Archive for the ‘anti-intellectualism’ Category

Did the War for Independence begin with an Intellectual Snub?

I wish I had bookmarked the site where it was alleged that Benjamin Franklin’s desire for American Independence began with his being told he was intellectually inferior to the British when he was sent to Britain in 1757.[1] Benjamin Franklin stated that ” to be an England-man was, of itself, a character of some respect” but he lamented that his non-colonial cousins did not regard them as fellow Britons as if they were “unworthy of the name of Englishmen, and fit only to be snubbed”. Considering that Franklin was instrumental in creating The Academy and College of Philadelphia (later to become the University of Pennsylvania), The Library Company of Philadelphia, and American Philosophical Society, that was truly an insult. Franklin worked at promoting intellectual life in the North American Colonies, but those attempts were deemed inferior by the Europeans.

Thomas Jefferson also encountered this snobbery with the idealization of Americans as Rousseau’s “noble savages” stirred European sympathies for the United States during the War for Independence, but the European emphasis upon savagery over nobility stirred resentment among Americans. One of Jefferson’s more emotional moments in Europe was his encounter with the pejorative opinions of French intellectuals concerning the American character. His Notes on the State of Virginia was a response to those Europeans who shared the views of the naturalist Georges Buffon that animal life in America was inferior in size and strength to that of the Old World. Jefferson’s response went beyond a literary effort; Buffon received skins and skeletons of American animals sent to France at Jefferson’s behest to prove the equality, if not the superiority, of life in the New World.

Even more galling was the charge of the philosophe Abbé Guillaume Raynal that human life degenerated on the American continent. This observation contained aspersions on American virility as well as on American genius. Jefferson countered this assault with a spirited presentation of Indian virtues. He labored valiantly, but under obvious handicaps, in pointing out poets and artists, mathematicians and scientists, to match the products of Europe. Benjamin Franklin and David Rittenhouse were not the equals of Galileo and Newton.

The vigor of American ripostes to perceived insults to their nationality inspired more derision than respect among Europeans of this period. None was more devastating than the Reverend Sydney Smith, a Yorkshire wit who reacted to American claims to being “the greatest, the most enlightened, the most moral people upon earth” by asking rhetorically, “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue?” So much for the pretensions of American nationalism. A sense of inferiority in relation to older civilizations seemed to have given rise to a hyperbolic style of self-defense that invited ridicule.

America thrived on its newness and break from Europe, but the question remained regarding American culture how close are its ties to its origins? Was one of the legacies of the War for Independence this desire for total newness and a break from its roots?

The problem was there was a cultural elite in the early republic, the traces of which still exist, but anti-intellectualism is becoming the rule in the US. People in the United States have moved down a path that rejects logical, rational thought. In its wake, we can easily see the rise of a lot of negative things.

Susan Jacoby writes about the American brain drain in a WashingtonPost.com article titled The Dumbing Of America. It has the subtitle “Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces”. I couldn’t agree more with this premise. From the article:

Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

This is the last subject that any candidate would dare raise on the long and winding road to the White House. It is almost impossible to talk about the manner in which public ignorance contributes to grave national problems without being labeled an “elitist,” one of the most powerful pejoratives that can be applied to anyone aspiring to high office. Instead, our politicians repeatedly assure Americans that they are just “folks,” a patronizing term that you will search for in vain in important presidential speeches before 1980.

And from the article’s conclusion:

The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it’s the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism — a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism. The toxic brew of anti-rationalism and ignorance hurts discussions of U.S. public policy on topics from health care to taxation.

There is no quick cure for this epidemic of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism; rote efforts to raise standardized test scores by stuffing students with specific answers to specific questions on specific tests will not do the job. Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. (“Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture,” Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a “change election,” the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda.

As Susan at Liberality put it: “Two hundred years ago the founders of the republic would have been deliriously happy at the idea of Americans able to be informed by the sheer volume of available facts the digital information age would produce. The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of reinforcing their particular choice of cultural ignorance.”

The founders would be appalled at the trend toward anti-intellectualism which has become a national characteristic in the US.

