Mark Franke: The Anglo-Saxon heritage


Ours is a nation of immigrants transformed into Americans, a true melting pot of different ethnicities and national backgrounds.

Back in the day when history was honestly taught, this was a source of pride instilled in our schoolchildren.

Then revisionism and deconstructionism fouled the civics nest. Instead of pointing to what unites us as a people, we are drumbeat into giving a full salute to every little thing that differentiates us. The watchword is no longer unite but divide.

Well, I am not marching in that parade. I would rather build up than tear down, reconcile rather than estrange.

How does one do that other than to look past superficialities such as skin color, second languages, national origins and all the other “identities” which drown out intelligent discussion? If one is willing to drill down to the core of what it means to be an American, what will one find?

I began my contemplation of this with the hypothesis that we are united by our polity, our political system based on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This led me to a protracted reading journey that uncovered the root of these brilliant documents and the system they begat.

It was the Anglo-Saxons of early medieval England.

Now one might argue Americans are largely descended from places other than England. Our genetics are mixed and remixed as our forebears came to America and within a generation or two inter-married with other Americans of different backgrounds.

It is not the biological gene pool that matters. It is a rich ancestry of political institutions and love of liberty that fomented our war for independence and then nurtured the Founding Fathers as they built a new nation.

Anglo-Saxon has become another canceled word in woke quarters. These benighted souls dogmatically reduce everything to race and racial conflict. Their doctrinal edifice would collapse otherwise.

But what if we look at Anglo-Saxon as a concept rather than a tribal designation? What my reading discovered is that the Anglo-Saxons bequeathed a political system that survived the Norman Conquest and all of the civil wars throughout England’s history. It was this system the early British colonists brought with them to America. It was the only one they knew.

It is not just an American phenomenon. Dan Hannan, in this book “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World,” documents how today’s nations that are part of what is called the Anglosphere are most free in terms of political, religious and economic freedom. His argument has its detractors, but he responds that this isn’t an ethnic thing. It is one of belief, of a love of liberty and of a desire for representative democracy.

Margaret Thatcher concurred with this assessment: “We know what works — the Anglo-Saxon model of liberty, property, law and capitalism. And we know where it works — everywhere it’s actually applied.” Winston Churchill said much the same thing but using many more words as one would expect. The Hannan-Thatcher-Churchill proposition leads to several proof questions:

Which cultures offer the highest level of democratic institutions?

Where does individual liberty flourish?

Where does one find maximum economic freedom and its concomitant high levels of personal income?

To what extent do traditional western values, especially Judeo-Christian ones, still matter?

Hannan answers each of these questions with a resounding “only in the Anglosphere.” His thesis gets some independent validation in what is known as the Inglehart-Welzel world cultural map (above).

Conveniently for this discussion, the map groups English-speaking nations as one cluster. This “Anglosphere” is at the far end of the individualism scale while in the middle of the religion-secular scale. So far, the support for Hannan’s premise appears solid enough. If you want to find maximum individual liberty with reasonable support for traditional family and religious values, the Anglosphere is where you should live. I have oversimplified this, but it is a reasonable conclusion to draw.

The irony is the English are Anglo-Saxon by outlook but not by blood. British geneticist Brian Sykes studied thousands of DNA samples of residents of England and found very little of the Anglo-Saxon. The predominant gene type was from Celtic ancestors. Even the modern Anglo-Saxons are not truly Anglo-Saxon by descent.

So where does this leave us? Those who claim to be racially pure Anglo-Saxons are wrong. Those who accuse anyone who claims an Anglo-Saxon heritage as racist are wrong. We won’t find our Anglo-Saxon heritage coursing through our veins. We will find it in hearts, minds and souls.

All we need to do is to look toward the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. That’s where our Anglo-Saxonism resides. These two documents taken together form the sedes doctrinae of the American faith.

Surely, our divided polity can unite around a common love of liberty for all, as the Pledge of Allegiance declares.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Send comments to [email protected].

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