Thursday, October 2, 2008

Losing America


George III (George William Frederick)
1738 - 1820 (reigned from 1760, though his son was regent from 1810)
Married Sophia Charlotte, 1761
15 children (9 boys and 6 girls)
Purchased Buckingham House (now Palace) in 1762
American connectons: the state of Georgia is named after him. The largest city in North Carolina is named after his wife. Ummmm. And something else...
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In 1785, the first American ambassador the the Court of St. James's, John Adams, presented his diplomatic credentials to the king.

Can you imagine what that meeting might have been like? Not long before, Adams (and many other American "Founding Fathers") had a price on his head and would have been hanged on sight by the British. And now, here he is, alone in the same room, one-on-one, with the most powerful man in the world, a man he had committed treason against. Talk about tension being thick enough to cut with a knife!

The very fact that the king was receiving Adams carried with it the implication that Great Britain now recognized America as separate and sovereign. This was a pretty momentous day for the Americans. And I can't help but wonder just how fast John Adams' heart was thumping as the door closed behind him and he stood alone before the king.

Of course we don't have to guess at these things: history always affords written records of such important meetings. But of course more went on in the room than Adams later wrote down. I wonder. Hardly any small talk, one would think.

Adams made his small speech, introducing himself. Very much agitated and nervous, as he later wrote. The king was polite but also affected by the moment of the occasion. The king made a comment about Adams' affection for France (Adams was recently the American minister to France) and Adams replied that he really loved only one country, his own, to which the king replied simply, "An honest man will have no other."

Adams, of course, was not able to completely follow the king's conversation (George III was a pronounced stutterer) but he was able to follow the drift of it. The audience was short. Not friendly exactly, but amicable enough.

After John Adams came a long line of distinguished American Ambassadors - the United Kingdom, after all, is very important to the United States. President John Kennedy's father was one of these ambassadors. The current ambassador to the U.S. is one Nigel Sheinwald. I got an email from him just the other day (or at least from the British Embassy's news department) telling me that Her Majesty's Prime Minister was pushing for the American Congress to pass the $700 billion bank bailout legislation promptly, in the interest of the world's economy. He didn't mention whether or not the UK would help pay it back. I am guessing "no." Sigh.

Times change. Or do they?

16 comments:

  1. Lake George in upstate New York was also named for this scoundrel. Formerly it was named by the French, and what a beautiful name it was: Lac du Saint Sacrement. Lake George has also been dubbed "The Queen of American Lakes" and is one of the deepest and has a very high water clarity.

    I'm in the midst of watching the John Adams HBO series, having just seen the episode where Adams meets King George III, and your description matches the scene perfectly. Adams was tense, understandably so, fighting off his contempt to his former king, nervous to look into his "evil eyes".

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  2. I don't think the UK is likely to help with the bailout, no. We're too busy doing our own bailing out.

    Poor old George. Wasn't it 1765 or thereabouts when he first had an obvious bout of his "madness"? Didn't seem to affect his fertility though.

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  3. Oh if only we could travel through time, there are so many events such as this that I would like to have been " a fly on the wall" at. At least it eventually led to an enduring relationship between our two countries.

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  4. Whilst I can understand the American point of view, regarding taxation and no representation in the British parliament, and that the colonists were extremely irked at British control of their trade, and trading partners, however that control was not nearly so onerous as that placed by other european countries on their own colonies.

    Adam Smith, in "An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes- Of The Wealth Of Nations" says "The plenty and cheapness of good land, it has already been observed, are the principal causes of the rapid prosperity of new colonies. The engrossing of land, in effect, destroys this plenty and cheapness. The engrossing of uncultivated land, besides, is the greatest obstruction to its improvement. But the labour that is employed in the improvement and cultivation of land affords the greatest and most valuable produce to the society. The produce of labour, in this case, pays not only its own wages, and the profit of the stock which employs it, but the rent of the land too upon which it is employed. The labour of the English colonists, therefore, being more employed in the improvement and cultivation of land, is likely to afford a greater and more valuable produce, than that of any of the other three nations, which, by the engrossing of land, is more or less diverted towards other employments.

    Thirdly, the labour of the English colonists is not only likely to afford a greater and more valuable produce, but, in conse quence of the moderation of their taxes, a greater proportion of this produce belongs to themselves, which they may store up and employ in putting into motion a still greater quantity of labour. The English colonists have never yet contributed any thing towards the defence of the mother country, or towards the support of its civil government. They themselves, on the contrary, have hitherto been defended almost entirely at the expence of the mother country. But the expence of fleets and armies is out of all proportion greater than the necessary expence of civil government. The expence of their own civil government has always been very moderate. It has generally been confined to what was necessary for paying competent salaries to the governor, to the judges, and to some other offices of police, and for maintaining a few of the most useful public works....

    Fourthly, in the disposal of their surplus produce, or of what is over and above their own consumption, the English colonies have been more favoured, and have been allowed a more extensive market, than those of any other European nation. Every European nation has endeavoured more or less to monopolize to itself the comrifdice of its colonies, and, upon that account, has prohibited the ships of foreign nations from trading to them, and has prohibited them from importing European goods from any foreign nation. But the manner in which this monopoly has been exercised in different nations has been very different."

