W. B. Allen


Prepared for the conference on

American Citizenship in the Age of Multicultural Immigration

Chapman University School of Law

Salvatori Center of Claremont McKenna College

The Claremont Institute

March 20-22, 2003


The gift of self-sufficiency never attracts the gratitude that the gift of longing attachment inspires.  Accordingly, defenses of the former often are more challenging than defenses of patriotism.  An intelligent critic of my essays, “The Truth about Citizenship” and “Machiavelli and Modernity,”[1] has indirectly urged this challenge upon me:


In Democracy and America, Alexis de Tocqueville asserted that in the age of  human equality man confronts the prospect that political life will be either decent and stable but mundane, or decent, stable, and encompassing within it the highest aspirations and goals of the human soul.  However we must ultimately understand his argument concerning the ‘historical necessity’ of human equality, de Tocqueville’s work compels us to conclude that his reference to virtue as the defense of politics founded upon human equality is disingenuous.  Are we not also compelled to ask whether another dialectically superior argument is adequate to lead to a genuine defense of human equality and its relationship to virtue? Americans, as citizens of a regime ‘dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal,’ have the strongest incentive in civic pride to seek out and find that defense, if one does indeed exist. Nor can the few best men, most capable of understanding and explaining this matter, fail to take up this charge upon the
facially spurious argument that, for those few, civic pride is an inadequate motive because it refers ineluctably to civic virtue.  That is to say, the few best men must not prejudge liberal democracy’s claim to moral comprehensiveness; instead, they must take seriously the prospect that the regime founded upon human equality makes possible the identification of moral and civic virtue.

The only dispute between Aristotle and the American Founders turns upon the question whether in the interest of justice or virtue (i.e., the aim of political life) we must restrict political participation to the few, who are wise and just, or may, and must, extend it to include the whole of the body politic.  However, at its core, this is the question: to whom can the science and arts of politics make the demands of justice morally persuasive? The American regime disquiets advocates of natural right, because the Declaration of Independence imposes the obligation of moral persuasiveness upon every claim to justice, including, without limitation, the true and comprehensive claim itself (defined as giving to each member of society his just desert or, alternatively, wisely dividing political goods among social members in conformity with the relative merits of each).  Yet is this not the price necessarily paid in taking the political claim that politics exists for the sake of virtue with the same earnestness that has animated philosophical inquiries into the character of politics?


The writer, who remains unknown to me, could also have invoked my essays, “Radical Challenges to Liberal Democracy,” “The Foreign Policy of Republicanism,” and “The Good Citizen,” not to mention numerous other works that labor, as Gordon Lloyd points out in the introduction to The Essential Antifederalist, to construct a philosophically and politically coherent account of the founding of the United States. [2]


The reply to this very wise inquiry may be comprehensively conveyed in the single observation, heretofore insufficiently noticed, that the work of American politics is the making of citizens; and that means the making of governors.  In the context of a discussion of immigration, this means, to be precise, that the standard of analysis as of judgment must always be the American claim than men are capable of self-government and, therefore, that we appraise newcomers in terms of their readiness, not merely to submit to the rule of our laws but, more certainly to give us laws.  We may, for example, demand that they command the language in which we are usually commanded, precisely because we envision them giving such commands.  And it would be an intolerable affront for us to be held responsible to laws not in our language.  We are aware, then, that men from anywhere may be deemed worthy to govern us, while not yet deemed ready to govern us. Thus, they must be made ready to govern in order to be made our fellow citizens.


