The United States, “the People”, and Populism
(A Talk Presented in Spain, May, 2016)
The American Regime is heavily dependent for the maintenance of its stability upon acceptance of its “civil religion”. At that religion’s doctrinal core stands the firm conviction that the United States plays an “exceptional” role in the history of mankind that is unfailingly beneficial to “the People”. But determining just who this “People” is, and how America’s special mission leads to its unfailingly popular effect has been the subject of considerable debate.
That debate reflects both Protestant as well as diverse Enlightenment ideas regarding the nature of “the People” and the kind of order required for them to thrive. It also reveals the dilemmas posed by the reality of a flesh and blood population with desires often at variance with those ascribed to it by the theoreticians supposedly dedicated to intelligent presentation of its wishes, as well as popular reaction to the plans these thinkers come up with in order to bridge that gap.
All of the foundation stones for these varied definitions and connected problems were laid between the first days of the colonial settlement and the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution. My task today is to focus our attention primarily on these fundamental contributions to American treatment of the concept of “the People” and its discontents, relating subsequent national political thought and popular movements to them as more or less “footnotes” to a set of already frozen arguments and attitudes. In doing so, I will also indicate why I am convinced that there is no way that anyone working within the “canonical” American framework can avoid arriving at one necessary conclusion: that for its vision of “the People” to triumph, the needs of many individual men and women, along with the very idea of the common good, must be eliminated from the picture.
Let us begin in New England. In the mind of the Puritan leaders organizing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, “the People” for whom they were creating a home and beneficial haven were those predestined to eternal salvation. It was these “saints” who would inhabit the “City on a Hill” meant to serve as an example of a godly society to other peoples trapped in the Old World. This was explained by John Winthrop (1587-1649) in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity”, delivered in 1630 just before the colonists were about to land. Given such a vision, it was clear that the properly ordered society housing such a People had to be controlled solely by the “visible saints” of the Congregational Church; i.e., the community of those committed believers who had had some definite experience of God entering and guiding their lives to safe port.1
Rather than entertaining any idea of establishing a “community of visible saints”, the organizers of the other British colonies in America took for granted that “the People” they were settling in the New World were to be defined and ordered with reference to the English political and social conditions of the seventeenth century. This, by the time of the aftermath of the Civil War, Commonwealth, Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, meant subjects of a monarchy ruled over by an unwritten contract or “constitution” that patriotic eighteenth century Englishmen took for granted as being the best in the world.2
While seemingly retaining all of the traditional authoritative institutions and historical concerns of the nation intact, the spirit of that constitution was nevertheless one that aimed primarily at the protection of the property of “the People”, and worked to this end through the dominance of those particular propertied classes that had come to the fore in the troubles of the 1600’s. Moreover, while maintaining an official commitment to the Established Anglican Church, the constitution’s recognition of the obvious religious divisions of “the People” brought with it an open guarantee of toleration for dissident Protestant sects that then had every reason to be firmly loyal to the new revolutionary order.
Still, the flesh and blood “People” in both the Puritan and the non-Puritan settlements did not precisely fit the official theological and constitutional constructs. The Massachusetts Bay Colony always possessed a large number of subjects incapable of or even uninterested in demonstrating God’s visible role in their lives. There was no serious presence of the contemporary, dominant English propertied families in America and no Anglican episcopal authority in the colonies whatsoever, while a continued growth in the number and variety of Protestant dissidents made their existence the colonial norm rather than the tolerated exception. Moreover, the need to deal with novel pioneering experiences under often quite isolated conditions created an environment that underlined the importance of community and personal effort of an often highly improvised and innovative character. Those living in this environment grew to react badly to traditional and learned appeals to long-established guidelines for dealing with their pioneer existence.
Such flesh and blood realities led to alterations in the conception of what was required to create and nurture a People. Although one response to the facts of life in Puritan Massachusetts was that of the “Half Way Covenant” of 1662, permitting those who had not had some clear indication of God’s action in their lives a partial, “second class” participation in the religious and political community, this approach did not really satisfy anyone.
