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Monday, July 29, 2013

The labor of others

I just finished a two week trip to Denver in which my wife and I got married.  We had already gotten the legalities out of the way in May, but the recent trip was a way to consecrate our marriage in front of family and friends.  It was a great time, and I felt and feel very blessed to be a part of such a nice ceremony, part of a new family, and married to a lovely wife.  I truly am fortunate.

I am also fortunate for the work that others have put into the ceremony.  My wife did a lot of the planning, and was gracious when I was a groomzilla about it all.  Her mother, my mother-in-law, footed the whole bill.  My sister and her partner, along with at least 10 (by my count) of their friends and her partner's relatives, and a goodly smattering of my own relatives, put in a huge amount of work to make it possible.  They drove people around, made and dj'd the music, prepared the food, decorated the backyard, and did scores of other things I know of and I don't know of.  We are fortunate enough to be able to repay them for their expenses, but we can never truly repay the time they put into everything.

In my academic career, one of the key fields of history I've studied has been labor history.  I have my misgivings about labor history as a sub-discipline (number one on the list is that although its scholars have improved, they are still depressingly and predictably rigid in their supposedly "radical" ideology.)  But one thing I've learned is that things usually get done because others have done the work to get them done.  That was true of this wedding ceremony.  One's labor is not just the cash value of what one's skills can command in a given hour of employment found on the open market.  It's also a part of one's life, a gift of oneself for which money is only an approximation.

And as poor of an approximation money is, the money used to pay for the ceremony was itself the product of hours, days, and years of labor by my parents-in-law's frugality, and by my wife's grandparents (and maybe her great-grandparents?....I'm unclear on the story), who fronted the capital, took the risk, and worked hard managing a processing plant, and whose employees worked just as hard and in the process made the risks they took worthwhile.  The first order consumers, too, took the processed materials and finished them into products, and the ultimate consumers bought those products, making the entire enterprise worthwhile.  There's a school of thought that an economy, wealthy and prosperous, thrives from channeled self-interest (it's not from the benevolence of the butcher, etc) and (to mix scholarly metaphors) a release of entrepreneurial energies.  All true, I suppose.  And yet there is cause for gratitude for others who partook of the system and poured their energies therein.

One doesn't have to be an absolutist who believes that "all value comes from labor!" to acknowledge the immensity of the gifts my wife and I have received. Again, I am thankful to all my friends and family and to my wife for everything in the past two weeks.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Pierre Corneille Book Review: Kenneth W. Daniels, Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary"

(This is a reprint of a review I wrote for Goodreads a while back.  I have edited it.)

Kenneth W. Daniels is a former evangelical/fundamentalist missionary to Africa who lost his faith, convinced, he says, by reason and logic that evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity doesn't hold water. Almost all of the arguments he offers are the ones that any thoughtful atheist, agnostic, or theist has encountered, considered, and acknowledged, so there's really nothing new here for the thoughtful atheist, agnostic, or theist.  But it is a welcome critique of religious faith that doesn't rely on the tropes of Hitchensite anti-religionism. 

The weaknesses of the book, such as they are weaknesses, are few. His primary intended audience is those who are probably least likely to read the book, that is, those evangelical/fundamentalist Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. The arguments he offers are devastating to that particular approach to Christianity. He does engage other, less "fundamentalist" defenders of Christianity, such as C. S. Lewis, who, although an evangelical, certainly does not believe in the inerrancy of (most of) the Bible and who doesn't discount that humans may have evolved from "lesser" mammals.  But Daniels's argumentation is focused on addressing the possible objections that members of his primary intended audience might raise. In other words, he is not addressing straw man arguments--because those arguments exist among the audience he means to write for--but he does not delve as fully as do more self-consciously questioning theists. I'm not sure this counts as a "weakness" (he is clear about who his intended audience is), but the book leaves other readers where they probably were when they picked it up.

Another "weakness," if it is right to call it a weakness, is that Daniels does not seem to acknowledge (at least not to the extent that I would prefer) that his naturalistic worldview is based necessarily on unprovable assumptions. This is particularly clear when he spends much time debunking the alleged "miracles" that appear in the Bible. This debunking project is quite well done, but I would have liked him to go the extra mile and point out that miracles, by their very definition, are a-natural. In short, no one who subscribes completely to a naturalistic worldview could acknowledge a miracle even if it ambled up upon the water in their direction because in any such miracle "must have a reasonable explanation and if we don't know the explanation, then it's because we simply haven't uncovered it yet." Again, this isn't so much a weakness as it is a quality of the position for which Mr. Daniels argues so well.

