A blog for conservatives and unionists throughout the Commonwealth and Anglosphere.

"Whatever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man...When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
~
Edmund Burke

2011-07-04

Loss of Colonies Led Indirectly to a Reinvigorated British Empire, So Happy July Fourth!

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An American loyalist is tarred and
feathered by American rebels.
For those of us who value the unity and stability that the person of the monarchy provides to the remaining territories of the British Empire, the Fourth of July is obviously not a day of great celebration. However, it is important to remember that in at least some ways Great Britain's loss of the thirteen colonies led to a reinvigorated empire.

First of all, it is uncertain whether British North America would have been consolidated into the modern realm of constitutional monarchy known as Canada had it not been for the loyalists who fled the American Revolution.  Although the French Canadian settlers who predominantly made up the population of Canada at the time of the Revolution were content living under the British Crown after the Quebec Act, it is doubtful that they would have been willing to take up arms to defend the Crown in North America alone without being buttressed from the influx of the American loyalists who settled in the Maritimes and Upper Canada.


Second of all, many historians believe that losing the colonies freed up tremendous British financial and military resources from the North American continent that could then be directed toward fighting the French Revolution.  While the importance of this is easily forgotten now, at the time the French Revolutionaries were successfully expanding their egalitarian ideas throughout all of Europe culturally, diplomatically, and militarily.  By the time of the Emperor Napoleon much of Europe had been conquered in the Napoleonic Wars, and to contemporaries of the period it seemed only a matter of time before Great Britain would fall as well. 

Third of all, the loss of the American colonies led to the Royal Navy turning away from expanding the Empire westward to the Americas which became difficult because of American policies like the Monroe Doctrine. Britain's worst convicts could no longer be exiled to American colonies like Georgia so instead a new penal colony was established in a far off continent that would one day become Australia. Also, British Companies like the East India Company looked eastward to the orient to places like Indian and China in expand into new markets.

Fourth of all, you will notice that even the intellectual father of conservatism in the Anglosphere, that great tory and royalist Edmund Burke, was curiously sympathetic to the American Revolutionaries.  Burke sympathized to such an extent with the American colonies' grievances against the government of King George III that he made the following speech on 19 April 1774 in favour of a parliamentary motion to repeal the tea tax:

Again and again, revert to your old principles—seek peace and ensue it; leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions; I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it.... Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it.... Do not burthen them with taxes.... But if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question.... If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. No body of men will be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentlemen on the other side...tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their property and industry by all the restraints you can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least share in granting them. When they bear the burthens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burthens of unlimited revenue too? The Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery; that it is legal slavery, will be no compensation either to his feelings or to his understandings. (Source)
For although they do not appreciate the role that the king plays in the great English tradition of limited government dating back at least as far as the Magna Carta, there should be little doubt that the American Revolution was in some ways a counter-revolution. It was in fact a fight against the tyranny of absolutism sweeping revolutionary Europe at the time that threatened the of the ancient liberties of Englishman as Burke so eloquently stated. The American example would eventually lead to more responsible government in others parts of the Anglosphere. So notwithstanding their stubborn refusal to recognise their lawful sovereign, for these reasons and many others we should raise our glasses and wish our estranged American cousins a very Happy July Fourth!