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    Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
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    Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Empty Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Ven 28 Sep - 9:34

    "The ideology of the American Revolution was a blend of ideas and beliefs that were extremely radical for the time -and that are implicitly radical still. [...]
    The ideology of the Revolution, derived from many sources, was dominated by a peculiar strand of British political thought. It was a cluster of convictions focused on the effort to free the individual from the oppressive misuse of power, from the tyranny of the state. But the spokesmen of the Revolution -the pamphleteers, essayists, and miscellaneous commentators- were not philosophers and they did not form a detached intelligentsia. They were active politicians, merchants, lawyers, plantation owners, and preachers, and they were not attempting to align their thought with that of major figures in the history of political philosophy whom modern scholars would declare to have been seminal. They did not think of temselves as "civic humanistes", nor did i describe them as such in attempting to characterize their thought. They believed that any political system, certainly all republics, had to be based in some significant degree on virtue, but they had no illusions about the virtue of ordinary people, and all of them believed in the basic value of personal property, it's preservation and the fostering of economic growth. They were both "civic humanists" and "libérals", though with different emphases at different times and in different circumstances.
    " (p.V-VI)

    "The pamphlets do reveal the influence of Enlightenment thought, and they do show the effective force of certain religious ideas, of the common law, and also of classical literature ; but they reveal most significantly the close integration of these elements in a pattern of, to me at least, surprising design- surprising because of the prominence in it of still another tradition, interwoven with, yet still distinct from, these more familiar strands of thought. This distinctive influence had been transmitted most directly to the colonists by a groupe of early eighteenth-century radical publicists and opposition politicians in England who carried forward into the eighteenth century and applied to the politics of the age of Walpole the peculiar strain of anti-authoritarianism bref in the upheaval of the English Civil War." (p.XI-XII)

    "There was no sharp break between a placid pre-Revolutionary era and the turmoil of the 1760's and 1770's. The argument, the claims and counter-claims, the fears and apprehensions that fill the pamphlets, letters, newspapers, and state papers of the Revolutionary years had in fact been heard throughout the century." (p.XV)

    "The newspapers, of which by 1775 there were thirty-eight in the mainland colonies, were crowned with columns of arguments and counter-arguments appearing as letters, official documents, extracts of speeches, and sermons. Broadsides -single sheets on which were often printed not only large-letter notices but, in three of four columns of minuscule type, essays of several thousand words- appeared everywhere ; they could be found posted posted or passing from hand to hand in the towns of every colony. Almanacs, workaday publications universally available in the colonies, carried, in odd corners and occasional columns, a considerable freight of political comment. Above all, there were pamphlets: booklets consisting of a few printer's sheets, folded in various ways so as to make various sizes and numbers of pages, and sold -the pages stitched together loosely, unbound and uncovered- usually for a shilling or two.
    It was in this form -as pamphlets- that much of the most important and characteristic writing of the American Revolution appeared.
    " (p.1-2)

    "More than 400 of them bearing on the Anglo-American controversy were published between 1750 and 1776 ; over 1 500 appeared by 1783." (p.Cool

    "These pamphlets form part of the vast body of English polemical and journalistic literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to which the greatest men of letters contributed. Milton, Halifax, Locke, Defoe, Bolingbroke, Addison were all pamphleteers at least to the extent that Bland, Otis, Dickinson, the Adamses, Wilson, and Jefferson were." (p.Cool

    "The American writers were profoundly reasonable people. Their pamphlets convey scorn, anger, and indignation ; but rarely, blind hate, rarely panic fear. [...] The reader is led through arguments, not images. The pamphlets aim to persuade." (p.18-19)

    "The original issue of the Anglo-American conflict was, of course, the question of the extent of Parliament's jurisdiction in the colonies. But that could not be discussed in isolation. The debate involved eventually a wide range of social and political problems, and it ended by 1776 in what may be called the conceptualization of American life. By then Americans had come to think of themselves as in a special category, uniquely placed by history to capitalize on, to complete and fulfill, the promise of man's existence." (p.20)

