The Americans and the British have a special relationship. We are BFFs. And are each other’s most important ally. For when there is a dictator to vanquish or a peace to maintain you can count on the Americans and the British. Despite their complicated past. And sometimes conflicting interests. Why, the Americans have a special place in their hearts for two great British leaders of the 20th century. Margaret Thatcher. And Winston Churchill (see Winston Churchill, an all-American hero by Tim Stanley posted 10/31/2013 posted on The Telegraph).
This week, a bust of Britain’s greatest leader was installed at the heart of the Capitol building. So why does the cult of Winston still hold Washington in thrall..?
Americans heard Churchill’s war broadcasts – and it’s this image of resolution and pluck that stayed with them throughout the Second World War, and beyond. After Germany’s defeat, and thrown out of office by Labour’s surprise 1945 election victory, Churchill leant moral leadership to the fight with Soviet Communism. On March 5, 1946, he gave a speech before 40,000 at the small town of Fulton, Missouri, in which he declared: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” This was the rhetorical starting gun for the Cold War. The simplest reason why Churchill is so popular in the US is that he was an ally in three global wars.
Why are Americans in love Winston Churchill? Perhaps I can best answer that question in song.
In case you didn’t make out the lines in the last verse they are included here.
Others will respect you
Others will elect you
They’ll accept your calls
Others will desire you
They may not admire you
But they will admit
You do transmit
When others wanted to appease the Nazis Churchill didn’t. When others wanted to embrace the Soviet Union Churchill didn’t. When others wanted to give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety he chose essential liberties. This is why Americans love Winston Churchill. We respect him. And he transmited balls. Unlike some of our world leaders today.
8/14/2013 CORRECTION: There were factual errors/omissions in this piece. We apologize for them. And we apologize to the good people of Spain if we have offended them. But it should be noted that some of the corrections are from quotes pulled from the sourced Mirror article. A British newspaper.
The point of the piece is a recurring theme in history. There are rarely any innocents when it comes to international disputes. That was the point of the French and the Spanish helping the Americans during the Revolutionary War. They did this not for American interests but for their own interests.
We also will note that the world’s power center shifted from the Mediterranean to the great sea powers of Europe. Because these great European powers advanced seafaring to the point that they were first to conquer the oceans. Also, the man that discovered America (Christopher Columbus) was sailing for Spain. During the time of the Age of Discovery. Where Spain dominated that discovery. And Spain was home to the School of Salamanca. Where the seeds of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were sown. And they would bear their greatest fruit in the late 18th century. Thanks to America’s Founding Fathers being students of the Enlightenment. So Spain has a formidable place in world history. One that we admire and greatly respect.
A reader from Madrid sent in a well-written and very respectful criticism. We include it here in its entirety.
Dear Pithocrates, I have read your paper on Gibraltar which is rather accurate but there are some missing points which are very relevant to understand the roots of the issue. These points are as follows:
a) It is true that the Spanish captured Gibraltar from the moors in 1462, but you shouldn´t omit that the moors captured it previously from the visigotic kingdom of Spain in 711.
b) You state that “Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704”, but you omit that it was in the context of a Spanish dynastic sucesion war and this capture was in the name of one of aspirants to the Spanish crown, supported by British and Dutchs.
c) The Treaty of Utrecht didn´t handed over the surrounding waters and the istmus where the airstrip lies. The istmus was a neutral zone wich was taken by the British in XIX century by asking quarantine land due an epidemy in Gibraltar. It doesn´t seem fair play. This is the key point for Spain since Gibraltar has no waters to drop blocks in and the airport is out of Gibraltar territory.
I fully agree that we can´t go back to the first wrong but your statement that Spain wants to tear up the treaty is far from reality. In essence Spain wants the British to meet the treaty in full since is not an acceptable behave to throw concrete blocks in non British waters nor contaminate them with chopy bunkering practice,. If you study the history of Spain, you will learn that some part of it was outstanding, glorious and brilliant and some not, but ALWAYS we have been people of honour and we honoured the treaties we signed off.
Finally I believe that in XXI the gunboat policy is out of place, but in any case it is clear that Spain was not the first to put the navy in this conflict.
I would be very grateful if you share these lines with your readers in order to clarify the situation. Spaniards and British have had a long common history. We have been rivals for centuries and in the past we fought very often each other and sometimes were allies. We have in Gibraltar a common “heritage” and we should be intelligent enough not to make it a wedge but a hinge between us.
[name withheld by Pithocrates to protect writer’s privacy]
PD: In addition there is a little geographical mistake in your text: none of the sides of Gibraltar is on the Atlantic ocean, both are in the Med (Mediterranean sea is considered eastward Tarifa).
Do you know what you will find at the southern tip of Spain? Britain. That’s right. Gibraltar belongs to Britain. Something Spain isn’t all that happy about. Kind of how Argentina isn’t all that happy about Britain being in the Falkland Islands. And both Argentina and Spain try to make life difficult for the British living in these British possessions (see Gibraltar: Britain to send Navy warships to Mediterranean in show of force to Spain by James Lyons posted 8/9/2013 on the Mirror).
Britain is sending warships to Gibraltar after David Cameron failed in his attempt to end the diplomatic row with Spain…
The 10-vessel Med visit follows weeks of rising diplomatic tension as the Madrid government holds up traffic at the border in retaliation for Gibraltar’s efforts to stop Spanish trawlers plundering fish stocks…
The PM, in a phone call to his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, issued a coded warning of legal action over the border checks and the threat to impose a £43 crossing fee.
But the checks still happened today and the Spanish hit back by criticising the Gibraltar government for making an artificial reef to protect fish stocks.
Under the seas surrounding the Falkland Islands are oil and gas deposits. In the waters around Gibraltar it’s fish stocks. So there are economic reasons. But what really irks Spain is that unlike the cold and windy Falkland Islands Gibraltar is a sunny vacation paradise. And you don’t need a boat or a plane to get there from Spain. All you have to do is drive there. And cross an active runway. Yes, the road through Gibraltar actually crosses an active runway. Why, you may ask, doesn’t the road go around the runway? Well, the thing is, Gibraltar is so narrow that one end of the runway ends at the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. While the other ends at the water of the Mediterranean Sea.
Gibraltar is an outpost of Britishness at the mouth of the Mediterranean, and has been for 300 years.
The 2.3 square miles land mass, dominated by the 1,300-foot limestone Rock of Gibraltar, is one of the last remaining parts of the empire…
The 30,000 inhabitants of the British Overseas Territory cling to their UK roots.
Sterling currency, red post boxes, familiar British shops and banks and the use of the English language are all legacies of the Rock’s long association with Britain…
The results of several referendums in Gibraltar over the years, the most recent in 2002, have been overwhelmingly in favour of remaining linked to Britain.
So it’s only a small sliver of land. And the people who live there are British. And want to remain British. As it is in the Falklands. Referendum after referendum is always the same. These British people want to remain British. It makes one wonder what would happen to them if Spain and Argentina got their way. Would they deport them? Segregate them? Or simply make them stop being British?
