Equality (how is it measured?): parity; fairness; impartiality; egalitarianism; equitable.

The United States Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on the 4th July, 1776, is a proclamation whose self-explanatory content leaves little to be further explained to most educated people. However, it is the second sentence that many believe contains the most important words ever to have been written in American history. It would perhaps also be the major driving force that would enable that great country’s greatest ever president, Abraham Lincoln, to persevere through the most dangerous and turbulent years in its’ history, the Civil War (1861-1865).

“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”.

The aim of this essay is not simply to regurgitate arguments in yet another form, on a subject matter that many others have written about in the past, either on the side of the colonists or the loyalists. The overriding and guiding aim of this website, is always to explore and invite wide ranging thoughts and dichotomy on a subject matter, particularly when events have for long periods of time been accepted as both fact and beyond reasonable doubt. That the words above were written is fact. That the “prima facie” cause of the tensions during the period pre-Declaration, was best depicted by the popular rousing cry of “no taxation without representation”, and would lead to bitter resentment being felt against the British Parliament – this is also fact. However, the aim of this essay is to explore whether indeed that it was the always contentious matter of taxation that was truly, beyond reasonable doubt, the only “casus belli” for the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). This essay will attempt, by lateral thinking, to uncover any other major factors that would cause perhaps the most learned of the “founding fathers”, Thomas Jefferson, to issue a personal statement in November 1775 that both professed union with Great Britain but also declared that he would prefer death rather than submit to the rulings of its’ Parliament. Other countries had wars, and even though victorious would have debts to meet afterwards. Britain’s successful defence of the American colonies during the Seven Years (French and Indian) War (1756-1763), had indeed been most costly, both in lives and money. Surely it could not have been totally unreasonable for Britain, and its domestic taxpayers, to expect some form of financial payback from the very people it had fought for. Of course Britain gained much from the war, but it also had ever continuing obligations for the colonies defence. What was needed was compromise, but that takes not at least just a little goodwill and effort from both parties. Although the British Parliament, at all the worse possible times, appeared to be treating the colonies with about as much tact as a bull in a china shop; British treatment of its North American colonies certainly stood comparison very well, especially when set against those owned by the autocratic countries of France and Spain. So, what indeed could possibly else go wrong?

George Washington - as a result of his participation in the "French and Indian War", he received title from the British Crown for 23,200 acres of land near the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, now in West Virginia, but then east of the "Proclamation Line". However, he subsequently added about another 25,000 acres of land nearby in the Ohio River valley. He was due to partake in an "expedition" with Lord Dunmore (Governor of Virginia) to visit these estates in 1773, when he abruptly cancelled following the death of his step-daughter, Patsy. Perhaps due to the fact that expansion east of the line was prohibited, or possibly for other reasons that they may never be known, the pair of them had a major fall out; resulting in the Governor threatening legal action against Washington.

1775: George Washington stood to lose out financially in a very large way, with the risk of not just losing his Ohio investments, but also fines levied against his Virginian estate. He opposed both the Stamp Act (1765) and Townshend Act (1767), and supported a boycott of British goods until they were repealed.

Question: Which circumstances stood to damage him the most, and eventually lead Washington to support insurrection and rebellion against the British Crown ???

Somersett's Case (R. v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett)

The Chief Justice of the English Court of King's Bench, Lord Mansfield, passed a famous judgement in February 1772, (which was interpreted by many in stating) that slavery was unlawful in England (although not elsewhere in the British Empire). It would be held as one of the most momentous milestones in the campaign to abolish slavery throughout the world, by campaigners such as William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp and the later British Prime Ministers, William Pitt ("the Younger") and Charles James Fox. The case revolved around a slave, James Somersett, who was the “property” of Charles Steuart, a Customs officer from Boston, Massachusetts, which at that time was still a British colony. Mr. Steuart had brought Somersett with him to England in 1769, but Somersett escaped two years later. He was later recaptured in November 1771 and forcibly imprisoned on the ship Ann and Mary, sailing under a Captain John Knowles, and bound for the British colony of Jamaica. However, before the ship could sail, three people claiming to be Somersett's godparents, made an application before the Court for a writ of habeas corpus, and Captain Knowles was ordered to produce Somersett before the Court of King's Bench, which then determined that his imprisonment was illegal. The main stay of the appellants’ argument, to which the judge concurred, was that whilst colonial laws might permit slavery, neither the common law of England nor any law made by Parliament recognised the existence of slavery, but most importantly that the involuntary removal of any person from England was an illegal act - though technically the carefully worded judgement did not pronounce slavery itself illegal. In addition, not only did English contract law not permit for any person to enslave himself, nor could any contract be legally binding without the person's consent.

