From last year, Charles Coulombe's provocative thoughts on US Independence Day. '... Americans are Europeans!'
By Charles CoulombeAt this writing, Independence Day 2021 looms ahead of us. This quintessential expression of Americana gives one the chance to think about what the United States really are—both as phenomena in their own right, and as extensions of Europe. The reader will immediately noticed the use of “United States” in the plural, but that too is part of our story—one hotly debated, and never so much as now. Since the Constitution was adopted, the question of who inherited the Sovereignty of the British Crown over the United States—the Federal Government or the States themselves—has caused legal actions galore and endless political rancour, to say nothing of the bloodiest war Americans have ever fought.
Beyond that, as we proudly proclaim our independence with fireworks, parades, speeches, and dinners (all ironically originally used to celebrate the King’s Birthday in colonial times), we Americans tend to think of ourselves as autogenetic. In our popular imagination, the Founding Fathers were revolting against a “foreign yoke.” We tend to forget the American Revolution was in reality our first civil war, and was accomplished in the teeth of the tacit or active opposition of at least two thirds of the population (that being the estimate of John Adams, who claimed that amount were opposed or neutral to the idea).
Without wanting to either vindicate the Loyalists or hold their rebel opponents up to contempt, the victory of the latter and the country’s growth from a small nation to the World’s largest superpower to-day have obscured an important truth. Concealed from both ourselves, the inhabitants of our sister settler nations in the Americas, Australasia, and elsewhere, and the people of the Old Mother Continent, it is this: despite our flags and fuss, we Americans are Europeans! Our founding dates were neither July 4, 1776, nor April 9, 1784, when King George III formally absolved his American subjects of their allegiance. Rather, you might cite July 3, 1608; May 14, 1607; or even September 8, 1565—these being the dates when the French, English, and Spanish, our founding nations, respectively established their first permanent settlements in Anglo-America.
Giving all possible honour to the contributions of the indigenous, African, and Asiatic peoples to the United States, the fact remains that these contributions—wonderful as they have been—were grafted on to a basic European foundation. With the exception of those elements invented by the Constitutional Convention in 1788-9, all of our State, County, and local governments reflect their European origins, from the Governors down to the Notaries Public. Our Common Law, dominant on the Federal level and in 49 States, comes to us from the Kingdom of England; the land law of our Southwestern States finds its origins in Spain, while Louisiana’s Civil Code derives from the French Code Napoleon. Religiously, when the Supreme Court ruled in the 1892 case Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States that the United States are “a Christian Nation,” the Justices did not only cite contemporary State Constitutions and the practices of then-contemporary everyday life, but also pointed out commissions and charters signed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and Elizabeth I and James I of England. Our oldest National Guard units were raised under King Charles I, unless one includes Puerto Rico’s militia, whose founder was Spain’s Philip II back in 1598. Beyond the country’s official life, our folklore and folk culture has colonial roots, from the Child Ballads recorded in various Eastern States to the Santos of New Mexico.
Of course, the Europe of our pre-independence foundations, the Europe upon which all our post-independence national life has been built, was a far different place from the Europe of today. Even as the Spanish were entering Mexico and preparing to end centuries of bloody Aztec sacrifice, Martin Luther was beginning the revolt that would tear Western Christendom in two. Thus began the process of revolution and war that would end in the de-Sanctification and disenchantment—that is to say, the secularization—of the Mother Continent.
Grown in strength and size, and having struck down Spain in 1898, America contributed far more than our share to this development at Versailles and Yalta. The Altar and Thrones of the Europe; the Christendom; the Res Publica Christiana; the Occident that founded us; all are in deep eclipse. We Americans are separated from our places of origin not only by an ocean of space, but one of time. As Galadriel puts it in The Lord of the Rings:
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,What, indeed? For the American—or for that matter, Canadian, Australian, Mexican, Argentine, et cetera—who today returns to the Continents his ancestors left long ago finds only the same wasteland he himself left: a corrupt political and cultural leadership dedicated to murdering its subjects (and ultimately itself) via contraception, infanticide, gender confusion, euthanasia, and spitting upon the heritage of the past. With relatively few and honourable exceptions, a complaisant Church hierarchy is silent in the face of That Hideous Strength, with no few of its clergy aiding said strength to perform its hideousness; of course, those clergy who resist are often punished by their superiors. It is, to be sure, a bleak picture.
