Should we go back to the Founding and the thirteen-star flag?

NM writes:

The traditionalist is in a predicament. He feels great attachment to the historic character of America and is given to expressing this in patriotic displays. Yet, given the death of traditional America as an institution, he does not want to appear to endorse our current order, specifically, by waving its flag. The current fifty star version of the American flag is inseparable from the government now flying it as its standard. Perhaps traditionalists ought to forgo the fifty star flag and adopt another, older flag, to commemorate America at its Founding, and one’s love for that country, while also distancing themselves from the current regime. The “Betsy Ross” Flag, with thirteen stars in a circle representing the original thirteen colonies, seems like a good choice. Whatever our choice, having an alternative flag would allows us to give shape to our love for traditional America, while also tastefully identifying ourselves as dissenters.

I suppose, by similar logic, we could opt to celebrate Independence Day on July 2, as John Adams had predicted we would, instead of July 4.

LA replies:

The problem is that celebration of the American Founding such as you advocate brings us back to the very errors in the Founding which led to our current predicament. The official documents of the Founding defined America in terms of universal equal freedom (the Declaration of Independence) and neutral government procedures (the Constitution). It did not define America as a religiously, culturally, and racially specific nation. Yes, such culturally specific definitions were a part of the Founding, but were not stated with the same force, explicitness and authority as the equalitarian, procedural aspects. Therefore the eventual takeover of America by pure right-liberalism, the belief in the universal equal rights of individuals, which in turn led automatically to the current take-over of America by left-liberalism, the belief in enforced group equality of outcome (see previous entry), was built into America from the start. Therefore we need to approach the Founding selectively, upholding and adopting the good parts and rejecting or modifying the bad parts. Therefore the Founding per se has ceased to be a helpful rallying point for conservatives. The American Nation—or the American Experiment, as neocons love to call it—has decisively failed. Somehow we must start over again.

- end of initial entry -

Bruce B. writes:

Should we say “indivisible” when we recite the pledge of allegiance? I don’t.

LA replies:

I used to love the American flag with an indescribable love; for many years, it hasn’t meant much to me. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance used to move me to my core; I haven’t recited it for many years. The 2012 election carries that alienation to a new level.

Dave T. writes:

I really appreciated your reply to NM. I have also concluded that America’s Founding was fatally flawed in the precise sense that the Founding documents did not clearly define or articulate an identity for the new nation. Evidently, the Founders took great pains to articulate their liberal principles while largely taking for granted the substance of their new national identity. And it is perhaps this very lack of an explicitly formulated, robust national identity to rally around that has doomed the conservative project.

James N. writes:

I alternate a Bennington flag with a thirteen star flag at my home, and have done so for years (at least 1993). Under the colors, I alternate a Gadsden flag with the Washington’s Cruisers flag, plain white with a pine tree and the words “an appeal to heaven.”

Laura Wood writes:

We may not be able to found a new country yet, but we could at least come up with a new flag. It would be an important symbolic gesture.

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

James N. has scooped me in his suggestion that we dissidents adopt the Gadsden Flag (“Don’t Tread on Me”), so I am hereby seconding his idea. The Gadsden Flag has an “in-your-face” quality, which is the characterological opposite of the Romney-esque blandness that contributed so tellingly to Obama’s re-election. Flying the “Rattlesnake” would be an aggressive way of reminding liberals that their regime, whatever the Electoral-College result, is based popularly on a fifty-per-cent clientele. Flying the “Rattlesnake” would also make clear our recognition that we have been in a second Civil War for many decades, that the differences that divide us from the other fifty per cent are irreconcilable, and that we resolve no longer to exercise false politeness to enemies who hold us in contempt.

LA replies:

I said above that we need to dispense with the bad parts of the Founding, and keep the good parts. My personal feeling is that the rattlesnake flag is a part of the American Revolution that still has validity today. Its primary meaning is not, as with the American flag, the the governmental structure which was set up according to the pure procedural principles of the Constitution, but a people’s resistance to oppression and tyranny.

At the same time, that resistance, at the time that flag was used, was connected with military force. The American patriots were not just talking, as we are; they were in a war with Great Britain. So flying the Gadsden flag may be attributing to ourselves a martial courage we have not demonstrated. Moreover, given the utter weakness of any alternative community we may set up as compared with the federal government, it could be suicidal to our hopes to make such a martial declaration at this time and for a long time to come.

