American Revolutions: A Continental History 1750-1804 by Alan Taylor (2016)

The picture which you have drawn, & the accts which are published, of the commotions & temper of numerous bodies in the Eastern States, are equally to be lamented and deprecated. They exhibit a melancholy proof of what our transatlantic foe have predicted; and of another thing perhaps, which is still more to be regretted, and is yet more unaccountable; that mankind left to themselves are unfit for their own government. (George Washington letter to Henry Lee, 31 October 1786)

Debunking myths

In his blurb on the back of American Revolutions, historian Eric Foner makes the Big Point that it was during the Cold War that a particular version of American history was defined and taught across America’s schools, a version which made the American revolution an exception, distinct and different from the later French and Russian revolutions – by contrast with their chaos and violence the American Revolution was portrayed as ‘good, orderly, restrained and successful’ (p.3), a squeaky-clean Disney version of history designed to underpin America’s claim to an Exceptional Destiny, to being a beacon of reason and light, the leader of the free world.

In this version, whereas they (the French and Russian revolts) had been led by radical ideologues and resulted in appallingly violence, the American Revolution was fought by gentleman-farmers who just happened to be wise and benevolent philosophers in their spare time. They rallied the whole nation behind them with ringing declarations of human rights, to combat a corrupt and greedy British Empire.

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. (Second sentence of the 1776 Declaration of Independence)

Taylor’s history sets out to blow the Disney version of American history sky high in any number of ways.

For a start his text sets the American War of Independence in a far broader time period, and much wider geographical frame of reference, than is traditional.

But it is the core American myths and legends about the heroic men who left their simple life as farmers to stand up to British tyranny, to defy British demands for outrageous taxes, and to forge a new nation out of the thirteen disparate colonies, which take a colossal battering.

Not only is the reality neither as simple nor as high-minded as that, but Taylor regularly takes the reader’s breath away with the blunt, matter-of-fact way in which he debunks so many myths, so comprehensively.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The dates Taylor endstops his account with – 1750 and 1804 – sound fairly innocent and anodyne, until you realise that this period covers:

  • the build-up, course and outcome of the Seven Years War (1756 to 1763)
  • the slow, incendiary build-up to the War of Independence (1775 to 1783) with its bloody, anarchic eight year duration – during which it metastasised into a world war involving Britain against France, Spain and Holland
  • and, the period I found most interesting, the aftermath of the American War of Independence – 1783- 1804 – during which the newly liberated ‘Patriots’ struggled with
    • a major economic depression
    • a huge increase in public and private indebtedness and the taxes required to pay them off
    • violent (riots, lynchings) disagreements about how to pull the new nation together

Taylor’s account of the creation of the American Constitution is as riveting as it is eye-opening. I had no idea that the chaos, confusion and violently different goals of post-war Americans led many eminent figures (Adams, Washington, Jefferson) to worry that, following ‘victory’ in the war of independence, there might be a civil war between the southern slave-owning states and the northern anti-slave states.

It is a little staggering to realise that the seeds of the great Civil War (1861-65) were evident, and were a real threat, in the 1780s. The question then becomes not ‘Why did the Civil War break out in 1861?’ but ‘How did the Americans manage to delay the inevitable Civil War for so long?’

Such was the suspicion and hatred between the victorious states and their various political leaders that many commentators feared that the new nation might end up fragmented between the European empires which still surrounded it (Britain in the north [Canada], France in the west, Spain in the south).

And – mind-bogglingly – Taylor quotes many who thought that the only way to restore order and deference to authority (as opposed to jostling anarchy) was a return to a monarchy. To institute an American royal family!

For not only was there a division between slave-owning south and slave-free north, but, throughout the thirteen states, huge conflict between those who represented money and property and wanted a strong central government to defend them (who came in time to be called the ‘Federalists’) and those who wanted only a weak central government, and power to remain with the thirteen states, who became known as ‘Republicans’.

The Republicans felt keeping power close to the states ensured a better democracy, each state knowing its own special interests best and its leaders being accountable to an electorate who knew them best.

