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1765-1786: We win a hard-fought Revolution and seize its promise of liberty

1776
Should America declare its independence from Great Britain?

Point-counterpoint

After Britain imposed new and increasingly invasive taxes on the American colonies in the 1760s, resistance ripened into rebellion. But not all Americans saw the wisdom of severing ties with the mother country.



Transcript

LINDA: All this talk of Independence and Revolution... Don't forget, John – we’re still subjects of the British Empire. No people has ever been blessed with greater liberty than us. Why get Parliament angry and risk it all?

JOHN: Linda, your "British Empire" is nothing more than a band of corrupt and greedy ministers who give us no voice in government yet tax us at their whim. The liberty we ought to enjoy as British subjects is chipped away, bit by bit, with each new tax and each new law that London hands us. The way they see it, they have the power to force upon us any law they wish. You call that "liberty"?

LINDA: Let Parliament and the King "see it" anyway they wish. In truth, we are hardly penniless from paying taxes, and our ability to live life as we please has hardly been taken away by the laws of the Parliament. Remember, this is the British Parliament, the most enlightened legal body in the world.

JOHN: Enlightened enough to know they can tax us as heavily as they want to since we have no say in electing their members, unlike the English landowners, who do vote. There is no liberty when we have to depend on the good will of those who rule us and just hope they treat us fairly.

LINDA: Think of the lives that will be lost fighting against the most powerful army in the world-

JOHN: I agree with Thomas Paine when he says that "Those who expect the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

LINDA: Mr. Paine is a rabble rouser with a pen, and you are a shopkeeper, not a soldier. And what if you could defeat the British Army on the battlefield? What then? Who's going to run these Colonies better than Parliament?

JOHN: We won't be Colonies. We'll be a republic, based on the unalienable rights of man.

LINDA: A republic? Over a land that stretches a two-month trip from Boston to Charleston? We'll be thirteen republics. Thirteen weak republics, a squabbling bunch of Virginia farmers and New England merchants with nothing in common but our radical politics. As if a republic so vast could ever lead to anything but chaos and tyranny.

JOHN: Liberty will not survive on this continent unless we fight for it.

LINDA: We're free enough! We worship how we choose, we work and live where we choose.

JOHN: And should Parliament decide tomorrow to take those rights away? To whom will you turn then?

LINDA: To risk everything we do have because of something Parliament might become is senseless.

JOHN: No, it's just common sense.

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