As complete as that account is, however, I am aware of compelling and even urgent reasons to elaborate upon it.  I will cite only two:  first, Pierre Manent’s suspicion voiced this winter that George Bush (and perhaps America altogether) wrongly insists upon distinctions of “good and evil” in matters of foreign politics (and thus politics altogether);[3] and, second, Walter Berns’s misdirected argument that patriotism is something more than, something beyond, citizenship in his recent book, Making Patriots.[4]



I. Can Men Love the Work of Their Own Hands?


The more straightforward of these two challenges is Berns’s slight volume, for in it he steadfastly defends the idea of American patriotism (with little else by way of complication).  Moreover, his effort is praiseworthy in its endeavor to advance a defense of patriotism in an era of post-modern (mainly European) suspicion of such sentiments.  In the end, he does not really respond to those suspicions, and that is the source of the exception I now take to his accomplishment.  In the course of developing his argument Berns makes two fundamental claims that seem ill seated.  The first of these two claims is that the “social contract” citizen is not at all “naturally inclined” to patriotic citizenship but rather “to lead an essentially private life… unlike the citizens of every previously existing democracy, he himself, does not govern.  Governing is done by his representatives” (18-19). A second doubtful claim is that this “social contract” citizen’s God is not a real God; that is, his God takes no interest in the affairs of men (32).


In the case of the first error, we witness an extension of Hobbesian reasoning beyond the limits that even Hobbes permitted.  For Hobbes insisted that men were moved by three compelling appetites – desire, fear, and reputation – while Berns calculates only with desire and fear: “Why should such a man, who institutes government in order to secure his private rights, have any concern for anyone else? Why should he be public spirited? …  As Locke said, he can expect to profit under a government that secures his rights and can be expected willingly to accept the duties it imposes” (56-57).  However, this minimal condition of “public spiritedness” is, if anything, certainly not at all spirited!  For, as Hobbes made manifest (Leviathan, ch. 17), this creature will see the reason of accepting his obligations only by reason of the fear that he cannot get away with shirking his obligations. That very fact, surely, is the reason that Berns seeks to inculcate patriotism, and that is also the reason he turns to the example of Lincoln’s inspiration to supply what has no rational foundation in the polity and no poetic home in the soul (99­101). Equality, then, far from organizing human moral energies, spawns a debasement of the soul that only gratuitous poetry can relieve.  Patriotism is more than citizenship (1), because citizenship in the godless “commercial republic” is not worth singing about!


We see the foregoing consequence still more clearly from a closer inspection of Berns’s second error, namely, the identification of the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “Nature’s God” as a deliberate refusal to embrace the God of Abraham (32).  Founding this judgment particularly upon Christ’s distinction between the secular and the sectarian (24), Berns holds that “Jesus…made it impossible for a Christian to be a patriotic citizen in the classical sense.”  Now, while there are serious arguments about the effect of Christianity upon the world (arguments that Machiavelli has certainly advanced with great cogency and none more important, perhaps, than the obscuring of the beautiful), it is a fundamental mistake to take “render unto Caesar” as intending to sunder the secular and the sectarian.  It is, after all, no accident that the religious leaders to whom Christ addressed himself at the moment he made that famous statement, held in their hands coins bearing the likeness of Caesar, but were posing questions of religious doctrine to Christ. It was to those same leaders that Christ posed the challenge, what is easier for me to do, to cure a man of his ills or to forgive his sins.


In short, the confining of the secular to realms of lesser human significance may well have spelled the end of the comprehensive political community, but it by no means spelled the end of the ambition for moral excellence.  Thus, the true account of this exchange would witness the emergence of a new moral hierarchy rather than the third form of atheism described in Plato’s Laws (X). The new moral hierarchy redefines rather than eliminates the dimensions of patriotism.  Based upon the new moral hierarchy it becomes appropriate for men to judge the demands of politics, with the inevitable consequence of birthing new standards of legitimacy.  And where those new standards come to the fore, the regimes that attain or aspire to them will naturally attract a fiercer loyalty than those that do not.


Consider the case of Theudas, Judas, and Jesus: … stood up a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people… And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody.  A number of men, about four hundred, joined him.  He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew many people after him.  He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these [apostles of Jesus] and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found to fight against God.’ (Acts 5:36-39)


Christ’s “render unto Caesar” has the same function that Rabbi Gamaliel’s “if this work is of men” has, serving to establish the realm of the human in relation to the superior authority of God. And Machiavelli’s inverse testimony fifteen hundred years after the fact attests that the work of God is not overthrown however reviled.  Nor then does it follow that those who embraced “Nature’s God” in defense of equality and liberty place themselves in any position that differs from the original Adamic position, in which choice was required even if the course was directed.  The error is to think that because the government is not to direct faith, then faith is not invoked or required; or, to state it differently, to imagine that because man may not speak in God’s name, that God no longer speaks to man. 


