The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.
—Samuel Adams. Essay in the Boston Gazette, October 14, 1771.
France and Germany have been heavily socialist for over 150 years, and heavily authoritarian for even longer. It is in their culture to accept gross infringements on their liberties. They will never break free of their own accord. Britain must go first and, by its example, convince current and prospective members of the European Union that they do not need to surrender their self-determination in order to be prosperous.
Englishmen have an inheritance to maintain
Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law.
—Ronald Reagan. Speech to the British Parliament, House of Commons, London, June 8, 1982.
These contributions are utterly destroyed by the European Union. Europeans do not respect individual liberty—they have laws against free speech. There is no representative government—the European Commission is made up of unelected bureaucrats. As for the rule of law, it is undermined daily by the arbitrary directives and regulations that pour forth from Brussels.
French folly is not the British way
It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly due to a fatal desire—learned from the teachings of antiquity—that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.
—Frédéric Bastiat. Government, 1848.
The seminal British political writers—John Lilburne, Algernon Sidney, John Locke, John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, Adam Smith, Joseph Priestley, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Herbert Spencer and Margaret Thatcher—have never had this French desire to organize mankind from above. Rather, they have been concerned to recognize the natural rights of man and to demonstrate how they should guide the principles of good government.
This understanding, that men do not need to be controlled by their government, that they have inalienable rights, is the philosophical basis upon which the English-speaking peoples have established their governments and cultures. The British do not need to be controlled by their government, instead they organize themselves. That is why Britain was the seat of the Industrial Revolution, and why her trade and political ideas civilized the world. The French have repeatedly been intolerant of free thought. They conquered Europe under a dictator, lived for hundreds of years under absolute kings and embraced socialism (the majority even voted for the Communist Party in the 1946 elections). It is they and their ideals that lie at the heart of the European Union. As Algernon Sidney remarked:
Whether the French have willingly offered their ears to be bored, or have been subdued by force, it concerns us not. Our liberties depend not upon their will, virtue, or fortune: how wretched and shameful soever their slavery may be, the evil is only to themselves. We are to consider no human laws but our own; and if we have the spirit of our ancestors we shall maintain them, and die as free as they left us. (Discourses Concerning Government, 1689.)