This Fourth of July holiday, as you celebrate America’s independence, perhaps you would care to try something new: Perhaps you would like to join with the MSM and, instead, denigrate America’s independence. As in, you could wish that it had never happened.
Yes, perhaps you would put down that hotdog and those red-and-blue streamers, stop watching the parades and the ball game, ignore all the fireworks, and instead, join with Dylan Matthews at Vox, who tells us that, in his opinion, the American independence of 1776 made the world worse off.
Yes, you read that right: The headline of Matthews’ piece is “3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake.”
To fully absorb that headline is to comprehend just how utterly the left end of the MSM disdains this country—but you already knew that.
Matthews makes three specific claims as to why the American Revolution was bad: First, Abolition would have come faster without independence; second, independence was bad for Native Americans; third, America would have a better system of government if we’d stuck with Britain.
Matthews makes no mention, of course, of any of America’s achievements, from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Brooklyn Bridge, from providing a prosperous and free haven to hundreds of millions, as well as ridding the the world of Hitler, from putting a man on the moon to feeding billions around the world.
And of course, Vox and Matthews have no interest in the spiritual kernel of American patriotism; so Lincoln’s famous peroration from his First Inaugural in 1861, for instance, means nothing to them:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Obviously, Matthews doesn’t care about any of that. But that’s okay: If he’s a U.S. citizen, under our rules, he has the full privileges and immunities of citizenship—even if, as he said on June 16, 2016, he wants President Obama to unilaterally take away all gun rights from Americans. Under our Constitution, if you’re a bad citizen, you’re still a citizen; that’s the way we roll.
Still, let’s consider Matthews’ points of criticism, starting with the idea that abolition would have come faster without independence.
Matthews writes, correctly, that slavery was abolished in most of the British empire in 1834 (in India, not until 1843), which puts Britain a few decades ahead of America, which ended slavery in 1865.
So is it that simple? The British were faster, and thus, better? And so, if America had never become independent, would the slaves have been that much better off? Well, if we play out this alt.history, maybe not.
Stipulating, of course, that the slave trade in the Americas was mostly a British invention, (The Spanish, by contrast, did not have slavery, even if they still weren’t so nice.), we can observe this: With the coming of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the British textile manufacturers in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham—cities like Manhattan or San Francisco today, in terms of wealth and influence—acquired a profound interest in slave-grown cotton. Cotton was, after all, the key input in their mass production.
So with the slaveocracy in the American South pumping out so much wealth, would London have wanted to mess with it? Perhaps, because by the 19th century, English anti-slavery sentiment was strong, and yet, if so, it would then have come into a conflict. Confronted with “Yankee” pressure from London, it’s easy to imagine, say, a Sir Robert E. Lee reaching the exact same conclusion that the real Robert E. Lee reached: Dixie must chart its own independent course—and secede.
And so what would have happened then? As we know, the Southerners were skilled and tough fighters. Would the British really have sailed huge armies across the Atlantic to subdue the rebellion? And would they have won? It’s worth recalling that England lost about 24,000 men in the six years of the actual American Revolution, and then gave up. By contrast, in the actual Civil War, the Union North lost more men than that in the first weeks. And yet those Yankees kept coming. The big difference, of course, was that Americans in the North were far more concerned with the American continent than anyone in England; that’s why the Yankees sustained losses of more than 360,000, killed in their determined prosecution of the war, until April 9, 1865, when General Grant finally prevailed at Appomattox. And that’s how slavery, extremely profitable institution that it was, finally came to an end. Someone making a speech in London wouldn’t have done the trick; it took blood and steel. (More on steel later.)
We can further observe that even if the British had somehow succeeded in abolishing involuntary servitude, it’s quite likely that some sort of system of “voluntary” serfdom or indenture would have taken its place. Once again, the English, far away, would have been hard-pressed to impose their precise will on the American South.
So sorry, Dylan Matthews: Your Blame-America-First routine doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
We can take this point a little further and add that if there had been no American Revolution, there would have been no Louisiana Purchase. That purchase, of course, was President Thomas Jefferson’s bold geopolitical gamble; he dug deep into the Treasury to scrape up the $15 million needed to buy 828,000 square miles of land from the French, thereby doubling the size of the United States.
It’s a safe bet that no English government would have spent that much money on uncharted wilderness. Of course, somewhere in time, there might have been a huge war between England and France over that territory, and who knows then what would have happened?
