There is, then, the idea of the seeker. The seeker of inviolate truth, of wisdom, or just what is right and what is wrong. I have given up on inviolate truth. Wisdom would be good, but then, I’ve never been sure that I could be trusted with it, or that I would know what to do with it. Right and wrong seems to be the simplest thing, and once we get all of the ego and greed out of the way, we all seem to have a pretty good handle on what that is important, we just have a problem showing it off sometimes.
Never been a fan of hierarchies, or arbitrary authority of any kind. There’s good all over, but to say that I have to take all of this and none of that – well, it’s just not happening. Where did that start? It started with my fascination with the American Revolution, and the ability of a few guys with an idea to change the world. Mostly – it comes from the willingness to stick ones toe in the water and say, “I will test this”. Hundreds of books and articles, original documents and arguments later, I have a slightly different view on the American Revolution than most. When I was at WSU-Oshkosh, many years ago, I had a history professor named Bob Chaffin that taught the American Revolution from a British perspective – not a Tory perspective, but rather from the perspective of the political environment extant in Britain at the time, as well as the view of the public. The course was organized around Peter Oliver’s “Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion” which, although a laborious read, should be on the reading list of everyone who has the saccharin soaked account of the American Revolution emblazoned on their mind.
The politics of the American Revolution both in its relations with Great Britain and the American colonists was a rough and tumble, bare knuckle fight. While some would claim a minority of the colonists were sympathetic to the rebellion, that’s probably not true. Americans had 150 years of operating independently under their belts before the mother country decided the colonies had free boarded long enough in their view. The war in the north became a war of attrition, and despite the inclinations of the American officer corps, including Washington, to go toe to toe with the largest expeditionary force ever sent anywhere by the British government up to that time. Make no mistake, this was the finest military organization of the time – anywhere. Washington’s first priority, and what he impressed upon his subordinates, was to always, always, always come away with the ability to fight another day. Even his victories were, for the most part, lightning strikes.
As the willingness of the taxpayers in Britain to continue to fund the war in North America with the lives of their sons and their taxes, the war in the North took on something of the look of the Vietnam War. George Washington was fighting a guerilla war, knowing he didn’t need to win, he just needed not to lose. The British sensed, (wrongly, it turned out) that there was a far higher pro British sympathy in the south than in the snakepit that was New England. They were right to the point that the war in the south was much more akin to a civil war than what had been fought in the north, but the rebels were much less interested in the niceties of European tactics that Washington had been in the north. Washington eventually made his way into the southern colonies, but his master stroke of the entire war was to send Nathaniel Green to oversee things in the south. In turn, Green’s master stroke was to turn loose the likes of Daniel Morgan, Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens. The British “southern strategy” erroneously discounted the deep seated hatred for the British of the Scots-Irish (my ancestors) “over mountain” men that largely comprised the rebel guerilla forces. When combined with the southern patriots of the rebels east of the mountains, the war in the south became a war the British could not win, and when Cornwallis was pushed onto the Yorktown Peninsula with no avenue of escape, he was forced to surrender the main body of the British Army in North America. The British, unable to position their navy to rescue Cornwallis, and with support at home in a deep decline, for the most part gave up the fight after Yorktown.
So, stick your toe in the water; start your fight – usually, you don’t need to win, but if you can just outlast ’em, you can get folks to see it your way… It’s an American tradition.