Against Patrick Deneen (I)

Don Trioani, Stand Your Ground, (1976).

Captain Levi Preston of Danvers, Massachusetts, interviewed about his participation in the first battle of the American Revolution many years later, at the age of 91, around 1843:

“Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord Fight? [Was it because you] were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw any stamps, and I always understood that none were ever sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax, I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard.”

“But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”

“Well, then, what was the matter?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”

—Adapted slightly from David Hacket Fisher, Paul Revere’s Ride (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 163-164.

To read other bits of my jousting for the future of the American right, you might find the posts of my older posts on the problem: “Conservatism’s Generational Civil War,” “Questing for Transcendence,” and “On the American Football Game” of interest. To get updates on new posts published at the Scholar’s Stage, you can join the Scholar’s Stage mailing list, follow my twitter feed, or support my writing through Patreon. Your support makes this blog possible.

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I really enjoy your blog. Please keep up this great content. It is much appreciated.

It matters not. The type of family structure that made Anglo-Liberalism possible is already collapsing. You are only choosing the atomized despotism and clannish despotism. Deneen is really about what can be salvaged.

Is this a response to Why Liberalism Failed, or has he written/posted something else that this is about?

The March 19, 1894 address where Mellen Chamberlain told that story is interesting. One enduring theme of this and Chamberlain's other work is the importance he places on seeing the Revolution as a defense of the existing, customary, and indigenous, American political order. In his view, all American colonies were exceptional in this sense, with Massachusetts being the most exceptional of all. Hence why his patriotic Massachusetts exceptionalism leads him to salute the "men of '61" as well as the "men of '75".

Deneen seems to view the Revolution as an entirely Lockean, proto-liberal affair. This might have been the prevailing view in the 1950s, but it has been out of date among historians for at least two generations now.