Read more:

[1] Found the cite at library.untraveledroad.com/Ch/JLord/Beacon/Founders/Franklin/Franklin.htm:

Franklin’s situation in London now became uncomfortable; he was deprived of his office of deputy Postmaster-General of the Colonies, which he had held since 1753, was virtually discredited, and generally snubbed. His presentation of the petition afforded an opportunity for his being publicly insulted at the hearing appointed before the Committee for Plantation Affairs, while the press denounced him as a fomenter of sedition. His work in England was done, and although he remained there some time longer, on the chance of still being of possible use, he gladly availed himself of an opportunity, early in 1775, to return to America. Before his departure, however, Lord Chatham had come to his rescue when he was one day attacked with bitterness in the House of Lords, and pronounced upon him this splendid eulogium: “If,” said the great statesman, “I were prime minister and had the care of settling this momentous business, I should not be ashamed to call to my assistance a person so well acquainted with American affairs,—one whom all Europe ranks with our Boyles and Newtons, as an honor, not to the English nation only, but to human nature itself.”

From this time, 1775, no one accused Franklin of partiality to England. He was wounded and disgusted, and he now clearly saw that there could be no reconciliation between the mother-country and the Colonies,—that differences could be settled only by the last appeal of nations. The English government took the same view, and resorted to coercion, little dreaming of the difficulties of the task. This is not the place to rehearse those coercive measures, or to describe the burst of patriotic enthusiasm which swept over the Colonies to meet the issue by the sword. We must occupy ourselves with Franklin.

This isn’t news to me

For some reason, the US national characteristic of anti-intellectualism is being noticed in the press with MacLeans (Canada) America Dumbs Down and the New York Review of Books, Age of Ignorance. I’ve also been doing posts on this since 2010, and am not the only person to have noticed this trend. As I said, this isn’t really news since Richard Hofstadter won the 1964 Pulitzer prize for a book titled Anti-intellectualism in American Life.  Hofstadter attributed this trend toward the democratisation of knowledge.

in 2008, journalist Susan Jacoby was warning that the denseness—“a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations”—was more of a permanent state. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, she posited that it trickled down from the top, fuelled by faux-populist politicians striving to make themselves sound approachable rather than smart.  Perhaps we can add media consolidation to the contributing factors with fewer good news sources being available in the US and even public broadcasting being throttled by crypto-commercials called “underwriting”.

Hofstadter’s book was the landmark work on the topic, even though there have been a few more significant books and articles on anti-intellectualism preceded it (most notably Merle Curti’s The Growth of American Thought in 1943), and even though it has been followed, in recent years, by well known books from the Left and Right, including Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Richard Posner’s Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, and so on. The list lengthens if one adds in broader books about the “dumbing down” of American society.

Of course, some of the US founders were intellectuals (Jefferson and Franklin) who founded Universities or who praised education (Madison), yet the trend toward anti-intellectualism has taken grasp in the US.  Hoffstadter pointed out that there is a conflict between access to education and excellence in education (although, I am of the opinion that one does not need to be formally educated to contributes to this trend, which is reiterated in the MacLeans article where a US Second Grader wrote to the South Carolina legislature that she believed the States should have a fossil, but was rebuffed by fundamentalist spewing mumbo-jumbo about evolution.\

Charles Simic point out in the NYRB piece that:

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Even better is where Simic points out:

In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth

It seems that the big push for ignorance comes from the right since an educated, well-informed population, which is required by a functioning democracy, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country.  It is much easier to spread disinformation to a population which is incapable of critical thinking skills than one which only hears the things which they agree.  That was one of the reason for the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press: to have a healthy and informed debate on public policy.  But one cannot have such a debate if the field is filled with rubbish spread by those who have their own interests at heart.

To some extent, Hofstadter is correct when he mentions the democratisation of knowledge, where someone who has no real grasp of the topic gives an opinion and weight is given to that opinion which is out of line with its value.  The opinion of someone who has no knowledge of a topic does not have the same weight as someone who has studied the topic and developed an expertise of the matter.

Simic points out the common misconceptions which are being pushed and offers this conclusion for why anti-intellectualism has become epidemic:

Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.

One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.

