We have swallowed the red pill, which now makes its way to the stomach. The coating dissolves. The rotor spins up and the device begins to operate. Inside, the sodium-metal core remains intact.
And we begin the treatment. Again, our goal is to detach you – by “you,” of course, I mean only the endogenous neural tissue – from the annelid parasite which now occupies a significant percentage of your cranium, and of course is fully integrated with your soul.
This worm goes by many a name, but today we’ll just call it democracy. Once we’ve severed its paradendritic hyphae, you can remove your little guest safely in your own bathroom – all you need is a Dremel tool, a Flowbee and a big plastic bag. Pack the cavity with Bondo, wear a wig for a few weeks, and no one will suspect you’ve become a reactionary imperialist.
Of course, you came to us. So the worm must be a little loose already, or otherwise unwell. Which is great – but doesn’t really assist us in the procedure. UR is a scientific operation. Everyone gets the same cuts on the same dots. So for the purposes of our red pill, we’ll assume you remain an orthodox, NPR-loving progressive. Continue reading at your own risk.
We’ll start by detaching you from the party line, your parasite, democracy, on exactly one point. You’ll feel a kind of faint plucking sensation behind your right ear. It might hurt a little. It is not the sodium core. We are certainly not solving the problem here and now. Yet our point is a substantial one, and detaching it should give us plenty of slack to pull on.
What we’re going to do is to replace your perspective of a major historical event, one which you have never considered controversial, but one which is vital to your understanding of the world you live in. And how will we accomplish this? By the most orthodox of scholarly methods. The only tools in our little black bag are (a) primary sources, (b) forgotten works by reputable historians of the present, and (c) modern works by respected academics.
When all I knew of surfing was surf videos, I used to wonder how surfers swim through all those big broken waves out to where it’s glassy. When I learned to surf (I am a terrible surfer), I learned the answer: there’s no trick. At least, not one that works. You just have to paddle out faster than the crazy, roaring mess can push you in. (Okay, if you’re a shortboarder, you can duck-dive. But shortboards are for teenagers.)
Similarly, there is no magic key to history. If you want to make up your own mind about the past, you cannot do so by going there. So you have to find sources you trust. The Sith Library makes this about as easy as it’s going to get, but it will always be work.
Anyway. Our point is the conflict you call the American Revolution. For a quick self-test, ask yourself how close you are to agreeing with the following statement. (You’re not expected to take this on faith – we will demonstrate it quite thoroughly.)
Everything I know about the American Revolution is bullshit.
Orwellian antihistory, at least high-quality antihistory (and remember, kids, democracy is anything but mildly evolved), tends to fit Professor Frankfurt’s handy definition: bullshit is neither truth nor fiction. It is bullshit. If it uses any factual misstatements, it uses them very sparsely. If it has any resemblance to reality, the match is a coincidence.
The typical structure of antihistorical bullshit is an aggregate of small, accurate and unimportant facts, set in a filler of nonsense and/or active misinterpretation. This mix hardens quickly, can support tremendous architectural loads, and looks like marble from a distance.
Especially if you’ve never seen actual marble. When I find out, or at least flatter myself that I have found out, the actual picture behind my 10th-grade matte-painting view of some event, I am always reminded of something that happened to me in 10th grade. I was listening to a shitty ’80s Top 40 station – in the actual ’80s. Presumably in a desperate attempt to familiarize myself with actual American culture. When, as some kind of game or promotion, they played a Stones song – Paint It Black, I think. And that was basically it for Cyndi Lauper. This is the difference between real history and antihistory: the difference between Mick Jagger and Cyndi Lauper.
Of course, unlike Cyndi Lauper, antihistorical bullshit has an adaptive function. It exists to fill the hole in your head where the actual story should be. Duh. If everything you know about the American Revolution is bullshit, you know nothing about the American Revolution. This is the basic technique of misdirection, popular with magicians everywhere since time immemorial. You can’t see the rabbit going into the hat if you’re not looking at the hat.
So: let’s put it as bluntly as possible. At present you believe that, in the American Revolution, good triumphed over evil. This is the aforementioned aggregate. We’re going to just scoop that right out with the #6 brain spoon. As we operate, we’ll replace it with the actual story of the American Rebellion – in which evil triumphed over good.
