John Kerry insults Britain because the House of Commons said ‘No’ to Military Action in Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2013

Week in Review

There is a special relationship between Britain and the United States.  The first Americans were British.  As the American colonies were part of the British Empire.  The American colonists fought alongside British regulars against the French and Indians during the Seven Years’ War.  The cost of that war and the subsequent taxation to pay for it created a bit of a falling out between the British and the Americans.  In a little thing we call the American Revolution.  After that falling out, though, we resumed our special relationship with our former masters.  Who was our major trade partner.  Not France.  Who helped us in the American Revolution.  Why?  Because Britain’s Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And had a vast empire to trade with.

The French were inspired so much by our revolution that they had one of their own.  The French Revolution.  And unlike the American Revolution the French Revolution was rather vengeful.  With French citizens killing other French citizens.  Including their king and queen.  Which just appalled President Washington.  Then the French started waging war with her neighbors.  Including their eternal foe.  Britain.  The Americans remained neutral in the conflict.  But their neutrality favored the British.  As America’s economic future was tied more closely to the British than the French.  Something that irked the French in charge of France at the time.  The same people that killed King Louis XVI.  The head of France that helped the Americans in their revolution.

Then the Franco-American relations soured.  Citizen Genêt came to the U.S.  The new French ambassador.  To encourage the Americans to support France in their wars against Britain and Spain.  Recruiting American privateers to attack British shipping.  Even basing these operations out of American ports.  Bringing captured British vessels to American ports.  And he recruited a militia to march on the Spanish in Florida.  Infuriating President Washington.  It even got the ever-quarreling Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to agree on something.  The danger Citizen Genêt was placing the Americans in.  Risking war with the British Empire.  So they asked for his recall.  Which the French did.  But because that probably meant the guillotine Genêt asked for asylum in America and got it.  Living out his days as an American.

Then there was the XYZ Affair.  The British and the French were interdicting trade of the other with neutral powers.   Including the Americans.  The Jay Treaty eased tensions between Britain and America.  But it angered the French.  Who stepped up their attacks on American shipping.  Hoping to avoid war with France President Adams sent a diplomatic mission to France.  But the French said before the Americans could enter any negotiations they first had to pay a bribe.  And agree to a loan.  The Americans refused and left.  When word reached America there was outrage.  Congress even annulled the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.  The treaty that brought the French into the American Revolution.  And promised America military support if the British ever attacked the French.  People wanted to go to war with France.  But eventually they reached an agreement and avoided said war.

So the Franco-American alliance was tenuous at best.  And short-lived.  The French entered into it not to help the Americans succeed in their lofty idealism.  Of life without a king.  For France was an absolute monarchy.  And the last thing an absolute monarchy wants is to fill their people’s heads with silly notions of liberty.  Because that could lead to things like the French Revolution.  No.  The French allied with the Americans to regain territory they lost to the British.  Which they lost a lot of at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.  Which the Americans helped them lose.  No doubt weighing heavily on their minds.  As during the peace negotiations they tried to strike a deal with the British to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  Thankfully, for the Americans, Benjamin Franklin was in Paris during the peace negotiations.  And made a more favorable peace for the Americans.  To France’s dismay.  Which no doubt led to the tenuous Franco-American relations following the French Revolution.

So this is America’s history.  A history that is based in friendship and amity between the British and the Americans.  Apart from that small episode called the American Revolution.  While King Louis XVI did help America win her independence from Britain France’s motive for their support was to take large chunks of North America back.  Even at the expense of the Americans.  We had a brief alliance during the Revolutionary War with France.  But the Americans have prospered because of the special relationship with Britain.  Two people that share a language, a history, a culture, a legal system and a form of government (representative government).  So what does the current American administration do to our BFF?  This (see Syria: John Kerry slaps Britain in face as he calls France ‘oldest allies’ by Peter Foster posted 8/30/2013 on The Telegraph).

John Kerry administered a diplomatic slap in the face to Britain following David Cameron’s withdrawal of military support for intervention in Syria, omitting the UK from a long list of ‘friends’ prepared to support US actions against the Assad regime.

