9:16 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
In the late 17th century, times were tough in Scotland. The Stuarts, the Scots’ royal family, had been tossed off the throne of England for a second time, and the country had been excluded from the burgeoning English system of international trade regulated by the Navigation Acts. Even the climate was more miserable than usual: these were the worst years of northern Europe’s “little ice age.”
In an attempt to try to improve its economy and its international position, the Scottish government formed a trading company like the English had established in the East Indies and North America. Its purpose was to establish a colony and commercial center in Darien, on the Pacific coast of the isthmus of Panama. “The idea attracted immense enthusiasm among all classes in Scotland,” wrote T.O. Lloyd, “and led to disaster.” It was an economic disaster and a strategic failure. “[T]he Spanish first watched it carefully to see that it showed no sign of succeeding and eventually in 1700 they captured it.” The loss was “perhaps as much as half the floating capital of Scotland.”
At least for appearance’ sake, the Scots blamed the English for the collapse of their one and only attempt at independent colonization – that is, competing in an era of rapid globalization – but in fact, they took the lesson to heart. One of the terms of the 1707 Acts of Union with England was that the Darien investors would be repaid, but the more important, if informal, deal was that the Scots would become full partners in the British empire. “[T]he effect was to give eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Scotsmen opportunities…that had previously been closed to them,” observed Lloyd. “And these opportunities were very considerable…at the time people saw [the empire] as the largest area of unrestricted trade in the world.” Many of these opportunities lay in America. The Colonies’ rapid growth in the 18th century owed much to enterprising Scots immigrants, who numbered among the most vociferous advocates of the prospects for empire in North America; Benjamin Franklin swiped a good part of his best imperial propaganda from Cadwallader Colden, a Scotsman born in Ireland who came to Philadelphia in 1710.
In sum, simply being a member in good standing of the British empire has made Scotland and Scots richer, freer, and safer than they were, would have been, or, quite possibly will be on their own. Since the English themselves no longer seem to be very British, neither Prime Minister David Cameron nor the hapless “Better Together” campaign have been bold enough to remind voters in Thursday referendum of Scotland’s previous and unfulfilling experiences of independence.
Likewise the American press is indulging itself in an exhilarating “Braveheart” moment, and quivers in hopes that the Catalans or Basques might be next. But just as the building of the British imperial union was foundation and precursor to an American one, so might the unraveling be a similar foreshadowing. Today Britain seems to harbor the desire to be anything but great – as, increasingly, does Barack Obama’s America.
6:15 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By JONATHAN FOREMAN
This week’s referendum on Scottish independence may seem like an obscure, perhaps even Ruritanian quarrel to many Americans, but it has profound implications not just for the U.K. and Europe but also for the United States.
Scots debate independence Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By SARA LODGE
If at first you don’t secede, try, try again. This might be the motto of Alex Salmond’s Scottish National party, which since 1934 has been advocating the proposition that Scotland should be an independent country, governed not from London but from Edinburgh and able to make its own policy decisions about defense, immigration, taxation, and spending. On September 18, Scots will finally face a referendum about their future.
11:11 AM, Jul 4, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The hot dog is in decline in America, writes Paul Lukas at Bloomberg, and one thinks, "What isn't?" What institution, anyway. If everything were not in decline, then what would there be for journalists to write about (see Andrew Ferguson on George Packer and Haynes Johnson) and what would politicians have to campaign about?
10:50 AM, Jul 4, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On this 4th of July, I presume that TWS readers are soberly re-reading their Jefferson and carefully studying their Lincoln. But this shouldn't be a day of too much solemnity. So here's a stirring cinematic moment to revisit, from the 1996 hit Independence Day, and enjoy:
12:00 AM, Jul 2, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence. George Washington declared that day that “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves....The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” A useful reminder for us, in a week when we rightly celebrate a Declaration, a document embodying a great idea, that speech needs to be backed up by arms, and that all still depends on the "courage and conduct" of our armed forces.
Fourth of July reflections on the Queen’s Jubilee. Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB
It was perhaps inevitable that our Fourth of July celebrations last week might have seemed anti-climactic after the four-day festivities a month ago accompanying the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Fireworks, however spectacular, cannot compare with the thousand-boat flotilla on the Thames cheered on by masses of river-side spectators (shivering and soaking in torrential rain) or the horse-drawn carriage procession (again, the streets lined with people) from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace, the Queen regally bedecked and costumed.
12:00 AM, Jul 4, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
If you're in the mood for reading a bit this July 4th, there are many fine Independence Day speeches and orations to choose from. Here are three that I find particularly moving:
6:30 AM, Jul 4, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Two months ago, I wrote about the plight of a private, Tocquevillian-style civil association in the small town of Orcutt, California. That group, the Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association (OTORA), has raised $60,000 in private donations to build a flagpole — from which the American flag would fly — encircled by a memorial to the U.S. armed forces. The flagpole and monument would be located between a highway exit and an adjacent park-and-ride lot, at the entrance to the community’s Old Town section. But the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) refused to grant approval for the project. Finally, citing a 9th Circuit Court ruling, CalTrans declared that hanging an American flag on public land constitutes an impermissible act of “public expression.”
In the new issue of National Affairs.5:15 AM, Jul 3, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
You've reread the Declaration of Independence. You've once again enjoyed Jefferson's extraordinary 50th anniversary letter of June 24, 1826, addressed to Roger Weightman. But you're up for still more reading this weekend, and you think you wouldn't mind something that deals seriously—but also in a lively way—with the current problems of the nation founded by the Declaration 235 years ago. After all, the Declaration itself, by submitting facts to a candid world in order to justify the claim of independence, implies that self-government depends on argument and reflection, not just willful or arbitrary choice.
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