Friday, February 22, 2008



The date, July 4, is based on the Continental Congress's approval of the Declaration of Independence, but in fact the date is incorrect, the document was approved on July 2.

Jefferson wrote the first draft of the declaration, but it was edited by the redoubtable Benjamin Franklin, and later was heavily amended by the Congress. Jefferson suffered a great humiliation of his pride at the editing and changes.

Despite the document's stirring opening words, if you actually read the whole thing, you will be highly disappointed.

The bulk of it has a whining tone in piling on complaint after complaint against the Crown, going on and on about things like Britain's slave trade.

The 'slave trade' business was particularly hypocritical, trying to sound elevated while in fact reflecting something else altogether. At the time there was a surplus of human flesh in Virginia, and prices were soft.

The Jefferson who whined about the trade owned more than two hundred slaves and kept them for his entire life. Some defender of freedom.

The cause of the Revolution is also interesting and never emphasized in American texts. Britain's imposition of the Quebec Act created a firestorm of anti-Catholicism in the colonies. They were afraid of being ruled from a Catholic colony.

The speech and writing of American colonists of the time was filled with exactly the kind of ugly language one associates with extremist Ulstermen in recent years.

This combined with the sense of safety engendered from Britain's victory in the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War)and the unwillingness to pay taxes to help pay for that victory caused the colonial revolt.

Few Americans know it, but it was the practice for many, many decades to burn the Pope in effigy on Guy Fawlkes Day along the seaboard. Anti-Catholicism was quite virulent.

The first phase of the revolt in and around Boston was actually something of a popular revolution, responding to Britain's blocading the harbor and quartering troops in Boston.

The colonial aristocrats were having none of that, and they appointed Washington commander over the heads of the Boston Militias who actually elected their officers.

Wasdhington, who had always wan't to be a Britisk regular commander but never received the commission, imposed his will ferociously. He started flogging and hanging.

In his letters home, the men who actually started the revolution are described as filth and scum. He was a very arrogant aristocrat.

The American Revolution has been described by a European as home-grown aristocrats replacing foreign-born ones. It is an apt description.

Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and many other of the Fathers had no faith in democracy. About one percent of early Virginia could vote. The president was not elected by people but by elites in the Electoral College. The Senate, which even today is the power in the legislature, was appointed well into the 20th century.

The Supreme Court originally never dared interpret the Bill of Rights as determining what states should do. It sat on paper like an advertising brochure with no force. At one time, Jeffferson actually raised the specter of secession over that.

The Founding Fathers saw a vote as endangering property ownership. It took about two hundred years of gradual changes for America to become anything that seriously could be called democratic.