Today is the day when Americans chomp hotdogs, watch fireworks and rightfully reflect on all this great nation has achieved. The occasion naturally stirs up patriotic sentiment for everything that makes the Unites States a better place to live than anywhere else, such as the rule of law, individual sovereignty in the form of a vote, and respect for civil liberties. Now that the foundations of our freedom are under attack from the White House, parts of Congress and the Supreme Court, it’s more important than ever to appreciate their originality. As awkward as it might be to admit on Independence Day, a lot of the ideas that made America great are British.
On this occasion celebrating the Declaration of Independence, it’s fitting to note that when writing this tour de force, Thomas Jefferson’s most significant influence was “Two Treatises of Government” by John Locke, an English philosopher who focused on natural rights and died seven decades before 1776. Jefferson’s most momentous line is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s a direct extension of this from Locke: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker.”
The key point in both works - which is especially relevant today - is that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and when that no longer exists, it’s time to try something else. Despite ups and downs on both sides of the pond, the United States and Great Britain have been the world’s two leading lights in defending the individual and fighting against global communism and other forms of state totalitarianism. The military power of the two cousins helped keep (or restore) peace for a couple centuries, and in this endeavor the baton was handed from London to Washington. As H.W. Crocker III writes in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire,” “When Britain could no longer maintain the Pax Britannica, it became the Pax Americana.”
President Obama said France is America’s best friend and strongest ally, but that is nonsense which exposes Barack’s antipathy for the “special relationship” that has nurtured and protected the free world. The planet’s most important bilateral alliance is between the United Kingdom and the United States, and it’s a friendship based on shared ideas more than combined power.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).