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July 05, 2015

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Further lack of patriotism here--

http://www.vox.com/2015/7/2/8884885/american-revolution-mistake


I never could get too worked up over the Revolution, though I can suspend disbelief and root for it when watching 1776 on TCM.

Read by James Earl Jones.

Read by Danny Glover.

Hear truth.

The other possible counterfactual is that Germany might never have dared to precipitate two world wars against a Greater Britain.
And there might therefore have been no Soviet Union, along with many of the twentieth century disasters which resulted from WW1.

George Washington has much to answer for.

Alternate histories can be great fun. But somehow they all seem to be carefully designed to show how much better things would be in the alternative universe.

I have wondered why nobody writes them to show how the alternative could have been worse. (Although I suppose it could be a bit of a downer....)

Nigel, the problem I see there is that Germany believed before both World Wars that Britain would stay neutral at worst and may be even persuaded to join on the German side. Bismarck on the other hand got deterred from a second war against France (to finish the job) by a hint from London alone.

But somehow they all seem to be carefully designed to show how much better things would be in the alternative universe.

That's the beauty of the technique: you don't have to be careful at all. Due to the inherent uncertainty in alternative history, its possible to make a case for almost any timeline you want, while simultaneously dismissing opposing views as less likely. Nobody can prove anybody wrong.

It's like watching a debate on who would win a war between the Empire from Star Wars or the Federation from Star Trek.

Yeah, the usual starting point for 'alternate history' is 'what if those dudes hadn't done stupid things?'

You would think that the broad sweep of recorded history would tell you exactly how likely that is.


Empire, hands down.

Most likely the Empire would have some initial successes. But once the Federation concluded that there really was no prospect for peace, and got geared up, the Empire would get its clock cleaned.

If you doubt that, consider Japan's experience in WW II. Even if they had won at Midway, even without the atomic bomb, the final result was not really in doubt -- just the cost of getting there.

Empire, hands down.

Well, they do have bigger ships.

"Well, they do have bigger ships."

With horrible design flaws. Whereas the Federation has sleek, beautiful designs.

Evil Empire: Microsoft
Borg Federation: Apple

Discuss.

Only picture a transporter beam depositing an explosive into the middle of one of those bigger ships....

If someone asks for 'it could have been much worse' scenarios, there are lots of them. Most of them would be the evil guys avoiding easily avoidable mistakes. It seems that all or almost all successful codebreaking in both World Wars was only possible because operators violated the most basic security protocols and no consequences were drawn (counterexample: Austrian codes in WW1 were broken into for just 4 weeks in total because even the slightest suspicion of a loss of code material led to radical countermeasures, and changes were never gradual).

Churchill also almost died several times and at least once at a critical point (shortly before Dunkerque).

Stalin could have lived longer easily and was in the process of starting a new and improved great terror when he died. His death (of whatever cause) saved countless lives.

In other words, the 20th century (even absent nucelar weapons) could have been even more bloody.

I believe "The Man in the High Castle" depicts an alternative time line which was worse,

But anyway, my link mostly compared actual history to actual history. The Brits really did end slavery before the U.S. and Canada's treatment of its indigenous people, while horrific ( there is a link to a book about that in the article) was still better than the American record.

Oh, and African-Americans and Native Americans were, on the whole, on the side of the Brits. So this isn't about alternate time lines, but about the unflattering portions of the real time line that don't get much emphasis in our grade school histories (back in my day, at least--maybe it has changed).

It is amazed at how pervasive and effective the alternate history of 'The War Between the States' has been ... till now.

Here's some alternate history I came across that's just for the fun of it. http://althistory.wikia.com/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America_(Axis_World)

That alternate history of the Civil War makes some interesting (unbelievable?) assumptions about where industrialization would advance first. Yes, the South could have won at Gettysburg -- although the terrain would have made that a stretch.

But I'm having trouble seeing an economy built on slavery being all that interested in labor-saving inventions. Which, after all, would make the main source of wealth of its elites substantially less valuable.

There are much nastier fictional SciFi universes out there with an even older pedigree than Star Wars and Star Trek.
No power in the latter two would have stood a chance of survival in the world where e.g. Perry Rhodan takes place (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/PerryRhodan). Death Stars would be something for regional rich kids out to play while the adults are not around. ;-)

Up until about the 1960's, North Korea was better off than South Korea because the north was were most of Korean industry was located. Then something happen...

It's hard to come up with plausible alternate histories when you have no idea what the tipping points and black swans are going to be.

But anyway, my link mostly compared actual history to actual history.

I contest that. Your link, up front, makes the point that its talking about counterfactuals. It than supports those counterfactuals by sketching out loose comparisons on a very limited number of specific incidents.

I could equally point out a number of crimes committed by the British Empire, most notably in India and Africa. I could also sketch out the failures of their current policy and make vague links to their parliamentary system. And I could draw an equally meaningless conclusion that the world is better off for the Revolutionary War.

And if I did that, it would be disrespectful the the massive human costs of colonization and expansion, whether we are talking about Britain, France, Spain, or the US.

That is part of our history, and it is something very much worth looking at critically. It is worth discussing openly and frankly. I don't think the Vox piece furthers that discussion.

It is not careful analysis, nor is it in-depth history. It's juxtaposition of atrocities such as the Trail of Tears with cap and trade legislation is ludicrous, to say the least. In short, it strikes me as anglophile fan service, nothing more.

Hartmut, you might also be interested in a series of 3 books by David Weber (Mutineers' Moon, etc.). It also starts with the premise of an alien artifact found on the moon. (OK, the moon is an alien artifact, with a thin overlay of rock -- now there's a big battleship!)

So this isn't about alternate time lines, but about the unflattering portions of the real time line that don't get much emphasis in our grade school histories

The piece is very much a ham-fisted attempt at alternate timelines, your protestations otherwise notwithstanding.

If you want to make the point that we don't educate enough about the darker aspects of our past, I would agree with you, wholeheartedly.

I would just prefer that that education was based on the history itself, not amateur projections of alternate history.

Thompson, I suppose I should have said that the argument was based on actual history, arguing that there is no evidence the Revolution made things better and on the grounds that the two most oppressed groups largely sided with the Brits, not because the Brits were inherently better, but because their interests lined up more with the slaves and the Native Americans.

I thought if the British atrocities myself, having read Late Victorian Holocausts many years ago, but I don't think it invalidates the comparison.

