Saturday, July 23, 2016

If Japan is Fascist, Then So Are You

Last week, the conservative periodical “National Review” took time out from calling Donald Trump a fascist to take a swing at America’s most important ally in East Asia with an article by Josh Gelernter called, “Japan Reverts to Fascism”. The author wrote with great alarm that Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and the coalition it leads recently won a large enough majority in both houses of the legislature to amend the Japanese constitution, the constitution which Japan has had since the end of World War II and which has never been amended to date. He describes all of the ways that, in his mind, Japan is reverting to a fascist state which seems an odd thing for a conservative American magazine to say about a conservative government that is America’s staunchest ally in the region and easily one of our most important allies in the world. Calling someone a “fascist” is usually the trademark of the left. In fact, today, about the only definition of a fascist is anyone who the left doesn’t like. It is a bizarre and inflammatory accusation to make just at the outset. But, he made it and so must back it up. What evidence does Mr. Gelernter present to justify such an accusation?

He begins by pointing out that Prime Minister Abe and many of his compatriots belong to a nationalist group called Nippon Kaigi which portrays the Japanese as the ‘good guys’ in World War II who were simply trying to liberate East Asia from the clutches of the wicked white race only to become the victims of the overpowering force of the Allies. This is, admittedly, his strongest point as a failure to understand and recognize the mistakes of the past leaves a country vulnerable to repeating them and World War II was certainly a mistake for Japan. The Empire of Japan was destroyed by it, so obviously that wasn’t good for Japan or anyone else. However, as troubled as people in the west have every right to be about being vilified, the effort to refute the vilification of Japan is not something that should be considered troubling or at all unusual. Western countries have done immense damage to themselves by indulging in a masochistic guilt-complex and Japan would be wise to avoid a similar mistake. Also, the fact that the Japanese would have a different point of view, whether you think it right or wrong, about World War II should not be considered that outrageous.

For the sake of a largely American audience, allow me to point to some examples that will best illustrate why this is a double-standard. Most Canadians have a very different view of the War of 1812 than most Americans. Most Mexicans think they were the ‘good guys’ in the War for Texas Independence and the Mexican-American War. Although it is not the case today, for much of American history, most British people had a very different view of the American War for Independence than most people in the United States. Does this bother anyone today? Again, until relatively recently, most Americans in the south still thought they were the ‘good guys’ and the United States were the ‘bad guys’ in the Civil War. It is actually normal for countries to have different points of view about conflicts depending on which side you were on. Now, Japan has not been entirely consistent on this point, particularly concerning the other Axis powers Japan willingly joined before the war started but it is perfectly natural for any country to give their own side the benefit of the doubt compared to others. I could also point out that China and Russia also both have different opinions about World War II compared to the western Allies but no one seems to mind that very much.

However, while that first exhibit on the part of Mr. Gelernter may have some, small, bit of merit to it as something America and other western countries should be concerned about, his case goes from that rather shaky bit of ground to fall headlong into a bottomless pit of ridiculousness. He says that the people in power in Japan are still mad about the Japanese Emperor being forced to renounce his divine status, which is something that is debatable but which, in any event, is something that anyone in Japan should have every right to be upset about. He mentioned fairly early in the piece, which I reserved bringing up until now, that part of the proposed amendments to the constitution that the Japanese government is seeking were described by the LDP with the words, “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.” Mr. Gelernter takes great exception to there being anything objectionable about “Western European theory of natural human rights”. However, isn’t one of those human rights the freedom of religion? Shouldn’t the Japanese be free to practice the form of Shinto, their own native faith, however they choose? Don’t they have the freedom to believe in the divinity of their Emperor just as other people believe in the divinity of Jesus? Isn’t this one of the main points of the version of human rights he’s defending?

This is why I say that, by the logic of Josh Gelernter, if the Japanese are fascists, then so are you, so am I, so is almost everyone reading these lines. Does wishing to worship according to your own beliefs make you a fascist? He goes on from there to point to such things as people flying the Japanese naval ensign, aka “the Rising Sun” flag which was formerly the flag of the Imperial Japanese Navy, is currently the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and so has been in use long before World War II and is still in use today. Does flying a flag of your country make you a fascist? Probably the most absurd thing he points to as evidence, however, is the Japanese national anthem. He seems to have an obsessive paranoia about this song, the lyrics of which are the oldest national anthem in the world so, again, something that was around long before World War II, long before fascism ever existed. It is a song wishing for a long reign for the Emperor which makes it about as “controversial” as the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen”. Does singing your own national anthem make you a fascist? If you think that is a silly question, why does this only seem to apply to Japan whereas in every other country, flying a historic flag or singing your national anthem is considered the most basic and inoffensive forms of patriotism and nothing sinister at all?

He also points to certain words and international rankings about the media to imply that freedom of the press is being restricted in Japan. He warns that the NHK, the state broadcasting network, is a mouthpiece for the government, implying that it spouts nothing but right-wing propaganda. Anyone can watch the NHK (it has an English-language channel) and see for themselves that this is ridiculous. If anything, the content on NHK is viewed by most Japanese on the political right as being skewed toward the left. This should not be considered surprising given that anyone with any honesty will say the same about the BBC in Britain, the CBC in Canada or the ABC in Australia. In the United States, given what is put out by the likes of CNN, MSNBC or FNC, I have a hard time taking such concerns about Japan seriously. The media itself is the biggest threat to a free press these days given how widespread, around the world, dishonesty and bias is. There is a reason why most Americans, in a country that prides itself on its free press, considers the media extremely dishonest and untrustworthy.

Finally, he also mentions the changes regarding the armed forces in Japan and the degree to which Japan has recently been strengthening the Self-Defense Forces. For an American conservative magazine to make an issue of this is appallingly ignorant. The United States has been urging Japan for decades to strengthen itself so as to be a stronger ally. A strong ally is a help whereas a weak ally is liability. That is a fact so basic that anyone should be able to grasp it. Japan is also in a very dangerous neighborhood. Russia still occupies Japanese territory, North Korea is constantly firing missiles in their direction and Communist China has been building up its military forces at an alarming rate while also making claims to Japanese territory. Any other country in the world with any sense at all would be doing everything they could to strengthen themselves in such a position. I will say again, if flying a flag, singing the national anthem and wanting a strong military is evidence of fascism, then almost every other country in the world would be considered fascist as well.

No, there is obviously a double-standard at work here and it just might have to do with those “Western European” theories about human rights Mr. Gelernter is so fond of. The nations of Western Europe and North America have, sadly, adopted a very liberal, internationalist mindset and guilt-complex that is destroying western civilization. An entire people seems bent on suicide and the people of Japan would only be showing great wisdom in wishing to take a different path. Are we holding up these same values at all anymore anyway? Freedom of religion is one Mr. Gelernter does not seem willing to extend to Japan and in the west it seems these days that some religions have more freedom than others. Freedom of speech also seems to be ever more restricted these days. Freedom of assembly doesn’t seem to be evenly applied anymore, it depends on what you are assembling for. Did anyone notice that the Bush family boycotted the recent Republican National Convention? I know, they oppose Donald Trump but it certainly paints an odd picture that a man like George W. Bush who would go to war to spread democracy would stay home and pout when the democratic process in his own party does not go the way he wanted it to.

The left, and now apparently the National Review, has become so fond of labeling anyone they disagree with a “fascist” that the term has effectively lost its sting. Taking a righteous pride in the symbols of your own country, like your flag or your anthem, to revere your monarch, to want strength and security for your nation and, yes, even to defend the honor of your forefathers should not be considered negative things and the fact that some would shows only that there is something very wrong with them, not with Japan. Of course, anyone can agree or disagree with certain points taken by the Japanese government, one can agree or disagree with their views on World War II but to make such accusations as this article does, for the reasons that it does, is simply disgusting and more alarming than anything coming from Tokyo. To love your country, to wish it to be strong and secure and to take your own side in an argument is natural and would previously have been accepted by everyone as simple common sense. If, however, that is the current measure of what it means to be a fascist, then, all I can say, is that the western democracies must owe a profound apology to the spirit of Mussolini.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Brief Thoughts on the Terrorist Attack in Nice

I will not go into the grisly details of the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France as I am sure everyone already knows them. It was simply the latest in a now all-too-long list of attacks by Muslim terrorists, some fanatics, some hypocrites who simply wish to attach themselves to a cause, against western countries and France has certainly been a prominent target. In fact, France was still in a state of emergency from the last such terrorist attack. This one, however, happened on Bastille Day, the national holiday held on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, traditionally the event used to mark the start of the French Revolution. In a way, such an attack on Bastille Day was disgustingly appropriate. The French Revolution, the damage that it did and the mentality that it caused to take root in France, is directly responsible for the current state of affairs which made such an attack possible. Will the French ever truly come to grips with this? It seems doubtful, certainly the response by French leaders has been no different and showed no greater urgency than after previous attacks, and so the body count of innocent victims will continue to rise while people cling desperately to their delusions. And that is what this is, make no mistake about it.

