We in the liberty movement all talk about “restoring rightful liberty” whatever that means to the folks talking about it. Many of us call ourselves three percenters, alluding to the three percent of the patriots who fought for liberty during the revolutionary war.
Let’s look at the numbers. In 1776 the colonies numbered some 2.4 million people with about 80% English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh descent, 9% German and 4% Dutch. About 90% were farmers. Some 200,000 were slaves from Africa.
Historians suggest that 40-45% of the colonists were Patriots. 15-20% were Loyalists. 35-45% never chose a side.
Some 250,000 men fought for the Patriots, but never more than 90,000 served at any one time. Some 25,000 men of the Loyalists fought for the British. Another 5000 black slaves fought for the Patriots. The three percent is the total ever fighting at once of the entire population of the colonies. The total that took up arms is a little more than 10%.
What motivated folks to be on one side or the other?
For the Patriots, the initial rally to arms was impressive in 1775. As the war dragged on, enthusiasm waned. Many colonies were compelled to entice soldiers with offers of cash bounties, clothing, blankets and enlistments shorter than the one year term of service established by Congress. The following year, Congress mandated three year enlistments and offers of cash and land bounties became an absolute necessity.
Longer enlistments radically changed the composition of the Army. Washington’s troops in 1775-76 had represented a cross section of the free male population. But few who owned farms were willing to serve for the duration, fearing loss of their property if years passed without producing revenue from which to pay taxes. After 1777, the average Continental soldier was young, single, propertyless, poor and in many cases an outright pauper. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, up to one in four soldiers was an impoverished recent immigrant. Patriotism aside, cash and land bounties offered an unprecedented chance for economic mobility for these men.
The average Patriot was poor and many were motivated by the writings of Thomas Paine and others like him who suggested an equality of opportunity in a new country.
The typical Loyalist was a little wealthier and was more settled in their ways. They owned shops and businesses. They were leaders and respected in their communities. Most of them left America at the end of the war.
This is a very long lead into this post, but the background is needed when we talk about today. 75 to 80% of the colonists weren’t against the Patriots. Think about that for a second. Three to ten percent actually took up arms against the British.
The Patriots were motivated by equality, economic mobility and freedom of religion.
What percentage of Americans are motivated by these three things today? We read daily of regular folks begging the government to take their rights away under the notion that we “might” be safer. The number of folks that really want equality of opportunity is almost none. Attacks on economic mobility occur from every side of the political spectrum. Freedom of religion? Americans are embracing religion at a smaller number every year it seems.
So, what are we restoring? How many Americans even recognize these motivations enough to even want them?
Americans fit far more into the Loyalist camp these days than the Patriot camp. They are happy with what they have and want a government to protect what they have. If by some magic stroke all of the .gov folks that work to oppress us, stopped doing what they do today, Americans would replace them tomorrow. They would be mad at whoever wielded the magic stroke.
All the groups like the NRA that ostensibly are there to protect our rights are very pragmatic at best and not lovers of overall liberty at worst. The Tea Party in its heyday wasn’t against large government, merely against large government budgets. The old “Contract With America” that got Newt Gingrich and crew elected promised to eliminate 95 major programs. In reality, the combined budgets of these programs increased by 13%. Congressmen complain that “due process is overrated and needs to be looked at again”. When offered more “safety and security” Americans are begging to have their rights taken away without even a whimper.
I’m depressed enough right now in realizing that there is no restoration of liberty possible. Even if we are optimistic and think we really have three percent of Americans on our side, 97% are on the other side. Using that same magic stroke, if we three percenters were suddenly in charge, we would be run out of town for promoting evil things. We can’t beat our foes with force.
I am optimistic enough though to realize that our liberty is not to be found by looking backwards. We didn’t get in this mess since Obama got elected. It might take a generation or two or three to fix it. We’ve got to look at the next 50 years and see how it can be made better.
More to follow in future posts.