Yup. We’re really going to do this. You’re on the table. It’s the real thing. In the terms of the time, at present you are a Patriot and (pejoratively) a Whig. After this initial subprocedure you will be a Loyalist and (pejoratively) a Tory. Obviously, a challenging surgical outcome. But hey, it’s the 21st century. If not now, when?
Some would just try to split the difference, and convince you that it wasn’t black and white – that the “King’s friends” had a point, too. Your modern academic historian (as opposed to his more numerous colleague, the modern academic antihistorian) is terribly good at this trick of dousing inconvenient truths in a freezing, antiseptic bucket of professional neutrality.
This is pretty much why you can’t just walk into your friendly local bookstore and buy a red pill. It was black and white. It was just black and white in the other direction.
How on earth can we possibly convince you of this? We’ll read an old book or two, that’s all. No actual incision is needed. The metaphor is just a metaphor. Relax and breathe into the mask.
Let’s call our first witness. His name is Thomas Hutchinson, and he is the outstanding Loyalist figure of the prerevolutionary era. His Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia is here. It is not long. Please do him the courtesy of reading it in full, then continue below.
Now: what do you notice about Hutchinson’s Strictures? Well, the first thing you notice is: before today, you had never read it. Or even heard of it. Or probably even its author. What is the ratio of the number of people who have read the Declaration to the number who have read the Strictures? 10^5? 10^6? Something like that. Isn’t that just slightly creepy?
The second thing we notice about the Strictures is its tone – very different from the Declaration. The Declaration shouts at us. The Strictures talk to us. Hutchinson speaks quietly, with just the occasional touch of snark. He adopts the general manner of a sober adult trapped in an elevator with a drunk, knife-wielding teenager.
Of course, as Patriots (we are still Patriots, aren’t we? Sorry – just checking), we would expect some cleverness from the Devil. Everyone knows this is the way you win an argument, right or wrong. Pay no attention to Darth Hutchinson’s little Sith mind tricks. But still – why would Congress make it so easy? Why are we getting stomped like this? Because ouch, man, that was painful.
The third thing we notice is that Hutchinson actually explains the Declaration. As he begins:
The last time I had the honour of being in your Lordship’s company, you observed that you were utterly at a loss as to what facts many parts of the Declaration of Independence published by the Philadelphia Congress referred…
In other words: these Congress people are so whack-a-doodle-doo, half the time your Lordship can’t even tell what they’re talking about. Presumably “your Lordship” is Lord Germain. Dear reader, how does your own knowledge of the Declaration compare to Lord Germain’s? Weren’t you amused, for instance, to learn that
I know of no new offices erected in America in the present reign, except those of the Commissioners of the Customs and their dependents. Five Commissioners were appointed, and four Surveyors General dismissed; perhaps fifteen to twenty clerks and under officers were necessary for this board more than the Surveyors had occasion for before: Land and tide waiters, weighers, &c. were known officers before; the Surveyors used to encrease or lessen the number as the King’s service required, and the Commissioners have done no more. Thirty or forty additional officers in the whole Continent, are the Swarms which eat out the substance of the boasted number of three millions of people.
or, most intriguingly, that
The first in order, He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good; is of so general a nature, that it is not possible to conjecture to what laws or to what Colonies it refers. I remember no laws which any Colony has been restrained from passing, so as to cause any complaint of grievance, except those for issuing a fraudulent paper currency, and making it a legal tender; but this is a restraint which for many years past has been laid on Assemblies by an act of Parliament, since which such laws cannot have been offered to the King for his allowance. I therefore believe this to be a general charge, without any particulars to support it; fit enough to be placed at the head of a list of imaginary grievances.
What is this fraudulent paper currency? Hutchinson is referring to this episode. The experienced UR reader may well ask: what is it with America and paper money? We’ll definitely have to revisit the question.
But suffice it to say that you, personally, do not have the knowledge to produce any kind of coherent response to Hutchinson’s brutal fisking of our sacred founding document. You can’t say: “actually, Governor Hutchinson, I was in Boston in 1768, and I can tell you exactly why the Assembly was moved to Cambridge. What really happened is that…” For all you or I know about Boston in 1768, of course, Hutchinson could just as easily be the one yanking our chains. But why, then, are we so sure he’s wrong?
Of course, you don’t really think of the Declaration as a list of factual particulars. You think of it as a deep moral statement, about humanity, or something. Nonetheless, it does contain a list of particulars. Isn’t it odd that it strikes us as odd to see these particulars closely examined? One simply doesn’t expect to see the Declaration argued with in this way. And, reading the Strictures, one gets the impression that the authors of the Declaration didn’t, either.
