Washington Post on the American Revolution: The Fathers Blew It.

4 07 2013

Actually, that the thesis not of the editor of the Washington Post but of an op-ed by Paul Pirie that appeared in that paper yesterday (3 July). Mr. Pirie, a Canadian and self-described “former historian” who argues that it was mistake for the Thirteen Colonies to have rebelled against British rule. He cites a variety of statistics demonstrating the success of Canada and Australia as societies and economies as proof that the Thirteen Colonies should have remained in the British Empire and evolved towards Dominion status. (Of course, it’s not clear that the British would have invented Dominion status save for the fear of a repeat of the American Revolution). Pirie also overlooks that fact that some US states did eliminate slavery at the time of the American Revolution– the New England states certainly acted before Upper Canada took its first step towards the gradual elimination of slavery.

As you would expect, Pirie’s well-timed and provocative piece has generated plenty of controversy on the blogosphere. See here, here, and here. US conservatives have attacked the piece and have accused Pirie of being disloyal to the United States.

Pirie’s argument is broadly similar to one I made a few years ago in ‘Canadian Progress and the British Connection: Why Canadian Historians Seeking the Middle Ground Should Give 2 1/2 Cheers for the British Empire’. In Contesting Clio’s Craft: new Directions and Debates in Canadian History. Ed. by Chris Dummitt and Michael Dawson (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2009). It would have been nice had he mentioned my piece, but I know that space is at a premium in a newspaper piece.

I still have no idea who Paul Pirie is. There is a comedian of the same name in the UK but that’s clearly not the same individual.

Anyway, Happy Independence Day to my American readers.

P.S. Over at the Junto blog, Ken Owen explains why as a Brit he is well situated to teach the American Revolution to US college students.



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