The motto of the French Revolution and, subsequently the French republics, is "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood". There is a delusional start for you right there. Liberty is a rather subjective term, equality is an impossibility and if you are determined to try to make equality possible, you make liberty impossible. As for brotherhood, that may have been fine when considering only the French alone but, of course, the revolutionaries never intended it that way and France has been paying the price ever since. The idea of spreading the revolution to France's European "brothers" led to years of disastrous wars that resulted in France being weakened and the Germans being united. Today the mentality has widened to include people from all around the world; Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal and so on. However, even when such people are brought to France, taught French history, had the values of the Revolution pounded into them, even if they are born and raised in France, it does no good when they have another "brotherhood", one of race or religion that runs far deeper than a liberal civics examination. Any Frenchman worth his snails would look at any of these recent attackers, even those born in his country and say, 'I like the word "Fraternity" but still I draw the line / He may be a brother of Francois Hollande but he ain't no brother of mine'.

No, for France to triumph over this crisis, not simply the terrorist attacks which are a symptom of a deeper problem, all the idealistic, ideological nonsense of the French Revolution has to be kicked to the curb in favor of a revival of that older France, that nobler France that the Jacobins worked so hard to eradicate. The terrorists like to refer to the western powers as "Crusaders", which, of course, no western country today is at all but they damn well should be and no one was more prominent in the era of the Crusades than the Kingdom of France. France needs to forget this "fraternity" nonsense and remember the likes of Charles Martel or St Joan of Arc and how they dealt with invaders. If you want crusaders, France has had plenty, there was hardly a crusade in which the French didn't play a major part. The Kingdom of France was officially and proudly Catholic. That did not, as most know, prevent France having good relations and even alliances with Islamic countries or those of other religions, but it was always perfectly clear that France was a Christian nation and expected to remain so. "One king, one law, one faith" as the ill-fated Louis XVI put it.

That France, the France that restored Christianity in the near east, that explored the interior of North America, that frustrated the combined armies of Europe and built the Palace at Versailles, that France would have no problem dealing with this current crisis, because it had all the tools with which to do so. It had a will to survive, ambition to do great things, loyalty to a single leader and the faith of the "Eldest Daughter of the Church". When the France of today, revives and restores the values of that France, the current crisis can be swept away.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thoughts on the Boer Republics (and their consequences)

I have, from time to time, been asked about my opinion on the Boer Republics and/or the Boer War which saw them fall to the forces of the British Empire. It is a subject I have mixed feelings about considering that I have a great deal of sympathy for both sides of the British-Boer divide. The fact of my own contrariness also plays a part as, during the Boer War, the vast majority of world opinion was on the side of the struggling, little Boer republics and very much against the big, bad British Empire that was at its peak of Victorian splendor and I get very nervous whenever I find myself in agreement with popular opinion. I also dislike the sort of envy-driven hatred that manifests itself against any country or people when they reach the pinnacle of success. It happened to Spain, in happened to Britain more than once, it happened to Germany in the build-up to World War I and it has been happening to the United States and I detest each and every instance of it. The British Empire is dear to my heart and, despite popular opinion today, was inarguably a force for good in the world taken as a whole. However, even Anglophile that I am, I cannot deny that there were occasions in which the British Empire behaved badly as is the case with any country or any people in the world from time to time.

The British Empire had a record of success in Africa that would be difficult to surpass and, again despite what modern detractors would say, it was generally more humane than otherwise. The African lands touched by the British Empire benefited greatly from it with the forces of the British Empire wiping out slavery, introducing modern medicine, agriculture, education and government and they tended to work with traditional native leaders whenever possible. However, no person and no people are totally immune from error and misdeeds and just as the British acted benevolently in India in eradicating certain barbaric practices, the British also acted quite badly such as in forcing opium on the Chinese. The British Empire was a force for good in suppressing the slave trade and yet, in Africa itself there was also instances of Britain acting in a less than altruistic way. The Boer War itself, I think, shows both negative and positive aspects of the character of the British Empire. Greed often seemed to be the driving force behind the start of the conflict and British actions in fighting the war were, sometimes inadvertently though few today would admit it, quite cruel. And yet, the conquered Boer republics were taken into the British Empire and became even more successful still and, after the conflict, the British were generously magnanimous toward their former foes.

For those who complain that I never have anything good to say about any republics, ever (even my own, which is certainly not true), take note that I have no fundamental objection to the Boer republics and moreover that I think the Boer republics had much to recommend them. The Boers were a rough-hewn, rugged, frontier type of people who were excellent horsemen, crack shots with a rifle and devoutly religious -all of which are qualities to admire in my book. Unlike the republics in places such as France or Russia or China, I have no problem with the creation of the Boer republics because of the nature of their birth. They were not born out of any sort of radical, revolutionary upheaval. If France or Russia represent the extreme left in the birth of republics, the United States would be much more to the right but the Boer republics would be even further to the right still. To explain, and for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the story, a brief summary of how the Boer republics came to be is probably in order.

The Dutch arrive on the Cape
Before the British ever arrived in the area, the Cape of Good Hope region of southern Africa was a Dutch colony, part of the very businesslike empire of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. However, then the French Revolution broke out, the French invaded the Netherlands, the Prince of Orange was overthrown and a French puppet state called the Batavian Republic was erected. This meant the ruin of Dutch trade and the loss of most of the Dutch empire with the British swooping in and, after a brief battle, seizing control of the Cape for the British Crown. As many of the locals, mostly Dutch but including some other peoples in the mix, did not desire to live under British rule, they packed up their wagons and left British territory to head deeper into the interior of Africa (the famous “Great Trek”). It was these people who finally established what eventually became known as the Boer republics.

The British became more established in the region and the Boers lived in peace beside them, mostly as farmers and ranchers. They lived simple lives but were accustomed to the hardships of frontier life and were content. However, things began to change when it was found that the Boer republics sat on top of extremely lucrative mineral deposits. They were quite literally ‘sitting on a gold mine’ (and a number of diamond mines too). This, of course, attracted more and more British settlers who moved into Boer territory and that, of course, began to arouse the opposition of the Boers. They began to enact laws to curtail the flow of the British into their territory and the influence they had. That was only natural. It was also then, only natural, for the British to object to their rights being restricted and the British Empire, also not surprisingly, took up the cause of their fellow countrymen against the Boer republics and soon this led to the outbreak of war. Looking back at the overall situation there are few historians who would try to deny that the bottom line was simply this: the Boers had control of vast riches that the British wanted for themselves and they were prepared to fight and conquer the Boer republics in order to obtain control of these mineral deposits. Would any other power, similarly placed, have done otherwise? Probably not. Still, it was hardly Britain’s finest hour.

Boer President Paul Kruger
The world was amazed though by how tenacious the Boers proved to be when confronting the greatest empire in the history of the world. The war, or actually “wars” were long and bitter struggles with the Boers putting up one Hell of a fight. They were not professional soldiers but their way of life had made them a tough and tenacious people and before it was all over you could say that they made the British earn all the gold under Johannesburg the hard way and the payment for all that wealth was in blood. In fighting the war, which eventually devolved into a guerilla conflict with those Boers who refused to surrender, the British resorted to methods that were brutal but effective. The most notorious strategy was to isolate the Boer commandos (a local term the British adopted for their own special forces later on such was their fighting reputation) from their civilian base of support by ‘concentrating’ the Boer population in guarded camps. So it was that the British invented the “concentration camp”.

