Randall DeSoto
Winston Churchill once quipped you can “trust the American people to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.” His observation touches on a recurring theme in United States history: major political change is often preceded by a decade long learning curve. This pattern can be seen from the Founding era up to the election of 2012.

Ten years before the American Revolution, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, which was the first in a series of direct taxes over the American colonies. The colonists immediately recognized it as a violation of their fundamental rights as British citizens to tax themselves through their own legislatures. They had no representation in the British Parliament and even if they did, their representatives would be outnumbered and outvoted every time their interests conflicted with the Mother Country’s. The colonists protested the Stamp Act, which led to its repeal; however, the Parliament then passed other taxes and measures aimed at controlling the colonies including the infamous tea tax. The citizens of Massachusetts responded to this tax with their Party in Boston Harbor in 1773. The British King and Parliament then ordered the occupation of Boston and imposition of martial law, as well as the extraordinary act of disbanding the Massachusetts’ legislature, as they had done to New York’s a few years earlier.

After a decade of these abuses and usurpations of powers, enough of the American people had finally seen enough. Virginia legislator Patrick Henry best articulated this sentiment in his famous “Liberty or Death Speech” of 1775 calling for a break with the Great Britain. In his address to the Virginia legislature, he observed the common trait of human nature to put off making difficult choices, “to indulge in the illusions of hope” but after ten years the time for such self-deception had long since passed. He closed in a mighty crescendo, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Virginia, and the other twelve colonies joined together in the fight for freedom and went on to prevail in the American Revolution.

There are several other examples of the ten-year learning curve in American history. It took ten years after the passage of the Articles of Confederation in 1777 to reach consensus that the federal government lacked the power to hold the nation together and replaced it with the Constitution in 1787.

Randall DeSoto

Randy DeSoto is a freelance writer and media consultant.