long as we do not become the aggressors or violate the rights of others.

George Mason once argued in a Virginia Court that "The Laws of Nature are identical to the Laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth."

To understand the relationship of our Natural, God-given Rights, think on John Adams' definition of Liberty as "a power to do as we would be done by." He was, of course, referring to the Golden Rule. This ancient rule is considered by Jews and Christians to be the summation of all of God's Laws (Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount). Many people think these rules specify religious creed and practice, but actually they are mostly about how we are to treat other people. The few that refer to God actually help individuals to stay grounded in the real world and not be captivated by whims and delusions.

The Declaration of Independence tells us what made the Self-Evident Truths self-evident to America's founding generation. Our national identity is bound up in this unique and liberating political philosophy. For, to them, God is not simply Creator of the Universe and the laws that govern the physical and metaphysical world, He is the great Author of Liberty. If we live by His laws, we can get and keep our Liberty, and get is back once lost.

The ancient Greek philosophers believed that the Ten Commandments are the only code of morality capable of producing the high level of Virtue required for the exercise of Liberty. After studying this subject I tend to agree.

The author of this article fails to grasp a most important factor in the American Revolution and the national character of Americans: the role of the Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition in general, and the Protestant Christian religion in particular. One must read John Calvin's "Institutes" (1559, translated by Beveridge) and the creeds of the Anglican, Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist, and Quaker churches from the 16th Century to the turn of the 19th Century to grasp their world view. They did not separate their religious philosophy from their ideas of government. You would be amazed to know that 18th Century American ministers preached political sermons about what I am writing here to newly-elected governors and legislators. They did not believe it possible to have good government in the absence of religion. This religion.

That is because they did not believe in an "anything goes" society, or a God-given Liberty that violated His Commandments. They believed, generally, that the First Table of the Ten Commandments (1-4 or 5 depending on your interpretation) pertains to our Duty to God (to acknowledge Him, to make no idols but instead obey God's commandments, to respect His Word, to honor Him with six days of work and a day of rest on the seventh. The Founders believed the Second Table of the Law shows us our duty to our fellow man: to respect the rights of others to their lives, the sanctity of their marriage vows ( which allow a father to know who his children are and his children to know who their father is and guarantee to his wife (their mother) protection and provision throughtout their lives), their property, justice, and peace.

They believed the Ten Commandments teaches justice and the Golden Rule teaches mercy.

By 1800, Americans had adopted a kind of social creed that incorporated basic principles of Judeo-Christian moral and legal philosophy--which is why they often sounded like Deists or Freemasons, when in fact these concepts came straight out of the writings of eminent Jews and Christians--so much so, that they appear in the court records and rulings by Supreme Court judges of the time. It is why Alex de Toqueville reported that Americans were more religious than Europeans, than any people he ever knew.

And their idea of equality was not something to dismiss as unimportant. It is based on the Biblical teaching that we are all equal in the sight of God, even though Nature endows us with unequal strengths and weaknesses, and human society is capable of protecting only our God-given rights. If a society holds that all its members are equally-endowed by God withbasic human rights, then the inequalities among individuals can be more or less overcome by our equal right to exercise them.

The principle in law that enforces the concept of equality of rights comes from the Judeo-Christian Rule of Law tradition. the one that says, the law applies equally to everyone and no one is above the law. This idea can be found in the writings of Cicero as well as Moses. It goes back to ancient Sumerian political philosophy. Recall that Abraham left Ur about a hundred years after good King Urukagina issued his Decree of Amagi. He took with him a belief in the One True Living God and equal justice under the law. That is where Roger Williams' idea of Separation of Church and State came from, the idea that one's religious convictions were not a matter for civil government, and the church should not be armed with the power to deprive anyone of their life, liberty or property for failure to confess a particular creed. Separation of Church and State is not about banning God from the public square. At least, it wasn't to the Founding generation.

Jesus said, "In everything you do, as you wish that men would do unto you, do ye likewise even so unto them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." He also said, in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?", that the right question to ask is whether we ourselves are the good neighbor--implying that we ought not distinguish between members of our own society and members of other societies. We are to respect the rights and dignity of everybody, and treat them with courtesy and kindness. This does not mean we must be doormats, it does mean we must exercise a great deal of self-restraint.

The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights; and the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and 24th Amendments express the noble ideals of American Liberty. They form the fundamental body of law that makes American Liberty possible. They are the basis for our national identity, which invites everyone to sign on. That is why our tradition is unique in history, unique in the world today.

