Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Richard on Tensions in the Synthesis of Originalism

A commenter at my personal blog left this observation:
Fascinating commentary, Jon. Thank you! As you write, Bernard Bailyn identifies several strands contributing to the ideology of the Founders. Bailyn offers us a whimsical mnemonic based on 4 names, Locke, Abraham, Brutus and Cook. These names represent four 'disparate' strands, (i.e., Abraham represents the covenant theology of the New England Puritans).

According to Bailyn, the 4 are harmonized somehow by the philosophy of the Commonwealthmen/Real Whigs/country party radicals. But I find the harmonizing process suggested by Bailyn difficult to understand. For example, it's not clear how the Commonwealthmen are able to harmonize Abraham and Locke.

Nevertheless, however it happened, it is pretty clear that Abraham and Locke did get harmonized by the time of the American Revolution. Tocqueville writes admiringly about it: "In France, I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reined in common over the same country."

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