Berns perhaps derived the inspiration for his second error from Harry Jaffa’s familiar reliance upon Jefferson’s “Statute of Religious Liberty” as the decisive statement of the founders’ position on matters religious.  And it is certainly true that the idea of settling the religious wars by means of toleration stands clearly at the center of the founding. However, the definitive account of the role of religion in the founding is likely far more nearly Washington’s long series of authoritative national pronouncements on the topic, which advance the cause of toleration but which also do more, forging the direct link between professed faith and political prosperity.  Washington’s adaptation of Micah 6:8 in 1783 is decisive here, for it names the “author of our blessed Religion” in the same breath as establishing the precept that it is America’s political goal to imitate Christ.


In a paean to justice Washington tied man’s justice to God’s will.  When he resigned his army command in 1783 he had already made it clear that he aimed to continue the effort to found a unified nation that could secure its “national character” into a remote futurity.  In phrasing his final prayer for his countrymen from Micah, so amended as to embrace the most extensive human ambition, Washington projected the goal he aimed at:


That [God] would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristicks of the Divine author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.[5]


Washington’s imitatio dei converted Micah’s humble prayer (“What does God ask of man, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”) into an ambitious program to shape a world-historical people.  More significantly, he constructed a doctrinal foundation for the founding considerably more ambitious than the goal of religious toleration. For no one can imitate God without posing, quid sit deus.


In the latter portions of his book Berns finds good reason to praise Christian fellowship as a foundation of patriotic citizenship, although he maintains that there is no foundation for that connection in the principles of the regime.  Let us see, then, whether the regime of equality does not make that rather a necessary than merely an incidental consequence of the regime.


Berns cites the orthodoxy that Christianity and liberty were naturally mated, but he claims that, as Tocqueville understood it, what mattered was not Christianity but “religion in general”(43). Thus we see the old “civil religion” argument emerge in a new form.  However, this argument does not repose on Tocqueville’s view of religion in America that, “if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it” (43). For that contrast ceases to pose an antinomy the moment freedom is acknowledged as a moral requirement rather than a matter of taste.  Thus, it is really a further observation of Tocqueville that matters most:


Every American…responds that a civilized society, and above all a free society, cannot survive without religion. Respect for religion, in his eyes, is the greatest guarantee of the state’s stability and the safety of individuals.  The person least instructed in the science of government knows that much.  Yet, there is in the world no country where the boldest political doctrines of the eighteenth century philosophers could be more rigorously instituted than in America.  There anti­religious doctrines exclusively have never been able to see the light of day in America, even on behalf of the unlimited liberty of the press.”[6]


What Tocqueville explained in that passage was the foundation of the American people’s confidence in revolution – namely, their religious faith.  That meant that their revolution, the revolution of equality was not founded in resentment, whereas elsewhere revolution drew entirely upon class and religious hatreds.  Thus, Tocqueville’s statement is an extraordinary one and not a mere recanting of the civil religion theory.  He describes the origins of liberal democracy and its operations in different arenas.  Liberal democracy arose from the boldest eighteenth century theories, but in the United States it was put into practice upon a significant condition – namely, the expression of confidence in religion in addition to those theories. The Americans, then, stopped short of the extreme forms of revolution that otherwise characterized the theories of the eighteenth century.