    It is arguable that had the British not forced the french out of Canada, that the colonists would not have attempted separation, but rather have clung to George's protection.
    Furthermore, in the context of the times, it is worth noting that the north american colonies were at that time a narrow band of the easten seaboard of the landmass now understood by the term "America", the product of these colonies was not so great or significant to the british crown that they justified the expense spent in keeping them. Whereas, at the same time britain was taking India, and exploring the pacific, starting to settle Australia and New Zealand.
    The west Indies were valuable colonies, we kept those.

    And of course, don't forget that without France and Spain's help, the revolution might have ended differently.
    We don't bear much of a grudge, though we chuckle every time we see the "White" house on tv.

    We look on the revolution as our vietnam, fighting an entrenched army of determined armed guerillas. But we had no instantaneous communication with a distant headquarters, our supply lines took months between order and delivery, All in all, I'd say we did pretty well considering the cream of our military were elsewhere, fighting more important campaigns.

    Poor old George. It was easy to place the blame for your woes on his shoulders, but the truth is that those taxes and restrictions were placed not by George, but by parliament, and the landed gentry and fat cats who controlled parliament.

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  5. Very interesting hearing the other side of things, thanks for that souby. That's something not written in American history books, obviously.

    "The west Indies were valuable colonies, we kept those."

    Rightfully so, much money was to be made in the sugar cane fields. If an Englishman wanted to make money, that's where he went, whereas he went to America if he wanted to read the Bible unmolested.

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  6. Also, "Poor old George. It was easy to place the blame for your woes on his shoulders, but the truth is that those taxes and restrictions were placed not by George, but by parliament, and the landed gentry and fat cats who controlled parliament."

    - How things have stayed the same after all this time, this could describe the US current situation - of course replacing 'Parliament' with Congress. The name George remains the same, oddly enough.

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  7. Soubriquet - thank you for your thoughtful comment. My only intent, originally, was to talk about the meeting between the king and John Adams. It seemed so bizarre to me. And then, in my research, I discovered he had 15 children. I didn't know that. I was impressed. However, it would be impolite for me to not address your lengthy comment with more seriousness. So....

    I would probably agree with you that the Americans wouldn't have won if it had not been for the French. Or if it had not been for the fact that there was a big ocean. Or if it had not been for the fact that there was an endless supply of Americans being born and becoming available for soldier replacements. Or if it had not been for the fact that the Americans refused to march en masse into the British musket fire. Or if it had not been for the fact that.. well. You know. If.

    And the West Indies were more important to the crown than America? Hmmm. I might want to see that put to a vote.

    And the British chased the French out of Canada? Really? I wonder why they sing their national anthem in French still. Especially that part of Canada just north of where Redbeard lives. Not meaning to provoke you; just an honest question.

    Yes, I also agree that the British and other Colonial powers treated Africa, South America, India, SE Asia, and the island groups much more "onerously" than they did the Americans. In that they slaughtered, enslaved and robbed them blind of all there treasure. Onerous, indeed.

    Ummm, if I may.. just a couple more things that really "irked" the living bejeezus out of the Americans as well. Please note that "he" refers to George III:

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    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.
    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.
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
    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:
    For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
    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
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    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 & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    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.
    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.

    Yes. Irked indeed they were.

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  8. Redbeard - Interesting about Lake George. I didn't know about that. Probably there are more names as well. I also liked the French name for the lake better. :)

    I didn't watch the HBO special about John Adams. I read McCloughlin's book it was based upon. There appeared to be (in the book) no mention in Adams' papers about him having contempt for the king at their meeting - only nervousness and a desire to recite his memorized speech. I frankly think he was too scared to show much obvious contempt. But HBO would have wanted him to show that, I'm sure. Contempt is much better tv than simple stage fright. Personally, if I were a writer for HBO, I would have had Adams kick George in the nuts. But I am a prima dona when it comes to writing dialog for tv. The original book was simply great, btw. I highly recommend it. As I write this, I am watching the Red Sox kick the Angels' ass. Ah, no. They just tied it up. but I am sure Boston will prevail. Did I tell you I bought my son a Boston cap and tshirt when I was there? He won't wear them, but it was the thought that counts, right? I personally have no team in the playoffs. (Arizona fan.) But good luck to you and Petra.

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  9. Soubriquet - I am assuming that this is only the opening gambit. I would be disappointed if you simply let me get away with what I just did. :)

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  10. a. - That is disappointing indeed. In that case, I hope your government will stop advocating for our Congress to pass a bill for my and my great-great-grandchildren to pay. You say your officials have enough at home to take care of already? You are probably right. :)

    Yes. The Madness of King George. I saw that one. Very good indeed. Did you know that it was originally called The Madness of King George III? But the stupid Americans kept asking where they could rent parts one and two. So.

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  11. Tefl Don - Right you are. Some good came out of it after all. And, for sure, lots of historic moments I would like to have been privy too as well! :)
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    English bulldogs - Yes indeed. Well, it seemed to have turned out well in the end though. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.

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  12. The contempt, whilst in King George's court, was restrained. However upon receiving the news that he was to meet with King George, and in preparation thereof, was where the contempt, or petulance was expressed. Apologies for the lack of clarification.

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  13. Well, the point was that didn't happen in real life. It happened in the movie. But screw John Adams - how are you doing? I hope well. Don't see enough of you around here anymore. (and when you do stop by, I argue with you. sorry.)

    12 innings last night. I'm starting to get into it. Take care.

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  14. Hey, it could have happened. With all respect, historical fiction aside, it probably wasn't too far from the truth.

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  15. Sure RB. Ok by me. Could have happened.

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