The diplomatic smart was made worse by Mr Kerry’s pointed reference to the French as “our oldest ally” – a reference that dates back to France’s role supporting America against Britain in the American Revolutionary War that began in 1776…

He then listed the Obama administration’s supporters, including the Arab League, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, the Turks, Australians and the French. Britain, however, was conspicuous by its absence from that list…

“Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”

What is it with this administration and the British?  First President Obama returns a bust of Winston Churchill to the British embassy.  And now this slap in the face.  One would get the impression that they don’t like the British.  Perhaps it’s because of Britain’s support in the Iraq War.  Or that John Kerry can speak French.  And is a Francophile at heart.  But as the U.S. Secretary of State he should not spurn our BFF.

America and France are great friends.  But Britain and America are greater friends.  Because of the special relationship.  Insulting them is not stately.  It’s just impudent and impertinent.  Things a secretary of state should just not be.

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Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Whiskey Rebellion, French Revolution, New French-British War and Proclamation of Neutrality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 23rd, 2012

Politics 101

America’s First Tax was a 25% Excise Tax on American Whiskey made from Corn

Thomas Jefferson held a dinner party where he, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison met to resolve some issues.  Hamilton was stressed out.  He was facing strong opposition for his assumption plan.  Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton wanted to assume all the states’ debts and lump them into the federal debt.  To get the nation’s finances in order.  Establish good credit.  And raise revenue for the new nation.  The Virginians, Jefferson and Madison, offered their assistance if Hamilton would give them the nation’s capital.  Hamilton got his assumption.  And the Virginians got the nation’s new capital on the Potomac River.  Across from Virginia.  Where they could keep a close eye on the nation’s business.  And everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, not exactly.  There was already growing discontent across the land.  Hamilton understood business and commerce.  And banking.  Farmers don’t like bankers.  Or commerce.  Or business.  Many in the south and on the frontier worked the land.  As yeoman farmers.  Families working small farms that they owned.  They believed, as Jefferson believed, that the most honorable work in America was farming.  And that America’s future was the growth of farming.  Small farms.  Owned by families working the land.  Yeoman farmers.  Proud.  Pure.  And wholly American.  This despite Jefferson being a member of the slave-owning planter elite.  Who indulged in little physical labor.

So the south and the frontier were no Hamilton supporters.  They didn’t like his high finance ideas for the new nation.  And they especially didn’t like his whiskey tax.  A tax of 25% on western corn products.  Which you made whiskey from.  The new American alcoholic beverage of choice after they eschewed beer.  The beverage of choice before the rebellion.  When they were all content British citizens.  But an excise tax on corn products was little different from the excise taxes that caused the colonies to rebel against Great Britain in the first place.  Sure, there was one subtle difference this time.  The whiskey tax was taxation with representation.  And, technically speaking, legal.  But on corn?  The new tax seemed to fall unfairly on the West.  Which had a corn economy.  And used the whiskey they made from it for money.  So these frontier people were not just going to sit idly by and take this new taxation without a fight.

The Washington Administration took Decisive Action in Suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion

This first tax was to help finance Hamilton’s assumption.  But it was more important than the revenue it would raise.  The whiskey tax was a matter of principle.  It was probably poor policy.  And probably not the smartest thing to do.  Picking a fight with the toughest and most fiercely independent people in the country.  Frontier people.  Who lived off the land without any of the city comforts enjoyed back east.  But the tax was the law.  And the first test of the new nation.  If the government retreated in the face of opposition to a law passed by Congress their experiment in self-government would fail.  For as unpleasant as taxation was it was the reason they formed a new nation in 1787.  To levy taxes so they could pay their past debt.  And their current bills.  So President Washington and Hamilton hunkered down on the tax.

