A Conversation for The Declaration of Independence

I think you're understating it....

Post 1


First, I think that the distance between London and Philadelphia played a significant part in the reaction to the Olive Branch Petition. As I understood it, in Britain they thought that events had progressed rather further than they had.

But what I think you're understating (odd though it may be) is the significance of the Declaration of Independence. This was the first time that anyone had really thought to put these things into writing or to express the ideas together. Here was the first real pronouncement of a nation born out of Reason.

I think you're understating it....

Post 2

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

As an American, and as there is not a large body of British information about the Revolution (understandable, as it was not their finest hour... but then the US can hardly be proud of the Civil War, yet it is the most copiously researched and documented period in our history... end digression), I found it somewhat difficult to find adequate information on just what the British thought about things, the Olive Branch Petition among them. Where I could find quotes, I had some idea, but otherwise, all I could go by were the reactions. It wasn't from shoddy scholarship... just shoddy reference material.

I deliberately understated the impact of the Declaration. If I'd gone on about it, it would have appeared to be more than slightly jingoistic. This is to be read by an international community, so jingoism has no place in it. I think that the ultimate impact of the Declaration is common knowledge anyway. There's no need to beat people over the head with it.

Thanks for giving it a read! smiley - smiley

I think you're understating it....

Post 3


I caught a part of a repeat of The History of Britain last night. Admittedly Simon Schama is an expatriate Briton living in America, but he made two points:

1. That in England they already thought the American colonies were in open revolution and that prompted the reply. He didn't cite any sources (this is entertainment, after all).
2. That to have unloaded the tea would have incurred the duty. I haven't re-read your piece, but I think you made it less certain whether this would be so.

I understand your point about the DoI and, on reflection, I think you're probably right. On the other hand, I'm British and no great lover of the American tradition of seeing themselves at the centre (center?!) of things. Actually jingoism in any form is uncomfortable (U571 & The Patriot both left me with an uneasy feeling!) and I bet there are plenty of British examples that I'm just impervious to.

That said, I still find it astonishing. I don't have a romantic notion about it. In fact, some of the points sound almost comically petty compared to the high ideals expressed in the opening paragraphs. It's the fact that it was written at all and those opening paras that amaze me. Phrases like 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes ...' are just incredibly accessible: 'here's why we did it.' And, of course, the most famous phrase of the lot: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident ....' I've always found it a shame that a Nation born with such high ideals, so succintly expressed, should have found it so painful to live up to them fully. But then I'm a product of the 20th century, so I'm bound to see it differently.

The fact that I, a Briton, find 'these truths to be self-evident' is indication of how pervasive that philosophy has become and shows what an amazing thing they did when they wrote it down. That's why I said you'd understated it!

I think you're understating it....

Post 4

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

1) Granted. But the British and Colonists saw things differently, even here. The British considered the act of dumping the tea and mistreatment of the tax collectors as acts of rebellion. The Colonists just saw them as active protests. It's just one of many areas where the two saw the same events with distinctly different perspectives.

2) I was very unclear when I did the research. The ship was prevented from unloading because of the economic concerns. But Sam Adams was in many ways a rabble-rouser, and he may not have been justified in dumping the tea. Most sources dedicated to the Tea Party are necessarily biased towards the colonists. But I remember that this is the same man whom I explicitly mention as being a possible inciter to the Boston Massacre.

U571 is a piece of crap. The Patriot is actually loosely based on real events in the South. Split Gibson's character into its two composite parts, and split that bloody battle at the end into its two composite parts (it's a coarse amalgamation of the events at two battles), edit out the silly scene where him and his boys wipe out an entire platoon, and you've got something that fairly well approximates the history of Cornwallis' campaign in the South. And the character of Colonel Tarleton is actually pretty close to how history describes him. That's probably why they chose him to be their main villain. More on this will be found in my next University project, but I haven't advanced to the point where I am ready to write on the Southern Campaign.

I think lots of people already believed the "truths are self-evident," as my Seeds article shows. The ideas were already in Britain... in fact, they *came* from Britain. But it is a testament to the writing skill of Thomas Jefferson that he is considered to be the father of that idea. It was his skill, coupled with the immediate political impact of the DoI, that made his message so much more powerful than all that came before him. He was not the originator, but he was the one who got the message heard.

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