From Charles Cooke, a writer for the National Review, on Real Time with Bill Maher:
The revolution that happened here [in the United States] was great, and very rarely is that the case in the world. You know, you have this revolution in America, in which the British fight the British, and then they codify classical liberal values into a constitution, and it’s great. But that’s not how it goes down normally. Normally, there’s bloodshed and it’s horrible …
I get what he’s saying: not all revolutions end up establishing governments we like. And it’s an important point. But it’s also important to remember that even when they do, there’s still bloodshed and it’s still horrible. Read, for instance, about the fighting at the Battle of Oriskany, which, among other things, precipitated a civil war among the Iroquois nations. Or consider that American casualties (i.e., killed and wounded) during the Revolution numbered about 118 per 10,000 in the total population; compare a total 30 per 10,000 during World War II.
Or read this recollection by an American soldier of encountering a wounded Virginian after the Battle of Paoli:
Our captain immediately dispatched his lieutenant for a physician, who, when he returned, was so fortunate as to bring two with him. We then procured the means of washing and cleansing the wounded man, and upon examining him there was found, as our captain afterwards announced to the men, forty-six distinct bayonet wounds in different parts of his body, either of which were deep and sufficiently large to have been fatal if they had been in vital parts. But they were mostly flesh wounds, and every one of them had bled profusely, and many of them commenced bleeding again upon being washed. His wounds were dressed, his bloody garments burned, and by orders of our captain, he was waited upon with strict attention until he was able to walk, and then was by Lieutenant Corry (our lieutenant) taken somewhere not distant to an hospital, and declarant heard no more of him.
Only in hindsight do we truly understand whether such bloodshed is worth it, and even then, we were not the ones to suffer it.
IMAGE: Boston Massacre, March 5th, 1770, published by J. H. Bufford’s lithography company based on an illustration by W. L. Champney, 1856 (American Antiquarian Society)