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Jefferson & the Declaration: Anglo-Saxon to the Core
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For most Americans, Independence Day means firecrackers and cookouts. The Declaration of Independence—whose proclamation, on July 4, 1776, we celebrate—doesn’t feature. Contemporary Americans are less likely to read it now that it’s easily available on the Internet, than when it relied on horseback riders for its distribution.

It is fair to say that the Declaration of Independence has been mocked out of meaning.

Back in 1776, gallopers carried the Declaration through the country. Printer John Dunlap had worked “through the night” to set the full text on “a handsome folio sheet,” recounts historian David Hackett Fischer in Liberty And Freedom. And the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, urged that the “people be universally informed.” (They were!)

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, called it “an expression of the American Mind.” An examination of Jefferson’s constitutional thought makes plain that he would no longer consider the collective mentality of contemporary Americans and their leaders (Rep. Ron Paul excepted) “American” in any meaningful way. For the Jeffersonian mind was that of an avowed Whig—an American Whig whose roots were in the English, Whig political philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Come to think of it, Jefferson would not recognize England as the home of the Whigs in whose writings colonial Americans were steeped—John Locke, Algernon Sidney, Paul Rapin, Thomas Gordon and others.

The essence of this “pattern of ideas and attitudes,” almost completely lost today, explains David N. Mayer in The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, was a view of government as an inherent threat to liberty and the necessity for eternal vigilance.

Indeed, especially adamant was Jefferson about the imperative “to be watchful of those in power,” a watchfulness another Whig philosopher explained thus: “Considering what sort of Creature Man is, it is scarce possible to put him under too many Restraints, when he is possessed of great Power.”

“As Jefferson saw it,” expounds Mayer, “the Whig, zealously guarding liberty, was suspicious of the use of government power,” and assumed “not only that government power was inherently dangerous to individual liberty but also that, as Jefferson put it, ‘the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.'”

For this reason, the philosophy of government articulated by Jefferson in the Declaration radically shifted sovereignty from parliament to the people.

By “all men are created equal,” moreover, Jefferson, who also wrote in praise of a “Natural Aristocracy,” was certainly not implying that all men were similarly endowed. Or, that they were naturally entitled to healthcare, education, a decent wage, amnesty, or entry into the country he and the Constitution makers bequeathed.

Rather, Jefferson was affirming the natural right of “all men” to be secure in their enjoyment of their “life, liberty and possessions.”

But Jefferson’s muse for the “American Mind” is even older.

Notwithstanding the claims of the “multicultural noise machine,” the Whig tradition is undeniably Anglo-Saxon.


Our Founding Fathers’ political philosophy originated with their Saxon forefathers, and the ancient rights guaranteed by the Saxon constitution. With the Declaration, Jefferson told Henry Lee in 1825, he was also protesting England’s violation of her own ancient tradition of natural rights. As Jefferson saw it, the Colonies were upholding a tradition the Crown had abrogated.

Philosophical purist that he was, moreover, Jefferson considered the Norman Conquest to have tainted this English tradition with the taint of feudalism. “To the Whig historian,” writes Mayer, “the whole of English constitutional history since the Conquest was the story of a perpetual claim kept up by the English nation for a restoration of Saxon laws and the ancient rights guaranteed by those laws.”

If Jefferson begrudged the malign influence of the Normans on the natural law he so cherished, imagine how he’d view America’s contemporary cultural and political conquistadors—be they from Latin America, the Arabian Peninsula, and beyond—whose customs preclude natural rights and natural reason!

Naturally, Jefferson never entertained the folly that he was of immigrant stock. He considered the English settlers of America courageous conquerors, much like his Saxon forebears, to whom he compared them. To Jefferson, early Americans were the contemporary carriers of the Anglo-Saxon project.

The settlers spilt their own blood “in acquiring lands for their settlement,” he wrote with pride in “A Summary View of the Rights of British America.” “For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold.” Thus, they were “entitled to govern those lands and themselves.”

Like it or not, Thomas Jefferson, author of The Declaration, was sired and inspired by the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

Ilana Mercer is the author of The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016) & Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011). Follow her on Twitter, Facebook,Gab & YouTube.

