Revisiting July 4

I suppose I shouldn't get too upset when people have overheated reactions to my annual bout of July 4 skepticism. Let me just make this one point, though, namely that to say it would have been better "had English and American political leaders in the late 18th century been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together" is perfectly consistent with the belief that the English authorities bare the bulk of the blame for the split.

Indeed, my diffidence about independence stems in part from the recognition that war and separation wasn't by any means the first option of most of the men who wound up leading the movement for independence. But their efforts at compromise weren't welcomed in London and the result was a costly war. If you think that mistakes were made exclusively on the English side, I think you're being a bit naive, as these sorts of things never happen without a mutual lack of trust and some errors on both sides. But I don't think that the founders were wrong, sitting in Philadelphia in 1776, to think that under the circumstances independence was their best option. I only think -- as they themselves did -- that it was unfortunate that the course of events had taken them to that position, rather than to some form of compromise.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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