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February 23, 2002
Older American History
James Bennett has a very interesting piece that asks, "Has America come to this position because it is an exceptional nation, or is this American exceptionalism really just a particular instance of a wider phenomenon of which America is only the most visible part?"
The most interesting points Bennett makes are about the historical influences on the founding fathers themselves. He points out that the founding fathers were drafting the documents of our nation, not with a myopic view of a grand new experiment, completely without grounding in traditions, but in the shadow of both the revolution of 1776 and the English Civil War and the Revolution of 1688 as it lay about as far in the past as the U.S. Civil War lies in our past.
With this in mind, it places that much more emphasis on the fact that the Constitution and the other founding documents are about furtherance of a long history and memory of things learned the hard way. When the embattled amendments to the Bill of Rights - 2nd, 4th, 5th - come under fire there is often not a realization that our ancestors learned that their governments made up of more of our ancestors caused severe problems without these checks. Many who follow the law know of our English Common Law tradition, but I find this view of history refreshing as it reminds that the myth of the American fishbowl experiment is just a myth. Even though that myth may have very practical psychological usefulness in our founding story, looking past that myth to analysis of lessons learned seems extremely informative.
Per normale, thanks to Instapundit for the original link.
Posted by hoffmang | February 23, 2002 11:08 PM