Joyce Chaplin vs. Ted Cruz

Perhaps you have seen the Twitter battle taking place between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Joyce Chaplin.   Cruz ran for POTUS In 20016.  Chaplin is an early American historian and chair of Harvard’s American Studies program

Chaplin’s claim that the United States was formed by an international community through the Treaty of Paris (1783) is true.  Having said that, to connect the Treaty of Paris with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement seems to be a bit of a reach. I hope Chaplin will write a longer piece on this.  I am less interested in the connections between Paris 1783 and Paris 2017 and more interested in Chaplin’s understanding of the relationship between the past and the present on matters like this.

Cruz, of course, can’t stay away.  His tweets reveal his simplistic understanding of the American Revolution.  As Cruz proved during his presidential campaign, he is incapable of nuance, especially when history does not conform to his view of American exceptionalism.

I wonder what Cruz would say about me if he ever found out that I tell my students that the Americans would not have won the Revolutionary War without the help of France, Spain, and other European powers.

Here are the tweets:

5 thoughts on “Joyce Chaplin vs. Ted Cruz

  1. If, as you and Joyce Chaplin insist, the United States was created by the international community in 1783 through the Treaty of Paris, then why the convention in Philadelphia 1787? Or why, for that matter, did Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay write The Federalist Papers?

    Nowhere in the above-quoted tweets does Senator Cruz state American forces achieved military success without foreign assistance. Nor, of course, would he dispute the importance of the aid that was provided by other countries.


  2. Yes, the Declaration speaks of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” and “the powers of the earth.” Yet the context for both these phrases from the Declaration’s opening paragraph demonstrate that the founding of a sovereign nation had already taken place. The Continental Congress was not asking permission to form a new nation. They declared that the U.S. had already taken its place among the powers of the earth. During the negotiation of the Treaty of Paris, England sent instructions to its negotiators that they would be negotiating with ambassadors of the U.S., not representatives of British colonies. Adams and Jay refused to negotiate until U.S. was recognized as an independent nation by England and France. Franklin gave in to their demands and began negotiating with the British without consulting the French. Yes, we had help from France and Spain which was invaluable; some Frenchmen lost their lives. Yet that doesn’t create any obligation to stay in the Paris climate accords. The U.S. returned its debt to France twice in the twentieth century, spilling more blood than France ever shed during the revolution.


  3. Perhaps the good senator was playing hooky the day his history teacher mentioned a certain Frenchman named Lafayette and his friendship with Washington and helped the Colonies during the American Revolution. Perhaps the next time he leads a fillibuster he can read a history book to his children instead of Dr. Seuss.


  4. I’ve a few qualms with Chaplin’s phrasing and yours, but weren’t there some words in another document about “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind…” and “the powers of the earth”? IMHO that shows the Founders realized there was an international community to which they aspired to join. They appealed to and received absolutely vital assistance from parts of the community (unlike say the Confederacy). If the infant nation was not to be stillborn, it needed the international midwife.


  5. Actually, the Treaty of Paris recognized that the U.S. was already a nation. France wanted the status of the U.S. to be part of the negotiations. Franklin sided with France. Adams and Jay fought for the recognition that the U.S. was already a nation and Franklin finally sided with them.


Comments are closed.