The political fall-out would have severe repercussions, none more so than when the Somersett case was widely reported by the American press. In Massachusetts there followed a number of attempts by slaves to obtain their own freedom over the next two years. Although they were supported in principal by the General Court, the cases were vetoed by successive Governors. This impasse, which could not possibly last, had a politically seismic effect, especially in the South. The pro-slavery colonies, upon which their mainly agrarian economies were so heavily dependent, and their most vociferous supporters, such as Thomas Jefferson, (in addition to the tax arguement) would campaign for an immediate break with English law, in order to achieve their goals with regard to slavery. This action would alas take on the form of a war for total independence.

In both the Declaration of Independence, primarily drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, and containing the words..."that all men are created equal.....", and later in the Constitution of the United States, published in 1787, and containing the words “We the people….”- neither great tome even once referred to the words either"slave" or "slavery". Yet, some 20% of the population were black and virtually all were slaves, and thus at the stroke of a pen, they were cruelly disenfranchised from this significant declaration. At this historical birth of liberty, it would be the economics of slavery (mainly in the South) that took precedence. Sadly, albeit by the necessity of urgent compromise, some of those campaigners who cynically used the slogan “no taxation without representation” in reality ensured that the pro-slavery states would create a legal basis for slavery. Moreover, as history is so very often written by the victors, so it passes that the most momentous years in the birth of a now mighty nation, are forever portrayed as a brave fight against injustice and oppression. However, as late as 1857, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Taney of the U.S. Supreme court held that a black person "whose ancestors were ... sold as slaves" was not entitled to the rights of a federal citizen, and therefore had no standing in court, and that black persons were "beings of an inferior order" not included in the phrase "all men" within the Declaration of Independence nor afforded any rights by the United States Constitution. Indeed, further back in 1830, the Supreme Court of North Carolina even ruled that slave owners could not be convicted for killing their slaves!

However, the pro-slavery states would not have it entirely their own way. Elizabeth Freeman, later known as "Mum Bett", would become the first black woman to be set free judicially in the United States. Massachusetts voted in a new constitution, which was adopted in 1780. Within article 1 appeared the words “All men are born free and equal…….” The case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley was heard in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington. In what would be a landmark ruling, the jury found in her favour under the constitution. Perhaps this was what Thomas Jefferson had been so afraid of, and not just voting rights?

Following the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1775, the Governor of Virginia issued what would become known as "Dunmore's Proclamation", a loyalist call to arms, but most radically he promised freedom for theslaves of revolutionaries, who were encouraged to leave their masters and join the British. Dunmore’s main objectives were most importantly to both bolster his own forces and second, to create a sense of panic amongst the colonists, thus obliging them to cease with their insurrection. Many more Black slaves would fight for the British – perhaps not surprisingly - than the colonists, roughly in total to the ratio 20,000 to 5,000 – though the exact figures will probably never be known. Incredibly, somewhere in the region of 80,000 to 100,000 slaves would attempt a desperate break for freedom, despite all the great personal risks involved. These brave escapees would even include some slaves from the estates of both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

So what was the background (major points) to the tensions over taxation?

1.    The Seven Years War 1756-1763 (also known as the French and Indian War in the USA). Britain was forced to fight what was once described by Sir Winston Churchill as the first “world war”. Though her own North American position would be greatly strengthened, not least by the total conquest of Canada, Britain would suffer an estimated 11,000 + killed, wounded or captured – not to mention the huge financial cost. The colonies however, were also a major beneficiary, as the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which ended the war, saw France lose and drop claims to all of its North American possessions east of the Mississippi. Also, Spain was forced to cede the colonies of East and West Florida to Britain.

