Reflections on the American Revolution – Gerry Nicholls


July 4th Last year, I really got into the spirit of American Independence Day.

I was living in the United States at the time, working as a consultant for a political campaign in New Hampshire.

And I as came to learn, working on a political campaign in New Hampshire, requires lots of “retail politics.”

That includes marching in Independence Day parades in small towns all across the state.

Apparently, such parades are a tradition in New Hampshire, and it’s also a tradition for political candidates to march in them, along side high school marching bands, clowns and beauty contestant winners.

So I marched, placard in hand, waving to the crowds in town after town.

It was a tiring experience (I must have marched about 200 miles) and I almost died from heat stroke, but it was still great fun; and despite my non-American status, I got caught up in the Fourth of July spirit with all its flag-waving and patriotism.

That might not have been the case at one time of my life.

In my younger days, I bought the Loyalist spin about the American Revolution.

That is the Revolutionaries–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams–were the bad guys, ungrateful colonists who should have been more than happy to pay the bloody tea tax.

The Redcoats, on the other hand, were the good guys–and oh yeah, even though they lost the Revolutionary War, they made up for it by winning the War of 1812.
When I got older and wiser, however, I came to see things differently.

The American Revolution, after all, didn’t produce a “Reign of Terror” or gulags or “Mad Mullahs”.

Whereas other famous revolutions were all about using the powers of the State to create some sort of socially engineered utopia, the American Revolution was simply about government leaving people alone.

What a wonderful idea.

As Jefferson made it clear in the Declaration of Independence, government “derived its powers from the governed” and was instituted to secure the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And while they were pursuing happiness, a group of extraordinary Americans created one of the most brilliant documents ever written: the U.S. Constitution.

This Constitution was designed specifically to check and therefore limit government powers.

Now that’s revolutionary.

So now I am glad George Washington and company thrashed the Redcoats and won their independence.

That victory helped make at least part of the world a better and freer place.

But I still think the British won the War of 1812.

Gerry Nicholls


Gerry Nicholls is editor of Freedom Forum

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