Wednesday, February 14, 2018
America's Path Not Taken
As his political career demonstrated, Galloway was no republican firebrand. Indeed, he has more than once been referred to as an Anglo-American nationalist, which would certainly make him unpopular today even if nothing else were known about him. He had objections to the state of affairs in the colonies but, again, like many, his objections were not to the British Empire itself but rather with the subordinate place of the American colonies within it. He believed that the British constitutional monarchy as it was then, was the best system of government in the world and that the British, be they in the home islands or North America, were the best people in the world. He felt that the only problem was that the British subjects in America were not governed in the same way as the British subjects in Great Britain and that if this inequality could be resolved, there would be no further animosity. Indeed, he was convinced that, like himself, most Americans were loyal to the British Crown and were only being driven to disobedience by agitators in America and thoughtless policies on the part of the Parliament in London. In 1774 he had sufficient prominence and popularity to be chosen as a member of the Continental Congress (or Philadelphia Congress) which had no validity as far as the British were concerned but which would be the primary governing body of the colonies during the War for Independence.
Unfortunately for Galloway, Massachusetts enacted an anti-British boycott one month before his proposal came up for a vote which was a boon for the radicals and put moderates such as himself at a clear disadvantage. Nonetheless, in October of 1774, when his plan was voted on, it was defeated only by a single vote with five in favor and six opposed. Worse still, the radicals were worried that this would display a lack of resolve on their part in dealing with the British and so it was agreed that his proposal and the very narrow vote on it, be stricken from the record. Understandably outraged by this, and seeing little hope for a compromise, Galloway left Congress and made his plan public himself the following year. He could see that there would only be two choices allowed to any American colonist; to support the King or to support total independence and, forced to choose, he would take the side of the King. His objections to British tax policy and trade regulations was not so great as his fundamental loyalty to the hereditary monarch of his nation. In late 1776, early 1777 he joined General Howe and the British army in the campaign to take Philadelphia. Once accomplished, he was made chief of police and head of civil affairs, earning praise for his administrative talents and his organization of loyalist militia forces.
When the war ended in defeat for the Crown forces, Galloway settled down to a quiet life in England, devoting himself to religious study and literary pursuits until his death in 1803. His plan has mostly been forgotten today but it is notable that something similar would ultimately become quite common within the British Empire as the colonies of Canada and Australia united to become self-governing dominions in due time. Would his plan have worked? It would certainly have worked in keeping the English-speaking peoples united but as we can see across the British Commonwealth today, may well have fallen victim to the liberal laxity which has affected so many others. Yet, the retention of the American colonies within the British Empire may well have brought about a dramatic change in world history in a myriad of ways one can only speculate about today. That, we can never know, but it remains true today that the view of Galloway, and the basis of his plan, that the people of one language and one nationality should be united, are still not without supporters even while so many push against the notion, just as they did in his own time.