By then, the king’s authority in America had been practically demolished, and his imperial interests elsewhere were being challenged. America was on its way to securing an independent destiny, basing the case for separation upon differences rather than likenesses between the two countries. Yet, the new nation revealed a natural kinship with the old world it professed to reject – not only with England, but with numerous other countries. In his Common Sense, Thomas Paine castigated the “false, selfish, narrow, and ungenerous” notion that England was the parent, or mother country of America. “Europe, and not England,” he protested, “is the parent country of America.” The New World had for years, he added, offered asylum to the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty “from every part of Europe.” That observation was heartily endorsed just a few years later by Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, former French soldier and sometime resident of New York, in his Letters from an American Farmer. “What then is the American, this new man?” he asked in a widely quoted passage from that book. “He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. . . . Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”
Such observations were justified. One-third of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were of non-English stock, eight being first-generation immigrants. It was in recognition of the mixed European background of so many Americans that John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson later proposed that the official seal of the United States bear the national emblems of Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and Holland as well as of England, thus “pointing out the countries from which these States have been peopled.” (This idea was abandoned.) The list might well have been much longer. There were Jews from Eastern Europe and from Spain and Portugal (via South America), Swedes, Walloons, Swiss, and still others. Many came, as Paine stated, in search of asylum. But they also came with an intent to preserve and refresh those aspects of life in their homelands which they best remembered and most highly valued.
In the world of 1776, Europe boasted a rich civilization, alive with dynamic ideas and with flourishing arts, with promising new concepts and methods in the sciences. The rudiments of modern industry and business administration were well founded, and social reforms were being undertaken, which Europeans took with them as they colonized and traded. They had come in contact with Eastern civilizations, above all, China, and this experience added significantly to the cosmopolitan culture of the Continent. The Pacific Ocean had been explored, and Australasia discovered; the knowledge gleaned from such expeditions was accelerating an ecological revolution of universal importance. This abundance of experience and knowledge that characterized the world of 1776 was the inheritance America shared as a birthright.
From The World in 1776
by Marshall B. Davidson
Kindle Locations 237-261
* * * *
This early diversity has been an ongoing interest of mine. I noticed this passage and was reminded again of this less known side of American history.
What particularly caught my attention was that, “One-third of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were of non-English stock, eight being first-generation immigrants.” It wasn’t just that several of the colonies had non-English majorities. The non-English ethnicity was even a major part of the ancestral background of the so-called founding fathers, among others in the upper classes.
I always wonder why such amazing facts aren’t typically taught in US schools. This is the kind of thing that would make history more interesting to students. Instead, we get over-simplified and dumbed-down boring accounts of our shared past. The actual full history would be too radical for respectable public consumption.
For more details, see my previous posts:
“Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.”
General American and the Particulars of Our Origins
The Root and Rot of the Tree of Liberty
The Fight For Freedom Is the Fight To Exist: Independence and Interdependence
11 thoughts on ““…from every part of Europe.””
I think that the US has traded one set of masters for another.
That and the new boss knows how to exploit popular anger.
The Southern Strategy has been perfected.
That is a good article. It gets at some of the problems. For example:
“In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.”
So, it isn’t necessarily people voting against their self-interest. Rather, it’s people having given up on voting at all, either supposedly for or against their self-interest. They’ve lost faith that it makes any difference. Considering what has become of the Democratic Party, who is to blame them. They have no real option of either party representing their self-interest.
Still, the author doesn’t quite grasp what is going on:
“THAT pattern is right in line with surveys, which show a decades-long decline in support for redistributive policies and an increase in conservatism in the electorate even as inequality worsens.”
I’ve looked at the polling data. It’s not what people expect. Most Americans are increasingly in support of economic populism and progressivism. But fewer and fewer Americans are voting. It’s the loss of influence with growing economic inequality being directly correlated to political power inequality, as politicians do whatever big money and big biz tells them to do. Who can honestly tell voters, in our present plutocracy and corporatocracy, that there vote makes a damn bit of difference?