So how did it come to this? How did a tip of Spain become British?
Captured from the Moors by the Spanish in 1462, Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704.
Nine years later it was officially handed over to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht, and it has remained in British hands ever since.
It is this treaty which is at the heart of Spain’s claim to the land.
The Rock was ceded to Britain “to be held and enjoyed absolutely, with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever”.
But successive Spanish governments have argued that this is an anachronism and that Spain’s territorial integrity justifies the return of Gibraltar to Spanish control.
Critics of Spain’s attitude towards Gibraltar have pointed out that it has its own city enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, on the north African coast, bordering Morocco.
Despite repeated demands by Morocco that the cities should be returned to its territory, Spain refuses to do so.
Interestingly, the Spanish took the land from someone else. The Moors. So the British didn’t do anything the Spanish didn’t do. They got the land by military conquest. Then made it permanent by treaty. A treaty they say now is silly to maintain. Because Gibraltar is attached to the Spanish mainland and logically belongs to them. While they themselves are holding on to lands that by their logic belong to Morocco.
The Spanish Empire once stretched throughout the world. But it was overtaken by the British Empire. Whose representative government and capitalism vaulted the British into the number one world power. While the Spanish Empire declined the British Empire only grew stronger. France, too, lost bits of her empire to the British. Which is why the French aided the Americans in the American Revolutionary War. And why the Spanish joined that conflict by allying themselves with the French against the British. Neither of them cared about helping the Americans. They went to war against the British when they were preoccupied with the Americans to reclaim their lost pieces of empire. And hoped to limit the Americans’ expansion into North America by the treaty that would end the war. A treaty that would undo the Treaty of Utrecht. And allow further expansion of France and Spain into North America.
How far back do you go to right past wrongs? Should Spain return their land to the Moors? Should they take back Mexico and return it to the Aztecs? Do you go back to the first wrong? Which would be difficult without a historical record going back to the first wrong. So do you go back just far enough? And if so who determines how far that is?
No. You can’t do this. All you can do is honor the treaties you have now. Treaties that were signed willingly by all parties concerned. Yes, some parties were negotiating from a position of weakness. But that’s war. In hindsight Napoleon would much rather have signed a treaty before losing at Waterloo. Just as Hitler would have, in hindsight, preferred to sign peace treaties with all combatants before his invasion of the Soviet Union. But when you wage war and lose you have little choice but to negotiate from a position of weakness. And because the British bested the Spanish in battle Gibraltar belongs to Britain. Just as the Spanish would be holding on to Cornwall in England if the roles were reversed.
In 1792 the Outstanding Debt at all Levels of Government was 45% of GDP
Wars aren’t cheap. Especially if they last awhile. The American Revolutionary War lasted some 8 years until the British and Americans signed the Treaty of Paris (1782) officially ending all hostilities. So the Revolutionary War was a very costly war. The ‘national’ government (the Continental Congress) owed about $70 million. The states owed another $25 million or so. And the Continental Army had issued about $7 million in IOUs during the war. Added up that comes to $102 million the new nation owed. About 45% of GDP. (Or about 35% without the state debt added in.)
To put that in perspective consider that the Civil War raised the debt to about 32% of GDP. World War I raised it to about 35%. World War II raised it to about 122%. Following the war the debt fell to about 32% at its lowest point until it started rising again. And quickly. In large part due to the cost of the Vietnam War and LBJ’s Great Society. Government spending being so great Nixon turned to printing money. Depreciating the dollar’s purchasing power in every commodity but one. Gold. Which was pegged at $35/ounce. Losing faith in our currency foreign governments traded their U.S. dollars for gold. Until Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971. Ushering in the era of Keynesian economics, deficit spending and growing national debts. Because of increased spending for social programs governments everywhere now have debts approaching 100% of GDP. And higher. But I digress.
So 45% of GDP was huge in 1792. And it continued to be huge. Taking a devastating civil war and a devastating world war to even approach it. It took an even more devastating world war to exceed it. And now we’ve blown by that debt level in the era of Keynesian economics. Without the devastation of another World War II. This debt level has grown so great that for the first time ever in U.S. history Standard and Poor’s recently lowered the United States’ impeccable sovereign debt rating. And restoring that debt rating at today’s spending levels will be a daunting task. But imagine trying to establish a sovereign debt rating after just becoming a nation. Already with a massive debt of 45% of GDP.
In Hamilton’s Report on Public Credit the New Government would Assume Outstanding Debt at all Levels of Government
There was only one choice for America’s first president. The indispensible one. George Washington. Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 who were skeptical of the new Constitution only supported it because they had someone they could trust to be America’s first president. George Washington. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were indispensible at times. But not as indispensible as Washington. For without him the Continental Army would have ceased to exist after that winter at Valley Forge. That same army would have mutinied (for back pay and promised pensions) after the war if he didn’t step in. Our experiment in self-government would have ended if he did not relinquish his power after the war. We wouldn’t have ratified the Constitution without having Washington to be America’s first president. And our experiment in self-government would have ended if he did not relinquish his power. Again. After his second term as president.
With the state of the government’s finances after the war there was another Founding Father that was indispensible. Not as indispensible as Washington. But close. For without him the Washington presidency may have failed. As well as the new nation. Because of that convoluted financial mess. The Continental Congress borrowed money. The states borrowed money. Some of which went to the Continental Congress. The army took stuff they needed to survive in exchange for IOUs. There were bonds, loans and IOUs at every level of government in every state. Complicating the matter is that most of the instruments they sold ended up in the hands of speculators who bought them for pennies on the dollar. As the original holders of these instruments needed money. And did not believe the Continental Congress would honor any of these obligations. For before the Constitution the government was weak and had no taxing authority. And no way to raise the funds to redeem these debt obligations.
A few tried to get their arms around this financial mess. But couldn’t. It was too great a task. Until America’s first secretary of the treasury came along. Alexander Hamilton. Who could bring order to the chaos. As well as fund the new federal government. He submitted his plan in his Report on Public Credit (January 1790). And the big thing in it was assumption. The federal government would assume outstanding debt at all levels of government. Including those IOUs. At face value. One hundred pennies on the dollar. To whoever held these instruments. Regardless of who bought them first. “Unfair!” some said. But what else could they do? This was the 1700s. There weren’t detailed computer records of bondholders. Besides, this was a nation that, like the British, protected property rights. These speculators took a risk buying these instruments. Even if at pennies on the dollar. They bought them for a price the seller thought was fair or else they wouldn’t have sold them. So these bonds were now the property of the speculators.
Jefferson and Madison traded Hamilton’s Assumption for the Nation’s Capital
Of course to do this you needed money. Which Hamilton wanted to raise by issuing new bonds. To retire the old. And to service the new. Thus establishing good credit. In fact, he wanted a permanent national debt. For he said, “A national debt, if not excessive, is a national blessing.” Because good credit would allow a nation to borrow money for economic expansion. And it would tie the people with the money to the government. Where the risk of a government default would harm both the nation and their creditors. Making their interests one and the same.
