When I first read Gary North’s powerful article on July 4th at LRC, it seemed very disconcerting and filled me with cognitive dissonance and confusion. It boldly put forth a position that was very radical and challenging to almost everything I believed about the American Revolution and the founding of our country. And radical it truly was, for “radical” means — “of, or pertaining to the root, fundamental.” This article was addressing the fundamental premise (or national myth) upon which the United States of America is based.
Over the next couple days I have given it much disinterested reflection and sober thought. What North described is similar to a powerful statement found in Vernon L. Parrington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Main Currents in American Thought: Volume One: The Colonial Mind 1620–1800. Published in 1927, it is one of the most famous and influential works by an American historian in the 20th Century. Parrington has been a key seminal resource for me for 40 years since first becoming acquainted with his three-volume masterwork. The striking passage below is that crucial statement concerning the American Revolution which has perplexed and challenged me for four decades:
But a new economic order required a new political state, and as a necessary preliminary, the spirit of nationalism began that slow encroachment upon local frontiers which was to modify profoundly the common psychology. Americanism superseded colonialism, and with the new loyalty there developed a conception of federal sovereignty, overriding all local authorities, checking the movement of particularism, binding the separate commonwealths in a consolidating union. This marked the turning point in American development; the checking of the long movement of decentralization and the beginning of a counter movement of centralization — the most revolutionary change in three hundred years of American experience. The history of the rise of the coercive state in America, with the ultimate arrest of all centrifugal tendencies, was implicit in that momentous counter movement.
Gary North has finally clarified its meaning and consequence.4:02 pm on July 6, 2011 Email Charles Burris