I find the argument a good one--black Americans who were around then and who largely supported the British did so for good reasons. And while I can admire Washington for not becoming a dictator and Jefferson for some really fine ideals (not being sarcastic), I think the way we romanticize our Revolution is part of what gives Americans a too high opinion of ourselves. It doesn't matter what happens in all the alternative timelines--what does matter is that we not romanticize our history, except maybe in Hollywood musicals.

Hamfisted? It didn't strike me that way--it seemed like the usual legitimate pushback we get about the Revolution every July 4. You are putting a lot of importance onto this alternate history thing, where I thought the main point was not that we should build a time machine and work really hard to ensure that the British win, but simply that hey, maybe the Revolution wasn't such a great blow for freedom given who sided with whom. The alternate history is simply a way to make that point. But sure, I could imagine really dark consequences to a Brtish victory if we are supposed to take that seriously.

And going a little further with the British Empire being bad, I completely agree. it just happened to be the lesser of two evils for American slaves and Native Americans in the 1770's.

I didn't actually expect you of all people to get worked up over this and now I am starting to get pissed off, so I am going to abandon the thread.

I didn't actually expect you of all people to get worked up over this and now I am starting to get pissed off, so I am going to abandon the thread.

Upfront, I just want to apologize. Rereading my posts, I was overly harsh and combative. I have a great deal of respect for your opinions and always look forward to your comments. The Vox piece just hits a number of my pet peeves, and I responded hotter than I intended before I had a chance to think better.

I thought if the British atrocities myself, having read Late Victorian Holocausts many years ago, but I don't think it invalidates the comparison.

I'll say this for being in academic sciences...you meet a lot of Indians, and you get a very different perspective on British colonialism than you do from Brits, or Americans generally, themselves. It opened my eyes, certainly. There is a broad swath of atrocities that were committed by the British before and after they lost the American colonies, and they aren't discussed much. That they go unmentioned is one of my complaints with the Vox piece, although honestly the larger point is this:

The comparison of British atrocities being more restrained than American atrocities is just kind of an offensively meaningless question. What Britain did or didn't do, has no bearing on what America did, and vice versa. I find sentences like this painfully trivializing to the very real horrors of colonialism and expansion:
Canada, under British rule and after, brutally mistreated aboriginal people, not least through government-inflicted famines and the state's horrific seizure of children from their families so they could attend residential schools. But the country didn't experience a Westward expansion as violent and deadly as that pursued by the US government and settlers.

These are not comparisons we need to make. We must acknowledge past atrocities, not use them as measuring sticks.

I think the way we romanticize our Revolution is part of what gives Americans a too high opinion of ourselves.

I agree with this, and if I thought the Vox piece made that point, we'd likely be having a different discussion.

What bothers me is that we, as a nation, or even humanity as a whole, has a really hard time talking about the darker parts of our history. And by posing its ridiculous counterfactuals, I think the Vox piece makes having that discussion even harder.

Because there are the obvious counterpoints to humanitarian nature of British Colonialism, because alternative history is crap, and finally, because putting cap/trade legislation in the same argument as slavery or the Trail of Tears is ludicrous, the Vox piece does nothing to illuminate or educate people about terrible crimes were perpetrated by Americans in the name of America.

Hamfisted? It didn't strike me that way--it seemed like the usual legitimate pushback we get about the Revolution every July 4.

It's legitimacy is clearly where we part ways, but perhaps ham-fisted was overly harsh.

You are putting a lot of importance onto this alternate history thing

The lead of the 3rd para: But I'm reasonably confident a world where the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now

And the bulk is a list of counterfactuals listing *how the world would be different if america didn't gain its independence from Britain.*

I struggle to describe that other than as alternative history.

The alternate history is simply a way to make that point.

I think a far better way to make that point is to remind people of history, good or bad. As an example, I point to the OP, a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass. A vivid and potent reminder of the failings of this nation. Part of our history that, as you note, is far too often whitewashed away.

We don't need to invent new history to make that point. *We need to remind people of history as it happened.*

And going a little further with the British Empire being bad, I completely agree. it just happened to be the lesser of two evils for American slaves and Native Americans in the 1770's.

I think there is a lot of rich (actual) history that should be explored from that perspective, but I respectfully point out that this likely doesn't extrapolate well to 200+ years of history with a dramatically altered balance of power in America and worldwide.

Apology accepted. And we generally agree about the British Empire, but I think my reading of the piece is closer to his intent than yours--he would not have brought up Canada's history of deliberate famine( which I had not heard of before) if he were trying to paint a pretty picture of the Empire.

The last part about the superiority of the parliamentary system is interesting and I've heard it before and don't have a firm opinion either way about how a particular democratic structure allegedly leads to better results. It weakens the piece, because I think his points regarding who American slaves and Native Americans sided with are strong and he explicitly states that it was British self interest and not nobility that led them to be the lesser of two evils.

But anyway, I thought the piece a good one for the reasons I have said. Obviously it wasn't the best vehicle to make those points for you and that's fine.

Apology accepted.

Appreciated.

but I think my reading of the piece is closer to his intent than yours

That is quite possible, if for no other reason than it is unlikely I'm the intended audience.

he would not have brought up Canada's history of deliberate famine( which I had not heard of before) if he were trying to paint a pretty picture of the Empire.

I think that's a fair point and a very reasonable interpretation. I have a more uncharitable view, but I fully admit I'm not in the mind of the author, and can't speak to their intent.

I think, however, we agree on many of the larger points, whether or not I picked up on them in the article.

DJ: ...I can suspend disbelief and root for it when watching 1776 on TCM.

Hey, I watched that too! Hadn't seen it before. Didn't really like most of the songs, though I must say I was moved by the Lexington survivor's lament.

And of course, some of the comedy was priceless. I always knew Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the National Bird, and his argument on the subject with Jefferson and Adams is one of the best bits in the movie. But my favorite line, hands down, was John Adams's exasperated response to the 3rd or 4th objection to this or that line in the draft Declaration on the grounds it might offend this or that group:

"This is a Revolution, dammit! We have to offend somebody!"

What impressed me most about the movie was its explicit treatment of The Paragraph On Slavery That Never Made It Into The Declaration Of Independence. Needless to say, historical accuracy is not guaranteed as far as the debate is concerned, but the movie gets major props for even including it -- in 1972, no less.

