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John Chuckman

COMMENT POSTED TO A BOOK REVIEW IN THE GUARDIAN

 

“We know that 18th-century colonists referred to themselves as English or British; that identification with one’s own particular colony easily trumped any sense of a shared identity as Americans.”

Sorry, but for people who done some serious reading of American history, that’s not news.

As a matter of fact, it was estimated that during the “revolution” about one-third were Loyalists, one-third indifferent to it all, and only one-third active supporters. It was a minority event.

One French nobleman who came over for some adventure in the later days of the “revolution” said that he saw more excitement over events in the cafes of Paris than he saw in America.

I put “revolution” in quotes because it really is a misuse of the word to apply it to the American War. It has been accurately described by a European writer as a local set of aristocrats seeking to replace a foreign set of aristocrats.

The only time, the events vaguely resembled a revolution was when Massachusetts volunteers responded to Britain’s sending over troops to be quartered. It was brief. The Continental Congress then appointed Virginia aristocrat George Washington to take command. He rode in and took over, referring to the local volunteers in his letters as scum and rabble. He instituted lashing and hanging to instill the discipline he liked as an admirer of British Armed Forces.

The “revolution” was only won because of huge French assistance. Washington was pretty well incompetent as a General, never winning a single significant battle, and it was French Generals who insisted on the last, decisive battle at Yorktown. Washington wanted to attack New York instead. The only other important battle was earlier at Saratoga, and again French help was decisive with weapons and money and assistance.

Without France – and here Franklin’s diplomacy was crucial – America would have likely given up.

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