Taylor’s account of the lengthy debates among the fifty or so representatives from each state who met in Philadelphia in 1787 to create a new constitution is among the most interesting things I’ve ever read.

a) Because if you’re interested in politics, his explanation of the numerous compromises that had to be made to please various factions is a real eye-opener about the realities of power and power-brokering.
b) Because the constitution has remained the subject of intense debate and conflicting interpretation right down to the present day, invoked all sides in the constitutional battles raging around president Trump.

It is really eye-opening to realise that the American Constitution grew out of tumultuous and vituperative disagreement among men so incensed against each other that key players in the framing (Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton) often despaired of reaching any agreement.

In fact I was reminded, as I read Taylor’s clinical account of the Americans’ ferocious squabbles, of the Magna Carta of England, signed in 1215, which was also not, as most people think, some high-minded declaration of human rights, but a peace treaty, the minimum requirements the barons demanded from dictatorial King John. It also came at the end of a ruinous war and was an attempt to reconcile warring parties, and so has much in common with the American Constitution.

The delegates came to Philadelphia seeking a peace pact to avert civil wars within the fragile union, but their rancour seemed more likely to hasten that bloody collapse. (p.378)

In Taylor’s account the American constitution is just such a compromise, designed to heal rifts and bring together fiercely opposed factions, namely:

  • the slave-based south and slave-free north (in 1780 slaves comprised less than 4% of the northern population compared to 40% of the south)
  • believers that only a strong federal government could hold the ramshackle union together as opposed to believers that only strong independent states guaranteed liberty
  • and laid across these rifts a third one, a class conflict between supporters of the rural interest – of farmers and settlers who had been screwed by the Depression which followed the war and wanted a fairer distribution of land and wealth – and the well-educated, urban elite who owned big plantations, or were lawyers and bankers who made their money from big landowners and their wealth

The drafting was a long and acrimonious process which is absolutely fascinating to read about.

The Founding Fathers of America, from top left clockwise: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson

The Founding Fathers of America, from top left clockwise: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson

After months of horse-trading final agreement on a text was followed by even more trouble when the framers tried to get it ratified by the thirteen states, some of whom flatly refused.

Taylor brings out the importance of the control of the media, the press and the existence of good, well-educated writers and speakers on the Federalist side, which loaded the scales for in their favour, as opposed to illiterate and badly organised opposition from poor farmers and settlers who lived a thousand miles away from the urban centres of power.

This political and rhetorical power helped most of the states ratify the thing, and the ratifiers and drafters then were able to coerce the last few holdouts, like little Rhode Island, until they too capitulated.

It’s a thrilling read which completely alters your view about the origins of the United States and, on almost every page, sheds light on the origins of the economic, political and social problems which it faces to this day.

Americans often romanticise the founders of the nation as united and resolute and then present them as a rebuke to our current political divisions. Pundits insist that Americans should return to the ideal vision set by the founders. That begs the question, however, which founders and what vision? Far from being united they fought over what the revolution meant… Instead of offering a single, cohesive, and enduring plan, the diverse founders generated contradictions that continue to divide Americans. (p.434)

Myth-busting

The American revolutionaries were simple farmers  Well, they certainly derived their money from the land, but both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were masters of large estates worked, of course, by slaves. Washington had a very keen eye for a bargain and was an accomplished land speculator. He was one of the Virginia landowners angered by the British refusal in the 1770s to allow enterprising colonists (i.e. land speculators) to expand westwards into Indian territory.

The war was fought by patriots Taylor emphasises what John Ferling’s book had already made clear to me, that after the first flush of revolutionary fervour in 1775 and 1776, as the war of independence ground on, all the Americans who could manage to do so, evaded military service and conscription by paying to have someone poorer replace them. By 1788 the Continental Army consisted almost entirely of ‘apprentices, transients, beggars, drunks, slaves, and indentured immigrants’ (p.195) All those gentleman farmers which the legends talk about, had skedaddled back to the safety of their farms.

American greed Nobody made noble sacrifices. All the Yanks who possibly could, bought their way out of military service. The officer class fought like ferrets in a sack for promotion and for more money. The issue of pensions for officers became such an issue that significant numbers of officers quit the services, or organised strikes while the war was still in progress, so that Congress was eventually forced to promise all officers five-year pensions.