--TP

"Hitler wins" is actually one of the most popular alternate-history premises; it wasn't just Phil Dick's. Usually, this is portrayed as far worse than the history we got, though it may also be a kind of satirical reflection of the history we got.

My favorite speech of Douglass's is actually this one, in memory of Abraham Lincoln, at the unveiling of the somewhat strange Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC in 1876:

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/oration-in-memory-of-abraham-lincoln/

I've seen the speech called "enigmatic," but it seems perfectly clear to me: one of the best statements I've seen of the difficulty of bringing about real change in a politically constrained environment. It's a speech in honor of Abraham Lincoln that begins by listing all of the shortcomings, from an African-American perspective, of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. And, he says, nevertheless, this is how emancipation actually happened.

How the world has changed: Douglass describes Washington as "the place where the ablest and best men of the country are sent to devise the policy, enact the laws, and shape the destiny of the Republic."

Can anybody imagine someone (not himself a member, of course) describing the Congress as "the ablest and best" of the country? Well, the Congress is supposed to have a 10% approval rating, so I suppose that means that as much as 1/10 of the population might be persuaded....

All "alternative history" is bunk, but this is bunkier than most. Remember, during the US Civil War Britain came perilously close to supporting the Confederacy; it was all the Union could do to keep them out, because British manufacturers depended on US cotton.

So here's a counterfactual for you - instead of continued British rule hastening emancipation in the USA, it postpones it in the British Empire (perhaps including the British Caribbean), because it has become such an integral part of the imperial economy. We could have wound up in a "race to the bottom" with Brazil (1888) for the last country to abolish slavery!

Silly, of course, but no sillier than the original.

People who crave an alternate history where the Americans lost the revolutionary war should try this. Totally implausible, but so much fun!

Thank you, Dr. Ngo. If the Vox knucklehead is representative of that organ, stand by for unlimited foolishness.

As noted, England craved southern cotton, harvested by slaves. What economic interests were compromised when England outlawed slavery? Answer: very few. That calculus changes dramatically if the South were an English colony.

And even if slavery were eventually outlawed as a matter of civil law, it is easily imaginable that some other form of indenture would replace it, it part to compensate dispossessed owners.

What was needed to end slavery outright was a war followed by constitutional amendments. England doesn't have a constitution, or a First or a Fourteenth Amendment.

England was an empire. It openly and proudly practiced colonization into the 20th century.

South Africa was a byproduct of the British colonial system. Can anyone count the number of major military actions England fought in the 19th century?

Here is partial list: First Afghan War, Second Afghan War, Indian Mutiny, Sudan, China, Crimea, Boer and Zulu Wars. This does not count putting down Napoleon 1812-15.

It is bizarre to me that anyone would trade our constitutional democracy for any other form of government. It is equally bizarre seeing people who lived 200 years ago held to today's very exacting progressive standards.

So here's a counterfactual for you - instead of continued British rule hastening emancipation in the USA, it postpones it in the British Empire (perhaps including the British Caribbean), because it has become such an integral part of the imperial economy.

dr ngo, I considered a very similar counterfactual, in addition to what that would have meant for the 'Great Game' and neoimperialism in general.

Here is partial list

McK, you forgot the 1st/2nd opium wars.

Thought quite a bit about this, as an alternative history invariably begets more than one outcome, and impacts a slew of other outcomes beyond the American continent. Here are some possible outcomes of a British victory in the American War of Independence:

Not only would Georgia continue to be the final port of call of penury for Mother England's unwashed and unwanted, but perhaps the other American colonies become so as well. Australia might've remained a Dutch possession and made for a Dutch Australasia (the Dutch East Indies plus Oz, with designs on what we call New Zealand and what, for all we know, they would have call Nieuwe-Zeeland, if not something else entirely). If so, the Brits and Dutch may have carved up the Southern Hemisphere much the way the Spanish and Portuguese, for some time, carved up the Western.

Ireland might not only have remained a British possession, but perhaps may have been emptied of its native-born population even more given that most of them would've been deported to Georgia/America, to be replaced by landed gentry from England and Anglifying it, if not fully, then almost so. Perhaps it would've become their West to our historical and current South, in terms of the level of resentment and contrarian identity and culture with a veneer of gentility with whoever Irish in blood remained.

All this would've deepened the antagonism between the British and French empires, with things coming to a head in North America so fully as to possibly make for a First World War a hundred-odd years or so sooner than the actual one, pitting Britain and France against each another with the Dutch, the Spanish, and the Portuguese certainly dragged into it, and the Prussians, the Austro-Hungarian side of the Hapsburgs, the Russians, and for all we know the Swedes and the Italian states slugging it out with the Brits and the French in a European theater of the thing. I'm no historian, so I can't possibly guess accurately even within the scope of the scenario as to who would be on who's side (which pretty much would of been the prognostication of anyone predicting what would be the actual WWI).

As for India, it might still have resulted in a Raj, yet it might not have assumed the importance it did in the real outcome - unless as a check against the French and the Portuguese already there and against possible Dutch designs in South Asia (which may not have happened given that a Dutch Australasia may have been enough for them, but then, what the hey…).

Whither Canada? It's possible it may never have happened - perhaps absorbed into a greater North American colonial redoubt.

I could go on and on with these alternative scenarios, but therein lies the dilemma - what happened (or wouldn't have happened had historians had time machines) would've had a bearing far beyond North America.

Not about alternative histories as such, but having spent a lot of time around Brits during those argumentative years of youth, I got pretty fed up with the assertions of superiority on their part and being from the South, I imagine that it was worse than what someone from New York, or Los Angeles might have gotten.

Packed tightly together naked, on hard, wooden shelves - the sexes and ages often randomly mixed, these people were manacled and chained with no room to move. Fed only on subsistence levels of gruel or thin soup, with no way to relieve themselves other than where they lay, and, afflicted by sea-sickness, dysentery, and terror, the conditions were foul beyond belief.
Many thousands of people did not survive the journey, and the personal testimonies of those that did, and of their descendants, serve to clearly illustrate just how Liverpool became wealthy, and Britain became ‘Great’, through this exploitation of humanity. Indeed, a fifth of all slaves died during the Atlantic crossing, and only 60% of those who did make land survived for more than a year in captivity. Of those, most only lived into their 30s.
It is estimated that, from the middle of the 15th Century to the end of the 19th Century, more than 12 million Africans were kidnapped from their homes. In the 18th Century alone, 6 million African slaves were transported to the American plantations and, shamefully, Britain had the largest slave trading fleets.