2.    Not surprisingly, and arguably with some justification, during the 1760’s the British Parliament sought to alleviate some part of the financial debt incumbent upon its citizens by raising for the first time direct taxes in the Colonies. However, in return the Colonists argued that, according to the British Constitution, British subjects could be taxed only by their own representatives. Thus, on the one hand, because they were not actually represented in Parliament, they could not, therefore, be taxed by that body. On the other hand, Parliament argued that if the colonists expected the same protection as British citizens, even though they were thousands of miles away on another continent, (with all the great additional costs involved), it was not totally unreasonable for them to pay some contribution towards their own defence. Unfortunately, cool heads did not prevail on either side, tensions rose and the colonists organised economic boycotts against the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. By 1773, theBritish East India Company was in financial distress due in part to the colonial boycotts.

3.    Britain responded by passing the Tea Act in 1773, which allowed the East India Company to sell their tea to the colonies directly and without "payment of any customs or duties whatsoever" in Britain, instead paying the much lower American duty - and ironically initially supported by Benjamin Franklin. This rather cunning plan enabled them to undercut the prices offered by the colonial merchants and smugglers, whilst in effect enabling the company to procure a virtual monopoly of the tea trade. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the colonists, and most notably the local merchants and smugglers, did not take very kindly upon this concession to a major competitor. Although being import tax free, it validated the last remaining duty in the Townshend Acts. The rest is well documented history. The “Sons of liberty”, vaguely disguised as Indians, raided tea bearing ships in Boston Harbour and tipped the contents into the harbour. Ironically, the real reason behind the incident was because of a lowering of the tax, and not its’ raising! - but was very badly handled by the British Parliament in a most arrogant and provoking manner. However, it would be forever ingrained as a fight against unjust taxation into the folklore of the Revolutionary War. Although later repealed by the British Parliament in 1778 by theTaxation of Colonies Act - by that time it was clearly a case of too little too late.

Two of the major protagonists in the Revolutionary War:
For Britain: Lord Cornwallis (1738-1805)

After sterling service for Britain during the Seven Years War, including being noted for gallantry at the Battle of Villinghausen in 1761, he was promoted to full colonel of the 33rd Regiment of Foot in 1766. That very same year he voted along with five other peers against the Stamp Act, out of sympathy with the American colonists. He also demonstrated a strong degree of support for the colonists during the growing tensions in the period leading up to the American War of Independence. However, following the opening skirmishes of the war near Boston, Cornwallis put his previous reservations aside and sought after active service. His participation began with his promotion as second in command to General Henry Clinton.

This analysis is not meant to be a definitive account of Cornwallis' war record, but in order to clarify matters, albeit briefly, it is worth noting in his defence that Cornwallis received orders from Clinton to choose a position on the Virginia Peninsula (the "Williamsburg Neck"), and it was in complying with this order, that Cornwallis put himself in a location where it would be easy to become trapped. Indeed, with the arrival of the French fleet under the Comte de Grasse and General George Washington's combined French-American army, he found himself cut off. His position became untenable, and eventually to avoid unnecessary loss of life, he was obliged to surrender to General Washington and the French commander, the Comte de Rochambeau on October 19, 1781. However, the following year, Cornwallis was exchanged for Henry Laurens, who was considered a prisoner of equal rank. He returned to Britain (with Benedict Arnold) to cheers in January 1782. His political enemies seized the opportunity to criticise his tactics in America, but Cornwallis retained the confidence of bothKing George III and the British Government, thus most fortunately enabling him to continue with his career.

His next great advancement would come in 1786, when Cornwallis was appointed Governor-General (East India Company) and commander in chief of the army in India. There he brought in progressive land reforms (thePermanent Settlement) and much needed modernisation of both the British army and civil administration. Most pertinent to the above, on 27th July 1789, he announced by proclamation in council that anyone associated with slavery would be prosecuted in the Supreme Court. He was able to get this measure through by stating it as the best means to stop the gathering of children for sale to the French, who still held some ports in India.