    "It was the most creative period in the history of American political thought. Everything that followed assumed and built upon its results." (p.21)

    "The intellectual history of the years of crisis from 1763 to 1776 is the story of the clarification and consolidation under the pressure of events of a view of the world and of America's place in it only partially seen before. Elements of this picture had long been present in the colonies -some dated from as far back as the settlements themselves- but they had existed in balance, as it were, with other, conflicting views." (p.22)

    "Study of the sources of colonists' thought as expressed in the informal as well the formal documents [...] reveals, at first glance, a massive, seemingly random eclecticism. To judge simply from an enumeration of the colonists' citations, they had at their finger tips, and made use of, a large portion of the inheritance of Western culture, from Aristotle to Molière, from Cicero to "Philoleutherus Lipsiensis" [Richard Bentley], from Virgil to Shakespeare, Ramus, Pufendorf, Swift, and Rousseau. They liked to display authorities for their arguments, citing and quoting from them freely ; at times their writings become almost submerged in annotation: in certain of the writing of John Dickinson the text disappears altogether in a sea of footnotes and footnotes to footnotes. But ultimately this profusion of authorities is reductible to a few, distinct groups of sources and intellectual traditions dominated and harmonized into a single whole by the influence of one peculiar strain of thought, one distinctive tradition.
    Most conspicuous in the Revolutionary period was the heritage of classical antiquity. Knowledge of classical authors was universal among colonists with any degree of education and references to them and their works abound in the literature. From the grammar schools, from the colleges, from private tutors and independent reading came a general familiarity with and the habit of reference to the ancient authors and the heroic personalities and events of the ancient world. "Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle, Strabo, Lucian, Dio, Polybius, Plutarch, and Epictetus, among the Greeks ; and Cicero, Horace, Vergil, Tacitus, Lucan, Seneca, Livy, Nepos, Sallust, Ovid, Lucretius, Cato, Pliny, Juvenal, Curtius, Marcus Aurelius, Petronius, Suetonius, Caesar, the lawyers Ulpian and Gaius, and Justinian, among the Romans" -all cited in the Revolutionary literature ; many are directly quoted.
    " (p.23-24)

    "But this elaborate display of classical authors is deceptive. Often the learning behind it was superficial ; often the citations appear to have been dragged in a "window dressing with which to ornament a page or a speech and to increase the weight of an argument"." (p.24)

    "Jefferson, who actually read the Dialogues [of Plato], discovered in them only the "sophisms, futilities, and incomprehensibilities" of a "foggy mind"." (p.24)

    "What gripped their minds, what they knew in detail, and what formed their view of the whole of the ancient world was the political history of Rome from the conquests in the east and the civil wars in the early first century B.C. to the establishment of the empire on the ruins of the republic at the end of the second century A. D. For their knowledge of this period they had at hand, and needed only, Plutarch, Livy, and above all Cicero, Sallust, and Tacitus -writers who had lived either when the republic was being fundamentally challenged or when its greatest days were already past and its moral and political virtues decayed. They had hated and feared the trends of their own time, and in their writing had contrasted the present with a better past, which they endowed with qualities absent from their own, corrupt era. The earlier age have been full of virtue: simplicity, patriotisme, integrity, a love of justice and of liberty ; the present was venal, cynical, and oppresive.
    For the colonists, arguing the American cause in the controversies of the 1760's and 1770's, the analogies to their own times were compelling. They saw their own provincial virtues -rustic and old-fashioned, sturdy and effective- challenged by the corruption at the center of power, by the threat of tyranny, and by a constitution gone wrong. They found their ideal serlves, and to some extent their voices, in Brutus, in Cassius, and in Cicero, whose Catilinarian orations the enraptured John Adams, aged 23, declaimed aloud, alone at night in his room. They were simple, stoical, Catos, desperate, self-sacrificing Brutuses, silver-tongued Ciceros, and terse, sardonic Tactiturses eulogizing Teutonic freedom and denouncing the decadence of Rome. England, the young John Dickinson wrote from London in 1754, is like Sallust's Rome: "Easy to be bought, if there was but a purchaser". Britain, it would soon become clear, was to America "what Caesar was to Rome"
    ." (p.26)