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?
Yet, if a visiting Colonial wanders through Europe’s highways and byways, he sees more than the systemic corruption and stupidity he can find at home. The natural and cultural landscapes he traverses, from Ireland to the Urals, and from Norway to Malta, remind him strongly of what was—and why it was as it was. To walk the trails of France’s Forest of Broceliande, for example, or the great Ardennes, and to come upon a wayside shrine is a sublime and soul-stirring experience. The Double Eagles on Vienna’s Hofburg and the Lilies on Paris’ Invalides are mute testimonies to the greatness that built them. The great Shrines to this day attract pilgrims drawn by their continuing grace and holiness—and the revival of various Medieval shrines and pilgrimages in the Protestant nations is a story that does not receive nearly enough attention. At the innumerable festivals and re-enactments across the Continent; among the various continuing or revived guilds, confraternities, and local societies there; and in Europe’s continuing folk customs, from Morris Dancing to Krampus to the St. John’s fires; flickers of Deep Europe occasionally pop through the cultural rubbish piled on top of her. Old Europe reminds one of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. But who or what must kiss the Princess, draw the Sword from the Stone, challenge the Green Knight, or do whatever is necessary to make the sleepers awake and the bones to live?
Another question that the American might ask is why any of it should matter—especially on the Fourth of July? It is simple, really. It is because on this Independence Day our United States are sick unto death, deeply divided, with our own answer to Germany’s President Hindenburg at the helm (although, if it is any comfort, should Biden die in office, his successor as Head of State will not be a charismatic megalomaniac but a lady whose first major public office was Mistress to the Mayor of San Francisco. That by itself should guarantee a different if not better outcome in our case).
At any rate, the malaise we share with Europe, despite having been encouraged by our efforts decades ago, is European in origin. If it is to be cured, it must be cured there. As mentioned, one cannot say what magic is needed, although some developments in Central Europe are encouraging amidst the general gloom, and here and there are some indications that Europeans outside the official circles of Brussels and most of the national governments are waking up. Who knows? Perhaps the unthinkable will happen, and a handsome Prince (or several!) shall kiss Sleeping Beauty, draw the Sword from the Stone, and challenge the Green Knight.
Should the Mother Continent regain the Faith and spirit that animated her and nourished our fathers, she shall become a true mother to her scattered children across the globe. As the Identita Europea folks put it in their manifesto: “By encouraging a EUROPEAN IDENTITY we do not intend to promote a ‘western culture’ which absorbs and dissolves all diversities in a leveling attempt. On the contrary, our aim is to enlarge this identity beyond the European boundaries, thus recovering that large part of our continent ‘outside Europe’—from Argentina to Canada and from South Africa to Australia—which looks at the old continent not as a distant ancestor but as a real homeland.” In a word, that Christendom that covers the globe, and includes such spots as Goa, Malacca, Flores, Ambon, and the Philippines.
We cannot know what that would look like; but we can use such a vision as something to pray, hope, and work for. Whilst we wait for Europe as a whole to recover her soul, we can use this Fourth to reflect upon the many good things our country has produced. I speak not here of nebulous ideas of “Freedom” but of everything from the Cocktail to the Polio Vaccine, from the Broadway Musical and Old Hollywood to the Space Programme. Without the Faith, we have remained the Pinocchio of Nations, but we have managed to do a great deal of good in different ways.
Let us pray to the Patroness of the United States, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, that we too may receive that conversion which allowed our European Mother Countries to become nations in their own rights as well as part of the European complex. In the meantime, we can disregard the vapid blatherings of the Woke and celebrate the Country in which God has placed us. For all her imperfections, for all her faults, she is ours—no matter who may govern her. So raise the flag, start the barbecue, shoot the fireworks, but do not be ashamed to look towards our old home.