The author touches upon this issue, even though he doesn’t quite understand its significance:
“Meanwhile, many people who in fact most use and need social benefits are simply not voting at all. Voter participation is low among the poorest Americans, and in many parts of the country that have moved red, the rates have fallen off the charts. West Virginia ranked 50th for turnout in 2012; also in the bottom 10 were other states that have shifted sharply red in recent years, including Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.”
He can’t quite grasp why the poor feel disenfranchised:
“In the spring of 2012, I visited a free weekend medical and dental clinic run by the organization Remote Area Medical in the foothills of southern Tennessee. I wanted to ask the hundreds of uninsured people flocking to the clinic what they thought of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, whose fate was about to be decided by the Supreme Court. I was expecting a “What’s the Matter With Kansas” reaction — anger at the president who had signed the law geared to help them. Instead, I found sympathy for Mr. Obama. But had they voted for him? Of course not — almost no one I spoke with voted, in local, state or national elections. Not only that, but they had barely heard of the health care law.”
I know many people who have experience the reality of Obamacare. It isn’t all that great. Many people have far worse health insurance than they had before. It has increased bureaucracy, but it never solved the problem. It actually made the problem worse, for the problem wasn’t health care but insurance. Obamacare gave more power and profits to the insurance companies who were the source of the problem. But wealthier people like this author are so disconnected from reality on the ground that they can’t understand. Democrats aren’t the friend of the poor, even if they are lesser evil.
The sad thing is the nurse in the article. She votes in contempt of the people because she thinks they are benefiting from the system. Actually, if you read the reader’s picks of comments in the article, a nephrologist there and another MD are shocked at that nurse.
Obamacare has been a big handout in many ways to the insurance HMOs. They wrote most of the legislation and it favored them. There was never a serious discussion that needed to be had about universal healthcare. That’s a huge mark on the Obama Administration.
The Democrats haven’t done much. The reason why I think that It’s Sanders or it doesn’t matter is Sanders is the closest thing we’ve seen in a long time to someone like FDR (even he wasn’t perfect, but a lot better than the current lot of politicians).
It seems America has a choice. It can choose to be more like Canada and the Nordic nations or it can choose to be a giant version of the Deep South or a Banana Republic.
Yeah. We’re on the same page.
Many left-wingers like to dismiss Sanders. I understand their reasons. They are often correct about what they say.
But in another sense they are missing the point. Sanders is the most left-leaning mainstream politician in recent history. It’s quite possible we will never see another viable candidate this far left for the rest of our lives.
Sanders isn’t perfect. Still, he is a step in the right direction, even if in the big picture it’s just a baby step. We either start shifting the political spectrum left or we prepare ourselves for disastrous decline and conflict, which could just as easily lead to a fascist police state as to violent revolution.
Dismissing even small movements toward the public good isn’t wise, when we are so close to the edge of things getting far far worse. We are getting awfully close to a breaking point, if something doesn’t change soon. I’d rather not see what happens when society goes over the edge.
I’m not so cynical as to hope for mass destruction and collapse.
I suspect that the US is also near the point of something breaking. Lots of people are where they cannot take it any longer.
The breaking point could lead to another New Deal, perhaps this time with a welfare state comparable to the Nordic nations or it could lead to something like Germany in the 1930s.
It seems like Sanders if he wins could be one agent for change. Keep in mind that he will be facing the rich Establishment and the corporations. Whoever tries to fight for the rest of society will be up against a huge resistance.
We will know by this time next year.
I suspect that there is also the possibility of a Trump presidency. Considering what he has said so far, it doesn’t look good.
Part of me fears, though, that the decline could go on for quite a while before it hit a breaking point. I’d hate to spend the rest of my life personally experiencing a continuous decline, everything getting worse year by year. I realize Sanders can’t change anything by himself. But his being elected would be a symbolic victory and symbolism should never be underestimated. Reagan was a symbolic victory for neoconservatism and it led to powerful changes, including growing apathy and disenfranchisement.
The thing is, the Reagan victory pushed even the Democrats to the right.
A Sanders victory may do the same – in reverse. It would also mean a need to get rid of the Southern Strategy and a more moderate party.