    "More directly influential in shaping the thought of the Revolutionary generation were the ideas and attitudes associated with the writings of Enlightenment rationalism -writings that expressed not simply the rationalism of liberal reform but that of enlightened conservatism as well.
    Despite the efforts that have been made to discount the influence of the "glittering generalities" of the European Enlightenment on eighteenth-century Americans, their influence remains, and is profusely illustrated in the political literature. It is not simply that the great
    virtuosi of the American Enlightenment -Franklin, Adams, Jefferson- cited the classic Enlightenment texts and fought for the legal institutions and practices associated with the ancien régime. They did so ; but they were not alone. The ideas and writings of the leading secular thinkers of the European Enlightenment -reformers and social critics like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Beccaria as well as conservative analysts like Montesquieu- were quoted everywhere in the colonies, by everyone who claimed a broad awereness. In pamphlet after pamphlet the American writers cited Locke on natural rights and on the social and governmental contract, Montesquieu and later Delolme on the character of British liberty and on the institutional requirements for its attainment, Voltaire on the evils of clerical oppression, Beccaria on the reform of criminal law, Grotius, Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, and Vattel on the laws of nature and of nations, and on the principles of civil government." (p.26-27)

    "Everyone, whatever his position on Independance or his judgment of Parliament's actions, cited them as authoritative ; almost no one, Whig or Tory, disputed them or introduced them with apology." (p.28)

    "Just as the colonists cited with enthusiasm the theorists of universal reason, so too did they associate themselves, with offhand familiarity, with the tradition of the English common law." (p.30)

    "Still another tradition, another group of writers and texts, that emerges from the political literature as a major source of ideas and attitudes of the Revolutionary generation stemmed ultimately from the political and social theories of New England Puritanism, and particularly from the ideas associated with covenant theology. For the elaborate system of thought erected by the first leaders of settlement in New England had been consolidated and amplified by a succession of writers in the course of the seventeenth century, channeled into the main stream of eighteenth-century political and social thinking by a generation of enlightened preachers, and softened in its denominational rigor by many hands until it could be received, with minor variations, by almost the entire spectrum of American Protestantism.
    In one sense this was the most limited and parochial tradition that contributed in an important way to the writings of the Revolution, for it drew mainly from local sources and, whatever the extent of its newly acquired latitudinarianism, was yet restricted in its appeal to those who continued to understand the world, as the original Puritans had, in theological terms. But in another sense it contained the broadest ideas of all, since it offered a context for everyday events nothing less than cosmic in its dimensions. It carried on into the eighteenth century and into the minds of the Revolutionaries the idea, originally worked out in the sermons and tracts of the settlement period, that the colonization of British America had been an event designed by the hand of God to satisfy his ultimate aims. Reinvigorated in its historical meaning by newer works like Daniel Neal's
    History of the Puritans (1732-1738), his History of New England (1720), and Thomas Prince's uncompleted Chronological History of New England in the Form of Annuals (1736), this influencial strain of thought, found everywhere in the eighteenth-century colonies, stimulated confidence in the idea that America had a special place, as yet not fully revealed, in the architecture of God's intent." (p.32-33)