That’s not how Thomas Jefferson saw it, though. He had just returned from France where he witnessed the beginning of the French Revolution. Brought upon by a crushing national debt. And he didn’t want to tie the people with the money to the government. For when they do they tend to exert influence over the government. But Hamilton said debt was a blessing if not excessive. He did not believe in excessive government debt. And he wanted to pay that debt off. As his plan called for a sinking fund to retire that debt. Still, the Jefferson and Hamilton feud began here. For Hamilton’s vision of the new federal government was just too big. And too British. Madison would join Jefferson to lead an opposition party. Primarily in opposition to anything Hamilton. Who used the Constitution to support his other plan. A national bank. Just like the British had. Based on the “necessary and proper” clause in Article I, Section 8. Setting a precedent that government would use again and again to expand its powers.
At the time the nation’s capital was temporarily in New York. A final home for it, though, was a contentious issue. Everyone wanted it in their state so they could greatly influence the national government. Hamilton’s struggle for assumption was getting nowhere. Until the horse-trading at the Jefferson dinner party with Hamilton and Madison. To get the nation’s capital close to Virginia (where it is now) Jefferson offered a deal to Hamilton. Jefferson and Madison were Virginians. Give them the capital and they would help pass assumption. They all agreed to the deal (though Jefferson would later regret it). Congress passed the Residency Act putting the capital on the Potomac. And all the good that Hamilton promised happened. America established good credit. Allowing it to borrow money at home and abroad. And a decade of prosperity followed. Hamilton even paid down the federal debt to about 17.5% of GDP near the end of America’s second president’s (John Adams) term in office (1800). Making Hamilton indispensible in sustaining this experiment in self-government. Keeping government small even though it was more powerful than it was ever before. Of course his using that “necessary and proper” argument really came back to bite him in the ass. Figuratively, of course. As government used it time and again to expand its role into areas even Hamilton would have fought to prevent. While Jefferson no doubt would have said with haughty contempt, “I told you so. This is what happens when you bring money and government together. But would you listen to me? No. How I hate you, Mr. Hamilton.”
For the British to Maintain the Balance of Power in Europe an Independent America actually Helped Them
The war wasn’t over with Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. But his surrender changed everything. The continuing war was becoming more and more unpopular in Britain. And costly. Britain was fighting four wars. One with the Americans. One with the French. One with the Spanish. And one with the Dutch. The debt was growing so great that there were discussions about suspending some interest payments. The British wanted out of these wars. The opposition blamed Lord North for the latest debacle at Yorktown. The Prime Minister resigned. His government fell. And the opposition took power.
The new Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, had favored American independence. His foreign secretary, Charles James Fox, had favored American independence. In fact, those who had favored American independence filled all cabinet positions. Except for one. The Secretary of Colonial Affairs. Lord Shelburne. Fox and Shelburne did not much care for each other. They quarreled. Each having their own idea of how they should conduct the peace. Fox sent Thomas Green to France to begin negotiations with the French. Shelburne sent Richard Oswald to France to begin negotiations with the Americans (Benjamin Franklin was in Paris).
The French had a debt problem of their own. And they, too, were anxious for the war to end. But on favorable terms. They were looking to change the balance of power with their eternal enemy. The British. And therefore wanted to negotiate the peace for the Americans. Get back some of their lost North American territories. And elsewhere. Meanwhile the Spanish were laying siege to the British in Gibraltar. Anxious to retrieve that from the British. They were greatly interested in blocking American westward expansion. And they also wanted to keep them off the Mississippi River. Which flowed to the Gulf of Mexico through their Louisiana Territory. So the politics were quite complex in negotiating the peace. For the British to maintain the balance of power they enjoyed an independent America actually helped them. While an independent America actually harmed the French and the Spanish.
Shelburne negotiated Directly with the Americans to use them to gain Favorable Terms with their European Enemies
The original peace commission in Paris was just John Adams. Few could be found that were more adamant on American independence than he. And this was a problem for the French foreign minister. Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes. He didn’t like Adams. Who was not willing to compromise. Vergennes wanted to end the war. And stop the financial hemorrhaging. And he was willing to compromise with the British to make that happen. Willing to compromise away American independence. American navigation of the Mississippi River. American territorial ambitions beyond the Appalachians (leaving Maine, New York City, portions of the Northwest territories, Charleston and Savannah British). And the American fishing rights off Newfoundland. He was willing to give all that up to end the war with Britain. He had only one problem. John Adams. Who refused to give up what the Americans were actually fighting for in the first place.
Vergennes instructed the French minister in America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, to lobby the Continental Congress. To have them order Adams to be less belligerent. To be more willing to compromise. And to accept the wise counsel of the King of France. The most generous sovereign who made it possible for the Americans to bring the British to the negotiating table. Luzerne was successful. Perhaps with a little bribery. The Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens to join Adams. With the instructions to follow the advice of the French in the peace negotiations.
Fox still favored granting American independence. And he wanted to do it quickly. To split the allies apart. And make separate peace treaties to limit the damage. For the French, Spanish and Dutch could hold out for a grander bargain. Especially if the fortunes of war turned their way. As the Spanish were hoping would soon happen at Gibraltar. So the British warned that their allies could force the Americans to continue the war not for their own interests but that of these Europeans. He told Green to tell Franklin that Britain was prepared to recognize American independence. And that it was in America’s best interests to negotiate a separate peace. Franklin suggested early that Britain may want to throw Canada into the deal. To help pay for all the damage the British did to American property. Shelburne wasn’t about to negotiate away Canada. His answer was to bring up the debt owed to British creditors. And reimbursing the Loyalists who lost their property in America. Things that weren’t high on the American list of demands. Then Rockingham died. Shelburne became prime minister. And Fox quit. Pro-American independence ministers no longer filled the government. Still, Shelburne continued to negotiate directly with the Americans. So he could use them to gain favorable terms with their European enemies.
The American Negotiators were being Played by the Best of European Intrigue
In Franklin’s talks with Oswald he made it clear that independence was a prerequisite for peace. Officially that was a problem for Oswald. For his original commission from Shelburne directed him to negotiate with a commissioner from the colonies or plantations. Not a commissioner from the United States of America. Which, of course, would recognize American independence. Vergennes urged Franklin and Jay to proceed anyway. That official recognition could follow in the final peace treaty. Jay suspected that the French were stalling. He knew of the siege of Gibraltar. And didn’t trust the Franco-Spanish alliance. So he ignored Congress’ order. And did not listen to the wise French counsel. Joining Franklin and Adams in stating that independence was a prerequisite for peace.
The American commission had good reason to not trust their European allies. The French wanted the British to agree to keep the Americans out of the fisheries along Newfoundland. So they could fish these waters. A bitter pill for a New Englander like Adams to swallow. The French were also opposed to the Americans annexing Canada. What they once called New France. Before it became British. While the Spanish were working hard behind the scenes to keep the Mississippi River away from the Americans. Had they gotten their way the Mississippi south of the Ohio River would have been in Spanish hands. As well as the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Louisiana.
