Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth

Today, we celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence.  We will hear platitudes and Sousa marches, watch fireworks and wave flags.

Meanwhile, Egypt roils in accusations of coups and civil unrest.  There is breathless speculation about America's role and what we should be doing.  Everything is critical.  Critical, I tell you!

The War for Independence lasted from 1775-1783.  Without French help, we almost certainly would have lost.  By the end, the country - such as it was - was bankrupt.  The continental army in 1783 nearly rebelled and marched on the Congress.  The weakness of the Articles of Confederation government were manifest.  There was economic chaos, multiple currencies, no judiciary, no executive branch, no nation.

In 1786, farmers in Massachusetts rose up in rebellion.  Shays's Rebellion shattered public confidence and led to the Constitutional Convention, itself a sort of slow moving coup against the Articles of Confederation Congress.

When the Constitution was being debated - especially in New York - there were acts of violence.  Presses were burned, offices ransacked, personages assaulted.

During Washington's presidency, the French endlessly conspired to undermine Washington's authority and draw the US into the wars of the French Revolution.  When John Jay negotiated a treaty with Britain to avoid those wars, he and Washington were burned in effigy.  Washington also led an army larger than any he led during the Revolution to suppress a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania.

During Adams' presidency, sentiment switched against France and the Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, stifling free speech and the press.

Under Jefferson and Madison, governmental policies led to near rebellion in New England.  Aaron Burr talked with New England leaders about secession.  During the War of 1812, Federalists in New England - so contemptuous of the Virginia Dynasty - traded with the British rather than aid the war effort.  Again, secession was contemplated.

The War of 1812 was so incompetently fought that the capital was burned to the ground.

Democracy was never birthed easily into a nation's life.  Germany had to be leveled.  Japan irradiated.  France roiled by revolutions and counter-revolutions.

What is going on in Egypt is not troubling, though it does bring troubles a plenty to the Egyptian people.  What is going on in Egypt is the birth pains of democracy.  Not the made-for-TV birth pains of a sitcom, but the real, messy, agonizing, bloody birth.

And, if democracy is not stillborn on the Nile, it will be because the US was a midwife to the process.  We are keeping the military on a Turkish path, not a Burmese path.  We did not bear the pain, but we are helping to manage it.

In the age of Snowden, it is worth remembering that on the Fourth of July.

UPDATE:  More history!

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