Independence 1776. Independence 201x?
From the time of 1765 forward, the American people, in fits and starts, began moving closer and closer to breaking ties with Britain and declaring independence. They grew increasingly angry at being dragged into [or paying for] the wars of the Crown. The King had largely held a hands-off approach with the colonies, who largely learned the self-governance necessary to carve a new nation out of wilderness. As the colonies became more prosperous, though, the King saw potential. He saw the potential to tax them as Englishmen but without giving them the full rights and representation of those in the home country. He tried to impose English hands-on governance upon a people who had learned to exist without such meddling. And this meddling was NOT appreciated.
We focus, and rightly so, a lot of energy and time on the Declaration of Independence and July 4, 1776. It is the watershed moment in our rise from loosely-joined colonies into a nation. But there’s more to the story.
For those who view today’s America as the culmination of the vision of the founders, it is right to view Independence Day as a day of remembrance of things past. For those of us who consider our current government (being the establishment since the New Deal and only accelerated by GWB and BHO) to be antithetical to the ideals that founded this nation and still rest latent within its people, it’s instructive to look at this from a far wider perspective.
July 4, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence, was one of the most important steps in the American Revolution. But it was only a step, and that step was squarely in the middle of the game, not the beginning. In fact, it occurred over a year after armed hostilities erupted at Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill took place the prior month. In terms of our nation, the Declaration of Independence is important because it marks the point at which our hostilities against the British became a struggle for independence, rather than a struggle for reparation. But in terms of the history of the struggle, the stage was truly set over the course of the prior decade.
There is not enough space to delve deeply into the history here. For reference, I heartily recommend A Leap In The Dark by John Ferling, and The Ideological Origins of The American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn. To summarize, one of the watershed moments of the lead-up was the Stamp Act of 1765. This was a tax on most paper products in use at the time, and it was a very visible and direct tax. It hit many colonists close to home, and was a new tax to these shores. The tax ignited protests a decade in advance of actual hostilities. For many, these protests were some of their first concrete actions in opposition to policies of their government.
But it was just a tax. Americans at the time considered it a piece of bad policy foisted upon them by the King, and when the King rescinded the tax, things simmered down. There had not yet developed an adversarial relationship between the colonists and the Crown. Over the next decade, though, a King who wanted to claim control over the colonies engaged in consistent escalation of his taxation and attempts to rein in what he considered improper actions of “his subjects”.
Throughout this decade, independence was never a foregone conclusion. Many in the colonies were not opposed to British rule, they simply wanted a hand in direction of that rule. Most people in the colonies viewed themselves as Englishmen first, citizens of their colony second, and Americans third. There was a very strong emotional connection to the Crown and to the people — many of them family — of the home country. The path to Independence was a jerking motion as the Crown bullied the populace, the populace resented the Crown, and all through that time voices towards independence helped frame the debate.
Samuel Adams was one of those key voices early on. In 1765, he was already advocating against Britain and — although difficult to speak out publicly for Independence — it is clear that he saw an American rift with Britain coming in the future. During the ensuing decade, Samuel Adams was a key instigator and key voice in framing the debate for Independence. He was instrumental during the “quiet period” of 1770-73, when the British somewhat reduced their acts of encroachment on the colonies. During this time, as anti-British sentiment waned, Samuel Adams was the key voice keeping the narrative of colonies vs. Crown in the minds of the people. It was never ONLY what the Crown did that led to independence; it was the voices of the rabble-rousers who saw the end game of subjugation to the crown who brought it to bear.
How did they bring it to bear? They changed the perception of the people. Prior to the Stamp Act, most colonists thought of themselves as Englishmen and saw the Crown as their legitimate government. Over that decade leading to July 4, 1776, that perception changed. The colonists increasingly saw the Crown as an arbitrary government willing to completely abrogate their rights in order to achieve its own ends. It saw the Crown treating the colonists in ways they believed it would never treat a true Englishman. They, as a people, ceased to give the government their consent.
This was a decade-long (and possibly extending farther back) effort. Few at the days of the first Stamp Act protests were likely envisioning a war of Independence brewing. Few are today.
In 2005, the Supreme Court found in Kelo that Americans could have their homes seized, at will, for nearly anything a local government claimed a “public use”, including handing it to developers who will build private-use structures. This hits every American in their homes. It makes every American understand that the whim of the government can take their highest-value, most cherished possession and give it to someone they think will make better use of it.
