July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day!

I was thinking earlier about some of the things that make the United States' Independence so special. I'm not an historical expert, although I would truely like to be. But these are my observations on the subject.

To put it as succinctly as I can, our Independence should never have happened. The U.S. shouldn't exist as it is today.

First of all, the American Revolution shouldn't have succeeded. Even granting that we were a community of gun owners, where a significant percentage of the population was familiar with and competent to use them. That still should not have been sufficient to defeat the world's super-power of the time.

I know that some people point to the fact that America was across an ocean from England, who grew tired of fighting an overseas war. But that didn't stop them when in India and China, their populations revolted in later years. I may be missing some comparisons, but simply being across an ocean wasn't the limiting factor of England's strength.

During the American Revolution, the Colonial Army was out matched at nearly every turn. General Washington lost nearly every battle, but somehow managed to keep his army intact. He managed to win the right battles, especially the last one. But militarily, it just seems that it shouldn't have happened.

But it was after the war had been won that the real miracle happened.

Let's step back a little bit for a moment. In my school, the American Revolution was covered along with the rest of America history. One semester was spent covering everything from the founding of Jamestown to the Civil War. We learned the names of the founding fathers, an approximate time line of events, and just a little more about the creation of our nation. The writing of the Constitution was covered in a couple of days.

The French Revolution, however, received an entire semester to itself. It took me a long time to understand why. The reason is pretty simple, the French Revolution is typical of almost all revolutions. When it was all over, you ended up with the same old power structure, just different guys at the top. So if you wanted to understand the average revolution, you studied France.

But in America, something different happened. The group of people who ran the revolution, set up a system that wasn't exclusively for the purpose of keeping themselves in control. Sure, there were some power struggles between groups, but no one had the desire or ability to set themselves up as dictators. The closest that anyone came to that was the serious offer to George Washington to set him up as a lifetime leader, practically a new king. Fortunately, he turned down the offer.

From all of that, we were given a government that was based on the idea that power was derived from the people and that government should be for the people. But most importantly, the document that they created that government with was founded on the idea that people's rights were inherent, and that government should be limited in how it affects them.

Before then, all rights were granted by a government to it's citizens. But for the first time, the reverse was true. People were granting the government the right to do certain things, and no more. The amazing thing was that the founding father's shouldn't have wanted to do that. They were limiting the very government that they were running! To paraphrase a line from the book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this should have been impossible.

But we got lucky. The usual things didn't happen. We didn't end up the way almost every nation that underwent a revolution did. We actually got a better government than when it all started.

So here's to the birthday of The United States of America! A special place that should have been impossible.

Posted by GEBIV at July 4, 2005 09:30 PM | TrackBack
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