Government support The British took better care of their soldiers than the Americans took of theirs. Congress could never raise adequate money to feed or clothe their own troops, and had to rely on massive loans from France to continue the war. In the depths of winter 1777, while his Patriot army was dispersed in winter quarters around Pennsylvania – in the freezing snow, often without tents or even blankets to huddle under, without food and without boots or shoes – Washington was disgusted to visit Philadelphia and discover it a city of fashionable balls and feasts and revelries celebrated by an urban élite dressed up in the latest fashions from London and eating fancy French delicacies.

American soldiers making the most of the appalling conditions at Washington's retreat at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-8

American soldiers making the most of the appalling conditions at Washington’s retreat at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-8

There was, in other words, as Ferling’s book also makes clear, almost no solidarity between the colonial rich and the poorest of the colonial poor who they conscripted and sent off to be blown up and bayoneted to death in the scores of inconclusive but brutal military encounters which made up the ‘revolutionary war’.

American ‘liberty’ always tainted by slavery Any slave who could make it to British lines was promised their freedom. Many freed slaves fought for British and a lucky few chose to sail to Britain when ships were evacuating or fleeing American attacks (an unlucky few ending up in Canada, where they were completely unprepared for the freezing weather).

Thus, to many rich Americans, especially in the middle and southern states where slavery was economically vital, the British represented a threat to slavery and, very simply, to their wealth. Whenever any American of the period writes about ‘freedom’, the entire concept, in American mouths, is intimately linked with – and hopelessly compromised by – the enslavement of about half a million Africans, (a fifth of the 1770s population of 2.5 million).

An American slave

American slaves

American ‘freedom’ British politicians and propagandists spotted this straight away and Taylor has a wry smile on his lips as he quotes a steady stream of British politicians and propagandists pointing out the wretched hypocrisy of white American men bickering from morning to night about the precise definition of ‘liberty’, while keeping a fifth of the population of America in chains – and all the while hell-bent on breaking through the barrier of the Appalachian Mountains to the west in order to seize and steal Indian land.

The Indians It was news to me that one of the complaints that enterprising Americans had in the 1760s against the British authorities was that the latter tried to protect the Indians by limiting the colonists’ right to seize and trade land west of the Appalachian mountain chain, in the vast valleys of the river Ohio and Mississippi.

In 1774 the British passed the Quebec Act, designed to bring order and consistency to their rule in Canada. One of its many provisions was to extend Crown control over a huge swathe of land south of the Great Lakes – southern Ontario, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota – areas which American land speculators considered theirs to buy, develop and sell on (at immense profit).

Thus the ‘freedom’ which the Patriots proclaimed was the freedom to continue exploiting black slaves and to expand westwards and conquer the native Americans.

Punishing opponents With typically unanswerable bluntness, Taylor declares that: ‘Revolutions breed civil wars’. The Patriots, utterly convinced of their own rectitude, couldn’t credit conservatives and Loyalists (who wanted to remain in the British Empire) with sensible arguments or ideas; they thought they must be brainwashed, blinded or – worse – bribed into opposing the cause of ‘Truth and Virtue’.

It is striking that 250 years ago ‘progressives’ displayed the same intolerant mind-set that they show today. Anybody who opposes the call for ‘revolution’ cannot be someone with a sensible or cautious approach; they must be a traitor, an outcast, a non-person.

Thus a recurrent theme in the history of the American Revolution is the whipping-up of mobs to attack and burn the houses of anyone who opposed the Patriotic line (compare and contrast the not-very-different mob rule in the French and Russian revolutions).

Naming and shaming and tarring and feathering Hence the extensive examples Taylor gives of the way Patriot communities sought out British governors or anyone else in the British power structure who didn’t have the sense to scarper as soon hostilities broke out.

Anybody who collaborated or expressed ongoing loyalty to King George III, or was just too slow to respond enthusiastically to the latest Patriot declarations, risked being rounded up by a vengeful mob, stripped naked, having boiling tar (boiling, so it melted their skin) poured over them, feathers sprinkled onto the cooling tar, then placed on a beam of wood and paraded round town.

Some courts had Loyalists branded on the face or had their ears cut off, just so everyone could see who ‘the enemy’ was.