Today, the unthinking mob tends to think of a “concentration camp” as a “death camp” thanks to the influence of Nazi Germany on the popular imagination. However, this should not be so and the British certainly did not put Boers into camps in order to systematically exterminate the Afrikaner people. Which is also not to say that these were nice places. They were certainly not and large numbers of civilian men, women and children died in these camps from disease, malnutrition and poor sanitation. It was, however, not due to intentional British cruelty but rather to supply shortages, logistical failures and bureaucratic log jam. In fact, it was a British woman who came to the rescue of the imprisoned Boers, raising a public outcry over the conditions in which they were being held and who mounted the effort to relieve their suffering through much more efficient private, charitable channels. Obviously, if the British were a cruel and heartless people, no one would have cared about the concentration camps, there would have been no public outcry and no massive effort to put a stop to it. The British also proved themselves to be gracious victors when the brutal bloodletting was over. Rather than rule the Afrikaners as a conquered people, the British made them partners in the new colonial enterprise that became South Africa and, as a result, many of the men who had fought the hardest against the British became ardent supporters of the British Empire, even taking up arms again to defend it in World War I.

Louis Botha, Boer leader
So, for me, though I am a great admirer of the British Empire, I also see much to admire in the Boer republics, I am not unsympathetic to them and, as republics go, they were acceptable in my book. The important point, for me at least, is that they were foundationally legitimate republics rather than illegitimate revolutionary republics. The Boer republics were, if you like, a ‘creatio ex nihilo’ which did not detract from any existing, established authority to which they should have held allegiance. At the time they were severed from their own, original, mother-country, that (republican) state had been deprived of its own legitimate government. The transfer of territory to the British was not applauded by the Boers but they did nothing to oppose it, preferring to move inland and carve out their own country from the wilderness. The first French Republic, by contrast, was plainly illegitimate but the Boer republics were clearly not and so I have no fundamental problem with them in their origins nor do I know of anything objectionable about their operation when they existed. As such regimes go, they were okay in my book.

Battle of Blood River
There was, it must be mentioned, one aspect to the Boer republics which attracts the most criticism today, given modern, liberal, western sentiments and that was their attitude toward the Black population. I think this deserves to be mentioned, not simply for the sake of full disclosure, but to show that the British Empire was not only hardly as terrible as it is often portrayed but that it acted in a way in which modern-day liberals would have demanded and yet has absolutely nothing to show for such benevolence. First of all, the idea that the Boers should receive no sympathy because, ‘the British stole land from the Boers which the Boers had stolen from the Africans’ is a false, simplistic notion based on current fashionable opinion and not the actual facts. The Boers who made the “Great Trek” came as settlers, not conquerors. They obtained land by peaceful purchase, some Boer families still having the records of such sales from the Black Africans of the time, but most of the land was unoccupied due to the previous wars of conquest by the Zulus who had annihilated much of the previous Black population of the region. There were of course, inevitably going to be clashes, such as the famous Battle of Blood River, by which the Boers fought hard and paid a heavy price for the land they settled but the idea that the whole enterprise was some massive, armed heist is simply not true. The Boers did, however, have a very different attitude toward race in contrast to the British.

The British had long abolished the slave trade and expended a great deal in suppressing it, had abolished slavery long before across the British Empire and even in Victorian times, while certainly not possessing the thinking about race that modern Britons do, tended to look on racism as something terribly uncivilized at the very least. The Boers, on the other hand, took a more old-fashioned and Biblical view of race. They outlawed slavery too though some observers felt that was more in name rather than fact and they certainly viewed Blacks as a people to be kept apart from themselves, people who were different and to be treated differently. Black Africans could not become citizens in the Boer republics, they had fewer rights and freedoms and all the rest of it (any non-Boers and anyone not Protestant also faced degrees of discrimination as well). British society tended to look down on how Blacks were treated in the Boer republics and the inferior position of the Black Africans in the Boer republics was one of the ways that British public opinion was turned in favor of military action against them though it could hardly be argued that this was ever the primary reason for the war. Nonetheless, that was an aspect which enemies of the British Empire today tend to overlook. The vast majority of Black Africans supported the British because the British offered them more rights and more equal treatment than the Boers.

This, of course, eventually culminated in the collapse of the British Empire in Africa as the British government supported granting the franchise to Blacks, effectively handing them total control over South Africa (and other colonies) from the white minority. This led to an ugly stand-off with Rhodesia and British participation in international boycotts against apartheid South Africa, forever alienating the white populations of these countries. Critics of the British Empire today willfully ignore the fact that in South Africa, and other Black-majority countries across the continent, the British government took the side of the Black Africans against the White Africans, their own kith & kin many of them, something unprecedented in the history of all peoples all around the world. This is a fact, yet, from a monarchist perspective, one is forced to conclude that did nothing at all to benefit the Crown, British influence or even goodwill towards the UK.

By taking the side of the Black Africans, another race against those of their own blood in South Africa, the Boers and other White Africans tended to view the British as race-traitors, the people who sold out their own kind and it is easy to find people still today who have never forgiven the British for the part they played in the eradication of the White population in South Africa. The Crown, as usual, does not escape such criticism due to the way people view the monarch as the pinnacle and representation of all British people, society and government. However, while that was to be expected, the actions of Britain have obviously not immunized the British from accusations of racism and upon attaining political power, the Blacks of South Africa did not rush to restore the monarchy and become a Commonwealth Realm again. No, as we all know, the republican form of government was one thing about apartheid South Africa that the new regime wished to retain. Some do still think well of the British in South Africa, but it is not something that can be expressed openly without a severe backlash, even if you are a prominent African chief. And, today, Red China has far more influence in South Africa than Great Britain does. Taken altogether, it is simply a fact that neither Britain nor the British monarchy gained anything tangible nor even in terms of much goodwill and gratitude from its history of pro-Black policies in Africa.

Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts
No one figure better represents the change in attitude towards the British monarchy on the part of Boers than the great Prime Minister and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts. He fought against the British in the Second Boer War, yet later became pro-British and a staunch monarchist after it was over. When some Boers, during World War I, allied with Germany and tried to instigate a rebellion, Smuts and the loyal Boers suppressed them on their own. He was a major military leader in World War I on the side of the British Empire in Africa and was again one of the most prominent leaders on the Allied side in World War II, fighting for the British Empire against the Axis powers (he was even the favored candidate to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom if something were to happen to Mr. Churchill). He also supported racial segregation in South Africa and was very popular but later White South Africans came to view him less favorably as Britain took action against the racial policies of the country. When Black rule came to South Africa, Smuts fared no better as was seen in 1994 when the airport in Johannesburg, named in his honor, was renamed to the ‘Johannesburg International Airport’ and in 2006 was renamed again in honor of a prominent Black politician of the African National Congress. The Boers had fought fiercely against the British Empire but most later came to accept it and rose to prominence in South Africa. Many of them fought for the British Empire in World War I and World War II yet they reverted to republicanism due to British opposition to their racial policies and today one would be hard pressed to find a Boer in South Africa with much regard for Britain or the British monarchy. Thus did British opposition to apartheid alienate the Boers while still not garnering enough support among the Black population to restore the monarchy in a post-apartheid South Africa.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Royal Response to American Independence

The news of the outbreak of the American War for Independence was received in the royal courts of Europe in a way that many today would probably be shocked to know. Post-war perspectives have caused many to take a slanted if not outright false view of how the conflict, and the new country it created, was viewed by the crowned heads of Europe. Most of the major monarchs of Europe actually took a favorable view of the American rebels, each for their own reasons based on the fashionable political trends of the time, their own national histories and, of course, realpolitik. Some of those most would expect to embrace the American cause, actually did not and, contrarily, some of those who did make common cause with the Patriots of America, did so reluctantly and with great misgivings about the whole affair. Simplistic thinking about the period will doubtless cause many to be surprised to know how even the British Royal Family looked at the rebel colonists in North America. It was not what most people probably assume.

