Get your political fix from an unrepentant political junkie.
Encore posting from July 3, 2014
All y’all know that I teach history, so you might could think I would be numb from going over the same material every semester. Yes, to some extent and for some material. Ah, but I never tire of studying the American Revolution and early Republic. I am continuously amazed and humbled by their courage, sacrifice, and wisdom. This greatest American generation very possibly was not even aware of the monumental impact of their decision to separate from Great Britain and form a new nation. What precedent did they have? The Americans knew history. Revolts seldom resulted in a peaceful and cohesive society for the rebels. For reference, see modern Syria.
The American Revolution leaders were not brutal, bloodthirsty egomaniacs. One exceptional mark of the American Revolution was its moderation. Of course, violence erupted among the citizens. Then, it was quickly quelled. Of course, the war was bloody. The disciplined officers and soldiers kept their goal of independence in sight. Of course, some in power sought more than was deserved, but they created their own destruction. How easily the American colonial revolt could have ended as so many revolts do: unsuccessful and with great destruction to their own society.
As an American, it so easy to romanticize about our country’s beginnings. Isn’t that what celebrations are for? We celebrate all the goodness that is America!
What continues to amaze me is that the Americans avoided the typical outcome of revolt for most cultures and countries: their losses of humanity and civility are so great that they re-create the brutality and tyranny that they were so desperate to destroy. Each key leader and each key event could have easily taken the Americans in the direction toward greed and human carnage. For reference, look at the French Revolution.
The American colonists, somehow through God’s grace and their own deliberate choices, avoided those excesses and focused on a society of morality and law. The two are not synonymous, and they knew that. Morality is an individual choice. Law is a civic consensus. The law can set a minimum requirement for social stability, but only the individual can make moral choices. This is another exceptional mark of the American Revolution and Republic. The Great Awakening and the Enlightenment merged like an alloy, merging the metals of Jonathan Edwards and John Locke, and created a very strong new society. The two movements were opposites in their philosophical approaches to society and morality, but they ended up in the same place: individual freedom and responsibility. In more sacred language: free will and piety. A free, stable society depends on the moral individual, and the individual accepts the responsibility of living in a free, stable society.
“God save our American States!”