Independence Day From, And For, England

America isn't the only country that loves freedom.

Today, the Fourth of July, is the day on which America traditionally celebrates our Declaration of Independence from England - though thanks to decades of revisionist and indoctrinatory anti-American propagandizing in our public schools, all too many citizens have no clue what that means.

Nowadays, as befits cousins, we're good friends with England, but for a century or more after the Declaration, England was viewed as the implacable enemy.  The rarely-sung fourth verse of The Star Spangled Banner illustrates early American feeling towards their erstwhile masters:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We wouldn't think of Britons as "hirelings and slaves" today.  Yet as last month's astonishing Brexit vote shows, a majority of Englishmen consider themselves to be no better than "hirelings and slaves" to the undemocratic foreign diktats of the European Union.  Their vote showed that they don't like it one bit better than we did when we were in the same position.

The enraged global elites are castigating English voters as racist bigots for wanting out of the EU and especially for wanting an end to unlimited immigration.  We don't often think about this, but immigration of an unwanted sort was an offense to our Founders too:

He [King George] is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

This sounds very much like the ongoing Muslim invasion of Europe which European elites insist on facilitating over the furious protests of the people.  They persist in this existential folly despite their voters' turning towards right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties

The Founders were complaining about the Hessians, German professional soldiers who came from a quite different culture and were unacquainted with traditional English liberties.  Interestingly, though the Hessians had a reputation for brutality, they themselves thought the British army was even worse:

Americans, both Rebel and Tory, often feared the Hessians, believing them to be rapacious and brutal mercenaries. Meanwhile, Hessian diaries frequently express disapproval of the British troops' conduct towards the colonists, including the destruction of property and the occasional execution of prisoners, the latter being doubly upsetting when American Germans were among them.

For all that, neither Hessians nor British regulars would for one moment have considered the suicide bombing of civilians, the mass rape of women, or the beheading of captured enemy noncombatants, all of which take place regularly in England at the hands of Muslims without even the thin cover of a declared war.

Were our Founders simply xenophobes, as our modern leftist historians would have us think?  Not at all: another of their complaints against King George was that he stopped immigration that was both wanted and needed:

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Our Declaration of Independence is, as the preamble says, an attempt to "declare the causes which impel them to the separation."  It's a long list of grievances and it's stunning to see how many of them have a modern echo in the actions of the EU and European elites towards citizens of member countries.

But for all the famous complaints of rights violations, reading down the list reveals one fundamental, underlying problem: King George was refusing to permit the colonies an appropriate level of self-governance or participation in the way in which they were governed.  In other words: he wanted to rule as an autocrat, and the colonists wanted to enjoy full participation in their government as freeborn Englishmen!

The fact is, our Founders didn't really want to leave the British Empire.  As late as July 1775, the Continental Congress sent the King an Olive Branch Petition, arguing that:

The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produce benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extra-ordinary the world had ever known.

The Petition basically blamed the King's evil ministers for mis-administering his Empire, including the actions of Parliament in taxing the colonies without their consent.  Remember the famous revolutionary cry "No taxation without representation"?  Contrary to myth, our Founders had no problem paying taxes in principle; they merely objected to being forced to pay taxes that they had no input in enacting.

The bottom line: The American Revolution was entirely avoidable.  If King George had merely declared the colonies to be additional English shires with appropriate representation in Parliament, Americans would have gladly continued to submit to his rule.  Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington would have been elected MPs, sent to Westminster to vote on taxes, trade regulations, and everything else, and life would have gone on more or less as before.

Some of the laws passed would have been good for the colonies and some bad; that's politics.  The point is, as long as Americans were directly participating in the lawmaking process in some way, they had no objection to taking the bad with the good.  It was being excluded entirely from determining their legal or economic fates that drove the colonies to revolution.

That sense of exclusion is precisely what drove the Brexit vote.  The British still vote, of course, and send elected members to Parliament, both in London and in Brussels, but it doesn't seem to matter!  The unelected European bureaucracy does what it pleases and assesses whatever tax charges against member states it thinks best.  Even the leftist fact checkers had to admit that England pays more in EU taxes than it gets back and that what it does get back comes with costly regulatory strings attached.

In America today, we have the same feeling: we vote, and we vote, giving Republicans control of the US House of Representatives, control of the Senate, and multiplied Republicans in state and local offices all across the fruited plain.  Nothing changes to reflect our desires!

This disconnect is caused by the abandonment of the great principle of subsidiarity, which Europe pays lip-service to but ignores, and which we've forgotten here even though it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights and baked into our Congress in the original design.

Because the European Union evolved out of trade treaties between member states, there isn't any practical way to reform the system: any changes must be approved by every last member state in order to take effect.  In the United States, Constitutional amendments only require approval from 2/3 of the states, still a high barrier but achievable.  We could accomplish a huge step toward fixing our problems merely by repealing the 17th Amendment which brought about the direct election of Senators.

The Brits clearly had a difficult choice: leave the EU, or surrender all hope of self-government and of preserving their culture.  They chose the honorable course despite its risks.

We are far more privileged than they; thanks to the wisdom of our Founders, we still hold the power to peaceably reclaim the freedom and local independence, within the structure of a united Republic, that so many have died to provide for us.

On this Fourth of July, we must dedicate ourselves to making it happen.  Our Founders did far more with far less against far greater odds - and, admirably, so did the British just last month.

Perhaps one day they too will celebrate Independence Day, only on June 23 instead. Let's hear it for the 23rd of June as well as for the Glorious Fourth!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Very well put and very true (other than the flimsy analogy between paid German mercenaries and immigrating Muslims)

I wonder if any Leavers see the irony in British frustration over no representation. The Brits invented that frustration, yet here we are, hundreds of years later...

Brexit was an extremely good sign that free societies are able to shrink just as much as they are able to grow. That's very healthy and it hasn't happened for a long time.

July 4, 2016 10:39 AM

It seems like "immigration" has changed it's meaning since the Founding Fathers did their thing. They thought that new immigrants would come to the US because they saw an opportunity that wasn't available in the autocratic lands they left. They came to the USA, couldn't believe that they could do as they pleased, and got to work. Whether it was Irish, Italians, freed slaves, Jews, whatever. Work hard and you can propel yourself up the ladder.
Now it seems like 'immigration" means the same thing as " welfare tourism" . If you get poorly paid not to work in your homeland, go to one that pays more to not to work. If you get a large population of folks living on the welfare leisure class, you end up with bored folks. In Europe that seems to be muslims who seem to think 11th century had it figured out. In North America, the welfare tourists come from the south. The folks in South and Central America have recently remembered that there is more free money here ( and Canada) than in their home country. Welcome to the mooch-fest.

July 4, 2016 5:56 PM

The interesting thing about the Hessians is that they were largely an army of the landless underclass. This was one of the brilliant ideas of General Wayne; he pursued the Continental Congress to grant land to them in central and western Pennsylvania. Wayne let it be known that they could have the land, and that there were German speaking communities in the area, so they would not have to remain alone in all male groups. Of course they had to desert to take the land, so they did. At that time most army units were raised in an area, so they all knew each other and many were related, building community and trust. So when they deserted, it was not one at a time, but by entire units often with the officers leading. As they were going into the woods to build a new life, they took everything they could, and the horses and wagons to carry it. At one point the British had more solders guarding the supplies from the Hessians than they did fighting in that area. Finally, since they were deserters, they would have to fight if the British came through, thus putting a strong defense on the western front. They were perfect future Americans.

July 6, 2016 2:57 PM
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