War of the Spanish Succession, War of the Austrian Succession, Diplomatic Revolution , Seven Years’ War, Royal Proclamation and Quebec Act

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2012

Politics 101

The French lost most of their colonial possessions to Great Britain in the Seven Years’ War

The 18th century started off with a bang.  And it banged all the way through the century.  Starting with the War of the Spanish Succession from 1701-1714.  At issue was the Spanish throne.  The last Spanish Habsburg, Charles II of Spain, died in 1700.  Leaving the throne without an heir.  And France was very interested in occupying it.  But the British weren’t too keen on Catholic France controlling so much of Europe.  The rest of Europe that wasn’t Spanish or French wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the idea, either.  For France and Spain, both Catholic, at this time were the two European superpowers.  And a union between the French and the Spanish would alter the ‘balance of power’.  A term entering the political discourse at this time.  So there was war.  There’s a lot more details to this war as one would expect in a war that lasted over a decade.  But in the end there was no French and Spanish union.  The Spanish lost territory in Italy and the Netherlands to Austria.  And Spanish Gibraltar became British.  As did parts of French North America.  Also, when Queen Anne died in Great Britain with no male heir, the Brits plucked one from German Hanover.  Over on the continent.  George I.  For his mum was the daughter of James I.  Which gave her Stuart blood.  And she was a Protestant.  Making George a Protestant.  Very important and necessary for a British ruler.  George I ascended the throne of Great Britain in 1714.  Creating a personal union between the British and German states (two separate kingdoms ruled by the same king).

But the peace didn’t last.  Because another Habsburg died.  The last male Austrian Hapsburg.  Charles VI.  Before he died, fearing he may have no sons to inherit his throne, he issued an edict.  The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713.  Which said in the absence of a Habsburg son a Habsburg daughter, his daughter, could inherit the throne.  Most of the German states accepted the edict.  Problem solved.  Until Charles died.  And his daughter, Maria Theresa, ascended the throne.  Then the European states went to war.  The War of the Austrian Succession from 1740-1748.  Because some said that Maria Theresa was ineligible to inherit the Hapsburg throne.  But what they really wanted was a chance to alter the balance of power now that the Habsburg line was extinct.  For the Austrian Habsburgs were a major power.  And whoever succeeded to that throne would control a large part of Europe.  Something Prussia (a rising German state) was interested in.  As were the French.  And the Spanish (primarily to win back what it lost in the War of Spanish Succession).   Who joined together.  With the threat of a French/Spanish super state again the British jumped in to prevent that.  And joined in on the Habsburg side.  Who at the time was stronger than the rising Prussian state.  And a better balance to French power and ambition.  Especially with Hanover being so close to the French border.  After 8 years of war not a whole lot changed in the balance of power.  Except that Prussia appeared to be now a more formidable threat than Austria.  Which the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756 addressed.  By a changing of sides.  The France-Prussia alliance versus the Great Britain-Austria alliance became the France-Austria alliance versus the Great Britain-Prussia alliance.  Which made for a long and lasting peace.

Until hostilities flared up again later that year.  In the Seven Years’ War from 1756 – 1763.  This was a big one.  A world war.  Over the balance of power.  In Europe.  And other parts of the world.  Especially where colonial interests clashed.  Where they were generating lucrative trade.  And the British were bumping into the French almost everywhere they went.  In North America.  As the British expanded their colonies west from the Atlantic into the river valleys the French claimed.  In the Caribbean.  In coastal Africa.  In the Philippines.  In India.  In the end Britain’s Royal Navy and their alliance with Prussia led them to victory.  The Prussian armies of Frederick the Great held their own in Europe and freed the British Army for service elsewhere.  The Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And moved the British Army at will.  Where they prosecuted and won the colonial battles.  At the close of hostilities the French lost most of their colonial possessions to Great Britain.  And Spain lost Florida.  The British extended their control in North America to all lands east of the Mississippi River.  Spain ended up with the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River.  But the mighty Spanish empire was now in decline.  France wasn’t looking that much better.  France and Spain also lost most of their naval power.  Which elevated Great Britain to true empire status.

To Help bring the Catholic in the Province of Quebec under British Rule the British passed the Quebec Act

The British did well in the Seven Years’ War.  They won large parts of the world.  And paid a pretty price to do it.  Almost bankrupted them.  This despite the previous efforts of William Pitt the Elder.  The British Secretary of State who built a great and prosperous colonial empire.  The British Empire.  Before the war.  And added greatly to it during the war.  But conquering is one thing.  Governing is another.  And, as it turns out, governing is as expensive as conquering.

