Today’s as good a day as any to mull over our bumpy collective past. I suppose that “3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake” is the sort of Hot Take that Vox.com was put on Earth for.
We obviously can’t be entirely sure how America would have fared if it had stayed in the British Empire longer, perhaps gaining independence a century or so later, along with Canada.
And if it isn’t exactly thoughtful or faithful to American history, at least it’s a timely post. Happy Fourth of July.
But I’m reasonably confident a world where the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now for three main reasons: slavery would’ve been abolished earlier, American Indians would’ve faced rampant persecution but not the outright ethnic cleansing Andrew Jackson and other American leaders perpetrated, and America would have a parliamentary system of government that makes policymaking easier and lessens the risk of democratic collapse.
Let’s just take that first issue. I see no reason to think the Brits would have been able to abolish slavery in America any more easily than we did. Southern slaveholders had become so wealthy and powerful by 1834 that any suggestion they might give up the practice absent outbreaks of widespread violence is whimsical. South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter while slavery was still perfectly legal. It was only the inauguration of the first American president to openly criticize the institution that precipitated a war. But don’t mistake his critique for abolitionism, because it wasn’t:
Abraham Lincoln immortalized himself in American history by the role that he played in abolishing the institution of slavery, but he arrived at this distinction only after a long career of opposition to abolitionism…
In fact, Lincoln was always keenly aware that slavery, though morally wrong in his eyes, was sanctioned by law, and he frequently acknowledged that the rights of slave owners, both to retain their slaves and to have fugitive slaves returned, were clearly guaranteed in the Constitution.
Accommodating as he was, the mere presence of a chief executive who didn’t fancy slavery drove the South to war. And the slavers had enough money and political power to wage this annihilation across a vast stretch of a huge continent for four years. Why or how the Brits would have done any better dealing with these bastards, I don’t know.