THE FOURTH OF JULY – a few days late

Star Flag

A woman sews a star on a United States flag, 1917

In the post-post modern post colonial west, particularly among its disciples in liberal Europe and even aux Etats Unis [such as Hakim Bey] have been busily propagating the idea that the American Revolution of 1776 represented some kind of an anti-colonialist movement that once having achieved a kind of hegemony over the natives decided it no longer needed the protection of the motherland to secure their power rose up against their former masters cast and them off.

This point of view is of course factually and demonstrably false.

Years after the revolution one New England veteran of the battles of Lexington and Concord spoke very directly to the reasons why he picked up arms against his relatives from Old England. In 1843, Captain Levi Preston was 91 years old. A young scholar, Mellen Chamberlain, was researching the American War for Independence, and he had the occasion to interview Preston. This is the conversation as Chamberlain reported it:

Chamberlain: “Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord fight?

Captain Preston replied: “What did I go for?”

Chamberlain continued: “Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

Captain Preston replied: “I never saw any stamps and I always understood that none were sold.”

Chamberlain: “Well, what about the tea tax?”

Preston: “Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff. The boys threw it all overboard.”

Chamberlain: “I suppose you had been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

Captain Preston: “I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ Psalms, and hymns and the almanacs.”

Chamberlain: “Well, then, what was the matter?”

Captain Preston: “Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”


From the moment they stepped of their ships from Europe, long before the issue of their relationship with the continent’s earlier inhabitants was settled, American colonists understood themselves to be, and acted as if they were a free, self governing people. Every colony had its legislature, and every town, village, and settlement had it’s proper governing body. It was the unjust infringement upon liberties that were already secure, but in danger of being lost, that caused Americans to rise up in revolution against their brethren in the old country. From the American perspective it was a civil war rather than a rebellion, Americans had been under the yoke of no one and intended no yoke be placed upon them.


The course of American history since 1776 has been the slow, ofttimes difficult and fractious, extension of the franchise of liberty from the enfranchised to the disenfranchised by the petition of the disenfranchised to the ultimate assent of the enfranchised. This has been the case because the natural idea, the ideal that makes America, America, cannot stand an enfranchised and a disenfranchised because we hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which, are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, it may be that the enlightenment ideal of natural law is a polite fairytale that we tell each other to keep ourselves free from the tyranny of our neighbors, but it is a necessary fairytale, and it makes us more free than the story that some of us are in fact: more intelligent, stronger, more powerful, richer, better educated than our brethren should be the ruling fairytale of our domain.

This lesson needs to be learned again by every generation. Every generation forgets and every generation learns it anew: how to extend the blessings of liberty from those who are enfranchised to those who are not with less pain, and less bloodshed than the generations who have gone before and at the same times remain inalienably American.

~  Wygart

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