History American Revolution Part 3 The British View

About the alternate or British view of the American Revolution.

THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY

The American Revolution As Seen by the British

According to official accounts of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British did not fire in self-defense until besieged by rebel mobs who scalped and removed the ears of their victims. These techniques, in addition to such Indian practices as shooting from cover, were considered dishonorable conduct. By 18th-century European standards, opponents were required to mass large formations of troops facing one another on open terrain.

Still maintaining their "magnanimous tolerance" up to the eve of Bunker Hill in 1775, the British offered pardon to all who would lay down their arms--except Adams and Hancock, whose offenses were "of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment."

With the Declaration of Independence the colonists "crossed their Rubicon," as historian Edward Gibbon put it. King George III favored armed intervention to put down the "rebellion" while his advisers preferred a naval blockade; wavering between a land or sea strategy, the British never fully implemented either. The opposition Whigs, advocates of trade rather than taxation and with no stomach for the war at all, accused the government of corruption and incompetence. The chief culprits were the rakish Lord Sandwich, who ran a highly idiosyncratic admiralty, and Lord George Germain, the arrogant colonial secretary whose instructions ensured the defeat of Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777. A major blow to British prestige, Saratoga encouraged the French to avenge the humiliation of the Seven Years' War by coming to the aid of the Americans. In fact the French navy--not the colonial farmer--defeated the British navy and cornered Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, thus ending the war for all practical purposes. (The outbreak of the French Revolution a few years later was regarded by most Britons as "just desserts.")

Thanks to the political and physical difficulties of conducting such a huge overseas operation, the world's greatest power was defeated by a ragged band of revolutionaries. But the loss of the American colonies, as formalized by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, was taken by the British with characteristic aplomb--rather as if a group of businessmen were closing down an unprofitable branch, it was said.

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