Today’s the day Americans groove on a diet of hot dogs and belly wash, marvel at the fireworks lighting the night sky and reflect, if only a little, on all America has achieved. The occasion naturally stirs patriotic sentiment for everything that makes Lincoln’s “exceptional nation” exceptional: the rule of law, the vote that confers individual sovereignty, and universal respect for civil liberties. It’s more important than ever to appreciate where some of those things came from. Independence Day or not, some of the ideas that made America great came from the old country.
It’s fitting to note that when he was writing the Declaration of Independence, his tour de force, Thomas Jefferson was influenced most by “Two Treatises of Government,” by John Locke, the English philosopher who focused his attention on natural rights before he died seven decades before 1776. Jefferson’s most memorable line was straight from Locke: “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.” This is also directly 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.” (Punctuation Locke’s.)
The key point in both works, especially relevant today, is that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and when that no longer obtains, it will be time to try something else. Despite occasional frustrations on both sides of the Atlantic, the United States and Great Britain have together stood as one to protect the individual and each other, first against the Nazi evil and then against the viral evil of global communism.
The military muscle of these cousins helped keep (or restore) peace for two centuries, and finally the baton was handed from London to Washington. “When Britain could no longer maintain the Pax Britannica,” writes H.W. Crocker III in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire,” “it became the Pax Americana.”
President Obama called France America’s best friend and strongest ally, and though it’s true that France bakes the best croissant and makes some of the best wines, such deliberate misreading of history exposes the president’s scorn for the “special relationship” that has nurtured and protected the free world for more than a hundred years. It’s a kinship and a friendship based on shared culture, faith and ideals more than military power, and it’s good to remember that on Independence Day.
The Washington Times