The effort to find a more acceptable solution to the problem led many to the “New Lights” Christianity of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and the so-called “Great Awakening”. This involved a much more active attempt to increase the ranks of God’s People and the community shaped by them through a preaching stimulating visible experiences of the divine presence in individuals’ lives. Meanwhile, others unhappy with the Half Way Covenant felt that the formation and maintenance of a truly pious People required either a clean separation of the community of the visible saints from a civil society dedicated to primarily material concerns, or a greater acceptance of the idea that a unified Christian society might be composed of men and women reflecting a variety of individual understandings of the Faith and its meaning. Such conclusions obviously required change in the existing political system or, if need be, departure to create a new and truly godly colonial foundation---under conditions that would once again place men in pioneering circumstances evoking unconventional responses to daily life.
Puritan New England’s “people-altering” experiences were paralleled elsewhere in the colonies. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists applied Jonathan Edward’s “New Lights” approach to their own well-organized revivalist campaigns. Sectarian preachers with no official approval from any recognized school or community---let alone from a bishop---channeled its focus on the “Holy Spirit and the individual” into an open contempt for the book learning and discipline of the clergy of the “mainline” Congregational and Anglican Churches. These various non-establishment labors thereby developed pronounced anti-establishment sentiments that were just as favorable to separating the affairs of the godly “People” from existing civil communities with an established religious affiliation as those of their fellow colonists in New England. And the non-traditional character of the life both of pioneers as well as the plantation class in the South permitted them to contemplate linkage with New England merchants when the particular, practical, altered concerns of the British People in America seemed to be thwarted by the other propertied men with differing interests dominating the constitution back in the Old World.3
In short, a common colonial-wide vision of a “British American People”, defined with a great deal of focus upon the individual and his needs on the one hand and the special “liberties” demanded by various communities and persons on the other, was clearly in the making. Despite Jonathan Edward’s short but powerful suggestion of the innovative religious character of the American New Lights approach, this vision was not formulated in some consciously fresh and abstract form. Rather, it was presented as an effort to fulfill the promise of the historical British constitution, as defined in the Glorious Revolution and its aftermath, under specific colonial conditions. That constitution---whose brilliance was underlined by the Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), the one non-English political writer with a readership in America—had by the eighteenth century been shaped by and interpreted through a religious and private property-obsessed, Protestant and Moderate Enlightenment emphasis on the individual in his struggle against despotism that offered a message for everyone in the British New World.4
The New Lights movement of a Jonathan Edwards and the related “charismatic” approach of John Wesley’s (1703-1791) Methodism were committedly Christian in character and might continue to work to define the American People with reference to the Faith. Nevertheless, developments in the colonies were very much affected by the powerful Deist tendencies fermenting in the English-speaking world through the influence of the “Christian” Moderate Enlightenment and its Whig political arm over the meaning of the Glorious Revolution, especially in the form given to this by John Locke (1632-1704), Isaac Newton (1643-1726), and the followers of the latter’s so-called “phyisco-theological” system. That system, which needed some kind of Creator exercising a providential guidance over His universe to function---but not necessarily the Christian God---fought effectively for control over Harvard, Yale, and Princeton in the course of the eighteenth century against “Old Calvinists” and supporters of the “New Lights”. And its followers had no problem appropriating the old Puritan “City on a Hill” spirit in aid of their project of building a People pleasing to Nature’s God through replacement of “useless” doctrinal conflict by commitment to the common, obvious, “truly Christian” (that is to say, purely rational) moral code, and fraternal exploitation of the machine of the universe in various “patriotic” societies of benefit to all of the Creator’s British American children.5
