In response to the question, What is the biggest lie that the American government is telling its people?, I disagreed with a person who said the American Revolution was the biggest lie. Here is his answer:
The American Revolution.
The American People are told the Colonies rose up against the tyranny of George III and kicked out the British because it was ‘the will of the people’.
Nothing could be further from the truth, George Washington himself stated that at no time during the War of Independence (it wasn’t a revolution) did more than 25–30% of the people support the independence movement.
I think we can all agree the man knew what he was talking about.
Primarily to see how much I learned from Constitution 101, here is what I said:
Historians name wars. The U.S. Government has no skin in this game.
The history of the independence movement is far more nuanced. I found the litany of grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence very revealing. Due to the distance from Britain, the English civil war(1642-1651), and the rise of Parliment versus the King, the colonies were largely self-managed and not taxed. It was British debt from the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) that forced Parliament to look at its North American colonies as a revenue source. In quick succession, they passed the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Tariffs of 1767, and the Tea Act of 1773. The colonists resented their lack of representation in Parliament and demanded the same rights as other British subjects. Violence against tax collectors ensued. Britain responded with a political power grab and sending troops to enforce Parliament’s laws. So although only 25-30% of the colonists supported independence, even the most ardent loyalists were not happy with how Britain was treating the colonies. Although they knew it was the British thing to do, the King and Parliament were unwilling to cede even a little bit of self-rule and representation to the colonies. It was this unwavering obstinance that is key to understanding the desire for independence. By 1776 the loyalists gave up trying to negotiate a compromise. So we had a war to settle the matter.
Fighting a war for independence was revolutionary and yet so much like the English civil war. No colony had done this before. Most colonies are dependent on the mother country for financial and military support. These colonies were already self-reliant and independent. The logical next step was a power sharing arrangement that involved representation in Parliament. Britain chose a different solution and got its first lesson on the limits of global power.
Last week I signed up for the Hillsdale online course called Constitution 101 and purchased a copy of the The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. One of the commenters on the Powerline Blog mentioned the course and considering my recent fascination with our founders arguments in the process of writing the Constitution. Over the last two years this curiosity has led me to listen to audiobooks on the Anti-Federalist and Federalist papers and to purchase a pocket copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What I found so fascinating about these documents and their authors is that the language and the factions may have changed but the problems they faced are very similar to the problems we face today. We are still arguing over the definition of equality, what is the scope of federal power, and how to a form of government that works for the people. To further my understanding of our Constitution, I am hoping to stretch myself mentally and try to imagine what the constitution writers in Iraq and Egypt are facing.
Here is the comment I made on the Powerline Blog called Liberals and the Constitution.
Since I recently finished listening to the audio-book version of "The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century", I was surprised with Justice Ginsburg’s comments. She starts out her interview congratulating Egypt on deposing Hosni Mubarak and then she immediately jumps to promoting human rights in the new Egyptian constitution. Since I doubt Egyptians and Justice Ginsburg agree on the definition of human rights, this was a curious effort on her part.
I was also surprised that she so quickly wrote off the constitutional efforts of our founding fathers at forming a stable government and balancing the political powers. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison tried to incorporate the best parts of existing governments at that time when they put together the Constitution. They also tried to balance the expectations of the various political factions. I expect the Egyptians will do the same unless they suddenly have a change of heart toward Mubarak and the competing political interests. Egypt does not need to follow our constitutional model but they absolutely must find an appropriate balance of political power and safeguards to prevent the next dictator from attaining power. If they can show the world that they have a stable, workable government then they can start making some progress knocking down the unemployment and defusing the widespread distrust. Human rights issues are important but like the United States, this balance of power issue must be solved or there will blood in the streets.