The American negotiators were being played by the best of European intrigue. But thanks to the principled men America sent to negotiate the peace the Americans bested the Europeans at their own game. John Adams. Benjamin Franklin. And John Jay. For the Americas got their independence. Territory that stretched to the Mississippi River. And navigation on the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Even their fishing rights off of Newfoundland (though they would revisit that issue later). It would be America’s greatest achievement in diplomacy. The Treaty of Paris (1783). And they made this treaty without consulting the French. Who were miffed. But thanks to Franklin America and France remained friends. So the Americans won the Revolutionary War. And the peace. While avoiding any entangling alliances with the old European powers. Not bad for a brand new nation on the world’s stage.
British Sea Power allowed the British to Remain in a Hostile Land for the Eight Years of the Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War began in April of 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. For years following these battles George Washington yearned to meet the British in a grand battle and defeat them. What he got instead was a lot of smaller battles that sent him in retreat. For despite fighting on the far side of an ocean the British had a large professional army. A vast merchant marine to supply them whatever they needed. And the world’s preeminent navy. The Royal Navy.
That sea power allowed the British to remain in a hostile land for the following 7 years. Allowed them to remain in New York. Allowed them to take the war to the South unopposed. It allowed them to move armies. And supply armies. As well as control the world’s sea lanes to maintain their commerce. The Royal Navy tipped the balance of power well to the side of the British. And perhaps it was their undoing as well. Trusting that their naval superiority would always be there.
British generals Clinton (superior in rank and resting comfortably in New York) and Cornwallis (junior in rank and chasing American armies in the South) did not see eye to eye. Their boss, Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the American Department, didn’t help matters. It was his job to suppress the American rebellion. But he didn’t understand the country. Or the people. Thinking of America in European terms. He thought the Americans were no match for a professional European army assembled on the field of battle. And he was right. But the Americans didn’t fight the war like Europeans. Which proved to be a great disadvantage for the British.
With the French Fleet heading to Chesapeake Bay Washington Scrapped his Plan to Attack New York
General Burgoyne had a grand strategy to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. A three-pronged attack that required General Howe (who preceded Clinton) coming up from New York. Germain approved the plan. And two of the three prongs proceeded accordingly. East through the Mohawk Valley. And south down the upper Hudson valley. Howe was to come up the Lower Hudson valley and meet the other two prongs around Albany. But Germain did not order Howe to do so. So Howe didn’t. Executing his own plans in Pennsylvania. Which led to Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga (1777). And the entry of France into the War (on the condition that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British). The Spanish later (allied to the French). The Dutch, too. And an armed neutrality of the other powers who did not want to partake in the war and would not submit to the advances of the Royal Navy on the high seas. Making it difficult to blockade arms and supplies from reaching the Americans.
The first Franco-American actions proved disappointing. In fact a lot of public sentiment turned against the French. Especially after they abandoned an offensive action in Rhode Island. Leaving the Americans to retreat again. Then Cornwallis moved north. Toward Virginia. And there was another window for French cooperation after some action in the West Indies. And there was a French Army in Newport, Rhode Island, commanded by Comte de Rochambeau, a veteran of the Seven Years’ War. So he knew a thing or two about fighting the British. These forces arrived after Clinton pulled his forces out and returned them to New York. Which is where Washington wanted to attack with this Franco-American force.
Washington and Rochambeau drew up some plans. The French fleet coming from the West Indies commanded by Comte de Grasse was to support the attack. However, this was the battle Clinton was waiting for. And he was ready for it. Washington tested the New York defenses and found them formidable. And there was a British fleet in New York Harbor. Then he got a letter from De Grasse. Rochambeau had left him some freedom in his orders. Instead of going to New York he was heading to the Chesapeake Bay. Where Cornwallis’ army was. It wasn’t New York but it was still a British army. And he would have a large French fleet in support. Washington soon scrapped his New York plans. And looked to Virginia instead.
Cornwallis and Burgoyne lost their Armies because the British never Coordinated their Forces in a Unified Plan
Quickly and quietly the Franco-American force moved from around New York towards Virginia. They were across the Delaware River before Clinton knew where they were going. Or what they planned to do. They kept Admiral Graves in the dark as well. Who kept his British fleet around New York. Waiting to support the army when the Americans and French launched their attack on New York. By the time they figured out what Washington and the Franco-America force were up to it was too late. The French fleet beat them to the Chesapeake Bay. The superior French fleet repelled the smaller British fleet which returned to New York. Leaving Cornwallis on his own. As he faced an enemy that outnumbered him more than two to one. A force that numbered 5,700 professional Continentals and 7,000 professional French troops. As well as 3,100 militia.
Cornwallis was entrenched in Yorktown. With Banastre Tarleton (of Waxhaw Massacre fame) across the York River in Gloucester. As Cornwallis looked out at the gathering force against him laying siege to his army he saw the French on his right. And the Americans on his left. Their trenches slowly moving closer to his. Across the York the French were closing in on Tarleton. Soon the American artillery was within effective range. And George Washington lit the first fuse. It was over in less than a month. And included a bayonet charge led by America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Recognizing the seriousness of Cornwallis’ position Clinton sent a fleet to help lift the siege. But by the time it arrived Cornwallis had already surrendered.
Cornwallis lost his army for the same reason Burgoyne lost his army at Saratoga. Lord Germain. Who failed to coordinate his generals in the American Department. While the Americans did. For most of the war the British had the superior army and the superior navy. Yet they could not win. Because these superior forces were never coordinated together in a unified plan. Opposition in Parliament forced Germain out of office after the fall of Yorktown. And called for the resignation of the Prime Minister. Lord North. Which he gave. A first for a British Prime Minister. The new government would end the war with the Americans with the Treaty of Paris (1783). Where the Americans did very well. And conducted separate peace treaties with the Spanish and the Dutch. As well as the French. Which the French were not pleased with. And they did not do as well as the Americans in the peace. Worse, they would find themselves in their own revolution within a decade. The American Revolution being a major cause of the French Revolution. By saddling France with an enormous war debt. And filling their people with the spirit of liberty.
The Scotch-Irish and Germans in the South had a connection to the Stuart/Hanover King George III
It turns out the first British general to lose an army on the field of battle to the Americans was the only one with a coordinated plan. General Burgoyne planned to separate and isolate New England with a coordinated three-prong attack. He’d attack down Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson. St. Leger would attack out of Oswego and head east along the Mohawk valley. With Howe coming up the Hudson. Bringing all three prongs together around Albany. And it may have worked if Burgoyne had overall command of British forces in America. But he didn’t. For there was no one in charge of all British forces coordinating their resources in a unified plan. So General Howe ran around Pennsylvania instead of going up the Hudson to meet Burgoyne at Albany. Downriver from Saratoga. Where Burgoyne surrendered his army.
Now Burgoyne wasn’t the greatest general the British had. But he had about the only grand strategy to defeat the Americans. For no one else tried to marshal Britain’s superior forces towards some strategic end. Lucky for the Americans as it gave them the time to survive through Valley Forge. Where they emerged as good as any European army. Which rebuffed the British when they turned to the Middle States. Cities they captured they eventually gave up and left for the Americans. And returned to New York. Where a large British force stayed ensconced throughout the American Revolutionary War. While another British force tried their luck in the South.