JC from Houston writes:

I’m becoming more and more partial to the old Confederate battle flag. Partially because my great-grandfather fought for it in Lee’s Army and partially because the modern liberal left(and accomodationist right) hates it so much. If secession does become a reality, the states of the old Confederacy (minus present day Virginia and Florida) would be the logical place to start. A new Confederacy, which would not have the albatross of slavery around its neck, would still embody traditionalist values. I think it’s indisputable that these southern states still have the most respect for tradition, religious values and true conservatism than any other region of the once upon a time USA. We could then welcome those other states like Kentucky and West Virginia and those of the intermountain West which aspire to those same values. I’ve arrived at the point where I thrill much more to the strains of “the Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Dixie” much more than the Star Spangled banner (sadly at one time that was not the case).

LA replies:

As you know, I feel that the Southern Secession is a suicidally flawed model for us in all kinds of ways. I wrote not long ago that any secessionist movement must start on fresh ground, not evoking the same tired, discredited, and doomed ground of the Southern Secession.

Just as we can no longer go back to the American Founding for our models, because of its ultimately fatal flaws (as I argue above), we cannot go back to the much more radically flawed Southern Secession. Excuse the cliché from the President who defeated the South, but we must think anew and act anew.

JC replies:

I agree we need fresh ideas. Obviously I’m not advocating that Texas militia seize federal military installations like Fort Hood or Fort Benning. I was just pointing out that our population is more in tune with the conservative values we treasure. We should make common cause with those other Americans who feel separation is in our best interests. I do feel it would come down to geographic lines. The great plains states and the intermountain west, minus Colorado and New Mexico would be natural additions to the new CSA, which I would call the Constitutional States of America. Probably won’t come to pass, but it’s nice to dream.

LA replies:

Ahh, but as W.B. Yeats wrote: “In dreams begins responsibility.”

James P. writes:

Bruce B. writes:

Should we say “indivisible” when we recite the pledge of allegiance? I don’t.

The Pledge is even more problematic than that for traditionalists.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America [ruled by and for liberals], and to the Republic [abolished by liberals] for which it stands [no longer], one Nation [abolished by liberals] under God [abolished by liberals], indivisible [abolished by liberals], with liberty and justice for all [abolished by liberals].”

So where does that leave us?

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag … but why?”

Terry Morris writes:

We should not recite the Pledge of Allegiance at all in my opinion, because it is a lie from start to finish:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” When it represents totalitarianism and statism? I don’t think so.

“And to the Republic for which it stands.” Republic? Hardly.

“One Nation” Well, yes, it is one nation, as opposed to two or three nations … for the time being.

“Under God.” Don’t make me laugh!

“Indivisible.” Not quite.

“With liberty and justice for all.” ROTFLMAO!

I haven’t hoisted “Old Glory” up my flag pole in over three years. The only way I would do so again is with the star-field at bottom, to signify a nation in distress. But that isn’t very likely since no one seems all that concerned that the nation is in distress. It doesn’t even bother me that people wear it as a garment anymore.

We haven’t “celebrated” Independence Day for the last two years. Rather, we observe it as a day of mourning. When I occasionally attend sporting events these days, I’m usually wearing a ball cap. During the playing of the National Anthem, I remove it out of respect for the true-believers who surround me, but I do not hold it over my heart, and I do not face the flag as it is being raised. The playing of the National Anthem does nothing for me anymore. Play Ball!

I’m a bad, bad American.

LA replies:

Mr. Morris calls himself a bad American. Yet he is the author of a blog, Webster’s Blogspot, named after Daniel Webster, and devoted to America and its ideals (though it hasn’t been active in a couple of years). Which just shows that the more truly patriotic an American is, the more he will reject what America has now become.

Dave T. writes:

I’m sympathetic with JC. If the national economy were to tank and the federal government were to reach the point where it could no longer provide essential services then it seems to me that it would make perfect sense for like-minded conservatives to secede from the national government as a coalition of state governments (albeit, not necessarily Southern). Indeed, if conservatives were to gain a measure of independence from the federal government what other realistic option do they have other than to gain independence at the level of the state governments? In any case, so long as we don’t tether our imaginations too closely to the 19th century particularities of Southern Secession then I fail to see the problem with looking to that model for inspiration.

LA replies:

I have clearly stated since November 6 that I am in favor of secession. I simply say that such secession, whatever form it take, should not evoke or hold as its model the ruinous and doomed Southern Secession of the 1860s.

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

You wrote: “Flying the Gadsden flag may be attributing to ourselves a martial courage we have not demonstrated.”