However, with the advance of such belief in a non-Christian but beneficent Creator God came undercurrents opening men to the influential strain of “non-providential” English Deism, and, through that outlook, exposure to the full intellectual tumult that had preceded and accompanied the Glorious Revolution and another understanding of how its promise had to be “fulfilled” thereafter. This confronted Americans not just with the pronouncedly democratic, highly unorthodox, and even openly anti-Christian ideas of men like James Harrington (1611-1677), John Toland (1670-1722), Anthony Collins (1676-1729) and others. It also led directly to Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), the idea of an eternal, naturalist universe, and a democratic vision of social harmony produced through an egalitarian respect for and liberation of all individuals’ machine-driven self-interests.6
If there was one common word regarding what it was that “the People” needed to exist and thrive that was on the lips of all those Americans active in the period leading up to Revolution about whose opinions we have some definite knowledge it is this: liberty. Again, the large majority of these made reference to the People’s need for “liberty” on familiar, historical, and particular grounds: the liberty to build a godly community, free of the despotism of both Catholic and of the pre-1688 royal varieties---the liberty already guaranteed by “the best constitution in the world”, whose promises would be fulfilled if simply applied according to the specific needs of the colonists. Some of these were still firmly believing Christians; some of them primarily followers of Locke and Newton, but, like them, convinced that Protestant moral values confirmed by Reason had to be maintained to keep the proper contract assuring the People’s liberties vigorous; many of them Deists and members of the Freemasonic lodges that had become so important to the spread of the Moderate Enlightenment and Whig Movement from the early eighteenth century onwards.7
Still, it is interesting that the work that had an infinitely wider reading audience than Locke in the pre-revolutionary period was Cato’s Letters, a commentary on British government and society composed between 1720 and 1724 by John Trenchard (1662-1723) and Thomas Gordon (1691-1750). This illustrates the growing influence of radical ideas in an environment that seemed to express itself—at least publicly---in more conservative terms. Republican and even downright democratic in its critique, Cato’s Letters made its points regarding the People and their needs not by taking the British historical tradition as a given within which American particularities could be addressed, but on purely rational grounds possessing a universal meaning. What strikes me as instructive about the popularity of this work is not so much that it helps to explain the rational and universal grounds for complaint characterizing the “radical” Thomas Jefferson’s Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774) and a number of his arguments in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but rather the revolutionary syncretism of the “conservative” John Adams (1735-1826). For the latter, in his Novanglus (1774-1775) gloried in defending the People and their liberties with reference to “the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke”, harmonization of which would be a taxing project for any rational mind.8
Even more important than Cato’s Letters for injecting Radical Enlightenment rationalist, egalitarian, and universally applicable ideas into the American bloodstream was Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and his highly successful Common Sense (1776). This work betrayed the influence of yet another recent radical “best seller”, the Histoire Philosophique, published under the name of the Abbé Guillaume Thomas François Raynal (1713-1796), but reflecting the egalitarian materialism of the Encyclopedia circles directed by Denis Diderot (1713-1784). Completely anti-Locke and anti-historical in its non-contractual, democratic rationalism, it separated the American People from the British Tradition in order to unite them with Mankind the world over. Common Sense admitted that it was going to be difficult for them “to get over local or longstanding prejudices”. But this the Americans---the majority of whom, he pointed out, were not, by now, even really ethnically English at all--- had to do if they were to tap into the wisdom coming from the real teachers of rational men: thinkers freeing minds from the chains of habit and custom, and not those cementing their bonds with corrupt and politically and legally backward British constitution.9