They were able to do so because they affirmed a notion of equality that reinforced principles of moral duty rather than undermined them.  They observed the need for principles of relationship independent of politics in order to make liberal democracy work

– social principles beyond political principles.  The idea is that if one attempts to make politics the totality of the human experience in the context of liberal democracy one will create moral chaos, leaving people who require social and moral guidance without any restraint or guidance. Thus, a people who ought to be self-governing would become ungoverned and ungovernable.[7]


The doctrine of consent, founded in moral equality, depends upon the idea of a moral order within which men conduct themselves in accord with discernible standards.  This was not, as Harry Jaffa has shown, to be the realm of “unconditional rights” revealed by modern science. It was rather


based on the idea of unalienable rights endowed by man’s Creator.  Such rights were not unconditional. They were to be exercised only in accordance with the laws of nature and of nature’s god, which were moral laws.  Rights and duties were in a reciprocal relationship. (New Birth, 95)


Surely, what bedeviled Berns’s argument is a notion of rights and duties for which no provision of direct enforcement is made.  But that is the very essence of consent, self­ government, and universal suffrage.  They rest in an expectation of community apart from politics.  Thus, the focus should be on making citizens rather than making patriots – citizens for whom politics is the efficient means of maintaining and defending the community. The proposition of universal suffrage must be based on the idea that human beings (as such) can come to be altogether capable of reasoning together about the things of human life and the common good.  Human beings altogether (or to so wide an extent that the omissions are trivial) must come to be capable of moderation, self-government, and moral sense in order to justify confidence in universal suffrage.


II. Is There A Political Good?


Berns pointed to, without explaining the necessity of, a particular regime devoted to protecting our “attachment to principles that are universal.”  That is, we make citizens in order to defend our principles and not the reverse.  The idea of the state, of its existence and our commitment to its welfare, is intrinsic to the health of those principles by which we govern ourselves. This is the reality that eludes Pierre Manent, who teaches that twenty-first century Europe,


having enjoyed a long and complete peace after so many wars and convulsions, and having built common institutions whose purpose is to “do good” without any clear responsibility toward a definite body politic, tends to forget not only the continuing relevance of self-defense, but also, more generally, the political nature, that is, the circumscribed or ‘autarchical’ as well as threatened nature, of the political good. (2)


For while Manent recognizes that “where [people] live makes a difference,” he nonetheless, argues that liberal principles fully developed are post-modern principles, in which “the rights of man are slowly but surely swallowing the rights of citizens.”  What does this mean politically?  He applied his premise to Israel – and America’s intemperate loyalty to Israel – to make the point: 


As soon as you have got a fatherland, you are part of a particular body politic which excludes those who do not belong to it, and thus you are deservedly under suspicion of the rights of man.  I would submit that Israel has no choice but to concede something to this “religion of humanity,” which is the strongest authority on earth. (10)


It is, then, Manent’s discovery of this new civil religion (or perhaps it is better to say a new, political humanism) that is implicated in his impatience with the tendency of America’s President to speak in stark terms of good and evil in matters of foreign politics.


To be fair to Manent, he concedes at the outset of his presentation that in domestic affairs one cannot escape the language of good and evil.  He used the example of court decisions concerning sodomy, in which those opposed to the approval of state police power in this area brand the conduct “completely private” and therefore immune to public judgment in terms of good and evil.  At the same time, the very insistence that private matters should be immune to public inspection will be no less predicated upon a notion of what is simply if not absolutely good.  Nevertheless, Manent is not so willing to let “do-gooders” off the hook. For in addition to making judgments of good and evil, the do-gooder “puts at the center of his purpose a consideration which, however necessary and precious to human life, cannot by itself give it content and meaning: the do-gooder makes his central theme – the good as opposed to evil – what should be [only] the continuous accompaniment of his life.” (1)  He is “moralistic” rather than “morally serious,” losing sight of the good proper to each domain.


The entire point of Manent’s argument seems to be to establish that liberal democracy takes on as its chief work the stilling of human conflicts – “thwarting the tendency of international relations toward the state of war inasmuch as two nations whose regimes were fully democratic in the modern, that is representative sense, have never been found to engage in war against each other.”  Accordingly, he argues, the chief political good today is concord among the democratic states in a cooperative (multilateral) endeavor to manage potential world conflicts without recourse to war (conflict). This end, in turn, requires some degree of forgetfulness about parochial claims, perhaps most significantly those claims that distinguish one people from another and are most implicated in ideas of national citizenship and national sovereignty.