What I liked best about this book is its humility and its tone. Daniels is not out to explain "how religion poisons everything." Rather, he remains consistently respectful to the persons whose worldview he challenges so well. Indeed, my own receptiveness to his book--I usually identify as "an agnostic who leans toward theism" or as an "apophatist"--causes me to wonder about my own antipathy to the atheist/agnostic/naturalist arguments. Perhaps I what I object to in these arguments is more the strident and bigoted tone of the Dawkins and Hitchens crowd than what they actually argue.

At any rate, this book is worth a read.










A Pierre Corneille Book Review: Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" (2007) [UPDATED]

(This is a review I posted on Goodreads a while back.  I have edited it.)

This book is not great.

Hitchens indulges in the most simplistic caricatures of religion and in the process undermines atheism. I'm not an atheist, but if I were, I would be upset that someone had offered a portrayal of atheism so fragile that it would have been considered (rightly) a straw man if a polemicist of faith had advanced it.

But it's actually not as much about atheism, or "humanism" as Hitchens sometimes describes it.  It's about being against religion. What's puzzling is that he doesn't seem to define religion.  Or rather, his definition of religion seems to be that which is irrational and bad. If a "religion" or a religious practice, or a religious person, advocates or performs something Hitchens considers good, then that's not religion talking.  It's instead a nascent humanism that runs counter to the religious.

Sometimes, Hitchens simply overdoes it.  At one point he bemoans a misgynistic prudery he claims resides in all religions.  For example, young woman, he says "will be taught that her monthly visitation of blood is a curse (all religions have expressed a horror of it),..." (bold emphasis added)  His end notes are unclear exactly how he arrived at that conclusion I rendered in bold. I guess we are to assume that after his exhaustive study of goddess religions, present-day goddess cults, Wiccan religions, (or Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, for that matter) he has definitively failed to find even one religion that does not express horror of menstruation.

Is he only engaging in hyperbole?  That's a tricky question, and I'll admit that I have a tendency to seize upon others' hyperbole when they make an argument with which I disagree and then accuse them of making a too-expansive claim when all they're doing is trying for emphasis.  In short, hyperbole is always usually often sometimes lost on me.  At the same time, if your goal is to critique a set of practices that appear to reach throughout most (all?) of human history and most (all?) localities on this earth, with the historical and geographical diversity that entails, then maybe you shouldn't say "all" when you mean "most," "never" when you mean "not always," or "it" when you mean "a variety of approaches to life and the cosmos that for convenience or for more compelling logical or philosophical reasons we might agree fall under one category (religion) of being human."

Hitchens doesn't seem to grasp that compiling a list of bad things some religious people have done is not an argument in itself against religion. He also needs to demonstrate that religion, as religion, necessarily compels such bad actions. At one point he seems to recognize this. He states (p. 185), "I do not say that if I catch a Buddhist priest stealing all the offerings left by the simple folk at his temple, Buddhism is thereby discredited." Yet so much of his book consists of documenting instances equivalent to priests stealing the offerings, followed by his claim that these instances offer dispositive proof against religion.

That quotation about a wayward Buddhist priest is an example of Hitchens's recourse to false concessions. Smart enough to recognize that readers will raise certain objections, he claims to acknowledge these objections and thereby give the impression that he has accounted for them.  But these occasional and rare acknowledgments are preceded and followed by examples of him neglecting the concession. For instance, in the chapter in which he tries to rebut "the case against secularism"--and in which he gainsays, minimizes, and fundamentally ignores the case some religiously inclined people have made and continued to make for secularism--he concedes some of the faults of "humanism."  Some "humanists," he admits, supported that murderous Stalin, and another he mentions wrote a favorable review of Hitler's Mein Kampf. "Humanism has many crimes for which to apologize," Hitchens writes. (p. 250) "But it can apologize for them and correct them, in its own terms and without having to shake or challenge the basis of any unalterable system of belief."

I'll leave aside my doubts about whether an "ism" has the agency to apologize for anything and point out that in that comment, Hitchens thereby neglects the possibility that some people who confess a religion actually recognize and celebrate changes in doctrines, or adopt hermeneutic traditions that require multiple elaborations on basic tenets of belief, themselves subject to a high level of scrutiny. These types of religious traditions are anything but "unalterable."

