Here’s an important excerpt from Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789:
“In this environment conventional wisdom came to hold that plots and conspiracies always ruled political action. This had not been an original discovery of the colonists. At least fifty years before the American Revolution they had in fact begun to absorb the ideas and assumptions of the radical opposition in England, the so-called eighteenth-century commonwealth men. The name was derived from the radicals of the previous century, the Roundheads, the makers of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth. The seventeenth century writers of this ideological bent included John Milton, James Harrington, and Algernon Sidney, among others. Their political ideas received something of a revision in the exclusion crisis of 1679-81 – the attempt to bar James II from the throne – and eighteenth-century radicals continued the process, adapting the older ideology in order to make it useful in the opposition to ministerial governments.
The eighteenth-century commonwealthmen have not survived a great names – John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, and Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester, were the most important – but in the fashioning of revolutionary ideology in America they had an influence that surpassed Locke’s. To be sure, they drew upon Locke and others more original than themselves. Indeed, their ideas were not original, and the heart of their political theory resembled closely the great Whig consensus of the century. They praised the mixed constitution of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, and they attributed English liberty to it; and like Locke they postulated a state of nature from which rights arose within the civil polity, created by mutual consent, guaranteed; they argued that a contract formed government and that sovereignty resided in the people. These ideas were so widely shared in England as to be conventional, but the eighteenth-century radicals put them to unconventional uses. These radicals rarely got into Parliament – and never in numbers – but they formed an opposition to a succession of ministries and to the complancency of the age. While Whigs and English governments sang the praises of English institutions, English history, and English liberty, the radicals chanted hymns of mourning, dirges for the departing liberty of England and the rising corruption in English politics and society. Within all states, from ancient Rome to the present, they argued, there were attempts to enslave the people. The history of politics was nothing other than the history of the struggle between power and liberty. Trenchard and Gordon called one of Cato’s Letters: Essays on Liberty (1721) “Cautions Against the Natural Encroachments of Power”; in that essay they declared that “it is natural for Power to be striving to enlarge itself, and to be encroaching upon those that have none.” Cato’s Letters likens power to fire – “it warms, scorches, or destroys, according as it is watched, provoked, or increased. It is as dangerous as it is useful … it is apt to break its bounds.” There was in the radical ideology a profound distrust of power, then, power as force, as coercion, as aggression. What did power encroach upon? Liberty, usually defined as the use and enjoyment of one’s natural rights within the limits of law in civil society.”
The Radical Whigs were the wellspring of Americanism … it’s all there, Locke, universal natural rights derived from the social contract, individuals “exiting” the state of nature, the Roundheads, Cromwell and the Commonwealth, the Levellers, the Glorious Revolution, etc. In other words, the English radicalism of the 17th century became the American mainstream of political theory in the 18th century.
“The political ideas of Americans in 1760 did not take their origins from congregational democracy or revivalistic religion. Most American ideas were a part of the great tradition of the eighteenth-century common-wealthmen, the radical Whig ideology that arose from a series of upheavals in seventeenth-century England – the Civil War, the exclusion crisis of 1679-81, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 …
The American Revolution revealed that this radical Whig understanding of politics had embedded itself deeply in American minds. In Britain only the dissenting fringe accepted the Whig analysis.”
Is this the foundation on which to build a future ethnostate, one in which all individuals would have a duty to maintain its ethnic and cultural integrity as a trust for future generations, or is it a worldview that will morally collapse into extremes of universalism, egalitarianism, and individualism, which will find its political expression in liberal democracy and cycles of expanding rights claims?