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

Friday, July 1, 2016


Dylan Matthews has a very Slate type piece up, arguing that the world would be a better place if the American Revolution hadn't happened.

His first argument is that England would have put an end to slavery sooner than the US did.  Let's leave aside that Britain very nearly intervened on behalf of the Confederacy, and let's look at Britain's overall record on these issues.  They did end slavery in the empire 30 years before we did in America.  I think we can anticipate that if Britain had tried to end slavery in the US in the 1830s, the American Revolution would have been over slavery and other issues.  The South wasn't going to let Northerners limit the expansion of slavery, they sure as hell weren't going to let Britain end it by fiat.

In other words, the American Revolution would have been a political fight over the future of slavery rather than over the right of self government.

His second argument is probably correct, in that Britain would've treated Native Americans better.  However, again, the economic course of expansion was very strong. Britain put into place a Proclamation Line in 1763 to stop westward expansion.  It didn't work.  Canada didn't expand the same way, because there simply weren't enough Canadians.

Also, I think we can agree that Britain's record of treating indigenous peoples in the rest of the empire is hardly stellar.  American racism against Natives comes from England.

Finally, he argues that America would be better off with a parliamentary system.  Yes.  Parliamentary systems are generally preferable.

However, what the American Revolution unleashed was the spirit of individual liberty and democracy.  The degree to which Britain became a democracy - incrementally over centuries - was strongly influenced by the United States.

Britain and the US have been carrying on a conversation about what it means to be a Republic since John Winthrop and Co, planted the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Cromwell chopped off Charles I's head.

Without the example of the American Revolution, the very idea of popular democracy and constitutional law would not exist.  We invented those.  We wouldn't have if we have remained in the empire.

Have a happy Fourth.

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