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  1. Jefferson took a few liberties in describing the ancient English constitutional order he was seeking to uphold… many of the most outrageous breaches of law by the king had been or were being worked through by the English courts by the time of the American Revolution. There is a lot of credence to the contention that the Founding Fathers ginned up charges to take a bigger piece of the action for themselves. But so what? We managed to spin the story to have much more universal appeal than the Brits … good for us.

  2. Jefferson was a Welsh speaker. He corresponded in Welsh with Lewis (of Lewis & Clarke) for the sake of greater security. He reckoned his ancestry from North Wales. Not entirely Anglo Saxon then.

    • Replies: @Logan
  3. He was willing to share some of that good Anglo-Saxon DNA with the Africans via Sally Hemmings, mighty white of him as they say.

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    , @dinduNuffins
  4. Dan Hayes says:


    It has not been demonstrated that Thomas Jefferson consorted with Sally Hemmings.

    DNA evidence only indicates that it was someone from the Jefferson family!

  5. polistra says: • Website

    No, this doesn’t work. Parliament was a natural development from the tension between smaller powers and the King. Jefferson et al got rid of natural government and imposed an anti-scientific theory of equality plus an unnatural dictatorial structure.

    In the parliamentary system the PM grows out of a current majority. He can be instantly replaced by the majority if he fails, and a strong minority can call a new election. Parliaments take both of these steps often, which makes them VASTLY more adaptable to new circumstances than our system.

    Separating the executive and judiciary may have seemed like a good theory, but turned out to be bad practice. The judiciary deleted the whole Constitution in 1803, and executives are effectively unremovable. A bad or inappropriate president has four years to do damage.

  6. It’s fair to say TJ went back and forth on the British. In one missive, he might proudly declare America to be British America. In another, he’d point out that the Brits were a monstrous threat. “I considered the British as our natural enemies, and as the only nation on earth who wished us ill from the bottom of their souls” Jefferson wrote in 1787. In 1816, he wrote that Americans have “more reason to hate (Britain) than any nation on earth.” As for the Saxons, they were Germans, so really, TJ was pining for the days when Germany was making Britain Great Again.

  7. Corvinus says:

    “By “all men are created equal,” moreover, Jefferson, who also wrote in praise of a “Natural Aristocracy,” was certainly not implying that all men were similarly endowed.”

    Indeed, all men regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion were similarly endowed with political rights. Notice he did not include women. He believed at that time they should remain home, take care of kids, and certainly not be in a trade or profession. How do you rectify his meaning with your own current position in life?

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Jefferson was not Anglo-Saxon. His Y chromosome haplogroup and patriline are African or Semitic:

    In the 1990s, DNA was taken from male relatives of Jefferson to see if he fathered a son with one of his slaves.

    They found the president had a rare genetic signature found mainly in the Middle East and Africa, calling into question his claim of Welsh ancestry.

    • Replies: @DinduNuffins
  9. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Problem lies in allowing the danger of being overrun by the Tribe . Rome was built by outsider and settlers But it faced destruction from the Tribe

    In 3 decades or less than that this Jewish tribe came to dominate both the European who once had organized the pogrom and made Holocaust possible. The tribe came to dominate USA – Canada-Australia who did not persecute them but who were religiously made out of same cloth that had persecuted the tribe for years . How did they do it?

    There is precedence to this development. After the temple was razed in 1is AD by Romans, the tribe secured the right of not paying religious services to Roman emperors as Gods , not making any offerings and keep the tribal rituals. Not only that despite close similarity and common linkage to Christianity , this tribe managed to portray Christianity as religion of atheism in the eyes of Rome. The tribes slept with the top notch Roman in military and administration, intermarried and few of them even were queens. The tribes kept on piling up pressure ( modern day Islamophobia created by same tribe ) against Christian. They even blamed Pilate for the devastation when it was the tribe who instigated and pressurized the romans to go after Jesus .

    The tribes brought diversity and poor immigrants and rootless unassimilated to the empire and created fissures . Constantine was forced to address it because it was threatening the existence of the empire.

    It seems America has to impose some universal values to transcend the deepening schism and protect itself from destruction.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The tribes brought diversity and poor immigrants and rootless unassimilated to the empire and created fissures . Constantine was forced to address it because it was threatening the existence of the empire.