It is something we can be proud of. And if we base American nationalism on these ideals, we'll not cause ourselves or anyone else any trouble.

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Karen Renfro
on September 11, 2019 at 19:51:18 pm

The concept of natural law was invented by the stoics of ancient Greece, who argued that Zeus was the soul of the material world and ruled it as the human soul rules the human body, making laws to govern every kind of thing, each of which had a nature that Zeus had given thinks of that kind. Natural law for human beings was reason (Greek logos, often translated word.), reason being the essence of God and of the human beings he had created in his likeness. The first law of reason was, therefore, to respect its embodiment in God and in oneself and other human beings. In other words, one should love God, oneself and one's fellow human beings.

These ideas were eventually carried by Greek stoics to Rome, where they were adopted by such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and other Roman political and intellectual leaders, who made them the basis of Roman law, which the Romans declared to be a natural law. When Christians in Rome began looking for a philosophy to use in rationalizing their faith in arguments with skeptics, they found it in stoic cosmology and stoic ethics, both of which were not only congenial with the teachings of Christ but had been written into the New Testament. Thus, the first verse of the Gospel of John is an obvious expression of stoic cosmology: In the beginning was the word (logos), and the word (logos) was God, ... ." In fact the theology of the ancient church differed from the stoics only in conceiving God as existing apart from the material world ,rather than within it, as the Stoics had believed.

By the 12th century AD, identification of Christianity with stoicism was so complete it had been all but forgotten. Instead, Plato, from whom the stoics had gotten some of their ideas, was credited with being their inventor. Then, Thomas Aquinas, now the leading theologian of the Roman Catholic church, was introduced to some of the lost work of Aristotle, Plato's most famous pupil, in Latin translations of Arabic translations of Aristotle's Greek works that had been deposited after Aristotle's death in the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, only to be brought to Spain by Muslim scholars after the Muslim conquest of Iberia centuries earlier. Because it was wrongly assumed in the Christian West that Aristotle was not only Plato's pupil but also his leading disciple, and because Aristotle also counted reason as the most important feature of human nature, Aquinas mistakenly attributed the stoic doctrine of natural law to Aristotle.

This mistake has been a source of confusion ever since, but the confusion was multiplied when, after the revival of ancient physical science in the 17th century, theologians declared the mathematical formulas of such as Galileo and Isaac Newton to be expressions of the laws that God had created for the governance of nature. Though this was an error, the scientists were understandably not eager to point it out, nor the theologians to discover it on their own. So, it has persisted.

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Max Hocutt
on September 12, 2019 at 12:01:16 pm

The entire premise is flawed. "Self-governing people" have no need of government since each person governs his own behavior in the context of those around him.

Those who do a poor job of it will be rejected from the relevant society.

The American people are not a "self-governed" society anymore than the Chinese people are "self-governed". The CCP is just more honest about who is running the show. The nonsense that we get to elect our leaders belies the fact that we never get to vote on the continuance of the system itself, only who gets to run it.

The nation state is a very new development of mankind, barely 300 years old. To esteem it with some mythical deep roots in the human experience is a lie to cover the vast crimes committed in the name of those "nations"...

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OH Anarcho-Capitalist
on September 12, 2019 at 13:25:38 pm

Huh? The nation-state is a very new development of mankind, only 300 years old? As a matter of fact, about 8,000 years ago some folks came down into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and established a bunch of cities, each independently governed by an elected legislature and no king. The cities squabbled with one another, even going to war, stopping only when invasion from foreign enemies interrupted them. Eventually they got tired of the chaos and pandemonium this caused, and decided they should form a federation and choose a king who could act swiftly and decisively in their defense. This cost a lot of money so the people had to be taxed to pay for the army.

This is the story of ancient Sumer. One of their kings, who came along about 4,300 years ago. He is the one who issued the famous decree of Amagi. But I digress.

Then there was ancient Rome, 2,000 years ago, a constellation of nation-states that became an empire.

The there was...well, you get the picture.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 13:52:08 pm

Interesting chronicle. Agree except for one thing. A careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal that the ancient Jews had a concept of natural law, too, going back to the Torah. Starting with the six days of Creation.

From this account, we learn that God made the Universe and everything in it in six consecutive stages, each stage being built on what came before, everything based on the Laws of Cause & Effect, which He also made. He made the laws that govern the physical Universe, and the moral laws that govern Man. One can learn those moral laws from observing causes and effects in nature and human society.

