We Could All Have Been Canadians

Rethinking the American Revolution

And what if it was a mistake from the start?  The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them?  The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy.  Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries.  No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner.  No “peculiar institution,” no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath.  Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant.  We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth…

Adam Gopnik

“The New Yorker”, May 15, 2017