    And the Tribe was ejected from the heart. There was no other nation willing to roll the dice anymore…

    I’ve always wondered, were they gunning for extinction, on account of greed, and hate…

  11. Logan says:
    @Philip Owen

    Very unlikely. Is there any evidence, such as surviving examples of his communications with Lewis in Welsh? Any evidence at all other than some unsupported claim on the web?

    While Lewis was of half-Welsh ancestry, I’m unaware of any evidence at all he spoke the language.

    • Replies: @Logan
    , @Philip Owen
  12. Logan says:

    Believing in an Anglo-Saxon utopia destroyed by the Norman Conquest requires a pretty complete ignorance of what Anglo-Saxon society was actually like.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  13. @Logan

    You have a fair point. This assertion is regularly made in Welsh print and media when discussing Welsh involvement in the USA. I have never actually seen a pointer to actual evidence. I now that there is a quote from Jefferson placing his mother in Snowdonia in North Wales, then a wholly Welsh speaking area and mostly monoglot at that. It would be improbable that he did not speak it. But proof …

  14. @Logan

    Rather like most ex colonies claiming that their countries were Other Edens before colonisation.

    • Replies: @Logan
    , @Logan
  15. Logan says:
    @Philip Owen

    One example is that much of the population of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom were chattel slaves. After the Norman conquest most were converted to serfs.

    Serfdom is not a particularly enviable status, but a serf had legal rights and was not “an animal that speaks,” as chattel slaves are. To be sure, the serf’s legal rights were not by any means always followed, especially since the judge in any legal dispute he might have would likely be his lord, who was also the person he’d most likely have a dispute with.

  16. Logan says:
    @Philip Owen

    Something I’ve been interested in for some time is the effects of British conquest on India.

    There is no question that India fell far behind economically during the period of British rule, relative to Britain, Europe and USA. In 1600 India was probably more prosperous than Britain.

    But Indian scholars routinely claim that Britain looted India and that their rule led to an absolute decline in Indian prosperity, not just a relative one.

    Have so far been unable to find a book on the topic that appears to be interested in “just the facts,” as every one I’ve looked at is pretty transparently interested in propping up the Leninist interpretation of events.

    Absolutely the nobles and rajahs took a major hit, but how did the common people fare over this period?

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    , @Logan
  17. @Logan

    I cleared out my two Indian histories from my bookshelf recently so I don’t have a good reference other than books which go the other way. In particular, David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations which is about a lot more than India and perhaps overly sympathetic to Britain’s role in the world.

    I have an interest because one of my collateral relatives Fredrick Jones was the Great Captain of the East India Company (Commander of the fleet like an Admiral in the military). From memory, India GDP by most estimates is given as constant in contrast to independent China’s which shrank. Both countries had population expansions which suggests a miscalculation of GDP as there is no reason to think that the peasants were living above the Malthusian limit before the colonial period. There were always famines in both countries and they did not, in India’s case get worse as the population expanded. The famines suggest that India on the whole was nowhere near as prosperous as Britain whatever the wealth and sophistication of its rulers. 1943 during the war is a special case. The industrial and service infrastructure added by Britain was clearly an enhancement.

    The Rajahs and Sultans got on rather well. Britain practised indirect rule and treated them like, say, Irish aristocrats – holders of titles, social equals to English peers but no place in the House of Lords. Most of India was not ruled by Britain anyway. The Dominion of India, the successor state to the Raj, invaded 600 independent states, some, like Hyderabad or Mysore, large countries to form India. Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim were unfinished business in this respect. Sri Lanka too.

    Time out coming up.

    • Replies: @K
  18. Logan says:

    A population explosion is inherently an indication of pretty good conditions. It just doesn’t happen when times are really bad.

    For instance, I recently read a most interesting book about the Sugar Islands of the Caribbean. I had not been previously aware how vastly important they were on the world stage during the 17th and 18th centuries.

    During the whole period prior to our Revolution roughly the same number of white Brits emigrated to the Islands and to North America, about 500,000. White population was about 50,000 in the Islands in the 1770s and about 2M in the mainland colonies. Whites died like flies in the islands during this period, had few children and had very high mortality among those that were born.