King George III
Starting with the royals most affected, the British, the first thing that must be done is to set aside the entire list of crimes cited as “evidence” of the tyranny of King George III in the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. It is as close as one could possibly get to being completely untrue. King George III was not a tyrant, never acted against the wishes of his government and never overstepped his legal authority. It was only that the King presented an easier target to vilify than the nameless, faceless members of Parliament who passed the legislation which the American colonists objected to. In fact, if one reads his own words on the subject, King George III was at every step leading up to the outbreak of war, always anxious to avoid conflict and resolve the matter peacefully. He was prepared to be reasonable but certainly felt that what was being asked of the colonists was not at all out of order. Once violence did erupt, however, he was the most committed in all of Britain to continuing the war until victory was secured. He threatened, more than once, to abdicate rather than accept American independence or to accept the Whig party into government who would push for such a thing.

As the war went on, the King became understandably bitter and voiced contemptuous views of the American populace, despite the fact that two-thirds were active or passive loyalists. However, as he said to John Adams, the first U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, while he was the last to agree to the independence of America, he was indeed the first to extend a hand of friendship to the new nation and work to retain it as part of the British trade network and commercial empire. What many would find more surprising though, is that the King’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales and future King George IV, was allied with a political faction that practically cheered every American victory in the war. This group was backed by the Prince of Wales and focused around Charles Fox, the Marquis of Rockingham and Edmund Burke. Members of this group even took to wearing the colors of Washington’s Continental Army to show their solidarity with the American cause and most of these men were wealthy and/or aristocratic which says something about just how “revolutionary” the war in America really was. Fox and Burke would later part company over the much more revolutionary war in France with Fox supporting the revolutionaries and Burke staunchly opposing them.

Ben Franklin meets the King & Queen of France
Of course, no monarchy was more central to the American cause than was the Kingdom of France. Indeed, France would prove the most critical in not only securing the existence of the United States but also establishing the first political divisions in the new country. King Louis XVI was the first foreign ruler to recognize the independence of the United States and then formed a military alliance with the Americans against the British. Yet, at the same time, King Louis XVI was, by almost all accounts, very reluctant to ally his country with the United States. As a Church-backed, absolute monarch brought up to believe in the “Divine Right of Kings”, helping largely republican rebels fight against their own King was very troubling for him. However, as his family had a history of supporting the Stuarts, there were plenty of people to assure him that King George III was no legitimate monarch anyway and anything they could do to weaken the British Empire would be beneficial for France. As it turned out, it gained France very little but the French had been nursing a grudge for some time since their defeat in the French and Indian War and previous conflicts at the hands of the British.

In the end, no one did more than King Louis XVI of France to ensure victory for the United States in the War for Independence. Many Americans were truly grateful for this and never forgot it. Portraits of King Louis appeared in taverns around the country and the town of Marietta, Ohio was named in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette. However, one problem was that the most Francophile of the American founders were also the most radically republican. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for example, were extremely pro-French but very anti-monarchy, though they did effectively make common cause with Napoleon Bonaparte. On the other side of the political divide, the more conservative Americans such as George Washington remained essentially Anglophiles and never forgot that the French had been pursuing their own interests rather than being truly committed to the American cause. Washington was convinced that the King Louis had been more the enemy of England than a friend of America and so he too, after independence, was quick to be friendlier with the British than the French.

King Louis XVI
Ultimately, the only major impact the war in America had on France was in putting even more strain on an economy that was threadbare to begin with. Ideologically, the two sides had little in common. Some of the French officers who fought in America embraced the Revolution, others remained royalists. The death of King Louis XVI gave the U.S. the opportunity to break off the previous agreements made with France and the first foreign war the U.S. fought, known as “The Undeclared War” was against republican France. George Washington was adamant that the French Revolutionary spirit not be allowed to spread to America. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was quick to embrace the French Revolution and is the one who purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon. Another Francophile, President James Madison, was the one who started the War of 1812 with Great Britain at a time to coincide with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, effectively putting America on the same side as Napoleonic France. Unfortunately for Madison, the war was a disaster for the United States. As this illustrates though, the earliest political divisions in the United States were centered on one faction that favored friendship with Britain and another that favored friendship with France. Sadly, none had much time for King Louis, one side because he was French and another because he was a king.

The other monarch which, after France, contributed the most to the eventual American victory was King Carlos III of Spain. His reaction to the war in America was very much similar to that of his cousin in France. Being one of the “Enlightened Despots”, he too was supportive of the American push for representative government, welcomed the colonies being able to trade outside the British Empire and was also anxious to recoup previous Spanish losses to Britain from past conflicts. Yet, he too was rather hesitant about coming to the assistance of the Americans. Unlike France, the Kingdom of Spain still possessed a massive empire in the Americas, stretching from roughly the modern Canadian border to the southern tip of what is now Chile and Argentina. King Carlos III was less concerned about the cost involved as he was that some of his own colonial subjects might try to follow the example of the British-American colonists.

King Carlos III
As it turned out, such fears were unfounded as the Spanish, unlike the French, took a more national as opposed to political view of the conflict. They tended to regard the American colonists as British, regardless of what flag flew over them, and never expected there to be long-lasting animosity between the British and Americans. King Carlos III viewed the British Empire in North America as a threat to his own colonial domains and thus an American victory would divide the forces of the English-speaking world while those of the Spanish-speaking world would still be united under the Spanish Crown. So it was that he entered the conflict as an ally of France rather than the United States directly and rather than sending ships and soldiers to fight alongside the Americans, as the French did, waged his own parallel war against Great Britain which proved very successful, regaining Minorca, Florida and control of most of the gulf coast. The recapture of Gibraltar was the only Spanish operation that did not end in victory for King Carlos III.

Prince Willem V
The other major European power that came to the aid of the Americans, with both recognition and joining in the war against Britain was The Netherlands or, as it was known at the time, the United Provinces. This, however, represents a very different case from France and Spain which had monarchs who were reluctant to help the Americans but eventually came around to giving the United States absolutely vital assistance to the winning of the ultimate victory. The Netherlands was a republic at the time but one which was divided between a more republican faction and a more royalist faction known as the “Orange Party” for their wish to see the Prince of Orange given more power and ultimately to become outright monarch of The Netherlands. The republican faction was whole-heartedly sympathetic to the American cause, for both political and business reasons. American colonists boycotting British goods had been the best of customers to the Dutch merchant class and they were very hostile to the British and the competition in trade the British Empire represented. The Prince of Orange, Willem V, however, took the opposite position. He had succeeded his father as Stadtholder in 1766 and was very much supportive of the British and King George III. The anti-Orange faction had the power and the Dutch government recognized the United States and went to war with Britain but it was very much against the wishes of Prince Willem V who did everything he could to hinder efforts to help the Americans.

Frederick the Great
If it seems surprising that the leading royal figure in a country allied with the United States would be so hostile to it, one might find it even more surprising just how friendly toward the American cause the very absolutist and militaristic King of Prussia was. Britain had traditionally been an ally of Prussia and the attitudes of America certainly did not seem to be aligned with the attitudes of Prussia. However, as with others, America benefited from the intense hatred so many monarchs had for the British. King Frederick the Great of Prussia had previously had Britain as his only major European ally. Yet, when new governments disengaged Britain from the continent to focus on colonial expansion, Frederick the Great took this as a betrayal and never forgave the British for it. He viewed the British as false, duplicitous and thoroughly treacherous and never made much secret of his sentiments. He was, of course, not in a position to help the Americans or go to war with Britain but he nonetheless was jubilant to see Britain lose the largest portion of her empire (as it existed at the time) and cheered every American success. He was so exuberant that he later sent George Washington an ornate sword with a greeting, in his words, “from the oldest general in Europe to the greatest general in the world” which shows that “Old Fritz” was letting his enthusiasm for the American cause run into extreme exaggeration. No doubt this zealous moral support also played a part in some Americans considering the Prussian monarch’s younger brother, Prince Heinrich, as a potential ‘King of America’.

