Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Once More On the Fourth

Radgeek once again extols an anarchist version of what American Independence means,

July 4th is the anniversary of the ignominious death of a tyranny, not the birth of a new government. On July 4th, 1776, there was no such thing as the United States of America. The regime under which we live today was not proclaimed until almost a decade later, on September 17, 1787. What was proclaimed on July 4th was not the establishment of a new government, but the dissolution of all political allegiance to the old one. All for the best: a transfer of power from London to Washington is no more worthy of celebration than any other coup d’etat. What is worth celebrating is this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it …. [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

That is, the revolutionary doctrine that we all, each of us, are the equal of every puffed-up prince and President, that as such you, personally, have every right to refuse the arbitrary orders of tyrants, to ignore their sanctimonious claims of sovereignty, to sever all political connections if you want, and to defend yourself from any usurper who would try to rule you without your consent.

It was an agrarian mechanics rebellion that is forgotten in the Sturm and Drang of American Nationalism.

Just as it is forgotten that
the first martyr of the revolution was a free black mechanic and sailor.

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It would be the mechanics revolt in Boston that touches off the revolution.

Deference or Defiance in Eighteenth-Century America? A Round Table

Gangs of America by Ted Nace - Chapter 4
Why the Colonists Feared Corporations
In which the citizens of Boston demonstrate the use of the hatchet as an anti-monopoly device (1770-1773)

Shay's Rebellion

Which is why the earliest celebrations of July 4th were not state holidays but a mechanics movement along with protests over changes in their rights as journeymen. It was the core of the Republican poitics of the early 19th Century. It would be the mechanics, including free black sailors and tradesmen, who formed the unions as well as fraternal societies that were populist organizations in America.

Not surprisingly, this consensus proved untenable. As mechanics demanded protection for
their skilled trades, wealthier merchant- manufacturers celebrated the large scale, technologically
advanced operations that threatened to put artisans out of business. In the most insightful chapter
of the book, Peskin examines how mechanic, manufacturer, and manufacturing changed in meaning
between the 1790s and 1820. Terms that had been broadly inclusive of productive labor taking place
in rural households and urban craft workshops became narrow: manufacturing was what took place
in factories, a manufacturer was someone owning a factory, and mechanic lost its association with
craft skill to become a synonym for a factory machinist. Perversely, the Mechanics’ banks that
appeared in the 1800s had little to do with artisan labor, but rather marked the attempt of urban
businessmen to dress a suspicious financial institution in republican garb. By the late 1820s, at “the
high tide of antebellum protectionism” (207), politicians had become the leading advocates of
manufacturing and craft artisans were virtually excluded from the conversation. At precisely the
moment when “the factory system and industrial capitalism were becoming significant in reality as
well as in rhetoric” (218), it became far more difficult to assert that all would share equally in
manufacturing’s bounty. The labor radicalism of the Workingmen’s parties offered one model of
competing class interests, whereas the sectional defiance of Southern nullifiers would offer another.
Peskin observes the continuities between colonial promanufacturing rhetoric of the 1760s and the
Whig party’s American System in the 1830s. But by this later date, mercantilist faith in government’s
ability to create an economy greater than the sum of its parts had “become a bittersweet fantasy, an
attempt to hold on to an increasingly distant past, when harmony and national self-sufficiency
seemed attainable goals” (221). Manufacturing Revolution: The Intellectual Origins of Early American Industry.

One should not forget the importance of the internationalism of the American revolt which inspired both the French and the Haitian revolution. Word of which had spread from Africans in the French colony of New Orleans via free black sailors
who were inculcated with Freemasonry and the enlightenment values of liberty, equality and fraternity, as was the Haitian revolt.

This portrait (left) of an unidentified Revolutionary War sailor was painted in oil by an unknown artist, circa 1780. Prior to the war, many blacks were already experienced seamen, having served in the British navy and in the colonies' state navies, as well as on merchant vessels in the North and the South. This sailor's dress uniform suggests that he served in the navy, rather than with a privateer.

Jim Thomson | The Haitian Revolution and the Forging of America

Many Fraternal Groups Grew From Masonic Seed (Part 1 -- 1730-1860 )

Prince Hall, Freemasonry, and Genealogy

Joe William Trotter - African American Fraternal Organizations

African-Americans in Antebellum Boston

African American Odyssey: Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period ...

Weevils in the Wheat: Free Blacks and the Constitution, 1787-1860

The Revolution's Black Soldiers

Adeleke, Tunde "Violence as an Option for Free Blacks in Nineteenth-Century America"

The Racist Roots of Gun Control

Women in Antebellum America | Pre-Civil War Women | Women in ...

Also See: Happy 4th of July

Plutocrats Rule

American Fairy Tale

Secular Democracy

Slavery in Canada


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Larry Gambone said...

I note that the black sailor seems to be holding the handle of a sword (not a cutlass) which would make him an officer, methinks. I don't think it would be impossible for a Black sailor to become an officer then as revolutionary situations always give rise to a more egalitarian attitude. (For a while, until the counter-revolution, of course) By the way, good show on getting this hidden history out for people to read...

eugene plawiuk said...

No higher than a petty officer methinks which is why so many free blacks and free sailors in general turned to piracy and being the ultimate neo-con the Yankee privateer. Better Booty. As Hagbard Celine noted.

A Canadian leftie digs up America's revolutionary history, eh. Call me a poor mans Hoard Zinn