So much for the American revolution being some kind of ‘exception’ to the notion that revolutions breed civil wars and civil violence. And Taylor shows how, once established as a valid way of expressing political views and uniting communities, mob attacks, lynchings, the tarring and feathering of opponents, continued  long after the cessation of the War of Independence, well into the era of disputes about the Constitution and beyond.

Lynching a Loyalist, 1773

Lynching a Loyalist, 1773. Note the Liberty Tree, in American mythology a symbol of freedom but also handy for hanging dissidents from

The civilian violence engendered by the War of Independence established the kind of raucous and aggressively violent tone of public debate which visitors like Dickens and Trollope were so surprised by 50 years later – with lynchings, particular, going on to have a long career in the southern slave-owning states until well into the twentieth century.

Taylor’s style and approach

Taylor’s style is crisp, blunt and forthright.

  • Rendered arrogant by their larger population, British colonists mistreated their Indian neighbours, and colonial juries would rarely convict settlers for murdering natives. (p.40)
  • [Benjamin Franklin argued for toleration of people with different coloured skin] Most colonists rejected his logic, preferring their racism. (p.60)
  • [The framers of the Constitution] wanted to redesign republican governments to weaken the many and empower the few. (p.371)

I’ve just finished reading John Ferling’s epic account of the American War of Independence, which deploys a leisurely, poetic prose style, and lengthy biographical sketches of key politicians and military leaders, to seek to understand the character, psychology and motivation of the men who made the big decisions and fought the battles of the Revolutionary War.

Taylor’s prose style is the opposite of rich and poetic. Pithy and to the point, many passages sound as if they’ve barely been expanded from a lecturer’s powerpoint presentation.

  • The Glorious Revolution plunged Britain into prolonged warfare with the French Empire.
  • After 1700, British America imported 1,500,000 slaves: more than four times the number of white immigrants. (p.20)
  • The culture taught women to define their lives by motherhood and domesticity. (p.27)
  • Natives exploited the competition between rival empires to procure presents from both. (p.41)

Individuals – and entire cultures – are briskly dismissed for not sharing our modern enlightened views about race and gender, or for just generally being bad. Taylor takes no prisoners on either side.

  • [British commissioner for Indians] Johnson acted selfishly and cynically
  • In the name of liberty, Patriots suppressed free speech, broke into private mail, and terrorised their critics. (p.108)

His factual statements are sweeping and nervelessly confident.

  • Patriot women felt pride in their enhanced political awareness. (p.112)
  • British critics cast Americans as canting hypocrites who preached liberty while practicing slavery. (p.116)

Moderation, doubt, qualifications, don’t seem to exist in Taylor’s mind. Softening words which might qualify his judgments, words like ‘some’, ‘many’, ‘most’, aren’t in his vocabulary.

  • Eighteenth-century Britons celebrated their mixed constitution as the surest foundation for liberty in history and on earth. (p.91)

Really? Absolutely every Briton who lived between 1700 and 1800 believed this? There were no British critics of the British constitution at all in that entire hundred year period?

No. There is no room for equivocation, doubt or shades of grey in Taylor’s brisk, dismissive prose.

Taylor’s revolutionary aim

But then Taylor’s aim is not to equivocate but to overthrow accepted opinion in its entirety, to subvert reputations, to make us completely and utterly rethink what we thought we knew about the origins, course and meaning of the American War of Independence. (I say us: his book is mostly, one imagines, aimed at an American audience – Taylor is a professor of history at Virginia University, and this book is published by an American publisher.)

The sub-title, A continental history, is the key. As in the prequel to this book, the stunningly eye-opening American Colonies, Taylor’s avowed aim is not just to broaden our thinking about early American history, but to smash the bonds which have held it in prison for generations.

For two hundred years research, thinking and writing about America have been conducted in terms of white European men, focusing on the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ who settled New England, and following a lineage of Protestant dissent through to the ‘Founding Fathers’, who created the noble Constitution.

Taylor’s books aim to show this tradition up for the travesty it is, and to utterly transform it.

The earlier book, American Colonies, starts with the first people to cross the Barents Strait from Siberia around 15,000 years ago, and describes how they spread across the continent, developing differing cultures to cope with the huge variation of ecosystem they encountered, until the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego was reached some 8,000 years ago.