    Slaves in the Caribbean were imported in truly massive numbers, but died even faster. Again, few children and very high infant mortality. Constant importation was needed just to keep populations stable.

    In the entire period from Jamestown to our Civil War, the black population exploded. <400,000 were imported, but population was 4M in 1860. Black populations grew every bit as fast as white in America. A slave population that not only sustained itself but grew very fast is probably unique in all history.

    Exploding populations pretty clearly do not indicate immense oppression or great suffering. So demographic facts indicate that Indians under British rule and American (as opposed to Caribbean) slaves were not greatly oppressed.

    • Replies: @iffen
  19. K says:
    @Philip Owen

    ”The Dominion of India, the successor state to the Raj, invaded 600 independent states, some, like Hyderabad or Mysore, large countries to form India. Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim were unfinished business in this respect. Sri Lanka too.”

    India had no ambition to take over sri-lanka, nepal, bhutan. As for dominion of india ‘invading’ 600 states. those states were ‘indian’ to begin with. The indian govt retook the land from the kings and integrated it into a modern functioning democracy. And those ‘states’ remained under the rule of their own people, with the only difference being the states were democratic now. And all the money from those states (except a few federal taxes which even the states that were not ‘invaded’ (according to you)had to pay) was spent on the peoples of those states themselves. It was not an invasion or conquest.

    England was formed in a similar way. Various anglo-saxon kingdoms ‘united’ to form england. Would you call that an ‘invasion’ by some anglo-saxon kingdoms of other kingdoms?

    As for british rule, yes india’s GDP may have been the same after british came, but that ‘output’ was shipped of to london too. Read more books about british rule in india, not just from one or two authors.

    • Replies: @Logan
  20. iffen says:

    to our Civil War, the black population exploded.

    You do understand that because our Constitution prohibited the importation of slaves after 1808 and the British Empire prohibited the slave trade in 1807 that slaves in the US became gooses laying golden eggs.

  21. Logan says:

    True, but the population explosion was underway long before 1807.

    One of the more disgusting things I learned about Jefferson was that he began to downplay his earlier opposition to slavery just about when he noticed that slaves, especially slave women, were an excellent investment.

    • Replies: @iffen
  22. iffen says:

    were an excellent investment.

    Yes, slaves were an excellent investment. Many notables in England (and New England) made fortunes by investing in the shares of slaving concerns. It has been pointed out many times (correctly), the invention of the cotton gin and the opening of the Deep South slave states to settlers created a gigantic economic bubble. As the rice, tobacco and indigo sectors were waning, the slave trade to the exploding cotton belt made slaves as good as gold.

    The slaves in the Caribbean and Brazil didn’t die because of the tropical weather. They died because they were worked to death in the cane fields. It was literally cheaper to buy a slave, work him to death in 6-8 years and buy a replacement than to invest in the “homegrown” slave sector; not so in the US.

  23. Logan says:

    All true.

    Except that the financial expansion associated with growing and processing cotton was no mere financial bubble. It was a genuine financial growth area, indeed it was one of the main foundations of the industrial revolution.

    Also true about slavery in S. America and the Caribbean vs. America. Slaves cost more here at least partly because the North American market was the farthest from the source, and of course prices went up more rapidly once importation was stopped. The economy of VA and to some extent KY was to a considerable extent based on exportation of slaves to the Deep South in the decades before the War.

    Cane field work was peculiarly brutal and dangerous, a major cause of the high death rate. But then white people, even the plantation owners, also had an immensely high death rate and low birth rate in the Islands, and they didn’t work the cane fields.

    Entire armies died of tropical diseases in the Islands, changing the course of history. For instance, Napoleon sold Louisiana to US largely because his army sent to retake St. Domingue (with a possible projected expansion into Louisiana and the rest of North America) pretty much all died of yellow jack and malaria. 7,000 survivors out of 31,000, most of them severely debilitated. So Nappy cut his losses and abandoned his American projects.

  24. Logan says:

    “Would you call that an ‘invasion’ by some anglo-saxon kingdoms of other kingdoms?”

    Well, I certainly would.

    The merging of Scotland and England into Great Britain, OTOH, is an example of the “merging” you mention, though it followed many centuries of mutual invasions.

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