Our Anglo-American Heritage Can’t Be Wished Away by the Left

As a history professor and long-time instructor in “Western Civilization” classes, I was dumbfounded by recent leftist attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, at a meeting of U.S. sheriffs, innocuously observed that these highly respected police officials are part of our country’s democratic and “Anglo-American” legal and law enforcement heritage. The term “Anglo-American” stuck in Left’s collective craw, symbolizing (as they see it) the fact that U.S. laws and law enforcement are made of, by, and for (you guessed it) white people. This interpretation of Sessions’ remarks is not only grossly unfair—it also ignores the very real “Anglo-American” basis for our laws, constitution, and democracy.

Americans should understand that our legal system is founded on the British “common law” tradition, which distinguishes the legal environment in Britain and its former colonies, including the United States, from that in almost every other part of the world. “Anglo-American” common law bases ideas of justice on precedents established in previous judicial rulings. Because of this, many of the assumptions of the American legal system actually predate America itself and hearken back to ideas of justice in medieval and early modern England.

Many of our most important legal and constitutional principles—from presuming a person innocent until proven guilty, to allowing people to speak their minds freely, to consulting the people in matters of government—are traceable to the British political tradition, which nurtured the growth of similar sentiments in the 13 Colonies. Our Founding Fathers were under no illusions about the debt we owed to the British. Indeed, they borrowed freely from British political and legal traditions, and consciously copied the ideas and sometimes the language of men like the English political philosopher John Locke. And this is not even to go into the benefits that accrue from our use of the wonderful English language itself, which binds our country together, and the world-historical importance of the fabled Anglo-American “special relationship,” which won two World Wars, plus the Cold War.

Moreover, when Jeff Sessions observed that the American institution of “sheriff” is an outgrowth of our “Anglo-American heritage,” he was likewise merely stating an obvious truth. Sheriffs were appointed by England’s Kings in the Middle Ages to administer justice at the county level. As Sessions pointed out, our innovation in the United States was to make sheriffs elected officials, so as to maximize their representative character and to make them servants of the people rather than agents of royal authority. Simply put, we would not have sheriffs in America were it not for our Anglo-American heritage. This is precisely why, outside of areas once ruled by the British Empire, sheriffs do not exist.

Why do liberals consider Sessions’ remark “racist”? Perhaps it is because they do not bother to distinguish between the meaning of the term “Anglo-American” in a legal or historical context, and the meaning of “Anglo” in the cultural context of the American southwest, where the word refers to a white person from a non-Hispanic background. If this is the case, liberals should consider that the New York Times Magazine published an article in November 2016 lamenting the decline of an “Anglo-American order” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

The New York Times, of course, was not condemned as racist. Why? Because there was nothing racist about its position! The Times was merely trying to blame then President-Elect Trump for an anticipated decline in center-left bonhomie between Britain and the United States. Likewise, President Obama used the phrase “Anglo-American” in a legal context on several occasions, and he was never accused of racism. “Anglo”, therefore, does not always refer to “white people,” and, even if it did, acknowledging the powerful historical role played by white people in history is not “racist”. It is, once again, merely stating the obvious.

The other reason why leftists may be offended by the term “Anglo-American” is because it reminds them that this is a country that was largely founded by immigrants from Europe—the dreaded “white people” of which we spoke earlier. Moreover, there is an argument to be made, and I make it in my classes often, that this is still a nation that is part of “Western Civilization,” and the legacy that this civilization has bestowed on us is overwhelmingly positive. The fact that we are free to criticize our elected leaders, that we have elections in the first place, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law, that we live in the freest, most prosperous society that has ever existed—all of this is down to the political and social principles that Europeans, mainly Englishmen, bequeathed to us.

Ironically, it is the (largely British) freedoms that we enjoy today that empower liberals to inveigh against the very civilization that birthed modern democracy as well as the competing ideals of Marxism, feminism, and “social justice,” among others. It would make more sense for liberals to acknowledge these contributions than to spurn them, since liberalism itself would make no sense outside of its clearly Western context.

