Monday, January 31, 2011

Wikileaks Principles are "Those of the American Revolution"

So claims its leader. One reason why we spend so much time at American Creation discussing the Founding is people value the American Founding. Folks make an argument -- perhaps logically fallacious -- of appeal to the authority of the American Founding. It's like the argument ad populum. It may be logically fallacious, but in a democracy it has some value to it.

Interestingly, there are some conservatives who might agree with Assange's claim. The American Revolution was, after all, a revolution. Revolutions by nature defy prevailing political authorities.

Those conservatives who want to value the Founding but not revolutions, get around that by arguing, perhaps correctly, that the US Constitution, NOT the Declaration of Independence is what governs America.


Angie Van De Merwe said...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I should clarify, political leaders are trusted only insofar they remain true to the Constitution and the principle of liberty. And those two American values seem paradoxical.

The Wikileaks have been viewed as a "right" of the public to know, but others have viewed it as an undermining of our nation's interest. Which is it?

There are some things that should be protected because of the more important interests of the nation state and security. Others would argue that without an informed populace, then, leaders are not accountable. Which is more important? Possible corruption or possible terrorist attack? said...

Good observation on the way people show their respect for the founders through their appeals to them. Why do you think that is? Is it that we think of ourselves as a "proposition nation" based upon Jefferson's self evident truths? Or is it something else?

I think some conservatives also support the revolution because they see it as conserving social and political arrangements of the colonies from the attempts at reorganization after 1763.

In fact, my favorite historian of the colonial/early nation period, Jack Greene, just published a book on that very topic. I am anxiously waiting my local university library to get a copy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But Army Private Bradley Manning is a traitor.

As for Assange, as he's not a US citizen, he can do what he wants for world peace, I suppose. But he has no reasonable claim to the Founding, nor would I bet he knows very much about it.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I agree with you, Tom. And this is the danger for/to our nation-state when it comes to globalization. Citizens are granted rights, but are responsible also to maintain the "standards" of peace toward our nation and its interests.

At the same time, if one universalizes the DOI, then our Founders were traitors to Britian. Again, there is no need for Americans to revolt when our Constitution grants the right to petition government for grievances. And we have the right to vote, and be active in the political process.

Where do we grant others their right to liberty? I think that it is important that we stay out of other people's business. But, is this possible when we have such vested interests in other governments and their resources?

Tom Van Dyke said...

The D of I spells out why the colonists are NOT traitors. They do not recognize the authority of Parliament, and maintain that the King "abdicated" [an echo of the 1688 Glorious Revolution, BTW].

jimmiraybob said...

But Army Private Bradley Manning is a traitor.

Well, to be consistent with founding principles, there's still the trial phase.

The D of I spells out why the colonists are NOT traitors.

T.H. Breen's American Insurgents, American Patriots is a pretty good read and presents a pretty good case that the rebellious colonists and their pre-DOI activities were, at the very least, unconstitutional (relative to the British Constitutional concept) and extra legal - a point that the colonial loyalists (to British rule and the rule of law at the time) would hardly have thought outlandish.

The DOI was written following 1-2 years of what was considered by loyalists and the prevailing legal authority as treasonous activities incited by a radical insurgent leadership.

Had the early rebellion been squelched or if the Crown had been successful in the war, history would have been written differently.

I'm not cheer leading for the Crown/Tory side, I'm just pointing out some complexity.

jimmiraybob said...

Benjamin Franklin, traitor or patriot?

from here.

In 1772 [jrb - early in the American rebellion] an unknown member of Parliament showed Franklin certain letters, six of which were written by Gov. Hutchinson [jrb - Massachusetts' Governor appointed by the crown] in 1768-69, said to have been addressed (the name had been erased) to William Whately, former secretary of Grenville, urging drastic measures on the ground that "there must be an abridgment of what are called English Liberties" (the letters are in J. K. Hosmer, Life of Hutchinson, 1896, p. 429).

By permission of the possessor, Franklin sent the letters to Thomas Cushing, with the stipulation that they should be returned to him without being either copied or printed (Writings, V, 448; VI, 265; X, 260). The letters were shortly printed in Boston and circulated in London, the immediate result of which was a duel between Thomas Whately, executor of the estate of William Whately, and John Temple, whom Whately accused of stealing the letters. To exonerate Temple, Franklin declared that he alone had procured and transmitted the letters, and that neither Thomas Whately nor Temple had ever had possession of them (Ibid., VI, 284).

In conservative circles Franklin was at once denounced as an incendiary and a thief; the government dismissed him from his office as deputy postmaster-general (Ibid., VI, 191); and on Jan. 29, 1774, at a hearing before the Privy Council in the Cockpit on a petition of the Massachusetts House to remove Hutchinson, Solicitor General Wedderburn, on the assumption that Franklin had purloined the letters, denounced him in unmeasured terms as a man without honor who would "henceforth esteem it a libel to be called a man of letters: homo TRIUM literarum"--a man of three letters, i.e. FUR, the Latin word for thief (Ibid., X, 269.]

Supported by his friends, and convinced that the sending of the letters was "one of the best actions of his life" (Writings, X, 270), Franklin remained in England, aiding Pitt in his fruitless efforts at conciliation (Ibid., VI, 318-98; X, 272 ff.), until Mar. 20, 1775, when he sailed for America.

On May 6, 1775, the day following his return to Philadelphia, Franklin was chosen a member of the second Continental Congress.

If, from our perspective, Franklin is a patriot because he, by betraying the legal authority of the Crown, advanced the "American Cause" of expanded political liberty by acting against a perceived imperial despotism, then how different are Manning & Assange's actions?

Note, I broke up a long quoted passage to make it more reader friendly.

Discuss at will.

Tom Van Dyke said...

T.H. Breen's American Insurgents, American Patriots is a pretty good read and presents a pretty good case that the rebellious colonists and their pre-DOI activities were, at the very least, unconstitutional (relative to the British Constitutional concept)

JRB, I'm thinking of Hamilton's argument in "The Farmer Refuted" that the colonies' charters were from the king in the earlier 1600s, predating the "constitutional monarchy" scheme that developed at the end of the 1600s.

Parliament has no hold on them, a claim reflected by the D of I.

Pinky said...

I think this post and the ensuing comments bring up the importance of The Federalist.
As a result of all the posts that have built up over the past couple of years, I believe it would be good to turn to what the public read in their newspapers that helped them make the choice they made to Found our society on a firmer foundation; which, in my mind, is the real creation of America.
Thanks to the bloggers who decide to reopen The Federalist here.