By living in harmony with those laws, Mankind can find happiness.

John Trenchard & Thomas Gordon wrote in 1720, in the "Independent Whig":

"The Decalogue, or the Law of the Ten Commandments, delivered by God Himself from Mt. Sinai with great Glory and astonishing Circumstances, was little else but the Law of Nature reduced into Tables, and expressed in words of God's own chusing."

Trenchard & Gordon were members of the British Parliament, members of the Radical Whig faction, and are considered the fathers of modern libertarian thought, and their essays were devoured by four generations of Americans--before, during and after the American Revolution.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 14:49:30 pm

We appreciate Professor McAllister’s views and think they invite a proposal for an available better future using the U.S. preamble under the-objective-truth.

Let me first collapse the arguments against Hayward’s view:

“Hayward is wrong, however, about the nature of American nationalism. We are left wondering about . . . the nationalism of a self-governing people. Hayward connects . . . with the Declaration of Independence generally and with natural rights particularly. America is the exception to the rule, the rule being that nations are built on power, on tribal associations that are connected to soil and that come with old grievances and irrational attachments that supply the cultural glue. Hayward uses the term “exceptional” to assert that America is an “idea” or a creed, and that what we mean by America and by the emotional attachment to it is fidelity to the true moral principles on which the nation was founded.”

McAllister segues to “experiences, attachments and affections” but dismisses them as “well beyond the scope of the essay.” I don’t think so.

Neither Hayward nor McAllister has discovered the people’s proposition that is suggested in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution (the U.S. preamble). Each citizens may interpret the 52 word sentence and either manage civic connections and transactions or be arbitrary. It proposes equity in developing statutory justice, which is perfect statutory law, a worthy goal. Many citizens could not care less, but I think everyone should have his or her interpretation of the U.S. preamble’s proposition and a basis for justice.

Here’s mine today: We the People of the United States communicate, collaborate, and connect to aid five public institutions---unity, justice, tranquility, defense, and welfare---in order to encourage responsible human liberty to living people now and in the future. I highlighted the six words used in the original U.S. preamble to note that it says nothing about standards, such as religion or not.

Some of the implications in this interpretation include: civic people should encourage each other to develop integrity as a necessity for liberty; the people can aid freedom-from five tyrannies but cannot force the human liberty-to choose responsibility more-than or rather-than infidelity; responsibility applies not only to the person but to his or her progeny and beyond; consequences affirm the standard of justice; and interest in mysteries about whatever-God-may-be is a private rather than civic matter. An overall human implication is that each person has the right to develop integrity and the consequence of his or her lifetime is up to him or her.

Each human is unique with the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (HIPEA) to develop integrity. However, the person must discover HIPEA or be encouraged to recognize it. The cultures that have evolved do not coach their youth to accept HIPEA and choose fidelity. Many cultures suggest consigning HIPEA to whatever-God-may-be or government.

Moreover, the emerged cultures do all they can to obfuscate the standard for integrity. The standard is the ineluctable evidence, which we call "the-objective-truth". The hyphens invite readers to keep “the-objective-truth” intact as more precise than any of ineluctable evidence, indisputable facts, actual reality, ultimate truth, truth, Truth, and other phrases that may lessen open-mindedness.

We think the reason we encounter resistance to the U.S. preamble’s proposition with the-objective-truth is not mere preservation of ever-failing tradition. We think that without encouragement and coaching it is nearly impossible for the human being, psychologically powerful as he or she is, to discover HIPEA and choose integrity for life. It takes a couple decades to acquire basic comprehension and intent to live a full life, but integrity is not encouraged by the conflicted societies and civilizations. And self-rule is corrupt from the start, as we may observe in the U.S. attempt.

Discovering HIPEA is especially unlikely in a nation that has the church-state partnership, which is the tradition from colonial-British days on this country’s Atlantic seaboard. A civic people may reform the First Amendment so as to protect individual and collective development of integrity, a human right for living, rather than religion, the institution of mystery.

America has an exceptional opportunity that a civic people may accept any day now. Americans may adopt the U.S. preamble’s proposition to develop civic, civil, and legal integrity with the-objective-truth as the standard for justice. These are principles of discipline for life rather than procrastination for afterdeath.

