Forum editorial: Rebels set the tone for nation
History tells us the sentiment for independence among American colonists in 1776 was not universal. About a third of the population was loyal to England. Another third was disengaged from the politics and social currents of the day. Another third...
History tells us the sentiment for independence among American colonists in 1776 was not universal. About a third of the population was loyal to England. Another third was disengaged from the politics and social currents of the day. Another third was composed of rebels. The character of the nation would be established by the rebel third.
The United States has always been a nation of rabble-rousers, quarrelsome factions and self-righteous zealots. The founders, a rather homogenous gaggle of landowners and businessmen, were imbued with a distrust of government borne of their outrage over what they believed was application of English power bordering on persecution.
When they rebelled both intellectually and with arms, they established a feisty nation that had dared challenge the world's greatest military and economic power. That the Americans won is one of those anomalies of history during which all the stars aligned in favor of the rebellious colonies. Had England not been otherwise occupied with its overreach in Europe and other places, and with a monarchy in chaos, the outcome for the self-proclaimed United States might have been different.
Nonetheless, this nation was born in conflict, not only with England, but also among forces, factions and special interests in each of the colonies - the new states. From then until now, Americans would distinguish themselves as a fractious lot that thrives on head-to-head family fights that sometimes lead to violence (the Civil War), but most often test their mettle and forge the character of a stronger and stronger nation.
The United States is in one of those acrimonious periods now. Divided by political persuasion, economic status and even regional priorities, the nation is engaged in a debate over the role of government, the outcome of which is anything but certain.
But isn't that the way it's always been for Americans? The great nation-changing debates of the past - slavery, Vietnam, labor laws, civil rights - have always been contentious, even violent. And much of it is rooted in the original clash of visions first articulated by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
So as we celebrate Independence Day today, we should take time to understand who we are - how we became who we are. The founders knew what they were doing when they cobbled together a brilliant system that invites, indeed demands, conflict, disagreement and raucous, often uncivil debate. We're stronger because of it.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.