Because the liberal project, in Manent’s view, resolves primarily into the ambition to strengthen globally “the two great instruments of liberal politics, the State and the Market” (3), it has become urgent to identify a mode of conduct that is consistent with the goal of improving the efficiency of these instruments in their local or parochial settings while retaining influence on their international conduct.  But here Europe and the United States have recently begun to diverge:


… the United States and the European countries more and more tend to belong to two different political species. As I have intimated before, the EU countries tend to proceed under the assumption that politics belongs to a primitive stage of human development, and that ‘good government’ should give way to ‘good governance,’ that is, the happy marriage of competence and good will working through an impartial administration, an administration responsible not before a particular community, but before mankind as such whatever that means.  In the present European dispensation, the rights of man are slowly but surely swallowing the rights of citizens. On the contrary, even before the measures taken in the wake of September 11, America was becoming more and more ‘national,’ looking with suspicion, indeed with contempt, on any and all collective agreements, thus reneging ever so slightly on its Declaration of Independence by showing no decent respect to the opinions of mankind. (4)


This lusty indictment concludes that Europe and the United States are becoming estranged and not merely rivals.  “Europe more and more resembles Aristotle’s God, moving others by being loved and desired. The European Union is politically effective through opening, or closing, its doors to others’ goods or citizens” (5).  The United States, on the other hand, retreats into a doctrine of national self-defense, using its great power and its singular authority to muscle changes at will throughout the globe rather than reflecting the “republican” inclination to undertake war only with reluctance.


The United States was leading the world, it will henceforth try to rule it, relying more and more on the use of force to coerce or intimidate….  It is perhaps for us the most important discovery of Greek philosophy that the good is the common good, and that the decisive choice before us is always between the exclusive appropriation of a lesser good and the participation, the taking part in, a greater good. However urgent the defense of America as such, the paramount concern of American policy makers should be the defense of the free world, or the community of democratic peoples as a whole, if only because America has been attacked as the leader of the latter. (8)


Now this is a very long indictment, and I do not have space sufficient to reply to it in terms on this occasion.  I will, however, provide a response in general, providing sufficient guideposts to determine what a response in particulars would be.  But one thing, very particular, should be said at once, in order to dispel, once and for all the proto­-argument now too long and too often repeated, that liberal democracies do not fight wars against each other.  It is somewhat unclear just what is more questionable, the pretense of so many defenders of states only recently become democratic in any meaningful sense (and I mean the 20th century democracies of Western Europe, for few were meaningfully democratic prior to that and most are still only qualifiedly democratic), or the blindness to the reality that for the entire period the so-called liberal democracies have been liberal democracies they have all also been military allies.  In social science terms, there is all too great evidence that a correlation has been mistaken for causation.  This would perhaps be forgivable if Alexander Hamilton had not already so persuasively knocked the legs out from under the argument about republics in general in the pages of the Federalist Papers. Because of that false argument about the peaceful intentions of liberal democracies, much of the remaining argument about the “reigning democratic doxa” amounts to nothing more than the now fashionable claim that in the post-modern era the Westphalian system is no longer relevant, national sovereignties are no longer of use.  That fashionable but unfounded claim is the argument that requires my general response, for nothing could be clearer than that, if there is no longer room for national sovereignty, there can no longer be room for making citizens.


Before launching an all out shock strike, I will soften the target by invoking comments President Havel made in 1994 apropos of the Czechoslovakian situation:


… It is now quite obvious that if a country doesn’t start in the beginning with all the energy it’s got defining its borders, its identify, its roots of life, its institutions; and [which] starts, for example, first at the economy, then other things, it mixes things which simply lead to disaster.  I’m extremely worried; we are thinking the same way.  We are again, besides that, repeating the troubles which started with the fact that we did not start in ‘90 with concentration on defining who we are, what we are, where to go. We started to talk about, perhaps, secondary or subsidiary simpler problems.[8]


Havel reminds us that sovereignty is not a luxury of power but a necessity of political coherence and integrity. It is somewhat surprising that Europeans in general and Manent in particular seem, ten years after Boutros-Ghali’s infatuation with the end of sovereignty, to be repeating that mistake:


