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There was a diary at dKos the other day that was talking about habeas and said something like "remember it was because of issues like this that we left England".

I think it's more evidence of American stupidity, but that is an element of exceptionalism. It's a wilfull stupidity. And it's a trained stupidity.

Americans are told that nothing good ever existed before America. And nothing much good since. So it's natural they don't know where Habeas Corpus came from -- or rather they "know" it came from the founding fathers.

Just as they "know" that America was the first democracy and that it's the best democracy in the world. And that their country was founded on "values".

This is your basic fascist set up. Stupid + Racist / Nationalist + Unshakeable belief that your side is totally moral + the idea that there was a golden age that the country needs to get back to.

And the willingness to use extreme violence to advance the goals of your side obviously.

To be clear - I don't think that Atrios is guilty of exceptionalism here or that he doesn't know who had habeas first. My point is that it may be too easy a charge to throw around.

For instance, listen to this interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Gordon S. Wood. He makes the point that the USA was founded on ideals and that they are pretty awesome ideals. It sounds to me like Slaughter was saying the same thing.

You both have a point.

I think America v.1776 and v.1788 was definitely founded on ideals to the extent that it referenced ideals in its founding documents, and put the latter document, the Constitution, through an extensive debate/vetting/ratification process. "We the People" was not boilerplate, it was a lived reality -- true, only for those people given the chance to weigh in, but that was a far larger group than ever had that chance before, both because the franchise was extended widely, and also simply because it was exceedingly rare to democratically consider a constitution. (I'm not enough of a historian to say that "never happened", but I wouldn't rule it out, either.) It also specifically excluded the usual sources of nationhood -- religion, ethnicity, language. These were important victories of ideals over elitism/aristocracy, parochialism and narrow identity politics -- the realities of the day in the European cultures that spawned America.

But America v.1492-v.1885 or so was also founded on the "empty petri dish" promise: lots and lots of resources for us swarm over and consume, regardless of pre-existing competitors we'd wiped out. (BTW: +/- inadvertently, via epidemic; see esp. the book "1491.") The 3/5 clause etc -- the alleged bugs in the Constitution -- were very arguably about preserving a united front with all eyes on the prize: the methodical exploitation of a continent. The same may go for the very institution of the presidency, with its very strong powers. We've been living ever since with the consequences of those choices and motivations, too. So was the Constitution about "How to Found a Continental Superpower", or was it about "How to Preserve the Rights of Man"? Maybe both.

Re eRobin's question in the post, though, I think "the ideals of this country" needn't be read to mean that this country necessarily *authored* those ideals, so I don't think it's exceptionalism.

Good point. The USA didn't come about the usual way b/c we were working so hard to exterminate the native peoples who may have one day comprised the usual population of a traditional country.

the Constitution, through an extensive debate/vetting/ratification process. "We the People" was not boilerplate, it was a lived reality

Let's see. The convention was held in secret. The people who debated were a self-appointed clique of military officers who wanted to overthrow the existing republic. They insisted that no notes be taken so that the people wouldn't find out what they had been saying while framing the constitution. So far it sounds incredibly democratic doesn't it?

But yeah that was a ratification period. Sort of. Firstly the coup leaders wrote into their new constitution the idea that not all the states had to agree to the new constitution before it passed. That was a complete break with the previous republic where, rather obviously, no state could force another do as it wished and complete agreement was required.

So what happened to the states that didn't agree to the new constitution? Oh didn't you know? Rhode Island refused to go along with it so they starved it into submission. The reason Rhode Island didn't go for it was that by a bizarre stroke their congress had been taken over by ordinary citizens who were, of course, bitterly opposed to the new constitution.

And the first thing on the agenda for the new government? Create a permanent federal army to crush "We The People".

Growing up near Rhode Island and in New England, where nobody is happy with authority, I actually had heard that story about RI as well as others about damn dirty hippies of the Colonial period.

And, of course, they all owned slaves and didn't extend any of these unalienable rights to women but that doesn't mean that they didn't found the country on a set of values, which was unique at the time. It means that they didn't have any intention of making those values real to any but a select, advantaged and cooperative group of people.

Oh, and the army you're talking about was created to crush the original damn, dirty hippies - native Americans - more than any one else.

That's cool. How was the story related to you? I'd really like to know. I have had the hardest time finding it repeated on-line because the story is usually sort of airbrushed to make the whole episode sound more Democratic and happy happy.

I believe the army was specifically intended to help crush Shays' Rebellion. But certainly that sort of threat. The colonists had already figured out how to attack Indians.

What's that saying "I'll just hire one half of the working class to kill the other half"? Well racism was created to make the job easier but generally it was a harder sell to raise a militia to kill your white neighbours than to go kill Indians. You could always raise a militia in one state to go kill folks in the next state, but they didn't like being marched off too far from home.

Good times.

If you look at the notes Madison made during the creation of the constitution (which he said shouldn't be published while he was alive I think?) it's all about how to block real Democracy while giving the impression of participation and public ownership of the process. I think it was a success as measured by this goal.

The thing is, what the elites got wrong ... even the impression of legitimacy is a very dangerous thing indeed for the elites. They really opened a can of worms and even though it was a pretend can, people once they are told they deserve things, ask for more and more.

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