Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Bill Samuel published a link to an article questioning the need for the American Revolution--not the need for independence but the need to pursue it violently-- at

I think the article was pretty good, although I would argue that the author may have overstated the class issue: Common causes can allow people to transcend class, and there is absolutely no way the American class system was or is as rigid as the British. But that point aside, the larger question of whether a violent revolution, ie, a war, was needed to achieve independence from England is a good one to ask.

A few years ago, our family vacationed in Concord, Massachusetts. While we went there because of interest in Louisa May Alcott and Thoreau, we also visited the monuments and the museum dedicated to the battles of Lexington and Concord which kicked off the American Revolution in 1775.

What struck me most as I followed the events leading up to the battles was how primed for fighting the Americans were. The British, in contrast, seemed to be trying hard to avoid a violent conflict. My memory of the history in the museum is fuzzy, but apparently the Americans were so ready to go battle that they misinterpreted an explosion they heard as a British attack, and massed for battle, then shot at British troops, killing four soldiers before the British, in exasperation, returned fire.

I came away thinking, wait a minute, none of this ever had to happen and who exactly was the aggressor, at least in the micro-events on the eve of these battles? The Americans. They may have had legitimate grievances but they (we) are the actors who forced the bloodshed. And I took this away from a museum exhibit that could not have been more patriotic and sympathetic to the American side. The facts seemed to glaringly contradict the glowing narrative they were embedded in.

I am glad the United States became independent from England, but I wish we would examine more the idea that there might have been alternative routes to that independence. Does it threaten our patriotism to examine whether we could have achieved our goals peacefully?


Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting and none of this surprises me, though I would want to read a historical book on it, but won't have the time. Historians are hit with all kind of biases they have to work through, anyhow, including their own.

I am a Christian pacifist, but I must admit it does put one in a quandary when you're faced with actual evil in the case of some. And it does seem like weapons are just an inherent part of the state during this time, a part maybe not sanctioned by God, but it sure does seem to be used by God to make for a world that has some sort of governed order.

I'm rambling.

Yes, I used to be a fond student of American history as a youngster. Thanks for sharing that. It would be a most interesting place to visit, and I hope to someday.

Diane said...

Hi Ted!

Thanks for commenting.