Saturday, July 05, 2008
A noted liberal blogger thinks that the United States might be even better if the American revolution had failed:
My sense every July 4 is that I could get more jazzed up about independence if it were more plausible for Americans to work ourselves up into a fury of anti-British sentiment. In the real world, however, America's two closest allies are the former colonial power and the segments of British North America that didn't join in our rebellion. Ultimately, I think the United States is a pretty awesome country but it very plausibly would have been even awesomer had English and American political leaders in the late 18th century been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together. (emphasis in original)
If ever there was a candidate for emmigration to Canada, there he is! But whatever you do, don't question his patriotism (even if he does believe that the Tories were right).
Taking the point seriously for a brief moment, the counterfactual possibilities are indeed endless. The one that is easiest to define, and which has perhaps the greatest implications for the evolution of our national identity and the drama that is unfolding in this year's presidential election, is the slavery question. If Great Britain had had continuing sovereignty over southern North America into the 19th century, would William Wilberforce's campaign to end the slave trade in the empire have failed, or would it have resulted in emancipation much earlier, without civil war? One is forced to wonder whether American MPs (seated, perhaps, in just the sort of settlement Yglesias envisions) would have put it off for another generation, and how the issue would have ultimately been resolved without the catalyzing American constitutional crisis.
MORE: A considered indictment of Yglesias' proposition, including particularly the point that Americans are made, not born, and that is what makes us different.
CWCID: Winds of Change, via Glenn Reynolds.
Here let me try my own hand at this:
My sense every July 6 is that I could get more jazzed up about our victory on D-Day if it were more plausible for Americans to work ourselves up into a fury of anti-German sentiment. In the real world, however, the former Axis powers, Germany, Japan, and Italy are three of America's closest Allies.
(I realize I'm traveling close to Godwin's Law)
My guess is that had we remained part of the British Empire,the South would have declared independence. Scots-Irish are ornery, period. That would have been a dust-up, no doubt. Recall the tension over Nullification during the 1830s: the tension was a long time a-building.
One might say that there is little point in pursuing such "what if" questions, as they DID NOT occur.
Other "what if": if Lincoln had not been assassinated...
At the same time, I enjoyed Turtledove's multi volume alternate history on what could have happened had the South won the Civil War. With family on both sides killed in the conflict, I am glad the North won.
One point about remaining in the British Empire: would the British talent for compromise have solved the matter peacefully? I doubt it.
Yglesias is an ass. That such an ass writes for the Atlantic and The American Prospect and is regarded as some kind of serious pundit speaks to the confederacy of dunces are public intellectuals have become.
For contemporary liberals dissent is the highest form of patriotism, until they reach that apotheosis of treason and sedition.
Australians gained their independance without firing a shot.
So what have they lost by that? Nothing.
Actually, the Aussies had to participate in Britain's imperial adventures at great cost. For digestible history, see the movies Gallipoli and Breaker Morant.
One of the best pieces of counterfactual fiction I know is "The Charge of Lee's Brigade" (title from memory). America never revolted, and Robert E. Lee commanded a Virginia regiment of Royal cavalry. They won the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.
What-ifs are fun, but they don't really take us anywhere.
Wasn't Greenman Tim working on a what-if text about the failure of the American Revolution? The changes in the world would be astounding, going all the way back to the French Revolution and the spread of democratic ideals in Europe and South America to the fight against Imperialism. (which modern liberals might be amazed to learn was actively led by the United States from its inception to the modern era)