Since 2005, the United States Government has engaged in domestic wiretapping programs without judicial oversight, proving that the United States Government can listen in on your phone calls at the discretion of any civil-service bureaucrat who deems it necessary. It has created a terrorist watch-list of over 1,000,000 names, without any clear discussion of who is on that list, why, or how to have your name removed. If you’re on that list, you can expect to be hassled endlessly if you choose to engage in mundane civil activities such as air travel. During that time, it was learned that the United States Government has been engaged in “enhanced interrogation techniques” that — whether they’re technically defined torture or not — curl your hair to think about. Waterboarding is one that likely doesn’t sound as bad as it feels, but I defy anyone to support a government who engages in crucifixion.
In late 2008, in the midst of a financial crisis unlike any we’ve seen since the Depression, the United States Government decided that it could take $700B and simply hand it out to banks — more accurately, force banks to take it — and don’t have any real duty to the public regarding oversight of those funds. In the same time, the Federal Reserve and United States Treasury have either used or promised guarantees to over $14T in assets — larger than the GDP of the nation.
Since the election of Barack Obama, the United States Government passed a $787B stimulus bill not supported by a majority of Americans. The United States Government has de facto nationalized and illegally bankrupted two domestic automakers, rewriting the rules of bankruptcy in order to give out sweetheart deals to unions and the government. Most recently, the House Of Representatives has passed an enormous 1200-page Cap and Trade proposal (hidden tax) that included a 300-page amendment added only hours before the final vote. To believe that our “representatives” actually read this bill or its amendment is laughable. It is likely that over the next several months, the United States Government will pass a bill speeding us down the road to the nationalization of the healthcare industry, and to pay for it, enact a VAT to give them yet another revenue stream to extract the fruits of our labor.
Throughout all this time, the United States Government pays lip service to the Constitution, but routinely acts contrary to both its letter and its spirit at every turn. It is therefore defying even its own supreme blueprint.
If the United States Government is willing to act against the will of Americans, and if our “representatives” are willing to pass bills that they cannot and have not read — bills often giving law-making ability to unelected bureaucracies like the EPA, how can we really believe that we are a representative democracy? If the United States Government engages in barbaric acts such as crucifixion, how can we support it? If we have truly reached, as I believe, a point where our government views us not as citizens but as subjects, we must denounce the United States Government as illegitimate.
On this anniversary of the date of American Independence, it is right to celebrate. It is right to remember the valiant and principled action of the Founding Fathers to take on the world’s great superpower and assert their rights — many lost their lives in the effort. We have a nation worth celebrating.
But in remembrance of those who we are celebrating, it is important to understand their significance in a historic context (again, see the books recommended above). It is important to remember that the principles they are fighting for are again in peril. And it important to realize that in order for those principles to be recovered, we must tirelessly call the United States Government for what it is — illegitimate.
The time between the Stamp Act and the Treaty of Paris was 18 years. Between the Stamp Act and the Declaration of Independence, it was only the efforts of those who were willing to call the actions of their government deplorable that ensured that the yoke of that government would be lifted. It is now time for those of us who love our country and despise the United States Government to stand up and do the same. The American people are an industrious people, and often have little time to devote to paying attention to the actions of our government. They have a media more focused on the daily lives of TV celebrities than the outcome of legislation that will affect everyone’s daily life. They have been educated quite literally by the state to see the United States Government as a trusted friend and helpful assistant. This must change, and it is the work of those of us who believe in liberty to keep the fires stoked and educate them to the truth. This is not going to be a small job, and won’t happen quickly. But if we do not continually work towards this goal, we are resigning ourselves to a future led by a government by the power brokers, of the power brokers, and for the power brokers.
Today is a remembrance of America’s Independence Day. It is also a day to remember that committed citizens, in the cause of freedom, can break the chains of the greatest superpower seen on earth and claim their rightful liberty. It is a day to remember and celebrate those who did it before, but it’s also a day to steel yourself — there’s work to be done again.
UPDATE: Welcome readers from Let A Thousand Nations Bloom, and of course the many thousands arriving from Google News.
UPDATE 2: Welcome Carolina Sons Of Liberty readers!