From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. . . .” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).
With these words, one of the biggest disputes in history began: the thirteen colonies in far away America severed their relationship with George III and Great Britain by declaring their independence. The date: July 4, 1776.
In truth, by the time this Declaration of Independence was adopted, the relationship between the thirteen colonies and George III had deteriorated beyond repair and to an all time low. In fact, the first battle of the Revolutionary War occurred at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 or more than a year before the colonies adopted this Declaration of Independence.
Yet, prior to April 1775, many of the colonists hoped for reconciliation with King George III and Great Britain. As we all learned in grade school, the relationship between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies began deteriorating many years before when as result of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, Great Britain found itself deep in debt and so needed to generate revenue quickly. To do so, it imposed a series of tax revenue measures on the thirteen colonies. While Great Britain believed these taxes to be fair as the colonies should pay their way, the colonies had a contrary view ( as is typical in any dispute) believing they should not be taxed by an entity (i.e., Parliament) in which they were not represented. Underlying this “taxation” dispute was the true one: Should Parliament, situated thousands of miles away, really have any authority and control over the thirteen colonies and their inhabitants? Remember- this is long before telephones, e mail and other means of instant communication existed; rather, communication took weeks and months – by horse and ship! (As is typical in a dispute, often the true issue lays hidden.) Although many colonists were still hoping to reconcile with George III in 1775 even after war had erupted, by January 1776, it became clear that George III was not inclined to negotiate or to be conciliatory in any way.
(See, United States Declaration of Independence at: United_States_Declaration_of_Independence )
But, what if a really good peacemaker (aka an ADR professional) had been invited to the table to mediate the dispute between the thirteen colonies and George III before the relationship was beyond repair, let’s say in 1763 when the dispute first arose? Could he ( I doubt there were any women neutrals at the time.) have worked his magic and gotten George III to see that it was in his best interests to reconcile with the thirteen colonies so that Great Britain would continue to have an incoming source of revenue? Suppose the mediator could have gotten George III to acknowledge and accept that one of the underlying needs of the thirteen colonies was to be represented in Parliament – to have a voice in their own governance. Would this have been so bad? Would this have been a really terrible concession for George III to make ? He certainly, did not do a risk analysis or determine how much he had to gain by giving up a little.
If George III was a savvy negotiator, he could have leveraged this value item by requesting something of value in return, perhaps, additional revenues. In this dispute, did George III lose sight that he was still the sovereign, and so would always have the ultimate vote and ultimate veto power? Did he, in essence, lose sight of the forest for the trees? What if, he hadn’t allowed his ego get in the way?
Certainly, if this dispute had been resolved through mediation, the United States would not be here, today and would not be the great nation that it is. It would not have accomplished all that it has (good and bad) and each of our lives would have been very different. . . as citizens of the British Empire.
So while my goal as a mediator is to resolve disputes, I must admit that there are some disputes left best unresolved. . . . (Perhaps, it was a good thing that George III was so bullheaded!)
Happy Birthday America!
Happy July 4th to Everyone!
. . .Just something to think about.
Gail Bingham discusses her thoughts on how mediation can play a larger part in the implementation phase of an agreement.By Gail Bingham