George III has got a bad rap from history. The topic is too large for a newspaper column, and perhaps it is now too late in the day. But as a Canadian of Loyalist ancestry, I continue to take issue with the whole premise of the American Revolution. (While conceding it turned out not so badly.)
That the colonists had legitimate grievances, I cannot doubt. My own maternal great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Stetson Holmes, was clear on that. He even joined the Continental Army in his native Massachusetts but, after they’d won, thought better of what he’d done, and put family and portable possessions on a cart for the “State of Vermont.” When Vermont finally joined the United States, it was on the cart again for the coast, and by fishing schooner to a new life in the wilderness of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia—purposely back under the British Crown.
Most of the Tories in old Massachusetts were in complete agreement with their more excitable friends: that the British government of the day had no idea how to deal with the frontier types of the New World. It began with failing to notice that they were already, effectively, self-governing. No issue there: boo, hiss, to the Imperial bureaucracy, and its high-handed ways.
But my dander begins to rise when I read the Declaration of Independence, by a certain Thomas Jefferson, dated 4 July 1776. This document is entirely over the top. To almost every grievance and assertion in the thing, I have to reply, “Come on, now!”
The nonsense had begun to get out of control late in 1773, in the iconic event of the Boston Tea Party. George III and company had imposed what remains to my mind a reasonable tax on tea—less than Ontario’s new HST—in an attempt to recover some part of the cost of tossing the French out of North America. This fairly expensive operation had after all been to the benefit of the English colonists. More generally, American commerce was flourishing worldwide under the protection of the Royal Navy. The British had to pay taxes for that, why should the Yankees get a free ride?
Of course we have this hullabaloo about “rep by pop.” It wasn’t only in Boston that the colonists objected in principle to being taxed without representation. It would have been more politic for the British to address that issue in an upfront way. It was extremely impolitic to respond with the Coercive Acts, and by closing Boston Harbor until the colonists paid the British East India Company for all the tea they’d spoilt.
Details, details. We could go on.
I would especially like to go on to the subject of ethnicity. The Thirteen Colonies were already quite a “multicultural” melange, with immigrants from all over. Well, from all over Europe, anyway. But read the rolls of the Continental Army and you find overwhelmingly nice English names. Read the rolls of the Loyal Militias and you find all kinds of unpronounceables. There was an element of ethnic cleansing in the American Revolution that U.S. historians tend to overlook. It was the “rainbow coalition” that stayed loyal to the Crown; the “snooty Englishmen” were the rebels.
The same still pertains in today’s American Tea Party movement. It has an ethnic component. The native English-speaking sons and daughters of the Revolution, and all who later assimilated with them, retain a cultural ethos that stresses self-help. They are the people today who feel overtaxed, over-ruled, and angry. They see their country being taken over by an alien force: the Hope and Change hordes of the cities; the tide of illegal immigrants; groups unaverse to collecting welfare. More generally, people whose American Dream does not sufficiently resemble their own.
The metastasizing Nanny State has itself a “multicultural” component that cannot be discussed, except in misleading ways. Thanks to contemporary political correctness, traditional America is presented as an artifact of white racism. This, in itself, is racist, and Middle America knows it. They are being demonized to advance political agendas in which they have, and want, no part. They are being coerced to accept not people, but policies that are repugnant to them—and “in their own country.”
It has become almost impossible to discuss the culture wars sanely. The issues before North Americans today have nothing to do with “race,” in principle; yet everything to do with “ethos,” which in turn is mired in cultural identity.
You do not have to be an English-speaking white man to appreciate an order of society in which the government answers to the people, instead of the people to the government. But unfortunately, it helps, and herein lies the Tea Party’s Achilles heel. The very fact that they represent long-received American values makes them repugnant to the “multiculture.”
“Ethnicity trumps gender,” as I have warned feminists who play at strange ethnic alliances. It can also trump everything else, as the history of the world suggests. The greatest political problems cannot be confronted without confronting that one; yet confronting it seldom ends well.