1776 AND 2014
There is a great debate among a few American scholars over when we actually declared our independence from Great Britain. July 2, 1776 was the date that our Congress voted for independence. However, the Declaration of Independence was discussed and edited until the 4 of July when it was approved. Since then, some historians have quibbled over July 2 or the 4 as our official day to celebrate our independence from Britain.
Interestingly, John Adams wrote this to his wife, Abigail, which is often used by those of us that support July 2 date.
Regardless of the birth date of our nation, we were the first of the British colonies to declare our independence from the British and George III who actually couldn't speak English since he was German. The map below is from wiki and shows the greatest spread of the British Empire. It had been said, especially during the reign of Queen Victoria, Great Britain was "the Empire on which the sun never sets." The British Empire was at its largest in 1922. It controlled over 450 million people, which represented one fifth of world's population and a quarter of the world's landmass. There has never been a larger empire in human history.
That is very impressive if you are British or some of your family members were of British descendents. Of course, if you have been or some of your family members were controlled by the Brits, you might not see it as quite as impressively.
I am an American and many of my forbearers came from Great Britain and Scotland. Therefore, I have a mixed feeling about the old Rule Britannia mindset.
There have been over the centuries since the beginning of the British Empire revolutions like ours or simply demands of the locals for independence. Aung San Suu Kyi's homeland, Burma, is such an example of demanding freedom and getting it without a revolution. Her father told the British to leave, and they did. The Burmese people got their independence on January 4, 1948.
As of today, this is what is left of the British Empire—a dozen or so small islands, a large rock called Gibraltar, and a small percentage of the Antarctic. That isn't much of what was once a quarter of the earth's landmass.
Because of my Scottish background, I went to Scotland for a year of post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh in the late 60s. I loved Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. I hope to return again in another couple of years. While there, if you talked to the locals about Scotland's independence, you would hear on occasion their desire for either home rule or complete independence. That was over 40-years ago. Back then, it seemed more of a wish and a dream than a reality and inevitable. However, that was when I was in my mid-20s. I'm in my late 60s and things have moved a great deal toward Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.
As for the actual date of my return to Scotland, the Scots will decide. It will be either in 2013 or 2014. After a 305-year union with England in the south, some in Scotland would like to either get complete independence from the English or at least more autonomy. The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), First Minister Alex Salmond said recently, "Like these other nations, our future, our resources, our success, should be in our own hands."
Salmond also said,
However, the Labour Party doesn't want the referendum in late summer or early fall of 2014 but rather a year sooner. Also, both parties cannot agree on the wording of the referendum let alone the date.
The Scottish independence movement would like the 2014 date in part due to the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, which occurred on June 24, 1314. It had been one of the first victories of the Scots over the English. The battle was waged between the Scottish leader, Robert the Bruce and the Edward II, the English king.
However, the quest of Scottish independence has had a long history going back to the Roman Empire. The Romans were never able to subdue the Scots and absorb Scotland into their British province called Britannia. As a consequence, the construction of Hadrian's Wall began in 122 AD. Twenty years later another wall was built called Antonine Wall in 142. However, after several forays into Scotland, the Romans retired to behind Hadrian's Wall with occasional raids into what they called Caledonia.
While reading about the movement for freedom and independence over the years, I think back to the time when I was at the University of Edinburgh. I lived at Ramsay Garden, which is located at the end of the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. I talked to the officer in charge of the bagpipers at the castle who lived there also and many of the old-timers who lived in Auld Reekie, which was once the nickname of Edinburgh.
When I was there, there were many civil rights demonstrations occurring in Northern Ireland. The civil rights movement in Northern Ireland was a religious not a race-based issue. Since then, Northern Ireland has tittered on the edge of becoming a part of the Republic of Ireland.
Therefore, the British Empire that ruled the seven seas a couple centuries ago will in the next couple of years edge closer and closer to be an empire of England, Wales, a dozen small islands, and Gibraltar. Many a person throughout the world will celebrate the English dealing with a most profound comeuppance regarding their imperial rule for centuries.
Interestingly, the etymology of the word, comeuppance, comes from "appear before the judge". Many will see this as their just deserts for centuries of at best indifference to the needs of those areas and countries that they conquered and at worst their haughty arrogance to many of the people for whom they were the colonial ruler.
Regardless of how the Scots vote on the issue of their independence, we in America need to learn from the British embarrassment over their crumbling empire. Hopefully, we will learn to avoid the same response from those with whom we deal with in the world today. This applies to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East in general, or wherever America has a military or economy presence.
On June 2, 2012, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. She is now 86 years old and has ruled the United Kingdom for 60-years. She is the only monarch in British history excluding Queen Victoria. Victoria also reached her Diamond Jubilee. Those two were the only monarchs in the history of Britain to have ruled for 60-years or more.
Queen Elizabeth and much of the world watched a grand celebration filled with all the pomp and circumstance for this grand occasion. However, Queen Elizabeth is a queen ruling really nothing. Gone is the royal rule of Queen Victoria of a vast empire. The present queen is the titular ruler essentially of nothing. It is a fairy tale played out by royalty and commoners alike. The queen rules in an imaginary world with a lot of pomp and circumstance.
William Shakespeare had Macbeth say this warning to which the British monarchy ought also take heed,
Indeed, royalty is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It might not be long before just England and Wales remain. Nevertheless, in Wales there some that are waiting and watching what happens with Scotland. Time will tell what the Walsh will do.
It might be important also to discuss the Coat of Arms of Scotland especially the Latin phrase at the base of the Scottish shield. Nemo me impune lacessit, which translates into the warning: No one attacks me with impunity or no one can harm me unpunished. Legend has it that a Norwegian king attempted a surprise nighttime attack against Scotland. The king had his soldiers remove their shoes as they came upon the Scottish military camp. One of the Norwegian soldiers stepped upon a Scottish thistle and screamed in pain. The Scots awoke and successfully defended their homeland. I hope that as the Scots defended their nation in 1263 that they will do the same in 2014.
Perhaps, and I could return to our homeland together—soon. Haste ye back to Scotland.
This is a video clip of Salmond's speech in Edinburgh about Scottish independence.