Tuesday, February 18, 2020

More on current Toryism

I have a week of semi-relaxation—nothing to do but catch up on all the things I'm behind on—and it got me thinking of the last post on toryism.

One thing that has always struck me is the similarity of the division between tories and the revolution in ten American colonies in the late 18th century and the current split between blue and red America. 

Here's a quote from a well-known and respected source:
The American writers were profoundly reasonable people. Their pamphlets convey scorn, anger and indignation; but rarely blind hate, rarely panic fear. They sought to convince their opponents, not, like the English pamphleteers of the eighteenth century to annihilate them.
The source is Bernard Bailyn's The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. It comes after a fairly longish discussion of the poor literary quality of the pamphlets.

The obvious comparison here—so obvious that many people have already made it—is to compare the advent of the Internet, blogs and social media, to the pamphlet writing that preceded the revolution. A revolution that was sometimes characterized as a civil war at the time.

And now we go to a really famous quote (and one Bailyn uses as an epigraph for his opening chapter):
What do we mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. The records of thirteen legislatures, the pamphlets, newspapers in all the colonies, ought to be consulted during that period to ascertain the steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning  the authority of Parliament over the colonies.
That, of course, is John Adams writing to Jefferson. There is a lot there that we might miss for the material is too familiar. Notice, for example, that for Adams the problem was not the British Crown but the British Parliament. No tory, Adams doesn't trust institutions, not even Parliament. Adams is also certain, a little more certain than was warranted, that it was simply a matter of enlightening and informing the people.

Not only at the start, but well through the war itself, the people need to be convinced. There must have lots of people who clung to the tory position or sat on the fence because they thought it would prevail and not because they wanted it to win. They wouldn't necessarily have supported the other side either. Thy had lives to live and they wanted their government to be stable.

But Adams is right  on the fundamental point: the Revolution was not the war.

If you're fan of the notion that the Revolution is an ongoing thing, we might also argue that the war was not necessary. Or rather, that Parliament made it necessary. The same might be said of the current struggle. There need not be a civil war. Whether there is is up to Tory elite. They don't have to conceded defeat, all they have to do is stop trying to annihilate their opponents.

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