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Phillip Beaver
on September 12, 2019 at 15:32:31 pm

About 2500 years ago humankind received the thought, in my paraphrase, humans may develop equity under statutory justice. The entity whatever-God-is has not been disproved, so it seems un-civic, within statutory justice, to claim to know God. Looking beyond humankind, it seems obvious that whatever-God-is may not approve a human misrepresenting God.

It seems to me this is the reason the U.S. people’s proposition, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, does not invoke divinity. I hold the U.S. preamble’s proposition as the equivalent of the Supreme Court building’s claim to “Equal Justice Under Law” or of Pericles’ idea his way, or of my equity under statutory law.

It seems to me that people who seek to overlay the U.S. preamble, the people’s proposition, with their particular scripture are not of We the People of the United States and are fully aware that that is their position: dissident to the American civic-civil-legal citizen’s agreement. They are still fellow citizens but need to reform. It reminds me of the fundamentalist who never considered the preamble’s proposition but kept saying to me, “I am enjoying this conversation with a lost soul.” I guess he can't think past Caesar’s coins.

Maybe U.S. dissidence applies to you; maybe not. I have my doubts.

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Phillip Beaver
on September 12, 2019 at 15:38:30 pm

Thank you.

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Phillip Beaver
on September 12, 2019 at 15:50:52 pm

Thank you.

It seems to me that, as of January 14, 1784 and ratification of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the 13 eastern seaboard former colonies were nation states. Would you agree?

The 13, named, nation states remained free and independent, as stated in the treaty, until June 21, 1788. Then, the 9th required state had ratified the 1787 U.S. preamble with its attached, amendable articles, establishing the USA as a global nation. That left 4 nation states dissident to the USA---Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

The USA is 231 years old rather than 243 years old.

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Phillip Beaver
on September 12, 2019 at 16:15:56 pm

First of all, I think Hayward is on target with everything he says about this article.

Second of all, the fundamental principle of American government, that the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the people. The Preamble to the Constitution is founded on that principle--which is also, incidentally, a statement on the limitations on government power. All these matters have been eloquently laid out by the Founders. Have you read all the primary sources from Liberty Fund Books?

Third, how is Truth to be arrived at if there is no source higher than ourselves? If there is no almighty, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, just and merciful Creator, then there can be no absolute eternal Truth. And we would have nothing to gain by seeking it.

Fourth, faith in God is surely a private matter as you say, but it also has a social dimension. When people appreciate that Liberty comes from God, as Thomas Jefferson and other Founders said, then they are more likely to grasp that there is a connection between their God-given rights and their obedience to the Ten Commandments. Our rights cannot be protected by a society where morality is relative and truth is irrelevant.

Fifth, when society has banished God from the public square what higher principle can we aspire to? What would motivate them to adhere to the highest standard of morality ever formulated? What would motivate them to do good to their neighbor? You assertion that people will choose to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do sounds high-minded, but it has never worked. In fact, it is what communism demands, and it doesn't work with them, either.

Sixth, you wax eloquent about people choosing to adopt a higher standard of morality without giving us any idea what standard you wish us to adopt. I have chosen the Ten Commandments-Golden Rule-Sermon on the Mount. You have rejected them. This means you can know that I will protect your God-given rights. But how can I know if you will protect any of my rights?

Seventh, it does not take several decades to learn the Judeo-Christian moral code, or the basic manners of American society. Little children can be taught the Golden Rule from the time they are toddlers, one step at a time. From there, they advance to learning not to hit, bite, spit, kick, scream, hrow food, and so forth. By age five, they can be taught to memorize the Golden Rule and not to take things that belong to other people, not call people names, not tell lies, and so forth. By then they should have mastered basic manners (saying please and thank you, hello and good-bye, respecting their elders, waiting until other people have finished speaking to say something, chewing with your mouth closed, and so forth). By age ten, they can be taught to memorize the short version of the Ten Commandments and how they are to be applied in daily life. By the time a young person is fifteen, they should be well on their way to being a civilized member of society, capable of exercising self-reliance and self-restraint, common sense and common courtesy, and aquiring the rudiments of Wisdom and Virtue.

This is not rocket science. Anyone can do it. Even people who can't read or write or calculate how much gas they can buy for $5.00.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 16:36:22 pm

Your response to my comment is illogical. You say that the existence of God has not been disproved so people should not claim to know God. If He exists they can claim to know Him, but nobody but God knows if they do or not. If He doesn't exist they can claim to know Him, but this belief will be in vain whether good comes from it or not.

