Wisdom From C. Chauncey Burr, dated 1863

In the following quote, Chauncey Burr, in his book A History of the Union and the Constitution, addresses the question of the Saxon and the Norman forms of government, a question which was disputed in the South during that time, just at the onset of the War Between the States.

Burr said:

“The man that does not love his country, turns his back upon himself.

Our country is ourselves; for we are all parts of the public system which constitutes the grand edifice of our social and political lives.

The man who even dies for his country, dies for himself, for his children, and for the honor of his forefathers.

It is a family interest that connects him with the glory of his country.

What are a few days added to a man’s life, compared to the progressive perpetuity of those institutions which are to be the abode of all the descending generations of his offspring? Only as a minute compared to a thousand years.

It is of little moment whether you and I go hence to-day or to-morrow. Every act of ours that bears upon our country’s weal or woe is something infinitely greater than our life.

When we come to investigate the origin of the principles of our Government, we must go a great ways back of our colonial period. […]

Principles which hold up the weight of states and kingdoms are not inventions. They are growths, good or bad, out of time and circumstances.

We who live now stand upon the topmost layer; but remove the one beneath us, and we must go down. Remove the lowest strata of all, and the whole pile would tumble in ruins.

One layer of time has Providence piled upon another for immemorial ages, every one of which is essential to the integrity of the whole system.

Had Greece been different from what it is, Rome would not have been what she was. Had Rome been different, Saxony and Normandy would not have been what they were. Had these been different, England would not be what she is.

Had England been different, we should not be what we are-we should not be here to-night. We are all parts of one stupendous whole, and are making future generations, just as past generations have made us.

Our fathers transmitted a priceless boon of government to us; and, by an eternal law of Providence, we must send it down to our posterity, a boon or a bane. As we act to-day, must our children curse or bless our memories. As we act to-day, shall we transmit to the generations of our offspring the sacred principles of self-government and liberty, or those of anarchy and despotism. The blood of our fathers was poured out like rain in defense of those principles.

And not only of our fathers, but of hundreds of thousands of Saxons in England, even before the time of feudalism. For old England, under her Saxon kings, was a kingly confederacy. That was the old Saxon idea of liberty, that the people should somehow rule.

In their institutions the name of “PEOPLE” was never lost, whether in their furtherest antiquity among the forests of Germany, or on the ancient plains of Britainy. [sic]

Our fathers, when they began the business of governing themselves, but expanded what the Saxons commenced more than a thousand years ago; before, indeed, the races of the North of Europe had a history of their own, or a place in the history of the more civilized Southern nations. […]

More than a thousand years ago this battle between the ideas of local self-government and of centralized despotism crimsoned every field in Britainy. The principle of local independence was the Saxon idea. That of centralization, or of all power proceeding from a great and irresponsible center, was the Norman idea.

Hence, “when the Saxons conquered Britain, its comparatively small territory was divided into several petty kingdoms or loosely-compacted commonwealths. And again, each of these was parceled out into various other divisions, such as counties, shires, tithings, and other partitions, the origin of which puzzles the antiquarian.”

This old Saxon spirit of state independence animated the local institutions and all the small divisions with an energy and general prosperity that never could have been developed under a strongly-controlling central power. Under the Saxon principle, the masses of the people flourish. They are free, and, therefore, the arbiters of their own destiny. Their very freedom imparts an ambition and an enterprise, which are never seen where the Norman principle of centralized power prevails.”

3 thoughts on “Wisdom From C. Chauncey Burr, dated 1863

  1. Some of this is hard to swallow given the unhealthy relation of family to our current situation with the administration of government as it stands over the last fifty years or more. However, there’s some great maxims for fleshing-out, what ought to be, a genuine patriotism. Indeed, these are very nice ground rules for defining #AmNat (as we retrieve our lost history) rather than the lazy default position of Euro-identity and adjacent Papistry or imagined Paganism. Again, you’re doing important work and I hope unique hits to this site has spiked a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charles, thanks for the kind words and for the honest criticism of the quote.
      I do appreciate your comments and your interest in this blog. I hope you continue to contribute comments or any advice.
      This blog represents something meaningful to me and I hope to continue it, as long as even a few like-minded people find it useful or encouraging in any way.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Outliers (#63)

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