Is 'Our Democracy' Failing Our Country?
Asked, "What is an American?" many would answer, "An American is a citizen of the United States."
Yet, at the First Continental Congress in 1774, 15 years before the U.S. became a nation of 13 states, Patrick Henry rose to proclaim that, "British oppression has effaced the boundaries of the several colonies; the distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."
Henry was saying -- more than a dozen years before our constitutional republic was established -- that America already existed as a nation, and he was her loyal son.
In an 1815 letter to Thomas Jefferson, long after both men had served as president, John Adams wrote:
"As to the history of the Revolution, my Ideas may be peculiar, perhaps Singular. What do We mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington."
Adams was saying that America was conceived and, as an embryonic nation, grew within the hearts of the peoples of the 13 colonies, two to three decades before the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
In short, our country came to be before our republic came to be, and long before what we today call "our democracy" came to be. A country is different from, and more than, the political system that it adopts.
France was France all through the Bourbon dynasty, the Revolution of 1789, the creation of the First Republic, the Reign of Terror, Napoleon's First Empire and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy -- all the way to the creation of the Fifth Republic by President Charles de Gaulle.
And beneath the carapace of the USSR, the heart of Mother Russia continued to beat. Rightly, during the Cold War, we regarded Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria as "captive nations" and captive peoples.
The point: Neither the regime nor the political system imposed, nor some abstract idea, is the country that predates them and has first claim upon the loyalty of its sons and daughters.