And the riots came.  The Whiskey Rebellion.  Around Pittsburg.  Kentucky (aka bourbon country).  The backcountry of the Carolinas.  And elsewhere.  They refused to pay the tax.  And attacked the tax collecting apparatus.  Even the courts.  It was war.  The spirit of ’76 was alive again.  Protesting a distant central power trying to impose a tax on them.  Washington offered amnesty if they just dispersed and went home.  They refused.  So Washington raised an army of some 13,000 strong.  Larger than any army he commanded during the Revolutionary War.  And led the army west with Hamilton to meet the insurrection.  The first and only time a sitting president led an army.  As the army approached resistance melted away.  So Washington handed command over to Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee (a Revolutionary War veteran and hero) and returned to the capital in Philadelphia.  Hamilton remained with the army.  As the army arrived the insurrection collapsed.  The army caught some rebels and tried them.  And two received death sentences.  Who Washington later pardoned.

Score one for the rule of law.  Washington was pleased with the outcome.  Hamilton, too.  They took decisive action to subdue an insurrection.  The people in general were happy that they restored peace.  And that the country didn’t collapse into anarchy.  All in all a win-win for the people and the government.  Almost.  Not everyone saw it in this light.  Some saw a king leading an army against his own people.  A professional army.  Little different from British redcoats.  Or Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army a century or so earlier.  A professional standing army squashing those who disagreed with the government.  And Jefferson did not like it.  Nor did a lot of those in the south.  Or on the frontier.

President Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in the New War between Great Britain and France

Seeing Hamilton ride at the head of an army only reinforced Jefferson’s opinion of him.  A power-hungry, British-loving puppet master.  And the puppet was President Washington.  The dislike between Hamilton and Jefferson turned into outright hostility.  They had two different visions of America.  And these two visions were mutually exclusive.  Cabinet meetings became insufferable as Hamilton and Jefferson constantly fought.  And the French Revolution didn’t help matters any.  The radical Jefferson supported the radical French.  Who he knew and sat with in the Jacobin clubs while he was in France.  Jefferson was all for overthrowing monarchies.  So when the French and British declared war on each other it was a no brainer who to support for Jefferson.  Vive la France!

Of course there was only one problem with that position.  About 75% of U.S. exports went to Great Britain.  Even more of her imports (approximately 90%) came from Great Britain.  And then there was the Royal Navy (RN).  Who still ruled the high seas.  And all the international trade routes.  In addition to the RN there was the British Army.  Who still occupied forts on the American western frontier.  And who were still in contact with their Indian allies from the Revolutionary War.  Couple this with the fact that the U.S. had no comparable army or navy.  And was already having trouble on the frontier with the Indians (from the influx of settlers into the western territories).  So siding with France against Britain was not the smart move.  Yes, the French were instrumental in helping the Americans achieve their independence from Great Britain.  But America was a country emerging from 8 years of war that just had to suppress a tax rebellion over a sin tax.  She did not have the wealth to enter a European war.  Besides, the Americans were supported by the monarch (King Louis XVI) the French were overthrowing.  Which complicated matters.

Washington and Hamilton saw things differently than Jefferson.  More like realists than the idealist Jefferson.  The Revolution was over.  The British and Americans were no longer enemies.  But important trade partners.  That shared a common British past.  Of laws and traditions firmly established in what was once British America.  So Washington issued his Proclamation of Neutrality (1793).  They would support neither in this European war.  Which infuriated the French.  And Jefferson.  For though they were neutral it was clear that their neutrality would favor the British.  As well as Hamilton.  And it did.  But it also favored America’s best interests.  For another long war would have probably bankrupted the nation.  And perhaps resulted with her partitioned among the European nations.  For the French Revolution lasted for a decade.  And the Napoleonic Wars it begot lasted another 11 years.  Which let us not forget the French lost.  In large part due to the Royal Navy.  And Great Britain’s wealth generated by her international trade.  Something the Americans could not have altered had she entered the war on France’s side.  A wise foreign policy call by President Washington (and yet another time he saved his country).  But it was one that tore his administration apart.  Firmly establishing the opposition party.  With Jefferson at its head.  With but one purpose.  To destroy Hamilton.  And to lead the nation away from where Hamilton was taking it.

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