Liverpool was Britain’s most ‘successful’ slave-trading port, and during the City’s involvement in the trade 1,360,000 African people were transported in over 5,000 voyages made by Liverpool vessels. Indeed, more than half of all slaves sold by English traders were the property of Liverpool merchants and, by the end of the 18th Century, the Town had 70% of Britain’s Slave Trade.

In fact, if there is anything that makes that 'special relationship', it is the ability of the two countries to be self-righteous about the progress they have made versus anything that happens in any other country.

Perhaps everyone has made progress (that quote is from
http://www.discover-liverpool.com/24/section.aspx/7

and I would have never believed that I would have seen gay marriage or the Alabama governor taking the confederate flag down in my lifetime) but given the tenor of some of the discussion of the Confederate flag that I've seen, I still hear that kind of righteousness. This npr piece about how southern blacks see the flag is interesting in that regard

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/06/25/417513637/its-like-having-a-crazy-family-member-on-southern-black-folks-and-the-rebel-flag

A lot of interesting quotes and observations sprinkled through, but I don't know if it has a lot to do with alternative histories, except that sometimes, alternate histories seem like a way of arguing for superiority by making up evidence.

Early in the Civil War, one of Lincoln's greatest fears was recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and other European powers for the economic reasons dr.ngo cites and for other cynical self-interests.

The Confederacy was aware of this too, and in fact many of the Confederate slave-owning aristocracy, with the notable exception of Jefferson Davis, were highly overconfident regarding how their warriors would fare against inferior northern troops, and fully expected to raise the Confederate flag over Washington D. C. in short order.

Then the cotton trade would rule the day, and England and other powers would begin circumventing wholesale U.S. Customs and tariffs and flood the Confederacy with cheap goods to supply the war effort.

So much for the South's alternative history planned before the War. The paramount concern of nearly every proclamation made by the Confederacy as events led to war was to maintain the ownership and enslavement of the "African".

The alternative history afterwards, to this day, that maintaining slavery against all takers was NOT the primary concern has been bad enough, and horsesh"t.

Yet, to this day, that sniveling myth is kept alive by some of the usual suspects on FOX and the far right media.

They still think they have the firepower too to defeat all comers.


Let!s recall too that Lincoln's original conciliatory position was to permit the states in the original Confederacy to keep their right to own and enslave other human beings, while of course outlawing the travesty in the territories and newly formed States.

Lincoln had plenty of alternative histories up his sleeves in his bid to fulfill his primary goal of maintaining the Union.

Considering what hardheads some in the South have been since 1865, it's possible we would be still living with some form of indentured servitude in some parishes here and there.


And, to be fair minded, a few of the locations where indentured servitude might persist could have been in the North and the West as well.

Consider that there are still counties in the South which have Prohibition in place. And consider that slavery was vastly more economically important than mere alcohol.

I'd say it would be pretty much a certaintly that slavery would still be in place in the South today. And in far more than in just "some parishes here and there." More like "well over half" would be my guess.

I wonder if those who hate slavery would be writing alternate histories of the South losing the Civil War. And if they would predict Jim Crow, and see it as a huge improvement over their reality.

And part of the tragic fallout of the South winning: no jazz.

I'm actually pleased to see McK blasting away at the vicious atrocities perpetrated by the British portion of Western civilization and if people want to get into a contest over who was worse, the Americans or the Brits, I'll just sit by and enjoy the show. Yes, the Brits were scum. "Late Victorian Holocausts" compares what they did in India with what happened under Stalin and Mao and their brutality extends well into the 20th century. Kenya's independence, for instance, involved a vicious war with horrific atrocities committed by the civilized Brits.

Lost in the continued obsession with imaginary history is the point made by that poor benighted Vox writer--American slaves in the real time line and Native Americans tended to side with the Brits. Perhaps they weren't correctly weighting the relative probabilities of the various possible distant futures. But by all means, ignore the references to the choices made by actual people in the real world and continue to speculate that a British victory might have been worse for everyone. You might be right--Westerners of any stripe have this amazing ability to kill and steal and plunder in the name of one ideal or another. It hasn't stopped.

I really didn't mean to troll--I thought it was just an interesting article pointing out that black slaves and Native Americans were mostly on the other side against the glorious apostles of liberty. Another crime of the empires was the Balfour Declaration. The whole carving up of the Middle East, the divide and conquer strategy in India (and not just the massive famines whose death toll they made worse) and I think there are more wars and rebellions in Africa that I am forgetting at the moment.

The US was more of a homebody when it came to all this--plenty of land to steal and conquer right at our doorstop, until the 1890's.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/08/01/over-there-hendrik-hertzberg

Since you are all very interested in the British attitude towards our Civil War, that's a link to a New Yorker review of "A World On Fire", which I read a year or two ago. You might be surprised that I actually reacted with a touch of patriotic American anger to the way she presented the story--I'm not sure if she is right as she is the historian and I am not, but I thought she made the American (northern) side seem persistently intent on picking unnecessary quarrels with the British. I don't think that the review above brings that out--maybe I was imagining it. (I reacted to the book to some extent the way some of you are reacting to the Vox piece. I might have been wrong.)

TonyP--that musical just cracks me up every time I see it. The only part that makes me wince is when Rutledge (I think) does the slave auctioneering part and accuses the North of hypocrisy. I don't mean I wince at the content--it just suddenly gets a little overly dramatic for what is mostly a funny take on the history, but then the John Adams character speaks for me when he tells him to shut up. But I guess it was meant to be both drama, serious at times, and comic.

Last comment for the day. Has anyone read "Rough Crossings"?
It doesn't portray the British in a good light (which is consistent with what the poor benighted Vox writer admits). But it certainly does put a different spin on July 4.

http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Crossings-Britain-American-Revolution/dp/0099536072/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

I lied. There is one piece of absolute nonsense I couldn't pass up from McK--

" It is equally bizarre seeing people who lived 200 years ago held to today's very exacting progressive standards"


Yeah, McK, because opposition to slavery is a very exacting progressive standard imposed on our view of history by politically correct professors at Berkeley, but not something one could have expected to occur to anyone in the 1770's. It's silly to think that Samuel Johnson might have said anything about loud yelps for liberty coming from the drivers of Negroes or that Jefferson ever spoke or wrote on the subject or that there might have been the beginnings of an abolitionist movement in both England and the US at that time. This must be one of those counterfactuals everyone is so upset about and can't stop focusing on, like the slaves fleeing to the British in the Revolutionary War. Counterfactuals are stupid and we shouldn't talk about them. Instead, let's talk about how a British victory might have actually been a disaster for the world.

