1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
1492, began a radical change in the world’s history. Aside from brief excursions like that of the Vikings, Old and New Worlds remained separated for millennia. Columbus’ voyage opened a collision between two worlds that have not engaged with each other since the Bering land bridge flooded over fifteen thousand years ago. I highly recommend the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond for commentary on the disparity between the worlds.
My purpose with this post is to highlight the darkness of human governance pre-America and how our formation helped break much of the norms up to that point. It would be impossible to cover the depths of this history, so I will cover broad strokes. The formation of the United States wasn’t an act of evil and certainly didn’t form an evil nation. I will argue the opposite, that the U.S., despite the scars of slavery and Native warfare, has served the world as a net positive overcoming the stains of a world through the struggle to serve as a catalyst for change.
Proceeding the ignition of the Age of Exploration and the landings of Columbus, a few European powers took advantage of the disparity between worlds. Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, then England and France raced around the world building a mercantilist world economy that served to feed the mother countries. The slave trade became lucrative with willing accomplices based in Africa, happy to make a buck (or doubloon for you Spaniards) and not be a victim themselves. These empires toppled other empires such as the Maya and Aztecs in North America and were happy to edge out the competitive Ottoman, Chinese, and Mughal Empires.
1619, with last year marking 400 years since the beginning of slavery in the English colonies, was an anchor point for our history. While the history is not clean-cut, with many slaves and indentured servants being of a variety of races from African, Indigenous, and even European populations earlier than that, it marks a point on the timeline that we can point to as a starting point for what the U.S. was born into. Slavery was not a uniquely European quality however. Despite thousands of years of separation, the North American Indigenous Empires still developed the flaw of slave ownership before the Europeans arrived in the 15th century. This as well as the Ottomans and Moors, among others, used human capital for economic gain. This was a human issue that went unresolved even as the clarity of human rights through Christianity spread throughout the world in thanks to missionaries like the Jesuits. Those who prospered under the financial gain simply turned a blind eye to that which Christ taught in the Gospels.
As the dominant empires grew and established colonies, there was little respect for even these settled populations. This elitism festered. In the darkness of this time period of tyranny, there was also light. If this was an environment, it wasn’t all a dark canopy or a lightless cave. The sun did shine and there was a flourishing even in the midst of this hyper-competitive age. A hunger began to build through the heritage of the English colonies and the Enlightenment for freedom. Not freedom for whiteness, but freedom for all man. While theologically messy, this period set up in the New World a powder keg to dismantle the Old.
1776, The American Revolution was the spark to begin that dismantling with the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” We were designed by our Maker to be free and that no man has the Right to take that away. Even the deist fathers recognized this. Our founders were unable to shake the scourge of slavery engrained from mercantilist England in their time. It would have been impossible to win both the Revolution and Civil War at the same time in 1776. Step by step in our history, we walked closer to the aim of “a more perfect union.” The framework the Founders set up would be a framework that would create an environment where tyranny would have no home and that freedom was our national pursuit. The envy of the world. What millions of people, even to this day will leave their homes behind for a new opportunity.
1861, compromise was impossible. Making two systems work to keep the House together, the slave states decided that a framework of liberty for all was incompatible for their future in the union. They broke away. A terrible war ignited across our land as we fought to keep our people free and keep us together. Whites and free blacks fought in the grizzly Civil War which resulted in the Emancipation of slaves. We would spend the next one hundred years wrestling for equal rights for all and those wounds are still healing today.
The lessons and technologies developed from the Civil War prepared us as an emerging power in what would be the greatest fights in human history. While the scale of competition between the empires of the 19th century was truly global, it wasn’t until the 20th century when we experienced not only one but two World Wars followed by the Cold War. Our rebellion against the Old World made us a force to return back and strike the heart of the truly brutal philosophies of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, Imperial Japan, and the worst of all, the Soviet Union and her allies. An even greater foe to liberty than slavery or monarchy, Marxist powers sought to enslave the world. Now that is for an upcoming post. As our history and people continue, we strive and fight for liberty. These powers cost the world over an estimated 200 million souls. Our efforts freed hundreds of millions from the clutches of evil and poverty.
By bringing a freshly united, reconstructed, and powerfully industrialized U.S. in support of and then leading the free world, humanity stood a chance in the face of extreme evil. Our supplies and fresh troops in WWI tipped the balance to victory. Our bravery, ability to fight two fronts, and industrial might in WWII created a decisive alliance. Our technological leaps because of our economical forte matched by the contrast of Communism vs Free Market sealed the Soviet destiny to doom.
Our default human condition is tyranny and human history is dark with it, shading parts of our own. What makes us different is our governmental DNA. Our foundation from 1776 stages our future, sets our aim, to create an environment to raise our children, grow our culture, and to prosper. This sets the rules, architecture, and bounds for how the culture wars play out. Just a hint for the next post. This is what it means to be American, for us to pursue Happiness is to agree on our shared identity. As Americans. Under God and indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Left and right. We’ve struggled together to fight tyranny here in our Union. First to overthrow the Old World and create a new. Second, we had to work hard to make sure all Americans were included. Third, we brought the weight of what that liberty can create to fight the tyrannical monsters of the 20th and now 21st century’s.
The actions in our history have been that of a liberator. No, it’s not as pretty as a 1940’s reel but through the gritty real force of a people endowed by their Creator, the foundation of our Nation has created immense opportunity around the world because of the blood of those who fought for freedom. When we can agree that what we are fighting for, liberty and justice for all, we’re not our own enemies. When we stand for our flag, all of this is stitched into it. Our nation and our history is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of our shared history. We have progressed greatly towards a more perfect union but not as political progressives would have us running away from it. Humanity’s default is tyrannical. We should be wise of what we hear these days or we will risk it all. As it’s been said, we’re always one generation away from throwing away our liberty. To stay true to our mission we need to use God, the virtues, and our founding principles as a compass and you can’t steer a ship without one.
Adam loves living out the vocation of marriage with his wife Ani, and proud father to Izzy and Wyatt. He loves God, getting outdoors, doing work that matters, and writing about things true to the heart.
Guns, Germs, & Steel – https://www.pbs.org/gunsgermssteel/about/index.html
Slave trade – https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/02/08/1619-african-arrival-virginia/2740468002/https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-slavery/chronology-who-banned-slavery-when-idUSL1561464920070322
Declaration of Independence – https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/declaration-of-independence/?utm_source=GOOGLE&utm_medium=SEARCH&utm_campaign=EVERGREEN&utm_term=DOI&utm_content=TEXT1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw3s_4BRDPARIsAJsyoLMo-6YTd8o8HYqQGii9FFGdbDlS3h_QnWnKFI8vetV-AR3Yb0SgbWAaAtTWEALw_wcB
WWI casualties – http://www.centre-robert-schuman.org/userfiles/files/REPERES%20%E2%80%93%20module%201-1-1%20-%20explanatory%20notes%20%E2%80%93%20World%20War%20I%20casualties%20%E2%80%93%20EN.pdf
WWII casualties – https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war
Communism casualties – https://www.wsj.com/articles/100-years-of-communismand-100-million-dead-1510011810
What We Saw: The Cold War – https://billwhittle.com/category/shows/firewall/cold-war/