Jefferson Davis On The Origins Of American Republicanism

1/1/15, by Clement Pulaski


In my recent post refuting the anti-American position held by some White Nationalists, I used a couple of quotes from the great Jefferson Davis, the last legitimate American president. The quotes were taken from his magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. The book contains many important observations on the origin and nature of Americanism. The following quote from the same work shows that early Americans did not conceive of their form of government as an enlightenment experiment dreamed up in the salons of intellectuals. American republicanism was present in nascent form during the colonial era, and its antecdents go back even farther than this. The freedom-loving spirit of the ancient Germans was transported first to England, and then to the colonies of the New World:

There were...local and partial confederacies among the New England colonies, long before the Declaration of Independence. As early as the year 1643 a Congress had been organized of delegates from Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut, under the style of "The United Colonies of New England." The objects of this confederacy, according to Mr. Bancroft, were "protection against the encroachments of the Dutch and French, security against the tribes of savages, the liberties of the gospel in purity and in peace." The general affairs of the company were intrusted to commissions, two from each colony; but the same historian tells us that "to each its respective local jurisdiction was carefully reserved," and he refers to this as evidence that the germ-principle of State-rights was even then in existence. "Thus remarkable for unmixed simplicity" (he proceeds) "was the form of the first confederated government in America.... There was no president, except as a moderator of its meetings, and the larger State [sic], Massachusetts, superior to all the rest in territory, wealth, and population, had no greater number of votes than New Haven. But the commissioners were in reality little more than a deliberative body; they possessed no executive power, and, while they could decree a war and a levy of troops, it remained for the States to carry their votes into effect."

This confederacy continued in existence for nearly fifty years. Between that period and the year 1774, when the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, several other temporary and provisional associations of colonies had been formed, and the people had been taught the advantages of union for a common purpose; but they had never abandoned or compromised the great principle of community independence. That form of self-government, generated in the German forests before the days of the Cæsars, had given to that rude people a self-reliance and patriotism which first checked the flight of the Roman eagles, which elsewhere had been the emblem of their dominion over the known world. This principle—the great preserver of all communal freedom and of mutual harmony—was transplanted by the Saxons into England, and there sustained those personal rights which, after the fall of the Heptarchy, were almost obliterated by the encroachments of Norman despotism; but, having the strength and perpetuity of truth and right, were reasserted by the mailed hands of the barons at Runnymede for their own benefit and that of their posterity. Englishmen, the early settlers, brought this idea to the wilds of America, and it found expression in many forms among the infant colonies.

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