Remember, during the US Civil War Britain came perilously close to supporting the Confederacy; it was all the Union could do to keep them out, because British manufacturers depended on US cotton.

It'd be interesting to hear an unpacking of how perilously close you think it was. My impression, based on an admittedly small amount of reading, is that it wasn't all that close. The Union imposed an effective blockade against confederate ports early on, and intervention would mean that Britain would've had to cross the Atlantic again to fight another long-supply-line engagement.

Plus, they were in the process of abolishing slavery in the empire, so supporting the Confederacy would have appeared decidedly odd.

Just another small addendum to McKT's chronicle of British military adventures in the 19th century: the First, Second, and Third (!) Anglo-Burmese Wars. (I'll give him the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion as subsumed under "China.")

How close did the Brits come to backing the Confederacy? I don't really know, but Slarti's skepticism seems about right. My point is simply (1) the Union was worried about it (and some Rebs were hopeful of it); (2) "alternate history" is bunk anyway, so probabilities go out the door.

The point in the Vox article about most blacks and Indians supporting the Brits/Tories is a good one, and should provoke contemplation. But turning the whole thing into a counterfactual (wet) dream annoys me, especially when tagging on the whole "parliaments are better than presidents, neener neener" meme at the end.

"How close did the Brits come to backing the Confederacy? I don't really know, but Slarti's skepticism seems about right."

My bet is that the Brits were stringing along the Confederates, so that they would get any cotton shipments that made it through the blockade, without having to actually commit to anything.

It's the kind of tactic that old, canny empires practice on young naive upstarts.

The Union imposed an effective blockade against confederate ports early on

There were other factors as well. The cotton crop preceding the Civil War was very large, so there was no shortage going in to the war, and India and Egypt emerged as viable alternative sources of cotton.

In general my impression is that the Confederacy greatly over-estimated the degree to which they could use cotton as a lever, in terms of both trade and diplomacy.

Yeah, McK, because opposition to slavery is a very exacting progressive standard imposed on our view of history by politically correct professors at Berkeley, but not something one could have expected to occur to anyone in the 1770's.

Ok. That proves nothing. The anti-slavery movement had to begin sometime. When it did, it was in the midst of cultures that, for centuries, viewed slavery, serfdom, thralldom or some other form of indenture to be the natural order of things. Those who were early opponents of slavery were in the minority. The majority did not become evil incarnate when the first voice of opposition was raised. It was a process and it took time.

Within the multitude of sinners who supported, or accepted or were neutral, on the slavery question, there were ranges of good and bad, insightful and dogmatic.

Washington, Jefferson et al owned slaves. Adams, Hamilton et al did not. The US was not born in sin because of slavery, as horrific as it was. The entire Western world was rethinking the role and rights of (white) *men*. That many of those who were liberal by the values of their times to one degree or another objectified women and deemed the darker races inferior did not make them less critical to the advance of enlightenment simply because they were not fully enlightened all at once.

So, feel free to apply current progressive thinking in hindsight.

As in this sentence,

I'm actually pleased to see McK blasting away at the vicious atrocities perpetrated by the British portion of Western civilization and if people want to get into a contest over who was worse, the Americans or the Brits, I'll just sit by and enjoy the show.

Yes, the Brits got a lot wrong. They got a lot right, too, as did the US. On balance, perhaps a somewhat precarious balance, Western imperialism, because it was joined with and enhanced Western liberalism, was a plus for the world.

As between the post civil war 19th century US and the 19th century Brits, both were, relative to other countries at the time, advanced and liberal.

Not by today's standards, but by those of the day.

Not meaning to throw gas on the fire here, but TNC's latest piece may be of interest

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/tanehisi-coates-between-the-world-and-me/397619/?fb_ref=Default

note the publication date.

Yes, the Brits got a lot wrong. They got a lot right, too

One need only look at the fates of countries which were once British colonies, compared to those who were once French colonies. Yes, there are cases like Zimbabwe. But the majority of ex-British colonies have far better governments, and are doing far better economically, than those of the French. Just for one example.

wj: yes, but it's not like the Brits didn't take over colonies from other countries, if they wanted them sufficiently.

Quebec. South Africa (from the Dutch), India was a mixed bag...take over the most economically promising colonies, and wow, they do better.

Later colonizers got last pick, and did worse: Germany, Belgium. Spain and Portugal were so early in the game, and didn't really "pick and choose" as much.

Just to say that a bit more effort is needed to justify your point wj.

LJ,

A powerful piece. If only we would now be comparing Coates' somber and sad words to the arching condemnatory oratory of Frederick Douglass, and evaluate how far we have come since his day, and how much further we have to go to eradicate the scourge of the racism in our midst.

It's an alternative history that really should be taking place.

McKinney: The anti-slavery movement had to begin sometime. When it did, it was in the midst of cultures that, for centuries, viewed slavery, serfdom, thralldom or some other form of indenture to be the natural order of things.

Well, perhaps. Some here more familiar with European history could chime in, but serfdom was in decline pretty much everywhere in Europe (Russia excluded)starting about the time of the Reformation. It strikes me that with the New World scarcity of labor, white Europeans took slavery in a whole new direction by turning it into a mass market commodity with the early rum trade. (After all, they did not import slaves to their homelands.)

It is to be noted that the anti-slavery movement may have started earlier than most think. For example, Rhode Island passed a law in 1651 that freed any slave after 10 years of service. Certainly not "everybody" just accepted slavery as "that's just the way it is"....even back then.

That was a heavy piece, even for TNC. I really don't want to read the rebuttals right now. That would be even more depressing.

One reason slaves from Africa were prized in the South was that they were already exposed to yellow fever. For adults from Europe and other parts of the world, the disease could be fatal.

Snarki, that's true. But those places that were British colonies last seem much more likely to have democraticm and functional, governments. Not certain, but more likely.

Compare even your examples. Quebec (from the French), South Africa (from the Dutch), etc. vs Vietnam or French West Africa. They have far more democratic governments. Their economies are doing better (even though Vietnam is getting much better). Sure, there are ex-British colonies which are a mess. But are their any ex-French colonies which are in good shape?

