Saturday, 11 July 2015


     When those in 13 of  Britain’s 29 American colonies chose war to pursue independence, they created and glorified myths that have carried on long past their usefulness.  This amplifies persistent insensitivities that annoy others.  It is an old human failure. 
   Thucydides (460-400 BC) recorded the Peloponnesian Wars, calling his work “History” because he knew there was no important history before his time.  Julius Caesar claimed descent from the Goddess Venus to justify his right to rule.  The French emphasized the Rights of Man to justify their bloody revolution even though such rights were denied until well after Napoleon.  They still cling to their national anthem that glorifies this bloodletting.  Bismark provoked wars with Denmark, Austria, and France to unify Germany.  Hitler spread his Aryan myth to justify genocide, and stirring marches were written to glorify the rape of Poland.
    Nations  trap themselves by clinging to, and repeating, the emotions of their times of turmoil even though this keeps open old wounds, thus ignoring the immense contributions of the losers and of earlier times.  
Today, how many United Statesians, incorrectly called the sole Americans, consider the feelings of their British or Canadian friends standing with them as they sing their national anthem that dwells on the British attack on Washington?  They forget that this burning of government buildings in Washington was in reprisal for the burning of York (Toronto) during the unprovoked invasions of Canada in the War of 1812-14.  Foreign friends will also join ‘Americans’ in their 4th of July celebrations and try to forget the injustice shown by the victors to a million Loyalists, many of whom were tarred and feathered, had their property confiscated, and were forced to flee the country they had pioneered.  These friends would much prefer the U.S. to select a neutral national day and anthem.  Canada selected O Canada instead of The Maple Leaf Forever that glorified the British conquest of Canada and Canadian victories over invading U.S. forces.  The Commonwealth's God Save the Queen, offends no one.
Perhaps a closer look at less-known aspects of the ‘American’ Revolution may dispel a few myths:
GEORGE III and the MONARCHY:  Portrayed as a tyrant in the United States, George III was the best of the first four Georges, and not a bad king, really.  It is admitted that the system of hereditary monarchy has a drawback when it becomes necessary to select a monarch from a branch of the family that entrenched itself elsewhere.  George I spoke no English and was more interested in his German mistresses than in his colonies.  George II was also disinterested in the colonies, so the colonists remained free of controls and taxes.  During his 60-year reign (1760 -1820) George III was determined to be a good British monarch.  He took an interest in all things British, including the colonies.  His good intentions to forge one united Empire were taken as interference by some colonists.  Dissidents are usually more vocal that those who are content, and these dissidents used the freedoms of speech and press to spread their complaints eloquently.  Today, the Queen of the United Kingdom, and of other countries of the Commonwealth, wields no political power.  George III did, but he had to share it with a Parliament made up of Whigs and Tories of all shades of opinion.  Of all the countries of George III's day, the greatest individual freedoms were to be found in Britain and her colonies.

Britain:            7,500,000
13 Colonies 3,000,000 (the 13 of 29 that revolted)
    Canada              65,000

THE 1759 BRITISH CONQUEST of CANADA:   With a faster-growing population, British settlers in North America were spilling over into territories claimed by France.  Louis XIV, who could afford to hurl 100,000 troops against Frederick of Prussia and to threaten Britain, sent only a few troops to guard all of Canada. In 1665 he ordered 1,100 men of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, who were fighting the Turks in Hungary, to walk all the way back to French ports to embark for Quebec.  Then they walked up the Richilieu River to build forts.  Only 400 of these men remained in Canada after 1668.  In 1756 Louis XV sent General Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm-Gozon, who was destined to become the ablest general to set foot in the Americas.  He did the most with the least by keeping pressure on the advancing British settlers.  This resulted in numerous atrocities committed by the Huron and Algonquin allies of the French and by the Iroquois allies of the British.  Eventually, Britain mounted sufficient effort to defeat Montcalm and take Canada.  She also defeated France in India and other parts of the world to emerge as a great power with 29 American colonies including Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Jamaica, and others.
Victory and great power status were costly.  Britain's national debt doubled and the cost of guarding her empire quadrupled.  She had to cut in half the pay of the 4,884 troops (33% British colonists, 25% Irish, 23% English/Welsh, 15% Scottish, 4% German/Swiss) who took Canada.  Many, in lieu of pay, accepted land grants and married French women.  British taxpayers objected to assuming the full cost of defeating French Canada for the benefit of the British colonists, and insisted that the settlers pay sixpence per household. The settlers fought all taxes, shouting "No taxation without representation."