Which should not surprise us. What we learn from the Strictures is that, as in the rest of American history, there is absolutely no guarantee that a detailed and rational argument about a substantive factual question will prevail, whether through means military, political, or educational, over a meretricious tissue of lies. So why bother – especially if you’re the one peddling the lies? Perhaps Hutchinson is yanking our chain, and King George really did dispatch hordes of ravenous bureaucrats to America, etc, etc. But one would expect to have seen the point at least disputed.
But, okay. Whatever. We are still Patriots. So let’s advance to the second primary: Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion.
Peter Oliver was Chief Justice of Massachusetts and Hutchinson’s brother-in-law. His brother Andrew was Hutchinson’s lieutenant governor. Like Hutchinson, the Olivers spent most of the ’60s and ’70s trying to survive the Boston mob, by whom Andrew Oliver was more or less hounded to death. Hutchinson and Peter Oliver died in exile.
The Origin & Progress was written in 1781, but not published properly until 1961 (with an excellent introduction by the historian Douglass Adair). The copy on archive.org is a bank error in your favor, as Adair’s edits should still be under copyright. I recommend downloading the PDF. If Hutchinson has already sold you on Toryism, great. Otherwise, please read the whole book, then Adair’s introduction.
If you are feeling especially impatient, and/or confident in your knowledge of 18th-century political theory and the history of early New England, I suppose you can skip Oliver’s “procathartick Porch” and go straight to chapter II (page 57), where the story starts to really motor. But I don’t recommend it. As Oliver writes:
Methinks Sir! I hear you ask me, why all this Introduction? Why so long a Porch before the Building is reached? Let me answer You by saying, that you desired me to give You the History of the american Rebellion, because You thought that I was intimately acquainted with the Rise & Progress of it; having lived there for so many Years, & been concerned in the publick Transactions of Government before the Rebellion burst its Crater. I was very willing to answer your Request. I, on my Part, must ask you to oblige me, by permitting me, in the epistolary Walks, to indulge my Fancy in the Choice of my Path. Besides, you may perhaps, in the Sequel, find some Analogy between the Porch & the Building, & that they are not two detached Structures; altho’ a good Architect might have produced a better Effect, by making either or both of them a little more tasty. However, if you will excuse the Hibernicism, you need not enter the House by its Porch, but open the Door of the main Building which hangs at the End of the Porch, & adjoins to it.
Before I introduce you to the House, let me remind you, that I shall confine myself, chiefly, to the Transactions of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, as it was this Province where I resided, & was most intimate to the Transactions of; & as it was the Volcano from whence issued all the Smoak, Flame & Lava which hath since enveloped the whole British american Continent, for the Length of above 1700 Miles. If I deviate into other Colonies, my Excursions will be few & short. I promise You that I will adhere most sacredly to Truth, & endeavor to steer as clear as possible from Exaggeration; although many Facts may appear to be exaggerated, to a candid Mind, which is always fond of viewing human Nature on the brightest Side of its Orb.
The Origin & Progress is obviously a very different animal from the Strictures.
What’s so neat about Peter Oliver’s little book is that, besides being a primary source of considerable historical value, it is also an artistic work of considerable literary merit. The tone, as we see, is almost postmodern. Oliver has a voice, and even here in the benighted 21st century (where we think “candid” means “honest,” rather than “naive”), we can hear it. This is a man you could have a beer with. Even from the strongest revolutionary characters, TJ and John Adams, it is hard to get such a three-dimensional presence.
The past, as they say, is a foreign country. Imagine you were a hippie backpacker visiting, say, Armenia, having read a few newspaper stories about how the Armenian Democratic Front is struggling nobly against the iron oppression of the Armenian People’s Party – this being roughly comparable to the average American’s knowledge of prerevolutionary Massachusetts politics. But leaving the airport in Yerevan, you meet Vartan (“call me Varty!”), a die-hard APP man, and wind up drinking with him and his boho friends until four in the morning. Of course, you’ll leave Armenia a dedicated supporter of the APP. This is roughly how we intend to convert you into a Loyalist. You can’t actually have a beer with Peter Oliver, but you can read his book.