Things could have been different in the South. For there were a lot of Loyalists in the South. Especially in the back country of North and South Carolina. A great mutt of nationalities. Including a lot of Scotch-Irish. And Germans. Who had a connection to King George III. Who was the king of England and Wales. As well as Scotland, Ireland and Hanover. A German province. And family. Related to the British House of Stuart. Yes, those Stuarts. Who had ruled England for such a long time. And still do to this day. Thanks to their Hanoverian relations. So there was hope in the South for Britain. Made even more promising by the fact that these Scotch-Irish and Germans didn’t get along well with the local American governments.
Tarleton’s Waxhaw Massacre inflamed anti-British Sentiment and Turned a lot of Neutrals into Patriots
In truth once you moved away from the big cities the South was neither Loyalist nor Patriot. It was both. Depending on where in the South you were. In fact there was a lot of bloody fighting in the South that the British had no part in. This bloody fighting was between neighbors and families. Which is why it was so bloody. For civil wars are the cruelest of wars. Because of the vengeance factor. Whenever your enemy did unspeakable acts of atrocities to their former friends and family the retaliation was in kind. Or worse. It was an ideal environment to wage war in. A little overwhelming force and coordination with the Loyalist side could have paid large dividends for the British. Sort of like D-Day in World War II. The Allies dropped paratroopers behind the beach defenses to support the beach invasions. A multi-pronged British force could have done the same. Attacked the coastal areas while the Loyalists kept the Patriots busy, preventing them from joining the action in the coastal areas.
Instead the British won great battles. And captured cities. But the surrounding countryside was rife with partisan guerilla war. The British did not bring a large enough force to subdue the countryside. Or to protect the cities they won. Where Patriot leaders like Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens and Daniel Morgan rode freely, making hit and run raids at will. While British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton lead a cavalry unit made up of Loyalists Tories. The Loyal Legion. (Mel Gibson’s character in the movie The Patriot was a composite based on these Patriots. And his enemy was based on Tarleton). And waged a cruel war that won him no love from those who had remained neutral in the South. Such as following the fall of Charleston. Tarleton set out to try and subdue the countryside. And met a force of some 300 Virginians commanded by Colonel Buford at Waxhaw Creek. When they met Tarleton demanded Buford’s surrender. He refused. They fought. Overwhelmed, the Americans raised the white flag. Tarleton’s men then killed the surrendering Americans by bayonet. Perhaps the cruelest act of the war. And from this came the battle cry ‘Tarleton’s quarter’. Meaning take no prisoners when fighting the British. The British win at Waxhaw secured much of the south for them. But the massacre inflamed anti-British sentiment. Turning a lot of neutrals into Patriots.
For the most part both the British and the American regular soldiers fought according to accepted rules of warfare. And committed no such atrocities like the Waxhaw Massacre. In fact, it wasn’t even the British who committed this atrocity. It was American Loyalists fighting for Tarleton. Part of that civil war in the South. Which grew ugly. The British and their Tory American allies were like Vikings. Doing a lot of pillaging. And not being very nice to the Patriot ladies. While their men were away they not only looted their homes but stole the possessions they were wearing at gun and sword point. And who knows what else. Acts perpetrated on no orders. But by the free-for-all in a land consumed by civil war. And once again the crueler the war the more it inspired people to continue the fight. While their men were away continuing the good fight their women were at home. Securing supplies for their Patriot men. And getting them to those fighting the good fight. Brave women these Patriot women. And heroes.
General Daniel Morgan’s Victory at the Battle of Cowpens was the Turning Point of the War
The ‘hero’ of Saratoga came south to take command of American forces. Horatio Gates. Who came in to take command just prior to the surrender at Saratoga. Where the battle was truly won by future traitor Benedict Arnold. And Daniel Morgan’s riflemen. Who would leave the military soon thereafter. After a long and distinguished career. But those in Congress gave the credit to Gates. As they did the Southern Department. Something General Washington was not in favor of. And for good reason. For Gates displayed a certain incompetence that put his army in danger. And suffered one of the greatest American defeats at the Battle of Camden. In the general route that followed Gates got on a horse and fled from the battlefield. And did not stop fleeing until he reached Charlotte. Some 60 miles away.
General Nathaniel Greene replaced General Gates in the Southern Department. He was who Washington wanted for the position in the first place. And Morgan emerged from retirement to join the department under Greene. Where they and those other Patriot partisans were causing all sorts of trouble for the British in the South. General Morgan was proving to be quite the problem so General Cornwallis detached Tarleton and his Loyal Legion to handle the Morgan problem. And caught up to him at Cowpens. Suffering one of the greatest British defeats of the war. (The final battle in The Patriot is based on the Battle of Cowpens. Though in real life Tarleton survived and returned to England, forever haunted by this great defeat). Which proved to be the turning point of the war. Setting the stage for another British army to surrender.
The failed British Strategy in the South allowed a revitalized American army to push the British across Virginia. To the coast. Where they were hoping to get support from the Royal Navy. Only to see the French navy. For the French had joined the American cause after the victory as Saratoga. And were now joining forces with the Americans under General Washington. At a little place called Yorktown. Where Cornwallis found his back to the water. And the French navy. While surrounded on land by a Franco-American force. And for the second time in the American Revolutionary War a large British army surrendered on the field of battle to an American general. Only this time “northern laurels” didn’t turn into “southern willows” as they had for Gates. The victory at Yorktown was only the prelude to an American win in the Revolutionary War. And the birth of a new nation.
The French claimed great Territories in the New World but they did not Settle them nor could they Defend Them
In the Age of Discovery the Old World discovered the New World. The Portuguese bumped into Brazil while sailing around Africa. And they stayed awhile. Which explains how the language from tiny Portugal is one of the top ten spoken languages in the world today. Because of Brazil. Population 205,716,890 in 2012. The Spanish pretty much discovered and settled the rest of South and Central America. Working their way up the Pacific coast of North America. And into Mexico, Texas and Florida. Because of this Spanish is now the 4th most spoken language in the world. The British discovered and settled North America east of the Appalachians between Maine and Georgia. They also settled parts of Canada south of the Hudson Bay. And some of the Maritime Provinces. Today English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world. The French also came to the New World. But they weren’t as successful. Today French is only the 10th most spoken language in the world.
The Age of Discovery was also the age of mercantilism. Which is why the Old World was racing to settle the New World. So they could establish colonies. And ship back raw materials to the mother country. And in Spain’s case, all the gold and silver they could find. Which they found a lot of. Mercantilism is a zero-sum game. To maximize the export of manufactured goods. And to maximize the import of raw materials and bullion. To always maintain a positive balance of trade. And whoever had the most overseas colonies sending raw material back to the mother country won. And as they expanded throughout the New World they eventually began to bump into each other. As well as the Native Americans. Who weren’t mercantilists. But hunters and gatherers. Like all Europeans were some 5,000 years or so earlier. Before they became farmers. Moved into cities. Where they took control of their environment. And became more efficient. Growing ever larger populations on smaller tracts of land. Which proved to be a great threat to the Indians. For when these Europeans took their land they also increased their numbers. Greatly. And this fast growing population had the latest in war-fighting technology.
