Philadelphia, the American Colonies, July 4, 1776 -- Leaders of the self-described "American patriots" movement gathered in this Pennsylvania city today to sign an official declaration of their political intentions, despite widespread criticism of a failing war policy and complaints that their military action was launched under false pretenses.
"Here it is, July of 1776, and George W. and his lackeys are just now getting around to declaring what this war is supposedly all about?" complained Loyalist playwright Michael LeMoore. "Washington and his neo-congressionalists rushed us into war at Lexington and Concord, before anyone had 'declared' a single word about independence. Face it: George lied, and people died."
LeMoore was referring to what patriots call "The shot heard 'round the world," when colonial forces fired on British soldiers in violation of accepted international rules of military engagement.
Supporters of George Washington and the so-called "war for independence" dispute claims from the antiwar movement that their actions are unlawful, and they point to their formal "Declaration of Independence" as proof.
"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," reads the Declaration in part, "that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The document was reportedly written by Thomas Jefferson, a white, southern slave-owner, and one of the architects of the "patriot" movement.
Critics quickly noted the hypocrisy of Jefferson's reference to "unalienable rights" of liberty and the author's own record of slave-ownership.
"If they really believed in spreading 'freedom,' they would free their own slaves instead of killing the British and shelling innocent civilian Loyalist women and children in Boston and New York," said Howard Deanne, head of the Loyalist National Committee. "And what of the recently uncovered Commonwealth Avenue memos, which would seem to indicate that those closest to Washington were planning for war after the Boston Tea Party back in `73? I'm telling you, the colonists of America have been misled into war!"
Though most colonists agree that King George III is a tyrant, polls consistently show that a minority of colonists support open military action against the British. Many pundits also question whether removing the monarchy will make any fundamental difference in the lives of Americans.
General Washington came to Philadelphia to report to members of the Continental Congress, and anonymous sources report he came under heavy fire over the actions of his army and the costs of the war.
"We lost 140 Americans at Bunker Hill, more than 600 killed or captured in our disastrous attacks on Canada, and there's no end in sight," said one congressional staffer who asked not to be identified. "People are asking, 'When is this war going to end? What is our exit strategy?' This is George W's war, no doubt about it."
Indeed, as support for the war among the American colonists wanes, some Quaker antiwar activists are using the other "Q" word in colonial politics: quagmire. Some even suggest that the entire war was manufactured by Gen. Washington to settle a personal score with the British over perceived insults he endured during the French and Indian War.
"Washington was just looking for an excuse to go to war," said prominent lady activist Rosalind O'Donnell. "Everyone knows little Georgie would be broke if not for his connections to major land speculators pushing out beyond Kentucky. This is just a land grab! No war for Ohio! No war for Ohio!"
Patriot leaders gathered in Philadelphia, however, were determined to ignore the mounting criticism and celebrate their unanimous adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
"I firmly believe that in the future, this day -- July 4, 1776 -- will be viewed as a great moment for America and for freedom around the world," John Adams of Massachusetts told a handpicked audience of "patriot" supporters. But neither he nor any of the other speakers said anything new about the costs or justifications of this divisive war policy, returning instead as they often do to the broad themes of freedom and democracy.
The Declaration concludes by stating: "We, therefore… declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
"That's the kind of simplistic jingoism one expects to read in Fox's Daily Broadsheet, not in serious political discourse," said Noah Chommsey, head of the political-science department at King's College. "But the idea that the American colonists have come up with some superior form of self-government that is inherently more just than, say, monarchy or theocracy, is the height of arrogance."
Meanwhile, the war effort continues. Loyalist supporters among the American colonists continue to support the British military, particularly in the South, and hopes are fading that a major European power will come to the aid of the Americans. Military analysts suggest that the American "War for Independence" could last another seven years and result in the death of up to one percent of the entire American population.
"Is a free, democratic America really worth such a price?" demanded playwright LeMoore. "I certainly don't think so. The world shouldn't look to America for leadership. They should look instead to courageous nations truly endowed with greatness. Like France."
Radio-talk host Michael Graham covers southern politics from his home in Virginia. He is an NRO contributor.
By Michael Graham
Reprinted with permission from National Review Online