Speaking of John Adams, there’s actually another point of contact: you can rent the first disc of the HBO miniseries by that name. I gave up after an episode and a half – I have put a little work into my picture of the 1770s, and I don’t want it contaminated with Hollywood’s. But I will say this: HBO’s Samuel Adams, as a sort of 18th-century Al Sharpton, is dead on. As Oliver puts it:
I shall next give you a Sketch of some of Mr. Samuel Adams’ Features; & I do not know how to delineate them stronger, than by the Observation made by a celebrated Painter in America, vizt. “That if he wished to draw the Picture of the Devil, that he would get Sam Adams to sit for him:” & indeed, a very ordinary Physiognomist would, at a transient View of his Countenance, develope the Malignity of his Heart. He was a Person of Understanding, but it was discoverable rather by a Shrewdness than Solidity of Judgment; & he understood human Nature, in low life, so well, that he could turn the Minds of the great Vulgar as well as the small into any Course that he might chuse; perhaps he was a singular Instance in this Kind; & he never failed of employing his Abilities to the vilest Purposes.
His beer sucks, too. And few will forget this portrait of John Hancock, as the dim young Trustafarian, and general Wallet of what Oliver calls “the Faction”:
Here I am almost necessarily led into a Digression upon Mr. Hancock’s Character, who was as closely attached to the hindermost part of Mr. Adams as the Rattles are affixed to the Tail of the Rattle Snake. Mr. Hancock was the Son of a dissenting Clergyman, whose Circumstances in Life were not above Mediocrity, but he had a rich Uncle. He was educated at Harvard College, was introduced into his uncles Warehouse as a Merchant, & upon his Death was the residuary Legatee of 60,000 pounds Sterling. His understanding was of the Dwarf Size; but his Ambition, upon the Accession to so great an Estate, was upon the Gigantick. He was free from Immoralities, & Objects of Charity often felt the Effects of his Riches. His Mind was a meer Tabula Rasa, & had he met with a good Artist he would have enstamped upon it such Character as would have made him a most usefull Member of Society. But Mr. Adams who was restless in endeavors to disturb ye Peace of Society, & who was ever going about seeking whom he might devour, seized upon him as his Prey, & stamped such Lessons upon his Mind, as have not as yet been erased. Sometimes, indeed, by certain Efforts of Nature, when he was insensible of the Causes of his self, he would almost disengage himself from his Assailant; but Adams, like the Cuddlefish, would discharge his muddy Liquid, & darken the Water to such a Hue, that the other was lost to his Way, & by his Tergiversations in the Cloudy Vortex would again be seized, & at last secured.
Put your John Hancock on that! Of course, dissenting doesn’t mean Mr. Hancock’s father was an open-minded dissident, like me. It means he was a Dissenter – ie, a Puritan, and thus a member of what Mr. Otis called his black Regiment. (The Olivers and Hutchinsons were Anglicans.) Don’t miss Peter Oliver’s discussion of the role of the Puritan clergy in the disturbances, which will not be even slightly surprising to the experienced UR reader.
And yes, the Origin & Progress really is pretty much all this good. Read the whole thing. Consider it a small revenge on your 10th-grade history teacher. And chuckle along with Peter Oliver, when he writes:
I have done Sir! for the present, with my Portraits. If you like them, & think them ornamental for your Parlour, pray hang them up in it; for I assure You, that most of them justly demerit a Suspension.
Black humor – cheap black humor – from the 18th century. And there is more to Oliver than his Portraits. If you want action, skip to the Stamp Act (chapter III, p. 76):
In this Year 1765, began the violent Outrages in Boston: and now the Effusions of Rancour from Mr. Otis’s Heart were brought into Action. It hath been said, that he had secured the Smugglers & their Connections, as his Clients. An Opportunity now offered for them to convince Government of their Influence: as Seizure had been made by breaking open a Store, agreeable to act of Parliament; it was contested in the supreme Court, where Mr. Hutchinson praesided. The Seizure was adjudged legal by the whole Court.
