Saturday, January 08, 2005

Lets talk history

The Magna Carta was extorted from the reigning King of England by some of his vassals and in it he granted the British subjects certain rights. Remember European monarchies had a divine right to rule, thank you Charlemagne and various Popes. So everything that exists in the current government of the United Kingdom extends from the Magna Carta at the sufferance of the king or queen. In Canada such things as right to own property is granted to the citizens by the benevolence of the government.

Now lets look at the American colonies. Talk about a hot-bed of revolution and sedition. And it was brought about by two factors: the colonists desire to get away from England and start a new life away from the interference of the British government and by the British government’s ham fisted policies towards the colonies. Puritans, Quakers, Catholics, and many others came to the colonies to escape the religious intolerance practiced by the Anglican Church who’s true leader is the reigning monarch of England [courtesy of Henry VIII wanting to divorce his first wife and the Pope in Rome telling him no; which resulted in Mary [Henry VIII's first born and was named Bloody Mary as she tried to reimpose Catholicism by force on a now Anglican England], the Virgin Queen Elizabeth [who had her cousin Mary Queen of Scots executed], the Spanish Armada, first colonization of America by England, and the death of the Tudor line upon Elizabeth's death]. While the people sought a new start while still being loyal subjects, the British government tended to view the colonies as something to be kept as a captive market while keeping other European powers out [amusing fact from colonial times, it was a crime for a colonist to make a metal shovel because it would compete with what the British were selling the colonists]. Meanwhile in the colonies there were squabbles and intolerance amongst the colonists while dealing with the natives and the French.

Now lets jump forward a bit. The debtor colony of Georgia has been founded. The French and Indian War has been fought with the French being defeated and the native nations on both sides devastated. George Washington gets his baptism by fire. George III is on the throne of England. And in order to make the colonies pay for themselves, the King of England imposes on the colonists more taxes and tariffs. The colonists get restive. The colony of Massachusetts loses its charter and comes under direct British command [Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party to name two events].

And then General Gage in Boston decides to dispatch 800 soldiers to Lexington and Concord to seize the militia weapons before they could be turned against British forces in an uprising.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a colonial of Lexington or Concord. Your colony’s charter has been revoked. You are being taxed without any say in the matter. Your colony is occupied by soldiers who are supposed to be your fellow subjects. And now these same soldiers are marching to seize the militia weapons just because General Gage thinks they maybe used for mischief. Is it any wonder there was trouble. Your fellow countrymen were marching to seize the weapons that kept you safe from another French or Indian attack.

General Gage basically told the colonists with these orders that, in order to prevent an insurrection and keep the status quo, they were expendable. Which of course brings up the question, if the state [as represented by Gage] breaks its oath to you then why should your oath to that state still be valid? Something Locke called a social contract don’t you think? Or ‘When in the course of human events.’

Brave men sped from Boston to warn the colonists to hide the weapons. At Lexington the locals skirmished but gave way to the British. At Concord the same almost happened. The local militia pulled back to a hill near town while the British tortured a man to reveal where Concord’s one cannon was hidden. Once that was found and destroyed, the British set about burning the liberty pole. The militia took this to be a burning of the town and then the shot heard round the world happened as the sides engaged. There are probably British today who still complain the colonials did not fight fair that day, for as the British Redcoats marched back to Boston via Lexington, the colonials sniped at them from every hiding place along the way.

Thus the American Revolution was started. Along with providing further proof to the Founding Fathers why an overly strong central government was a bad idea since its adjutants like Gage could get out of hand in order to protect the prerogatives of such an autocratic state.

What an amazing collection of gentlemen the United States was blessed with during those troubling times. Baptized by several wars not of their making, buffeted by religious schisms, their voices smothered by their distant government, and many exposed to such liberal ideas as what came from Adam Smith, Locke, and classical sources. From this heady brew came a startling concept at odds with the idea of Divine Right and thus everything comes from the state; instead the Founding Fathers said there are certain inalienable rights granted Men by their Creator and it is by these rights that a government is created at the sufferance of its citizens. And they put that idea into a document called the Declaration of Independance and signed it, even though it meant their death if their cause was lost. After much debate and compromise those men put together a government where the role of the central government was explicitly defined while granting to the states all other powers not enumerated and that became the Constitution of the United States of America.

So in the truest sense of the word the Founding Fathers were liberals. They believed in, fought for, and died for a liberty of a rare kind: personal liberty free of onerous government meddling. Some people now call them elitists and not representative of the people of the colonies; they were just people that saw a better way to govern and were willing to work together to make it happen. If that is elitist, then I am proud they were elitist.

As citizens of the United States of America, lets not forget our heritage and betray the ideas this country was founded on. Because it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to zealously guard these inalienable rights from unwarranted encroachment.

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