King George III, Lord North, John Dunning, Oliver Cromwell, New Model Army, Caesar, King Louis XVI, General Washington and Cincinnatus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Had the Time of Kings Come to an End?

The British people grew weary of the war in America.  And the cost.  Many felt that the relationship between King George III and Lord North was a little too cozy.  And a little too unconstitutional.  John Dunning entered a motion in the House of Commons in 1780.  Stating that “the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”  And the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 didn’t improve the political climate.  On March 20, 1782, Lord North resigned as Prime Minister.  Even King George penned a letter of abdication.  Though he never sent it.  He did go mad for awhile.  In 1788.  But he got better.

They questioned the very idea of monarchy.  Whether the time of kings had come to an end.  It was done before.  They got rid of the king following the English Civil War.  Even executed him.  King Charles I.  And Parliament ruled without a king.  Under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector.  After his New Model Army won the English Civil War for Parliament.  And the New Model Army was loyal to Cromwell.  Giving him a lot of power.  As a standing army in peacetime is wont to do.  Just like Caesar’s army crossing the Rubicon.  Allowing Caesar to declare himself Roman emperor.  Cromwell used his army to suppress the enemies of Parliament.  And the enemies of the Protestant Church.  But the government didn’t survive long after Cromwell’s death.  And Britain would soon have a king again.  Charles II.  The son of the king they beheaded.

But things settled down in Britain.  And King George remained king.  Until 1820.  Even though he lost about half of the British Empire.  Giving up his Crown only in death.  By natural causes, of course.  Unlike that of Charles I.  But things would not end well for another European monarch.  In particular the one that helped America gain their liberty from the British Crown.  The French king.  Louis XVI.  Whose country imploded under the cost of war.  The peasants suffered through famine while the monarchy and the Church lived fairly well.  Igniting the French Revolution in 1789.  And it didn’t end well for King Louis.  Or his wife Josephine.  The French Revolutionaries beheaded them both.  The time of kings had come to an end in France.  Ditto for the Catholic Church.  For awhile.  Napoleon would rise up and declare himself emperor.  Which is just like being a king.  Marching to Paris at the head of his army.  The source of his power.  But it didn’t last.  After Napoleon the French would bring back the monarchy.

History has Shown (and Continues to Show) that a Disgruntled Army is a Dangerous Army

So the American Revolution shook things up in Europe.  Causing one monarchy to tremble.  And another to fall.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing in America, either.  For winning the war was one thing.  But governing the new nation was another.  Would a new American nation arise?  Or would the states abandon their common interests now that the common enemy was no more?  Would Congress be able to keep the promises they made?  Or now that the war was over would the states cease funding the Congress?  Making it impossible to keep their promises.  Like the pensions they promised those who served in the Continental Army.  Who sacrificed so much to win America’s independence.

History has shown (and continues to show) that a disgruntled army is a dangerous army.  A wronged army with a popular leader could very well seize power.  And there was a real fear of this happening following the war.  In 1783 some officers began a movement to demand what the Congress had promised them.  Alexander Hamilton, then serving in Congress, became alarmed.  And wrote General Washington.  Asking him to advance these officers demands to prevent it from getting out of control.  Washington refused to get involved.  Then it escalated.  Some were advocating more forceful measures.  Calling for a meeting to discuss these measures.  And General Horatio Gates supported this meeting.  Gates was the general who won at Saratoga (but it was really Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan who won the day).  Gates was involved in the Conway Cabal, an attempt to smear the reputation of General Washington in order to replace him.  And Gates was, of course, a leading candidate to replace Washington.  And General Gates suffered one of America’s most humiliating defeats at the Battle of Camden.   Which he fled from on horseback.  Fleeing until he fled some 60 miles from the battlefield.  So Gates’ involvement spelled trouble.

An anonymous driver of the movement was urging the army to retire to the frontier if the war continued.  To abandon an ungrateful people.  Letting them meet their fate at the hands of the enemy.  Or to turn their arms on that ungrateful people.  To get what the Congress promised them.  And more.  Fearing a military coup General Washington issued an order forbidding the meeting Gates supported.  Then called a meeting of his officers to discuss their grievances.  And at this meeting General Washington once again saved the country.  By his presence.  His devotion to duty.  And his failing eyesight.  He pulled out a prepared speech and began to read.  Then paused.  He pulled out a pair of spectacles.  An officer in that meeting recorded what happened.  Major Samuel Shaw.  Washington “begged the indulgence of his audience while he put them on, observing at the same time that he had grown gray in their service, and found himself growing blind.”  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after this.  These guys still loved Washington.  And would go to hell and back for him.  If he wanted them to support the civilian government they would support the civilian government.

