America’s Chief Magistrate and the Spirit of ’76

The year 1776 was a revolutionary milestone for individual liberty, with the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations setting forth the path of economic freedom and a Declaration proclaimed by thirteen American colonies ringing the tocsin for political independence.

But a solemn spectre of ’76 hung over the United States this November as Americans voted for representatives and senators in Congress and a Chief Magistrate to occupy the White House — for the promise of economic and political liberty has turned dark.

The spirit of ’76 was animated by the desire for personal freedom, both in our relations with others and in our transactions with them.  Adam Smith wrote against the mercantilist system which thwarted innovation and entrepreneurship, while the Declaration of Independence affirmed that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed ... with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’; that we establish governments to protect these rights, said governments ‘deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’.