The “transforming” ideology of America's revolutionary period saw the chief conflict in society as one between liberty and power. That ideology synthesized themes from several sources. Given the differing origins and jumping-off points of classical liberalism and classical republicanism (the two most important elements), the American “synthesis” might be expected to undergo some unraveling when up against the harder problems of political life.
Widespread landownership long supported a kind of liberal-republican independence. Perhaps we should reexamine the nexus and ask ourselves how, in Donald Davidson’s words, we “let the freehold pass,” and whether that was really for the best.