Hitchens's eagerness to defend "humanism," "atheism," and "secularism" against the charge of immorality betrays a certain weak spot. Having indulged in the classic logical fallacy of overgeneralizing from a set of examples in order to make a broad claim about the whole, he wants to defend atheism against the charge that it leads to atheist-inspired atrocities such as one might attribute to Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Part of his defense is that in some ways Stalinism, Hitlerism, and Maoism operated as religions. Yet another part of his defense is some discourse like we see above ("at least humanism can apologize").  But a sufficient argument could have been: just because some atheists do bad things doesn't mean that all atheists do, nor does it mean that they did the bad things because of their atheism. I would buy that argument. Heck, I do buy that argument. In fact, a lot of religious people of good will (and their apophatic fellow travelers like me) buy that argument.

One review I read notes the logical leaps and hints at the falsehoods, but says Hitchens's book still works "as a polemic." Does it?

To answer that question, we need to define the role a polemic is meant to serve. One role is to get people talking about whatever the polemicist has written, or to put it differently, to set the terms of the debate. Here, I think Hitchens succeeds to some degree. My own review here is not the first nor the best argument against Hitchens's books and the other works of the "new atheist" movement. Hitchens was already famous and he got even more famous when this book was published.  But this book gave him, probably, a greater fame than he would otherwise have had (it was how I first heard of him at any rate, and I've now read some of his other books, none of which is as atrocious as this one). People from all over (including at one point Tony Blair) debated him and thereby offered a recognition of his argument as something worthy of being debated. In my own small way, I'm doing the same thing in this blog post.  (For a better, more systematic critique of the "New Atheism" by a more talented author, you can consult, for free, Aphaniptera's Against the Irreligious Right at this link.)

Yet a good, or successful, polemic, in my view, has another role: to argue persuasively for a point, so persuasively that 1) it encourages people already inclined to agree to take action based on what is written, or 2) it compels the reader who is not inclined to agree to concede certain key points, to rethink the position they started out believing, or perhaps to offer their own defense and make their own position stronger.

As for "1," maybe Hitchens's work does this. I know of at least one person not given to extremist, question-begging views (Tod Kelly at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen) who admires Hitchens for his aggressive advocacy of atheism in the face of what, to him (Kelly), is an overwhelming societal disapproval of atheism.

But what is the "action" that is to be taken, and to what end? Hitchens is not clear. At one point, he aligns himself (without acknowledging the alignment) with a large number of religious persons from all backgrounds when he says he doesn't mind other people being religious as long as they don't impose their faiths on others. At another point, such as in his chapter where he asks whether religion constitutes child abuse (his answer: yes), he implies that the state ought to take more aggressive stances against liberty of conscience. My inference from what he wrote here might be debatable.  I'm not sure I recall him ever coming out and suggesting that the state take children away from religious parents. But to raise the issue of child abuse is, in my opinion, to put such discussion as a legitimate policy to be considered.

As for "2," what theistically-inclined person, who is honest and willing to entertain counterarguments and evidence that contradicts his or her religious views, would be compelled to make concessions to this polemic? Inasmuch as thoughtful religionists usually have already conceded that people sometimes do very bad things in the name of religion, or (somewhat more damning) that religion sometimes inspires people to do bad things, I have trouble finding one among them who would be moved by this polemic. There are, of course, fanatics who will dispute even these concessions--and my invocation of the "honest and willing to entertain" theist is probably a question-begging insistence that the fanatics are easily identifiable and separable from the tribe.  And who knows, maybe it's possible that I sometimes am of the fanatics' party without knowing it.  But an appeal to reason--and Hitchens no doubt saw his book as fitting in the tradition of other polemicists like Thomas Paine--is not designed to convince fanatics.

So we're left with where we started: the assertion that religion is bad and that atheism is good, buttressed by the assumption that humanism (however defined, so long as we define it as "good") is necessarily incompatible with religion.

Update 7-9-13:  My spelling is not great!  The original title to this post mentioned Hitchens's subtitle as "How Relition Poisons Everything."  I have corrected the error.I've also clarified some of the language in the post.





Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gratitude and the 4th of July [UPDATED]

I hope I made clear in my last post, I have a lot of reservations about some of what is celebrated on the 4th of July, and especially what is called the "American Revolution."  But if I'm not careful, too many of such posts, or expressing that view uninvited to people with few or no reservations about that little squabble, might make me one of those bullies called contrarians who are contrary for the sake of being contrarian, or, say, something like Christopher Hitchens, but without the writing ability.

