Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reflecting on the Fourth of July

Here we are again, the day set aside by the United States of America each year to celebrate the Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Looking back these centuries later, one is tempted to wonder if it was all worth it or not. As most know, I am from Texas, practically an entirely different country from the United States, and I celebrate my “Independence Day” on March 2 rather than July 4 so I feel I can take a somewhat more dispassionate view on that unfortunate little temper tantrum known as the Revolutionary War. First of all, in hindsight, I cannot claim to have much angst about the way things turned out, monarchist or not. We cannot know what the world would be like today or how history would have unfolded if the United States had ever ceased to exist. I know many monarchists are extremely hostile to the United States and they would tend to object to the idea that there is any chance at all the world would not be near perfection without the United States but, honestly, no one can say that because none of us can ever know what might have been.

When someone learns that I am a monarchist the question is often put to me whether or not I would be happier living under British rule. Not all monarchists agree on this point but for me the answer is most definitely “no”. Socialized healthcare, no right to bear arms -no thank you. But, of course, that is a very silly question to ask a monarchist, especially one like myself. My home, Texas, was never part of the British Empire and has never fought against Britain at any time. Even if that were not the case, the colonies were not under direct British rule to begin with and if the colonists had lost or never made their bid for independence, it does not mean that British law would rule supreme in America. The American colonies would have continued to largely govern themselves with their own colonial assemblies and an appointed Royal Governor to oversee things. If the U.S. had not won independence, life here would still not be like life in Britain (it never was) nor like any other place in the world. Things would probably not be too drastically different. There would be no Mount Rushmore, no Washington Monument and no Liberty Bell. The Congress would likely consist of a Senate and a House of Commons and instead of a President and a (pretty useless) Vice President we would likely have a Prime Minister and a Governor-General just like Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

Personally, I would like to think that things would have been better if the United States had remained united with the rest of the English-speaking world and a partner in rather than a bystander (and sometime adversary) of British civilization, but, given my place in the world, I cannot complain about how things worked out. Aside from some troublesome ailments I must endure, I am quite comfortable and doing quite well. Unlike some other republics in the world, I can even argue on behalf of monarchy without being tossed in jail or sent to “education camp” to turn big rocks into little rocks. However, loyal and (mostly) law-abiding U.S. citizen though I am, honesty compels me to say that I nonetheless feel the Revolutionary War was unjustified and, were I (as the person I am) alive in that time and place, even knowing how things would turn out, I would be compelled to be a loyalist. Everything the rebel colonists were fighting for, short of independence, could have been achieved within the existing framework of the British Empire and I simply cannot see how any of the complaints of the colonial “Patriots” were sufficient to justify plunging the eastern edge of North America into war for eight years.

Veteran monarchists will be well aware of these facts, but newcomers may not be. The fact of the matter is that the American colonists were not being oppressed or victimized. On the whole, they lived far better than the counterparts in the British Isles. There was more social mobility, more overall prosperity, most people lived better lives, they ate more beef and thus even tended to be taller than most people in Great Britain or Ireland. They also paid next to nothing in taxes compared to British subjects in the home islands. As far as representation being a bone of contention, as most monarchists know, “No Taxation Without Representation” was strictly a slogan and nothing more. When Ben Franklin was sent to London to represent the colonies he was told that he was to never, ever, under any circumstances, accept an agreement which gave the colonies representation in the Parliament at Westminster. Colonial leaders were smart enough to know that the vastly greater population of Britain would mean that even if they had seats in Parliament they would be easily outvoted. So, they would gain nothing with representation and they would lose a very righteous sounding slogan that would get more people on their side.

Some will point to the many acts of Parliament that the colonists had a problem with. Alas, here again, the revolutionary propaganda does not hold up to modern-day scrutiny. For one thing, many of these acts, such as the Stamp Act, were never totally enforced and where, in any event, repealed almost as soon as they were enacted when the colonists began howling about them. The tax on tea is another overblown “outrage”. The fact is that the British East India Company sold tea at a cheaper price than any of her competitors and the colonists would have had to drink more than a gallon of tea each and every day to pay even just one dollar a year in tax. Hardly a crushing burden by any stretch of the imagination. Although not much talked about today, at the time, one of the acts considered most outrageous was the Quebec Act. It is not much talked about today because this was an act which granted freedom of religion to the Catholics of Canada, something which most Americans wrongly believed did not come about until the birth of the United States. The colonists were also none too happy about King George III restricting the colonial population to the colonies on the coast and reserving the territory to the west for the Native American tribes. Considering how tiny the population of the thirteen colonies was at the time, this could hardly be considered outrageous. There was hardly a dire need for “living space” when most of the existing colonies were largely empty wilderness.