In the neighboring Kingdom of Denmark, a major power at the time, the war in America coincided with a political division between proponents of absolutism and constitutional government as well as a lack of royal leadership due to the insanity of King Christian VII. There was widespread support for the Americans among the Danish public and even more in the Danish colonies which, of course, was a cause for concern by those in the government. The outpouring of support in the press for the Americans was also embarrassing given that Denmark was, at the time, allied with Great Britain. Those pushing for constitutional government naturally sympathized with the Americans but there was also economic realities to consider. Denmark was, for example, a major importer of rice from South Carolina and this caused considerable resentment against the British for the Royal Navy blockade of the American coast. These facts had an impact on Danish popular opinion but it likely would have amounted to nothing more were it not for another royal friend of the United States which was Empress Catherine the Great of Russia.

Catherine the Great
Here again was a case of sympathy for America being driven by a hatred of the British. King George III had tried to enlist the Russians as allies on more than one occasion as well as trying to hire Russian troops as mercenaries to fight the American rebels. The Russian Empress responded to all such requests with an adamant “nyet!” The feeling was largely mutual as King George III remarked about how uncivil the Russians were in their response and spoke condescendingly of them as a barbaric and uncivilized people. The Russian Empress was likewise never slow to speak out about how much she detested King George III and found fault with all he did. While being careful to suppress any American political ideas in Russia, Empress Catherine was determined to do all she could, short of war, to hinder Britain and aid the United States. The Russians really played a major part in making sure that Britain was diplomatically isolated while American envoys were able to freely make appeals across the continent.

It was the Russian Empress who organized the League of Armed Neutrality to thwart the Royal Navy blockade of the American colonies as well as other countries at war with Britain. Many of these countries had little to no trade with the American colonies directly but they did do a great deal of business with France and Spain. Ultimately the League included Denmark (and Norway), Sweden (and Finland), Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Naples and even Turkey along with Russia. The Netherlands was set to join but the British acted first, seizing a Dutch ship and prompting The Netherlands to declare war on Britain, making them a participant in the war rather than a neutral. This made life very difficult for the Royal Navy which was trying to enforce a blockade but was hindered by the threat of making enemies out of all of these neutrals if they did so. As a result, of all the neutral powers of the time, the Russian Empire was doubtless the most helpful to the Americans in ultimately winning the independence of the United States. As it happens, when that came about, Empress Catherine derided King George III for recognizing American independence, which she had done all she could to help, saying that she would sooner commit suicide than to grant such recognition to any rebellious subjects of her own.

Emperor Joseph II
For a fledgling republic, the struggling United States actually had more monarchial support than the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland did. However, while still neutral, one major monarchy that was most sympathetic to Britain was one many might find surprising; Imperial Austria (nominally the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, but by that time *very* nominally). The Empress-Mother, Maria Theresa, wrote to King George III, offering him moral support and Emperor Joseph II was even more vociferous, saying to the British ambassador in Vienna that, “The cause in which England is engaged…is the cause of all sovereigns who have a joint interest in the maintenance of due subordination…in all the surrounding monarchies.” Just as the American cause was fairly popular with elites in Britain, it may surprise some that a monarch known as “the People’s Emperor” was so opposed to the idea of American independence but Joseph II, while regarded as an “Enlightened Despot” was very much a royal absolutist and feared that the example of America might be followed by people in his own domains, particularly the Austrian Netherlands, what is today Belgium.

In this, Emperor Joseph II was not wrong as toward the end of his reign the Catholics and liberals in that land came together to depose him and declare independence as “The United States of Belgium”, the first bid for Belgian independence which Joseph’s brother and successor later suppressed. However, realpolitik also played a part in the Austrian attitude toward America and the rather cold reception that John Adams received when he came to Vienna to make the case for the Patriot cause. The Austrians had been trying to improve relations with Great Britain so as to isolate the Kingdom of Prussia which Emperor Joseph II had fought, unsuccessfully, early in his reign. However, the issue was complicated by family politics. The Emperor’s little sister, Marie Antoinette, was, after all, Queen of France which was America’s strongest ally. That marriage had been arranged to bind together France and Austria and the last thing the Austrian Emperor wanted was for Britain and France to be at war, since he desired friendship with both.

Emperor Joseph II
The result of all this was that while Emperor Joseph II was the most supportive of King George III among the crowned heads of Europe, he was prevented from taking any actual steps to help him and rather urged the British and French to make peace but that peace could only be obtained along with American independence so it really placed the Hapsburg monarch in an impossible situation from his point of view as the circumstances came together to favor the Franco-American cause at the expense of Britain. Another monarch, as he was at the time, was Pope Pius VI who had been a consistent critic of Emperor Joseph II (the effects of which were seen in Belgium to be sure) and while he certainly was opposed to many of the principles behind the American war, regarding it mostly as a feud between Protestants and, in the end, could hardly be very critical considering that the biggest foreign supporters of the United States were the Catholic kingdoms of France and Spain, whose support the Pope needed particularly since his relations with the Austrian Emperor had been rather strained. Catholic Poland sent soldiers of fortune to help the Americans and the Church had long supported the Irish in opposition to Great Britain (though the French Revolution would change attitudes dramatically on that front). It was at the invitation of the papacy, interestingly enough, that papal ports were opened to American trade in 1784 and the Pope later gave permission for the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Rome in 1797.

So it was that, among the crowned heads of the world, the United States of America was met with more support than opposition. King George III did not want it to come to war but, of course, pressed the fight zealously when it did. King Louis XVI of France and King Carlos III of Spain, after some initial hesitation, backed the Americans and gave absolutely vital support to the winning of independence for the United States. The Dutch backed the Americans though the Prince of Orange supported Britain, the King of Prussia cheered the Americans and the Empress of Russia worked to isolate Britain and make the United States acceptable in the halls of power across the Old World. The Austrian Emperor sympathized with Britain but more than anything else wanted there to be peace between Britain and France which could only benefit America. King Gustav III of Sweden was quick to recognize the United States, making Sweden the first neutral power to do so. Part of the reason for this was what was politically fashionable at the time but realpolitik proved the bigger factor as did the extent of the unpopularity of the British. British success had garnered a great deal of jealousy, past British victories left many thirsty for revenge and British policies had alienated former friends such as Prussia.

St Mark's republic
The Europe of the 18th Century was, of course, a very monarchial place but not exclusively so. What is just as interesting as the outpouring of royal support for the fledgling United States is the reaction of the European republics. The Dutch, as mentioned, gave staunch support but, interestingly enough, the oldest significant republic in Europe did not. That was, of course, the “Most Serene Republic of Venice” in Italy. The Venetian ambassadors in France and Spain met with the American envoys but, perhaps surprisingly, the Republic of Venice refused to recognize the independence of the United States or to have any formal correspondence with the Americans whatsoever. One effort at formal communication was made, by the Americans, but this was ignored by the Venetian government. The Republic of Genoa did finally come around to recognizing the United States, after independence was won, in 1791 but the Republic of Venice never did the same. There has been some speculation as to the reason for this but the most likely reasons are the opposition of Austrian Emperor Joseph II to American independence and the extent of trade ties that Venice had with the British Empire. In any event, we are presented with the rather humorous fact that an American Patriot like John Adams had more praise for the government of the British Empire than he did for the Republic of Venice, the oldest significant republic in Europe.

Washington at the raising of the Grand Union flag
What does all of this boil down to? At the time of the outbreak of the American War, Britain seemed to be on top of the world and one thing that always accompanies the top spot is the fact that there is no shortage of those wishing to bring you down and who are quick to blame every misfortune of their own on your success. Spain, France, Germany, and more recently the United States itself has been in this position and faced similar opposition. The war in America offered all the major powers other than Britain an opportunity to advance themselves or at least see British power reduced and supporting the United States was the way to make that happen. If this seems to reveal a glaring lack of solidarity on the part of the monarchies of the world, one should also keep in mind that because monarchy was the dominant form of government in the late 18th Century, most did not suspect that the institution itself was in any great danger. The Americans, moreover, were not behaving as the French later would. King George III faced the threat of a loss of territory and prestige, not the loss of his throne or his life and there was no drive to wage an ideological war against the monarchies of the world, again, as the French would later do. On the contrary, the American leaders tailored their message to its audience and actively sought recognition and support from the crowned heads of Europe. As we have seen, they overwhelmingly received it. And, for those monarchs who looked with disdain on the republican Americans, they were confident enough in the superiority of monarchy to assume that the American experiment would soon fail on its own while they, upheld by the hand of God, would endure forever. That, however, is another story for another time.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Kingdom of Spain in the American War for Independence

In any history of the American War for Independence the emphasis tends to be placed on the fight in what became the United States, which is probably because of how powerful the U.S.A. eventually became. However, the British Empire was the strongest power in the world at the time and, unfortunately, one thing that comes with being on top is that everyone else is looking to take you down (something modern day Americans should be able to understand very well). Before it was all over, the Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of Spain and the United Provinces of the Netherlands had all decided to take advantage of the opportunity the war in America presented by going to war against Great Britain. Even the Empress of Russia was quick to recognize the United States as they too, at that time, had interest in North America. While the focus is usually on battlefields along the American east coast, the fighting actually carried over to the periphery of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and even as far away as India. While the contribution of the French, at least in regards to the fighting in North America, is fairly well known, the part played by the Kingdom of Spain is seldom mentioned.