He can be best remembered for:

·       His surrender in the Siege of Yorktown, 1781.

·      The final departure of the last British forces from New York is held up until November 1783, following Cornwallis (and indeed most other senior British military commanders) openly supporting Sir Guy Carleton's (acting British commander) refusal to return to George Washington the black slaves freed by the British, citing the colonial side’s refusal to honour clauses 5 and 6 (loyalists property rights) of theTreaty of Paris. Americans forced to back down, and allow the freed slaves to leave.

·      In India, where he is remembered for both the Permanent Settlement and virtually abolishing slavery in 1789.

·     As Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he vociferously argued for Catholic Emancipation.

For the colonies: Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

As well as being universally credited with being the main architect of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson has that rare distinction of being awarded the honoured title of a polymath. Quite simply, he was a man who was not just well educated, but could excel in a variety of subjects and was well versed in multitude fields of knowledge. Jefferson was a staunch supporter of the republican ideal, who distrusted what we today may term “big business”, and strongly supported not just the rights of states, but also the separation of state and religion in the lives of its’ citizens. He has been lauded by many as one of the greatest presidents of the USA.

He was a wealthy slave owning landowner, and indeed is believed by some, supported apparently by DNA evidence, to have had a “relationship” with one of them, Sally Hemings, who was (alleged) a half sister of his late wife. As a slave owner, possibly with an average of 150 to 175 at the time he drafted the Declaration of Independence, he would have been well aware of the implications of Somersett’s case, and its probable repercussions to the economy of the colonies, especially in his home state of Virginia. By the time he died this figure was nearer the 200 mark. The great conundrum is that this was the same man who wrote “all men are created equal”. However, did he by accident (or design?) also (possibly?) promote racism in America - a question perhaps raised by his writings in “Notes on the State of Virginia” (published in 1781, updated in '82 and '83) – most notably in Query 14 (Laws) - it contains in my belief some really derogatory (racist?) thoughts on black people that probably would not have been out of place in some neo-Nazi journal in the 1930’s and 40’s – the same type of truly despicable thoughts on racial impurity, that Hitler and his supporters would rant on about the Jews, Poles and Slavs. As a non-partisan website, and due to the most sensitive nature of the subject matter involved, I shall refrain from reprinting any of those particular writings here, but instead leave that decision to investigate and then evaluate up to the reader.  

Jefferson accused King George III of being a despot, yet The Royal Proclamation of 1763, championed by the king, following Britain’s acquisition of French territory in North America subsequent to the Seven Years War, clearly shows otherwise. The main purpose was to stabilise relations with the indigenous native North Americans by regulation of trade, settlement, and land purchases on the western frontier. It did, however, cause much resentment within the colonies, as by recognising the rights of Native Americans, it would effectively greatly restrict future expansion westward. Ironically, as a result of the Declaration of Independence and ensuing revolution, The Royal Proclamation ceased to be law in the United States. However, to this day it still continues to be of legal importance to First Nations citizens in Canada. Another reason for independence? Indeed it would eventually become a major cause for the US declaration of War against Britain in 1812.

The Treaties of Paris and Versailles (September 1783) – Britain: Winner or Loser?

1.     In its’ treaty with Spain, the colonies of East and West Florida were ceded to them, but without any clearly defined northern boundary, thus resulting in disputed territory, (which would not be resolved until 1795 with the Treaty of Madrid); as was the island of Minorca. However, the Bahama Islands, Grenada and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain. Perhaps this is why most American accounts of the war only refer to the 13 colonies, when in fact there were 15. (The "16th" colony of Vermont actually declared its' own independence in 1777, mainly due to territorial disputes with its' neighbours, before eventually joining the United States as the 14th state in 1791).

2.    The treaty with France was mostly about exchanges of captured territory (whose only net gains were the island of Tobago, and Senegal in Africa); but Britain confirmed earlier treaties, guaranteeing French fishing rights off Newfoundland.