See also:

Franklin’s Snub

I mentioned reading where Benjamin Franklin’s treatment in Europe may have contributed to his anti-British sentiments in a previous post.  I said I didn’t have the cite, but this looks like the passage I wanted to quote: library.untraveledroad.com/Ch/JLord/Beacon/Founders/Franklin/Franklin.htm</a>:

Franklin’s situation in London now became uncomfortable; he was deprived of his office of deputy Postmaster-General of the Colonies, which he had held since 1753, was virtually discredited, and generally snubbed. His presentation of the petition afforded an opportunity for his being publicly insulted at the hearing appointed before the Committee for Plantation Affairs, while the press denounced him as a fomenter of sedition. His work in England was done, and although he remained there some time longer, on the chance of still being of possible use, he gladly availed himself of an opportunity, early in 1775, to return to America. Before his departure, however, Lord Chatham had come to his rescue when he was one day attacked with bitterness in the House of Lords, and pronounced upon him this splendid eulogium: “If,” said the great statesman, “I were prime minister and had the care of settling this momentous business, I should not be ashamed to call to my assistance a person so well acquainted with American affairs,—one whom all Europe ranks with our Boyles and Newtons, as an honor, not to the English nation only, but to human nature itself.

”From this time, 1775, no one accused Franklin of partiality to England. He was wounded and disgusted, and he now clearly saw that there could be no reconciliation between the mother-country and the Colonies,—that differences could be settled only by the last appeal of nations. The English government took the same view, and resorted to coercion, little dreaming of the difficulties of the task. This is not the place to rehearse those coercive measures, or to describe the burst of patriotic enthusiasm which swept over the Colonies to meet the issue by the sword.”

Another source points out that Franklin was an intensely loyal British subject who looked forward to the time when he would take an active role in Britain’s imperial schemes.   His son, William, was the Loyalist Governor of New Jersey during the War for Independence.  Anyway, this seems to be backed up by this statement in another source:  ” Hopes for a peaceful solution ended as he was systematically ridiculed and humiliated by Solicitor-General Alexander Wedderburn, before the Privy Council on January 29, 1774. He returned to Philadelphia in March 1775, and abandoned his accommodationist stance.”  Franklin remained silent throughout the attack. He would later write of the incident: “Spots of Dirt thrown upon my Character, I suffered while fresh remain; I . . . rely’d on the vulgar Adage, that they would all rub off when they were dry.”

See this letter from Franklin regarding this incident

Did the War for American Independence begin with an intellectual snub?

I wish I had bookmarked the site where it was alleged that Benjamin Franklin’s desire for American Independence began with his being told he was intellectually inferior to the British when he was sent to Britain in 1757. Benjamin Franklin stated that ” to be an England-man was, of itself, a character of some respect” but he lamented that his non-colonial cousins did not regard them as fellow Britons as if they were “unworthy of the name of Englishmen, and fit only to be snubbed”. Considering that Franklin was instrumental in creating The Academy and College of Philadelphia (later to become the University of Pennsylvania), The Library Company of Philadelphia, and American Philosophical Society, that was truly an insult. Franklin worked at promoting intellectual life in the North American Colonies, but those attempts were deemed inferior by the Europeans.

Thomas Jefferson also encountered this snobbery with the idealization of Americans as Rousseau’s “noble savages” stirred European sympathies for the United States during the War for Independence, but the European emphasis upon savagery over nobility stirred resentment among Americans. One of Jefferson’s more emotional moments in Europe was his encounter with the pejorative opinions of French intellectuals concerning the American character. His Notes on the State of Virginia was a response to those Europeans who shared the views of the naturalist Georges Buffon that animal life in America was inferior in size and strength to that of the Old World. Jefferson’s response went beyond a literary effort; Buffon received skins and skeletons of American animals sent to France at Jefferson’s behest to prove the equality, if not the superiority, of life in the New World.

Even more galling was the charge of the philosophe Abbé Guillaume Raynal that human life degenerated on the American continent. This observation contained aspersions on American virility as well as on American genius. Jefferson countered this assault with a spirited presentation of Indian virtues. He labored valiantly, but under obvious handicaps, in pointing out poets and artists, mathematicians and scientists, to match the products of Europe. Benjamin Franklin and David Rittenhouse were not the equals of Galileo and Newton.

The vigor of American ripostes to perceived insults to their nationality inspired more derision than respect among Europeans of this period. None was more devastating than the Reverend Sydney Smith, a Yorkshire wit who reacted to American claims to being “the greatest, the most enlightened, the most moral people upon earth” by asking rhetorically, “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue?” So much for the pretensions of American nationalism. A sense of inferiority in relation to older civilizations seemed to have given rise to a hyperbolic style of self-defense that invited ridicule.

