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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Lively Exchange on the Revolution and Founding

Conrad Black, the Canadian publisher (and currently a guest of the US federal penal system) writes of the American Revolution and Founding:
The colonists should certainly have paid something for the British efforts on their behalf, and “no taxation without representation” and the Boston Tea Party and so forth were essentially a masterly spin job on a rather grubby contest about taxes.

In its early years, the U.S. had no more civil liberties than Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and parts of Scandinavia. About 15 percent of its population were slaves and, in the Electoral College, the slaveholding states were accorded bonus electoral votes representing 60 percent of the slaves, so the voters in free states were comparatively disadvantaged. (If America had stayed in the British Empire for five years beyond the death of Jefferson and John Adams, the British would have abolished slavery for them and the country would have been spared the 700,000 dead of the Civil War.
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg replies:
As for America being on the wrong side of a "grubby contest" about taxes, Edmund Burke — the founding father of modern conservatism, on both sides of the pond, and a contemporary observer — didn't see it that way. In his speech "On American Taxation" Burke came out on America's side. While Burke had hoped for reconciliation with the British in America, he always recognized the decency and justice of the American cause — a marked contrast with Burke's views on the evils of the French Revolution. During the war, Burke was not only dismayed that his German-descended king was waging war against the "American English" with the "the hireling sword of German boors and vassals," he grew convinced that American victory was the only way to ensure the survival of liberty in Britain. If the British defeated the colonists, Burke feared, than Whiggish principles would be in mortal danger at home as well.