Tuesday, October 19, 2004

And just as Tom here has written, we say To Hell with Great Britain

Jimmy Carter thinks that Americans should have waited until the 1850s to peaceably gain quasi-independence: Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial’s really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way. As it happens, you goober, I just wrote an exam on precisely that period in British politics. I'm feeling crammed and just a bit sassy. The trend towards "Responsible Government" - where the "White Dominions" (i.e., those without large non-white populations) were granted limited representative self-government starting in the 1850s - was a direct response to the American Revolution. Without that experience to show that imperial control over a largely white, largely Christian population simply would not be tolerated for long by that population, the Revolution wouldn't have happened. Without the American Revolution occurring, neither would the French Revolution; without that, European nationalism and liberalism in the 19th century wouldn't have occurred; without that, the trend towards increased electoral democracy might have been a lot longer in coming. But I digress... That American colonists felt themselves as possessed of the traditional rights of Englishmen as their cousins still in Britain, and were being deprived thereof, was a primary cause of the Revolution. Even the ministries of the period sympathetic to the colonists' complaints - mostly those of the Marquess of Rockingham and his cohorts - didn't favour granting any sort of representative government. The reforms that granted Canada and Australia self-government wouldn't have come about without without that first shocking repudiation of holding empire over Europeans. Even assuming that granting self-government would have happened eventually without the American Revolution - and that's a big assumption - it wouldn't have happened all at once, or very early. Colonies might have been granted it on an individual basis. Carter's own Georgia had a black population equal to the white one until well into the 20th century; odds are that it would have been treated as the Cape Colonies (i.e., South Africa) or Bermuda, and not granted self-government until at least 1900. It's also significant to note that the British North America Act of 1867, which created Canada as a sovereign dominion, was another direct response to American action; in this case, to the Civil War. Joining the separate colonies, and establishing an efficient local government not forced to wait around on the Foreign Office's instructions, was seen as essential for their protection. Yes, the equation for determining suitability for self-government was precisely that racist and mercenary. Remember, too, that King George VI was still Emperor of India until 1947. Nonviolent gaining of independence wasn't at all quick. Nor was it always nonviolent, in Carter's examples; Australia saw the initial jump-starting of its independence from another violent revolt against British imperial authorities. So, Mr. Carter: What are you endorsing here, exactly? How long would you have had Americans living under tyranny to satisfy your lust for pacifism at any cost? How many racist republics would you have had existing well into the 20th century? What is wrong with you? (Via LGF.) UPDATE: The Monger goes to the trouble of footnoting.

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