Reviewed by David William Pear
July 15, 2021
Matthew Ehret, with contributions from Cynthia Chung, has written a much-needed book about the early history of the United States of America. The title of the book is The Clash of Two Americas, the Unfinished Symphony. It is volume 1 of a planned series. This essay is based on the book.
The “Clash of Two Americas” is a compendium of historical information. Much of it is not very well-known, even by knowledgeable readers. The book is well-written, an exciting read, and has some elements of a good mystery novel. Except this is a true story.
The “Clash” is a book about the battle between two opposing visions of what the United States of America should be. The opening scene is the American Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence and the signing of The Constitution of the United States of America in 1787. The book covers the 18th and 19 century.
One side of the clash is good and the other side is evil. There are heroes and villains. The clash continues today, but so far the winning side has been a tragedy for the American people and the world. Matthew Ehret’s book leaves some hope for the future. As he says: “— the United States is both more than many believe it to be and less than it was meant to become, remaining an unfinished symphony —“. Let’s hope the symphony has a rollicking finale!
Most people think that the Revolutionary War was won and done by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Not so fast! Empires do not give up their colonies willingly and easily. The British did not abandon their effort to regain “their colony” either. All one has to do to understand that is to look at the examples of the U.S. empire. For a century the U.S. has been trying to dominate Cuba, Iran, Russia, and China and to make them obey its imperial will. The U.S. did not just go away after the 1949 creation of the Peoples’ Republic of China, the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle, and Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Even when the U.S. withdraws from a battle in defeat and humiliation, it does not give up the war. Empires do not just pack up their carpet bags and go home. They do a tactical retreat, swallow their pride, and continue the war. The British Empire did not accept defeat in 1783 either. It continued to meddle in the affairs of the U.S. and tried to subvert it with a divide and conquer strategy. The British agitated for the U.S. Civil War in the hope of regaining their lost colony.
An early British agent was Aaron Burr. He had been Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. He later showed his true colors as a traitor by conspiring with the British. After he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Burr then devoted the rest of his life trying to subvert the U.S. He worked alongside the British Empire, which had bases of operation in its Canadian colony.
Canada was a nest of British agents, many of whom were “loyalists” who fled to Canada after the Revolutionary War. The British also had many sympathizers, spies and conspirators among wealthy Eastern Establishment families who had remained in the U.S. Southern slave-owning aristocrats were natural allies of the British Empire. As Lord Robert Cecil, a three-time Prime Minister, explained to the British parliament in 1861:
“The Northern States of America never can be our sure friends because we are rivals, rivals politically, rivals commercially…. With the Southern States, the case is entirely reversed. The population are an agricultural people. They furnish the raw material of our industry, and they consume the products which we manufacture from it. With them, every interest must lead us to cultivate friendly relations, and when the war began they at once recurred to England as their natural ally.”
The British gave the South more than moral support, friendship, and comfort during the Civil War. They supplied the South with weapons, warships, and military intelligence and advice. The possibility of a British military invasion was not an idle threat. Their agents ran terrorist operations against the North, too. After the war they conspired in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. As President Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, said:
“It appears from evidence in the Bureau of Military Justice that the … murder of … Abraham Lincoln … [was] incited, concerted, and procured by and between Jefferson Davis, late of Richmond, Va., and Jacob Thompson, Clement C. Clay, [Nathaniel] Beverly Tucker, George N. Sanders, William C. Cleary, and other rebels and traitors against the government of the United States harbored in Canada.”
In the Alabama Claim of 1872 the British Empire admitted aiding the South, expressed regret, and paid compensation of $15.5 million to the U.S. Despite Britain’s mea culpa it continued to use its bases in Canada for meddling, spying, conspiring and subversive activity against the United States.
The Klu Klux Klan had deep British roots. British secretive societies were dedicated to the expansion of the British Empire: such as Thomas Huxley’s X-Club, the Fabian Society, and Lord Milner’s Roundtable Movement. The Roundtable Movement was funded by Cecil Rhode’s seventh will. Rhodes did not make a secret of his agenda. It was, as he wrote in his will:
“—the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilized world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, and for the making of the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire.”
One of the little-known amazing facts of the Civil War is that the Russian Czar Alexander II posted his navy to both the Atlantic and Pacific coast of the U.S. His actions thwarted British and French military interventions. The Czar proclaimed that if Britain or France intervened in the U.S. Civil War, then he would consider it as casus belli to initiate war. His actions may have saved the Union.
Close ties between the U.S. and Russia led to the 1867 Alaska Purchase, and eventually in 1906 there were plans to build a rail tunnel crossing the Bering Strait. It would have connected the U.S. and Russia. Eventually it could have joined with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which the Russians started building with American help in 1891. The connection would have linked the U.S. to China and Europe too, with a “land bridge” of rail.
The British Empire viewed railroad construction as acts of “aggression”. The British Empire tried to sabotage them, because they bypassed the mighty Royal Navy, which ruled the sea. Empires view any competition as acts of aggression against their world domination and trade. British propaganda labeled Germany’s Berlin to Bagdad railroad “German aggression” leading up to World War One.
The clash of two Americas was more than a North versus South conflict over slavery, although it was very much that too. It was also a clash of political and economic philosophies and policies. The clash was between the “British System” versus what became known as the “American System of Political Economy”.
The American System promotes economic development, industrialization, and trade tariffs to protect developing domestic industries against foreign dumping of cheap products. It also proactively promotes large infrastructure projects such as railroads. The federal government finances them with a national bank. The federal government’s authority and duty to “coin money and regulate the value thereon” is proclaimed in the U.S. Constitution. A national bank can best provide funding for infrastructure projects and industrialization. Matthew Ehret calls lending for infrastructure “creative debt”, because it produces value. The results of an American System are shared prosperity.
