When our founding fathers led their fellow citizens in a revolution against despotic British authority, they declared themselves independent of all regimes, all institutions and all ideologies that stood in the way of human freedom. While their quarrel was primarily with the King and Parliament of Great Britain, they believed that any nation that rules by force or fraud is illegitimate and deserving of extinction. ~Richard Reeb, The Remedy
Mr. Reeb’s post could be Exhibit A in the argument against Claremont, its mystical-cum-fanatical understanding of “the Founding” and the inability of many Claremont Straussians to read the Declaration of Independence without assigning this text a significance far beyond its considerable importance in the history of our country. Besides the travesty of portraying the signers of the Declaration of Independence as men apparently bent on extinguishing “illegitimate” nations in the name of political virtue, which is insulting to the honour of these men, when they very simply wanted to throw off the burden of oppressive rule that had been violating their customary rights as Englishmen and chart their own political course (not being much troubled by the existence of the many ”illegitimate” nations that governed themselves or were governed by force and fraud), it is simply wrong to say that the Declaration carried this immensely greater significance. It was a declaration of the independence of the thirteen colonies from Britain; it was the first express statement of colonial self-determination in history; it explained the reasons for lawful rebellion against Crown and Parliament. These are reasons enough to consider it a very important and meaningful document without attaching to it such an astonishingly universal significance that it did not possess. It may be quite one thing to say that the implications of the statements in the Declaration extended far beyond these United States, and this would be true, and still another to make it out to be some lunatic declaration of war on all forms of political injustice and misrule.
The men who signed it certainly did not think they were signing any such thing as what Mr. Reeb describes. They may have thought tyrannies theoretically worthy of destruction, and they certainly believed rebellion against tyranny justified, but they also assumed that the misrule of tyrannies would bring about their own collapse. There would be no need to extinguish them, as they would fail from their own internal weaknesses. The genius of the mixed constitution was supposed to be that a republic with such a constitution would not succumb to the self-destructive malady of tyranny–related to this conviction is the assumption that tyranny always eventually crumbles on its own.
Notice also the rather nasty conflation of nation and government here: Mr. Reeb says that any nation that rules by force or fraud is illegitimate. What a strange thing to say. But we now know what to do with “illegitimate” nations, don’t we? We “extinguish” them. Very enlightened. Very virtuous. Very, very Jacobin. But, remember, charging people at Claremont with the ideological fanaticism and dangerous militancy of the Jacobins is just plain crazy! They’ve told us as much! Why, everyone talks about extinguishing “illegitimate” nations, don’t they?