At some point in the 1780s George III paused to reflect on the loss of the colonies. He wrote with sensible foresight, “It is to be hoped we shall reap more advantages from their trade as friends than ever we could derive from them as Colonies”.
We speak of a war of independence as if the dominant motive behind the colonial rejection of royal authority had been based on some animus toward England as such. True, many who served so valiantly under General Washington were Irish, and they surely had no attachment to what the long settled colonists regarded as the “mother country”. But for the greater number, separation as a prospect was painful, for a time even unimaginable.
A king might say, “You didn’t make that” the War of Independence was the stern reply. YES WE DID!
It is also misleading to suggest that this revolution was about taxation, with or without representation. The colonists were well aware of the fact that Great Britain had committed a fortune in protecting the colonies. The tax burden on today’s American citizens is many times greater than that imposed by Parliament. John Adams had calculated that the colonies had voluntarily paid more than what was required and did so out of loyalty and affection. Alas, it was a matter of attitude; a peremptory, overbearing and patronizing disposition toward a people fully aware of the fact that THEY– not Parliament — had taken a raw continent and readied it for nationhood. To a King who might say, “You didn’t make that”, the War of Independence was the stern reply, YES WE DID!
July 4th is perhaps the perfect date on which to remind ourselves of the blessings of self-government, of the blood and treasure paid for it, and of the need to demand respect and good service from the servants’ quarters. It is also an apt time to remind ourselves that the nation was created for those who were and those who longed to be Americans, whatever ethnic or clannish elements might be in their pedigree. And then there’s this vexing matter of “rights”. Yes, we finally settled on the ten amendments, but some wise heads were troubled by the notion of numbering them (as if the list were exhaustive), and more troubled by the implication that their source is in any sense political. One Founder (James Wilson) thought it odd that a people would endure the hardships of war in order to establish a government to tell them what rights they had! In the Spirit of ’76, I say pray where you will, speak your mind, love your country and think “term limits” in the voting booth. Just saying…