3.    Dutch colonies in the East Indies, captured by the British in 1781, were (all bar the Indian port of Negapatnam) given back to the Netherlands, but only in exchange for trading privileges in the Dutch East Indies.

The American colonies were only really concerned with the Treaty of Paris itself, of which there were 10 key points:

1.   The “13” colonies were recognised by Britain as free, sovereign and independent states, with the Crown relinquishing all claims.

2.   Agreed the boundaries between the United States and Canada (British North America).

3.   United States fishermen granted fishing rights in the Grand Banks, Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

4.   All signatories agreed to recognise the rights of creditors (on both sides) to be paid their lawfully contracted debts.

5.  The US Congress of the Confederation to “earnestly recommend” the return of all confiscated land to “real British subjects” (loyalists).

6.   The US must prevent future confiscations of Loyalist property.

7.   Both sides to release their prisoners of war, and Britain's property left to be unmolested. (The US insisted that this must include slaves freed during the war by the British).

8.   Both Britain and the US granted perpetual access to the Mississippi River.

9.   Any territories subsequently captured by the US to be returned without compensation to the British.

10. The treaty to be ratified by all signatories within 6 months.

All in all, apart from the obvious, i.e. control of the colonies, what had Britain really lost? The British actually won more battles overall against both the Americans and their allies, though their upper hand militarily would not be matched in the equally vital, if not more important diplomatic battles being waged in Europe. Initially, the British began well in winning by far the largest engagement of the war, and re-gaining control of New York, with theBattle of Long Island (aka Brooklyn Heights) in 1776; but then the Colonists, following on from another defeat, this time at the Battle of Brandywine (Creek), finally turned their fortunes around the following month, starting with their decisive victory at Saratoga 1777, that encouraged the French to come in on their side in 1778. However, Britain’s navy still "ruled the waves", which enabled them victories at Rhode Island (Aquidneck Island) 1778, Savannah 1779 and the American's greatest defeat, this time at Charleston 1780. Apart from an unbalanced sea battle (and ensuing sea chase) at Chesapeake Bay, just prior to the large British surrender to American-French forces at Yorktown in 1781, the battle of absolutely vital importance for Britain, France and subsequently Spain was undoubtedly “The Saints”, won by Admiral Rodney in the West Indies (a group of islands between Guadeloupe and Dominica) for the Royal Navy over a larger French fleet in April 1782. Victory for Great Britain crucially ensured the continuation of financial growth from the Caribbean, which by the start of hostilities was essential to both the support of the Royal Navy and development of her Empire. Another huge defeat for France (with their Spanish allies), this time in the failed Great Siege of Gibraltar, spread over nearly 4 years from 1779 to 1783,  ultimately led to virtual state bankruptcy, and the eventual outbreak of the Revolutionthere in 1789. Although the war cost Britain in the region of £80m, pushing her national debt up to around £250m; France only spent about £56m, making her own national debt about £187m. However, Britain with a fast growing banking system could far easily finance the debt through affordable interest payments; but for the French, this was not readily an option, precipitating a calamitous debt crisis.  Mainly through naval supremacy, Britain had survived both the possible losses of Canada and her Caribbean and Indian possessions; and the threat of invasion by a combined Franco-Spanish alliance, and was eventually able to claim a credible draw, in the final peace treaties with her main protagonists. Viewed in the longer term, economically a victory.

From a military perspective, the (estimated) disposition of forces augments the case:

Regulars: US & allied states 20,000    - v – Britain & allies 12,000

Militia: US 230,000- v – Loyalists 55,000 + Mercenaries 30,000

Navy: US & allied states 40 frigates- v – 100 ships of the line & frigates

As a general estimate, most historians tend to show colonial support as (approximately) 40% with the rebellion; 40% trying to remain neutral; and about 20% actively supporting the Crown. However, these figures vary from colony to colony, with perhaps greatest support for independence in places such as Boston and Philadelphia, with the colonies of East and West Florida remaining staunchly loyal to Britain. In reality, as approximately 90% of the population was living in the countryside, and unless Britain was prepared to take the harshest of measures against the revolutionaries, which would most probably have alienated those still remaining loyal, it would never be a realistic option to both win militarily and the hearts and minds of the civilian population. 

