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Fri Jul 3, 2020, 10:03 AM

Trump's idea of the Fourth of July is totally wrong

Made by History • Perspective
Trump’s idea of the Fourth of July is totally wrong
Colonists drove the revolution from the bottom up, and they challenged power structures of every sort

By J.M. Opal
J.M. Opal is chair of the department of history and classical studies at McGill University and author of “Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of law, and the American Nation.”
July 2, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Last Fourth of July, President Trump welcomed “incredible, big, beautiful crowds” and plenty of Pentagon hardware to his “Salute to America” event in the nation’s capital. “That was a great success as you remember,” he recently declared, “even though it was pouring.”

He wants more of the same this year. After saluting the great stony faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt at Mount Rushmore on Friday, the president will host an Independence Day event at the White House on Saturday featuring military demonstrations and a speech about “our amazing heritage.”

In other words, Trump is ordering a Fourth of July that will highlight his power along with his oversimplified version of the American Revolution, in which people like him — white, rich and male — made things happen and lived happily ever after.

But the real revolution was a messy and bottom-up affair, a wide-ranging insurrection against all kinds of abuse and inequity. It unnerved people in power by inviting everyone to challenge them, whether at the level of imperial politics, domestic affairs or interpersonal relations.

It began in the mid-1760s, as hard economic times set in after Britain’s most recent war with France. To pay its creditors and reduce its debt, the British government imposed regressive new taxes and banned much-needed paper money throughout the American colonies. Sailors and tradesmen responded by rioting in Boston, which was full of unemployed men and war widows.

To their surprise, the beleaguered New Englanders found support from fellow colonials as far away as South Carolina, the only North American province with a black majority.

{snip}

J.M. Opal
J.M. Opal is chair of the department of history and classical studies at McGill University and author of “Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of law, and the American Nation.”

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