Soon they were stepping on each others’ toes in the New World. The British and the Spanish north of Florida. The British and the French between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians. In New Brunswick. And large parts of Ontario and Quebec. A lot more territory was in dispute between the British and the French. And that’s because the French claimed so much territory in North America. Their claims included the lands around the St. Lawrence Seaway. All the land around the Great Lakes. And pretty much the total watershed into the Mississippi River. The French had profitable business in the fur trade. They used the rivers in North America for that trade. With a few forts scattered along the way. Where they traded with the Indians. But the big difference between the French and everyone else is that the French claimed the land. But they didn’t settle it. Which made the Native Americans tolerate them more than the other Europeans in the New World. But in the days of the mercantilist empires that was a problem. Because everyone wanted everyone else’s land. And if it wasn’t settled with large and growing populations, someone else was just going to take it.
The Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 tried to make Peace with the Indians but Inflamed the Americans
And that’s what happened in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). The European powers came into conflict with each other over their North American territories. The British came out the big winners. And the French were the big losers. Losing pretty much everything east of the Mississippi to the British. And everything west of the Mississippi to Spain. The various Indian tribes fought alongside the various European powers. But it is the fighting on the side of the French that we know them for in this war. Where their fighting against the British Americans was some of the cruelest fighting in the war. For the Indians liked the non-settling ways of the French. While they didn’t care for the settling ways of the American colonists at all. Who kept encroaching on their hunting grounds. So at the conclusion of the French and Indian War the Native Americans were restless. Something the British were keenly aware of. And after the long and expensive war they just fought they didn’t want a return to hostilities. So King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Setting the border between the British American colonists and the Indian lands along the watershed of Appalachia. Lands where the rivers flowed to the Atlantic Ocean were the American colonists’ lands. Lands where the rivers flowed into the Mississippi River and its tributaries (east of the Mississippi) were Indian lands.
This did not go very well with the American colonists. For they planned to expand west until they could expand west no further. At the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Especially Virginia. Who wanted to expand into Kentucky. And into the Ohio Country (across the Ohio River from Kentucky). Before the Proclamation of 1763 could even go into affect the Indians rose up in the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country and Ohio Country. Where the British displaced the French. Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–66). A rather nasty and brutal war where the Indians killed women and children as well as prisoners. And the British used biological warfare against the Indians. Giving the Indians smallpox-infested blankets. In 1774 Parliament passed the Quebec Act. Which did a lot to further annoy the American colonists. Especially that part about extending the province of Quebec (the former French territory from Labrador all the way to the Great Lakes region) south into the Ohio and Illinois country. Many lumped the Quebec act in with the Intolerable Acts of 1774 which were to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. All these acts of Parliament and proclamations of the Crown failed in one of their main objects. Maintaining the peace on the frontier. One year later there was another shooting war in North America. And this one did not end well for the British.
The American Revolutionary War evolved into a World War. Once the Americans defeated a British army at Saratoga the French joined the American cause and declared war on Great Britain. Eager to get back their North American territories. The Spanish would join the French in alliance and declared war on Great Britain. Primarily to settle some old scores in the Old World as opposed to helping the American cause. They had the lands west of the Mississippi and control of that same river. They had no desire to see the Americans advance any further west. In fact, they wanted to expand their territory at the expense of both the Americans and the British. The Indians, meanwhile, saw the Americans as the greatest threat and allied with their two-time past enemy. The British.
The Indians were Little More than Bystanders while the Europeans Traded their Land with each Other
The war in the frontier lands of the West was as nasty and brutal as ever. The British coordinated their war effort against the Americans from their frontier outposts. Where they traded with their Indian allies. Some even paying the Indians for each scalp they brought back from their raids. And so the Indians crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. Throughout the war. And attacked these frontier settlements. While the Americans fought a defensive war. Until one man arose. Who believed the strongest defense was a strong offense. And he took the war to the Indians and the British in the West. Saving Kentucky. And conquered the Northwest Territory.
George Rogers Clark’s plan for conquering the Northwest was bold. First take Vincennes (in southern Indiana near the Illinois border). Travel up the Wabash River. Down the Maumee River. And then on to Detroit. After taking Detroit head north to Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula). The Virginian authorities liked the plan. And commissioned him colonel in the Virginian forces. And authorized him to conquer the Northwest. For Virginia. So Clark led his men down the Ohio River. And traveled all the way to Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. Not far from St. Louis. Took it. And marched to Vincennes. And took Fort Sackville at Vincennes. Shortly thereafter Henry Hamilton (who had a reputation for buying scalps from the Indians), governor of Detroit, Left Detroit and headed to Vincennes. Gathering Indians along the way. Recaptured Vincennes. Then Clark returned and in one of the most fabled actions of the entire Revolutionary War took back Vincennes. Despite the British and Indians greatly outnumbering Clark’s force. Detroit lay open. But Clark did not have the men or provisions for that conquest.
Meanwhile the Spanish were looking to cash in on their alliance with France. And moved against British outposts from New Orleans. Taking Baton Rouge. Natchez. Mobile. And Pensacola. To turn back the Spanish Governor Sinclair of Michilimackinac gathered a force and headed to the Spanish outpost St. Louis. With the ultimate goal of taking New Orleans. It did not go well. The following year the Spanish launched an offensive of their own to take Detroit. They got as far as St. Joseph on the other side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Around the bottom of Lake Michigan from Chicago. A lot of land changed hands in the Northwest. But thanks to Clark much of it remained in American hands at the end of the war. Who came out the big winners in this war. The British ceded all their claims east of the Mississippi to the Americans. Including all of the Illinois and Ohio country. Including Michigan and the lands surrounding the Great Lakes south of Canada. The French did not drive the peace as they had hoped. And recovered none of their North American territories. The Spanish emerged with pretty much what they had when they entered. Only with the Americans across the Mississippi instead of the British. Who were much more interested in westward expansion than the British. But they didn’t have to worry about the Americans crossing the Mississippi. For Napoleon strong-armed the Louisiana Territory from the French in exchange for some land in Tuscany. Who would later sell it to the Americans. While being rather vague on the exact boundaries. Which the Spanish would have to worry about in the years to come as the Americans headed west. Towards Spanish country on the west coast.
Of course the Indians were the greatest losers. For they were little more than bystanders while the Europeans traded their land with each other. Making the Native Americans ever more restless. And unwilling to give up their hunting and gathering ways. Which sealed their faith. For while they retreated west the American population exploded. Due to their efficient use of the land. It was the New World against the Very Old World. Modern farming civilizations displaced the hunters and gatherers everywhere in the world. A trend that started some 5,000 years earlier. And the history of North America would be no different. The Indian ways since then have been fast disappearing. The Indian languages were so rarely spoken in the 20th century that the code based on it was the one code the Japanese couldn’t crack during World War II.