REPRESENTATION:  Colonists had refused offers of representation, arguing that they would be outnumbered in parliament whose members were not paid and were supposed to represent the Empire as a whole.  Unlike France, which was an absolute dictatorship, new blood was constantly evolving the British parliamentary system.  There were cases of boys going to sea at the age of 12, becoming captains of warships, and retiring wealthy at 22.  Some men like these bought votes in 'rotten boroughs' (farm areas depopulated in the rush to cities in the industrial revolution) to elect them to parliament.  A few colonists among these members might have eased the task of George III who had difficulty maintaining harmony among his ministers.  George III could be persuaded on most issues, but remained adamant that the Empire remain united and that the colonists should pay at least part of the expense of their government and defence.
NATIVE AMERICANS:  Most Natives preferred the French to the British because the French established few permanent settlements and frequently intermarried.  Unlike the French and Spanish settlers, the British brought their families with them. Natives preferred the London government to British settlers, and later, under Tecumseh, gave immense help to Canadians to permit them to defeat the U.S. invasions of 1812-1814.  Had Champlain, the Founder of New France, not erred in 1609 by joining the Hurons and Algonquins in raids against the Iroquois, thus turning them into bitter enemies, France might have prevailed in the New World.  The Iroquois, with 5,000 braves, had America's most effective fighting force.  Their subsequent alliance with the British permitted the British conquest of Canada.  The British settlers ignored this debt of gratitude and continued to press into Iroquois and other Native lands.  In 1763, Pontiac, believed to have been with the French forces that defeated Braddock and Washington's British forces in 1755, led a resistance that killed 2,500 British settlers and troops.  British strategists figured that it would take 10,000 soldiers to defend settlers west of the Alleghenies.
SETTLEMENTS WEST OF THE APPALACHIANS AND GEORGE WASHINGTON:  Britain, torn between placating her colonists and her Native allies,  argued that she would have to maintain a standing army of 75 regiments to allow a minimum of 17 to be rotated to the American colonies.  Britain did not maintain a large army, fearing that too much power in the hands of the military would threaten, as it did under Oliver Cromwell (1640-58), the freedoms that had been won over the centuries.  A large navy was better as much of it was always at sea and not threatening civil authority.  Colonists declined to pay the costs of the 17 regiments, so Britain issued the Proclamation of 1763 that forbade settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, allowing the land to remain a Native preserve.
George Washington, who had been a British officer (LtCol, Virginia Militia) with General Braddock in 1755 when their 2,100 troops, sent to capture Canada, had been defeated by 254 French Canadians and 600 Natives near Fort Duquesne (Pittsburg), had invested in the Ohio Company, the Mississippi Company, and in 10,000 acres near Vandalia, all west of the Appalachians.  Faced with financial loss, Washington allied himself with the minority who advocated a break with Britain.
THE QUEBEC ACT OF 1774:   Britain permitted the defeated French Canadians to retain all their lands in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys and their culture.  The only change Britain made, other than sending in a few administrators, was to exchange the French criminal code under which an accused is guilty until proven innocent to the British code of innocent until proven guilty. This kindness to the Canadians did leave the feudal control by church and seigneurs entrenched which infuriated both British settlers, who wanted Canadian lands and more democratic institutions, and British colonial merchants who wanted to control Canadian trade.  The act did result in French-Canadian loyalty to Britain, but was a cause of the ‘American’ revolution.
SAM ADAMS:   Sam, who had failed in various business ventures; who had squandered inherited money; and who, as a customs officer, misused funds, was a clever organizer and propagandist.  Very early he decided to work for a break with Britain.  He provoked resistance in Boston including stone throwing at British troops. One day in 1770 they answered stones and other missiles with musket fire that killed five of their harassers.  Sam immediately publicized this as a massacre of innocent people by sadistic British troops who had a habit of raping and stealing.  His brother, John Adams, argued for the British troops at their trial, and got them acquitted, but most settlers heard only Sam's version.   Sam and others had a profitable business in smuggled Dutch tea.  When Britain allowed its East India Company to sell tea to the colonies without paying customs duty, it made British tea cheaper than Dutch tea.  Sam organized the “Tea Party” dumping of British tea into Boston Harbour to avoid financial loss to himself.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:  Ben went to Montreal where he set up a printing press hoping to persuade Canadians into revolting against Britain.   The French Canadians, so well treated by the British, even to the extent of having no taxes to pay, ignored him. They were also fearful that the numerous vitriolic religious groups to the south would attack their Catholicism.  They then helped the small British garrison defeat the subsequent U.S. invasions of Canada.  Later, in one battle in 1813,  LtColonel Charles de Salaberry, whose grandfather fought against British general, James Wolfe, at Quebec in 1759, led 460 Canadians plus Native allies to intercept an invading force of 8,000 ‘Americans’ which they defeated at the Battle of Chateauguay near Montreal.  To avoid a Native massacre of the retreating forces,  Salaberry gave cash rewards to Natives for every enemy captured alive and unharmed.