Make no mistake, therefore: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ words, which honored our country’s “Anglo-American heritage,” were no more racist than the words of the Declaration of Independence. The real racists, I would argue, are those who are so pathologically anti-white that they impute racial animus (even “white supremacy”) to every phrase, no matter how harmless and no matter how true, that escapes the lips of a Republican. Such race-baiting nonsense ought to have no place in our political discourse.

Furthermore, we should embrace rather than reject our heritage as a Western people. The West has achieved spectacular advances in every field of human endeavor, and is especially notable for advancing the cause of human freedom and dignity. That is a tradition of which we all should be proud.

About Nicholas L. Waddy

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.

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39 responses to “Our Anglo-American Heritage Can’t Be Wished Away by the Left”

  1. Liberals consider ‘Anglo-American law’ as racist because everything they don’t like is an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. To liberals, any disagreement or dissension from their ideology is understood as an illness. This is what is known in the mental illness trade as ‘projection’: The irrational act of perceiving in others one’s own illness.

    • When did you become a mind reader? How can you group millions of Americans as “known in the mental illness trade as ‘projection.” What is the mental illness trade, Boris?
      You may be a brain surgeon, but I’m rubber you’re glue is a playground trick.

  2. Stupid author. British Westminster democracy has been emulated in countless countries in the world. No one chose our stupid system: bi-cameral, electoral college; direct election of the HOS, and a grossly mis-representative Senate. We stole most of the DOI from the British Petition of Right and made up the Constitution ourselves once the Articles of Confederation had failed grossly. In reality, we have stumbled around and landed with a system of multiple level jurisdictions pot is legal in some states and illegal federally – and ended up with a non-functional silly ass system that has been in gridlock for most of the last 20 years. We should have stuck by the original formula instead of adding some unique American stupidity to it.

    • BCML, Actually, we are more advanced in democracy, representative government, and self government than Europe. They have had reason to learn from the United States. Granted, the loss of true federalism is a setback but saying we would be further ahead by sticking with the original formula is the true stupidity. We rejected the divine right of kings and the rest of the world has benefited by our “City on the Hill.” The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are the oldest and most successful political documents in history.

      • John. You are so wrong that I won’t even start. We learned EVERYTHING form the British. And Magna Carta was 1203. Take a history course.

      • Everyone knows we have an Anglo legal system. But,If we had copied the British we would not have had George Washington and the American presidency, but the divine right of kings! You suppose we did not improve on that system? There are very many areas where we improved on that system. Make an argument without a personal attack. I know, its hard.

      • No country has emulated our system. Dozens have emulated Britain’s. It is a constitutional monarchy. Go read about it. Our Congress is a built in gridlock.

      • You are correct, that is by brilliant design by people who correctly mistrust too much government.
        If you want to live in a monarchy go ahead. People who are born to rule will be much better for you.

      • Nice rationalization. It is a dumb system that zero other nations have copied. Tell you something?

      • No country has emulated our system? You mean the Declarations of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? Regarding congress, it has abdicated much of its legislative power to the Executive branch through administrative agencies that make laws and decide cases to which they are a party. In this way the separation of powers–judicial, legislative, executive–are removed. Also, the changing of the filibuster from a right to debate issues into a unilateral right to stop debate and consideration of an issue has done much to weaken the legislative branch. Thanks for the condescending remarks.

      • You’re welcome. I am only condescending because you deserve it.

      • 1215. And not as successful as the Constitution which has lasted 200 years. All the Magna Carta did was to ensure the rights of nobles under the king. That has not worked out well for the nobles or the king today.

    • And yet our system has resulted in the richest most powerful country in the history of the world, with the most opportunity for the most people to live free and pursue their dreams without having to worry about government tyranny – at least until the last few decades when leftists started to impose that government tyranny on us all, the boot of government on the neck of the people…

      And we did it in less than 200 years. Other countries that have been around for many hundreds of years more, even thousands, never evolved to even the flush toilet on their own (which was an Anglo invention)…and the whole world has benefited from our advances directly and indirectly.