Three crucial points have to be made with regard to the Radical Enlightenment approach represented by Paine. While anti-Christian in character---spelled out even further by him in his Age of Reason (1794)---Paine also easily tapped into the “City on a Hill” argument, but for the goal of promoting a truly natural “people’s” society valid for everyone everywhere. “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind”, he said, joining with Toland before him in arguing that this noble natural community serving as a model for the rest of the globe should be worshipped with a civil cult of its own that he compared to that guided by Druids in the Celtic past. While ultimately democratic egalitarian and therefore social-minded in spirit, radicals like Paine nevertheless employed the language of “liberty” common to Protestantism, the Moderate Enlightenment, and colonial individualists of quite different character, as well as the need for its “fulfillment” in America as a prelude to its fulfillment the world over. And, finally, Paine went about his work with that “down to earth” approach excoriating the pedantic, tyrannical pseudo-learning of theologians, medical doctors, and lawyers popular with the Radical Enlightenment from its outset, speaking in the name of “obvious” Reason and “clear and distinct ideas”; in short, in the name of “common sense”. This was precisely the kind of language that played well when used by a revivalist preacher with his unconventional and pioneer audiences. But let us remember that Paine accompanied this with a demand for a “reeducation program” weaning Americans away from an irrational, historical British Tradition that might also be interpreted by “the common man” as an effort of the learned folks to “put one over on him” that he might not welcome with the same pleasure.10
All the elements active on the American scene made their ideas felt as the Revolution progressed. Presbyterian ministers literally preached Liberation Theology from the pulpit, calling men to arms for the battle for a godly People and its freedom against the despotism that was its sole alternative---and with such “Christian” fervor that the British commander in New York called the conflict a “religious war”. “Constitutionalists” railed against the threat to British American liberty reflected in the Quebec Act (1774) that confirmed Catholic dominance in formerly French Canada. Pioneers praised the “liberty” that independence would give them to invade the Indian lands further to the West that were placed off bounds by the manipulators of the constitution back in Britain. Christian New Lights Presbyterians without number, Deist Newtonians like Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Locke-minded contract men with Puritan morals and anti-Catholic fire such as Samuel Adams (1722-1803), and universal-minded rationalists of the Jeffersonian persuasion linked arms with backwoods pioneers in the common---but actually divided---fight for People and Liberty.11
Still, the more moderate forces seemed, at first, to be on the defensive. Aside from Edmund Burke (1729-1797), supporters of the People who claimed that their liberties could be fulfilled through the British Constitution generally abandoned the American cause, with the rationalist egalitarian English community taking up the slack. The 1780 edition of the Histoire Philosophique went into ecstasy over the seriously radicalized Pennsylvania State Constitution of 1776. A democratic American People really looked as though it might be on the rise---so long, of course, as radicals ignored the minor difficulty, underlined now by almost all historians of the Revolution, that the majority of the population had no interest in it or actually wished it ill.12
In practical terms, what came out of the conflict by 1789 was an apparent victory for the supporters of the cause of “the People” as one well protected by the teaching emerging out of the historical British experience. Popular expressions of democratic will---such as the Shay (1786-1787) and Whisky Rebellions (1791)---were vigorously suppressed, Pennsylvania’s recent constitution was de-democratized (1790), and Thomas Paine and his followers rejected as repellent atheists. The “proper adjustments” answering the problems of the colonies were made according to the desires of the propertied elite---which was basically Christian or Deist in the Newton-Locke mold and if not that, religiously indifferent. But these had been made in a way that respected the “religious liberty” of those seeking to create a godly People outside the limits that had once been laid down by the Established Churches---Anglican and Congregational along with Catholic. From the standpoint of the “conservative constitutionalists”, the promise of the Glorious Revolution was now fulfilled, all the more solidly by the fact that it had been spelled out in writing, providing “the People” Political Scriptures alongside Holy Writ. Liberty, which was the “form” of the raw “matter” that together produced “the People”, had finally been conquered.
