As a citizen of a country getting ready to celebrate the 240th anniversary of its independence, I think it bears stopping to reflect on exactly what that means ... and where we came from.
While researching for my piece on the famed Kentucky rifle, I was also reading a bit on the history of warfare, and the two converged in some strange ways in my brain.
Here at Colonial Quills we celebrate not just the material history of the colonial American era, but also the spiritual legacy. Entangled with both is a political and sociological legacy that moderns are made to feel increasingly ashamed of because of the apparent social and cultural inequities of the time. Even the term “colonial” has been turned into a Bad Word, as the evils of European Colonialism are discussed everywhere.
What is colonialism, and why did it happen? Since nearly every empire in history made a name for itself by claiming lands that weren’t originally theirs, it’s unfair to lay all the blame for modern woes at Europe’s door. And people groups in general have migrated here and there almost since time began.
Over the centuries, people ventured here for diverse reasons. Some came seeking profit, but just as many came because they felt they had few other options, or were brought here against their will. Various efforts have been made, at least as we can extrapolate from our own recorded history (recorded in English, that is), by those who settled here to at least attempt to get along with native peoples. Sometimes the natives were amenable (even when they possibly shouldn’t have been) and sometimes they weren’t.
|Athens and her fellow Greek city-states were constantly trying to annex each other|
By the time America declared its independence from Britain, the Crown was attempting to contain westward expansion. I’ve mentioned before how the overmountain settlements—anything west of the Appalachian Mountains—were essentially illegal under both the British and Continental governments. Jefferson is credited as the president who most aggressively pursued westward expansion, with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Louisiana Purchase, but it can be argued that settlement across the American continent was as much an individual endeavor, or that of family groups, as it was a governmental enterprise.
Other issues that came out of America’s colonial heritage, such as the government’s treatment of the native peoples, and that of slavery, can be addressed as separate from any particular nation’s quest for supremacy, in my opinion. Others may disagree, but regardless, I feel it’s time that popular culture stopped flailing us as Americans for something that’s been a phenomenon of kings and governments since before Rome, Greece, and the Mongols.
We may not have gotten here by superior military might (it was more that we wore out Great Britain), and we may or may not be here by the grace of God (although I’d argue we are), but ... we are here. And as a republic, we are one of the most unique nations ever. Do we have things to answer to God for as a nation? Of course. But we’ve also enjoyed a great deal of blessing, all things considered.
And to quote a popular comic book series, With great power comes great responsibility. May we rise to that, again!