THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
What could possibly be more sacrosanct than our casting off the colonial yoke of Great Britain, a momentous occasion that permitted the world's greatest democratic experiment to move forward? I'm as big a fan of democracy as anyone else, but the Revolution falls far short of striking a blow for the rule of law.
It's crucial to remember that the Patriots
(a minority of American colonists who engaged in hostilities) fought for
over a year with no intention of separating from Great Britain. It
was not a war of national liberation until 1776; up until that time, Patriots
were battling in order to restore the situation to what it was before 1763:
existence within the empire, but with lax British enforcement of long-standing
laws. This is important because France, still seething over
its expulsion from North America after losing the Seven Years War to Britain,
provided the Patriots with a steady stream of armaments throughout this
period. Although international law was nowhere near as articulated
as it is today, supplying arms to insurgents against a recognized government
was illegal. In other words, if a group of nations acted strictly
according to the dictates of international law, they would have been perfectly
justified in aiding Great Britain against France. Luckily for the
Patriots, however, no one really cared about international law; Spain and
Holland eventually joined France in fighting the British. But for
this tag-teaming, the United States never would have been born.
If that seems like splitting hairs, let's
examine an event in the Revolution that has come back to haunt the United
States in its dealings with other countries in more recent times: expropriation.
Under modern international law, a country can take over foreign-owned property
if it pays compensation to the owner. Some countries, such as Guatemala
and Cuba, have taken American property without paying proper compensation,
thereby causing our government to lambaste them as outlaws. It just
so happens that during the American Revolution, Patriots financed the war
effort by seizing the property of Loyalists (the majority of colonial British
subjects who chose not to take up arms). After the war ended, these
former Loyalists set up shop in Canada without receiving any recompense.
It's true that compensation was not yet part of customary international
law; however, the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which recognized America's independence,
stipulated that our national government must recommend to the state legislatures
to pay for these deprivations of property. Needless to say, nothing
of the kind ever really happened. In a fit of sarcasm over the Helms-Burton
law, which aimed to penalize countries who profited form using seized American
property in Cuba, the Canadian government passed a similar bill penalizing
businesses that profited from former Loyalist property in the United States.
For a host of links concerning the American Revolution, visit capecod.net
If you're interested in reading up on the American Revolution, BookLook maintains a fairly comprehensive listing
a host of unorthodox views, visit the "Campfire
Chat" hosted by Western Canon University.
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