King Carlos III
At the time of the outbreak of rebellion in the British American colonies, Spain was under the rule of His Catholic Majesty King Carlos III, who came to the Spanish throne in 1759, already famous for his conquest of Sicily and Naples in southern Italy. He brought about a revival in Spanish fortunes with his, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, style of “enlightened absolutism”. So, he fostered greater freedom of speech, opinion and inquiry, private property rights, more freedom of religion and a greater emphasis on science and practical knowledge in education. He lowered taxes, promoted trade and business, furthered industrialization, which were good things, but he also banned bullfighting, considering it a brutal and barbaric sport, and expelled the Jesuits from Spain, partly due to accusations against them and probably influenced by a dispute he had with the Pope over his gaining of the crown of Naples and Sicily. Nonetheless, he was a devout Catholic which no one ever doubted. When war broke out in the British colonies, King Carlos III was, like King Louis XVI of France, reluctant to look favorably on the rebel colonists for fear that his own colonial subjects might follow their example but he was ultimately persuaded to join their cause.

King Carlos III had signed the “Family Compact” with the Kingdom of France and the results of the relatively recent French and Indian War had made him very nervous about the British. He feared that the British Empire was growing too powerful, that it would upset the balance of power in Europe and that a victorious Britain would conquer the Spanish colonies in America just as they had taken Canada from France in the last war. On May 8, 1779 the Kingdom of Spain declared war on Great Britain and Ireland, though as an ally of the Kingdom of France rather than the fledgling United States outright. The goal of the King of Spain was to weaken Britain on the world stage and recover lands that the Spanish had lost to Britain in the French and Indian War. His troops did not fight alongside the American colonists as the French did but the Spanish declaration of war had a major impact on the American cause. It greatly enlarged the scope of the conflict for Britain, removed the comfortable supremacy the British had enjoyed in the naval war and forced the British military to mostly go on the defensive in America while they redeployed forces to guard against attacks from the Spanish around the world.

The Anglo-Spanish conflict got off to a good start for Spain when, in September of 1779, Spanish troops and Louisiana militia seized the British garrison at Baton Rouge, taking them by surprise as they had no idea as yet that Britain and Spain were at war. A large Franco-Spanish fleet, filled with soldiers, had actually assembled that summer with the intention of invading Britain but, while they gave the British authorities a good scare, they ultimately called off the expedition. They were confident that they could defeat the British and land their forces but were not so confident that they could maintain naval supremacy and feared losing their whole invasion force if they were left isolated in enemy country. The longest and most intense military operation of the conflict began almost as soon as Spain issued its declaration of war which was the siege of Gibraltar. The British rushed help to the embattled garrison but it only arrived in early 1780, after the garrison had endured a brutal winter in miserable conditions. The two sides remained locked in combat in what would be the longest siege British military forces have ever endured.

Don Bernardo de Galvez
On the North American mainland, the leading Spanish official was the Governor of Louisiana, Don Bernardo de Gálvez. His mission was to secure Spanish control of both banks of the Mississippi River (of which the seizure of Baton Rouge was a good start) and to reclaim for the Spanish Crown their lost province of Florida. Fortunately for Spain, Gálvez proved to be a very capable man. He had good contacts with the Americans, had sold them guns, powder and loaned them money for other supplies. He was in touch with the American leadership and, perhaps most importantly, he had an established network of spies and informants thanks to his uncle, the Spanish Minister for the Indies, so that he was quickly made aware of British activities in the Caribbean and the Gulf coast. After organizing the first cattle drive in Texas history, moving 10-15,000 head of cattle from Goliad to Louisiana to feed his army, Gálvez launched a successful offensive against the British in the region. Throughout 1799 and 1780 his Spanish troops captured Natchez, Louisiana and Mobile in what is now Alabama.

At the same time, Gálvez was the primary source of munitions and supplies for the American expedition into the Midwest led by George Rogers Clark. The British had few military resources in the region but Governor Hamilton worked to rally the Indians to supplement his small force of redcoats to deal with the Americans as well as to attack Spanish outposts in the region. In 1780 a force of around a thousand Indians under British command attacked St Louis, Missouri, Fort San Carlos, defended by around 300 Spanish troops, mostly militia, under Captain Fernando de Leyba, the lieutenant governor. Although greatly outmatched, the Spanish had worked to fortify the area and with the support of the local French population they managed to repel the Indian attack and so secured Spanish control of the upper Louisiana territory from the British for the rest of the war. The following year the Spanish launched a counter-raid into British territory taking Fort St Joseph in what is now Niles, Michigan, probably the farthest north that Spanish forces ever fought in the Americas.

Capt-Gen of Guatemala Matias de Galvez
The British, however, did not rest solely on the defensive although they were limited due to the large number of enemies they had to guard against. In 1780 an expedition was planned by the Governor of Jamaica to use limited resources to achieve a dramatic result. His plan was to attack the Spanish in Central America, moving up the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua to attack Granada, cutting Spanish America in half and giving Britain access to the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish had only a minimal military presence in the area and would be vastly outnumbered by the British led by Colonel John Polson in charge of the land forces and a young Lt. Horatio Nelson commanding the naval escort. In April they attacked Fort San Juan (aka Fortress Immaculate Conception). The Spanish held off superior forces for some time but finally surrendered, however poor planning meant that the British began to run out of vital supplies and tropical disease took a heavy toll with most of the Blacks and Miskito Indians they had recruited to provide the bulk of their manpower abandoning the expedition. In the end, the British failed to reach Lake Nicaragua and the whole expedition was abandoned and thereafter deemed the costliest failure of the entire war with Spain.

That same year, Don Bernardo de Gálvez made an effort to take Pensacola, Florida, the last major prize yet to be won in his campaign along the gulf coast. However, a hurricane intervened and ruined the expedition. 1781 was to be different. Of course, students of U.S. history will remember that it was in that year that the American War for Independence reached its climax with the siege of Yorktown, Virginia. Most know that the siege would not have been won without the assistance of considerable land and naval forces from the King of France but not many are aware of the Spanish contribution. Direct military assistance was not possible (nor needed obviously) but it was the Spanish who managed to raise funds amounting to 500,000 silver pesos in Havana, Cuba to buy vital supplies for the American forces and to pay the Continental Army (which had long been a huge hardship for the fledgling American government). The surrender of the British army under Lord Cornwallis was a devastating blow to the British war effort but was even worse for morale at home. It was the largest mass surrender of British troops in history up to that time and would remain so until World War I but in the aftermath Britain still held all of the most vital, strategic points in the American colonies.

Spanish troops at the siege of Pensacola
Because of the intervention of the French, Dutch and Spanish, however, Britain had more than the thirteen colonies to worry about and the people at home and certainly the politicians were weary of the conflict. Nor was it the only disaster London had to deal with. Prior to the siege of Yorktown, Gálvez had managed to reform his invasion fleet in Cuba that had been scattered by a hurricane the previous year. In February, with a force of about 7,000 men, Gálvez set out to capture the port of Pensacola. His army consisted of about 1,300 regular soldiers (including several hundred Irish exiles) as well as a great many militia from Cuba (including mixed race African-Cubans), New Orleans and Mobile. Opposing him was British General John Campbell who had 3,000 regulars but fewer troops overall with the remainder numbering only a little over 500, most of whom were Indians but including a few American loyalists as well. Gálvez conducted a classic siege operation, engineers digging trenches to advance his lines, heavy use of artillery, grenades and so on as the attackers inched ever closer to the British fortifications. Gálvez himself was wounded by enemy fire and had to turn over command to Colonel Jose de Ezpeleta.

