Several people have asked me why I use “American Conservatism” as a category heading instead of just conservatism. I use the term because American Conservatism is a one of a kind, unique political philosophy. It is a strange synthesis of philosophies respecting God, human dignity, liberty, the rule of law, order, individual freedom and equality. American Conservatism is a radically liberal philosophy.
There is no other country in the world that has combined the political beliefs of men as diverse in political thought as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan. Only in America have we had the ingredients to combine these all up to create American Conservatism.
At the time of the American Founding, our founding fathers were radical liberals. They believed that since men and women were created in the image of God, everyone of them had God-given human dignity. From this human dignity, all men had the right to self-government through the creation of a Republic.
Many people want to link American conservatism with European conservatism, but these people don’t truly understand American Conservatism. Unlike European Conservatism, American Conservatism is fundamentally transformed by America’s embrace of republicanism.
This small “r” republicanism is defined by the belief that men have the right and ability to govern themselves. Our founding fathers liberated the western world from the notion that only aristocratic monarchs and the members of their court can rule mankind. Americans became citizens as opposed to subjects, and this transformation created a completely new flavor of conservatism—American Conservatism.
While European Conservatism is associated with aristocracy, American Conservatism is democratic. While European conservatism emphasizes order over individual rights, American conservatism values order, but individual liberty and freedom usually trump the desire for order. While European Conservatism creates classes of men, American Conservatism cherishes equality which has created an almost classless society in America.
American Conservatism has a great tradition, and many European conservative thinkers, like Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville, have influenced this tradition, but republicanism forever sets American Conservatism apart. This steadfastness to republicanism has created our radical American conservatism.