He then describes how the Norse settled Greenland and then reached Newfoundland around 1,000 AD.

Then Columbus came in 1492, bringing with him the brutal system of slave plantations which the Spanish had perfected on the Canary Islands.

The conquistadors first colonised the West Indian islands, then attacked mainland Mexico, destroying empires and enslaving peoples wherever they went. The Spanish explored up into Florida, where they spread diseases which ravaged the civilisations of the Mississippi basin, and also sent explorers and Christian missionaries across the arid deserts of New Mexico and up the California coast.

In other words, an absolutely vast amount of human activity had been taking place on on the American continent for millennia before the English Pilgrim Fathers ever arrived. American history did not start with the Pilgrim Fathers.

And to think so is to submit, acquiesce and accept the very narrow, blinkered myth of America as a land of high-minded white Protestant farmers – that myth of ‘American exceptionalism’ which Eric Foner claims was fostered and crystallised during the Cold War.

Even once the white English settlers arrive in New England, they remain only a part, a tiny fragment, of the vastly wider network of human activities which comprise American history. It is impossible to understand how American developed unless you grasp:

Geography

How the different geography and ecosystems of the Atlantic coast determined what could be grown in each region and therefore what kind of social systems developed there. Thus the West Indies turned out to be ideal for growing sugar, which requires enormous amount of physical effort and so it was these islands that saw the rise of vast plantations worked by enormous workforces of slaves brought over from Africa, and the rise of a relatively small network of rich plantation owners.

Sugar grew less well in the land surrounding the big Chesapeake Bay (which became Virginia) but tobacco did. Again requiring intensive labour, and so big plantations of enslaved Africans.

But from New York northwards the climate was more like Europe and so farms for livestock or crops were more suitable, which tended to remain smaller, mostly family-run affairs. Hence there was never any need for slaves in the north and, though there were some, the slave population was always small.

The Atlantic economy

The intricacy of the Atlantic economy, whereby British ships bought slaves on the west African coast, shipped them to the Indies and Virginia, picked up sugar, rum and tobacco, carried these north to New England where they picked up grain and raw materials, and then sailed back to Britain, or swapped them for foodstuffs and linen which could also be taken across the sea to Britain, or sailed back south to feed the ever-hungry slave populations.

All parts of this triangle of trade became wealthy, and Taylor is brilliant at conveying the unremitting interlockedness of so many different peoples and cultures, towns and nations, agricultures and technologies, all around the Atlantic coastline.

Background to the American Revolution

This – the gist of American Colonies – is all recapped at speed in the first 50 or so pages of American Revolutions, the context for the series of conflicts between Britain and France which took place in Europe and around the world throughout the 18th century: to be precise, from 1689 to 1763.

The last of these conflicts took place from 1756 to 1763. The British called it the Seven Years War, although the colonists called it the French and Indian War, as that was who they were fighting.

The British won the Seven Years War, making massive gains in India, and in north America, seizing all of Canada from the French (along with some smaller West Indian islands and Louisiana).

But it had been a costly war, and when Britain began to raise taxes on the colonists to pay for the British soldiery and the new forts built to protect them, the colonists balked at the new taxes.

At least, that’s the conventional story – but, as usual, Taylor goes way beyond this, to describe another, previously overlooked and far less creditable source of conflict – the colonists’ relentless thirst for new land which brought them into conflict with the Indians, and with the British Imperial authorities who had pledged to protect the Indians and limit the colonists’ westward expansion.

In other words, there was more to the American rebellion than the high-minded rhetoric about taxation and representation would suggest. Characteristically, Taylor points out that Benjamin Franklin who represented himself as an honest man of simple tastes, was himself involved in some breath-taking land speculations just before war broke out. Taylor also chooses to debunk Daniel Boone – for generations painted as a true-hearted son of the soil – revealing that he also was in it for the money.

A veteran hunter, Boone knew the best routes over the mountains to the finest lands in Kentucky. Folklore casts Boone as a nature-loving refugee from settled civilisation; in fact, he helped land speculators fill the forest with farmers. (p.81)

Thus Taylor proceeds, in his short sharp prose larded with unforgiving judgements, as detached from his subject as a Martian examining an alien species.