      Sounds like the pot has rotted your brain.

      • You’re brainwashed. Dozens of countries have all the liberties we have and more. Check the CATO Institute Human Freedom Index. I think you will find we don’t even make the top 20. I find people with attitudes like yours are people who have never left their state or country. Conde Naste rate the most livable cities in the world. We don’t have a single city in the top 20 – Canada has 3; Australia has 2. American grossly overrate thier country – because they are untravelled historically-illiterate hillbillies.

      • Yes, the pot HAS rotted your brain. Other countries in the world that have advanced, have been able to do so because we provided the shield, the peace, the freedom – after WWII we all did not have to learn German and/or Japanese – after the 80s when Ronald Reagan defeated the USSR, no one had to fear their brand of totalitarianism. The United States built all that!

        As far as city ratings – why would anyone want to live in a big city, anyway, crowded together like rats in a cage? The US has thousands of smaller, wonderful livable cities and beautiful rural areas. Please, stay away from them, we don’t need people like you in them.

        By the way I have lived and worked in Germany, South America and the Caribbean, traveled widely there, and speak fluent Spanish. So much for your uninformed pot-infused musings.

      • Reagan did not defeat the USSR; it defeated itself – bad system – and it collapsed largely due to the cost of their Afghanistan War, which sucked them dry. NeoCons like to say it was SDI, That is BS from nationalist historian bull$hitters. And we did not win WWII; we were on the winning coalition. We defeated Japan but remember, Britain, Canada, Aussie, and others were in 2-3 years ahead of us in Europe. Hitler was was really defeated on the eastern front – by the Russians. Since WWII we have been the source of the world: basically invading/bombing 30 countries. We fought to a draw in Korea; got our a$$ kicked in Viet Nam, booted out of Iran, will lose in Afghanistan, and left Iraq in total chaos. We are a train wreck. and should leave the rest of the world alone. By the way; they basically hate us.

      • I will be nice and just say your “creative interpretations” of history are all total hogwash.

      • They are bang on. You are just a flag waving shill. American mythology; not American history. Our history is actually quite ugly.

      • And you are just an America-hater who sounds jealous and spiteful of the greatest country in the history of the world, that is still the place where most people in the world would do almost anything to come and live and work here in peace and prosperity and happiness. Many uncounted millions have risked their lives to do so, and will doubtless do so in the future.

      • A myth. I am not an American hater. Just reality Americans are dangerous when they overestimate their virtue and their strength. And we are not a peaceful society – we are the most violent in the G20. And the poor in America are worse of than any country in the G20. And, really, no one wants to come here from the G20; just refugees from troubled countries. Just the facts Jack. Have you ever been out of this country? I find the most stupid flag wavers are the untravelled and history-illiterate hillbillies in the country.

      • Your posts reveal your hatred. You don’t even read – I replied before about where I have lived and worked and traveled. I speak both English and Spanish fluently.

        I find the most ignorant are those leftist/liberals who think they are educated and intelligent, but who in fact illustrate the truth of the saying “there are none so blind as those who refuse to see”…

        The fact that people vote with their feet to make the US the most desired destination in the world, speaks for itself. You’d have to be blind and stupid not to see that.

      • You dumb sh*t I’ve lived and worked in and visited more countries than you can even pronounce. Asqueroso pendejo, eres un tonto. No hay manera de remediarle.

        That you call Americans what you did in your above post just shows that YOU are not really an American but a selfish, snobbish, juvenile shallow-thinking boob. And that’s not name-calling, it’s just an accurate description and the truth…

      • We outspent the Soviets in technology, bankrupting them.
        We were the winning part of the winning coaltion; if the US had not joined, Germans would have conquered England as they did France. The Allies were losing before the US joined.
        Eastern Front was brutal. However, before Germany attacked the Soviets, they were an ally.
        North Korea and then China invaded South Korea.
        North Viet Nam invaded South Viet Nam
        Booted out of Iran because America abandoned the Shaw; thank you President Carter
        Left Iraq a mess because we left before it was complete; thank you President Obama
        Yes the rest of the world hates us so much that they risk their lives to leave their miserable countries to join us here.