America thrived on its newness and break from Europe, but the question remained regarding American culture how close are its ties to its origins? Was one of the legacies of the War for Independence this desire for total newness and a break from its roots?

The problem was there was a cultural elite in the early republic, the traces of which still exist, but anti-intellectualism is becoming the rule in the US. People in the United States have moved down a path that rejects logical, rational thought. In its wake, we can easily see the rise of a lot of negative things.

Susan Jacoby writes about the American brain drain in a WashingtonPost.com article titled The Dumbing Of America. It has the subtitle “Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces”. I couldn’t agree more with this premise. From the article:

Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

This is the last subject that any candidate would dare raise on the long and winding road to the White House. It is almost impossible to talk about the manner in which public ignorance contributes to grave national problems without being labeled an “elitist,” one of the most powerful pejoratives that can be applied to anyone aspiring to high office. Instead, our politicians repeatedly assure Americans that they are just “folks,” a patronizing term that you will search for in vain in important presidential speeches before 1980.

And from the article’s conclusion:

The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it’s the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism — a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism. The toxic brew of anti-rationalism and ignorance hurts discussions of U.S. public policy on topics from health care to taxation.

There is no quick cure for this epidemic of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism; rote efforts to raise standardized test scores by stuffing students with specific answers to specific questions on specific tests will not do the job. Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. (“Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture,” Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a “change election,” the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda.

As Susan at Liberality put it: “Two hundred years ago the founders of the republic would have been deliriously happy at the idea of Americans able to be informed by the sheer volume of available facts the digital information age would produce. The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of reinforcing their particular choice of cultural ignorance.”

The founders would be appalled at this.
Read more: Constructing an american identity – Nationalism

I mentioned reading where Benjamin Franklin’s treatment in Europe may have contributed to his anti-British sentiments in a previous post.  I said I didn’t have the cite, but this looks like the passage I wanted to quote: library.untraveledroad.com/Ch/JLord/Beacon/Founders/Franklin/Franklin.htm</a>

Posted 15/09/2011 by lacithedog in anti-intellectualism

Liberalism and populism in the US.

I have to admit that I find the blog American Creation to be really interesting and informative. Which leads to their credit for having a post about William Hogeland (Hysteriography), which is a name I’ve encountered before since we share interests: in particular, early American insurrections and populism. Although, I have to admit his pieces in the Boston Review, Real Americans, and at New Deal 2.0, Liberals and Populism: An Uneasy History, really struck a chord with me.

The left is often left wondering why its message is lost on the people. For example, I read a blog which made some wild claims about progressives being against “freedom”. Of course, the blogger in question probably has a different concept of the word freedom than I do if he dislikes the changes that progressivism has brought about: such as the pure food and drug act, the clean air and water acts, child labour laws, laws about safety in the workplace, and so on. Or is it a person’s right and freedom to want to be a slave?

The problem is that there is a strong anti-intellectual streak in the American population. As Hogeland points out “the main populist assault (During William Jennings Bryan’s time), just as today, was on common liberal modes of discussion, debate, and expertise.” There was the disgust with the East Coast, Elites, which today would be termed the “Within the Beltway mindset”. Hogeland takes his premise even further back at Liberals and Populism: An Uneasy History going to the War for American Independence.

Liberals and Populism: An Uneasy History gets me thinking my usual question about how many of the founding fathers would have chosen to incite the masses had they known how hard the mob would be to control? As I said at American Creation, Especially since Samuel Adams wasn’t a populist! That is truly an interesting point. I know that he had made a comment about Shays’ Rebellion which would point to his being a strong denouncer of insurrectionism (“Rebellion against a king may be pardoned or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.”). Given that Sam Adams was prone to stirring up mobs as happened in the Boston Massacre and Philadelphia, this is truly a revelation!

Of course, this post may tend toward the elitism for which overeducated people such as myself, but one has to wonder how much the people who wanted independence at any cost would view the effect on US Politics (as opposed to the Tories who wanted any change to be done through legal means)? The problem is that the mob is not a body which can be controlled or is reasonable. One needs leadership. Or to quote James Madison:

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. Federalist #10

Tory…or Whig?

