We called it a Declaration of Independence.
The British took it as a declaration of war – as if Lexington, Bunker Hill and the Tea Party weren’t enough provocation.
When the delegates to the Continental Congress signed the Declaration, it was, in effect, their death warrant. If Independence was not achieved, if the revolt was broken, the “treason” of our Founding Fathers would have been repaid by the hangman’s rope.
"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” Ben Franklin said, this time stating the obvious.
What utter nerve.
The British had the largest, best-trained army in the world.
If Vegas were handicapping it, the Union Jack would have been a 10-1 favorite over the Colonials.
The Patriots had a few advantages – they knew the terrain better, they had civilian sympathizers to help them and spy for them (troop movements being highly important) and developed tactics that allowed them to fight from cover, while the British presented a bright, red line, as gentlemen do.
The Americans weren’t gentlemen in the field. They were fighting for home, hearth, family and their very lives.
You could say our first “war of choice” began on July 4, 1776, but it actually began near Boston a year earlier when in February 1775 Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in rebellion. Then came Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill.
In any event, our War of Independence lasted until 1783. It was long, it was ugly and it was bloody, with the Colonials suffering blow after blow, defeat after defeat in the early years. Some 25,000 Americans lost their lives.
Now, let’s imagine. . . that we had lost the war.
No George Washington on the dollar bill. No dollar bill. No Washington, D.C. The Founding Fathers rounded up and hanged, maybe a few escaping to friendly French possessions.
Would we eventually have developed into a democracy, like Canada?
Would the United States of America be the 54th member of the British Commonwealth? (There are some surprising ones.) http://www.royal.gov.uk/monarchandcommonwealth/commonwealthmembers/membersofthecommonwealth.aspx
Would we be just one more?
Would we have developed the American exceptionalism that most of us believe in? Would the expansion across the continent that shaped the American character have happened, or would have Great Britain thought it best to keep it tight? France certainly would not have sold a British America the Louisiana territory.
Would slavery have ended sooner – or later?
If the U.S. had remained just New England and the mid-Atlantic states, would that constriction have changed our national psychology, our spirit? Would we have developed Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, Emily Dickinson, Marie Curie, Marian Anderson, Steve Jobs?
Would we be eating fish and chips instead of scrapple? Would we be drinking tea instead of coffee, Black Velvet instead of Johnnie Walker?
Would it be cricket instead of baseball, soccer instead of football?
Would Hitler have dared start a war in Europe knowing America would be in from the start?
We seem to like the Royal Family. We’d be even closer to them.
Because immigration is so easy within the Commonwealth would we be flooded with Pakistanis and would our retirees be headed to Jamaica instead of Florida?
In the last century, one by one, Great Britain cut loose the pieces of its empire. That would have included us, the U.S.
So, over the long sweep of history, did our successful Revolutionary War really mean that much?
Happy 4th of July.