    "But important as all of these clusters of ideas were, they did not in themselves form a coherent intellectual pattern, and they do no exhaust the elements that went into the making of the Revolutionary frame of mind. There were among them, in fact, striking incongruities and contradictions. The common lawyers the colonists cited, for example, sought to establish right by appeal to precedent and to an unbroken tradition evolving from time immemorial, and they assumed, if they did not argue, that the accumulation of the ages, the burden of inherited custom, contained within it a greater wisdom than any man or group of men could devise by the power of reason. Nothing could have been more alien to the Enlightenment rationalists whom the colonists also quoted -and with equal enthusiasm. These theorists felt that it was precisely the heavy crust of custom that was weighting down the spirit of man ; they sought to throw it off and to create by the unfettered power of reason a framework of institutions superior to the accidental inheritance of the past. And the covenant theologians differed from both in continuing to assume the ultimate inability of man to improve his condition by hiw own powers and in deriving the principles of politics from divine intent and from the network of obligations that bound redeemed man to his maker.
    What brought these disparate strands of thought together, what dominated the colonists' miscellaneous learning and shaped it into a coherent whole, was the influence of still another group of writers, a group whose thought overlapped with that of those already mentioned but which was yet distinct in its essential characteristics and unique in its determinative power. The ultimate origins of this distinctive ideological strain lay in the radical social and political thought of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth period ; but its permanent form had been acquired at the turn of the seventeenth century and in the early eighteenth century, in the writings of a group of prolific opposition theorists, "country" politicians and publicists.
    Among the seventeenth-century progenitors of this line of eighteenth-century radical writers and opposition politicians united in criticism of "court" and ministerial power, Milton was an important figure -not Milton the poet so much as Milton the radical tractarian, author of
    Eikonoklastes and The Tenure of Kinds and Magistrates (both published in 1649). The American Revolutionary writers referred with similar respect if with less understanding to the more systematic writing of Harrington and to that of the like-minded Henry Neville ; above all, they referred to the doctrines of Algernon Sidney, that "martyr to civil liberty" whose Discourses Concerning Government (1698) became, in Caroline Robbins' phrase, a "textbook of revolution" in America.
    The colonists identified themselves with thse seventeenth-century heroes of liberty: but they felt closer to the early eighteenth-century writers who modified and enlarged this earlier body of ideas, fused it into a whole with other, contemporary strains of thought, and, above all, applied it to the problems of eighteenth-century English politics. These early eighteenth-century writers -coffehouse radicals and opposition politicians, spokesmen for the anti-Court independents within Parliament and the disaffected without, draftsmen of a "country" vision of English politics that would persist throughout the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth- faded subsequently into obscurity and are little known today. But more than any other single group of writers they shaped the mind of the American Revolutionary generation.
    To the colonists the most important of these publicists and intellectual middlemen were those spokesmen for extreme libertarianism, John Trenchard (1662-1723) and Thomas Gordon (d. 1750). The former, a west-country squire of ample means and radical ideas, was a 57-year-old veteran of the pamphlet wars that surrounded the Glorious Revolution when in 1719 he met Gordon, "a clever young Scot... fresh from Aberdeen University, [who had come] to London to make his fortune, equipped with little but a sharp tongue and a ready wit". They joined forces to produce, first, the weekly
    Independent Whig to attack High Church, pretensions and, more generally, the establishment of religion, fifty-three papers of which were published in book form in 1721 ; and Cato's Letters, a searing indictment of eighteenth-century English poliics and society written in response to the South Sea Buble crisis, which appeared first serially in the London Journal and then, beginning in 1720, in book form. Incorporating in their colorful, slashing, superbly readable pages the major themes of the "left" opposition under Walpole, these libertarian tracts, emerging first in the form of dununciation of standing armies in the reign of William III, left an indelible imprint on the "country" mind everywhere in the English-speaking world. In America, where they were republished entire or in part again and again, "quoted in every colonial newspaper from Boston to Savannah", and referred to repeatedly in the pamphlet literature, the writings of Trenchard and Gordon ranked with the treatises of Locke as the most authoritative statement of the nature of political liberty and above Locke as an exposition of the social sources of the threats it faced.