I think it's more geographical than "who was the colonial master". Thus, all of africa and middle-east, with the (partial, improving) exception of South Africa: basket cases. South East asia, from Bangladesh to Papua New Guinea (excepting Singapore): similar. Etc.

One reason slaves from Africa were prized in the South was that they were already exposed to yellow fever

Really? This neatly elides the fact that yellow fever was brought to the Americas by the importation of African slaves TO BEGIN WITH (wingnut caps by ED).

http://www.cidd.psu.edu/research/synopses/how-yellow-fever-got-to-the-americas

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/reviews/2006-12-18-yellow-fever_x.htm

McTX: Not by today's standards, but by those of the day.

Some people, on some questions, believe in eternal truths arising from the composition of the universe, or the will of Nature's god, or the words of America's founding documents, or something.

Other people, and I'm happy to count McKinney among them, recognize that such convictions are mistaken and that "today's standards" are valid for today, just as "those of the day" were the relevant ones in the past.

So when next we argue -- and you know we will -- about abortion or marriage or guns or federalism, let us acknowledge that arguments from Eternal Truth of any kind are basically crap. So say I, and so it seems says McKinney.

--TP

"Western imperialism, because it was joined with and enhanced Western liberalism, was a plus for the world."

Briefly, reasonable minds may differ on this point.

I think you'd need to limit the claim to specific cases.

let us acknowledge that arguments from Eternal Truth of any kind are basically crap. So say I, and so it seems says McKinney.

Relativism-the assertion of Eternal Truth by any means necessary.

There was one major difference between the 'traditional' European slavery and the 'modern' in the Americas: racism.
The term 'slave' is likely derived from 'Slav' because Eastern Europe was the main source for centuries, i.e. blacks did not dominate the traditional European market. When the replaced the old white standard slaves the acceptancy of slavery seems not to have been so universal anymore or there would not have been a need to propagate the 'Curse of Ham' as a justification. In other words slavery had to become racial in order to remain justified.
Can anyone here tell me, whether this was done already be the Spanish/Portuguese or was a pure WASP invention? If the latter, then we have to put it on the Brits not (mercy of late birth) the USians.

Thus, all of africa and middle-east, with the (partial, improving) exception of South Africa: basket cases. South East asia, from Bangladesh to Papua New Guinea (excepting Singapore): similar. Etc.

This is flat wrong. Southeast Asia - the region I've been studying and teaching for the last half-century or so - has been among the strongest economic performers in the world over the past few decades. Not just Singapore, but Thailand and Malaysia, with Indonesia lagging slightly and even the Philippines and Vietnam doing better than most of Africa, the Middle East, and a sizable chunk of the Americas. Only Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and Timor Leste might reasonably be described as "basket cases," and they account for less than 10% of the regional population. Have you ever been to Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok?

Correction: make that "less than 15% of the regional population."

I just looked it up. The 'Curse of Ham' justification for slavery was invented already in the Middle Ages but, if at all, got applied to ANY slave (he/she is a slave => he/she must be a son/daughter of Ham). The application to, specifically, blacks did not become doninant before the 17th century. So, an ex-post-facto 'explanation' got turned into a, if not the, pre-justification and an invisible mark (=>anyone could become a slave) became a visible one (black => natural slave) because the old hand wave did not work anymore.

Hartmut - interesting find.

Not to steer off-topic, but relate to it: the racial angle (probably not incoincidentally) was also the justification used by the Mormons from their origins in the 19th century, for quite deep into the 20th, to bar blacks from their church, as their pigment bore the `mark of Cain`.

When the Internal Revenue Service (our tax authorities) threatened to revoke the LDS Church`s tax-exempt status in the 1970s because of this piece of institutional discrimination, the president of the church at the time received a `vision from God` to remove that bar.

Yes, the Brits got a lot wrong. They got a lot right, too, as did the US. On balance, perhaps a somewhat precarious balance, Western imperialism, because it was joined with and enhanced Western liberalism, was a plus for the world.

This judgement is just as guilty of applying modern values in hindsight as the critical ones you derided upthread. Fair's fair; if modern values can't be used to judge nations of the past as meriting condemnation, they can't be used to deem them laudable either. You can have both, or you can have neither, but you have to choose.

I tend to feel a large component of the Britain vs France in the colony sweepstakes was the fact that Britain came out of WWII with perhaps a little less loss of face than France. France, having been occupied with only the figleaf of the Vichy government to assuage it, came out of that time very eager to build itself back up, which meant keeping colonies were much more important to them. De Gaulle's Force de Frappe. In fact, the French were so eager to keep Vietnam after the War that it rearmed and employed Japanese soldiers.

Good question. With regard to Africa, the joke, though not always quite one at that, was that Britain got all the "good bits," while France was left with mostly Saharan Africa. But there's a historical factor that plays in that: my understanding is that sub-Saharan Africa was probably already more mercantile, more prosperous, to begin with, so the British perhaps lucked out by taking over places that had something of a mercantilist infrastructure to begin with.

Another factor may have been - and here I'm really guessing, so any are free to pillory me mightily if I'm wrong - that the British seemed to be more willing to, if not exactly "go native," then adapt to aspects of the local cultures amiable to them in the places they set deep roots in (India is a notable example of this), while the French didn't appear to be willing to do this to quite that extent. There has always been a sense, to me, that the French tended to keep the local cultures more at arm's length. That might account for why, on balance, more of the former British colonies probably have ended up in better shape (and if not, then at least less screwed up - notable exceptions being Idi Amin-era Uganda, Sierra Leone in the 1990s, and Zimbabwe now of course, just to name African examples). They left educational and other institutional structures with just enough of a "native" flavor that their postcolonial governments in turn could better avail (or again, could jumpstart postcolonial governance better as it had caused less damage).

I'll try to factcheck this - but I seem to remember reading that the single largest contingent of legionnaires in the Foreign Legion in the French-Indochina war were German - a fair number who were ex-Wehrmacht, with probably at least some ex-SS (LJ and Hartmut, weigh in here when you can if you know I'm wrong).

dr ngo: yes, you are correct about SE asia...I pushed the argument further than I should have.

I still think that geography (and climate and microbiology) have a larger effect than 'Brit culture' vs 'French culture' on the countries.
Frex, Africa is where humanity evolved, and where many disease organisms co-evolved with humanity. Humans in Africa are still paying a price for that.

