This is a popular book in our little corner of the web, and I took some time earlier this summer to get through it. Foseti wrote about it back in 2008.
You can pick it up for less than a buck in eBook at Amazon or for free from Archive.org.
What’s remarkable about it is that it will probably contradict a fair amount of what you already think that you know about the American revolution, while also bringing to your attention some of the context of English politics during the revolution which you probably would be unaware of unless you happen to be a specialist in this period. In particular, the exact counts of relative force levels between the colonists and the British surprised me. Fisher strongly alludes to the conclusion that the Americans couldn’t have won the war had General Howe actually prosecuted it to the fullest.
Fisher also provides some of the opposing perspective relative to the typical American tale about unfair taxation and duties providing the impetus for the revolution. What was a more significant factor was that the colonists had been flouting British regulation of trade for decades already. What the colonists revolted against was the actual enforcement of those laws. The colonists were eager to have the military protection from the British empire, but far less eager to comply with their obligations to finance it. This coincided with an explosion in popularity of classical liberal thought, most importantly influenced by the popularization of Locke.
American histories tend not to emphasize this. If you knew some details about all the British lollygagging in New York for much of the war, you might have gotten the sense that something was screwy, but seeing the relative force numbers in plain language makes it obvious that the American colonials were, more or less, allowed to win. Another major area of coverage is the social-justice-warrior behavior of the American patriot party. Essentially, the patriots were able to mobilize a highly ideological minority to suppress loyalist opinion and keep moderates on the sidelines:
But the mobs went on with their work in spite of [John] Adams’ protest. All through the Revolution the loyalists were roughly handled, banished, and their property confiscated. Even those who were neutral and living quietly were often ordered out of the country by county committees, because it was found that a prominent family which remained neutral deterred by their silent influence many who otherwise would have joined the rebel cause. Few loyalists dared write about politics in private letters, because all such letters were opened by the patriots. In many of them which have been preserved we find the statement that the writers would like to speak of public affairs but dare not. A mere chance of most innocent expression might bring on severe punishment or mob violence.
These mob techniques are not so different from today’s technologically-enabled mobs, except perhaps the old kind were more eager to use tar and feathers.
This is not, then, a new factor in American life, but instead is a founding tendency which we see periodically re-emerging throughout our history. It also meant the ruination of countless loyalists, who either lived on in poverty or otherwise had to flee back to the home country:
The disastrous effects of the rise of the lower orders of the people into power appeared everywhere, leaving its varied and peculiar characteristics in each community, but New England suffered least of all. In Virginia its work was destructive and complete, for all that made Virginia great, and produced her remarkable men, was her aristocracy of tobacco planters. This aristocracy forced on the Revolution with heroic enthusiasm against the will of the lower classes, little dreaming that they were forcing it on to their own destruction. But in 1780 the result was already so obvious that Chastellux, the French traveler, saw it with the utmost clearness, and in his book he prophesies Virginia’s gradual sinking into the insignificance which we have seen in our time.
When the British began to prosecute the war in earnest after the replacement of Howe in 1778 by General Clinton, it was essentially too late to prevent the entry of the French into the war and the eventual conclusion.
It’s short book, clearly-written, and well worth your time if you’re interested in learning a more balanced view of the American founding.
Perhaps one should read “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” and for that matter the actual Founders before reaching definitive judgement. Franklin makes it clear the breaking points that defied resolution were being denied American manufactures, denied any say in taxation and denied any framework for the common local defense.
The Plantation class had it’s own motives among them being kept in permanent and within reasonable forecasting ultimately ruinous debt. George Washington fought heroically in the conflicts between the English colonists and French ones allied with Huron Indians while the British turned in a poor show on land -where the Colonists lived. The real issue was absentee mercantilism and an irresolute and incompetent, corrupted by alien interests administration from across the Sea from the Colonies. Rather as we are governed now.
More often than not, I find remarkable insights on this page, and for this I truly thank you for your work.
A troubling aspect of neoreaction that I have been noticing lately is the turn towards anti-Americanism. By that, I mean the Americanism of the classical sense(private property, liberty, constitutionalism), not the prog dystopia we are currently suffering through. It will not do us well to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Constitution and ethnic European core of this country conquered an entire continent (and then some), built world-class industry, put a man on the moon, and started a revolution in entertainment through Hollywood. Maybe they got something right for a long time, no?