The time of absolute and exclusive sovereignty. . .has passed; its theory was never matched by reality.  It is the task of leaders of states today to understand and to find a balance between the needs of good internal governance and the requirements of an ever more interdependent world. (Speech, June 17, 1992)


Boutros-Ghali’s casual dismissal of sovereignty (in terms identical to Manent’s articulation of the new European view) entailed greater risks for the United Nations and world peace than it did for the interests of any significant state.  The faction of policy makers that takes the view that multilateralism is less a doctrine than a positive good must realize, just as George Washington did, that doctrines however worthy are not self-realizing. It was therefore manifestly self-contradictory for France’s President Chirac to praise the American build-up in Iraq for persuading Hussein to begin disarmament and then to propose an indefinite extension of that build-up in the interest of world peace but exclusively at American expense.  There is no international law that can justify an open draw on any particular nation’s treasury in the interest of peace.  Sovereignty constitutes the protection against such an insane presumption.


The case for the United States, as well as its demand for an international politics of justice and moderation, are not easily assimilated to a regime of multilateralism (at least not when Americans are not themselves in control).  The principles of American politics must be predicated on concrete realization of United States’ control of its own destiny, and there is little to be wondered at if it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain multilateral policies that are persistently forced to acknowledge that reality.  That is hard on other sovereignties, and not only on their pride, which makes it wiser to develop policies which create looser, federative structures that give sovereignties sufficient room to excuse themselves by way of their eccentricities.


Accordingly, the Euro-American divergence attested in the analyses of Robert Kagan (“Power and Weakness”) and Ronald Asmus and Kenneth Pollack (“The New Transatlantic Project”) ought properly to be regarded as a case of divergence in regime understandings rather than a divergence of strategic principles.  To be blunt, a fundamental misunderstanding of the character of the United States lies at the root of the debate, as it does in Manent’s complaint:


Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.. . The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. (Kagan, 1)


It is possible to regard the application of American power as Hobbesian and European appeasement as post-modern only upon the tacit but false presumption that Europe would still live in a “self-contained world of laws and rules” in the absence of the order assured by American power.  Moreover, it fundamentally misconstrues the nature of the assertion of American interest, which derives from the necessity of the United States’ consistent defense of justice to preserve the foundation of the regime of equality.  I cannot now rehearse that long argument from my “Foreign Policy of Republicanism,” but I will point out that, on the strength of that argument I was permitted to conclude, “we are good and they are evil.” Moreover, I showed that this was a course by no means Hobbesian, even when securing the nation’s security in a world otherwise merely Hobbesian and even when calling upon the doctrine of pre-emption that so concerns Manent.  The latter was accomplished principally by making the United States above all “one nation in respect to all other nations” (Federalist 42).


If we revert to the eras of the American and French revolutions, we can detect the strains of thought that produce the misconception that America’s course is Hobbesian while Europe’s is humanitarian.  It derives from the false universalism of European ideas of revolution. The French revolution was not carried out in the name of this tribe, the French, but in the name of humanity.  The revolution in the United States, by contrast, had an impact that was world-wide (and, as Lincoln correctly observed, the example of the United States continues to do so), principally by structuring peoples’ expectations of political decency. Although the Declaration of Independence appeals to the “candid” judgment of the world, and the first Federalist holds that the American founding settles a question for mankind and not just for the United States, this revolution was not directed outside the immediate political sphere of the United States.  Americans required to justify themselves to the world, because the standard of reason was their standard, which in turn was attached to natural law. Thus, they created a particular society, although no longer determined by blood, in the context of a general conception of humanity.


The French revolution lacked such modesty; it declared illegitimate every foundation of social order but those mirroring the events that transpired in France.  This produced a harmful consequence. Instead of identifying the French nation as having a peculiar title to these revolutionary claims, and where one would, besides, urge the imminent necessity of all humans acting accordingly, one ends by separating human beings rather than uniting them.  The reason is that on these terms a Frenchman is no longer a Frenchman, strictly speaking.  A Frenchman is merely a human being, who has no greater reason to find intimacy with someone next door than with someone a thousand leagues away. There is no intrinsic, social principle by which one can argue that neighbors ought to sustain an immediate relationship, apart from going through the task of establishing a social contract and constitution and committing themselves to a specific political (not social) order, whose laws are binding with all the strength called for by Rousseau’s “general will.” That means, further, an exaggeration of homogeneity among men.


