The Brits Have Won: We are Colonials Once Again
The American Revolution did not occur within the colonies when the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, John Adams taught us.
The real Revolution, he insisted, occurred within the hearts and minds of the people during the prior 15 years.
In 1760, we, the colonists, accepted government overreach that we would not merely a generation later.
We were resigned to the following:
Declarations of war outside colonists’ control. Land-use restrictions. Speech curtailment. Appointed governors. Corrupt bureaucrats and office seekers. Limitations on religion. Trade mandates. Centralized policing powers. Limited legislative representation. Arbitrary laws. Unilateral executive actions. Unequal treatment of freemen, dependent upon position. Slavery as acceptable throughout the colonies. People subject to a king and parliament who were sovereign over us.
We tolerated this not only because we didn’t yet know better, but because we preferred the safety-net provided by the Mother Country. In 2023 terms, we lived in our parents’ home, enjoyed the amenities, and adhered to the house rules.
But those house rules grew stricter even as we matured. The crossroad became evident. Either we strike out on our own with all the risks inherent, or we submit and become prisoners of our very parents.
As we became aware of our servitude, our perspectives changed. This great awakening took time, education, and reasoning to persuade enough that the path being pursued was detrimental to longer-term well-being.
When enough colonists agreed that safety wasn’t worth the servitude, the American mindset was born.
The gestation of this mindset change took 15 years, but the birth was instant.
No, that memorable date was not July 4th, 1776. It was March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond Virginia. That is when the “critical mass,” so to speak, was reached and enough elected delegates in the largest colony had a change of heart as to their priority of principles.
The recently disbanded (by appointed Governor Lord Dunmore) Virginia House of Burgesses reconvened as a provincial congress for the second time to discuss preparing for war with the mother country. Most in attendance were opposed to any call to arms against King and Country. Their reasons? Well thought-out and rational. Not only would taking up arms be an act of treason, but it was impractical. Virginia had not the arms, powder, money or army to defend itself let alone help a sister colony.
It was unreasonable to think that we could successfully rebel against the power and might of the British empire. Besides, we still had hope for resolution. It was crazy talk to think of actively and violently rebelling!
That argument was winning the day as each delegate knew that he was not only signing up self for trouble, but family and neighbors, as well.
“Isn’t life good enough to hold one’s nose and make things work?” was their rationale. “It’s not so bad that we need to fight, is it? Can’t we just stand by and see what happens and maybe the conflict will pass us by? We could be giving up everything we have built for generations of sacrifice and toil with one miscalculation of judgment.”
This mentality was winning the day until Patrick Henry, having listened to arguments in favor of submission, rose to offer what may be the most consequential speech in American History.
In an oratory unmatched, perhaps in American history, Henry dismantled each argument that accepted subjection as the only path. And he did this without causing offense to those who did not hold his views. The issues were too great to remain silent, he explained, and he changed the perspectives of his now famous audience.
Yes, his audience had been prepared over the last decade or so to be changed — and changed, they were.
His well-reasoned, logical, and emotional speech helped illuminate. The group’s priority – principles and hierarchy of values — changed in an instant from safety, security, comfort, convenience, lifestyle, expediency, and practicality to the iconic, “Liberty or Death!”
The remarks were contagious.
Edward Carrington, listening through a church window, classified Henry’s words as the greatest speech he had ever heard. When he died, he said, he wanted to be buried right there! And guess where Edward Carrington is buried? Yes, right under that window. Go to St. John’s church today you will see the headstone.
The speech spread; the words resonated.
“Is life so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery! Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take but as for me, “give me liberty or give me death!”
Apparently, there was silence for some time after the speech.
Their priorities changed. The American mindset became just that, “Liberty or Death!”
The catalyst had been provided. It was the burning of the boats. It was the bold set of priorities that cleared the fog from the mind. It crystalized the value of liberty and the sacrifice needed by a people to maintain their blessing. We are now able to summarize, in those seven words, our mindset.
For generations, we, as inheritors, have benefited. The final words of our National Anthem, “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” sought to memorialize the concept.
But are we?
With the latest test of our priorities, I think not.
Liberty is no longer our highest priority because we have forgotten its value and its fruits. Few of us have sacrificed for it. That which we obtain easily, we esteem lightly.
Recent experience reveals we are back to the colonial mindset, where safety, security, and comfort have reemerged as priorities. We are all too willing to submit to the King as did the colonials before their awakening. One need look no further than our collective COVID response. Yes, our priorities have changed.
Therefore, we are once again colonials, happy to be taken care of by parents and willing to give up so much for the benefits of living at home. We are all too willing to live by the house rules as long as we have on demand entertainment, food, a soft bed, and climate control. What else could we ask for?
Well, I for one would rather have my freedom back.
I posit this definition of freedom:
A people are free to the extent their government operates faithfully within the sphere of legitimate powers granted unto it by its citizens.
Dissecting this definition is for another article but sufficeth to say we are no longer the free people we were.
Time and ease have eroded our founding priorities and principles and we find ourselves back to a subservient, colonial role. It is our own fault. Governments, as is their nature, overstep delegated power and authority. This is something man has known for millennia.
We have been warned time and again that we need to stand as sentinels against government encroachment, but we have failed. We have not been the guardians of our inheritance.
And now it is only “We the People” who can decide if we want our citizenship back or whether we are to remain colonists in our own land.
My sentiments reflect Sam Adams who said, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom – go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!
This is where we are.
Time to wake up.