The Revolutionary War

Jul 2006
195
Edinburgh, Scotland
I find most extrodinary from a United Kingdom point of view the will for Americans is very fascinating. Henry Knox and James Reed were booksellers who studied vigorously to learn military tactics and drill. How many people today would study tremendously to learn knowledge they are bereft of?
 
Mar 2007
7
First of I’m glad to see there is a real interest in this, the most important part of our history as a nation. But as I read through these posts, I am seeing that no one is addressing the real point.

We all know that the Colonist had a strong desire for self governance, ultimately leading them to war. We all know England was in financial need, and that they were not the most polite leading body but the real issue goes back to in my opinion the most flawed overlooked phrase in American History. The immortal words of Rev. Jonathan Mayhew "No taxation without representation"

It is in my opinion that this, this single clichéd phrase is the answer to the real question, were the colonist's justified in declaring independence and war on England?

According to the founding fathers yes. All of the founding fathers believed in the natural right of revolution. As stated in the Declaration of Independence:

hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Of course, the British would have been well within their rights to hang everyone of the "rebels" because "rebels" is exactly what they were. Hence the statement by Franklin, I think, "We must all hang together, or surely we will hang separately".

Their is a simple truth behind rebellions; you'd better win them. Once a group of people bypass the legal means within their government and resort to fighting, they have agreed that the outcome will be decided by a test of arms. They effectively close their options and leave the decision for the battlefield.

The colonist's believed they had a right to revolution and the British, without a doubt, had the right to put down the rebellion.

Whether or not "taxation without representation" was a sufficient cause is another matter. The colonist's believed it was, although as has already been pointed out, that was more a rallying cry used by those in power to motivate the masses. Much the same as it's always been. After all, why should the colonists not pay taxes the British government needed after fighting an expensive war which was largely to the benefit of the colonists.
 
Mar 2007
7
Does anyone think that if the losers got to write the history books instead, that that would be the "real" truth?
Well, if you take out the one side, the "victors", and replace it with the other side, the "losers", essentially you're right back where you started with only one "side" of the story being told. Not much help.

Personally, I believe the whole, "the victors write the history" cliche to be somewhat overplayed. Certainly, it is applicable on many occasions and not applicable on many others. I think it's over-usage comes about when people decide to delve much deeper into a subject that interests them than they were presented with in a classroom. They then find out that their preconceived notions do not fit the actual facts so, "the victors write the history".
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
This thread asked the question “were the colonies justified in their rebellion against their lawful ruler”. I couldn’t help but notice that posters have mentioned, or alluded to, the Decalration of Independence as justification for the colonial rebellion.

Okay, to further the debate lets put King George on trial using the declaration as the indictment. For convenience, I’ve listed the accusations contained in the declaration and challenge the forum, in the spirit of genuine curiosity, and enquiry on my part, to provide evidence for the “prosecution” on the following counts:

1. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
2. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
3. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
4. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
5. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
6. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
7. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
8. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
9. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
10. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their substance.
11. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
12. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
13. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
14. For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
15. For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
16. For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
17. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
18. For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
19. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:
20. For abolishing the free system of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
21. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments:
22. For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
23. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
24. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
25. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
26. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
27. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
 
Feb 2007
538
Ohio
After all, why should the colonists not pay taxes the British government needed after fighting an expensive war which was largely to the benefit of the colonists.
There is where you are wrong! The French and Indian War was never intended to be for the colonists' benefit; it was simply an aggressive war fought to deprive a foreign king of his lands. The colonists did much of the dying in that war. Once the war was over, the British government set up the Proclamation Line of 1763, denying the colonists the right to settle the new territories. To add insult to injury, the colonists were then taxed without representation to pay the costs of their own oppression. The French and Indian War was all to the benefit of the King and Parliament.
 
Mar 2007
7
This thread asked the question “were the colonies justified in their rebellion against their lawful ruler”. I couldn’t help but notice that posters have mentioned, or alluded to, the Decalration of Independence as justification for the colonial rebellion.

If this statement is refering to my earlier post, then I must clarify. I wasn't refering to the Declaration of Indepence as a justification for revolution. I was using it to show how the founding fathers believed in the natural right of revolution. As stated, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
 
Mar 2007
7
There is where you are wrong! The French and Indian War was never intended to be for the colonists' benefit; it was simply an aggressive war fought to deprive a foreign king of his lands. The colonists did much of the dying in that war. Once the war was over, the British government set up the Proclamation Line of 1763, denying the colonists the right to settle the new territories. To add insult to injury, the colonists were then taxed without representation to pay the costs of their own oppression. The French and Indian War was all to the benefit of the King and Parliament.
Maybe not, but it would be erroneous to claim that it didn't benefit the colonists at all. As far as the several points you made, I must admit that my knowledge in American history is primarily in the Civil War era. I haven't read much on the Revolution in years, so I'll sit back and let others answer. Belisarius made an interesting challenge. It would be interesting to see more on that.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
There is where you are wrong! The French and Indian War was never intended to be for the colonists' benefit; it was simply an aggressive war fought to deprive a foreign king of his lands. The colonists did much of the dying in that war. Once the war was over, the British government set up the Proclamation Line of 1763, denying the colonists the right to settle the new territories. To add insult to injury, the colonists were then taxed without representation to pay the costs of their own oppression. The French and Indian War was all to the benefit of the King and Parliament.
I admit the French and Indian war, is not one I’ve studied in great depth, as it tends to be subsumed into the wider conflict that was the Seven Years War. However, I am given to understand that this conflict kicked off because the French had built/were building a number of forts encircling the 13 British colonies. Should the French ever decide to devote resources to conquer the area, these forts would naturally have provided base facilities for any French aggression. The colonies felt threatened and had historically asked the mother country for protection which Britain dutifully provided in times of crisis and conflict. So when the French began to occupy the Ohio valley, then territory not owned by either Britain OR France, the Governor of Virginia organised an expedition to attack the French works led by George Washington, I believe, which ended in failure, as did Braddock’s expedition.

There is evidence to suggest that Britain may indeed have planned a conquest of French territory as a contingency in the event of any future war with France, to use as a bargaining counter when as expected, the French would invade Hanover, as in fact happened in 1758. This was nothing more than prudent contingency planning, as opposed to planning “aggressive war” as you put it, for the aggrandizement and enrichment of the King.

The colonists benefited greatly from this war; not only was the perceived threat from the French removed forever, but many colonists made huge profits made in supplying the British army and Navy.

As for the Proclamation Line, this is another enduring myth. It was designed to allow steady, controlled settlement with the agreement of the local Indian tribes as opposed to a widespread land grab that would have brought on a general Indian war.