The Spanish assault on Pensacola
The siege began on March 9, 1781 and was a long and brutal affair. General Campbell did not simply remain on the defensive but launched several attacks of his own on the Spanish lines. As time dragged on, bad weather forced the Spanish fleet to withdraw, there were supply shortages and heavy rains forced the men to fight in trenches flooded with water. Somewhat to his surprise, Gálvez was approached by a number of Indian chiefs offering to sell food to the Spanish army, even though many Indians of the same tribes were fighting with the British. Gálvez accepted their offer and also asked them if they might be able to persuade their countrymen to abandon the British and stop attacking his lines! They would have been well advised to escape as the Spanish received reinforcements, bringing their total number up to about 8,000 men, and began the formal assault on Pensacola on April 30 with a large-scale artillery bombardment. On May 8, a shell hit the magazine in Fort Crescent, killing many British troops. Spanish light infantry (los Cazadores) charged forward, through the smoke and debris and captured the fort, moving in canon to fire on the two adjacent British forts. The concentration of firepower soon convinced General Campbell that Fort George could not hold.

British troops sortie at Gibraltar
On May 10, 1781, after suffering 200 casualties, Campbell surrendered his remaining 1,100 troops along with Ft George, the Prince of Wales redoubt and all of West Florida to the Spanish. It was the crowning achievement for Don Bernardo de Gálvez and his campaign along the gulf coast. For his victory, King Carlos III promoted him to lieutenant-general and awarded him the governorship of west Florida along with that of Louisiana. All throughout the Americas, Spanish forces had been successful in their major operations while also managing to defeat British attacks on their own territory. Closer to home, the “Great Siege” of Gibraltar continued to drag on with no sign of the British defenders cracking (many of the defenders were Germans from Hanover) but the island of Minorca was a different story. From August 1781 to February 1782 a Franco-Spanish force landed on the island and besieged the main British garrison at Fort St Philip. The fight was largely a massive artillery duel but eventually British defenses were reduced and, more critically, the garrison began to fall victim to scurvy and other symptoms of privation until finally their commander agreed to surrender.

The embattled garrison was shown great honor and respect by the Franco-Spanish forces and many wept in sympathy as they marched out of the ruined fort, haggard and sickly but with their heads still held high. The commander of the Spanish forces, Louis des Balbes de Berton de Crillon, duc de Mahon (a Frenchman but serving in the Spanish army) was then chosen by King Carlos III to take charge of the still on-going efforts to regain Gibraltar. That would ultimately end in disappointment but an unauthorized Spanish attack on The Bahamas was successful, the British garrison surrendering without a fight. Gálvez had also planned an ambitious effort to conquer Jamaica but a British naval victory followed by the British agreement to end the war put a stop to this. In the subsequent Treaty of Paris, the British were able to mitigate their losses to Spain somewhat by granting more favorable terms to the Americans, such as in ceding the North American Midwest to the United States, keeping it out of Spanish hands. The Bahamas were handed back to Britain by Spain in exchange for East Florida, which, combined with the Spanish conquest of West Florida, saw the entire region restored to the Spanish Crown.

The King & Queen of Spain visit Washington's tomb
In the end, Spanish involvement in the American War for Independence had been a brilliant success. With the exception of Gibraltar, which successfully withstood the Spanish siege, King Carlos III had gained everything he had hoped to achieve by backing the United States against Great Britain. Florida had been regained, as had Minorca and while the lands east of the Mississippi had been ceded by Britain to the United States, Spanish territory had been secured from the British, the British threat to Spanish dominance of Central America had been defeated and Spanish holdings in the Caribbean escaped unscathed. Spanish attacks on British positions, particularly those which the Americans could never hope to have threatened, played a major part in the winning of independence for the United States, as did the contribution of funds, military supplies and foodstuffs to the American forces. Although not often as well remembered, the Spanish contribution was ultimately as vital to the American victory as was the more well known assistance of the Kingdom of France.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Story of Monarchy: The Kingdom of Portugal

The history of the Kingdom of Portugal dates back to the ‘Reconquista’ of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christians against the Moorish invaders from North Africa. Earlier, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians had visited the country, finding people already there who they named Iberians. The Greeks founded colonies there, one where Lisbon stands today. In the 100’s BC the area was conquered by the Romans and remained part of the Roman Empire until the final days of the Western Roman Empire when the whole peninsula was conquered by the Visigoths. They remained in control until Arab and Moorish forces invaded and subjugated almost the whole of the Iberian Peninsula in the 700’s. In the 1000’s the Christians began to fight back and the longest war in history ensued as the Muslim invaders were slowly driven out. The first area to be liberated was known as Pôrto, formerly Portus, and it is from that that the name of Portugal was derived. In 1094 a French knight, Henri of Burgundy, was rewarded for his service by King Alfonso VI of Castile with the counties of Pôrto and Coimbra, with the title “Count of Portugal”.

Afonso I Henriques
That was the first seed of what would become independent Portugal. The son of Henri of Burgundy, Afonso Henriques, was a champion of the Christian forces and won many hard fought battles against the Moors. His strength and prestige grew and in 1143 he upgraded his title to King of Portugal, claiming independent sovereignty. Within four years he had liberated the city of Lisbon and made it his seat of power. The war dragged on but by the mid-1200’s all of what is now Portugal was finally freed of the invaders and totally under Christian control. In 1383 the reign of the House of Burgundy came to an end when King Ferdinand I died without an heir. There was an interregnum but ultimately the throne was claimed by the illegitimate brother of Ferdinand I, John, the Grand Master of the Order of Aviz, a Portuguese order of knights. In 1385 he succeeded in taking control of the country as King John I, his dynasty being known as the House of Aviz because of its knightly origins. Aviz kings would rule Portugal for the next two hundred years and bring it to great fame and fortune.

King John I was a very successful monarch, maintaining Portuguese independence from Castile, expanding Portuguese territory into north Africa and making an alliance with England that remains in effect to this day, making it the oldest alliance in the world. It was also under the reign of King John that Prince Henry the Navigator explored the African coast. The island groups of the Azores and Madeira were claimed by Portugal and the country became the preeminent power in the western world in the areas of exploration, sailing and cartography. All of this set a trend that was to continue and kept Portugal at the forefront of exploration and discovery of new lands and trade routes. It can be compared to American astronauts landing on the moon in the 1960’s as the Portuguese explorers were truly going “where no man had gone before” and discovered new lands and peoples, originally in Africa, who had never been contacted before. Under King Afonso V, Portuguese forces won further victories in North Africa and later, under King Manuel I, Portugal became a country with truly global influence.

Manuel I
In 1488, under the reign of John II, Bartolomeu Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa, allowing for further explorations into the Indian Ocean and the original sea route to East Asia. King Manuel I came to the Portuguese throne in 1495 and two years later another intrepid Portuguese navigator named Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed to India, establishing the first Portuguese presence on the subcontinent. Portugal would maintain holdings in India from that time until 1961. Under King Manuel, the Portuguese established trade routes, gained ports and made commercial agreements with the Persians, numerous Indian princes and even the Emperor of China. Portugal was on the cutting edge of new technologies, new discoveries and international trade. A relatively small country with a small population and few natural resources, the Kingdom of Portugal rapidly became a world power and the wealthiest country in Europe. Other powers could scarcely find any part of the world where the Portuguese had not preceded them. The Kingdom of Portugal was the trailblazer in opening up contact between Europe and all the previously unreached lands of Africa and Asia. In 1500, Pedro Àlvares Cabral discovered Brazil, giving Portugal a foothold in the Americas as well which would eventually grow into the largest and most important Portuguese colony.

