Happy 4th of July!
Dylan Matthews brings us 3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake. In a nutshell (although click through for the longer arguments):
1) The Southern States would have had much less power as part of the British Empire than as half the USA, making it likely that American slavery would have ended sooner. (It’s notable that many slaves wanted the British to win.)
2) As horrible as the British were, they wouldn’t have been as horrible to Native Americans as the US government was. (It’s notable that many Native Americans wanted the British to win.)
3) It would have made it more likely that the US (whatever it would have eventually been called) would have wound up with a parliamentary democracy, which is more stable and less subject to paralyzing gridlock, rather than a system which was designed, to a significant degree, to give outsized power to slaveholding states.
Over at the Daily Kos, there are a number of people in this comments thread who do a fairly persuasive job refuting Matthews, especially on his second point. If the United States hadn’t formed and committed genocide on American Indians, it seems all too likely that one of the European powers would have. (Trying to forecast European history without the American revolution is difficult; would there have been a French Revolution at all, for example, if the French hadn’t taken on so much debt to support the American revolution?)
To the first point – slavery – I’ve seen many people point out that if the British were profiting from Southern cotton, grown by slaves, that might have meant that rather than slavery ending sooner in America, slavery ended later in the British empire. That seems possible – but on the whole, it seems unlikely that the British upper-class, even if they were getting part of their fortunes from slavery, could have been as virulently pro-slavery as wealthy Southerners, whose wealth was virtually all wrapped up in slavery.
Because Southern leaders were so passionately pro-slavery, if the British had outlawed American slavery in 1833, the result might have been Southern secession and civil war, about three decades earlier than the Civil War in reality. But the South would have had less of a chance of winning if they were facing the northern states and Britain; perhaps the war would have been shorter and less bloody. And all else held equal, it would be better to have a civil war, and an end to slavery, a generation earlier.
It would be really great to have parallel universes in which the course of history went along different channels, so that we could resolve questions like this (and also, so we could import and binge their better TV shows).
Friends are coming over to our house today; we will barbecue meat and set off fireworks (well, fountains, anyhow) in the street. I hope you folks all have a great day, stuck in the history that we actually have.