Although the numbers are only estimates, even at, say 80-90% accuracy, one can see that the overwhelming application of Britain’s forces were naval, in order to safeguard the far more lucrative Caribbean possessions. Compared with future armies raised to combat Napoleon, was Britain really making most effort to hold onto her American colonies? Indeed was the war itself avoidable? Before hostilities began, there had been a great deal of public sympathy in Britain for the colonists. As Cornwallis himself (and indeed many other senior officers, such as  Generals Gage, Amherst, Effingham, William Howe, Burgoyne, Clinton  and Admiral Keppel made absolutely clear), British hearts were just not into making war against their own people.  In the event, American and allied losses amounted to approximately 50% more than Great Britain's and her own allies, despite the clear superior numerical advantages that the former held, generally in the region of around 3:1. 

Undoubtedly, as their initial campaigning shows, both France and Spain had joined forces with the colonies for territorial gain. Having surely two of the most autocratic and harshest regimes in Europe, they were hardly fighting to ensure the democratic rights of a group of British descended colonists. What Britain really lost was the burden of maintaining a low-income producing patch of empire. The grim reality was that her Caribbean plantations (mainly sugar), were generating income at an approximate ratio of 5:1 against that from even the most productive in the colonies, such as the cotton and tobacco plantations in Virginia. Against that, the huge financial cost of the Seven Years War to Britain had led to taxes been levied on its’ citizens at a rate (depending on which taxes you count) at a huge ratio of (up to) 24:1 to those levied in the colonies, and yet that was given as their “prima facie” case for independence!

So what did the colonies really gain, apart from independence? Perhaps it is easier to see what they in fact had lost. (Indeed, if Britain had actually suffered a serious defeat, then perhaps the colonists would today be speaking French!) They would now no longer have the privileges which they had received by rights of British colonial status (for instance, protection for their merchant fleet from Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean Sea). A number of States ignored the Treaty’s provisions, under Articles 4 (Virginia refused to pay debts), 5 and 6. This then gave the British grounds to ignore the provision about removal of slaves, in Article 7.

Prior to the Treaty of Madrid (1795), Spain, in its territorial dispute with the US over the northern borders of newly reclaimed Florida, used the colony to block American access to the Mississippi River, although in clear defiance of Article 8. Further, in the Great Lakes area, the British held back from withdrawal because, on the grounds that they needed time to negotiate with the First Nations (indigenous Canadians), who had kept the area out of United States control, but had been completely ignored in the Treaty. Basically, Britain was retaining control as a bargaining chip for compensation of confiscated Loyalist property.

The newly created United States also now discovered the true financial cost of independence. It found that the wartime alliance with both France and Spain had come at a very heavy price, and that their new allies were expecting payback. The provisional US government spent approximately $37m prosecuting the war, plus an additional $114m by the individual States. These were enormous sums that they could ill afford, and that by economic necessity would lead to the creation of the First Bank of the United States in 1791, and a source of friction with many of the southern states, who were wary of the commercial north. Perhaps a portent for future events leading to the Civil War in 1861? Fortunately for the US, the year 1789 would be a lucky one. First, the citizens of Paris rose in disgust at their brutal treatment by the French aristocracy, which meant that France had far more important issues to be dealing with. In the US, the states swore in their first president, George Washington, who had the great foresight to later dispatch his close friend John Jay to negotiate an agreement with the British, which eventually resulted in the Treaty of London in 1794, and averted a possible war, by solving many of the contentious issues left over from the Treaty of Paris. It led to eighteen years of mainly peaceful Anglo-American trading, despite its’ signing coming at the start of the French Revolutionary Wars. Perhaps it is worthwhile noting that Jay, who later became Governor of New York from 1795 to 1801, became that states’ leading opponent of slavery, finally succeeding with abolition in 1799. However, the Treaty of London was highly contested by Thomas Jefferson and his supporters, but eventually passed Congress, though not proclaimed in effect until 1796. (However, it did help lay the ground work for the British Royal Navy to lend much needed assistance to American merchant ships during the "Quasi War" against France between 1798 to 1800). Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was a keen proponent of slavery, having been once quoted as saying that “it was like holding a wolf by the ears, you don’t like what you see, but you are too scared to let go”.

