In these two pieces we look at the real diversity and unity of America at its founding as these United States of America. From 1607 to 1776 a new nation was created. That nation had a unifying culture. It included a shared identity as an American. Through the same period the four founding regional sub-cultures assimilated all who lived there.
4th of July Demarcation Line
The birth of a new nation is the milestone for our American Civilization where Colonial America ends and these United States of America begin. Obviously, how we live and what we have to celebrate this July 4th 2023 is quite different from what was happening on July 4th 1776. Yet, through the passage of time, the Declaration of Independence is of more significance to all Americans now than ever. And, in a fascinating twist, Americans are at odds with one another today over many of the same ideas that embroiled them in conflict at our founding.
Our American Revolution was a civil war. Actually, it was a our first American Civil War. The Recent Unpleasantness, 1861-1865 was our second American Civil War. We are currently in the non-combat phase of our third American Civil War, 1962-Present.
ACW I, ACW II, and ACW III include conflicts of ideas that are deeply embedded in competing worldviews. The conflicts aren’t exclusively ideological. Other factors matter in every conflict – especially economics.
Yet, as worldviews shape culture and, because “Culture Commands”, every society can only have one culture at a time. All civil wars aren’t culture wars. But all culture wars are, by definition, civil wars.
Two generations before the Revolution the people in 13 English Colonies had lived far enough away from the Mother Country for long enough to develop societies that merged the four original, distinct Sub-Cultures to share a new common identity along with their specific regional identity. After 1700, the colonists referred to themselves to one another as natives of their respective colony. To the people back in England and all others outside of the 13 Colonies, they were “British Americans.” Then, in their minds and the eyes of others, they became simply “Americans.”
Identity is essential to a society, culture, and civilization.
Ideas motivate humankind. Ideas can be one’s identity.
On July 4th 1776, all loyal Brits and Americans agreed on the supremacy of Parliament, no taxation without representation, limits on government – especially on the King, the Rights of Englishmen – individual rights and the rights of property. However, one-third of the Americans accepted ideas evolved from the English Civil Wars that were counter-cultural and revolutionary in the extent of their application.
This minority of Americans were willing to commit treason and establish a new government based on the sovereignty of the individual citizen in a social compact with others delegating written limited powers and authority to elected representatives, executives, and judges. Furthermore, they were willing to fight the most powerful military in the world to do it.
One third of the Americans were loyal to the government. The taxes and mercantile system imposed on them and punishing them economically were just part of being British subjects. They were loyalists to the established government, social order, and way of life. The other third of the Americans wanted to be left alone. Ultimately, once loosened, the dogs of war wouldn’t allow any neutrals to remain so.
The long Revolutionary war, which began in 1775, lasted until 1783. About 12% of everyone who served as Patriots, died for the cause. My GGGGG-Grandfather John Bowden from Isle of Wight Co, VA, lost his brother, Jesse, in Philadelphia. Our losses in the American Revolution would be like losing almost 3 million soldiers today. 3 million!
I count the Revolutionary generation as America’s Greatest Generation. They suffered and lost more, and truly risked more committing treason than my parents’ World War II generation – as wonderfully as they preserved all of Western Civilization in a huge wartime victory. The Revolutionary Patriots set the stage for American exceptionalism – which was not ordained in the stars, but created by men and women making deliberate choices. And, I believe, blessed by the one, only, true, living God.
An American Culture
Through the heady 1780s and 1790s the first uniquely American Culture and founding American Civilization formed. The Revolutionaries had differing specific ideas about society and government. Many had personal animosities – they hated one another – and conflicting agendas. Their key conflicts in forming a better government were resolved by compromises and majority votes in the Constitutional Convention. Meanwhile, the four Sub-Cultures had been assimilating all who lived in their regions, even as the Sub-Cultures evolved themselves. Cutting across the four Sub-Cultures were the first ideas of what it means to be “American” took shape.
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