So I'll say now that I am grateful that to be a U.S. citizen and to live in America, and at least some of that gratitude relates to the consequences of the very "revolution" I have qualms about.

I think you can say that many of the constitutional rights we now enjoy in the U.S. we wouldn't have to nearly the same degree as we do now if there had not been a war for independence.  There are a series of rights elucidated in the constitution, and expanded via interpretation, that I hope I shall never have to avail myself of, but I am glad that they're there.  I say this even though I think these are in some ways curbed,  unconscionably at that, and that they are in some ways being curbed more and more, through, for example, the national security state, the war on terror, and the war on drugs, and, at least according to some people, the ACA.

A large country like the U.S., under a more English-style or Canadian-style (or worse, a French-style) system of laws in which the constituencies served by the wars on terror and drugs and by the national security state held sway would have even worse violations of the liberties I enjoy and appreciate.  (Of course, when speaking of "English-style" and "Canadian-style" systems of law, I'm talking about varying shades of what is arguably an essentially similar system.)  Under another system, the government provided universal health care that I desire might be more likely, but that outcome is not a certain one, and even if it were certain, universal health care can be done badly and with sometimes very perverse results.

Sometimes, though, I'm ambivalent about what, exactly, I'm grateful for, and whether my gratefulness is more a result of circumstances not related to the supposed rights at all.

For example, I like my first amendment rights.  They're part of what gives me the security to blog about almost whatever I want to, with relatively narrow libel exceptions.  Even the recent revelations of NSA "spying" don't bother me at a personal level all that much, although they do disturb me when I think of the direction to which policy might be headed.

But in large part, my "freedom of speech" is as much a function of what vulgar academics like to call "modernity."  To put it into more human language:  I'm playing the numbers game and banking on other people's apathy.  I imagine that anyone with a basic knowledge of how the internet works, or anyone who is willing to pay money to someone with such basic knowledge, could probably find out my ISP address and, with little additional difficulty, could find out where I live and who I am.  I'm banking on the (probably very strong) possibility that nobody outside of specialists in 17th-century French theater really care what Pierre Corneille thinks.  And those specialists are so far removed from any trigger of government power (and are probably disproportionately so unfamiliar with that confangled new thing called "the interwebs") to prove any danger to me.

I also wonder how much of my being grateful for being an American has to do with my being wealthy.  To be clear, I'm no millionaire, and my person, quantifiable net worth is, well,, several thousands shy of "zero" due to student loans.  But I've never in my life been without food or clothing.  Nor have I ever really feared not knowing whether or when I would eat next.  I've been pretty fortunate in life and in the material incidents that can make life enjoyable.  To a large degree, that relative wealth can be attributed to the economic system made possible by the liberties this country secures.

But to another degree, it is made possible by other things.  To the extent that all Americans, or most Americans, or a non-trivial number of Americans, enjoy wealth simply by virtue of being American, that wealth possibly has as much to do with America's power and with accidents of history as it has something to do with the rights America tries to guarantee.  In this sense, my "gratitude" for the rights secured me might possibly be an instance of the arrogance of power, the same arrogance evinced by a healthy person who is proud that he or she "never gets a cold," as if one can control disease and good health so easily.

Also, it helps that I'm white, straight, and male.  I don't always like what the police do--and I think they have way too much power in certain venues--but when I see a cop, I don't really fear that he or she might stop me or look at me suspiciously because of the color of my skin.

My government doesn't deny me the right to marry the class of person (women) I'm most likely to marry, and when my wife and I got legally married about 5 weeks ago, we could afford to take certain things for granted:  the possibility that the judge might look askance at us and treat us coolly--a possibility that I assume exists when gay couples try to get civil unioned--was not at all anything we had to worry about.  Also, as a married straight couple, we can travel throughout the U.S., and probably most countries, with the assurance that whatever jurisdiction we travel in or move to, our marriage will be recognized and not questioned.

Also, while I might be just as subject to street violence as the next person, as a male, I don't have to deal with being the type of target in the way that women are often targeted.  The threat of rape is not something that is systematically leveled against men the same way that it is leveled against women, at least not in open society.  Added to that are the binders-full of male (and white, and straight) privileges I enjoy.  True, those privileges come at a certain cost (see what Noah Berlatsky recently wrote, for example, about how men suffer from anti-woman sexism).  But they come with their perks, too.