Was indeed the Revolutionary war only fought over representation in the right to be taxed, or was it also for a more sinister reason, the protection of slavery? Would this be Jefferson’s legacy to the country he undoubtedly loved? At the outbreak of hostilities, the great majority of colonists were either neutral or loyalist. By the end, thousands would have died. Was it all in vain – Britain never suffered any rebellion on such scale in any other of her other “Anglo” colonies – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and British settled South Africa. Today the legacy of Britain’s Empire is the Commonwealth, encompassing some 54 independent states world wide – including Mozambique which was once a Portuguese colony! If life under Britain had been so terribly bad, surely not one country would want to be a member. In times of great danger, such as the two world wars, millions of young men, of all colours, races and religions flocked to her defence and the cause of democracy. Perhaps a major, though politically uncomfortable reason lies way back with Somersett’s case in 1772, and the implied threat that the abolition of slavery would bring to the infant economy of the New World. A man of such great intellect as Jefferson, a polymath (yet dare I say also an early day racist?), he would (mainly) draft one of the most famous declarations of all times, and truly be a founding father of one the world’s greatest ever nations. This deep wound of America would eventually be healed only by a momentous event in America’s history, by arguably its’ greatest ever president, Abraham Lincoln. Only by his proclamation freeing slaves(albeit restricted to the Confederacy) in 1862, and then later nationwide by the American government, when they passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments in 1865, 1868 and 1870, would the words “all men are created equal” begin to ring true. However, would the ultimate cost to the US for its’ independence from Britain actually be the most bloody Civil War that ranged from 1861 to 1865, which would claim the lives of some 620,000 of its’ citizens, and gravelly wound and damage the lives of so many others?


With the election back in November 2008 of the first mixed-race Afro-American, Barack Obama, as President of the United States, I felt that perhaps now was the time to bring up a topic that had interested me for many years. As both an amateur historian and accountant by profession, I was always most intrigued as to why the American Revolutionary War had to happen at all. Nobody really likes paying taxes, and perhaps not all politicians are totally trustworthy, but surely not only is war (or at least should always be) the very last resort, but an internecine conflict is arguably the most bitter of all. As a great friend of America, and having spent many happy holidays there with my wife, and made lots of interesting friends, I was not a little hesitant at first in putting my (perhaps?) controversial thoughts online. However, perhaps it is a sign of true friendship that openness is never a threat, nor taken badly. The term "special relationship" has been used at times to describe the Anglo-American bond that has withstood the harshest tests of time, and most importantly the most generous American support given to the United Kingdom in its' darkest days, namely the Second World War. Perhaps with the election of President Obama, and the old saying, "you don't know where you're going to if you don't know where you've come from", might encourage others to constructively examine the above. Surely not everything British was that bad, after all, where did the founding fathers' families originally come from! Indeed, George Washington had himself been a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British army during the Seven Years War. By an amazing twist of historical fate, he commanded a small British force against 30 French troops on the 28th May 1754, at the Battle of Jumonville Glen (Pennsylvania), which in effect started the French and Indian (Seven Years) War; thus gaining the unique distinction of having started one war for the British side, whilst finishing a second war, against the British, leading the American side. However, perhaps one of the most important things we ever gave to our American cousins was, coincidentally, like the Declaration of Independence, also published in 1776, but by Adam Smith. I refer of course to that masterful blueprint of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, advocating a free market economy as both more productive and more beneficial to society. America today has without doubt the greatest economy on the planet, and is both the industrial powerhouse and military bedrock of "Western" style democracy. Perhaps the examination of the root causes of their independence, and acknowledgement of Adam Smith's most excellent tome, will both help to heal any old wounds and continue to ensure that the special relationship lasts for many more mutually successful years to come.

Copyright 2005-2017. Lateralthinking.Org. All rights reserved.

Lateral Thinking