Would I have supported the American Revolution?

These modal questions are tricky.  Which "Tyler" is doing the choosing?  (If I were an elephant, would pink be my favorite color?  Living in 1773, have I at least still read Jonathan Swift?  Would a modern teenage Thomas Jefferson have a crush on Veronica Mars?)

But think about it, wasn’t it more than a wee bit whacky?  "Let’s cut free of the British Empire, the most successful society the world had seen to date, and go it alone against the French, the Spanish, and the Indians." [TC: they all seemed more formidable at the time than subsequently]

Taxes weren’t that high, especially by modern standards.  The British got rid of slavery before we did.  Might I have concluded the revolution was a bunch of rent-seekers trying to capture the governmental surplus for themselves?

Or would I have been swept up by love of liberty and love of ideas and the desire for adventure…?

Or would I have estimated the long-run political equilibrium and tried to calculate when would be the optimal time for a break, in which case 1776 seemed just about right, so as to capture the intellectual Enlightenment at its peak…

Those guys expected a re-flowering of Periclean Athens; few of them were or would have been ready for the subsequent levels of 19th century alcoholism, partisan political bickering, or the later cult of Princess Diana.  What would I have expected?

What would James Madison expect today?  And would he find a TV show worth watching?


Comments for this post are closed