August 11, 2012

AND NOWHERE MORE ENGLISH THAN IN OUR REJECTION OF rEASON:

Mistaken Identities : a review of America's British Culture  by Russell Kirk.  (JOHN O'SULLIVAN, University Bookman)

 The simple message of his latest book is that America has its own national identity, but that it is one built firmly on British cultural foundations. He offers what he calls a "summary account" of the four main foundations: the English language and its literature; the rule of law based upon British common law; a system of representative government that in most respects imitated Britain's domestic political institutions; and an ethical heritage of mores and customs that reflected the surprisingly rich variety of British churches and religious sects in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Although these foundations are at present being sapped by the multiculturalists, they are still capable of being restored to their original condition.

The volume is a slim one--but not too slim for Dr. Kirk to take us on some pleasant intellectual detours as he argues his case. He reminds us that, although we take for granted that Anglo-American law is friendlier to individual liberty than the European Roman Law tradition, its survival after 1776 was far from a foregone conclusion. Jefferson, who thought they did these things better in France, was among those suspicious of common law as a colonial relic. It was fortunate that he had been succeeded by the commonsensical Madison when Jeremy Bentham, a thoroughgoing rationalist on the French model, offered to draw up an entire system of American law de novo.

One of the blinder contretemps of our current politics involves the Right's insistence on American exceptionalism, which is more than balanced in its silliness by the Left's love of multiculturalism.  The reality is that the similarities within the Anglosphere and among the countries that have consciously aligned themselves with us are overwhelming, the differences pretty minor. 

Posted by at August 11, 2012 8:34 AM
  

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