This raised Resentment against the Judges. Mr. Hutchinson was the only Judge who resided in Boston, & he only, of the Judges, was the Victim; for in a short Time after, the Mob of Otis & his clients plundered Mr. Hutchinsons House of its full Contents, destroyed his Papers, unroofed his House, & sought his & his Children’s Lives, which were saved by Flight. One of the Riotors declared, the next morning, that the first Places which they looked into were the Beds, in Order to murder the Children. All this was Joy to Mr. Otis, as also to some of the considerable Merchants who were smugglers, & personally active in the diabolical Scene. But a grave old Gentleman thought it more than diabolical; for upon viewing the Ruins, on the next Day, he made this Remark, vizt. “that if the Devil had been here the last Night, he would have gone back to his own Regions, ashamed of being outdone, & never more have set Foot upon the Earth.” If so, what Pity that he did not take an Evening Walk, at that unhappy Crisis; for he hath often since seen himself outdone at his own outdoings.
You see what I mean by “evil.” You probably also remember, dimly, your 10th-grade history teacher plying you with propaganda that glorified this kind of spontaneous popular action. If you want to know how decent people can support evil, find a mirror.
Enough of Peter Oliver. Perhaps he is just not your style, and you remain a Patriot. In that case, there is no further escape. You will have to cope with the long S, and read Charles Stedman’s History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War (vol. 1, vol.2), our third primary source.
I regret to report that there is no such thing as a neutral primary source. Charles Stedman, though, is Colonel Stedman to you. Call him Chuck, and you’re shit out of luck. Not only was he a Colonel in the British Army, he was born in Philadelphia – and commanded a Loyalist corps against the rebel forces. Moreover, he is a trained lawyer and clearly has read his Thucydides, of whom his tone and content are quite reminiscent.
Colonel Stedman’s history is accurate, clear, and not at all dry. Like Governor Hutchinson, he lets only a few cold digs slip through. The following is a fair sample:
When the assembly of this province [Massachusetts, of course] met in the month of January , the governor [Hutchinson] probably intending to give them an opportunity, if they were so disposed, of doing away the evil impressions which might have been made by the unqualified resolutions of the town meeting at Boston, took occasion in his speech to insist on the supreme legislative authority of the king and parliament.
But if he hoped to benefit government by bringing on this discussion, he was entirely disappointed. The assembly, instead of endeavouring to moderate and qualify the doctrines contained in the resolutions of the town meeting, seized the opportunity of the address which was to be presented, to fix them more firmly and in their utmost extent. They openly denied the authority of parliament, not only to impose taxes, but to legislate for them in any respect whatsoever; adding, “that if there had been in any late instances a submission to acts of parliament, it was more from want of consideration or a reluctance to contend with the parent state, than a conviction of the supreme legislative authority of parliament.”
This address also recapitulated a number of new grievances which had not heretofore been complained of. And such was its improper tendency, even in the opinion of the Assembly, upon cooler reflection, that six months after, in a letter to the earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State for American affairs, they thought it necessary to apologize for it, imputing the blame of their intemperate proceedings to their governor, who had unnecessarily brought the subject of parliamentary authority under their consideration.
In this letter they say, “that their answers to the governor’s speech were the effect of necessity, and that this necessity occasioned great grief to the two houses;” and then, in a style truly characteristic of puritanical duplicity, they exclaim, “For, my lord, the people of this province are true and faithful subjects of his Majesty, and think themselves happy in their connection with Great Britain.”
Trust me: if you have actually read all three of these selections, you will be under no illusion whatsoever as to what style is, or is not, truly characteristic of puritanical duplicity.
If not, please do so. Feel free to stop reading Colonel Stedman as soon as you are sold, or if you get to the point where the war has actually started and you still are not sold. In that case, we move on to the secondary sources: W.E.H. Lecky’s American Revolution (Britain, 1898), Sydney Fisher’s True History of the American Revolution (1902, US). And if you are still a Patriot after that, we have to get into the tertiary sources. (Anything post 1950 deserves the “tertiary” warning label, I feel.) Read Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967).
If you actually read all this, yet remain a damn’d Whig – congratulations Sir! You are poffeffed of an unusually thick Skull – not unlike yr. ancestor, the Pithecanthropus. Indeed Samuel Johnson put it best: the Devil was the first Whig. And to him with you Sir! For the Remedy hath failed.
Otherwise, congratulations on completing the first step of the procedure. Don’t worry – the worst is still to come. Also, we need to quickly install your new Tory history.
The outcome of our little reading list is that, if even a tenth of what Hutchinson, Oliver and Stedman say is true, your desire to remain a Whig is now somewhere between your desire to join the Crips and your desire to volunteer for the Waffen SS. Whereas you formerly thought of the values of the American Revolution as liberty, truth and justice, you now see the hallmarks of the American Rebellion as thuggery, treason, and – above all – hypocrisy.