Unfortunately, this was the peak period for Portugal and a decline was soon coming. One of the first causes involved the Jews who had previously been tolerated under King Manuel I but, when he married the Infanta Isabella of Aragon (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile), part of the marriage contract stipulated that the Jews be removed from Portugal as they had been from Spain. After that time, Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism or leave the country and as they had a very large presence in the banking and commercial sectors, the Portuguese economy took a heavy blow with this new policy. There was also a complacency that set in regarding the wealth Portugal was gaining from overseas, whether by the spice trade with Asia or the slave trade in Africa, and many took for granted that this prosperity would last forever while other countries were making serious inroads into all of these areas. There was also about to be a major problem with the Kingdom of Spain. However, mention should also be made of the great faith of Portugal. King Manuel I was a very devout Catholic and the first person to receive the honor of a Golden Rose from the Pope twice in his lifetime. The Portuguese took missionaries, often Jesuits, with them on all their overseas adventures and spread Christianity to vast new lands in Africa, Asia and South America. They were the first westerners to visit Japan and planted Christian seeds in that country that endured fierce persecution and centuries of isolation.

John IV
After the death of King Manuel, King John III abandoned North Africa but expanded Portuguese influence in India and East Asia. His grandson and successor, King Sebastian, died in battle in Morocco and was succeeded by King Henry, a cardinal of the Catholic Church who, of course, had no heirs. When he died King Philip II of Spain claimed the Portuguese throne and sent his troops in. From 1581 to 1640 Portugal would be ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The reign of King Philip II was a high point in the history of Spain but Portugal was drained in the furtherance of Spanish causes that were quite ambitious. The period of Spanish rule also involved Portugal in conflicts with other European powers and the English, French and Dutch all made colonial gains at the expense of the Portuguese empire around the world. This finally came to an end when John II, Duke of Braganza, claimed to be the heir of the Aviz dynasty and led an uprising against the Spanish. The English and French were quick to seize the opportunity to hinder their Spanish rival and backed the cause of Portugal. In 1668 the Spanish finally agreed to recognize Portuguese independence under what became known as the House of Braganza.

King John IV, the original Braganza monarch, was succeeded by the weak and chronically ill King Afonso VI under whom Portuguese fortunes continued to decline and he was ultimately deposed and exiled. The next monarch was King Peter II who allied with Britain and Austria in the War of Spanish Succession and whose forces even captured Madrid in the course of the conflict though the overall campaign was not a success. However, Peter was succeeded by King John V and under his leadership, the fortunes of the Kingdom of Portugal finally turned around. An ambitious man with a grandiose style, he expanded the Portuguese empire and brought wealth and prosperity back to the country through his victories and policies. An extremely pious man, he was also given the title of “Most Faithful Majesty” by the Pope, a title passed on to all subsequent Portuguese monarchs. He chose good ministers for the administration of the country, showed good judgment himself and presided over a flowering of art, architecture and other cultural achievements for Portugal.

John V
Further victories followed the reign of King John V but the country also saw the rise in the political class and religious tensions over the expulsion of the Jesuits. Conflicts and later a major earthquake also put a severe strain on the country’s finances. Corrupt and incompetent officials also caused serious damage and it did not help that Queen Maria I went insane. She was ultimately succeeded by King John VI but the whole situation made it extremely difficult to deal with the rot that had set in within the government and there were a succession of huge foreign catastrophes to handle, all stemming from the French Revolution. Portugal was pushed into an alliance with Spain, against the French and then when the country refused to accede to French demands, was invaded by the forces of Napoleonic France. King John VI and the royal court relocated to Brazil while the British landed troops under the Duke of Wellington who assigned a commander to take in hand the reform of the Portuguese army.

The Anglo-Portuguese forces drove the French out of the country and along with the Spanish proved to be a major irritant to Napoleon. Eventually, the French were driven from the Iberian Peninsula but the region was far from free of conflict. In 1821 King John VI returned to Portugal and found a discontented country. From the beginning there had been those who sympathized with the French and their presence had only increased demands for constitutional government and an end to the absolute monarchy. A liberal constitution was produced in 1822 which greatly restricted royal powers, however, it did not include the colonies and Brazil, its status raised by the recent relocation of the seat of power there, rose up to demand independence. The son of King John VI, Peter, took the lead in this movement and became Emperor Peter (Pedro) I of Brazil. King John VI tried to dispense with the liberal constitution but the stage had already been set for a clash between those who favored constitutional monarchy and the supporters of absolutism.

Peter V
After the death of King John VI, Emperor Peter I of Brazil returned to Portugal to claim the throne as King Peter IV, however, he soon passed the Portuguese throne to his daughter Queen Maria II. She was backed by the constitutional monarchists but she had a rival in the person of her uncle who claimed the throne as King Miguel I, backed by the absolutists. There were also problems from the radical revolutionaries who, first appearing during the French occupation, were to never completely go away. In 1834 King Miguel I was defeated and forced to abdicate, going into exile in Italy, Britain and finally Germany. Queen Maria II and her husband King Ferdinand II ruled until her death in 1853 though the king remained a couple more years as regent for their son King Peter V. The country had come through a difficult period of occupation, war, civil war, dynastic dispute and overall chaos but under King Peter V there finally seemed hope for peace, stability and a period of renewal.

Such hopes were well founded as the young King Peter V, who came to the throne in 1853, was a very intelligent and hard-working monarch. The infrastructure of the country was modernized and improved dramatically. However, there proved to be little time as the handsome young king died in 1861 during a cholera outbreak. Ironically, one of the areas that had most improved during his reign was the public health system. Still, his loss prompted further beneficial changes in that regard, most notably the passage of the Sanitary reforms. In 1878 slavery was abolished throughout the Portuguese colonial empire under King Luis I. He put Portugal at the forefront of oceanographic research but overall the country did not live up to the potential many saw in the time of Peter V. Political instability was a major problem as the liberal reforms had created a class of politicians, often corrupt, always eager to struggle for power and influence. Portugal fell behind other countries and was blocked from further colonial expansion in Africa as more countries became involved in the game.

Manuel II
In 1889 Luis was succeeded by his son King Carlos I but the political situation only grew worse due to bad policies enacted by corrupt officials. Portugal, which had once been the wealthiest country in Europe, fell into poverty and was forced to declare bankruptcy twice. Radical revolutionaries, usually socialists, were also increasing in strength and advocating the overthrow of the monarchy in favor of a republic even though it was their sort of state intervention which had helped wreck the Portuguese economy, something they were only too willing to use to their advantage. Tensions and unrest grew worse and in 1908 King Carlos I was assassinated, an act which was shocking even in an era where such assassinations were not uncommon, due to the fact that the Portuguese royals had generally been well liked and had not known great animosity even in periods of internal dispute. He was succeeded by the 19-year old King Manuel II, a very bright and cultured young man but who could hardly be expected to undue such a long period of government extravagance and foolish policies at such a late date.

Only a couple of years later a military coup sparked a revolution that saw the downfall of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in 1910. There was little popular support for the upheaval but the King was forced to go into exile in Great Britain. There was one major effort to restore the monarchy but this was ultimately unsuccessful and the fortunes of Portugal likewise continued to sink under republican rule. Chaos and power struggles ensued and the country declined ever farther. Order was only restored after the establishment of the Corporatist State in 1933 after which time the economy slowly began to improve. However, that progress was thwarted by the outbreak of communist-backed anti-colonial wars in Africa. Portugal was essentially forced to fight three wars simultaneously and the strain ultimately led to the so-called “Carnation Revolution” in 1974 after which the Portuguese colonies were abandoned.

Socialists seized power and mostly held it, giving way to more moderate liberals from time to time but still pursuing policies that stymied economic growth to the point that Portugal became one of the poorest countries in Europe, a far cry from the fabulous wealth that had existed in centuries past under the monarchy. This made Portugal all too willing to join in with the “European project” but that only made it easier for the republican government to borrow more and more money, putting the country deeper and deeper into debt and all the more dependent on the ruling elite of the European Union. No lasting solution has yet been found and still today the situation in Portugal remains precarious. However, the history of the Kingdom of Portugal contains all the necessary lessons to turn this situation around. The contrast could not be more stark between the current status of the Portuguese republic as a debtor nation and that of the Kingdom of Portugal which was on the cutting edge of innovation, in business and technology, making it a prosperous country with influence all over the world. That is what Portugal needs to return to.
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