I’ve been reading HW Brands’ biography of Benjamin Franklin, The First American. As Brands points out, up to 1774, Benjamin Franklin had been a loyal subject of the Crown and had worked (as a political agent for several of the colonies) to smooth over transatlantic disagreements. But in January 1774 Franklin was hauled before Britain’s solicitor general, Alexander Wedderburn, to answer questions about rebellious activities in the colonies, including the recent Boston Tea Party. Apparently, for the sake of scoring political points, Wedderburn simply used the occasion to hurl insults and invective against Franklin.
The event was decisive, says Brands, because it helped Franklin answer a question that he and his compatriots had been asking for years: “Who were they? They must be Americans, for they could not be Britons. . . . Once the most loyal of Britons, [Franklin] became the most radical of Americans.”
With America’s elites plumping for national health care, a centralized economy, and a weak defense, it would appear that too many of us are suffering from the old pre-1774 identity crisis. Come, come. Ben Franklin sorted this out long ago. We are neither Britons, nor Europeans. Let us continue to chart our own course or American will become Europe. Greece, to be exact.
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