Tag Archives: American Revolution

RUSSIA, BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

This 1783 portrait shows the American delegation to the Paris peace talks. The British refused to pose with the Americans. Animosity was still running high more than a year after the war had ended.

With three young grandchildren in the house, including a baby that recently turned one year old, I’ve taken to watching silent movies on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).   There’s no dialog to hear, so surrounding noise isn’t a problem.

I started by watching the 1925 version of “Ben Hur,” which many consider the best of the three versions.  It certainly has the best chariot scene, made at a time when animal rights were not taken into consideration.  (Not that I advocate hurting animals – it was just so REAL!)

Recently, I watched “Love” with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, made the following year.   The two actors were more famous than Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio are today.

The movie was an enactment of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”   The title was changed thanks to the tabloids.  The gossip papers had revealed that, while making the film, Gilbert and Gabo had started their own relationship.  This enabled the movie’s producers to put the following on marquees across America:   “Garbo and Gilbert in Love.” The movie was a sensation, a bigger hit than anything Hollywood turns out nowadays.

It wasn’t only the title that was changed.   Producers chose to make the movie with two alternative endings.  They referred to one as the “Russian ending,” with Anna, as in the classic, killing herself in front of a train after an adulterous affair that led to her losing her son.   Another ending was made for Americans, with Anna’s husband dying, thereby leaving her free to marry her lover, Vronsky, and keep her son.  It was felt that American audiences couldn’t handle Anna’s death.   The “American” version missed the whole point of the novel.

Interestingly, the Russian ending was shown in New York and on the West coast.   It was only Mid-western sensibilities that they were concerned about.

If Hollywood can’t even get a novel right, why would we expect them to be accurate when it comes to non-fiction?

Another Russian “story” caused a problem for Hollywood a few years later, by which time sound had replaced the old silent movies. This movie dealt with “Rasputin and the Empress” (1932).   It’s depiction of Prince Felix Yousoupov, the principal murderer of Rasputin, was so inaccurate it led to a major lawsuit; since then movies carry the words “all characters in this film are fictional,” or similar, to protect themselves from expensive lawsuits.   Now, no attempt is made at accuracy.

I’ve yet to see a Hollywood movie depict the American Revolution with any degree of accuracy.   In Hollywood, everything has to be black and white.  Real life is rarely like that.   The Revolution was not Americans against the king; the country was equally divided — one third rebelled against the crown, one third were loyal and the other third couldn’t spell “crown.”   On the eve of Yorktown, 40% were loyalists, with support for the Patriots down to 30%.

Rather than the claim that the king was acting selfishly, it can be argued that the leaders of the Patriots were.   They were heavily in debt to British banks, following a bad crop in 1773 – one way to get out from under the debt was to ditch the Crown.   It’s not surprising that wealthy indebted landowners led the revolution – the only revolution in history where those rebelling were richer than those they rebelled against!   This issue was finally resolved after the war when the belligerents got together in Paris.

I was thinking about this over the Fourth of July, when I read a review in The Economist by their American correspondent.   He reviewed a book titled:   “Scars of Independence: America’s violent birth,” by Holger Hoock of the University of Pittsburgh.    Mr. Hoock “. . . concluded that selective amnesia took hold soon after the war, as victors told their version of history, and the British displayed their genius for forgetting defeats.  In the republic’s earliest decades, stone monuments charging the British with “cold-blooded cruelty” rose on battle sites from Lexington, Massachusetts to Paoli, Pennsylvania.   Meanwhile orators told Americans that their revolt had been unusually civilized:  one public meeting in 1813 declared the revolution “untarnished with a single blood-speck of inhumanity.”  (The American Revolution Revisited – a Nation Divided, Even at Birth)

I have an extensive library of books on the Revolution, all of which were written by Americans.  The following quote from The Economist is an accurate observation:

“Browse through school history books, with names like “Liberty or Death!” and the struggle to throw off British rule is sanctified as a victory of American patriot-farmers and artisans against battle-hardened British redcoats and foreign mercenaries, defending ideals crafted by orators in periwigs.  Yet go back to contemporary sources, and they called it what it also was:  a brutal civil war.” (Economist review.)

6% of America’s population died in the Revolutionary War, as against 2% in the War Between the States eight decades later.  (By 1861 the population was much higher, but the percentage gives an idea of the relative suffering of the people.)

Note the following:  “At the war’s end, about one in 40 Americans went into permanent exile, the equivalent of some 8m people today.” (ibid.)

The Revolutionary War was a civil war.   Most battles took place without the presence of British soldiers – brother fought brother, to death, with little mercy shown.   Ironically, if the Revolutionary War had not taken place, the “Civil War” would never have happened – the imperial parliament in London abolished the slave trade in 1808 and slavery itself 25 years later.   No battles were fought over the issue.   Additionally, states’ rights would never have been a factor or cause for conflict.   Canada was spared both civil wars.

So, what did Americans gain?

