Origins of American Government: a reply to Seeker1

Steven, I respect your thinking greatly, but this time I feel you are guilty of sloppiness in your argument. You write " They've bequeathed it to us in the form of a new experimental form of government" but I would contend instead that the only "new" part was to call the head of state a "President" instead of a "King of the People". Before anyone says Kings arent elected, that wasnt always the case (e.g. the King of Scots - the People, never the Land- who was elected by a Parliament of Nobles and Commoners at least 500 years before the American Constitution). Nor was the notion that all men were created equal all that new or experimental, and in any case in the US it was effectively " All men ( who are over the age of 30 and landowners and not mad or criminals and are white) are created equal".

http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/home/scotland/ar... for an english translation of a Declaration which resonates still in the far later American one.

Finally, it has been written many times by those far more erudite than myself that the American Constitution was primarily a product of Masonic ethical and political reasoning. Many, if not a majority, of the signatories to that document were masons, and many influential early Americans were also either Scottish by birth or by close decent. The origins of the American "experiment" were not new; they were simply a continuation of the ancient government of the Scots by other means following the disasterous and traitorous Union with England which had destroyed that tradition not too many years before.

To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men

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Seeker1's picture
Member since:
5 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 44 weeks

1. I recognize the roots of the American experiment in many earlier systems. Not just those of the Scotsmen, BTW, but also those of the Iroquois Confederacy and its Great League of Peace, which also used a separation of powers. I'm sorry if you took "new" to mean something I didn't mean.

2. Yes, I'm painfully aware that the Declaration of Independence was not a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Jefferson was a slaveowner, himself, and thus could only go so far. I wasn't trying to suggest, again, that it was anything it wasn't, but it was a great leap forward to suggest, for once, that kings, nobles, and barons put their pants on one leg at a time, just like commoners, and were also subject to the same laws rather than "droit de siegneur". (And again, please don't assume I'm suggesting this idea wasn't put forward before.)

We're arguing at cross purposes with each other, I think, because I hope you would agree with me on my main point, which is that if the Founding Fathers left anything to posterity, it was more in the realm of political ideas than some treasure stash. (Whether or not there was anything new about it; Solomon said nothing was new under the sun; in fact it looks like democratic decision-making was the norm for human beings for thousands of years before they decided, under the reign of surplus economies, to do things hierarchically.)

How typical for Hollywood to turn a philosophical treasure into a material one.

There are many who feel American government and politics is turning into a morass of corruption and special interests, but I still would accept Churchill's word on the matter:

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."

Steven Mizrach
Academic, Pop Culture Junkie, Grail Recycler

Cernig's picture
Member since:
11 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 40 weeks

Thank you Steven, for a most erudite reply. I agree with every point you make above. What motivated my original post was a wish to make it plain that the American experiment was and is nothing new, nothing unique, and I am glad that you also recognise this. Too often, it is easy to slip unbidden into useage which only reinforces an ability to be arrogant from a position of ignorance. This is the true basis of the rest of the world's complaints about the US and the fuel for the US' actions in foreign policy. As journalist Gwynne Dyer wrote:

"Public debate in the United States generally assumes that America is the only true home of democracy and freedom, and that other people and countries are "pro-American'' or "anti-American'' because they support or reject those ideals. Practically nobody on the rest of the planet would recognise this picture, but it is the only one most Americans are shown -and it has major foreign policy implications."

(Source: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info... )

As I have written before (cf Age of Empires on my blog) this mind-set (a casually arrogant assumption that the Empire is the only home of reason and civilisation) is symptomatic of and endemic to any entrenched Empire as it becomes stagnant and begins to decay, from Rome to the British of the Victorian Era. It is a major motivator behind the cycle of imperial injustice and backlash by the ruled as the former simply cannot see the injustice and the latter are liable to be as inflamed by the casualness of the injustices as by the abuses themselves.

Democracy, as you say, is nothing new, nor is it trademarked "Made in the USA".

To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men

Seeker1's picture
Member since:
5 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 44 weeks

Don't get me wrong -- I am no arrogant, xenophobic love it or leave it breast-beater. Right now, I'm very ashamed of my country and its leaders at the moment. If you saw what I wrote for the last incarnation of the DG about the Iraq War, you would know this for sure (and that was before the Abu Ghraib incidents).

It irritates me to no end that the idiots ranting about the French have no idea about American history. Yes, we saved their arses at Normandy. But, uhhh, fella, before you go tossing out your French fries, remember that several French commanders helped us gain that little tiny thing we call our independence. Ya know?

If anything, I would say the biggest problems with my country right now stem from the fact that it is moving away from the "Masonic" vision of the Founding Fathers, perhaps most particularly regarding their insistence of separation of church and state and a highly limited executive branch, whose powers to wage war had to be restrained by congress and the courts.

Call me crazy, but it we're going to send troops into country X, we should declare war on them first. Yet, somehow, since WW II, we've declared war on nobody, yet increasingly sent more and more troops on adventures abroad.

Again, the main thing sparking my response to "National Treasure" is it is a pathetic attempt to obscure the real value of the Declaration of Indendence -- however imperfect a document it was -- by turning it into a treasure map! That is SO Hollywood.

Steven Mizrach
Academic, Pop Culture Junkie, Grail Recycler

Cernig's picture
Member since:
11 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 40 weeks

Yes, yes, yes and yes again.

To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men

Jameske's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
2 years 26 weeks

Since, Old Arthur is in the news at the moment. His successor was supposedly elected. In the Irish Annals it is clear enough that the Monarch of All Ireland was elected, supposedly during the Dark Ages, where they would be crowned on a stone of destiny atop Tara - where have I heard that before?

Perhaps when an elected King died during his reign his offspring would be heir to the throne until the time of the next election. Possibly the origin of disputes over the throne in ancient times.

One can see how this has carried into more modern democracies. Don't really think that much has essentially changed since the Druids ran everything.