I’ve been wanting to do a post called “Tory or Whig” in regard to the Man with the Muckrake’s comments about the tories. What really got me going was that I saw a copy of Dick Armey’s Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto in the window of my local library.

The modern right has nothing to do with the Tories as this book demonstrates by trying to link the modern US “conservative” movement to the “Patriots” of the War for American Independence and using Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death”. The irony of this was that Patrick Henry, as was Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and quite a few other “Patriots”, were slaveowners. Isn’t it ironic that the person who wrotes such a memorable phrase as:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Not only owned slaves, but was having sex (and Children) with at least one (Sally Hemmings).

Samuel Johnson pointed out out this contradiction with his comment:

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

The love of slavery is the one thing these new yelpers of liberty have in common with their forefathers.

But what I really want to point out is that this contradiction between liberty and slavery demonstrates many historical lessons about the US, one of which is that history is written by the victors. And the Tories have become a historic footnote in what was called the War for American Independence, The American Revolution, and America’s First Civil War. The creation myth has it that the American Colonies drove off a foreign foe, but there was a significant portion of the North American Colonial population who were tories. Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the white population of the colonies were Loyalists. There is a famous John Adams quote where he estimated this number to be about 1/3 the population of the Colonies. There are comments where the forces of Independence were but the smallest of majorities, which I leads me to question if the forces of independence were a truly a majority of the people.

The ultimate truth is there isn’t an accurate estimate as to how many people actually were tories since it was a rather large and diverse crew. Some people who were tories supported independence, but prefered to use legal rather than extra-legal methods (active rebellion). Others definitely were pro-British and were outspoken about that fact. In areas under rebel control, the Loyalists were subject to confiscation of property, and outspoken supporters of the king were threatened with public humiliation such as tarring and feathering, or physical attack. It is not known how many Loyalist civilians were harassed by the Patriots, but the treatment was a warning to other Loyalists not to take up arms. How many people wanted an orderly independence but had their voices drowned out by the thugs who labelled themselves patriots? How many people just plain kept their mouths shut out of fear?

I think one thing that comes out if one dissects and investigates the War for American Indpendence is that there was a significant segment of the population that was silenced. The First Continental Congress was not held in what is now called Independence Hall, but down the Street in Carpenter’s Hall! This was due to the fact that the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) was being used by the moderate Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania! Those calling for Independence did not truly represent the freely given assent of the governed! This was despite the grievance of:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

Amusingly enough, Tench Coxe, who was a tory, has been adopted as a spokeman for the gun rights crowd. Coxe was initially a Loyalist during the American Revolution when he left the Pennsylvania militia in 1776 and joined the British Army under General Howe in 1777. He was later arrested, paroled, and joined the patriot cause and supported the new government.

An interesting thought is that the great majority of Loyalists never left the United States, they stayed on and were allowed to be citizens of the new country. Some became nationally prominent leaders, including Samuel Seabury and Tench Coxe. Alexander Hamilton enlisted the help of the ex-Loyalists in New York in 1782-85 to forge an alliance with moderate Whigs to wrest the state from the power of the Clinton faction. Several thousand of those who had left for Florida returned to Georgia. There was a small, but significant trickle of returnees who found life in Nova Scotia too difficult. Some Massachusetts Tories settled in the Maine District.

Additionally. one has to remember that Tory means conservative in the commonly accepted political science definition of the term: that is someone who seeks the maintenance of traditional institutions and opposes rapid change in society. US Conservativism falls more along the reactionary end of the political spectrum: that is someone who opposes modernism and seeks a return to a perfect “golden age”. Also, the fact that the US was founded upon armed rebellion has set a precedent that has proven hard to shake.

The Independence forces were allied with the radical Whigs: who are classic liberals. It is amusing to see the right try to divorce themselves from the fact that the Independence movement would be classic liberalism!

Yet the success, and further radicalization, of Whiggery in America was also tied to the simplicity and compelling nature of the Whig ideas themselves. Whiggery was, in a very important way, a philosophy for non-philosophers. It was a philosophy that semi-literate and anti-intellectual Americans easily understood and enthusiastically embraced. As I like to point out, the Tories had the better arguments, but the “Patriots” had the spin. And the people who followed the spin didn’t think, which is yet another constant in the equation.