I disagree. Flying the Gadsden flag would declare a spiritual courage necessary to any later martial courage. “Don’t Tread On Me” is the proper response to the medical insurance mandate, to the judicial repudiation of the Michigan electorate on race-based favoritism, and beyond all that to the entirety of what Kristor calls Liberal Jiziya. “Don’t Tread On Me” has the potential to be a focusing symbol. The reactionary novelist Honore de Balzac once wrote that “piety begins with a bended knee.” Likewise a new polity will begin with a focusing symbol. This Westerner, California-born, who has seen his native Republic cede itself to Mexico, will be flying the Rattlesnake.

Chris K. writes:

The great weakness of America is the things assumed by the Founders, and implicit in the Constitution, rather than explicit. I am certain that the Founders never intended non-property owners, women, blacks, youths, or the indigent to vote. Yet slowly, each of these groups has gained the franchise, and the results is the 2012 electoral disaster. If even one of the groups added to the franchisees was purged from the voter rolls, conservatives would win every election in America. The notion of America as a non-white, non-Christian country likewise did not occur to them. No doubt that the Founders never intended for a man who had never borne arms should ever become president either, because it was so foreign to their experience. Yet if we had some sort of requirement of having served in some capacity, we would not have had Clinton, or Obama. If Traditionalist recover something from the ashes of America, we must be explicit, precise, and unyielding in the face of liberal opposition.

LA replies:

Your last point weakens your overall point. I believe that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison never bore arms, and perhaps John Adams as well.

Second, a major theme at this site is that if freedom (or more accurately equal freedom) is a person’s highest principle, then it doesn’t matter what his culturally specific allegiances are, because all his culturally specific values will ultimately yield to his higher belief in freedom.

For example, in my 2003 article, “Lincoln’s unprincipled exception to racial equality,” I showed how Lincoln imagined that the slaves could be freed and be protected in their basic human rights of life, liberty, and property, but that they would not also end up having political and social equality with whites—something which, in the 1850s, he had strongly opposed. This was a delusory position, since Lincoln’s belief that “All men are created equal” ultimately led to the political and social equality that he opposed.

Here’s another example, chosen almost at random. Dennis Prager strongly believes that America has a “Judeo-Christian” culture and must preserve it. But he also believes in the equal freedom of all human beings including Muslims to come to America and pursue their dreams here. Though he doesn’t realize it, his highest principle, equal freedom for all including Muslims, must destroy America’s “Judeo-Christian” culture that he wants to preserve. Prager doesn’t intend that that culture be destroyed, but he subscribes to a principle which assures its destruction.

It’s the same with the Founders. Of course they did not intend the horribles that you list. But they, and America, subscribed to liberal principles which inevitably resulted in those horribles.

Loren P. writes:

You have clarified the dilemma that liberalism imposes upon society. Now I have to figure out how to rein it in?!

November 20, 11:00 p.m.

John McNeil writes:

I am personally enamored with the Vinland flag. Granted, it’s a fictional flag, but it’s already being associated with white American identity to some extent, and I think it has a potential to be a real symbol that separates itself from the universalism of the Founding.

It’s true that a lot of pagans like this flag, but I also feel that the Nordic cross makes it an acceptable flag for Christians as well. Incidentally, the creator of this flag was an atheist for a long time but converted to Roman Catholicism towards the end of his life.

I also like this flag because it establishes a connection with our European heritage, while at the same time it is also North American due to historical Vinland’s location. It is both European and American, which works for us.

I’m sure there’s plenty of reasons to criticize it, but I personally like it, so I cast my vote for the Vinland flag.

Max P. writes:

You wrote:

The problem is that celebration of the American Founding such as you advocate brings us back to the very errors in the Founding which led to our current predicament. The official documents of the Founding defined America in terms of universal equal freedom (the Declaration of Independence) and neutral government procedures (the Constitution). It did not define America as a religiously, culturally, and racially specific nation.

Though not in the Constitution, the Naturalization Act of 1790 clearly defined a racially specific citizenry. I think this law is significant because it was passed during the first year of the First United States Congress and signed into law by George Washington, the Father of this country. As such it obviously represented the will and attitudes of the Founding generation. It essentially limited citizenship to “a free white person … of good character.”

Here is an excerpt:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof, on application to any common law court of record, in any one of the states wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least, and making proof to the satisfaction of such court, the he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law, to support the constitution of the United States, which oath or affirmation such court shall administer; and the clerk of such court shall record such application, and the proceedings thereon; and thereupon such person shall be considered as a citizen of the United States.

I imagine the language of this act was not put into the Constitution in the same manner that many other things we debate today were never put into it, because the Founders drafted a document that broadly described the powers of government, and did not attempt to micromanage every detail. They probably took it for granted that as soon as they ratified it, they would meet in Congress and begin to fill in the details with legislation like the Naturalization Act of 1790. They could not have foreseen the future court battles that would whittle away at their brainchild.

