WSJ Op-Ed: Thanksgiving Is About Liberty

Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 07:25 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Americans should give thanks for a political culture that cherishes liberty and to their forebears, who came to these shores in search of religious freedom, writes Myron Magnet in The Wall Street Journal.

Magnet, who has authored books on history and social policy and was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush, recalled that since 1621, when the Puritans came to the New World in search of religious freedom, waves of pilgrims in quest of liberty have followed them to these shores.

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It once was illegal under British law for non-Anglican Protestants such as the Pilgrims to worship freely.

Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, and others who embraced traditions of self-government, individualism, and personal responsibility found haven in America.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay wrote a spellbinding description of how his grandfather, a French Protestant, had to escape from the France of Louis XIV because the civil rights of Protestants were revoked.

"With this long history, Americans have had an almost physical thirst for liberty," said Magnet.

America, wrote James Madison, offered a "Promised Land" of "asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion."

The founders understood that human nature had its depraved side. That while "some kind of government armed with power" was needed, the Constitution they crafted in 1787 "explicitly limited government's powers to what they deemed absolutely essential."

Magnet evoked George Washington, who in the first State of the Union address emphasized that the best protection of American values was inculcating a political culture that cultivated independence and a love of liberty.

"The security of a free Constitution," he said, requires "teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them."

Americans should give thanks to be living in the Land of the Free and for the culture of liberty upon which it is rooted, Magnet concluded.

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