When the facts are looked at dispassionately, it seems quite odd that anyone in America would have wished to rebel at all. The colonies were not suffering under British rule; quite the contrary, they tended to be better off than the motherland itself. The American standard of living was higher, the social ladder was easier to climb, land was easier to own, the people were even physically larger because they were healthier and had a better diet than most people in Britain. They paid almost nothing in taxes, unlike their fellow subjects in the British Isles and, on the whole, already enjoyed more freedom and prosperity than almost anyone in the whole continent of Europe while under the protection of the British Crown. There were no bread riots, no hordes of starving masses only petulant fits by well-fed people over how much the luxury items they enjoyed would cost them. Even when the British Parliament passed acts they did not approve of, they were almost invariably repealed or never enforced. Likewise, without exception, the most prominent leaders of the War for Independence were the wealthiest men in the whole of North America, men who owned vast estates and hundreds of slaves. The people of America were not suffering and when one ignores the political “spin” of most histories, what the rebel colonists most protested against seems most often unsavory if not illegitimate.
|The Boston Tea Party|
Nothing better illustrates how ridiculously overblown the fomented outrage of the colonial rebels had become. Consider the fact that, even while paying the miniscule tax on British tea, the American colonists would still have been paying less than they did for Dutch tea smuggled into the colonies illegally. They had become so entrenched in their idealism that they were actually acting illegally, destroying private property in protest to paying *less* for an item than they normally paid. It obviously does not take much intelligence to see that these people were not being driven by practical reality, they were not being oppressed and they were not suffering under the ‘authoritarian’ rule of King George III. If anything, the colonies had done extraordinarily well under the benign neglect of the British government. It was only after they acted out so, again, in order to pay more for foreign tea as opposed to paying less for British tea, that Parliament passed acts intended to punish the port of Boston and force the rebel leaders to pay for the private property they had destroyed in their little tea party. This resulted in the calling of the first Continental Congress which voted to boycott all British goods and which saw Patrick Henry declare, “give me liberty or give me death!” He might have said, “give me liberty and more expensive tea or give me death” but that wouldn’t have sounded so stirring. If more people were able to look at this period dispassionately they might recognize the absurdity of someone boasting of his willingness to sacrifice his own life rather than buy tea at a cheaper price or to make restitution for vandalism.
|Battle of Bunker Hill|
The British won the battle of Brandywine, captured the rebel capitol of Philadelphia and then defeated Washington again at Germantown. The only bright spot was the American victory at the battle of Saratoga. British General Burgoyne had gambled and lost but, even then, the Americans credited the wrong man with the victory. Benedict Arnold had been the real hero but all praise was given to General Horatio Gates who, in time, proved beyond all question that he was as cowardly as he was incompetent. In 1778, after intense preparations, the best Washington could manage was a stalemate at Monmouth and at the end of the year the British captured Savannah. 1779 passed with no major, decisive actions though Spain did join in by declaring war on Britain, as France had done in 1778. In 1780 the rebels suffered a major defeat with the British victory at Charleston, South Carolina which was followed in the summer by another stunning British victory against a larger rebel army under General Gates at Camden. The rebel forces were totally routed and ran from the field so fast that the British dubbed the fight the “Camden Races”. There were minor rebel victories, again over small detachments at Kings Mountain and Cowpens but the advance of Cornwallis was not hindered by this. At the battle of Guilford Court House the British under Cornwallis were again victorious, though the victory was a costly one and then there was the siege of Yorktown which ended in victory for Washington only because of the timely arrival of the French and the victory of the French navy at sea.
|Ben Franklin before King Louis XVI|
2014 is, of course, the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War (as we have been covering) and it is perhaps not something most would wish to dwell on but is nonetheless true that King Louis XVI of France greatly endangered and overextended himself to aid the Americans in their quest for independence from Great Britain yet these same Americans were nowhere to be found when the unfortunate Bourbon monarch was in his hour of need. Yet, when it was the latest of the many failed French republics that was in danger in 1917 and 1918 the United States came to lend a helping hand, invoking the Revolution by saying, “Lafayette, we are here!” That is something that those in the Old World should consider before giving in to the anti-Americanism that is so popular these days. The United States was an American power and confined itself to American matters for the majority of its history, wanting nothing to do with Europe. In fact, the USA would not exist at all were it not for European assistance. Later, the rise of the USA could have been stopped or at least slowed considerably if the Old World had shown more solidarity. When the USA finally stepped on to the world stage as a major power in World War I it was after considerable pleading and cajoling by European powers that she do so.
For past reflections on the Fourth of July and a look at numerous events and people of the Revolutionary War, click here.