The year is 1776. The Continental Congress is leaning toward revolution. Those leading the charge for revolution are asking what we are prepared to do.
I didn’t like the taxes Great Britain levied on us, but no one likes taxes. The Stamp Tax was particularly onerous as it touched just about every transaction made in the colonies. We’ve pretty much done as we pleased here in the colonies with Britain so far away. Besides, the British were there to defend the colonies when the French conspired with the Indians to expand their influence over us. I remember the enthusiasm everyone had at the beginning of what they are now calling the French and Indian War. I also remember the horror of seeing wounded soldiers attacked by savage Indians, and this is the memory that haunts me most at the thought of going to war with Great Britain.
It’s true that Britain is getting rich extracting our wealth while we are denied any chance of representation in Parliament. I don’t like the idea of being forced to trade only with British companies. I should be able to trade with whomever I please. The designated British companies take advantage of us knowing we have few other options. Some have tried to deal with black marketers, but they also cheat you knowing you have nowhere to complain for redress. I was especially amused by the Tea Party stunt whereby raiders dressed as Indians boarded a ship in Boston Harbor and dumped its cargo of tea into the bay. There were wooden casks floating in the harbor and the smell of tea lasted for a couple of days. The British Governor really hit the roof over that one. Like everyone else, I started drinking coffee to protest the Tea Tax. I miss afternoon tea, but I’m starting to get used to coffee. Best of all; it’s not taxed.
Still, the thought of going to war with Great Britain, the most powerful country in the world and possessor of the most powerful navy in the world, seems to be sheer madness. How can we hope to prevail against such a powerful foe? A few have tried to stir up trouble, but they were quickly captured and hung. How does the Continental Congress propose to start this revolution? Is someone going to come forward and proclaim a revolution? Sure, fiery speeches in the legislature are one thing, but actual violence and war is quite another. Patrick Henry gave a stirring address in which he proclaimed that he preferred death over not being able to live free. I would have thought surely that he would be arrested for that speech.
There are passionate arguments for revolution and there are logical arguments for revolution. Tom Paine published an excellent pamphlet entitled Common Sense in which he laid out the arguments for separating ourselves from Britain. All fine points and nothing I can argue with. Still, it’s one thing to talk of revolution and quite another to wage a revolution. Even Ben Franklin is pushing for revolution and his son is the Governor of Pennsylvania! I’ve heard they had quite a falling out over all of this, and I can imagine why. There seems to be quite a few like old Franklin who have much to lose in a war with Britain, but are still willing to risk the loss.
The thought had occurred to me that this idea of revolution was being pushed by wealthy colonists who expected the fighting to be done by common folk while they positioned themselves to take advantage of any outcome. However, I realized the members of this group had not sought to hide behind others, and they will surely be the first to hang in the event of a failed revolution. The talk around Philadelphia is that the Continental Congress is debating a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and that they’ve even formed a committee to draft such a document. It’s said that they are willing to affix their signatures to this document before delivering it to King George himself. Such an act would certainly seal their fates.
Revolution! Have the British really treated us so badly that we should resort to such a drastic and irreversible action? The taxes aren’t really so onerous, although they may get that way. Britain will fight tenaciously to keep its wealthy colonies. They are most powerful and their wrath shall be all encompassing. It will be almost impossible to avoid taking a stand in this as those who support the revolution will expect me to do likewise, while those who support the Crown will also expect me to do likewise. I risk being labeled a traitor by either group with serious repercussions. I don’t have much, but all is being risked by a group in Philadelphia. I don’t feel as though I have a say in any of this.
This is how it must have felt to the average colonist in 1776 as they pondered the thought of going to war with the most powerful country on earth over issues that seemed reasonable when compared to the suffering and loss of war. America’s founding fathers risked everything to wage an impossible war against a mighty foe to secure their freedom. The acts that prompted their rebellion from Britain pale in comparison to the taxes and regulations our federal government has imposed upon us. Would they have risked everything if they had any idea that their descendents would surrender their liberty to the very government that grew from this rebellion? We have traded our liberty, the very thing for which the colonists fought so hard and risked so much, for the illusion of security. We should be ashamed for ignoring their advice to keep vigilant in protecting our liberty. It’s fast slipping away and the will to reclaim it has disappeared from this populace forever.