    Standing with Trenchard and Gordon as early eighteenth-century "preceptors of civil liberty" was the liberal Anglican bishop, Benjamin Hoadly. This "best hated clergyman of the century among his own order", as Leslie Stephen described him -honored and promoted by an administration that despised him but could not do without him- achieved fame, or notoriety, in England for his role in the elaborate clerical polemics of the "Bangorian Controversy" (1717-1720), in which he had been asisted by Gordon. In the course of his bitter and voluminous debate he has become an object of scorn and vituperation as well as of admiration in England ; but in the colonies he was widely held to be one of the notable figures in the history of political thought. Anglicans in America, it was true, like their co-denominationalists at home, could scarcely endorse his extraordinary denial of sacerdotal powers for the Church hierarchy of his almost unbelievable repudiation of the whole idea of the church visible, nor could they, in theory at least, accept his extreme toleration of dissent. But their attention focused not on his views of the Church but on the crucial battles he had fought early in the century against the non-jurors and their doctrines of divine right and passive obedience, and on the extreme statements of Whig political theory in his treatise
    The Original and Institution of Civil Government Discussed (1710) and in certain of his many tracts, especially The Measures of Submission to the Civil Magistrates Considered (1705). Ultimately, Hoadly came to embody physically the continuity of the conglomerate tradition of English radical and opposition thought, for though he had been active at the end of the seventeenth century, he lived on until 1761, associating in his very old age with the English radicals of Jefferson's generation and establishing contact with such spokesmen of advanced American thought as Jonathan Mayhew.
    With Hoadly, among this contemporaries, thought below him in importance to the Americans, was the outstanding opponent in Parliament of Walpole's administration, the leader of a coterie of early eighteenth-century freethinking Whigs, Robert Viscount Molesworth. Friend of Trenchard and Gordon, encomiast of
    Cato's Letters (they were frequently attributed to him), he was known particulary in the colonies for his Account of Denmark (1694), which detailed the process by which free states succumb to absolutism. An opposition leader of another sort who contributed in a more complicated way to the colonists' inheritance of early eighteenth-century thought was the spectacular Jacobite politician, writer, and philosopher, Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke. His Craftsman, appearing weekly or semiweekly for a full ten years, from 1726 to 1736, roasted Walpole's administration in crackling fires of ridicule and denunciation. Its savage, bitter, relentless attacks were indistinguishable from Cato's polemics on major points of political criticism. The Craftsman, in fact, quoted the writings of Trenchard and Gordon freely, and otherwise, in almost identical language, decried the corruption of the age and warned of the dangers of incipient autocracy.
    The Scottish philosopher, Francis Hutcheson, and the nonconformist schoolmaster, Philip Doddridge, were also figures of this generation the colonists knew and cited in the same general context, as was Isaac Watts, the hymnologist and writer on questions of church and education.
    The tradition continued into the Revolutionaries' own generation, promoted by Richard Baron, republican and dissenter, associate and literary heir of Thomas Gordon, who republished in 1750's political works of Milton and Sidney and issued also an anthology of the writings of the later radicals, including Jonathan Mayhew ; and promoted even more effectively by that extraordinary one-man propaganda machine in the cause of liberty, the indefatiguable Thomas Hollis, whose correspondence in the 1760's with Mayhew and then with Andrew Eliot illustrates vividly the directness of the influence of this radical and opposition tradition on the ideological origins of the Revolution. In the Revolutionary years proper a groupe of still younger writers renewed the earlier ideas, extended them still further, and, together with the leading spokesmen for the colonies, applied them to the Anglo-American controversy. Foremost among these later English advocates of reform in politics and religion were Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, and John Cartwright ; but the key book of this generation was the three-volume
    Political Disquisitions published in 1774 by the schoolmaster, political theorist, and moralist, James Burgh. The republican historian Catharine Macaulay, whose History of England has aptly been called "an imaginative work in praise of republican principles under the title of a History of England", was also an important intellectual figure of this generation of the colonists, but among the many Whig historians the Americans knew and referred to -including Bulstrode Whitelock, Gilbert Burnet, William Guthrie, and James Ralph- their preference was for the exiled Hugenot, Paul de Rapin-Thoyras. His "inestimable treasure", the vast, radically Whiggish Histoire d'Angleterre, published in English between 1725 and 1731, together with his earlier sketch of the whole, A Dissertation on the ... Whigs and Tories (1717: reprinted in Boston in 1773), provided indisputable proof of the theories of all the radical and anti-establishment writers by demonstrating their validity through a thousand years of English history. But all history, not only English history, was vital to the thought of the Revolutionary generation, and it is a matter of particular consequence that among the best, or at least the most up-to-date, translations of Sallust and Tacitus available to the colonists were those by the ubiquitous Thomas Gordon, "under whose hands [Tacitus] virtually became an apologist for English Whiggery" ; he prefaced his translations with introducy "Discourses" of prodigious length in which he explained beyong all chance of misunderstanding the political and moral meaning of those ancient historians." (p.33-42)

