Yorktown. The pups and I did a bike tour of the battlefield on the 4th of July. One might think it unusual to visit a battlefield if one is nonviolent, but battles represent extreme expressions of tensions that otherwise normally occur all the time in the world, put into play by people who would use force to achieve ends.
So are we not happy to be American because America has a history of violence? Did not India achieve the same independence using nonviolent means? Did the history of the young Tsarnaev brothers try to reenact the revolution with their revolt?
Us and Them. It is sometimes a difficult question – but it can be important to challenge what normally feels comfortable in order to know how to grow.
In America’s defense, the colonies were probably so remote, that they mostly solved their own day-to-day problems. Fighting the gulf stream current, it might have taken 2-3 months to get from England to the colonies. During the Great Migration between 1630 and 1640, for example, a reported average of 2 ships a month would arrive mostly carrying Puritans to Massachusetts. In reality, the ships probably arrived in groups, seasonally. Apart from these Puritan ships of means, the usual barter was manpower going to the colonies, in exchange for goods returning to England (Mittelberger, 1750). Although letters did seemingly go back and forth, the postal service would only be constructed by Benjamin Franklin after the Revolutionary War. Communication was a problem.
The French and Indian War (1754-63) had left the colonists militarized, and the Brits poorer. The Brits wanted the colonists to pay taxes in addition to the hardships they already faced, probably to support the military. The economy was shifting. And then the Brits showed up with really cheap tea… All the colonists had to do was acknowledge England by paying their tax to her, and they would have a really good deal with tea. It was a carrot, but no one took it. Things were already that bad. Some acts of nonviolent revolt occurred (Boston Tea Party, George Hewes), and a couple of attempts were made to organize politically on both sides. When the Brits showed up with troops in response to a boycott, and forced housing of Brit soldiers in colonist homes with the colonists (the quartering act), it probably felt like an invasion to the colonists. Especially in light of the fact that many of them, for various reasons, had chosen not to be near England in the first place.
“Thus were we, in aggravation of our other embarrassments, embarrassed with troops, forced upon us contrary to our inclination-contrary to the spirit of Magna Charta-contrary to the very letter of the Bill of Rights, in which it is declared, that the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of parliament, is against law, and without the desire of the civil magistrates, to aid whom was the pretence for sending the troops hither; who were quartered in the town in direct violation of an act of parliament for quartering troops in America; and all this in consequence of the representations of the said Commissioners and the said Governor, as appears by their memorials and letters lately published.” (an anonymous account of The Boston Massacre)