The American Empire: Created From The British Empire

2892 words - 12 pages

The American identity is not concrete. It grows, transforms, evolves, and the American people evolve in parallel. Through vote and through policy, media and protest, election and law, the people dictate the country’s, and the identity’s course. The identity that has roots in revolution. 1776, the United States breaks from Great Britain. The people free themselves, from oppression, from royalty, and begin the governmental experiment that will dominate the globe for the next two and a half centuries. The experiment represents a government so different from Britain’s, that no one would guess they once existed as one. The American people, desperate to rid themselves of British traces, find this beneficial. They must; they are Americans now. Unfortunately, their British heritage will not allow it. Whilst these new Americans battle their inheritance, it creeps into their policies, protocol, their social configuration, military influence, their economic structure, and the very documents with which they broke from their mother country. Eventually, this heritage creates a perfect image of the British empire, world dominance and all. Yet, the citizens still combat it. The leaders abhor it. But, despite attempting to establish its own identity, America reflects British society.
This American quandary first appears in political protocol. It began at the Revolution’s end. On May 22, 1782, just months after Britain’s final surrender at Yorktown, Colonel Lewis Nicola suggested to George Washington that he become America’s king. Washington replied with a resounding no, declaring that he viewed the idea “with abhorrence” (qtd. in “George Washington and the Rule of Law” 2). Washington realized what the Revolution stood for. He knew that installing a king, even himself, would negate everything the Revolution promoted—freedom, independence, and self-government. He loathed to establish a government resembling oppressive Britain’s, a loathing that remained a major aspect of American government. Similar ideas appear in later presidents. For instance, Thomas Jefferson quite clearly detested everything British. Richard Bernstein reveals, “he refused to appear before a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address as a speech, because such ceremonies echoed the way that British monarchs opened Parliament” (140). Instead, Jefferson wrote his message and gave it to a clerk, who relayed it to senators and representatives, “setting a precedent that lasted for more than a century” (140). Since the precedent lasted, later presidents obviously shared Jefferson’s repugnance for British government. Jefferson took things a step further, and in 1803 when British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Merry visited him, dressed in “full diplomatic regalia” (140), complete with ceremonial sword, Jefferson met him wearing old clothes and worn out carpet slippers. He was later cited as having “no respect for social rank as defined by Old World...

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