And James Madison, in The Federalist, the set of essays penned in defense of the work of the Constitutional Convention, explained exactly how the machinery of the system was designed to prevent any substantive change of its modus operandi in the future. But the critics of this unchangeable “fulfillment” were by no means insignificant foes.13
For Founders like Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) and Thomas Jefferson, as well as their followers, the fulfillment of the liberty that truly creates a People was by no means assured. Influenced by the Radical Enlightenment as they were, they felt that Reason and the democratic implications flowing therefrom were still thwarted by the existing system politically, legally, economically, socially, and morally. Their successors would pinpoint and seek to deal with these obstacles with ever-greater fervor, and with ever-widening demands for changes as they discovered ever more “natural” needs that had to be addressed in order for the “real People” to be properly fulfilled.14
The number of post-revolutionary thinkers and political figures committed to this rationalist, egalitarian vision of the People and its liberty, distinct from any historical Anglo-American experience and any particular statement of this or that popular desire, is legion. Let us look at them from a thematic rather than a chronological standpoint. They include---most of them revealing an irrational and downright mystical sentimentality at the core of their abstract rationalism ---President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), who simply “knew” that the essential principle behind America, and the key to an understanding of the true will of the People, was the longing for equality, which was built into nature and driven by the will of his deist or pantheist conceived God; George Bancroft (1800-1891), historian, educator, statesmen, and author of a massive History of the United States presenting a similar teaching; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), the founder of the so-called Transcendentalist Movement, philosopher of an egalitarianism built upon non-rational, anti-analytical openness to experiencing all of the life-giving contributions individuals tossed into the public arena; Walt Whitman (1819-1892), poet of a similar concept of “the democratic People”, written into the very fabric of “the cosmos”, and fulfilled through an encounter with all that nature offers; Herbert Croly (1869-1930), a leader of the Progressive Movement bringing these principles into twentieth century industrial society through The Promise of American Life (1909) and his labors on The New Republic; President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), like Whitman, showing how creation of “the People” could permit unlimited government action; and John Dewey (1859-1952), in powerful works such as Democracy and Education (1916). What one finds in subsequent rationalist egalitarians is, I would argue, merely more of the same, only seemingly more radical due to their constant Dewey-like “questioning of themselves” as they discover still more “natural individuals” whose experiences they feel they must incorporate into the public sphere and their personal lives to ensure that “the People” become truly human. For, as Dewey said: “Democracy and the one, ultimate, ethical ideal of humanity are to my mind synonymous."15
But the abstract, rationalist but generally non-rational, a-historical egalitarians and their fellow travelers were not the only ones displaying qualms about the constitutional fulfillment of the People and their liberty in 1789. Thwarting of the will and the rights of the average man by the powerful and their glib defenders still, periodically, continued to enrage the flesh and blood American population. This was particularly apparent in the Populist Movement of the late nineteenth century, which reached its peak in the 1880’s and 1890’s with the formation of the People’s Party and the campaign of William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) for president in 1896 as the joint Democratic-Populist candidate.16
Nevertheless, although the Populists did take aim at Wall Street plutocrats and make demands for a governmental involvement with railroads and public resources that were anathema to liberal capitalism, popular anger tended to direct itself to specific, pragmatic goals falling far short of the abstract egalitarian program. Moreover, the Populist constituency also raised its voice in favor of other projects totally alien to the ever-widening vision of the People embraced by radical theorists, including everything from an obsession with silver currency to racial segregation, opposition to immigration and the terrors arriving in America with “the huddled masses longing to be free”, the prohibition of alcohol, and revivalist Protestantism. Populism, in short, could mean absolutely anything---as the recent “Occupy Wall Street” and “Tea Party” phenomenon, as I personally am aware, both have indicated anew. Radical---or conservative---alliance with Populism could mean riding on the back of a monster. 17
One mitigating factor, however, as Walter Lippmann insisted in 1922 in a highly influential book entitled Public Opinion, the machinery of American political and social life did indeed work very effectively to mold “the popular will” to “manufacture consent” in such a way as to guarantee the continued dominance of the leadership class---and with the seeming approval of “the People”. Their “rage” seemed somehow always to be defused and dissipated. Certainly this happened with “Jacksonian Democracy” through the class of political party operatives it generated. And certainly the Populist Movement was mainstreamed and defeated by the alliance with the Democratic Party in 1896 that seemed, at first, to be its best path to victory. Perhaps the organs of the Constitution and the belief system it inculcated not only benefited the “leadership class”, but also made it seem more “People-friendly” than it actually was.18
John Dewey, in his response to Lippmann---first in a review published in The New Republic (1922), and later in his book The Public and its Problems (1927)---rejected his “pessimism” regarding reliance on “the People”. His answer to the problem was that of Thomas Paine: reeducation; a reeducation that would wean it away from its parochialism, breaking down barriers to openness and experience of everyone and everything; a reeducation that democratic egalitarians continue to promote today with courses in the embrace of gay marriage and gender change; a reeducation that also very willing to use social and governmental coercion to ensure “openness” against popular unwillingness to become all that a true People must become to be true to itself.19
Such reeducation efforts also illustrate how the theme of America as a “City on a Hill” guaranteeing liberty and justice to “the People” at large was also embraced by the abstract egalitarian camp, with its patriotic connotations exploited on behalf of its specific “democratic” intellectual, political, and social program. Croly, Dewey, and all the Progressives were convinced that this theme had to be enshrined in a civil religion of the sort that the moderate Benjamin Franklin as well as the radical Thomas Paine had both already in different ways advocated, and that this civil religion must be vigorously evangelized. For Whitman, the words “America” and “democracy” were “convertible terms". He spelled out the public and individual openness to all of nature that American democracy demanded for creation of a true People in his Democratic Vistas (1871), making its particular American character crystal clear in “For You O Democracy”:20
“Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.”
