Lots and lots of my blogging friends from all parts of the political spectrum have chosen to mark the 4th of July by posting the Declaration of Independence. On one level I have no problem with that; retaining any awareness of the political thought of the Framers and Founders is generally a good thing.
But I keep watching American history textbooks and the lessons used to teach our public-school students the turbulent era of the American Revolution, and I begin to realize that this piece of history presents some remarkable difficulties of narrative reinterpretation for our liberal and progressive friends.
In the 1760s, at the end of the French and Indian War, the British government discovered that the price of securing the liberties of its American colonists from those dastardly, garlic-eating French was way more expected. Moreover, by that point, the English people in the home islands were among the most highly taxed people in the world. They paid taxes on stamps, lead, paper, glass, wine, cloth, horses, carriages, sugar, wheat ....
So the progressive government of England decided that it was only fair to spread the tax burden to British citizens living in the American colonies, so that everyone would pay his fair share for armies defending the frontiers and the navy patrolling the sea lanes.
But capitalist American merchants and traders (many of whom were already engaged in seriously illegal tax evasion by smuggling French molasses) thought they should be able to use the infrastructure built by the Empire without paying their fair share, and joined forces with the racist settlers despoiling the Native Americans of their lands west of the Appalachian Mountains to begin using rightwing eliminationist rhetoric against Parliament, the King, and duly elected or appointed Imperial agents in America.
Some went so far as to call for armed violence against the legitimate government, and to claim the right within individual colonies to nullify or ignore laws that they felt violated their rights.
Many of the lower, baser sort--clinging to their guns and their Bibles--began to organize domestic terrorist groups: urban street gangs in Boston styled themselves as Sons of Liberty to get away with attacks on the property and persons of their betters, and illiterate farmers began hoarding powder and shot, while constituting themselves as quasi-legal militias for the purpose of [so they said] defending themselves against the depredations of the oppressed Indian class, but really to await the chance to kill military and law enforcement officers....
Throughout this period the progressive British government attempted to employ conciliatory measures--even reducing certain taxes and studiously ignoring the outrages committed against Imperial and colonial officials.
Instead, they concentrated on reaching the better-informed, more socially conscious and progressive elements of the American elites, convincing them once placed in power the actions of the government de facto must represent not only the will of the people but also the interests of the people, and that paying a fair share of the tax burden in exchange for government services constituted the great advancement of the Enlightenment.
Fortunately, with the appintment of former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson to the head of the Crown Secretariat for Frontier and Colonial Security, along with the issues of the CSFCS report on Rightwing Domestic Terrorism in the North American Colonies, the corner was turned.
[A footnote from history: two copies of the long-suspected CSFCS report on Leftwing Domestic Terrorism in the North American Colonies have recently been unearthed in the offices of the colonial governor of Virginia, establishing the fact that PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Anglicans] merely talked mean and did not do anything violent.]
A vareity of colonial malcontents were duped into a government sting [known to the authorities as Operation Tea Party] and arrested in early 1774, effectively decapitating the so-called Independence Movement in New England. The arrest of the seditious malcontents Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson in Virginia on 4th of July 1776 broke the back of the eliminationist Indies in the South, and has since been memorialized as Government Affirmation Day in all seventeen British colonies.
Speaking today at the Affirmation Day ceremonies at Boston Commons, Lord Gordon Brown, Viceroy for the Americas said, "We must all shudder at thought of what might have happened had not our forefathers exercised vigilance in the protection of the Empire from internal sedition. Untrammeled individualism and an unbecoming thirst for profits stand in the way of our development of a great English civilization. I will now read from the congratulatory letter of King Louis XXIII of France in Versailles, applauding the objective of NASA (the North American Settlement Administration) to place the first family of English colonists on the western bank of the Mississippi River by 2020...."
No, our little militia groups of today are not the Founders. But while we are busily approaching 1984 from the other direction in terms of our ruling class's interest and ability to rewrite American history into a politically useful narrative, let's not allow them to convince us to accept a rewritten history of who we are and how we came to be--warts and all.
Individualism, natural law, limited government, capitalism, racism, slavery, free enterprise--it was all in there throughout our history. We have committed both great and terrible acts.
The most terrible would be to turn our backs on the legitimate dialogue between our limited government roots and the Statist aspirations of those who currently rule us.