My gratitude is further tempered by the realization that under the right (or wrong) circumstances, I might opt for security over liberty in order to secure the enjoyment of that wealth that makes it so easy to say, "Fish yeah.....America!"  I would be wrong to do so.  But who's to say what I would do or think?  I live about two miles from the epicenter of one of the riots in Chicago in 1968.  Regardless of any tsk-tsk'ing I might have indulged in at the time, what would I have really thought if I were around to hear of Richard J. Daley's "shoot to kill" order on the evening news?


I don't know, but I do know that when I was 18 years old and at the time a self-identified conservative, I watched Patrick Buchanan's speech at the Republican convention on TV and inwardly felt a surge of pride when he described the national guard intervention to quell the L.A. riots of that spring:
Greater love than this hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend. Here were 19-year-old boys ready to lay down their lives to stop a mob from molesting old people they did not even know. And as they took back the streets of LA, block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.
My point is not to say that rioting never needs to be stopped.  But Mr. Buchanan in that speech bespeaks a certain idolatry of security (take back our culture), with its thinly veiled racist undertones, that at one time in my life I found appealing.  Who's to say I wouldn't succumb again, to again translate my privilege the armed force that backs it up?

The typical fourth of July post--and typical posts about how grateful one is to be an American--usually includes some acknowledgment of gratitude for the armed forces.  And yes, I am grateful that the U.S. has an army, and I am grateful that the U.S. army, in at least some situations in the past, have fought for causes the outcome of which was at least partially good and the necessity of which was in very large measure defensible.  I do question the extent to which having a military complex as vast and extensive as the United States's is actually conducive to liberty, and I do believe there is a serviceable possibility that the military just might revolt under the right (or wrong) circumstances, although, I assure you, it would be done in the name of "liberty."

But still and at least in some measure, I owe gratitude for the army and the sacrifices of its members, even those members who engaged that unjustified conflict in the 1770s.

So yes, I am grateful to be an American, to live in the U.S., and to be the beneficiary of others' sacrifices.  But I am uncertain of the extent to which that's the gratitude that comes from the accident of good birth and fortune, or the accident from something intrinsic to the ideological vision of those who are credited with founding this country.

UPDATE, 7-5-13:  I've changed some of the content of this post.



Charter of dissent

When, in the course of the earth's circumnavigation around the sun, Americans again find it necessary to laud an unjust war, a decent respect for these otherwise decent people requires me to declare the reasons I dissent from the general celebration.

I hold these truths to be as self-evident as anything can be that all humans are created equal in rights, that all are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience has shown, that even the most justified upheaval effects such great hardships upon innocents and upon those who, while not completely innocent of all wrongs the upheaval addresses, are caught up in the complexity in which human life places them and who perhaps do not deserve the extent of the scorn and humiliation such upheaval inflicts upon them.  And when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing generally the same object evinces what seems to be a design t reduce the people under what some of them might believe to be absolute despotism, it is at least understandable that they might see their grievances as justification and even as obligation to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.  Such was the belief of those American colonists who revolted against the crown to which they had declared their loyalty and from the operations of which and of the lawfully sitting representative body they had enjoyed a great measure of security.  But the history of the colonial and British relations up to that time represented a poor excuse to break those bonds that had lately been so strained.  To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

Parliament's punishment of the Massachusetts colony with the "Coercive Acts," or "Intolerable Acts," so called in the colonies, was unduly harsh and in other ways unwise.  But in itself, the punishment had been occasioned by the actions of a cabal of smugglers to destroy the property of the purveyor of a luxury item in the name of protesting a tax on that item, the practical function of the enforcement of which would primarily have been to reduce the price consumers paid for that item and drive the same smugglers out of business.  Although the legally constituted government among the Massachusetts officially disproved of such actions by the cabal, it tolerated or at least acquiesced to those protests.

The riots of 1770, which resulted in the deaths of five protesters, were a key example of the dangers of using the military to enforce civil laws, and the laws in question, duties upon trade, were so unpopular that parliament would have been well-advised to obtain a better means of securing their adoption and enforcement in the colonies.  But the riots themselves placed the occupation soldiers under direct threat of their lives.  And although the soldiers' membership in the military was ostensibly a choice, the policy of press ganging and other constraints placed upon the liberty of those who eventually found themselves in the military, and the soldiers themselves had no say in devising the policy they had been sent to enforce.  The soldiers received a measure of compensation, but were still required to find employment to supplement that compensation to make ends meet, and the riots to which they responded were as much about jobs competition as they were about the principle of the duties upon trade.