Thus, men are not in such circumstances truly citizens and certainly not patriots.  They are Hobbesian subjects, whose fate in world politics must depend upon either their own power or the opportunity to benefit as free-riders from some people whose course and principles are distinctly non-Hobbesian (defending itself without subjecting others).  Thus, the Euro-American divergence is nothing other than the divergence between the original French and American revolutions.


This divergence reveals itself practically, which I can relate by way of an anecdote. In 1988 or 89 I was invited to present my reflection on the subject of European integration at a conference to be held in Treviso, Italy.  I went to great length to speak intelligibly on the subject of America’s transition from a loose federation to a genuine state-nation, indicating along the way the potential benchmarks that would signal Europe’s progress toward integration. At the conference, however, I learned that I had misconstrued its subject.  My hosts were primarily interested in the question of how to deal with the then burgeoning numbers of mainly North African and to some extent Asian immigrants flowing into their countries.  Specifically, they wished to learn better how to guarantee the fundamental rights of the immigrants, without for all of that conveying title to citizenship, French, Italian, or what have you.  In short, they wished to commit to humane principles of immigration that, in the end, would differ little from the long-standing German post-war “guest worker” program that brought so many Turks into Germany.


It continues to be the specific problem of most European states that they perform miserably at assimilating immigrants of diverse cultural backgrounds.  They do so, I would submit, precisely because they do not conceive of their regimes in terms that confirm the general eligibility for citizenship of human beings.  They think that citizens are born and not made, despite the fact that that particular notion is very much a feudal residue. It is accordingly painfully ironic that their notion of the post-modern regime’s carefully managed resolution of conflicts derives as much from their continuing feudalisms as from any recently discovered philosophical or moral commitment.


It is still not possible to say of Europe what I said of the United States in “The Truth About Citizenship,” – namely, that “citizenship belongs not to nations but to human beings” – which is the same as to say that political rights have gained the ascendancy over birth rights. Thus, I close here as I did before:


Tribes, peoples, and nations may have members, but only regimes founded in universal principles can properly have citizens… The paradox of citizenship properly so-called is that it cannot occur universally, is rather realizable only in particular instantiations, and nevertheless addresses the end of every human being.

American citizenship is defined strictly in terms of those human characteristics and circumstances that manifestly apply to all human beings.  Because those terms, as suggested in the Declaration of Independence, invoke human interests and ambitions as the basis of membership in a good polity, it follows that wherever persons hope for the fulfillments to which their individual interests and ambitions aspire, they will naturally regard themselves as capable of American citizenship.  This premise is the novus ordo seclorum, a world in which men can imagine “marrying themselves abroad” without conceiving that to do so entails abandoning their dearest attachments.  When Aristotle identified intermarriage as the fundamental condition for unity in the polis, he pointed beyond the immediate relationships among individuals to the realms of human imagination.  In that realm what counts is the good that one can imagine for oneself. Whatever offers that prospect becomes automatically the standard of decency and fulfillment.  

By holding out such a promise the United States and every similarly constituted republic makes a commitment beyond the limits of its own territory.  That commitment is to recognize and reward to the extent practicable the aspirations of human beings who find  in this promise cause for virtuous exertion.  It is that condition of modernity which chiefly distinguishes it from the ancient world. One recalls Juba patterning himself upon the noble Cato.[9]  It might be thought that Juba wished to be a Roman aristocrat; in fact, he wished only to be supremely human.

What is new in our era is the ability persons have to draw such inspiration from the idea of citizenship in a free republic in addition to the example of human excellence. It is a paradox of considerable complexity that what is held out to every human being willy-nilly can still hold forth the prospect of excellence.  There are many thoughtful critics [such as my anonymous challenger cited above] who may deny such a possibility a priori. They do so, in my view, in ignorance of the precise character of modern citizenship, which hinges on affirmation of the people’s capacity for rule despite long-standing doubts on that score.

