Ira Straus, Why Jamestown Matters

Ira Straus, Why Jamestown Matters,, May 10, 2007

"Why would Americans want to believe they were founded by what is largely viewed nowadays as an oppressive sect of Puritan fanatics, when they could simply opt for the truth and say they were founded by sensible mainstream people at Jamestown? On that question hangs a tale, and one of considerable importance for European-American relations. (…) Few of us ever draw the logical conclusion - that separatism was a secondary factor in our freedom, and often a pernicious one at that. (…) The Puritan mentality of schism is something that continues to be of service to those who would divide the Atlantic Alliance, the cornerstone of U.S. leadership in the world. How often do we hear, from both anti-Americans in Europe and from Europhobes in the United States, that the United States is unique and fundamentally different from Europe? The true history of the growth of America's freedom tells the opposite tale. It was a transatlantic growth, emerging from intertwined developments and currents of thought that bounced back and forth across the ocean. This is evidenced by the Magna Carta and the growth of parliament, the Renaissance explorations and scientific revolution, the Jamestown Assembly, the Glorious Revolution, the Enlightenment, the United States pulling ahead of Europe after 1776 with democracy and its Federal Union - but with western Europeans catching up in the 1800s and southern and eastern Europeans in the 1900s. The true history was remembered by some Americans in the 1890s when - no longer nervous about their independence - they undertook an Anglo-American rapprochement. Despite resistance from an isolationist rear guard, an Atlantic Alliance was built in the coming decades. The alliance began informally with the United Kingdom and United States, then added France, endured a baptism by fire in two world wars, became institutionalized in 1949 with more countries joining, and has grown gradually wider and deeper ever since, becoming the central power structure in the world with the collapse of its last European enemy in 1991 and taking on a larger global role. It has been further supplemented politically and economically by the G8 and OECD, and in late April a U.S.-EU agreement to establish a kind of transatlantic common market. This alliance, the core of the global economic and security system, needs a solid, honest Atlantic identity at the base of its American pillar. The Jamestown history supports this. The myth of Pilgrim-uniqueness undercuts it. (…)"


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