FT177: “For democracy to work you need responsible citizens who will temper their wants with knowledge and experience.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The British Subjects were bothered by their Protestant King having a French Catholic Wife

King Henry VIII had a falling out with the Pope.  And broke away from the Catholic Church.  Putting England on the path to becoming Protestant.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Protestant Reformation the resulting conflicts between Catholics and Protestants were really horrible.  And bloody.  Some of England’s greatest enemies during that time were Spain and France.  Both Catholic.  But this Catholic-Protestant animosity was not limited to her foreign enemies.

Religion played a large part in the English Civil War (1642–1651).  In fact, it started it.  When King Charles I tried to impose an English prayer book on Presbyterian Scotland.  To have a singular religion in England and Scotland.  Which the Scottish didn’t embrace.  And pushed back on King Charles.  Who then wanted to teach the Scottish a lesson.  With an army.  But to raise an army he needed money.  Which meant he had to call Parliament.  And when he did they weren’t all that keen on spending money for another war.  Then one thing led to another.  Resulting in a war between supporters of the king.  Cavaliers.  And supporters of Parliament.  Roundheads.

But there was another religious element.  The king’s wife.  Henrietta Maria.  Of France.  Who was a proud practicing Catholic.  This bothered a lot of people.  The king having a French Catholic wife in a Protestant country where they were still executing Catholics.  For practicing religion wrong.  And now the king had a Catholic wife.  Who they believed was turning the Protestant king Catholic.  In fact, they thought that English churches even looked too Catholic for their liking.  And they did something about it.  They smashed idols.  Altars.  Vestments.  Stained glass.  Etc.  Anything that you might find in a Catholic Church they destroyed.  Believing their churches should be properly Protestant.  Plain, boring and dull.

When Hostilities broke out the Anti-Catholic Sentiments among these British Americans were as Strong as Ever

About a hundred years later we come to the American Revolutionary War.  Another war between the British people.  Great Britain.  And the American colonists.  Who had grown into their own people.  And did not like the mother country treating them as second class citizens in the British Empire.  They didn’t like the taxation without representation.  Or their mercantile economic policies.  Which limited the colonists to raw material suppliers.  That they had to sell to Britain.  Ship on British ships.  Then buy only British goods.  Shipped on those same British ships.  Goods often manufactured from their own raw materials.

When George Washington settled his accounts with his British agent he didn’t like what he saw.  The British mercantile house was profiting more from his labors than he was.  And it pissed him off.  For George Washington was an astute businessman.  One of the few planters that actually made a profit in Virginia.  And the current system with Great Britain was just bad business.  So when talk of independence came around he was quick to sign on.  Both for principle.  And for business.  For he was an old man.  Who knew a lot.  And experienced even more.  One of the privileges of being an old man.

When hostilities broke out the anti-Catholic sentiments among these British Americans were as strong as ever.  And when General Washington’s soldiers expressed those sentiments publically the general quickly put an end to it.  For the memories of the English Civil War were not that distant.  He did not need to make his task more difficult by adding in that Catholic-Protestant animosity to the current struggle.  Especially when there was an attempt to get Canada to join their cause.  Which was recently French Canada.  A colony of Catholic France.  Before the British defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War.  Making French Canada British.  So the Americans were counting on cashing in on Canada’s anti-British sentiments.  And hopefully France’s anti-British sentiments.

Americans were able to Win the Peace because they didn’t Need Government to tell them how to Live

The Canadians didn’t join the Americans.  But the French did.  And General Washington avoided defeat for 8 years.  And won the American Revolutionary War.  Against the mightiest empire in the world.  A remarkable feat.  Then Washington won the peace.  Which was even more remarkable.  For revolutions rarely end in peace.  Because these conflicts are typically civil wars.  Where brother fights brother.  And when brother fights brother the fighting gets especially brutal.  With bitter feelings of animosity.  Like those between Catholics and Protestants.  Which they often just can’t shut off after the fighting is over.  But the Americans could.  And did.  Which is why their democracy worked.  When so many others have failed.

America’s experiment in self-government worked because of men like George Washington.  Responsible citizens who tempered their wants with knowledge and experience.  Who saw the bigger picture.  Who knew when to stand on principle.  When to compromise.  And when to leave things the hell alone.  Not acting on passions.  Or emotions.  Not acting like children.  But adults.  Who knew they couldn’t have everything they wanted.  And went without a lot of the things they really wanted.  For with liberty came personal responsibility.  You were free to do pretty much whatever you wanted to do.  But that personal responsibility kept you from doing a lot of the things you shouldn’t do.  By exercising restraint.  Which our Founding Fathers exercised after winning the Revolutionary War.  There were no reprisals.  No vengeance.  Only law.  Where justice was blind.  Something that didn’t happen during the French Revolution.  Fought but 5 years from the close of the American Revolution.  But unlike the American Revolution the streets of France ran with blood.  Where vengeance ruled the day.  And justice wasn’t blind.

This is what makes the American Revolution different.  It was the character of the men fighting it.  Men of the Enlightenment.  Selfless men.  Who put the country first.  Instead of settling old scores.  Helped in part by a short history in the New World.  And a long history in the Old World.  As they were able to learn the lessons of history.  Without having centuries of wrongs to right inflaming their passions.  Exceptional men.  And exceptional circumstances.  Something the French just didn’t have.  Which is why the streets of France ran with blood.  And why there were many fits and starts to their republic.  While the Americans were able to make theirs work from the beginning.  Because of the character of its people.  Who were not used to a ruling power subjecting them.  Who expected no one to take care of them.  And just wanted their government to leave them the hell alone.  So they could work hard.  And provide for their families.  And their ideal form of government was one that let them do just that.  Not one that was a big part of their life.  Or one that provided for them.  Made them dependent on it.  The Americans were able to win the peace because they didn’t need government to tell them how to live.  They chose to live harmoniously together.  Thanks to a character honed by their religious beliefs.  And having exemplary men to emulate.  The Founding Fathers.  This is why the Americans were able to win the peace.  Why the French were unable to win theirs.  And why the Egyptians are struggling to win theirs.

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