But hang on, there's two types of 'colonies' that may make a larger difference: cases like N. America and Australia, where there was large population influx from the colonizer, pushing native populations to minority status; and cases where the `colonizer' just displaced the ruling class, but the native population remained the majority. In one case, the culture transfer is organic, in the other, it's mostly by osmosis.

Britain used both models, France mostly did the latter, except in Algeria, which didn't turn out so well.

McK, you forgot the 1st/2nd opium wars.

That's why he said it was a partial list. He also omits the series of aggressive wars involved in the annexation of Ghana, the war against Zanzibar, famous as the shortest in history, the annexation of various Indian states and the little incident beginning in 1812 with included a notorious occupation of some capital city or other.

There was always anti-slavery sentiment in the Anglosphere. Slavery in England was abolished by William the Conqueror, and the status of slaves brought to England from America and the Caribbean was a legal minefield throughout the 18th century until they were ruled to be free by the Kings Bench in 1772 (this obviously didn't affect their status in the colonies, but it certainly influenced opinion there.) Anti-slavery views and organisation grew alongside the institution - Aphra Behn was producing anti-slavery literature in the 17th century. It's very misleading to suggest that it's in some way an anachronism in its own context: abolitionism was an organic strain of ideas in the ruling class, both Whig and Tory, for as long as the issue existed.

I still think that geography (and climate and microbiology) have a larger effect than 'Brit culture' vs 'French culture' on the countries.

Perhaps we should look specifically at West Africa. Where ex-colonies of the two are often alternating along the coast. So the climates, etc. are pretty much the same. (And much less room for arguing that the Brits got the "good bits.")

I'm not expert enough to do an analysis of those countries. But perhaps someone else here is.

Regarding the moral relativism of historical wrong-doings, how far behind the curve does one have to be before any amount of condemnation can be considered? It doesn't seem to me that you can argue that, because progress takes time, the ones resisting (or failing to notice) such progress cannot be at (much) fault. That strikes me as rather circular, since progress would take far less time without such resistance (or ignorance).

In the case of chattel slavery, it's hard to understand how someone couldn't recognize the immense cruelty of what was going on, regardless of prevailing sentiments about the necessity of or justifications for it. This isn't an issue like suffrage or who can get married legally, as important as those are. This is about *millions of people being beaten, raped and murdered, children be taken from their mothers and fathers, and lifetimes of hopeless and terrible suffering*. It's fncking monstrous.

This is about *millions of people being beaten, raped and murdered..."

But if you don't, for whatever reasons, recognize those people as being people, that's a different situation. Consider that from the perspective of how we look at the details of how animals are treated.

Yes, there is the SPCA for extreme cases. But PETA will tell you that our moral position is exactly like the way that slavery worked. (I don't happen to agree with PETA. But that is how I understand their view.)

But if you don't, for whatever reasons, recognize those people as being people, that's a different situation. Consider that from the perspective of how we look at the details of how animals are treated.

Even so, the inability to see the difference between other human beings and animals is, in and of itself, a bit of a problem (understated for effect). While I understand the pure logic of that argument, it serves only to kick the can, and then only a bit, down the road.

King George III often lamented the accursed, hypocritical habit of the Founding Fathers to hold the Crown to 21st Century standards of human rights and freedom, not to mention Rick Perry's refusal to have his tea taxed.

"No taxation without representation, my royal arse!" he would thunder to scurrying underlings. "Those deadbeats aren't going to pay their taxes even when represented, now or 250 years from now! "

I confess to occasionally missing the scent of burning martyr in the air a la Joan of Arc, but I'm willing to observe contemporary standards of conduct and thus forgo barbecuing Sarah Palin on a stick.

I' m personally a little sick of being held to 18th century standards set forth by the Founding Fathers today that stipulate that the citizenry may literally arm themselves with all manner of cream pies and other pastries despite the slaughter said dessert fare has engendered down through the centuries.

Pasties, yes. Pastries, no!

May we not account for advanced baking technologies, I ask you?


M

South Carolina just decided to live by Abe Lincoln's standards (well, one of them anyway) of flag representation 150 years after getting their butts kicked.

The gall of Lincoln to reach from the grave and pull that flag down!

My point is simply (1) the Union was worried about it (and some Rebs were hopeful of it); (2) "alternate history" is bunk anyway, so probabilities go out the door.

Thanks for responding; those are good points.

It's impossible, literally, for people in the here and now to estimate what factors might have been pivotal back in the day, 160 years ago. Your guess is, due to superior education, better than mine, on that point. The perception that Britain may have supported the Confederacy certainly may have trumped the 20/20 hindsight of reality in that regard.

In general my impression is that the Confederacy greatly over-estimated the degree to which they could use cotton as a lever, in terms of both trade and diplomacy.

This seems about right to me. But, as I have attempted to qualify myself: I am not a historian of any sort.

My bet is that the Brits were stringing along the Confederates, so that they would get any cotton shipments that made it through the blockade, without having to actually commit to anything.

That's an idea I could believe, but I'd prefer to have some correspondence or other documentation to confirm.

All we have from that era are letters, legislation, and the like. Outside of what is outright affirmed in textual sources, we can only guess. Fortunately for history, there's a large body of text that asserts that the Confederacy was formed, to varying degrees, to forward the prospects of slavery in this continent.

Actually, there's a lot that can be known about Britain and the US Civil War - I just don't happen to know it. The Wikipedia article on this topic lists over 40 scholarly books and articles, and I have no doubt that's just scratching the surface. So if we cared to, we would not be just "guessing."

The consensus seems to be that if Lee's northern campaign (which ended at Gettysburg) had been successful, the UK might have recognized the CSA, but since it wasn't, and since the "Trent" affair was patched up, such tilt away from official British neutrality never happened.

Your final point, however, is crystal clear and well taken. The Confederacy - and thus the Civil War - was about slavery. They themselves said so (though the Texas textbooks persist in denying it). Everything else was secondary.

the funny thing about this thread, to me, is the relative lack of interest in the parliamentary hypothesis.

that's the most interesting angle, to my eye.

I was half-tempted to take a swing upthread at McK's startling assertion that "It is bizarre to me that anyone would trade our constitutional democracy for any other form of government.", but frankly if the manifold shortcomings of our corrupt, archaic republic are so far from obvious as to make merely contemplating their existence bizarre, there's too little overlap between our subjective perceptions of reality to have a discussion.

US population 318 million
World population 7 billion

I'm not going to suggest that 96% of the world feels they can get by without our constitutional democracy, but if they were all clamouring for it, I think it would be a little more obvious.

