Happy Fourth of July

July 4th is generally observed as the “independence” day of the United States of America — and deservedly so. However, people usually wish each other “Happy 4th of July” and not “Happy Independence Day” (as they usually do in India instead of saying “Happy 15th of August.”)

For Americans, July 4th is special. On that day in 1776, exactly 242 years ago today (if I have my sums correct), the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Here’s a bit from the always dependable wikipedia:

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4.[1]

So that funny fake quote above has the wrong date. Jefferson should have exclaimed that on the 1st of July, not the 3rd. 

Anyway, the point here is that Aug 15th and July 4th represent different concepts. On August 15th, 1947 the British formally granted independence to a part of India they had colonized for over a century. Why the British chose that day and year is a matter that need not detain us now but when how long was the struggle for India’s independence?

7 years and two months

To answer that question, let’s see how long it took the Americans to gain independence. It is reasonable to take the adoption of the declaration of independence — July 4th, 1776 — as the formal starting point of the struggle for independence. And it is reasonable to take the signing of the Treaty of Paris of Sept 3rd, 1783[2] which ended the American Revolutionary War as the date on which King George III recognized that the US was no longer British territory. By that metric, the struggle for independence lasted seven years and two months.

90 years and three months

Indians started their struggle with the Indian Rebellion of 1857 which was directed against the rule of the East India Company, a proxy ruler for the British Crown. That started in May 1857 and lasted a year and a half. After the British crushed that rebellion, India came under direct control of the British Crown.

I think it is reasonable to consider Aug 15th, 1947 to be the end of the British Crown’s sovereignty over India. Therefore you could say that the struggle for India’s independence lasted around 90 years and three months.

British Raj is Dead; Long live the British Raj

But I think that it is not correct to say that the British Raj ended. India is still ruled by proxy by the British. India is ruled by dead Britishers. Most of the major rules that Indians struggle under were made by the British between 1857 and 1947. They are the rules made by an oppressive government and imposed on a people who were beaten into submission. The same rules are used by all the governments that followed the British to oppress and continue their submission. Certainly the Indians do vote in free and (often) fair elections but that does not make them free. They vote to choose who their masters are to be. Most of these new oppressors are Indian born but are no less damaging to India than the foreign invaders.

Indians have still to vote for freedom. The struggle for freedom which started at the very latest in 1857 has not really ended. And the end is nowhere in sight.

Happy 4th of July. 

NOTES:

[1] Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

[2] Fun fact: The Treaty of Paris of 1783 has to be distinguished from other treaties of Paris. There are at least 47 treaties signed in Paris, starting with the first Treaty of Paris of 1229 which ended the Albigensian Crusade, and the most recent one which had to do with the 2015 international agreement on global warming. You could say that like the first treaty of Paris, the 2015 treaty is also a crusade — a religious war against non-believers. While the first ended one crusade, the latest is a declaration of a crusade.

8 thoughts on “Happy Fourth of July

  1. Your thesis is that Britishers created and implemented laws to loot and exploit colonies and that such laws exist today as well. In India particularly, only office bearers have changed and the structure has essentially remained the same and that’s the primary cause of India’s poverty and that’s what impedes our development.
    Curiously enough, your teacher and Guru, Ludwig Mises, strongly detested first part of your contention.
    I suggest you to read from his book ‘Omnipotent Government’ a section titled ‘Colonial Imperialism’ on page 96.
    https://mises-media.s3.amazonaws.com/Omnipotent%20Government%20The%20Rise%20of%20the%20Total%20State%20and%20Total%20War_3.pdf?file=1&type=document
    Under that section, Mises argues that “The colonial expansion of the Nineteenth century. . .was motivated solely by considerations of national glory and pride.” According to him, British liberalism made Britons to implement free trade policies in crown colonies but it were Indians who pressed for establishment of the protectionist system. He also says that , “But for the English there would be no India today, only a conglomeration of tyrannically misruled petty principalities fighting each other on various pretexts, there would be anarchy, famines, epidemics.”
    Also that “The only task of British administration in India in these last years has been to prevent the various political parties, religious groups, races, linguistic groups and castes from fighting one another. BUT THE HINDUS DO NOT LONG FOR BRITISH BENEFITS.
    I don’t want to ruin the treat of reading the text for you by quoting him more.
    It seems that his argument was that colonial power was paving the way for development but that Indians hindered it.
    Since your Economics stem from the tradition of Kirzner or Austrian School or maybe Neo Classical school, the interpretation of history of economics from their lens seemed to me an important thing to cite to you.

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    1. Mises argues that “The colonial expansion of the Nineteenth century. . .was motivated solely by considerations of national glory and pride.”

      • In other words to save the savage natives from themselves. They liberally introduced their language to Indians who have never communicated with each other for lack of a lingua franca for the last four thousand years.

      According to him, British liberalism made Britons to implement free trade policies in crown colonies but it were Indians who pressed for establishment of the protectionist system. He also says that , “But for the English there would be no India today, only a conglomeration of tyrannically misruled petty principalities fighting each other on various pretexts, there would be anarchy, famines, epidemics.”

      • If Indians were such that how did British found a flourishing country when they arrived. By the above logic India should have imploded some time in the last two thousand years.

      Also that “The only task of British administration in India in these last years has been to prevent the various political parties, religious groups, races, linguistic groups and castes from fighting one another. BUT THE HINDUS DO NOT LONG FOR BRITISH BENEFITS.

      • Who was responsible for such civil chaos. British were not deliberately dividing and controlling the people in India?

      It seems that his argument was that colonial power was paving the way for development but that Indians hindered it.
      • Again there is no end to the altruism of the British.

      I heard once said in this connection, “No imperial power ever occupied a country for the benefit of the natives.” I have no reason not to agree to it.

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      1. Keshav, Thanks for your kind suggestion to read up on Mises. It may help me understand things better. I might have been a bit abrupt in my comments above made with the conviction that there is nothing good in colonialism. I do admire your comments on previous posts and hope to read more in future. Cheers.

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  2. Personally I find American war for independence and subsequent events nothing short of a miracle but more likely because of my ignorance of the general world history.

    In 1770’s decade Marathas were the most powerful political power in India. Several Peshwas had died in that decade and they were recovering from the 3rd battle of Panipat against Islamic invaders. I have not come across any Indian philosopher of those times commenting to role of state in people’s life. Leave alone outlining rules of democracy. Indians were too busy surviving Islam and British East India company.

    On other hand in 1789 George Washington became the first democratic president of such a large nation directly at odds with the largest empire on earth. It is said that English King was surprised that Washington would simply give up Presidency after second term and go back to farming. He called Washington the stupidest man on earth. Not only the transition of power was remarkably smooth for John Adams but it was smooth for Jefferson, Madison and so on. We might take this for granted today but 200 years ago it was probably nothing short of a miracle.

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    1. Akshar, You are partly correct that it was a large nation area wise. I do agree with you about the uniqueness of American revolution in its time. I see some spark for humanity in there. In spite of the massacre of the natives, the despicable institution of slavery, the founding fathers, a bunch of rebel farmers and expats from Europe were able to rise above their own inadequacies and did a thing for liberty for humanity. They were able to say all men are equal, if not true then, but even as a guiding principle. Thanks.

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