In 2011, billionaire Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin relinquished his U.S. citizenship and joined nearly 1,800 other Americans to do it last year — up from 235 in 2008…
Those in the expatriate community said that although Saverin’s move was likely a financial one — he paid an exit tax on the capital gains from his Facebook stock but the stock is now tax-free — they said expatriates who gave up their citizenship were driven by other factors.
Phil Hodgen, an international tax lawyer in Pasadena, Calif., said that since 2009, when more than 150 U.S. customers of Swiss banking giant UBS were investigated for alleged tax evasion, the IRS had been going after Americans abroad with foreign bank accounts with a vengeance.
He said that in the last three years, new and old rules had created an enormous amount of resentment — and paperwork expenses — for expatriates…
Peter Dunn, a popular blogger who gave up his U.S. citizenship, said the expatriates he spoke to were mostly standard middle-class U.S. citizens who were ready to retire or who had retired abroad. He said because of these “invasive” rules, they now feared substantial penalties from not reporting their finances correctly.
In an expanding welfare state your wealth isn’t yours. It belongs to the people. At least that’s the way governments look at it. With ever expanding deficits and debt they’re trying to take as much wealth away from the wealthy as possible. Despite the great things they create for us. Such as Facebook. For if it wasn’t for Saverin’s wealth he invested in Facebook we wouldn’t have it today. But he believed in it. And took a risk. With his own money. The way entrepreneurs do. Something a lot of people do. But few ever experience the success Saverin has. And few will ever take these risks again if they are going to be hounded for the rest of their life by the tax authorities.
Of course those who want to tax the rich will look as these expatriates as the lowest of scoundrels. Running away with their wealth instead of paying their ‘fair’ share of taxes. Even though the amount in dollars they pay in one year is greater than most people will pay in taxes in a lifetime. But these expatriates are the greedy ones. For not letting us take all of their wealth.
Of course should someone win the lotto it’ll be a different story. For though we attack the rich we all want to be rich. If not we wouldn’t be buying those lotto tickets, would we? So, yeah, we hate the rich. Right up until we become rich. Then all this antagonism against the rich is just a silly misunderstanding. And those taxes on the wealthy really are too high. But until we become rich we’ll hate pretty much anyone who has more than us. Be jealous of them. And covet what they have.
Well, it appears the Chinese can do something wrong. Guess that’s what they get for trying to follow American policy (see Not yet posted 5/5/2012 on The Economist).
THE main road at the headquarters of BYD, a Chinese car and battery firm in Shenzhen, seems to go on for ever. It winds from gleaming offices past enormous factories and dormitories to a renewable-energy plant and test track. Visitors can take the E6, the firm’s new electric car, for a drive—but try to accelerate and the engineers get nervous. Like the firm, the car is sluggish…
Three years ago, the Chinese government unveiled policies to propel sales of all-electric vehicles (ie, ones that can’t use petrol at all) to 500,000 by 2015 and 5m by 2020. But barely 8,000 electric cars were sold last year, almost all going to government fleets.
The chief snags are cost and convenience. Despite lavish subsidies—in Shenzhen, consumers were offered 120,000 yuan per vehicle—electric cars still cost more than the petrol-powered sort. The lack of recharging stations also hurts. Hardly 16,000 were installed last year, a tenth of the official target.
So the Chinese sold barely 8,000 electric cars last year. So to meet their target of selling 500,000 units by 2015 all they have to do is to increase sales by, let’s see… You divide the difference of 500,000 and 8,000 by 8,000… Multiply that by 100… Which comes to…let’s see…6,150%. Wow. Even for the Chinese and their explosive economic growth that will be a tough number to reach. And by tough I mean, of course, impossible.
So it’s not just the Americans. The Chinese don’t want these all-electric cars either. Probably because like the Americans they don’t want to sweat bullets wondering whether they have enough charge to make it home. Deciding whether to see by turning on the headlights or keeping the lights off to save charge. Deciding whether to stay warm by using the heat or to shiver with the heat off to save charge. Or simply saying, “The hell with this. I’m buying a gas-powered car and not worrying about getting home. I’m going to see where I’m going. And I’m going to stay toasty warm while getting there. If I run low on gas so what? I’ll just pull into a gas station and top off my tank. And get back on my drive home in 5 minutes or so.” That’s why no one is buying these all-electric cars. Because a gas-power car won’t give you ulcers worrying whether or not you will make it home before the charge runs out.
The all-electric car is purely a government phenomenon. It can only exist with excessive government subsidies. And only in government fleets where the commute is short. And they will have a gas-powered bus to pick up people stranded when their car runs out of charge. And a gas-powered tow truck to bring the all-electric car back to the garage for 8 hours or so of recharging.
Quintus Fabius Maximus showed How to Win by Simply not Losing
How do you win a war where you can’t defeat your enemy? Simple. You don’t put yourself into a position where your enemy can defeat you. You avoid major engagements with the enemy. Making, instead, hit and run raids. You disrupt their supply lines. You pin your enemy down as they go on the defensive to fend off these small attacks. Your objective in all these small actions is not to gain victories. But time. If time is on your side. Which it usually is when a distant foreign power invades you.
In the Second Punic War Hannibal was winning every military engagement he entered. The Carthaginians even crossed the Alps into Italy. It appeared that no one could stop him. So the Romans tapped Quintus Fabius Maximus to see if he could stop Hannibal. Fabius quickly saw the futility in engaging Hannibal in open combat. He was too good. But he was fighting under a couple of disadvantages. The first being that Carthage was a long way away. On the far side of the Mediterranean Sea. The second was directly related to the first. Because of the difficulty of maintaining a large army in the field of a distant land Hannibal used hired mercenaries. From Gaul (roughly modern day France) and Spain. Who though they hated the Romans, they were in it for the money. And that meant plunder. Which you got from sacking cities. The more cities you sack the more plunder you got. So time was not on the Carthaginian’s side. They needed a quick victory. For they could not afford a long, drawn out war on Italian soil. Which gave the advantage of time to the Romans. Which Fabius used. He avoided major engagements. Absorbed small losses. And gave up ground. But he made each victory Hannibal got a costly one. Where his losses were very hard to replace. Because of those long supply lines and operating in unfriendly country.
Though a prudent military strategy it was not without political risks. For people lose faith in you if you can’t show any victories on the battlefield. And so it was the case with Fabius. The Roman Senate relieved him of command. His replacement went on the offensive. And suffered terrible and costly defeats at the hands of Hannibal. The Romans eventually returned to the Fabian strategy of Quintus Fabius Maximus. And eventually drove Hannibal out of Italy.
The Americans proved they had the Skill and Fortitude to be Quite the Irritant with their Daring Capture of General Prescott
George Washington had no intention of adopting a Fabian strategy during the Revolutionary War. For he was a brave soldier who wanted to engage the enemy. During the French and Indian War he accompanied General Braddock into the Ohio Country. The plan was for the British to push the French out. What happened was a massacre. Battle of the Monongahela. When General Braddock was mortally wounded the British broke and ran. Washington rode through the chaos to rally the British and fought an orderly retreat. He had two horses shot out from underneath him. And 4 musket balls made holes in his jacket. But he survived unscathed. And well educated. For the British force was a superior force. In men. And arms. But it was big and cumbersome. Designed for Napoleonic tactics in open field engagements. Which proved useless in the frontier of North America. A lesson Washington would not forget.