    "By 1728, in fact, Cato's Letters had already been fused with Locke, Coke, Pufendorf, and Grotius to produce a prototypical American treatise in defense of English liberties overseas, a tract indistinguishable from any number of publications that would appear in the Revolutionary crisis fifty years later." (p.43)

    "Where the mainstream purveyors of political achievements of Georgian England, the opposition writers, no less proud of the heritage, viewed their circumstances with alarm, "stressed the danger to England's ancient heritage and the loss of pristine virtue", studied the processes of decay, and dwelt endlessly on the evidences of corruption they saw about them and the dark future these malignant signs portended. They were the Cassandras of the age, and while their maledictions "were used for party purposes... what [they] said about antique virtue, native liberty, public spirit, and the dangers of luxury and corruption was of general application" and was drawn from the common repository of political lore. They used the commonplaces of the age negatively, critically. They were the enemies of complacence in one of the most complacent eras in England's history." (p.46)

    "Few of them accepted the Glorious Revolution and the lax political pragmatism that had followed as the final solution to the political problems of the time. They refused to believe that the transfer of sovereignty from the crown to Parliament provided a perfect guarantee that the individual would be protected from the power of the state. Ignoring the complacence and general high level of satisfaction of this time, they called for vigilance against the government of Walpole equal to what their predecessors had shown against the Stuarts. They insisted, at a time when government was felt to be less oppressive than it had been for two hundred years, that it was necessarily -by its very nature- hostile to human liberty and happiness ; that, properly, it existed only on the tolerance of the people whose needs it served ; and that it could be, and reasonably should be, dismissed -overthrown- if it attempted to exceed its proper jurisdiction.
    It was the better to maintain this vigil against governement that they avocated reforms -political reforms, not social or ecenomic reforms, for these were eighteenth, nor nineteenth, or twentieth-century English Radicals- beyond anything admissible in Walpole's age, or indeed in any age that followed in England until well into the nineteenth century. At one time or another, one or another of them argued for adult manhood suffrage ; elimination of the rotten borough system and the substitution of regular units of representation systematically related to the distribution of population ; the binding of representatives to their constituencies by residential requirements and by instructions ; alterations in the definition of seditious libel so as to permit full freedom of the press to criticize government ; and the total withdrawal of government control over the practice of religion.
    Such ideas, based on extreme solicitude for the individual and an equal hostility to government, were expressed in a spirit of foreboding and fear for the future. For while they acknowledged the existing stability and prosperity of England, they nevertheless grounded their thought in pessimism concerning human nature and in the discouraging record of human weakness.
    " (p.46-48)

    "[In the mainland colonies of North America] the multiplicity of religious groupings, the need for continuous encouragement of immigration, and the distance from European centers of ecclesiastical authority had weakened the force of religious establishments below anything known in Europe. There the moral basis of a healthy, liberty-preserving polity seemed already to exist in the unsophisticated lives of the independent, uncorrupted, landowning yeoman farmers who comprised so large a part of the colonial population." (p.52)

    "It was in terms of this pattern of ideas and attitudes -originating in the English Civil War and carried forward with additions and modifications not on the surface of English political life but in its undercurrents stirred by doctrinaire libertarians, disaffected politicians, and religious dissenters -that the colonists responsed to the new regulations imposed by England on her American colonies after 1763." (p.54)

    "Not that power was in itself -in some metaphysical sense- evil. It was natural in its origins, and necessary. [...] What made it so, what turned power into a malignant force, was not its own nature so much as the nature of man- his susceptibility to corruption and his lust for self-aggrandizement." (p.58-59)