“I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.”
“For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
“For you, for you I am trilling these songs.”
Serving American Democracy required change, and what one had to do when confronted with contrary flesh and blood popular demands was to interpret them according to one’s own idée fixe or shame them out of the public square by proclaiming them destructive to the “spirit” or “will” of the civil religion, and thereby destructive to the American Mission and the very men and women demanding them themselves. This coercion was often still promoted in the name of openness; in this case, an openness to what really amounts to abandoning existing diversity for a supposedly higher unity, as with Henry Ford’s mandatory workplace “Melting Pot” Americanization ceremonies, where foreigners showed their openness to their new country by tossing clothing and other symbols of their differences into an enormous bonfire.21
Post revolutionary radical egalitarians were not the only ones playing the reeducation card in the name of the City on a Hill”, and contributing to the creation of the American civil religion in the process. The “conservative”, historical minded, Anglo-American constitutionalists were heavily engaged in it as well, on behalf of their conviction that “the People” and their “liberty” had already been fulfilled through what the will of the Founding Fathers wrought in 1789. Their work, once again, enshrined and protected--- with Madison’s highly effective constitutional mechanisms---a system that protects “the People” and their “liberty” in their Locke and Newton form, appearing to be tradition and religion friendly as it gradually renders both of them private and impotent, allowing individual materialist property interests to dictate what really counts in political and social life.22
This pragmatic, historic Anglo-American voice, always present but sometimes less vigorous in making its case than the egalitarian democrat, has grown immensely powerful since the Second World War, first due to its skillful depiction of “patriotic” obedience to the Founders’ Frozen Will as the only alternative first to the victory of Godless Communism, and now as the only alternative to Islamic terrorism. It is served by an impressive array of extremely well-funded think tanks operating globally, with the aid of lobbies, scholarship money, journals, and much of the mass media that it tries to convince people is a slave of its abstract, radical, and egalitarian opponents. It is very willing to use these forces to pressure the people into a submission to the Founders’ Will. Moreover, it has proven to be infinitely more effective with the raw, flesh and blood population than its enemies have been---including that Christian segment of the population that is still looking to establish a God-fearing American People, that has regularly been seduced into believing that the only alternative to picking up its tent and establishing a New World in some isolated wilderness is through a return “to the Will of the Founders”. Even Catholics are so disposed despite the fact that that foundational will is anti-Catholic in its Deism, relativism, individualist materialism, and, first and foremost, its willfulness. They unquestioningly believe that to question the Will of the Founders benefits only Lenin and Mohammed.23
Unfortunately, the common appeal to the same City on a Hill and the same Civil Religion indissolubly links the conservative, historical constitutionalists together with the radical, rational/non-rational, egalitarians whenever the issue of the “American People” versus the outsiders comes up. This is painfully noticeable among the Founding Fathers themselves. One can see it in the correspondence of the “conservative” John Adams and the “radical” Thomas Jefferson, as well as in the advice given by the “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison (1751-1836), to his successor James Monroe (1758-1831) with respect to the “Doctrine” concerning the relationship of the Old and New Worlds that bears the latter’s name. For all of them, conservative and radical alike, were ready “to contemplate the cruel wars, desolations of countries, and oceans of blood, which must occur before rational principles and rational systems of government can prevail and be established” and even find that melancholy prospect “cheering” so long as “liberty”, the form of “the People” could prosper.24