Well, one that he would remember. Then never forget. After some years had passed and he found himself in another war. Only this time instead of fighting alongside the British he was fighting against them. As commander in chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. And early on he wanted to engage the British on the field of battle. Where he could hand the British a staggering defeat. And bring the war to a swift conclusion. In the second year of war he chose to do just that. On Long Island. In August of 1776. And was lucky to escape the Battle of Long Island with much of the army. For the British onslaught was overwhelming. The British Army advanced with little opposition. Washington quickly changed his strategy to one of survival. The Fabian strategy. And fought an orderly retreat. Through Manhattan and New Jersey. Until he crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. He kept the Army together. And gained time. Of course, the downside to all of this was that the British advanced. Seemingly unopposed. Taking ground. Causing the people to wonder if they picked the wrong man to lead America’s army. In Congress. And inside the Army itself. Where a war veteran of the British Army, General Charles Lee, wrote to members of Congress critical of Washington, asking them to replace Washington with him as commander in chief. He was in the rear of the American retreat through New Jersey. Inexplicitly, taking his time. Where he and his staff (away from the main body of his army) stopped for the night in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. While the British were in pursuit. And a British patrol surprised him in the morning. At about 10 AM. Over breakfast. In his dressing gown writing a letter to his good friend Horatio Gates. Another critic of General Washington. Writing “a certain great man [George Washington] is most damnably deficient.” He signed this letter as the British surrounded him. And he became their prisoner. Shortly thereafter that “damnably deficient” Washington crossed the Delaware and won the battles of Trenton and Princeton.
Washington kept to his Fabian strategy throughout 1777. Avoiding major engagements. Favoring hit and run skirmishes that proved a great irritation to the British. Capturing their supplies. Even capturing some prominent prisoners. Like British General Prescott. Commander of all British troops in Rhode Island. Where a small force led by Lieutenant Colonel William Barton captured him in Providence, Rhode Island. In bed. Naked. Entertaining a lady. In a city surrounded by a British Army. And the Royal Navy. Showing that the Americans had the skill and fortitude to be quite the irritant. Key to any Fabian strategy. Such a high ranking officer would prove valuable in a prisoner swap. He could get a high ranking and highly valuable American in exchange. But, instead, they traded him for General Charles Lee.
Lee’s Actions at Monmouth forced General Washington to Fall Back to a Fabian Strategy
While prisoner Lee got pretty chummy with the British. He was, after all, a former British officer himself. So he talked. Saying the Americans were foolish if they thought they could beat the British. He said George Washington was ignorant and indecisive. He attacked his character. He even wrote a letter to General Henry Clinton who succeeded General Howe. Congratulating him on his promotion. He may even have drawn up a plan for the British to defeat the Americans. Perhaps under the threat of being tried for desertion from the British Army. Or simply for his hatred of Washington. And the Congress that denied him supreme command of all American forces. Washington knew nothing of this at the time of the exchange. And welcomed him back as a brother. Taking him back to his quarters where his wife, Martha, entertained him with a fine dinner with musical accompaniment. Even gave him a room for the night behind her sitting room. They held breakfast the following morning as Lee was late getting up. It turned out that he brought a woman in through the back door and slept with her. The wife of a British sergeant.
The following June the Army emerged from Valley Forge. A much better army than the one that entered Valley Forge. For it was during that horrible winter that Baron von Steuben whipped the Continental Army into shape. They were now as well-trained and well-disciplined as any European army. And Washington was eager to put it to the test. General Clinton was evacuating Philadelphia and heading to New York. Washington convened a council of war for advice. He wanted to engage the British during their retreat. General Lee said bringing on a full-scale engagement would be “criminal.” Thanks to the American victory at Saratoga the previous October the French joined the Americans in alliance and were sending over troops and support. Lee wanted to wait for the French. And let the British return to New York unopposed. Avoiding any large scale engagements until the French got there. He persuaded the other officers to go along with him. So Washington strengthened his flanks. And sent out an advanced guard to establish contact with the enemy. Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s aid-de-camp, was frustrated by this timid response. He wrote that these deliberations “would have done honor to the most honorable society of midwives, and to them only.” General Nathanael Greene shared Hamilton’s frustration. And wrote in a letter to Washington “people expect something from us and our strength demands it.”
Washington placed the Marquis de Lafayette in command of this advanced guard. But when the Army made contact with the British Lee took command. Washington learned the British were leaving Monmouth Courthouse and ordered the attack. To fall on the British rear. But Lee hesitated. Then ordered a retreat. Without giving any specific orders of where to retreat. Or a new plan of attack. Or a plan of retreat. Troops just started to walk back from the front. Without any exchange of fire. When Washington saw the retreat it infuriated him. He rode up and found Lee and demanded the general explain himself. Apparently he did not have a good answer for Washington yelled at Lee until the “leaves shook.” By this time the British learned of Washington’s intent and wheeled about and were attacking the Americans. Washington took command and organized the Americans in a defensive line. In a day of pitched battles Washington held the line. Fought the British to a draw. Thanks to von Steuben. Whose work made the American Army as good as the British Army. And Washington. Who could turn around and rally a retreating army. He wanted to continue the attack that night but his men were spent. The heat and fatigue of the long day beating them in the end. By morning the British were gone. As was a great opportunity to win a major engagement. And to greatly weaken Clinton’s army. Which made it safely back to New York. Where it stayed for the rest of the war.
Had the Americans attacked the British first. Had they taken the initiative. Had Lee not wavered with indecision at the Battle of Monmouth the Americans could have shattered Clinton’s army. When they were in the open. Leaving British-occupied New York open to attack with no effective British Army between the Americans and that British occupation. Which would have had no choice but to evacuate the city while the Royal Navy could still get them out. And without the safe harbor of New York the Royal Navy would have had to evacuate, too. Following Saratoga this could have very well ended the war. Even before the French arrived. Had the Americans attacked first who knows what might have happened. That draw could have very well been a victory. John Laurens (on Washington’s staff with Hamilton) wrote his father Henry in Congress. He said that Lee was paralyzed by indecision. And that he should be tried for misconduct. Which they ultimately did. They court-marshaled Lee for his actions at the Battle of Monmouth. Which proved to be his last actions in the war. With a large army entrenched in New York protected by overwhelming naval power there wasn’t anything Washington could do now. Forcing him to fall back to a Fabian strategy. Watching Clinton in New York. While making hit and run raids. To annoy the British. And buy time. Much like Fabius. Wearing down the British. Making the price of victory too great. And after another 4 years or so of war, that’s what the British would conclude. That the price of victory in that far distant land was too great. Instead they would negotiate peace. With the United States of America. A sovereign and independent nation.