Alas, nothing is built to last forever. All great things must come to an end. It will not help our cause in the populist or intellectual arena to besmirch the great men who came before us and made possible what was accomplished after them for many generations. If we want to know where we went wrong we could go all the way back to the Greek Sophists. I am afraid neoreaction (particularly the Hestia Society) is looking for a permanence that simply does not exist. Anywhere, or anytime.
The Republic was meant for a virtuous people. Whatever the faults of our fathers, we have failed in this far more than they.
This particular book has been floating around NRx before it was called that for almost 10 years.
Actually a solid way to describe NRx would be “for private property and liberty properly understood; against constitutionalism.” Thomas Carlyle was not much of a fan of constitutions.
“It will not help our cause in the populist or intellectual arena to besmirch the great men who came before us and made possible what was accomplished after them for many generations.”
What is ‘our’ cause? Granted, there seems to be a movement which has up and run away from my control or influence, but I don’t have much of a common cause with it.
Whenever Americans speculate about a “second Civil War”, I remind them that America’s second civil war ended in 1865, though it would be known today as the “War of Southern Independence” or the “Second American Revolution” if the rebels had won.
Big Bill says
I do wish people would learn the truth, learn what it takes to win a civil war, ANY civil war. Typically the masses are left with the comforting stories because they needn’t know “how sausage is made”. But the more intelligent, the more adult, can know the truth and accept the human condition as it is and always will be. This used to be the function of a college education back when only 5% went to college.
The patriots won by using political & diplomatic means to hamper the British until the French could step in. The reversal at Yorktown managed to save the patriot cause. But the battles themselves were much less relevant to the outcome.
One difficulty with history is that the separate discipline of military history is intended to instruct future officers on how to do their jobs. Battles also make for exciting narratives, but understanding the larger conditions is more important for understanding the whole. The whole is less relevant to future officers because they’re never in control of that, and just have to learn how to handle their particular military circumstances.
Sounds like a great book. I just ordered it thanks.
I read these two pieces recently, one by a fellow name of Gary North.
His work is titled:
Conspiracy In Philadelphia
Origins of the United States Constitution
He published it in pdf for free.
Quite an interesting essay on his theory about administrative tyranny.
Lot of critical thinking went into this.
It is definitely what you can call an outlier. But don’t let that mislead you, North seems to have a handle on what he presents, and a serious broad ranging understanding behind his ideas.
The forward and dedication will give you an interesting idea of what is waiting for the reader:
This book is dedicated to the members, living and dead, of the
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Covenanters)
who for over two centuries have smelled a rat in Philadelphia
This book is the history of a deception. I regard this deception as the greatest deception in American history. So successful was this deception that, as far as I know, this book is the first stand-alone volume to discuss it. The first version of this book appeared as Part 3 of Political Polytheism (1989), 201 years after the deception was ratified by representatives of the states, who created a new covenant and a new nation by their collective act of ratification-incorporation.
This new covenant meant a new god. The ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787–88 was not an act of covenant renewal. It was an act of covenant-breaking: the substitution of a new covenant in the name of a new god. This was not understood at the time, but it has been understood by the humanists who have written the story of the Constitution. Nevertheless, they have not presented the history of the Constitutional Convention as a deception that was produced by a conspiracy. The spiritual heirs of the original victims of this decep- tion remain unaware of the deception’s origins…
The other paper is quite different, but it does deal with the construct of the state and insurgency against it. I got far more from this than I could ever have imagined starting in on it. It is quite a piece of work. And a cautionary tale worthy of anyone interested in the state as leviathan:
by Edward B. Westermann
[About the Author
Major Edward B. Westermann graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1984. He is a senior pilot with over 1400 hours in TH-1F, HH-1H, UH-1N, and UH- 1D helicopters. As a combat rescue aircraft commander, he flew missions in support of the Vice President’s anti-drug task force in the Bahamas. He has served as an exchange instructor pilot with the German Air Force. Major Westermann was also an instructor and assistant professor of history at the United States Air Force Academy. He is a Fulbright-Hays Fellow and a distinguished graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, the Defense Language Institute, and Air Command and Staff College. In July 1997, Major Westermann was assigned to AFIT. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in military history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.]