Imagine such a document being written today when legislation routinely contains thousands of pages. Such a document would surely be enormous and probably contain as many pages as a multivolume encyclopedia.

LA replies:

Agreed. I’m glad you mentioned this. And it should be referenced whenever someone says that the U.S. was a universal country consisting of all races and cultures from the time it was founded.

Chris K. replies to LA:

I made my point rather poorly. The point I was trying to make is that the Founders had a particular vision of what good government was and who should be in charge of it. Namely, wealthy and middle class white men, Christians, experienced in the world, over thirty, married, probably with several children, somewhat educated, capable of defending the community, and above all capable of being free. When they said Liberty, they meant liberty for themselves and those like them. The failure of the Constitution and ultimately of America is the failure of the Founders explicitly to codify the limits to liberty that they assumed would be obvious. Not explicitly stating that “All Responsible White Family Men that own guns, pay taxes, own property, and can think cogently are created approximately equal enough to govern” made for poor poetry. Ultimately this failure to define precisely what was meant when the term “all Men” was used led to very bad liberal policy. [LA replies: Yes. Brief phrases evoking universals without qualification are more poetic, but make worse constitutions.]

Adams did not serve in any capacity. Jefferson and Madison were both colonels in the Virginia Militia. I will grant that it was primarily a political post, and to say that Jefferson, Madison, or Lincoln was a military man is stretching the definition quite a bit. Nevertheless there was an implicit assumption for over a century that a person who would be commander in chief would have some small idea of what he was asking for. A list of military service by presidents can be found here. Thirty-one of the Presidents had some kind of military service prior to entering office.

Some of our better presidents never served in uniform of any type, and there are of course women, blacks, and young people who are responsible voters. The obvious counter to the liberalization of the franchise and society in general is that no system of franchise will ever be completely fair, and that the best system is one that over the long term provides for “our Posterity.”

By explicitly linking the Liberty of ourselves and our Posterity, we could have perhaps avoided the liberalism that has destroyed America.

Instead of:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


In order to secure the Blessings of Almighty God, and His Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity, to ensure that Justice, domestic Tranquillity, and the general peace might obtain in this land, do ordain and establish this Constitution, for the United States of America.

I have no idea what exactly must be made explicit. Untrammeled freedom must not be fetishized to the point where we destroy ourselves. We must think on it for when something else, better, finer and more tempered rises from the ashes. [LA replies: The main point, boiled down by Jim Kalb and restated by me, is that “the turn away from this suicidal liberalism will come when people see that the good, not freedom, is the highest principle.”]

Terry Morris writes:

Thank you for the kind words you wrote in reply to my comment. I was being facetious, of course, when I wrote that I’m a bad American, although I am a bad American, given what the term has come to mean. But I most certainly agree with you. One cannot be a patriotic American (in the traditional sense) and not hate what his country has become—Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots!

Gerard M. writes:

I think you hit the nail on the head by emphasizing that there is not yet an organized martial spirit among conservatives. Nor should there be, until conservatives clearly define amongst themselves and agree on what principles they want to conserve—to the point of killing and dying for them, and that there is no other alternative than the horror of war.

We’re nowhere near that point. In the interim, I was interested to see that some people seem to believe that the American people—distinct from the government—once had a “civil flag.” Alas, it appears not to be a historical fact. Even so, it’s a good idea. We could do worse than to adopt a variation of the so-called “civil flag,” which would have some grounding in history, but without the wrong kind of baggage.

Chris Z. writes:

You said, “So flying the Gadsden flag may be attributing to ourselves a martial courage we have not demonstrated. Moreover, given the utter weakness of any alternative community we may set up as compared with the federal government, it could be suicidal to our hopes to make such a martial declaration at this time and for a long time to come.” There can be no denying the point that traditionalist dissenters have not yet demonstrated martial courage. However, I believe you have previously written that action is preceded by words, and words by thoughts. The Gadsden flag is a symbolic and succinct statement of defiance to tyranny that I think serves that just purpose quite well, at least in the American context. I must also disagree that the mere act of flying such a flag would be provocative enough to get any sort of reaction from the feds.

However, I agree with you that adoption of the Confederate flag as the standard of the traditionalist dissenters movement would be a serious tactical error, regardless of any other merits. Adoption of such a flag would allow the tyrannical leftist state to unleash its full force against such a movement and paint it as an essentially racist and white supremacist movement. It could also attack the Gadsden flag as a symbol, but that would require the state to equivocate about its motives and repudiate openly its early history.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 19, 2012 04:17 PM | Send

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