Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Fatefull day in 1776 - The Birth of Terra of Down Under

Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are shaping as those rare days that tend to be filled with speeches on all kinds of topics ... How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven

The 4th of July 2012 marks 236 years since that fatefull day in 1776 when independence from Great Britain was declared and the United States was born. It is the single most important holiday celebration in America, and rightfully so.

'I have come not to talk but to die.

These words were uttered on Friday, December 7, 1683, by Algernon Sidney, just before his head was chopped off in a public execution in London. Sidney had made the mistake of questioning the divine right of kings. Charles II took it personally ; It is usually ignored in Australia that the setting up of a British colony in NSW was not the result of some grand plan but more a historical afterthought. Britain had been sending convicts to America until the revolution closed off this option. As convicts numbers began to overflow in prison hulks, the government looked to colonies in West Africa as its choice for transportation. Australia was not considered because from London it was a void, empty of any settlement, and on the other side of the world.

In 1784, as home secretary, Lord Sydney had responsibility in cabinet for choosing the new destination for transportation. He chose Botany Bay. He was the first minister to do so. On his recommendation, the government nominated NSW as the site for convict transportation, and Lord Sydney instructed the Treasury to finance a fleet. On January 22, 1788, the first governor of the colony, Arthur Phillip, found a safer mooring for his fleet than Botany Bay. He named it Sydney Cove. He did so in honour of the home secretary who, after setting the destination, had sponsored the expedition. (The news of this small honour would not reach Lord Sydney for 14 months.)

Lord Sydney had earlier also made his mark on Canada's largest city. In 1781-82, he was responsible for the peace negotiations with the Americans after the American revolution. He was able to keep southern Ontario, including what is now Toronto, as part of Canada. His eventual biographer, Andrew Tink, was a long-time member of Parliament, 19 years. He had also been a long-time member of the opposition, 12 years, just as Tommy Townshend had spent the bulk of his parliamentary career in opposition or out of favour with the king for his republican leanings and sympathy for the Americans. ''I felt empathy for him,'' Tink told me. ''He kept turning up. He kept batting on.'' Lord Sydney: The Life and Times of Tommy Townshend - It’s been said that a biographer is a novelist under oath -- Tink and Throsby

'Fifty Shades' by the numbers, patriotic books for July 4th ; The American Revolution was, in many regards, a British civil war. In 18th century Britain, Parliamentary government was supposed to protect freeborn men from the threat of absolutist monarchy and excessive taxation. However, the British refused to extend Parliamentary representation to the American colonies, creating the unethical paradox of a democratic empire. Edmund Burke, the great grand-daddy of British conservatism, had every sympathy for the American revolt against crippling taxes and restrictions on their right to steal Indian land. In his view “our English brethren in the colonies” were fighting to uphold ancient Anglo-Saxon rights in the face of brutish imperialism by a German-descended king, enforced by “the hireling sword of German boors and vassals”. When the Americans rebelled in 1775, there were plenty of Brits who supported them. The Fourth of July provides an uncomfortable reminder of our once radical heritage - The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart