Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2, 1776 – Declaration of Representation

With war raging in the American colonies for over a year and many whispering of independence, the Continental Congress voted to act on the idea of separating themselves from England. Narrowly, the proposition failed, and the Congress would turn its attention to reforming its governmental relationship with the mother country.

Many argued that Parliament's Prohibitory Act's blockade against American shipping effectively cut off the colonies from home earlier that spring. With a blockade, an act of war, the Crown was removing the colonists from his protection, rather than a quarantine of nationals. Lord North had intended the act to destroy the American economy, but wording was interpreted differently by the Navy. Any ship bearing loyal British colors was free to pass and, in fact, under the protection of British ships.

While Thomas Paine's Common Sense stirred great eagerness for independence in the minds of the colonists, simple economics gradually wore away the enthusiasm. By June, as those still holding or at least feigning loyalty prospered, thoughts had turned back to the idea of representation. The public was indeed represented by their Continental Congress, who, after abandoning the idea of independence, created a formal declaration through a committee headed by philosopher Thomas Jefferson and lawyer John Adams, later an MP. They outlined Enlightenment ideals of what a government must to do for its people and what a people must do for its government.

The American Rebellion continued until 1778 when the capture of a British army at Saratoga, New York, prompted William Pitt to speak out in Parliament for peace. Though many were adamant against the notion of letting the rebels go unpunished, Parliament voted to end the war before it left its bounds of domestic affairs and injured their position as world leaders (such as if the French became involved). An armistice was proposed, accepted by the Americans, and envoys met to discuss terms, eventually deciding to give the Americans the representation they demanded.

The war was over, and the first American members of parliament arrived in 1780. Taxes were indeed levied, but the populace was happy to pay for the civilization they had fought hard to improve. Following the American success, representation flooded around the rest of the British Empire with towns like Manchester, outposts like the Falklands, and even parts of Canada soon holding their own positions in Parliament. These populist ideas even spread outside the borders of the empire, causing uproar throughout Europe, most notably in France's Revolutions of 1789 and 1792, establishing their peaceful and lasting constitutional monarchy.

In 1857, India emulated the American rebellion in success, and non-white colonials were given citizenship and representation unparalleled before. With prosperous colonies, Britain maintained world leadership throughout the Victorian and Modern Eras. Although the World War dragged in trenches for years through the 1910s, the Second World War (or “Hitler's Little War”) was won handily by 1943. As Communism and the Post-Colonial movements began in the late '40s, England's might began to wane, and new talks of independence are spreading throughout the world where the sun cannot set on a British Empire.

In reality, the Prohibitory Act was made against all American ships, and it was clear that the colonies had already been legally separated from Britain. The Declaration of Independence was approved unanimously and later signed with perfected wording on July 4.

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