Saturday, October 02, 2010

Counterfactual: The tragedy of 1776

Looking back over my Lenin post, I guess my attempted point is that Russians honor a mythological Lenin, the man who liberated them from the tsars and brought them into the 20th century. Sort of as if Robespierre had triumphed and sent his enemies to the guillotine, and then governed the Republic for 6 years thereafter.

That is of course a dubious notion of Lenin, but comparison with our own history may at least defamiliarize us a bit. Was 1776 a good thing?

Had the Revolution not occurred or been quashed -- had Washington been captured in New York and hanged, his army jailed or routed, say -- what would've happened? Would America have followed a Canada-like path?

Most importantly, in hindsight: would slavery have been abolished (more) peacefully, without 600,000 dead in a civil war? Surely, Britain could have finessed abolition so that, however unhappy, the South would not have actually risen in arms?

Assuming that history isn't so disrupted that WW1 still occurs, does America join the war in 1914, not 1917? THAT changes the whole 20th century right there. The war surely ends much sooner, without the revolutions of 1917 (sorry, Lenin). Fewer war debts, fewer Allied dead weighing in the scales vs. Germany. Almost certainly, no Hitler and no USSR.

No telling of course what monsters would arise in their places; but I'm sure it's not a novel counterfactual, and it's worth considering.

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