Yet this much we know for sure: Without the small-farmer settlement of the Midwest—the Homestead Act and all that—the land of America would have been dominated by big landowners. That is, Southern plantation-owners and rich coastal merchants with royal titles and a yen to own an estate somewhere in the hinterland. In other words, the class-ridden politics of, say, Downton Abbey would have come to America.
Meanwhile, the British, who were nothing if not canny, would have continued and perfected their divide-and-rule strategy. We can even add, fancifully, that after “The Scare” of 1776, the British would have made sure to keep the North American regions as separate colonies, so as never to let them acquire a collective nationalist consciousness. The big Canadian province of Newfoundland, for example, was not formally a part of Canada until 1907.
So the British would likely have established separate colonial legislatures in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, etc., all the while maintaining a hub-and-spoke relationship with the central authority of London.
Oh, and most likely, Texas, California, and the Southwest would have remained part of Mexico, and then the people in those regions would have been much better off—at least according to Dylan Matthews.
Meanwhile, the British would have used their imperial authority to prevent the development of manufacturing in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, because such would have been a threat to British factories. So there would have been no broad-based prosperity, and no massive expansion of the North American population. The British would have confined a limited settlement to the eastern seaboard, leaving the interior to be ruled by chartered companies. (Yes, Dylan Matthews will have to explain how, say, Illinois would have been better off being governed by the American equivalent of the British East India Company, as opposed to an Abe Lincoln-type middle class.)
Without U.S. independence, North America would have remained a rural, non-industrial breadbasket. Blessed as it was with natural resources, agrarian North America would have supplied cotton and beef and lumber to industrial Britain. America would thus be more like Australia—a nice enough place to live, but no kind of world power.
And so the big loser in this intact colonial system would have been . . . Britain. Indeed, Britain itself wouldn’t have lasted much past 1918.
Why? Because, as we know, Britain’s great rival in the last two centuries, Germany, had its own plan for European hegemony—and that meant defeating Britain. Indeed, Germany, empowered by its nationalist economic strategy, vastly surpassed England as an industrial power in the 19th century—and that meant a vast rearrangement in military might.
As Jim Pinkerton pointed out here at Breitbart News in May, in 1840, Britain was producing about 1.3 million tons of steel annually; in that same year, Germany, just at the dawn of its own industrial revolution, produced just 190,000 tons. So in that time, Britain had the huge edge, in terms of the capacity, for producing rifles, artillery, ammunition, ships, and so on. Yet the Germans were just getting started, and seven decades later, in 1913, on the eve of World War One, the situation was much different: The British, following their doctrinaire free-trade philosophy, had increased their steel production to 10.4 million tons—and that sounds impressive, until one realizes that in that same year of 1913, Germany produced 19.3 million tons, almost twice as much. In other words, the Germans, following their own version of Hamiltonianism, had built themselves up; by the early 20th century, they were the leading industrial and military power in Europe.
And so the Kaiser would have won World War One—except for one thing: the industrial muscle of America. You see, in the same year that the Germans were producing 19 million tons of steel, the Americans—having pioneered Hamiltonian economic development—were making more than 31 million tons. And so a strong, independent America ultimately joined Britain in World War One, thereby turning the tide and beating Germany. The Great War was won with a hurricane of American industrial production, not because of American cotton.
So as we can see, it was a good thing for Britain that America became independent, because we saved their butts in World War One. And then we did it again in World War Two. So today, we Americans can say to the Brits: “You’re welcome!”
Okay, but what about Dylan Matthews’ other arguments? You know, about the treatment of Native Americans and the virtues of the British parliamentary system? It might be obvious to someone of Matthews’ ilk that the Indians would have been better off under the French or Spanish—or even, who knows, the Russians or the Japanese. But that’s not so obvious to the rest of us.
And as for the supposed superior virtues of the British political system, well, that’s a matter of taste—and as for my own taste, well, I like my beer American-style cold, not British-style warm.
I could delve further into Matthews’ arguments, but I have better things to do. You see, I love my country, and I want to learn more about its greatness—such as the story of Desmond Doss, who earned the Medal of Honor at Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, as America’s armed forces destroyed yet another threat to world peace and freedom. And, no doubt, you do, too.
As for Dylan Matthews, he can go sit in his little hole somewhere, typing away for Vox, nursing his deep grudge against America.