    "Conclusive examples of what happened when standing armies were permitted to dominate communities were constantly before their minds' eyes. There was, first and foremost, the exempla of the Turks, whose rulers -cruel, sensuous "bashaws in their little divans"- were legendary, ideal types of despots who reigned unchecked by right or law or in any sense the consent of the people ; their power rested on the swords of their vicious janissaries, the worst of standing armies. So too had the French kings snuffed out the liberties of their subjects "by force" and reduced to nothing the "puny privilege of the French parliaments". The ranks of "despotic kingdoms" included also Poland, Spain, and Russia ; India and Egypt were occasionally mentioned too." (p.63)

    "But the most vivid of these sad cases, because the most closely studied, was that of Denmark. The destruction of parliamentary liberties in Denmark had in fact taken place a century before, but that event, carefully examined in a treatise famous in opposition circles and in America, was experienced as contemporary by the colonists.
    Molesworth's
    An Account of Denmark (1694) established the general point, implicit in all similar histories but explicit in this one, that the preservation of liberty rested on the ability of the people to maintain effective checks on the wielders of power, and hence in the last analysis rested on the vigilance and moral stamina of the people." (p.65)

    "The colonists' attitude to the whole world of politics and government was fundamentally shaped by the root assumption that they, as Britishers, shared in a unique inheritance of liberty. The English people, they believed, though often threatened by despots who had risen in their midst, had managed to maintain, to a greater degree and for a longer period of time than any other people, a tradition of the successful control of power and of those evil tendencies of human nature that would prevent its proper uses.
    In view of the natural obstacles that stood in the way of such a sucess and in view of the dismal history of other nations, this, as the colonists saw it, had been an extraordinary achievement. But it was not a miraculous one. It could be explained historically
    ." (p.66-67)

    "Liberty [...] was the capacity to exercice "natural rights" within limits set by the mere will or desire of men in power but by non-arbitrary law- law enacted by legislatures containing within them the proper balances of forces.
    But what were these all-important "natural rights" ? They were defined in a significantly ambiguous way. They were understood to be at one and the same time the inalienable, indefeasible rights inherent in people as such, and the concrete specifications of English law. [...]
    Such God-given, natural, inalienable rights, distilled from reason and justice through the social and governmental compacts, were expressed in the common law of England, in the statutory enactments of Parliament, and in the charters of privileges promulgated by the crown. [...]
    But this relationship between human rights and English law -so simple sounding when expressed in casual phrases like Daniel Dulany's "unalienable rights of the subject"- was in fact complicated even before the events of the events of the 1760's and seventies placed the whole issue under severe pressure. Even then the identification between the two was known to be necessarily incomplete, for the provision of English law did not and properly could not wholly exhaust the great treasury of human rights. No documentary specification ever could. Laws, grants, and charters merely stated the essentials (which everyone summarized, with minor variations in phrasing, as "personal security, personal liberty, and private property") insofar, and only insofar, as they had come under attack in the course of English history. They marked out the minimum not the maximum boundaries of right
    ." (p.77-78)

    "Conceiving of liberty, then, as the exercice, within the boundaries of the law, of natural rights whose essences were minimally stated in English law and custom, the colonists saw in the balance of powers of the British constitution "a system of consummate widsom" that provided an effective "check upon the power to oppress". Yet they were far from optimistic about the future of liberty." (p.79)

    "In the end liberty, as all the world knew, had been re-established in England, for the Glorious Revolution had created "that happy establishment which Great Britain has since enjoyed". But it had been a close victory which would require the utmost vigilance to maintain." (p.81)