The War For American Independence was a consistently libertarian in its purest sense: more so than any set of ideas before or since. To be an American Whig, one needed only to distrust and fear the authority and taxes of outsiders and be willing to use violence to resist that authority. Whig anti-authoritarianism spared no form of power. Whigs were suspicious of all power: religious, economic, military, and governmental. They feared a state church, a standing army, a mercantile economy, and a centralized government. As I like to say, libertarianism is right wing anarchy.

What did they favor? They favored freedom of religion, a militia of citizen soldiers, a free market, and as little government as possible. If there must be government (and most Whigs considered it a “necessary evil”), then it should be small, close to home, and (most Whigs thought) democratically elected. Unfortunately, those ideals have been achieved, yet one can still scream about wanting “liberty” as Armey’s book points out. Or better yet, thwart locally enacted legislation (DC and Chicago gun laws) and claim allegiance to those ideals!

There are other influences upon the Independence movement, but one major one is the willingness to accept violence as a means for change. The other one are these nebulous concepts of liberty, tyranny, rights, and even better:

certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The “Pursuit of happiness” being sheer drivel as one is not guaranteed happiness, merely its pursuit. The spouting of nonsensical phrases to dupe the unwary and unthinking is another common characteristic between the “tea party” and “patriot” movements.

And, thus, the US has sown the seeds of its own destruction since it was created by violence, which was fanned by propaganda filled minds. But the Patriots didn’t remember their history lessons and were reduced to saying things when their rebellion blew up in their faces as part of the “democracy” that followed the War for American Independence such as:

Rebellion against a king may be pardoned, or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death–Samuel Adams

George Washington:

I am mortified beyond expression when I view the clouds that have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned in any country… What a triumph for the advocates of despotism, to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious.

But one doesn’t need to rely on alternative history to have some inkling as to what would have happened had the Tories carried the day since a good portion of Tories went North to what has become Canada. Canada had an independence movement, but it was a gradual process. Beginning in 1867 with the union of three British North American colonies and the formation of the Dominion of Canada. The term dominion was chosen to indicate Canada’s status as a self-governing colony of the British Empire, the first time it was used in reference to a country. When the British North America Act was enacted by the British Parliament, the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia became a federated kingdom in its own right. This began a process of increasing autonomy from the Great Britain, which became official with the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and finalized in the Canada Act of 1982, that severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.

I have to imagine British North America as an enlightened Canada had the tories won the War for American Independence. Like it or not, the Canadian paradigm is far more in line with what the “patriots” demanded than what has eventually turned out. I have to admit to thinking that Benedict Arnold was indeed correct when he “betrayed” the patriot cause which he described as “sinister views at the expence of the public interest”.

So, now we see the disaffected once again demanding “liberty” and they will continue to demand something like liberty. This reminds me of Osho’s parable of the Freedom Parrot where there was a beautiful parrot in a golden cage, continually repeating “Freedom! Freedom!”, but the parrot remained in the cage once it had been given its freedom.

How real is liberty when it comes from the mouths of those who believe in slavery? The tea party and the rest of the “Conservative” movement have been working to keep us enslaved in debt and the freedom parrots parrot on. They parrot beautiful, yet meaningless phrases.

Anti-Intellectualism in America (via Atypical Guy)

I have to agree with this. And while some may say there were founding fathers who were intellectuals: they were either idealists, or preying upon the unwary. A prime case in point being Benjamin Franklin who is one of group who brought over the propagandist Thomas Paine to dupe the the great unwashed, or at least present the picture that there was more support for Independence than has been alleged.

The question of whether or not the Navigation Acts even could have imposed enough of a burden on the colonists to provoke a rebellion has been substantially answered in the negative. Jeremy Atack and Peter Passell in A New Economic View of American History, 2d ed., [Boston: W.W. Norton, 1994), mention that several economic historians conclude that the heaviest burden the Acts could have place on Americans was about 1% of GNP. In other words, the Navigation Acts were not significant enough as an economic issue to have caused one-third of all Americans to take up arms against the British. Likewise, the tax burden on the American Colonies was much less than that in Britain (the colonies were basically subsidised).

In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious to me that ignorance in America has become a way of life.  People in the United States have moved down a path that rejects logical, rational thought.  In its wake, we can easily see the rise of a lot of negative things.  The long list must include the state of education, the election of George Bush, creating needless and costly wars, and advocating war crimes like torture.  B … Read More

via Atypical Guy