British North America required a little political finesse.  For the Protestant British now governed Catholic French Quebec.  And they had to step lightly with the Indian Nations.  Who were allied with the French.  Agreeing to halt further westward expansion.  Via the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  To avoid hostilities on the frontier. 

To help bring the Catholic in the Province of Quebec under British rule the British passed the Quebec Act of 1774.  This act extended Quebec territory to include most of the Midwest states bordering the Great lakes.   The oath of allegiance to the British Crown no longer included a reference to Protestantism.  It protected Catholicism in the Province of Quebec.  And it allowed the use of French civil law in some instances over English common law. 

Great Britain would fight a Civil War in British North America before the Century was Out

None of this went over well with the British North Americans.  After defeating the French all eyes looked west.  And they did not like this Royal Proclamation interfering with their business.  And these fiercely loyal and proud Britons were also devoutly Protestant.  Many fought in the war to get the Catholic French out of their country.  And this protection of Catholicism in their Protestant backyard was nothing short of an insult.  But worse of all were the taxes.  To pay for a century of war against the French that only some of which was fought in North America. 

Great Britain’s money woes would continue.  For they would be fighting another war before the century was out.  This one a civil war in British North America.  Another costly 8 years of war.  That would not end as well for them as the previous war.  Worse, it would cause a Revolution in France.  Brought about in part due to the near bankruptcy of France from all of her wars.  And alliances.  Bringing about yet another war with the French for the British before the century was out.

The century started out with a war to contain French expansion and Catholicism.  And the century would end with great successes in that endeavor.  With the decline of the French and Spanish empires the world was safe from Catholicism.  But France and Great Britain would fight on.  Into the next century.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #77: “Liberals only call for bipartisan compromise when they’ve lost majority power and can no longer dictate policy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 2nd, 2011

English Law and Capitalism gave People Freedom few knew in the 18th Century

Politics is a class struggle.  The ruling class against everyone else.  The ruling elite fights to keep the power in the hands of the privileged few.  While everyone else tries to wrest it away.  So they can live a better life.  Free from tyranny.  And oppression.

Life was pretty good in British North America.  The colonies were growing.  Their English law and free market capitalism gave people freedom that few knew in the 18th century.  Over in Europe the masses were poor and worked for subsistence.  Over in British America, though, a thriving middle class was emerging.  Like I said, life was pretty good.  Until the French had to go and spoil everything.

Great Britain and France were at war.  Again.  And this one was a world war.  The Seven Years’ War (the French and Indian War in North America).  Great Britain ultimately prevailed.  And made all French North America British.  We call it Canada today.  But conquering a world power and managing an empire that stretched around the globe was expensive.  And to make matters worse, the treasury was running low.  They needed more tax revenue.  But Britain’s land owning aristocracy was already heavily taxed.  And they were none too keen on paying any more.  So what to do?

Well, there was this.  There was a vast continent on the other side of the Atlantic with a lot of wealth that just got a whole lot safer thanks to some brilliant, and very expensive, military engagements.  Surely, they would not refuse to pay for some of the safety they gained in the recent war.

The London Ruling Class wouldn’t let a bunch of Backwoods Upstarts challenge their Authority

Well, as it turned out, yes, they could.  And did.  And don’t call me Shirley.

At the time, the American colonialists were proud Britons.  They loved their way of life.  And the representative government enshrined in Parliament.  Based on the Rule of Law.  Only thing was that they had no say in Parliament.  No representation.  Which was fine.  For awhile.  Being that far from the seat of government had its advantages.  But it was a different story when that distant power started flexing its muscle.  And a great power desperate for money could be rather presumptuous.

Now the colonists were reasonable people.  They were willing to make some kind of bipartisan deal of fair-share sacrifice.  But they wanted to talk about it.  They want to sit in Parliament.  And they wanted more say about their future on the new continent.  They were already very unhappy with some of the treaty details the British made with the French.  And the Indians.  Forbidding western expansion?  And allowing the French Canadians to practice their Catholicism in their very backyard?  No.  These would not do.  Americans had to have more say in America’s future.  And the British response?  “Shut your bloody mouths you insolent swine.  You do as we say.  And like it.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the gist.  The ruling class in London wasn’t about to listen to a bunch of backwoods upstarts challenging their authority.  No, they were going to dictate policy from London.  And the Americans were going to accept their second class status and do as they were told.  Well, long story short there was a rebellion, the colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and a new confederation of states was born.