General Washington Submitted his Resignation and Returned to Civilian Life like Cincinnatus 

Of course, having the army do whatever their leader asked could prove to be a problem, too.  If that leader had designs on power.  Especially when that leader had more power than any single man in the new nation.  Washington may have defused one military coup.  But a lot of people worried about his intentions.  Especially when a lot of people were asking him to be king.  Caesar may have been ancient history to some.  But Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army were not.  Washington.  A standing army.  It made people nervous.  Even foreign powers never believed that Washington would give it all up.  Even King George.  Who said if Washington refused to be king he would be “the greatest man in the world.”

The last of the British troops left New York on December 4, 1783.  The war was truly over.  It was time to go home.  Washington had one last meeting with his officers.  On the evening of the 22nd of December there was a ball in his honor.  He danced until every lady had a chance to dance with the general.  Then he addressed Congress on the 23rd of December.  And became the greatest man in the world.  By submitting his resignation.  And returning to civilian life.  A regular Cincinnatus.  Called to serve his country.  And after serving his country he surrendered all power to return to his farm.

The war was over.  And it ended in peace.  More the exception than the rule when it came to revolution.  Thanks to George Washington.  And the other Founding Fathers.  Benjamin Franklin.  John Adams.  Alexander Hamilton.  Thomas Jefferson.  John Jay.  And everyone else of that unique generation.  Men of exceptional character.  Who never sacrificed their principles.  Or their sacred honor.

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Yorktown, North, Rockingham, Shelburne, Franco-Spanish Alliance, Vergennes, Adams, Franklin, Jay and the Treaty of Paris

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2012

Politics 101

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.

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American Colonies, Freedom to Worship, East India Company, Tea Tax, Tea Act, Boston Tea Party, Intolerable Acts, Continental Army and an American Nation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2012

Politics 101

As Parliament passed additional Revenue Acts Anger grew in the Colonies, especially in Boston

Prior to 1775 the American colonies were many things.  But there was one thing they were not.  United.  Many people went to America to escape religious persecution.  To live with people of their own faith.  To practice their faith without fear of reprisal or oppression.  And that’s exactly what they did.  Often oppressing fellow colonists who didn’t practice the established faith of the colony.  But they were united in one area.  Their hatred of Catholics.  Papists.  Those who lost their way and began to worship not Jesus Christ but the Pope.  That Whore of Babylon.  The seller of indulgences to buy your way out of purgatory.  And virtue.  So they had that to unite them.  But not much else.

Live and let live, they said.  As long as you worshipped Jesus Christ you were okay.  And weren’t a Jew.  Or a Catholic.  So the different denominations of the Protestant faith lived among their own.  In their own colony.  Their country.  The only sense of country they had.  Virginians weren’t American colonists.  They were Virginians.  Who didn’t much care what was going on up there in Massachusetts.  In fact, they didn’t much like what was happening up there in Massachusetts.  For Virginians were planters.  Yeoman farmers.  People who put their back into their living.  Not like those northern merchants.  And money handlers.  Who reeked just a little too much of the Old World they left.  Sitting on their backsides and making money just by buying and selling the products of other’s labors.

Life in the New World was good.  Yes, there was famine.  Disease.  And the occasional massacre.  But they could live with that.  As long as they had the freedom to worship as they pleased.  But then all that trouble started up there in Boston.  Over taxed and broke Parliament turned to their American colonies to raise some revenue.  Which angered the British Americans.  Because they didn’t sit in Parliament.  The Americans had no representation.  And according to British law taxpayers had to approve all new taxes.  Giving consent to those taxes in Parliament.  The problem with the Americans, apparently, was that they were on the ‘wrong’ side of the Atlantic.  For Britons living on the far side of the Atlantic had those rights.  They didn’t.  As Parliament passed additional revenue acts anger grew in the colonies. Especially in Boston.  Where Parliament installed British administrators to enforce these new revenue acts.  To protect their agents the British sent in the Red coats.  A peacetime occupying army.  Something very un-English that the British Americans did not like.

In Response to the Boston Tea Party Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts and closed the Port of Boston  

But the trouble didn’t end there.  The British made further attempts to raise revenue from the American colonists.  And from the British East India Company.  By taxing their tea.  Making it more expensive than the tea you could buy in the Netherlands.  Where there was no such tax.  So people did what people do with high taxes.  They didn’t pay them.  And smuggled Dutch tea into Great Britain.  And the American colonies.  Which left the East India Company with some warehouses full of tea.  So Parliament cut the tea tax due in Britain to help them.  And tried to make up for these lost revenues by taxing the Americans.  One of the new taxes included in the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767.  In response to the new tea tax the Americans boycotted tea.  Which didn’t help sell any of that warehoused tea.  So Parliament repealed the Townshend Revenue Act.  Well, all of it except the tea tax.  For they didn’t want to appear that they didn’t have the right to tax their subjects.  Represented or not.  And Parliament taxed the tea in Britain again.  This, of course, resulted in lower tea sales.  And the mighty East India Company, that made Britain so wealthy with its vast trade network, was in some serious financial peril.