The truth about citizenship is not only that it elevates statehood to displace nationhood, but that it also is the decisive condition for articulating the idea of a common good under modern sovereignty.  The idea of modern sovereignty emerges from the discovery of natural rights and the resulting requirement of consent to establish legitimate government—a state as opposed to a nation [political right as opposed to birth right].  Nevertheless, it is not so much natural rights as the practical goal of self-government deduced therefrom which creates the moral conditions of citizenship.  The state-nation is defined more by constitutional goals, in contrast to the nation-state in which terms of nationhood or social histories prevail. The chief constitutional goal is that of self-government—a moral reality that is prior to and must shape the political reality as the fundamental condition of political legitimacy.

Thus, even when one is skeptical of the philosophical principles of natural rights, one still must confront the reality of modern sovereignty in the form of self-government as the irreducible human claim.


This argument will trump even the argument for peace, conducing much more surely to making and defending citizens.



* A shortened version of this talk appeared in the Claremont Review of Books vol. 3, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 38-41.

[1] “The Truth About Citizenship: An Outline,” Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative3 Law,
vol. 4 No. 2, Summer 1996, pp. 355-372; “Machiavelli and Modernity:  The Strength of Justice; Thoughts
on Machiavelli’s Prince,” in Machiavelli’s Prince, translation and commentaries, tr. by Angelo Codevilla,
New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1997.  These essays, and most of my works cited herein are available at

[2]  “Radical Challenges to Liberal Democracy,” the “Epilog” to The Federalist Papers: A Commentary: The “Baton Rouge Lectures,” (New York: Peter Lang, Inc., 2000); “The Foreign Policy of Republicanism: A Free Society in an Unfree World,” in George Washington: Foundations of Presidential Leadership and Character, Praeger, ed. by Ethan Fishman, William D. Pederson, and Mark Rozell (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001), pp. 99-124; “The Good Citizen,” Prepared for The Philadelphia Society, Fall Regional Meeting, November 11, 2000, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and The Essential Antifederalist: Second Edition, W. B. Allen and Gordon Lloyd (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

[3]  Pierre Manent, “Is the Distinction between Good and Evil a Sufficient Foundation for a Sound Foreign Policy?”  This speech was delivered at Harvard University in the Winter of 2002-03, but no date or forum is indicated on the manuscript circulating under the title cited. All references will be to this manuscript.

[4]  Walter Berns, Making Patriots (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

[5]  “Circular Address to the Governors of the Thirteen States,” June 14, 1783, p. 249 in George Washington: A Collection, ed. by W. B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1988).  One may rightly inquire just how far removed this passage is from Leo Strauss’ attribution to Friedrich Nietzsche: “die vornehme Natur ersetzt die gœttliche Natur,” from “Note on the Plan of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil,” Interpretation 1977: 3, 2-3,. p. 113.

[6] Alexis de Tocqueville, L’ancien regime et la rJvolution, Liv. III, ch. 1.

[7] Liberal democracy fails insofar as, morally, it diminishes the weight and authority of moral principle in the lives of ordinary people; insofar as, politically, it entrusts the safety and prosperity of society to the hands of the foolish rather than the prudent; and insofar as, intellectually, it destroys the habit of deference to reason in regulating practical conduct.

The argument in favor of liberal democracy must be strong indeed to command the assent of respectable intelligences in the face of such an arraignment.  While I focus on the long perceived weaknesses of liberal democracy (in order to a better understanding of perceived cultural defects in the contemporary era), I also point out that liberal democracy emerged in its best form against a back-drop of similar reflections.

[8] Private record of a “Conversation with President Vaclav Havel” in the Second Prague Colloquium on Political Philosophy, Conference on “Truth in Politics,” July 1-5, 1994, Prague, Czech Republic.  The transcript is available on my website cited in footnote 1 above. 

[9] See Joseph Addison, Cato.


Back to Top