Conrad Black Says Some Rather Silly Things About the American Revolution

In National Review of all places. (h/t: Memeorandum)

I’m skipping over the “you know, the wogs never had it so good as under the Raj” part of the article, and deal merely with this:

The colonists had the better of the argument with the British, but individual Americans did not have substantively more liberties at the end of the Revolution than they had had at the beginning, nor more than the British in the home islands had (then or now or at any time in between), apart from having a resident sovereign government. The whole American notion of liberty came from the British, along with the common law and the English language. If the Americans had maintained their British status, they would control Britain and Canada and Australia and New Zealand now (another 120 million people and over $5 trillion of GDP), have all their energy needs met, and enjoy better government than they have actually endured for the past 20 years. It would have been much easier to abolish slavery and, if there had been a Civil War, it would not have lasted long, nor cost a fraction of the 750,000American lives that it did. There would have been no World Wars or Cold War, or at least no conflict remotely as perilous as those were. The United States would also have less than its current 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people, and wouldn’t have a legal cartel that devours 10 percent of its GDP. These are matters that, though they verge on secular heresy, Americans may want to consider, in between singing splendid anthems and rereading Jefferson’s defamation of poor old George III and his blood libel on the American Indian in the Declaration ofIndependence, this national holiday.

In the words of the mother country, bollocks.

1. The newly independent Americans enjoyed self-government without interference from an imperial power on the other side of the ocean. Their rights to free speech, a free press, freedom from having soldiers quartered in their homes, freedom of religion and the right to bear arms were guarunteed (in Britain these things were officially granted only to Protestants). The national government was inherently limited in scope (then, at least). Excessive bails and fines, violations of habeas corpus, ex post facto laws, titles of nobility and bills of attainder were all outlawed. However much these built on British innovations, their enshrinement in American law represented a plus for liberty.

2. How would America “control” the other commonwealth nations if it had remained part of the Empire? Britain no longer controls them. America would not be the same colossus; absent the American Revolution, Louisiana would have remained French, Texas and the Southwest Mexican, Alaska Russian. We would still be a handful of colonies huddling the Atlantic seaboard: marginally more important than Canada or Australia, but hardly the dominant power in the English-speaking world.

3. How the guaruntee that no Civil War would have erupted over slavery, or that it would have been relatively costless? Why assume that the abolition of slavery would have been so easy in the British Empire if it had still ruled over its most prosperous, populous slaveholding colonies? Why assume that Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia would have found London abolitionists less obnoxious than their Boston counterparts? Why assume that the British Army would have found conrolling the Carolina hinterlands any easier in 1860 than they did in 1780? For that matter, why assume that the Crimean War-era British Army would have been any more adept at keeping it’s casualties low than the Union and Confederate Armies were?

4. Why would there have been no World Wars? What about the addition of the Thirteen Colonies to the weight of the British Empire would have made Wilhelm II less blithely fatalist about stumbling into war with every other major power in Europe?

A final note about the causes of the Revolution. The colonists of the American Revolution did not care to be blamed for the Seven Years War, which had it origins in European power-rivalries, nor did they care to pay for it. The idea that the colonists were unwilling or unable to defend themselves without British Armies is absurd. What they were asking for was what they had always enjoyed: home rule, with accompanying powers of taxation and self-defense. I should like it noted for the record that after 1783, every settler colony of the British Empire, from Canada to Australia, to South Africa, to Kenya, that asked for home rule got it without a shot being fired in anger. The American Revolution made even the British Empire more liberal.

You’re welcome.

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