After Winning Independence the States got Drunk on Democracy

The Revolutionary War lasted from 1775 until the Treaty of Paris formally ended the war in 1783.  It was a long and bitter war.  Especially in the South where it evolved into a civil war between Patriot and Loyalist.  Independence did not come easy.  Nor was it cheap.  Like Great Britain, the young confederation of states racked up a large war debt.

With the common enemy defeated the several states went their own ways.  And threatened to destroy what they just won.  Some states were fighting over land.  Over tariffs.  Trade.  The united confederation of states wasn’t very united.  And they were more on the road to becoming another war-plagued Europe than the great nation envisioned by George Washington and the others who had served in the Continental Army.  Who saw the greater America.  Beyond the borders of their own state.

And the worst danger was democracy.  Mob-rule.  Religious persecution.  And the general feeling you didn’t have to do anything you didn’t want to.  The people were drunk on democracy.  They were voting themselves whatever they wanted.  In debt?  No problem.  We’ll pass debtor laws to protect you and rip up those contracts you signed.  Or we’ll give you worthless money we’ve printed to pay your debts.  And we’ll pass a law forcing creditors to accept this worthless money as legal tender.  Even though it’s worthless.  The Rule of Law was collapsing.  As was the new ‘nation’.

Madison and Jefferson feared the Power a Permanent Government Debt Gave 

This was quite the pickle.  An oppressive ruling class was bad.  But so was mob-rule.  They needed something else.  Something between these two extremes.  That would somehow strike a delicate balance between responsible governing.  And liberty.  The solution was federalism.  As created in a new Constitution.  Drafted during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia.  Which created a new central government.  That shared power with the states.

Getting the new constitution ratified wasn’t easy.  Most of the old Patriots from the Revolutionary days hated the thought of a new central government.  They didn’t trust it.  This was just King George all over again.  Only on this side of the Atlantic.  The wrong side.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison worked tirelessly for ratification.  They wrote a series of essays explaining why it was the best compromise possible.  These essays became the Federalist Papers.  An extensive set of checks and balances would greatly limit the powers of the new federal government.  And the only thing the new central government would do would be the things the several states couldn’t do well.  Coin money, treat with other nations, raise an army and navy, etc.

Hamilton and Madison succeeded.  The constitution was ratified.  And the United States of America was born.  And soon thereafter Hamilton and Madison (and Jefferson who was out of the country during the Constitutional Convention) parted ways philosophically.  Hamilton wanted to assume all the states’ debts and fund it.  It was the right thing to do because they had to pay it to be taken seriously on the world stage.  But this scared both Madison and Jefferson.  They feared the power a permanent government debt gave.  Money and government was (and still is) a dangerous combination.  All the world powers consolidated money and power in their capitals.  And all the great mischief of the Old World was a direct result of this combination.  It’s what lets the ruling class oppress the people.  Money and power concentrated into the hands of a privileged few.

Had Liberals lived during the Revolution they would have been Loyalists

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see exactly what Madison and Jefferson feared.  The federal government is bloated beyond the Founding Fathers worst nightmares.  And handling such vast sums of money that would even make Alexander Hamilton spin in his grave. 

We’ve come full circle.  We began by rejecting a distant ruling class.  And we now have a distant ruling class again.  In Washington.  Made up of liberal Democrats.  And obedient RINO Republicans who toe the liberal line.  And the nation has a permanent debt so large that we’ll never pay it off.  Thanks to out of control government spending.  It’s as Madison and Jefferson feared.  All of that spending and debt require ever more taxation.  And ever more borrowing.  And whenever taxation and borrowing is not enough, they manufacture a crisis to scare us into raising both taxes and the borrowing limit.  For we have no choice.  Because if we don’t the consequences will be unbearable.

This is the liberal way.  Big Government.  The bigger the better.  With all power concentrated into as few hands as possible.  Their hands.  The privileged few.  The ruling elite.  Who like to dictate policy when they have majority power.  And cry foul when they don’t.  For the only interest they have in bipartisan compromise is when they can’t have their way.   

Liberals like to invoke the Founding Fathers (and Ronald Reagan) whenever they can in some twisted explanation of why they would support their policies (i.e., the new central government was created to raise taxes and therefore would approve high taxes).  But their actions are clearly more consistent with King George and his ruling class than the Founding Fathers.  And had they lived during the Revolution, no doubt they would have been Loyalists.  To support and maintain the ruling class.  And their privilege.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.

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