Thursday, July 05, 2012
Reconciliation, Not Independence
Another clip from John Adams:
Despite [John Dickinson's] gloomy apprehensions from the failure of the first petition, he did not despair of effecting a peaceful solution of the troubles and advocated a second petition to the King. A majority of the delegates again sanctioned his policy of conciliation. Dickinson and his friends supposed that the King and ministers had learned their lesson from Lexington and Bunker Hill, but John Adams thought that the dignity and pride of Great Britain would not tolerate another vacillation toward reconciliation. Thus a second petition would be a useless gesture, evidence of colonial fear and weakness.
[T]he fact that Dickinson was the chief spokesman of reunion and that he wrote the second petition, approved by the Congress, reveals his importance as a peace advocate. No other delegate so consistently pleaded for a peaceful solution and no other delegate received greater consideration when speaking for reunion than he did. Dickinson protested against Jefferson's original draft of the petition, because he thought it was filled with too many offensive statements. Jefferson wrote of Dickinson:
He was so honest a man, and so able a one, that he was greatly indulged even by those who could not feel his scruples. We therefore requested him to take the paper, and to put it into a form he could approve. He did so, preparing an entire new statement, and preserving of the former only the last four paragraphs and the half of the preceding one. We approved and reported it to Congress.
However, the second petition enraged New England and brought on a debate which showed all the bitterness of sectional jealousies.
The second petition widened the gulf between the party of Dickinson and reconciliation and that of John Adams and independence. Thenceforth Adams found nothing favorable to say of Dickinson.
Indeed, Adams called him "a certain great Fortune and piddling Genius" in an unfortunate letter which, along with another to his wife, was intercepted by the British. For some reason, they found this a tad inflammatory:
We ought to have had in our Hands a Month ago, the whole Legislative, Executive and Judicial of the whole Continent, and have compleatly moddelled a Constitution, to have raised a Naval Power and opened all our Ports wide, to have arrested every Friend to Government on the Continent and held them as Hostages for the poor Victims in Boston. And then opened the Door as wide as possible for Peace and Reconcilliation: After this they might have petitioned and negotiated and addressed, &c. if they would.—Is all this extravagant?—Is it wild?—Is it not the soundest Policy?
One Piece of News—Seven Thousand Weight of Powder arrived here last Night—We shall send along some as soon as we can.
When 50 or 60 Men have a Constitution to form for a great Empire, at the same Time that they have a Country of fifteen hundred Miles extent to fortify, Millions to arm and train, a Naval Power to begin, an extensive Commerce to regulate, numerous Tribes of Indians to negotiate with, a standing Army of Twenty seven Thousand Men to raise, pay, victual and officer, I really shall pity those 50 or 60 Men.
Anyway, it's clear that from the very beginning, our nation has always had incivility, rivalries, petty jealousies, minor intrigues, factional disputes, etc. And yet we still managed enough unity to get some heavy lifting done.
Of course it all took a lot of time. It's not like the Founders woke up one sunny day in July and said, "hey, let's declare independence!" Grievances arguably dated back to the Proclamation of 1763, and all those sundry revenue acts and whatnot angered people who resisted with varying degrees of success, all the while wanting to remain British subjects with a say in their own governance, until they were officially branded rebels.
That should put things into perspective when you consider the modern Tea Party movement began whining about 30 nanoseconds after Obama was inaugurated. They had (and still have) representation the Colonials lacked, but lost an election then started yelling and brandishing weapons at Town Hall meetings--after ACA was upheld are now talking about nullification at best and revolution at worst. Quite puzzling...
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