We write a lot here about politics and we write even more (I hope) about history. We try, sometimes well, and sometimes probably not so well, to connect one to the other.
Tomorrow will be that most truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Rightly it is the day we stop and give thanks to God, or whatever or whoever we each individually think most appropriate for all the good things we have. This early post is sort of a political history thanksgiving post.
We really have had a good run over the last 400 years, and I refuse to believe we are quite done, either. We have lots of problems but we always have, and in large measure, the mark of American greatness is that we have not only survived, but thrived on them. Always they have forced us to think, and act, and persevere until we worked through them.
Dan Hannan has a new book out, it’s called Inventing Freedom, and in it he discusses how the English-speaking peoples have invented freedom in our stormy trip since before there was an England, let alone America. I’m not going to say too much about it, because I haven’t read it yet. But as the video below shows, his views appear to pretty much parallel mine. And it made me think that we have much to be thankful for, and I’d thought I’d share a few of mine.
First, I’m grateful for you few, you wonderful few, who read my drivel, in the often forlorn hope that I have something useful to say. Thanks 🙂
Second, I’m grateful for all the rest of you wonderful bloggers and writers that have opened up a world of thinking for us all.
Third, I’m thankful that conservatism has, and always has had such wonderful thinkers and writers, I mean, really: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St Augustine, St.Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More, Adam Smith, Locke, Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and such right on down to guys like Dan Hannan, Mark Levin, and all the others. It makes quite a contrast to Marx, Hitler, and Lenin.
And you, know, I’m grateful to Barack Obama, his ineptitude and attempt to reduce American power and europeanize America has had us in crisis mode for about five years now, fighting what has often felt like a rear guard action. A crisis is, of course, a time of danger, but I think we all know that the other side of crisis is opportunity.
And the day is coming when the American revolution will happen again, I think. No, I’m not talking about an armed rebellion, although it’s possible, I think it unlikely. I mean in the same sense as the first one, finishing the circle, putting what has been put on its head back on its feet. I think America is going to see a rebirth of individual liberty.
I’m grateful for the wonderful leadership in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which right now have the best leadership in the English-speaking world, and hope both America and Britain will soon emulate them.
Here’s a bit from Charles Moore’s Telegraph review of Hannan’s book
Edmund Burke, who wrote the greatest British encomium to conservatism, was a Whig. Now Daniel Hannan, who is a Tory (an ultra-sceptic MEP, in fact), has written a great encomium to Whiggery. With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan – both of whom are liberally quoted here – Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and “that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue”. With incredible ingenuity, he finds the marks of this genius in almost everything the English have done.
I say “the English”. Hannan has no race theory – pointing out, for example, how “English” oriental people can be in Hong Kong, Singapore or India – but he certainly believes in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The Norman Conquest was, in his view, a “calamity”. It is because of Saxon Witans, and Saxon law, and Kipling’s Saxon yeoman who “stands like an ox in his furrow” demanding fair dealing, that we are a free people today, he thinks. He even complains that the Normans, being more snooty, let us keep plain Saxon words – cow, pig, lamb – for living animals, but imposed their own French-derived ones for the cooked version – beef, pork, mutton.
"The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes
on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon
alone."You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole
brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained
serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise,
you will yield.
And a bit of Hannan himself
We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.
Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?
Continue reading How we invented freedom – and why it matters – Telegraph Blogs.
And Daniel Hannan at Heritage