Therefore, since you can no longer be a Whig, you have no option but to become a Tory. The conflict was, after all, a war. No one was neutral. There is no third side.
But what – since we are now Tories – actually happened? What truth are we to install in the freshly-scraped neural cavity?
What happened is that the executive cohesion of Great Britain had weakened considerably since the golden age of Pitt. For most of the 18th century, there was no such thing as a Tory in British politics. The country was a one-party Whig state. As Colonel Stedman puts it: “… that party distinction of Whig and Tory, which had been dormant since the reign of Queen Anne.” It may (or may not) surprise you to know that this was considered a bad thing.
The event that triggered the Rebellion was an attempt by certain elements of the British leadership, a group not at that time distinguished by any great talent, to restore full lawful authority to the American colonies. Especially in New England, smuggling was rife, and it was not at all clear how far the king’s writ ran.
Moreover, Massachusetts in particular was swarming with unreconstructed Puritans, who had never been properly disciplined for the failure of the previous republican revolution. In contrast to the home country, which had enjoyed 28 years of restored Stuart rule, the attempted New England restoration of the Andros period had lasted only three years, at which point it was terminated by the treasonous Whig coup of 1688.
British politics in the 1760s was coming out of its one-party phase and had stretched out a good bit, developing Whig radicals on the left and proto-Tory “King’s friends” on the right. Naturally, the former tended to be low-church and Dissenter/Nonconformist, the latter tended to be high-church and Anglican. George III never pretended to anything like Stuart authority, but he was making the last ever attempt to render the British monarchy a serious arm of politics.
Therefore, everyone had a reason to do what they did. The King and his friends had a reason to try to reassert authority over the colonies. The colonies had a reason to try for independence. Note, however, that the law was entirely on the side of the former. This gave the rebellion the generally mendacious and criminal quality described above, which is why we are Tories. The rebels could rebel or they could think, speak and write honestly, but not both.
Humans being what they are, it is not terribly surprising that quite a few took the former path. Fortunately, this included many individuals of genuine character and substance, such as George Washington and John Adams, who may have been deluded by ideology but were not seduced by cupidity. The rebellion could easily have ended up where France’s did, and its failure to do so is more than anything due to the High Federalists, who once they saw what republicanism meant in practice ended up with very similar attitudes toward mob politics that we see in Hutchinson and Oliver – twenty years before the Thermidorean reaction that created the Constitution. Most of history consists of going around in circles, learning nothing.
As Colonel Stedman says, the rebels could and should have been crushed easily. In a fair fight, their real chances against the British military were slim to none. As the Union later found, suppressing guerrilla warfare, even in the wilds of North America, is not difficult given sufficient energy. Britain failed because it lacked that crucial ingredient in every war: the will to win.
Britain in the Revolution was politically divided. Large numbers of mainstream political figures – most famously, both Pitt and Burke – sympathized with the Americans. Moreover, although the tea outrage finally created a nominal consensus for a military response, and finally made it imprudent for a British politician to openly urge surrender, a new lobby developed which urged conciliation, conciliation, and more conciliation.
What we see, in other words, is the familiar pattern of two conflicting prescriptions for maintaining the integrity of the state. The Whig prescription says: conciliate the truculent, assuage their grievances whether real or feigned, loosen the ropes at every complaint. The Tory prescription says: enforce the law, and do not bend an inch in response to violence or any other extralegal pressure. As Oliver puts it (p. 125):
Timidity, in Suppression of Rebellion, will ever retard the Subdual of it.
With our corrected Tory vision, we see the answer clearly. In every case, concessions made to dispel conspiracy theories, reassure the Americans of Britain’s fundamental benevolence, and in general appease a fit of calculated insanity, have the obvious effect of displaying Timidity and encouraging further demands. First internal taxation is a violation of American rights, then all taxation, then all parliamentary legislation. The only actual principle that can be discerned is one of unremitting chutzpah and hypocrisy.
The relationship between Britain and Massachusetts, in particular, was much like that between a parent and a teenager. Independence or loyalty: it could go either way, at least for the moment. Scenario: your teenager starts cutting class. So you take her car keys away. So she throws your widescreen TV out the window. So you give her car keys back. Is this pattern of behavior more likely to result in independence, or loyalty?