None of the other usual patriotic clashes arouse my sympathy either. The Boston “Massacre”? Mob violence on a group of British troops simply doing their duty. Even the noted Patriot John Adams defended the British soldiers for their actions, serving as their lawyer at their trial. The Boston Tea Party? A criminal destruction of private property and nothing more. Even Benjamin Franklin was of the opinion that the perpetrators should have repaid the British East India Company for every bit of tea they tossed into the harbor. No matter how one looks at it (and I have been convinced of the Tory position since I was a young punk in high school) nothing in the list of colonial grievances seems sufficient to me to justify the taking up of arms, the shedding of blood and, most seriously of all, the breaking of the solemn oath of allegiance to the King. To repeat, I have no animus against the United States, I want nothing but success for the USA and the American people. What is done is done and history cannot be changed. But, as I believe John Adams once said, facts are stubborn things, and the facts being what they are, when it comes to the Revolutionary War, my sympathies must remain entirely with the Loyalists.

7 comments:

  1. Excellent! I appreciate your thoughts and balance.

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  2. Hi, M & M, (LOL!),

    I, too, am a Loyalist sympathiser, and believe that if I had lived during the American Revolution, I would have supported the king. That having been said, however, I cannot deny the sheer guts and glory that the American Revolutionaries displayed. I love my country, and I am proud to be an America. God Bless this land and our national endeavor.

    Blessings,
    Pearl

    P.S. Have you ever thought of writing a profile post on Major John Pitcairn? He's my favorite redcoat of the Revolutionary period. I plan on writing a post about him on my blog shortly.

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  3. The saddest thing about the revolution was that so many people saw the writing on the wall as early as a decade prior and starting suggesting any number of reasonable reforms that would give the colonies even greater autonomy from London and keep them under the crown. But, a combination of colonial legislatures not wanting to surrender any of their authority to a new central administration and the Commons not wanting to give up any of their powers to legislate for the colonies prevented every attempt.

    But, one of the British Empire's greatest strengths was/is it's ability to learn from its mistakes. Canada as it exists today is essentially what most of the more level-headed and pragmatic American statesmen wanted for all the American colonies as early as the late 18th century, and the idea was finally implemented in the 19th. Too late to keep the Atlantic colonies, but in well enough time to keep nearly half the continent under the Crown.

    Any time people want to drone on and on about how horrible things were under the monarchy and how terrible America would be today were it not for the revolution, I just look to Canada - they've done very well for themselves to say the least. But for the revolution, we would likely just be a slightly wealthier and slightly more conservative version of them today, so really things would have worked out nearly the same on their own anyway, just with a Queen and a Governor General instead of a President.

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  4. Assuming what you mentioned above is true about the American colonists, wouldn't that suggest that those who led the American Revolution had an alterior motive? We know that the majority of them were Free Masons, could their quest to breaking away from England be just a way to further their agenda? I know it is often said that the American Revolution led to the French Revolution. Could it be that the Free Masons in America were trying to further their cause here and at the same time benefit their counterparts in Europe?

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  5. Amen brother. Excellent article.

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  6. Reflecting on the Revolution that no doubt may have lead to many of our births, you cannot paint the Loyalist side in the rosiest(and in a reference to good old England, a Red Rose) colors without seeing the colonists had a few legitimate complaints. Until Thomas Paine, whom I personally despise, came around with Common Sense, the rebels, at least as a majority, fought only to have back pre-1763 conditions, which would mean a continuation of salutary neglect, very low taxes, and full rights to get new land across the Appalachians. In fact, many Revolutionaries continued to say "God save the King". And why was 1763 such an important date? Because that year saw the end of the global Seven Years' War, called the French and Indian War here in the US, and the British govt. back in London, sought ways to appease the newly ruled French Canadians, control the natives, and pay for the war costs. If only the foresight they used with the people of Quebec had been used for the Atlantic Coast Colonies, they would not have lost them.

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  7. First of all, it was not a revolution, but a war of succession. This corrupt war, however, did alot to end monarchy: it separated us from the British, and it gave a model the French later followed. Also, America has always been at the frontline fighting monarchy. Think of how many monarchies could have survived were it not for America! My favorite ones would still be gone (Zog, the Romanov, and the Ottoman Sultans would not have benefited from lack of a USA), but many others, such as those is Vietnam, Korea, France, Italy, etc, would still be alive.

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