Patronising

Sometimes Taylor’s explanations seem patronising – as when he explains that a society based on deference meant that the ‘common’ people were expected to defer to their ‘betters’ – as if these were ideas nobody had heard of till his book.

Similarly, he explains that colonial high society was based on status, part of which was being seen to wear the latest fashions from London – as if the rich trying to outdo each other was a practice unheard of anywhere else, at any other period.

Elsewhere, he explains that ‘Christians’ spurned the rewards of this world because they believed in a place called ‘heaven’ where all their good behaviour would be rewarded for ‘eternity’ – as if nobody had ever heard of these ideas before.

In fact, he often sounds precisely like a politically correct American university professor lecturing 18 year-old American students who appear to have no idea what an ‘aristocracy’ or ‘status symbols’ or ‘deference’ are, what Christianity or any other belief system is, until they step into his lecture hall. He takes absolutely no prior knowledge for granted. Sometimes it grates on those of us who do know what a society based on deference means, and have read a bit about Christianity.

Clean slate

But then this is all part of his strategy – which is to step right back from the period, from all the well-established narratives, legends and myths, and from the blinkered traditions of seeing the story only in terms of heroic, white, male Patriots striving for ‘liberty’ – to step right back, to reconsider all the sources, and to tell what actually happened, across the entire continent, to all of its inhabitants – not just to the handful of rich, white men who have usually dominated the story, but to all the different Indian nations, to the half of the population which was female, to the enslaved blacks, free blacks, and even black leaders, and also to the other European nations – specifically France and Spain – who are generally kept out of the story.

American Revolutions is a sweeping, brisk and often blunt account which debunks every conceivable legend about the origins of the United States, giving clear-eyed, unillusioned portraits of all the so-called Founding Fathers, setting all the events in the widest possible economic, social and political context right across the continent to include considerations of the Spanish rulers and French generals who played a role in shaping the new nation even after the War of Independence was concluded – of the Indians who shaped policy throughout the period, fighting on one side then the other – and of the important role played by slaves, primarily as forced labour, but also as freedmen fighting for one side or the other and, periodically, rising up in slave rebellions to seize ‘liberty’ for themselves…

The Haitian rebellion

To give an example, Taylor describes the slave rebellion which started in 1791 in the French colony of Haiti. This uprising forced the French revolutionary government to decoy troops away from the European front to sail half way round the world to put down the revolt.

But the French troops were badly mauled by the black freedom fighters over a series of engagements which dragged on for a decade, while governments came and went in Paris. Eventually, having lost over half their forces to disease and finding it impossible to stamp out the rebels guerrilla tactics, the french abandoned the effort to recapture Haiti in 1803.

Taylor then produces a great coup d’imagination by showing that it was this experience of having his forces pinned down and worn down in the Americas, which prompted the new French ruler, Napoleon, to also dispense with his other territory in the continent, the vast territory known as Louisiana, which he knew he would never have the resources, money or manpower to defend. So Napoleon sold it to President Jefferson in 1804, doubling the size of America at a stroke.

In traditional tellings, this development comes from left field, as an unexpected bonus. But it is the main purpose of Taylor’s account to present a fully integrated history of early America and all its peoples, across the entire region, showing how America was never a land apart, but always intimately linked to the three major European empires and the extraordinarily tangled network of trade in raw materials, goods and people which criss-crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the centuries leading up to Independence.

So that Taylor presents the wide perspective which allows us to understand that it was the slave rebellion in Haiti which persuaded Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the Americans – to put it another way, it was the efforts of black rebel slaves which enabled America to more than double its territory in 1804.

Again and again Taylor’s broad views and panoramic understanding allows him to shed drastic, and exciting, new light on familiar events.

America is not exceptional

Above all American Revolutions makes you realise that – as per Foner’s insight quoted at the start of this review – America is just another country like any other – and that even in its founding period it was characterised by the same kind of poverty, exploitation, corruption, hypocrisy and violence as was to be found in the very European nations it claimed to be superior to.

Except that it also carried the additional burden of bearing, from birth, the twin Original Sins of

  1. the mass enslavement of black Africans
  2. the calculated wiping-out of the native American peoples

Sins which will dog American politics and culture for as long as there is an America.


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