But this is basically the American policy that the Whigs prescribed. And with the repeal of the Stamp Act, thanks to Burke (who at least later learned better) and the Rockingham Whigs, it’s the policy they enacted. And even when the left Whigs were not, precisely, in the driver’s seat, they were in the passenger seat, yelling. While sold as a policy for the reconciliation of Britain and America, Burke’s policy could hardly have been a better design for the encouragement of an American rebellion and the prospects of its success – which was, of course, achieved.
For example, General Howe among other British military figures is known to have had strong Whig sympathies. His role in America was also twofold: he was there to either defeat the rebels, or make peace with them. Obviously, the latter would have been greatly to his political advantage. Whether his failures in the war were the result of this conflict of interest, or of simple incompetence, can never be known. But the former is surely a reasonable suspicion.
Colonel Stedman, in his dedication, sums it up both well and not impolitically:
The pain of recording that spirit of faction, indecision, indolence, luxury, and corruption, which disgraced our public conduct during the course of the American war…
What, from the historiographic perspective, is particularly galling, is that the explanation that was generally accepted, even in Britain, for most of the 19th century is the Whig one. The rebellion succeeded not because it was not dealt with quickly and decisively, but because the Americans were not conciliated enough. (Alternatively, it succeeded because the Americans were militarily invincible – another common Whig trope.)
This is the secret of puritanical duplicity: no shame, none whatsoever. Every quack who hopes to outlast chance must learn the trick. If you bleed the patient and he dies, obviously you didn’t draw enough blood. Never concede error. Counter every criticism with a barrage of even more gloriously inflated claims. You can see why the likes of Hutchinson and Oliver had no chance at all against the black Regiment.
Evil is typically more powerful than good. Bad men delight in weapons that good men spurn. Success in past conflicts, political or military, is not Bayesian evidence of moral superiority. It is just the opposite. Which is why it’s a problem that the winners write the history books.
So: we’ve completed the operation, at least as far as the American Rebellion is concerned. We’ve created a clean separation between the parasite, democracy, and your understanding of the 18th century, and we’ve replaced the infected Whig mass with a small dose of healthy Tory history. Presumably the counter-democratic nature of the latter is obvious, if not definitive.
In retrospect, your former support for the Whig cause was a classic received opinion, installed without any sort of thought on your part. In other words, it is not something you were reasoned into. It is to your credit as a thinker that you’ve let yourself be reasoned out of it. If you think of Patriot v. Loyalist as a lawsuit and yourself as a juror, not only had you never heard a single word from the defense, you hadn’t even really heard a proper prosecution. There was never any need. The annelid just raised your hand to convict. Megaloponera foetens, thy name is you.
Note, from an almost military perspective, the curious weakness of your convictions in this regard. What made the “Revolution” an easy target is that you had no particular emotional attachment to it – at least, not compared to some other wars we could mention. Your attachment to the Patriot cause seemed rock-solid. But it disintegrated on contact with the enemy. It was all hat and no cattle.
But our red pill is most certainly not an information-warfare device – at least, not a democratic one. It is a tool for your personal enlightenment only. As we can see easily from this first target. If UR were, say, a political party, would the first plank in our platform be repudiation of the American Revolution? This should attract about twelve supporters, all of whom are homeless schizophrenics. It will repel many more, of course.
Of course, this only makes it easier for you to swallow the red pill. The parasite has strong defenses against most attacks of this kind – certainly all which are of democratic relevance. This position is intellectually significant, yet undefended because of its negative political value. Turning you into a Loyalist does not solve the whole problem by any means, but it’s a foothold, and we can use it to excavate other annelid coprolites in more delicate areas of your brain.
Reversing this one point is not sufficient to replace your entire picture of American history. In fact, it’s entirely possible that, if you stop reading UR immediately, you’ll eventually relapse and become a Patriot again. (Some may prefer this outcome.)
What we’ve done, however, is to establish a second narrative. You now have two realities in your head. You have the reality in which there was an American Revolution, which was a triumph for liberty, truth and justice. You may no longer believe in this reality, but you have no way to forget it. And you have the reality in which there was an American Rebellion, which was a triumph for thuggery, treason, and hypocrisy.
So, for example, we can now then ask the question: in the second narrative, the one in which the American Rebellion was a disaster, what is happening in 2009? Whatever the answer is, the two seem quite unlikely to have converged.
But surely we’ve done enough for this week. I’m afraid the series will require a third.