Lord North, British Prime Minister, didn’t much like this uppity attitude of the Americans.  The East India Company desperately wanted to see those tea taxes cut.  But Lord North did not want to give the Americans that victory.  It was a matter of principle.  At least for him and his fellow Tories in Parliament.  As well as the Crown.  For King George III and Lord North were pretty close.  The Whig opposition was much more sympathetic to their British Brethren on the other side of the Atlantic.  But Lord North was adamant.  They had the right to tax the Americans.  And tax they would.  Besides, cutting the taxes in the Townshend Act caused other problems.  It would also eliminate the revenue it raised to pay the salaries of the colonial officials enforcing these new acts.  And it was important to keep them loyal to the Crown.  No.  The taxes in America would remain.  So their answer was, instead, the Tea Act of 1773.  Which removed the taxes due in Britain.  And allowed the East India Company to ship directly to the America colonies.  Cutting out the middleman.  And bringing the price of British tea below that of the smuggled Dutch tea.  Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  Because the one thing they did share on both sides of the Atlantic was principle.  And even though British tea was cheaper they didn’t want anything to do with it.  On principle.  Because those Townshend tea taxes were still in force.  And paying them was a tacit admission that Parliament had the right to tax the Americans.  Despite not having any representation in that esteemed assembly.  And this they could not do.  Then came the day three little ships came to Boston harbor in 1773.  Their holds full of that detested British tea.  And a mob in the guise of Mohawk Indians descended to the docks.  Boarded these ships.  And tossed the tea overboard.  In what we call the Boston Tea Party.  Infuriating Lord North, Parliament and King George III.  Who all agreed it was time to act against these uppity Americans.  And act they did.  Passing the punitive Intolerable Acts of 1774.  That closed the Port of Boston.  Replaced the Colonial government in Massachusetts with representatives of the Crown.  Royal officials accused of committing a crime against any American would receive a ‘fair’ trial…in Great Britain (pretty much giving them a license to kill).  Forced the Americans to find room and board for the British Army occupying their cities.  And gave large swaths of land around the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley to the Province of Quebec.  Recently added to the British Empire during the Seven Years’ War.  After they defeated their most hated and foul enemy.  The French.  Who were very, very Catholic.  As were their colonists who remained in these once French lands that were now British lands.  So to keep them from causing trouble the Quebec Act made things very comfortable for Catholics.  Right in the backyard of Protestant British North America. 

It was in the Continental Army the Country united and fulfilled the Words of the Declaration of Independence

In April of 1775 General Gage heard that there were some arms stored in Concord, Massachusetts.  So he sent some Red coats to go capture or destroy these arms.  Things did not go well for the British.  Militia gathered and stood their ground.  Shots rang out.  No one is sure who fired first.  But whoever did fired the shot heard ’round the world.  On the march back to Boston the British were harassed and picked off by sharpshooters.  Until they limped back into the safety of their Boston garrison.  Where the militia fell upon them and laid siege.  These uppity Americans for all intents and purposes had just declared war against the world’s greatest superpower.  And there was no going back.

In response to the British actions in Boston the colonies assembled in congress.  The Continental Congress.  To discuss what they as a united people should do.  For if these outrages could happen in Boston they could happen in any of the colonies.  And now that they spilled blood they needed someone to lead the American forces in their fight against the Crown.  They selected George Washington.  Who left the Congress to take charge in Boston.  And as he walked the lines at Boston he saw Americans.  And when his army marched to Quebec (to get the now British French-Canadians to join in the good fight) he saw Americans.  It was in the Continental Army the country united.  Fighting alongside in the ranks Washington saw Virginians.  Massachusetts men.  Farmers.  Merchants.  Puritans.  Baptists.  Catholics.  Jews.  Even free blacks.

There was nothing a British American enjoyed more than burning an effigy of the Pope.  That would change in the Army.  And the Army would change the country.  Especially the men who served in the Army.  Men like Washington.  Who first glimpsed a new nation.  A united nation.  That transcended religion.  The states.  Even race.  Which really brought home the words of the Declaration of Independence.  That all men are created equal.  And there’s nothing that makes men more equal than suffering the privations and horrors of war.  Sadly, after the war when the common enemy was no more the spirit of these words became a little more symbolic for some.  But these army veterans would leave their mark.  And their vision would eventually become reality for everyone.

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