On this Memorial Day weekend we do well to reflect on those near perfect displays of patriotic love that evidence the American soldier’s responsibility to defending our constitutional republican government. To be sure, failures recent and ancient abound in the imprudent use of martial force that does not consider its capabilities and limitations, nor its larger connection with the protection of American constitutionalism. American foundations, however, in this regard, provide resources for nobility in the service of the constitutional ideal of the American republic.
Present at the creation, Amy Kass, Leon Kass, and Diana Schaub remind us in their wonderful volume of American civic education What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song, was General George Washington and his prudential and decisive scuttling of the little-discussed Newburgh Conspiracy of 1783.
Calling Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation of American citizenship an “outrage,” that allows him to “duck up to $67 million in taxes,” Senator Charles Schumer wants to create a special tax on Americans who renounce their citizenship. One can understand his frustration–America welcomed Saverin’s family when they needed a place of refuge, and now he is turning his back on us, for no other reason, it seems, than to reduce his tax bill. Perhaps no one at Harvard taught him that patriotism is a virtue.
Yet Schumer’s attack is fundamentally misguided, and reveals a disturbing attitude toward private property. Should it impose such a tax, the American government would be saying that property is no longer truly private. It would be saying that the American government has a presumptive claim on any and all property “owned” by an American citizen.
That is a far cry from the ideas that made America great. Consider the American revolution. In January, 1777, when times were grim, and the fate of the Union rested on his shoulders, General Washington issued his “Proclamation Concerning Loyalists.” Washington lamented that there might be some who “prefer the interest and protection of Great-Britain to the freedom and happiness of their country.” Leading a revolution built upon the presumptive right of men to choose not to belong to the King, he realized that the same principle applied to those who continued to choose British subjecthood over American citizenship. Hence he declared that such people had “full liberty . . . to withdraw themselves and families within the enemy’s lines.”