      • Germany had already failed to conquer England – the Battle of Britain – 2 years before we arrived. The Allies were extremely happy we joined, BUT we get 30% of the credit. Most Americans take 80% because they are stupid. North Vietnam invaded 5 years after we showed up. But we got beat. And the rest of the world are not trying to come to America, The only people who want to come here are from war torn impoverished countries. Actually, they all want to go to Europe, Australia or Canada. We are last choice. We want to think they want to come but its crap.

      • Ask the rest of the world how much they think they have benefitted from our advances. You might be surprised. Ask the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Koreans, Guatemalans, Libyans, Iraquis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Chileans, Mexicans, Croatians, Afghans, Pakistanis, and on and on. America has been a bumbling aggressor since WWII and most countries think we suck. Our inventions: fast food, violent movies, and crappy manufacture goods. We really DO suck.

    • Yes, maybe you would like to be judged by your tribe of elders, or the local political commissar; millions escape here to avoid that. But you seem to be following the new leftist socialist embrace of diversity. You are to be exalted after your political trial and execution for thinking incorrectly. Yes, our system is far from perfect and it’s the most flawed system that protects the rights of man the world has ever known. But please, vote with your feet, comrade.

  3. Thomas Jefferson thought the US national emblem should have been the prows of the boats of Horsa and Hengist. Our Anglo Saxon heritage is where our notions of individual liberty and no one, including the king, above the law, originate. Got it? Our notion of God given individual liberty comes directly from our Anglo Saxon heritage. The English speaking peoples have created the most just, most free, and most prosperous societies in history.

      • Jefferson was a horn-dog and a slave abuser. He was also a plagiarist. Democracy came from ancient Greece – through Rome – through the Renaissance – To the Enlightenment – to England and France and then we hopped on Board. Every important treatise on democracy was written by A Greek, Frenchman, or British thinker. Even the native American tribes practiced democracy. The difference between the British and you is that they acknowledge their debts to other societies and cultures. You have some kind of white ascendency BS that clouds your thinking. Read some history, and not written by Americans.

  4. I am sick to death of radical liberals (or should I just say “democrats”) rewriting history! We are what we are! We began as we began! Stop the cr-p! Our, so called, diversity was primarily European based. That’s a fact. Enough already!

  5. Professor Waddy should have addressed readers who need to actually learn about “Anglo-American heritage”. Posting this at American Greatness is therapy for Waddy. And, not very persuasive to anyone who does still need real education.

  6. If there were such a thing as time travel, I would select a couple of hundred Progressoviks and send them back to AD 500 Britain, and see if any of them could survive the arrival of the Angels and Saxons.

    I would then have them stay around a while to observe the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon polity over the next 500 years.

    Perhaps they would learn that they are helping to reverse the progress of the last millennia and a half.

  7. The Magna Carta was signed more than 800 years ago and still forms the basis of our legal system which protects individual rights. After eight centiries, Africans still haven’t figured out how to create a just system of laws to protect their people from despots and tyrants.

  8. “Ironically, it is the (largely British) freedoms that we enjoy today that empower liberals to inveigh against the very civilization that birthed modern democracy as well as the competing ideals of Marxism, feminism, and “social justice,” among others. It would make more sense for liberals to acknowledge these contributions than to spurn them, since liberalism itself would make no sense outside of its clearly Western context.”

    The Neo-Liberals of today care about traditional paleo-liberal values only insofar as they are useful in the Neo-Liberals’ quest for power, which is the ONLY thing they, as Marxists, care about. Once the Neo-Liberals have power, paleo-liberal values will be shed like a wet raincoat. We can see this perfectly clearly in practically every college and university in the country.

  9. This is just a mistake by the PC crowd. To them is another “AHA!” moment.

    I would recommend that pols simply not speak to or before any form of media. It would drive them crazy as a bed bug.