But this, after all, makes sense. Conservative enshrining of the Founders’ Will means enshrining a Moderate Enlightenment whose basic naturalism and willful Lockean individualism bears within it the possibility for supporting any willful position imaginable, including that of their radical democratic egalitarian---and now sex rather than property obsessed---fellow worshipers of the City on a Hill. The older, so-called paleo-conservative movement cannot even rid itself of the esoteric and Lincoln friendly conservatism of Leo Strauss (1899-1973) and followers such as Harry Jaffa (1918-2015), much less its Israel driven neo-conservatives. The kind of People and the kind of liberty that it promotes lead straight from Locke and individual property to Locke and individual anything. It will not recognize this because it cannot think, and it cannot think because it is rooted in an Anglo-American historical tradition that is Protestant, and out of whose Protestantism came its dominant experience with the Enlightenment.25
Protestantism and its rationalist Anglo-American ally bear within them an innate disdain for social authority and reduction of the human experience to an internecine war of depraved and willful individuals that inevitably favors a logical encouragement of radical democratic materialist concepts, many of whose atheist proponents have given to what was first deemed a wicked universe a changed and positive meaning. But Protestants from Luther onwards have dealt with this rational development of their underlying principles under late medieval Nominalist anti-philosophical and formless mystical and sentimental influences over them which, along with the theme of total depravity, replace all rational discourse in favor of mindless assertion of will. Their Moderate Enlightenment “heirs” have followed suite. All of them argue that radicalism cannot issue from their convictions because they simply do not want this to be the case. Their “will”, backed by physical force and verbal ridicule of intellectual discussion, is their sole argument against their enemies. It is a very powerful one indeed. Nevertheless, it does not prevent the truth that Luther, Newton, Locke, and Company offer a radicalism for “sissies” afraid of the possible consequences of what they are saying. They and their radical offspring are really consubstantial, and both will always happily work with one another when they sense the presence of a common opponent who must be crushed. All of this is deadly to serious rational discussion of the problems of American political theory and its impact on the people.
Sadly, America’s Protestant heritage has dulled it as a society into the kind of thoughtless common denominator seeking mass that Lincoln sensed and de Tocqueville noted. Sadly, its love affair with itself as a City on a Hill destined to save all Peoples the globe over has contributed to an uncritical arrogance regarding its “exceptionalism” that Charles Dickens brilliantly satirized in the nineteenth century. His talent in doing so is very much needed today, at a time when America is so much more powerful than in that distant past. The American population---its real men and women---deserve better than that. But the only way that its true benefit can be obtained is by its submission to that Catholic Truth that the deeply “patriotic” St. Ambrose blessed for having humbled his beloved Rome. It is a tragedy that the heirs of the historical constitutionalist vision of the People---through emasculation---and the heirs of the abstract rational egalitarian vision---through direct assault---all share John Adams’ attitude regarding what to do with those bearing Catholic Truth: the need to “shut them up like the man in the mask, feed them well, and give them as much finery as they please, until they could be converted to right reason and common sense.”26
1 M. E. Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America (Penguin, 1984), pp. 53-72.
2 Ibid.; J. Israel, Democratic Enlightenment (Oxford, 2013), pp. 443-479.
3 Marty, Op. cit., pp. 75-89, 107-128.
4 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 443-479.
5 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 443-479.
6 Ibid.; Margaret Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment (Cornerstone, 2006), passim.
7 Israel, Op. cit, pp. 443-479; Marty, Op. cit., pp. 131-166; J.M. Mayeur, ed.,, Histoire du Christianisme (Thirteen Volumes, Desclée, 1992-), X, 479-512.
8 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 445-449; citation on p.
9 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 413-442, 443-479; Marty, Op. cit, pp 131-166.
10 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 413-442, 443-479; Marty, Op. cit., p. 208; Mayeur, X, 488-490.
11 Marty, Op. cit., pp. 131-166; Israel, Op. cit., pp. 438-479; Mayeur, Op. cit., X, 482-506.
12 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 438-479; see, also, C. Ferrara, Liberty, the God That Failed (Angelico, 2012).