SLAVERY: The British abolition of slavery in 1709 which took effect in most colonies was opposed by many seeking a  break with Britain.  Many Blacks joined the British army and events in the Caribbean, where Blacks greatly outnumbered Whites, was a great worry particularly in the southern states that feared remaining as colonies would imply freeing slaves.
  THE UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS: Few colonists desired a break with Britain. When bloodshed led to more bloodshed, 60,000 of them took up arms to fight the rebels in a war that could have gone either way.  France went bankrupt providing substantial aid to the rebels and this led to the French Revolution that started in 1789.  France wanted to tie Britain down in America to permit France a free hand elsewhere.  In the end the rebels won.  The Royal Navy held onto New York long enough to permit 100,000 Loyalists, who were of all origins and social standings, to reach the ships that took them to Canada, to Britain, and to the West Indies. The sudden influx of English-speaking Loyalists made Canada a bi-cultural country overnight.  New Brunswick was carved out of Nova Scotia and Upper Canada (Ontario) carved out of Lower Canada (Quebec).  Loyalists brought a hatred of the new United States that did not die down for 100 years, just as the U.S. Civil War left hatreds that persisted that long.
The British government donated £15,000,000 to help the Loyalists carve out new homes in the Canadian wilderness, and George III contributed a large sum himself.  The children and grandchildren of these Loyalists helped to turn back the U.S. invasions of 1812-1814 and the 1866-71 Fenian raids.
REVOLUTION vs PEACEFUL  EVOLUTION:   Canadians argue that they obtained by peaceful means as many freedoms as did the USA through bloody warfare, and that the rebellion was unnecessary.  In fact, Canadians still argue that Britain tried, and tries, too hard to placate the U.S., often at Canada's expense. French Canada was, after the Natives, the big loser, losing the Ohio and Mississippi valleys.  Fear of further U.S. invasions prompted the Canadian colonies into uniting in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada.  Britain argues it put far more into its colonies than it took out.  Only India was profitable.  Today they jokingly celebrate the 4th of July as a day of Thanksgiving for getting rid of those pesky and costly Yanks.
THE USA IN THE EYES OF OTHERS:    When, in 1825, Joel Robert Poinsett (of poinsettia fame) was appointed US ambassador to Mexico, he made immediate friends by ordering the sign “American Embassy” replaced with “Embassy of the United States”.  Sadly, that was an isolated case as nomenclature remains unchanged, so, today, too many Americans believe they are considered insignificant by those Americans living in the USA. Most Canadians have now dismissed this slight of the US monopolizing the name that belongs to two continents as unimportant and are just as bad in restricting “America” to the USA.  But Latin Americans, with better historical memories, have not.  And, there has always been resentment, that supercedes jealousy, against superpowers because getting there usually involves death, destruction, and misery to all even with a sprinkling of benefits to some of those bypassed.  Once attaining top-dog status it is difficult to make amends, but most empires have tried, including the US Empire, with mixed results as too often self-interest trumps altruism. 
To many, the ‘American’ Revolution remains current history. Some still glorify it, some still argue that the US that demanded freedom from Britain denied it to their southern states and to their Natives and Blacks for long years after 1707 when Britain abolished slavery.  The rebels sang about Liberty but allied themselves with France, an absolute monarchy, against the most democratic country of the day.  They used force to steal vast areas from Canada, Mexico, and Spain.  Even today Hollywood continues to steal heroes from other countries when it is awash with real US accomplishments, real US heroes, and many US exhilarating examples of overcoming hardships, disasters, and adversity. 
CONCLUSION:  Perhaps, the greatest failing of the USA (as well as the rest of humanity) is Insensitivity laced with Greed. In this vast universe, Life is a rare and lonely treasure.  We humans have evolved to top-dog status so have an immense responsibility to understand ourselves as well as other living things.  There is a oneness here that demands we change the mindsets that include indifference and harm to others as a natural state of affairs.  This is an essential but monumental task that faces the opposition of human greed.  Instant world communication gives us an advantage today over story tellers, shamans, missionaries, scribes, and the like, of past ages.   Are we up to the challenge?   Is there a leader out there among you?                                                                               Ye Olde Scribe, 11 July 2015

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