Contrarian Voices

Amidst all the conservative voices commemorating Independence Day as representing the overthrow of proto-socialist England, the tax-mad tyranny in which abominations ranging from the British Health Service to Compulsory Unionism were present in embryonic form, National Review offers us a peculiar contrarian take from the native-Canadian press baron, British peer, and former resident of the U.S. penal system, Conrad Black.

Black suggests that had America remained a British possession, it would have eventually dominated the mother country and its other dominions, and could have joyfully participated in the blessings to the world of colonialism. As it was, Americans threw all this away over trifles:

It is verging on secular heresy to make the point, especially in the week of July 4, but the American colonists didn’t have much to complain about, either. The British pretension that the Mother of Parliaments could represent the Americans although they had no members of it was nonsense, especially as America had 30 percent of the population of Great Britain by the Revolution, and was the most prosperous British entity. But the taxes imposed were less than the British Isles were already paying; Britain gave the Americans a year to propose alternative sources of revenue; and all Britain was seeking was help in reducing the national debt, which had doubled during the Seven Years’ War (largely owing to the effort to throw the French out of Canada, at the insistence of the Americans). The original tea partiers, disguised as Indians, were overreacting to a tax that was confined to tea and was not excessive. Their current emulators are less colorful and imaginative.

Nobody reading Black’s piece in full can consider him anything other than a proud reactionary, but you do wonder how many National Review readers of the Tea Party persuasion are now in the process of canceling their subscriptions.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.