The duties in question had been enacted after protests against a colonies-wide Stamp Tax measure, and under a theory of the proper competency of the imperial government, offering indirect as opposed to direct taxation, advanced by one faction of the protesters against the Stamp duty. 

The Stamp duty and the later duties were in fact enacted to help pay the colonists' share of protection offered by the crown during the late war, and the imposition of all those duties still amounted to less a percentage of their incomes than what the colonists' compatriots in Britain had to pay.

Clear and urgent objections might be raised to the requirement that colonists pay for the war, a war instigated by some colonists, one of whom was soon made commander of the rebels after the charter of independence, so called, but admittedly pursued with interests as devised in London and not as devised in Boston, or New York, or Williamsburg, and to secure the colonists' enthusiastic support, the Pitt government offered imperial discounting of their expenses.  But one must reconsider the means designed to object to a change in policy, a change made necessary by fiscal contingencies that faced the empire.

And some other chief objections advanced by the charter of independence, so called, target efforts to secure liberties to other peoples.  The insurrections by "merciless Indian savages" against which the improvident declaration protests can be viewed as the efforts of sovereign nations to claim their share of an agreement they had entered into with the Crown and as assertions of their sovereign prerogative to control incursions into their lands.  The supposed abolition of a "free system of English laws in a neighboring province" amounts to acknowledging the specific religious practices of a conquered people in lieu of imposing the rules of the Church of England upon them.  Perhaps a better option would be to call for no civil enforcement of either church, or any church, but in 1774, when the supposed usurpation was inflicted, and in 1776, when the charter of independence, so called, was promulgated, the ideal of non-recognition was in its infancy, and the choice rested with keeping a civil and religious institution familiar to the conquered peoples, or imposing a one wholly alien upon them.

The charter of independence, so called, declines to discuss the beam of bondage in the eyes of the drafters, and makes only vague reference, and in the final draft even vaguer reference, to the mote of the imperial facilitation of such bondage.  It is true that prior policies of the empire had encouraged, at the request of the band of adventurers lured to the Americas by the promise of wealth, the importation of bound servants.  It is true that the empire had declined to invalidate or cause for the melioration of those laws, imposed by the colonists, designed to strengthen the terms of bondage and make them heritable, and it is true that the empire had at times invalidated measures by some colonies designed to lessen, and perhaps eventually to effect the elimination of, the bondage to labor.  And yet the colonists who most enjoy the fruits of the labor of bound people, either directly in the production of staples, or indirectly in the merchandising of articles sold to those who so directly enjoy those fruits, clamor for direct representation in the imposition of trade duties, long acknowledged as a prerogative of the empire, while denying to bound servants the basic freedom of ownership to labor that is the privilege and right of every English person.  It is only partial, and too slight, an answer to suggest that the remedy be forthcoming, although in some climes, where the colonists stand to continue to benefit from bond servitude indirectly, they might remove the reminder locally through local abolition of the institution.  The authors of the charter of independence, so called, are well-advised to reconsider whether the promise of some future attainment, in a later generation when the then current authors shall have passed away, be justification for the then current iniquity.

In every stage of the "oppressions," so called, enumerated in the charter of independence, so called, the colonists had petitioned for redress in the most humble terms.  Their repeated petitions had been answered sometimes by the force of arms, but just as commonly by efforts at accommodation and compromise.  True causes of concern exist.  The parliament may have overstepped its bounds.  The king may have overstepped his prerogatives.

But the objections the colonists offered, amounting to noticeable but not heavy taxation, to recognition of the rights of neighbor nations and conquered peoples, and to the response of armed violence with armed violence, constitute more the haphazard, if clumsy, and largely good faith, though sometimes also cynical, appraisal of how best to resolve the issues of governance that did not quit the colonists upon their independence, and indeed an in some ways made aggravated by the independence, than it constituted anything like a "long train of abuses" justifying the call to arms the charter of independence, so called, demands.

Great good, it must be admitted, came from the circumstances occasioned by this charter.  But the happy and felicitous outcomes, to the degree they were truly happy and felicitous, were largely unforeseeable.  The cost--in lives and in the civil liberties and in the rights to property of those who dared, with heroic firmness, to offer a different view of the emerging conflict--were too great to address the extant evils, so called.