13 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 438-479; Mayeur, Op. cit., X, 479-512; Marty, Op. cit, pp. 131-166; see also The Federalist (any edition), X.
14 Israel, Op. cit., pp. 470-479.
15 (Speech at a Republican Banquet, Chicago, Illinois, December 10, 1856 – Illinois State Journal, December 16, 1856), in R. Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, (Abraham Lincoln Association, 1953), II, p. 385 D. Zarevsky, “’Public Sentiment is Everything’: Lincoln’s View of Political Persuasion”, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, (15, 2, Summer, 1994), pp. 23-40; S. W. Sawyer, “Between Authorship and Agency: George Bancroft's Democracy as History”, Revue française d'études américaines, 118, 4e Trimestre, 2008), pp. 49-66 J. Conant, “The Concept of America”, Theosophical Society of America (November/December, 2003), pp. 18-28; B. Frost & J. Sikkenga, The History of American Political Thought (Lexington, 2003); S. Mack, The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimagining American Democracy (University of Iowa, 2002); K. Pastorello, The Progressives: Activism and Reform in American Society (John Wiley & Sons, 2013); S. Milkis & J. Mileur, eds., Progressivism and the New Democracy (University of Michigan, 1999); D. Tanner, Crusade for Democracy (SUNY, 1991); Marty, pp. 189-284-371, 405-408; S. C. Rockefeller, John Dewey: Religious Faith and Democratic Humanism (Columbia, 1991), with citation from J. Boydston, ed., Dewey’s Early Works (Southern Illinois, 1969), 1, 228.
16 L. Grattan, Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America (Oxford, 2016); M. Josephson, The Politicos (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1938), pp. 466-636; M. Kazin, The Populist Persuasion: An American History (Cornell, 1998).
17 Josephson, Op. cit., pp. 466-636; Grattan, Op. cit.; On Occupy Wall Street, see “About us” (http://occupywallst.org/about/; on the Tea Party (http://www.teaparty.org_; See, also, articles on sites like “Renew America” (http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/sharris/140802).
18 W. Lippmann, Public Opinion (Greenback Reprint, 2010); F. Regalzi, Democracy and its Discontents : Walter Lippmann and the Crisis of Politics, E-rea [En ligne], 9.2 | 2012, mis en ligne le 15 mars 2012, consulté le 21 juin 2016. URL : http://erea.revues.org/2538 ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.2538; J. L. Bugg, Jr., ed., Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality? (Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1966); Josephson, Op. Cit., pp. 604-708.
19 J. Dewey, “Review of Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann”, in J.A. Boydston, ed., John Dewey: The Middle Works 1899-1924, (Southern Illinois), XIII, 1921-1922, 337-344; J. Dewey, The Public and its Problems (Holt, 1927); J. Dewey, Democracy and Education (Free Press Reprint, 1997); W. Lippmann, The Phantom Public (Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1925); M. Schudson, “The Lippmann-Dewey Debate” International Journal of Communication (2, 2008), 1031-1042.
20 W. Whitman, Democratic Vistas (University of Iowa Reprint, 2009); “For You, O Democracy”, in Walt Whitman Archive (http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1881/poems/49); on the American civil religión in general, see J. Rao, “Le mirage americain”, in B. Dumont, ed., Eglise et Politique: Changer de Paradigme (Artege, 2013).
21 See the ceremony at “The Henry Ford Collections”, https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-collections/artifact/254569.
22 See. J. Rao, Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States (Tan, 1994), online at http://jcrao.freeshell.org/Americanism.html.
23 J. Rao, Americanism; “Le mirage americain”; and, as one example, D. Wemhoff, John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition (Fidelity, 2015).
24 J. Adams to T. Jefferson, 17 September, 1823, C.F. Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (Little, Brown, 1865) , X, 410.
25 See, for example, T. West, “Harry Jaffa and the Nobility of the American Founding”, at http://thefederalist.com/2015/02/19/harry-jaffa-and-the-nobility-of-the-american-founding/