Monday, July 4, 2011

Sherlock Holmes, America, and Independence

“Then I trust that you at least will honour me with your company,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”
—“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”

Halloa, halloa, there, folks!  Today being the United States of America’s 235th birthday, I wanted to blog something about Sherlock Holmes and the U.S. of A.  I was wracking my brains trying to come up with something when suddenly I remembered this little gem of a quote.

A rather… interesting… opinion

…Oh, boy, Holmes, you came up with some interesting stuff, but this one’s a doozy.  And what did he mean by “I am one of those”?  I certainly hope there weren’t other Englishmen of the belief that America would one day rejoin the British Empire!

Seriously, though, how on earth could Holmes possibly have formed that opinion?  By the time of NOBL (October 1888), the United States had been her own country for well over a century!  Did Sherlock seriously believe that the fiercely independent Americans would surrender their liberty once more to a foreign authority over three thousand miles away?  Especially considering that a civil war had been fought in America in his lifetime (his childhood, to be precise) over independence for the southern states!

America is not Scotland.  Scotland was conquered by England, regained its autonomy, then lost it when the monarchies were joined under King James I.  America was born of England, grew up, and left her tyrannical parent.

Not the same at all.

He was also factually wrong.

It was neither the king nor the Prime Minister that the Founding Fathers declared war upon—it was Parliament.  It was the legislative body that was levying taxes and tyrannizing the colonies.  The Americans wanted to be answerable to King George III himself—some of the individual colonial constitutions recognized him alone as their ruler.  They were not going to stand for being controlled by a legislative group that was not recognized in their governmental charters and in which they had no representation.


Sherlock was actually growing up while the American Civil War was being waged three thousand miles away.  If he had indeed been born in 1854, he would have been eleven years old when the North won (though in my own timeline, he was born in ’58 and would thus have been seven).  If he had but been old enough to travel to the South, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and others would have gladly taught Sherlock a lot about liberty and independence.

Had Holmes ever bothered to study the men who fought for independence, he would have found ample proof that America would never willingly resubmit to a foreign power.  (And England, by 1888, was very foreign to the States—descendants of English colonists were only part of the population, which was also comprised of Germans, Irish and Scotch-Irish, blacks, French and Spanish in the south, and even Chinese in the West.)

Consider Patrick Henry’s immortal words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Or Colonel Robert Magaw of the Continental Army: “Actuated by the Most Glorious Cause that mankind ever fought in, I am determined to defend this post to the very last extremity.”

And, clearly, Holmes never watched Mel Gibson’s The Patriot or Gods and Generals (starring Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, and Robert Duvall).  More’s the pity!

Did he ever learn?

In the years leading up to World War I, Holmes went undercover for the British government as counter-intelligence.  His guise was the Irish-American Altamont, and he spent over a year in the States just to return to England as a spy for German military intelligence.  Holmes played a dangerous game not only with the Germans but with the Irish as well—his cover was amongst the very people that would secede Ireland from the British Empire in less than twenty years!

As he immersed himself in the role, did Holmes ever truly understand the need for national independence?  He himself had created his own profession and valued individual independence—did he ever come to understand it on a much-larger scale?

We can’t know one way or the other, of course.  But there’s a chance he did.  There’s a chance.

To all my fellow Americans, a blessed Independence Day.  Never forget that our liberty was won at a price, and that liberty cannot be maintained without sacrifice of ourselves to that Most Glorious Cause.

America, America!
God mend thine every flaw!
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I remember reading NOBL and thinking... "Holmes, what the heck are you talking about?" And the very thought of Holmes watching The Patriot is hilarious:) I love that movie! Anyway, happy 4th!

    BTW, this is WanderingChild96 from FFN ;)