The foil of the American System is the “British System” of slavery, exploitation, imperialism, war and scarcity. The British System is based on Adam Smith’s laissez-faire “magic” hand, private banking, debt-slavery, Malthusianism zero-sum economics, social Darwinism, survival of the fittest, and eugenics. The British System is enforced with soul-destroying violence, to which it becomes addicted.
The American System is a win-win system. The British System is the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The American System promotes liberty. The British system promotes authoritarianism. The American System honors human rights. The British System is dehumanizing. Some of the champions of the American System were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and later Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.
The American Revolution sparked an international movement in Russia, France, Germany, Prussia, Spain, Italy and even India and Morocco!. It motivated Czar Alexander II to free the serfs and begin developing Russia. The American system inspired Otto von Bismarck to consolidate German, and develop Germany’s industry and technology. The American System held out the possibility of uniting the U.S. with Russia and China in a global system of cooperation. The American System was Alexander Hamilton’s and Abraham Lincoln’s vision of Manifest Destiny, which was to be for the benefit of all humanity.
Alas, the American System was sabotaged by the British Empire, domestic subversive elements and elitists. Every U.S. president who backed the American System and a national bank was assassinated or died in office under mysterious circumstances. William Harrison was assassinated in 1841, Zackery Taylor died mysteriously in 1850, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, James A. Garfield in 1881, William McKinley in 1901, Warren Harding died mysteriously in 1923, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died under suspicious circumstances in 1945, and John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy in 1963.
And other opponents of the “British System” were assassinated in this 200-year bloodbath of the 19th and 20th century. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr in 1804. The “Great Liberator” Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Louis XVI who favored a constitutional monarchy and the American System was executed in 1793, as was French President Sadi Carnot in 1894. Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Canovas in 1897. King Umberto I of Italy in 1900. Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in 1968.
Matthew Ehret’s book “The Clash of Two Americas” shines a light on many other landmark events. They include Benjamin Franklin’s 20-year campaign to unite the colonies, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the role of Frederick Douglass as an advisor to Abraham Lincoln, and France’s failed “American” revolution; and the deep origins of the “deep state”, and much, much more.
Pulling a quote from “The Clash of Two Americas”, the plot of the book might be summarized by a quote from Lincoln’s economic advisor Henry Charles Carey. Carey wrote in his 1851 book “The Harmony of Interests: Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial” the following statement:
“Two systems are before the world … One looks to pauperism, ignorance, depopulation, and barbarism; the other to increasing wealth, comfort, intelligence, combination of action, and civilization. One looks towards universal war; the other towards universal peace. One is the English system; the other we may be proud to call the American system…”
So, which side won the American Revolution? For most of its history the U.S. has been plagued by the English System. Cynics might say that the U.S. has always been the English System; a nation built on genocide, slavery, imperialism and war; and that the Declaration of Independence, and that the U.S. Constitution and the Founding Fathers were the heights of hypocrisy. The cynics would have a lot of evidence to back it up. The U.S. has many ugly stains on its history. And all of the “heroes” had many warts.
At Gettysburg, Lincoln spoke of America as a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Whose interests have mostly been served by the U.S. government? It has not been “we the people”. The U.S. Empire, like all empires, benefits a small minority of traders, money changers, rentiers, old-money families, oligarchs, aristocrats, gangsters in suits, and country club elites. Empires do not create value for the world. They are parasites on the people. They create “negative value”.
An example of the U.S. creating negative value is its military industrial complex, and endless war-making. A 2000-pound unguided gravity bomb costs U.S. taxpayers $3000. It is a one-time use item and its only purpose is destruction and death. A $3000 bomb can bring down a $100 million high rise apartment building, a hospital, or a school, or a factory. Cui bono.
Since 2001 the U.S. has dropped approximately 326,000 bombs of all sorts, mostly on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. In 2016 President Obama dropped a record 26,171 bombs; so many that he temporarily ran out of bombs. The bombs are just a small fraction of the trillions of dollars of the cost of war. The human waste is incalculable.
Trump and now Biden drop an average of 42 bombs every day. That is negative value for “we the people” and even worse for the victims the bombs rain down on. The victims are mostly civilians, but they are simply chalked up as collateral damage, as if they are abandoned junk. Only fools would believe the propaganda that U.S. bombs are for humanitarian interventions to deliver freedom and democracy from cruel dictators and to stop terrorism.
The American System creates value. It builds mass transportation, high-speed rail, airports, and provides healthcare, education, social safety nets, and it lifts people out of poverty. There is only one way that the U.S. can begin to “finish the symphony” of the American Revolution, which Matthew Ehret writes about. That is for the U.S. to end all of its illegal wars of aggression, abandon its quest for world domination, give up its empire, and honor the U.S. Constitution and the United Nations charter.
To finish its revolution the U.S. must reject the British System, and accept a multi-polar world of win-win. It must welcome peace, cooperation and compromise. The only thing stopping the U.S. from embracing the American Political and Economic System is a small group of elites, war profiteers, and careerists who care only about their self-interests. Their selfish interests are not guided by a magical invisible hand for the good of all.
David William Pear is a journalist, columnist, editor, and commentator. His articles, essays and interviews have an emphasis on U.S. foreign policy, history, and economic and social issues. He is an advocate for peace, ending US wars of aggression, and promoting economic, political and social justice. He has been writing for The Greanville Post, OpEdNews and other publications since 2009. His articles are published under Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial 4.0 International License, and they may be republished as such without obtaining any other or prior permission.