As I said before, the Founders and their generation have left us a mountain letters, books, essays, speeches, documents, and so forth that make it absolutely clear that they considered the Declaration of Independence to be the statement of the original principles James Madison said we should consult, often. The Preamble to the Consitution is not a statement of original principles. It is a framework of government designed to make it possible for a society to get a government good enough to uphold those principles.

I think that in your effort to leave God out of the equation, you are attempting to throw the bath out with the baby.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 16:52:19 pm

If the thirteen independent States of America did not each claim to be a nation, or a nation-state, but instead referred to themselves as "states", then they must have had a reason Their representatives certainly knew the definitions for both these terms.

At the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the people of the States, that is when they became a nation and not before. A federation of states. The United States of America.

And it is on that basis we became a people with a national identity. Our common bond was then and hopefully is now that we are a people who love Liberty, and believe in Equal Rights under the Law, and the right of each individual to pursue their own happiness as long as they cause no harm to others. This national identity is not tied to race, religion, creed, nation of origin, sex or zip code.

The ideas we cherish can be exported through the air to other countries, they are not our exclusive property. But, our country is where they were planted, and grew, and bore fruit. I pray that America's Tree of Liberty will always flourish and bear fruit.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 17:01:29 pm

I'd be interested to know precisely where in the Old Testament it is said that God made the laws of nature and said that we can learn the laws of morals by observing causes and effects in nature and society. Briefly reciting the account of the six days of creation hardly supports such a claim. Instead, it begs the question.

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Max Hocutt
on September 12, 2019 at 20:14:36 pm

The Holy Bible was written by men who believed in an orderly universe:

"Thy Word, O Lord, stands written in the Heavens."
Psalm 119:89

Everywhere they looked, they saw the irrefutable evidence of Cause and Effect. There are too many verses that describe the specific effect of a particular cause, but I will give you as many as I can right now:

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind, and the fool shall be servant to the wise."
Proverbs 11:29

"Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands."
Proverbs 14:1

"Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice."
Proverbs 17:5

"He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and a rolling stone will come back on him who sets it rolling." Proverbs 26:27

"A faithful man shall abound in blessings, but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
Proverbs 28:20

"Where there is no vision [wisdom?] a people perish, but happy is he what keeps the law."
Proverbs 29:18

"And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."
Isaiah 32:17

"They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."
Hosea 8:7

In fact, most of the Old Testament prophets were sent to warn the Jews of the consequences of their bad behavior so they could straighten up and fly right--because God really didn't want to punish them. That's what the Book of Jonah was about, only Jonah wasn't as merciful as the Lord.

There are many verses that refer to the natural world, but I don't have time to look them up for you now.

But, from these passages, it appears to me that the ancient Jews had a philosophical (i.e.: scientific rather than only poetical) concept of natural law . It is from the traditional teachings that this is more evident. But, these teachings themselves are not laid out in the Bible, they came down through the oral tradition. Once you learn them the references in the Bible jump out at you.

The teachings go like this: God made the Universe, God made the laws that govern the Universe, God made human beings, He made the laws that govern Mankind, His laws are revealed in Scripture and in Nature.

For example:
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water below. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
Exodus 20:5

Now, most people look at this and figure God's wrath or mercy is entirely arbitrary, that there is no reason to obey His commandments except to avoid His disapproval. He seems cruel to make children suffer for their parents' misdeeds. But, children do suffer for their parents misdeeds because the consequences of being a self-destructive and irresponsible automatically affect children. God's commandments guide us to avoid making mistakes that could be avoided if we had paid attention to what He says.

Parents who live by His commandments will be able to have stable marriages, raise children who are not scarred by crime, adultery, divorce, abuse and neglect. If they are really good parents, they will be able to pass on their wisdom and virtue to their children and grandchildren.

Cause & Effect. You don't have to be a Jew or a Christian to figure out that if everyone went around violating everybody else's rights all the time, the human race would not have lasted this long.

Cause & Effect is a law of nature. It would be good if people looked to the Holy Bible for its wisdom, like the Founding Fathers' and their generation, even if they aren't interested in what it says about anything else.

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Standing Fast
on September 12, 2019 at 23:26:53 pm

I agree. Self-rule is merely a manifestation of liberty, which the Declaration rightly describes as a natural right.

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Daniel Murphy

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