    "Though the idea that America was a purer and freer England came largely from local, nonconformist reading of history, it was reinforced by powerful elements within Enlightenment thought. European illuminati continued to identify America, as John Locke had done, with something approximating a benign state of nature and to think of the colonies as special preserves of virtue and liberty. They could not help but note the refreshing simplicity of life and the wholesome consequences of the spread of freehold tenure. Nor could thet deny the argument of Trenchard that the colonies demonstrated the military effectiveness of militia armies whose members were themselves the beneficiaries of the constitution and hence not likely to wish to destroy it. No less a figure than Voltaire stated that America was the redinement of all that was good in England, writing in his Lettres philosophiques that Penn and the Quakers had actually brought into existence "that golden age of which men talk so musch and which probably has never existed anywhere except in Pennsylvania". At lower levels of sophistication too -in the propaganda turned out by promoters of emigration- the idea was broadcast that inhabitants of the colonies enjoyed a unique simplicity and rectitude in their social life and a special freedom in their politics.
    Not all, of course, agreed. A contrary picture of the colonists as provincial rustics steadily degenerating in a barbarous environment distant from civilizing influences persisted. But on the eve of the Revolutionary controversy Americans, if not all Europeans and if not the crown officials who legally ruled them, could see themselves as peculiarly descended, and chosen for a special destiny.
    " (p.83-84)

    "Even for those who had in no way been concerned with the threat of an episcopal esthablishment, the passage of the Stamp Act was not merely an impolitic and unjust law that threatened the priceless right of the individual to retain possession of his property until he or his chosen representative voluntarily gave it up to another ; it was to many, also, a danger signal indicating that a more general threat existed. For thought it could be argued, and in a sense proved by the swift repeal of the act, that nothing more was involved than ignorance or confusion on the part of people in power who really knew better and who, once warned by the reaction of the colonists, would not repeat the mistake -though this could be, and by many was, concluded, there nevertheless appeared to be good reason to suspect that more was involved. For from whom had the false information and evil advice come that had so misled the English government ? From officials in the colonies, said John Adams, said Oxenbridge Thacher, James Otis, and Stephen Hopkins -from officials bent on overthrowing the constituted forms of government in order to satisfy their own lust for power, and not likely to relent in their passion. Some of these local plotters were easily identified. To John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and others, the key figure in Massachusetts from the beginning to the end was Thomas Hutchinson who by "serpentine wiles" was befuddling and victimizing the weak, the avaricious, and the incautious in order to increase his notorious engrossment of public office. In Rhode Island it was, to James Otis, that "little, dirty, drinking, drabbing, contaminated knot of thieves, beggars, and transports... made up of Turks, Jexs, and other infidels, with a few Martin Howard, Jr., which had already been accused by Stephen Hopkins and others in Providence of "conspiring against the liberties of the colony".
    But even if local leaders associated with power elements in England had not been so suspect, there were grounds for seeing more behind the Stamp Act than its ostensible purpose. The official aim of the acte was, of course, to bring in revenue to the English treasury. But the sums involved were in fact quite small, and "some persons... may be inclined to acquiese under it". But that would be to fall directly into the trap, for the smaller the taxes, John Dickinson wrote in the most influential pamphlet published in America before 1776, the more dangerous they were, since they would the more easily be found acceptable by the incautious, with the result that a precedent would be established for making still greater inroads on liberty and property
    ."(p.99-101)
    -Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Harvard University Press, 1992 (1967 pour la première édition états-unienne), 396 pages.



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    « La racine de toute doctrine erronée se trouve dans une erreur philosophique. [...] Le rôle des penseurs vrais, mais aussi une tâche de tout homme libre, est de comprendre les possibles conséquences de chaque principe ou idée, de chaque décision avant qu'elle se change en action, afin d'exclure aussi bien ses conséquences nuisibles que la possibilité de tromperie. » -Jacob Sher, Avertissement contre le socialisme, Introduction à « Tableaux de l'avenir social-démocrate » d'Eugen Richter, avril 1998.

    "La vraie volupté est remportée comme une victoire sur la tristesse [...] Il n’y a pas de grands voluptueux sans une certaine mélancolie, pas de mélancoliques qui ne soient des voluptueux trahis." -Albert Thibaudet, La vie de Maurice Barrès, in Trente ans de vie française, volume 2, Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1919, 312 pages, p.40.


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