Samuel Johnson’s description of patriotism as “the last refuge of a scoundrel” is frequently quoted by globalist liberals who cannot imagine any normal person actually loving his country. Occasionally, some conservative critic responds by saying that Johnson was really condemning nationalism or false patriotism, but—as usual—both liberals and conservatives are wrong. In Johnson’s day, “patriotism” was the rallying cry of the Whigs who opposed the royal prerogative, corrupt and hypocritical politicians (as Johnson regarded them) who wanted to increase their own power at the expense of the nation’s constitutional stability.

Johnson defined “patriot” as “a factious disturber of the government”; a century earlier, Dryden had offered the definition: “one who would by law supplant his Prince.” Such men were not merely scoundrels; they were diabolical. “The first Whig was the devil,” according to the great lexicographer, because—like the serpent in the Garden—Whigs inculcated the principle of disobedience.

When the American rebels of 1776—most of them Whigs to the core—called themselves “patriots,” they were not intentionally being disingenuous, though it is hard to see the patriotism in a group of English immigrants rebelling against the government of their country. But if the Boston “patriots” were mere hypocritical traitors in 1776, the country that emerged from the Revolution was a true patria to be loved and defended. However, as Washington foresaw, the “pretended patriotism” of the American future would be a justification for foreign entanglements and foreign wars. Thinking primarily of American supporters of France and Britain, Washington might just as well have been speaking about the Madeleine Albrights, Strobe Talbots, and George Bushes who demonize Iraqis, Serbs, and Russians while whitewashing Kurds, Albanians, and Chechens:

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The Anti-America feared by Washington is now a reality, where Norman Podhoretz, Christopher Hitchens, and Bill Kristol wrap themselves up in a flag they despise and denounce the last American politician who is a patriot without being a scoundrel. Humpty Dumpty’s question remains: “Who is to be master?”