Thank you, Bill, for this opportunity to debate the merits of Charles Carroll and his contributions to the American founding.
As it turns out, I’ve spent nearly the entire day in an archive going through letters and debates from the 1950s, so my mind (and hopefully my soul) were somewhere a half decade in the past. I’m exhausted but, perhaps, somewhat coherent.
So, back two centuries. . . .
One of the things that surprised me most in my research on the decades surrounding the American Revolution was the predominance of Whig historical and political thought that held sway over nearly all Americans. Even the Loyalists, from my research, were generally Whiggish in their views of history, culture, law, and politics. The Loyalists differed with the more radical Whigs in trying to decide at what point in history they found themselves–in the Polybian understanding of birth, middle age/corruption, and death. For the Loyalists, though decay and death were inevitable for all fallen things, the British had not reached the point of no-return.
For the radical Whigs (such as Carroll and his fellow Patriots), the British had long passed the point of no-return. The only salvation for the American people would come from separation from the mother country, purification of the English Constitution, and a return to first principles. In this sense, as one of my students, James Joseph, pointed out to me, the Americans were following the entire history and example of the Reformation. But, in a larger sense, I would argue, the Americans were following the entirety of the best of the western tradition–from Socrates to St. Benedict to the Protestant Reformers. All things go through organic cycles. The Americans, such as Carroll, recognized this and acted accordingly.
As to your other point, Bill. As far as I know, Carroll was referencing Thomas Rutherford’s Institutes of Natural Law. I’m not positive, however, and it is possible that Carroll was referencing Samuel Rutherford. Certainly, as a man of Irish ancestry, Carroll would have been influenced by Jansenism.
So, maybe. . . . Generally, though, Vattel and Thomas Rutherford are referenced together.