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CONSIDERING JOHN DICKINSON’S ANTI-INDEPENDENCE SPEECH

RedlegJul 26, 2022, 4:53:40 PM
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                   National divorce continues to trend on and off. Politicians seem to show support for it in both State legislatures and some in the Federal legislature. In relation to some of the arguments against this action, I will begin studying how the loyalists, or non-loyalists who were skeptical of self-governance argued against the idea of independence, noting the similarities of those who wish sustain the status-quo in present day. 

 

                John Dickinson’s first line of his speech is quite the opening and sounds familiar. 

“I know the name of liberty id dear to each one of us; but have we not enjoyed liberty even under the English monarchy? Shall we this day renounce that to go and seek it in I know not what form of republic, which will soon change into a licentious anarchy and popular tyranny?”

                What is Dickinson saying?  He is saying that, in essence, have the liberties they enjoy have been numerous under the crown, and that to break away from the crown would lead to a very uncertain future, which would most likely end in tyranny or unprincipled free for all. Notice the choice in using the word republic preceding tyranny. That’s in line with the anti-federalists who would follow. 

“And so firm is my persuasion of this that I fully believe the most cruel war which Great Britain could make upon us would be that of not making any; and that the surest means of bring us back to her obedience would be that of employing none.  For the dread of the English arms, once removed, provinces would rise up against  provinces and cities against cities; and we shall be seen to turn against ourselves the arms we have taken up to combat the common enemy.

Insurmountable necessity would then compel us to resort to the tutelary authority which we should have rashly abjured, and, if it consented to receive us again under its aegis, it would be no longer as free citizens but as slaves.  Still inexperienced and in our infancy, what proof have we given of our ability to walk without a guide?”

                Another form of argument that persists today. The crown could do nothing, and then colonies and cities would begin warring with each other. Literally the main argument against liberty is that some warlord would begin conquering immediately, as if people would just accept that. This desire for safety, he argues, would cause people to submit to larger tyrannies. In the modern context though, that kind of already exists. Do the citizens of the country not now submit to tyranny in order to stay safe? Are we not all literally already just tax cattle? Add up all the fees you pay to government at every level and decide if you feel like you are really working for yourself. We are all slaves already, and made so by government, not in spite of it.

“Our union with England is no less necessary to procure us, with foreign powers, that condescension and respect t which is so essential to the prosperity of our commerce, to the enjoyment of any consideration, and to the accomplishment of any enterprise. From the moment when our separation shall take place, everything will assume a contrary direction. The nations will accustom themselves to look upon us with disdain; even the pirates of Africa and Europe will fall upon our vessels, will massacre our seamen, or lead them into a cruel and perpetual slavery”

                Again, the argument that without the crown, no vessel would be safe at sea, and that foreign powers would obviously invade. There was also fear that receiving help from the French would make the colonies beholden to France, something no one wanted, nor was that something France was asking. None the less, this is a common tactic even today. “Without government, what’s stopping China from just taking over?” It’s a tiresome trope. China is just as unlikely to invade the mainland U.S. as Oklahoma is as unlikely to invade Texas. They may own the politicians in California, New York, and D.C., but they don’t own the citizens. Trade would in fact keep citizens free and prosperous. It has done so for hundreds of years from Europe to Russia, trade has been the best peacemaker. 

“Independence, I am aware, has attractions for all mankind but I am maintaining that, in the present quarrel, the friends o independence are the promoters of slavery, and those who desire to separate would but render us more dependent, to change the condition of English subjects for that of slaves to the whole world is a step that could only be counseled by insanity”

                Dickinson is again using fallacy that safety is liberty. Liberty is dangerous. It is uncertainty created by individual responsibility that true freedom entails. A lesson the collective conscious of the U.S. seems to have forgotten, further reinforcing the madness of crowds. 

“The English cherish the liberty we defend; they respect the dignity of our cause; but they will blame, they will detest our recourse to independence, and will unite with one consent to combat us.

The propagators of the new doctrine are pleased to assure us that, out of jealousy toward England, foreign sovereigns will lavish their succors upon us, as if these sovereigns could sincerely applaud rebellion; as if they had not colonies, even here in America, in which it is important for them to maintain obedience and tranquility”

                He is arguing that those who are happy to see the colonies rebel do so superficially, as their own colonies (he is referring to France, who had a colonies to the west of the 13 U.S. colonies) must be maintained. It is an inference again that France may attempt to conquer the U.S. colonies. 

 “There are many persons who, to gain their ends, extol the advantages of a republic over monarchy.  I will not here undertake to examine which of these two forms of government merits the preference.  I know, however, that the English nation, after having tried them both, has never found repose except in monarchy.  I know, also, that in popular republics themselves, so necessary is monarchy to cement human society, it has been requisite to institute monarchial powers. Nor should I here omit an observation, the truth of which appears to me incontestable the English constitution seems to be the fruit of  the experience of all anterior time,  in which monarchy is so tempered that the monarch finds himself checked in his efforts to seize absolute; and the authority of the people is so regulated that anarchy is not to be feared.  But for us it is to be apprehended that, when the counterpoise of monarchy shall no l longer exist, the democratic power may carry all before it and involved the whole state in confusion and ruin.  Then an ambitious citizen may arise, seize the reins of power, and annihilate liberty forever”

                Dickinson is stating here that in the event of self-governance, without a monarch to act as the glue that holds a nation together, a tyrant could seize power and remove all liberty from the citizenry. This again, the status quo. He argues that a constitution is necessary, upheld with a parliament and monarch, to ensure liberty for all citizens. This was of course false, as the articles of confederation were excellent in all but power. The decentralized approach to holding the new states together, without any powerful authority over them was working great for the average person, but horrible for those who needed centralization to make money. It all came down to trade. A poor reason to discard the articles that worked so well. 

               Why did I choose to break down this unknown speech from a Tory who was so against independence? Because the arguments he made that day in congress run parallel to the arguments made now for the abolition of the largest centralized government in the history of mankind. The same government that ignores the founding documents that supposedly give it legitimacy. The status quo of 1774 is the new status quo of 2022. That’s something to think about. 

In Liberty