I spent much of my working life in dealing with issues like comparative colonialisms (not just British and French, but Spanish, Portuguese, American, Dutch, and Japanese) and systems of governance (including monarchy [limited and -un], democracy ["Guided" and -un], and party-run systems, once we've reached the point we can meaningfully talk about "states" rather than amorphous "polities"). I hope I may be forgiven for not embarking further upon these themes here.

[/pompous mode] [for the moment]

the funny thing about this thread, to me, is the relative lack of interest in the parliamentary hypothesis.

that's the most interesting angle, to my eye.

I'm likely to blame. Alternative history gets me worked up.

But as to your interest, I'll take a stab at it. I think the advantage and the disadvantage of the parliamentary system is the same: it's easier to get stuff done (assuming you can build a coalition).

Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not. It all depends if the thing being done meets with your approval.

Personally, I think our current congress is pretty broken (in terms of getting stuff done), but I also (in general) don't think the legislative branch *should* move that fast. In a crisis, we have an executive branch. In non-crisis, I'd rather have a public debate and careful revision of legislation, which is a generally slow process.

IMHO, of course.

I'm not going to suggest that 96% of the world feels they can get by without our constitutional democracy, but if they were all clamouring for it, I think it would be a little more obvious.

Japan and South Korea, among others, are constitutional democracies. So are sizable portions of Western Europe. China isn't. Russia isn't. North Korea isn't.

By constitutional democracy, I mean a democracy in which the legislative will of the people or the whim of the executive is circumscribed by constitutional limits imposed by a third leg of government . For example, but for a constitution with 14th amendment language and a supreme court, gay marriage would be illegal in most states.

If someone cares to nominate a more functional, overall desirable form of government, feel free to do so. Time permitting, I'll carry the water for constitutional democracy.

BTW, I make no claims of perfection. Relatively speaking, it is the superior means of governance.

Further to LJ's comment--India is a constitutional democracy. The US was the first constitutional democracy in the history of the world. Looks like a trend setter to me.

Disagreeing with something and thinking something is bizarre are two different things, though they can overlap. Either way, I think what's mostly at issue is the "bizarre" characterization, rather than any degree of disagreement.

Sometimes your words hurt, McKinney. ;^)

Sometimes your words hurt, McKinney.

To me, it is bizarre for people who live in and benefit from the rights of citizenship in the US to desire a different government than the one we have. You might desire different policies, a different history, different elected officials, different opinions from the Supreme Court, but a materially different *form* of government? That, I do not get.

McT, you will find lots of conservatives that vehemently deny that the US are a democracy, constitutional or otherwise. They insist that the US are a constitutional republic currently but not necessarily run as a quasi democracy. There are open advocates for abandoning the universal franchise (back to landed gentry as the only voters). A lot more would at least do away with democratic elections for the senate (back to state government appointed senators) and at least one governor has threatend in the last or next-to-last presidential election that he would appoint the electors, if the popular choice did not suit him. All of them point to historical practice or intent and love to quote some founders about the danger of mob rule (in the tradition of Platon, Cicero etc. who considered mob rule as inevitable in any democracy and always the precursor of tyranny).

To me, it is bizarre for people who live in and benefit from the rights of citizenship in the US to desire a different government than the one we have.

...but a materially different *form* of government? That, I do not get.

So, say, Canadians or New Zealanders don't benefit from their rights of citizenship and are bizarre for not wanting our form of government?

How different is "materially different"? How closely do we have to stick with our exact, current form of government for it not to be materially different?

And are democratic countries with parlimentary systems all hell-holes or something?

Have my doubts about Japan and South Korea, for Japan, except for 11 months and an interregnum of 2009-2012, the LDP has been in power since 1955, And South Korea, I don't think you realize how recently they have come out of a military dictatorship. Look up Gwangju

India, again, not sure if it is 'our' form of government and I don't think you know either. Of course, if you define it loosely enough, the whole world either is or wants this elixir constitutional democracy, but I don't think it is some magic ingredient that makes everything taste better. Also, given the record of the US in overseas aggression, it may well be that a constitutional democracy is great for the folks inside it, but not so good for the folks outside. Maybe a government that is less likely to engage in overseas adventures might be better for everyone involved. So maybe it is a trendsetter.

McT, you will find lots of conservatives that vehemently deny that the US are a democracy, constitutional or otherwise.

No offense, but this changes the subject. My comment was in direct response to DJ's (and Ugh's) apparent disdain for the form of government they live under. If I'm required to address every whack doodle idea on the right, it is only fair to require comity. Assuming there are lefty whack doodles.

And are democratic countries with parlimentary systems all hell-holes or something?

Ok, any country can be a hell hole. Cuba has a constitution that guarantees free speech, which proves the point. I illustrated the difference between a constitutional democracy and a non-constitutional democracy (at which point, whether it's a parlimentary system, direct elections or whatever, doesn't matter): a constitution, *if enforced* limits what citizens can do to each other through their legislatures and executive actions.

In the UK, for example, gay marriage is legal only because it got voted in. If we waited for that in the US, we'd be a long time waiting. Whether you like Roe v Wade or not, it is the result of the supreme court placing limits on what the people can do to each other through laws otherwise democratically passed.

Neither the UK nor Australia have a constitutional right of free speech. Libel laws mean something in both countries.

So, while other democratic systems are preferable to non-democratic systems, the constitutional system is superior to non-constitutional systems, assuming due process, the rule of law, etc, that go into making a legal system work.

The US was the first constitutional democracy in the history of the world.

Iceland, the Swiss. Isle of Man has the oldest continuous parliament. Faroe Islands, also a very ancient parliament, over 1,000 years.

Swiss aside, most of those are rooted in Viking culture.

The Iroquois confederacy, also a very old participatory democracy, although no written constitution to my knowledge.

We're after all of those folks.

I'd even say that the UK from the time of the Glorious Revolution counts, monarch or no monarch.

The ideas involved are also not original with us, they come to us from a variety of European enlightenment traditions.

We've done pretty well with it, and are arguably the first of many that emerged in the modern period, but the concept was kind of in the air. I'm not sure we can claim all the credit.

So, while other democratic systems are preferable to non-democratic systems, the constitutional system is superior to non-constitutional systems, assuming due process, the rule of law, etc, that go into making a legal system work.

Subtler points than necessary to address the "bizarre." And did someone suggest not having a constitution - any constitution, at all?

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