Dylan Matthews’ third point in his screed about why the American Revolution was a mistake is that without the Revolution, we would have had a Westminster-style parliamentary government, and parliamentary governments are better.
I grant the point about parliamentary government. The U.S. constitution is a mess, at least as a governing document. It sets up multiple veto points and is quite unsuited to disciplined, ideological parties. The Canadian constitution, as it currently stands, works quite a lot better.
But the United States would not get the current Canadian constitution if we had not fought the Revolution.
Consider the Canadian constitution as it stood in 1867. It possessed this giant monstrosity called the Senate: an appointed chamber deliberately set up to represent the regions and throw sand into the legislative gears. And the Senate did just that! Occasionally, it rejected major reforms: in 1926, for example, the Senate axed Canada’s first attempt at a social security system.
The Canadian senate, however, soon became remarkably deferential to the lower house. (For example, the failed 1926 social security bill sailed through unchanged the next year.) That is in part because the Prime Minister can appoint more senators, but mostly it is because the institution does not have the legitimacy to use its de jure powers to the fullest. It is not quite the House of Lords, but it’s close.
Now imagine designing a constitution for a British North America that includes a bunch of slaveholding states provinces. One might imagine that you would get an institution rather like the Canadian senate. But does anyone believe that politicians from the slave states provinces would hesitate to use every power at their disposal to protect their control? The end result would be an upper house that would be even more of a dog’s breakfast than our own.
And that assumes that you even get a united British North America without the Revolution! I will admit, it seems likely that the British colonies would eventually federate. But I mostly think that because Canada, Australia and South Africa eventually did federate, even if New Zealand and Rhodesia kept out of the latter two. Blind analogy is probably not a good reason to assume that British North America would go the same way.
Having North America divided into ... uh .... somewhere between 13 and 16 different autonomous entities under the British crown is not a recipe for good government. Give me the Senate instead of balkanization! Hell, give me the even messier constitutional wreck that is the European Union.
In other words, claiming that North America would have had a better constitution absent the Revolution is ahistorical smoke blowing. Wasn’t gonna happen.