[What follows is an oldie but goodie from 2006 that I originally wrote before American Creation existed. Claremont (as far as I know) no longer reproduces Jaffa's response. But you can still read my quoted excerpts of it.]
There are a number of interesting recent posts on Claremont's site where Claes G. Ryn, a (Russell) Kirkian traditionalist, criticizes Claremont's embrace of Man's Reason/and the anti-traditionalism of the Declaration of Independence. Ryn's criticisms have prompted Jaffa to respond:
As a disciple of Leo Strauss, I protest vehemently at being classified with Jacobins. I assure my readers, that no one has had a greater abhorrence of Jacobinism than I -- or Strauss....Of course, there are many ancient customs, like slavery and human sacrifice, that we do not think anyone ought to follow. Willmore Kendall used to say that tarring, feathering, and riding on a rail was as much an American tradition as the free speech guarantee of the first amendment. And he was right. Only the one was a good tradition and the other a bad tradition. Ryn himself says that "we need the best of the human heritage to guide us." But how are we to know the best, and avoid the worst, except by the use of our reason? To incorporate tradition into our political thought we must be able to distinguish the good from the bad.
I largely agree with Jaffa's sentiment; although I obviously disagree with many of Jaffa's conclusions that, using Reason as a guide, he reaches. But, the point of agreement between Jaffa/Claremont on the one hand and more libertarian classical liberal thinkers like yours truly on the other, is that public moral arguments should take place mainly within the domain of Man's Reason. What's written in the Bible, tradition, and history may be useful guides in some respect; but they are to be subservient to Reason.
As far as the French Revolution is concerned, I obviously think that it -- and by that I mean the theoretical case for it (not! how the Revolution, in practice, turned out) -- was a good idea; indeed, support for the theoretical/ideological case made in the Declaration of Independence demands in principle support for the French Revolution given that the ideas in the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man strikingly parallel those of America's Declaration. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence was heralded in France and helped spark their revolution. Jefferson, the Declaration's author, while in France, supported and helped to spur on their Revolution. He even assisted in writing the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man. Thus, there is an irrefutable ideological connection between these events.
In practice, the French Revolution turned out not so well. But in fairness, they had a monarchy to overthrow and a national church to disestablish.
A side note: I'm continually amazed by those who would argue that America's Declaration of Independence is a Biblical document. Gordon Mullings, someone with whom I have had painstaking dealings, stubbornly continues to argue this while being consistently refuted. His case largely relies on the fact that the Dutch, in 1581, then a fairly orthodox Protestant nation, constructed a document which anticipated *some* of the ideas contained in America's Declaration, and otherwise bears a faint resemblance to it. He then, based on this tenuous connection between the two documents deems America's Declaration to be "Biblically" based.
Well, given that there is far more of a resemblance and connection between America's DOI and the French's Declaration of the Rights of Man, if we are going to "credit" the "Bible" for the Declaration of Independence, and hence America's Revolution, we likewise must "blame" the Bible for France's "Biblically based" Declaration of the Rights of Man and hence the French Revolution.
For crying out loud, even Robert Bork, on page 58 of Slouching Towards Gomorrah, has the honesty to write "Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment, and the Declaration of Independence is an Enlightenment document."