FACTS TELL A DIFFERENT STORY

Consider the following gleaned from a variety of books on the subject:

>>>American historian Gordon Wood, considered the foremost expert on the Revolution, wrote in his book: “The Radicalization of the American Revolution,” that England in the eighteenth century was the freest country in the world and that the colonists were even freer.  The king was the guarantor of freedom – never again could a commoner like Oliver Cromwell take power and become a dictator. Celebrations for King George III’s coronation in 1762 were greater in the colonies than in England.   So, what went wrong and why, then, did some Americans want more freedom?

>>>The French and Indian Wars were fought by Britain and the colonists to defend the latter against a French Catholic take-over. George Washington, serving “King and Country”, fired the first shots. The seven-year war left the British government with serious debts, which they tried to recoup by taxing the colonies.   Americans did not want to pay for the war.   Over two centuries later, Americans still do not like to pay for wars.

>>>Contrary to what is often thought today, all thirteen original colonies had a democratic form of government.   All property-owning males could vote, with a 90% turnout at elections.   After independence, there was no immediate widening of the franchise.   In 1789, when the first election was held, only 6% of the population could vote.   Both the United States and the United Kingdom extended the franchise during the nineteenth century and both gave women the vote after World War One.   America lagged behind England in voting rights, not catching up until the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

>>>The Right to Vote and the Right to Bear Arms were in force before 1776.   Indeed, the revolution would not have been possible without these rights.

>>>It has often been pointed out that the leaders of the Revolution were richer than the people they rebelled against.

>>>In 1772, the monumental Somerset Decision sent shock-waves through the American colonies.  A slave  had taken his owner to court.  The court ruled that nobody in the British Isles could be owned by somebody else.  If extended to the colonies, this would have ruined prosperous farmers who needed free labor.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:   “Somerset v Stewart 98 ER 499 is a famous judgment of the English Court of King’s Bench in 1772, which held that chattel slavery was unsupported by the common law in England and Wales.”

>>>Rather than the claim that the king was acting selfishly, it can be argued that the leaders of the Patriots were.  They were heavily in debt to British banks, following a bad crop in 1773.

>>> Paul Revere did not ride through Lexington, Massachusetts, shouting:  “the British are coming.”   This would have made no sense as everybody was British.   It would be like somebody today, seeing the police approaching, would shout out the warning that the Americans are coming.   Rather, Paul Revere warned that “the Regulars are coming,” a reference to full time professional troops.

>>>Geoffrey Wawro, a distinguished scholar of military history who teaches at the University of North Texas, led a discussion some years ago on “Global View” (History International Channel).   The panel concluded that the separation of England and America weakened the English-speaking world considerably.

>>>By 1800, almost twenty years after independence, Americans were paying more in taxes than they had ever paid under colonial rule.

>>>As the Patriots called themselves the “Sons of Liberty,” the Tories referred to them as the “Sons of Anarchy.”   Partly because of what happened a century earlier when England itself became a republic, many loyalists feared a total breakdown of law and order if the country became a republic, a country without a king.   A Biblically literate population was aware of the warning at the end of the Book of Judges:   “There was no king in Israel in those days; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 25:25).   No king meant anarchy!

>>>Many of today’s super-patriots, those who celebrate the 4th of July most vigorously, ironically, would probably have been Tories in 1780.   Conservatives don’t like change or uncertainty.

>>>This brings us back to the Russians.  Newt Gingrich’s book “Yorktown” brings out that Catherine the Great of Russia offered to mediate between the British government and those rebelling against it.   One idea proposed was that Americans would keep their unitary nation, but remain within the Empire.  On the eve of the final Battle of Yorktown, this was acceptable to most Americans, including members of the Continental Congress.  This would have resulted in America being more like Canada.   It would, of course, also have meant there was no need for Canada – loyalists would have stayed where they were.   Catherine’s mediation attempt got nowhere – the autocratic Russian Empress was hardly a credible mediator between two sides that both believed in democracy.

>>>The victory at Yorktown would not have happened without the French navy.   After the battle, the situation was unclear.   It wasn’t until the King asked parliament for more money to fight the rebellion that the war finally ended – parliament refused his request.

>>>Cut off from the empire’s trading system, the US struggled financially after independence.  Even in the 1930’s, the nations of the British Empire recovered from the Great Depression quicker than the US.  America was anxious to break into the imperial trading club without becoming a part of the empire.

The question remains:   what did Americans gain from independence?  One thing comes immediately to mind – that the new country was no longer bound by British treaties with the “Indians;” they could now expand westward.

Ironically, it was a British bank that financed the Louisiana Purchase and British investors who helped build the railways that opened up the West.   So the Brits did their part to make the country expand anyway.

On the other hand, if those treaties had remained in effect, California may never have entered the Union and Hollywood might not exist – some would say, those are two very good reasons for remaining loyal to the Crown!

So, why did Americans revolt and why did the rebels (patriots) win?

Decades after the American Revolution, the Anglo-Israelite movement believed that the British Empire and the United States of America were the fulfillment of a prophecy in Genesis 48; that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, would become a great company of nations (Ephraim; the British Empire and Commonwealth) and his brother would become a great single nation (Manasseh, the United States).   As the “company of nations” (Genesis 48:19) was united by the Crown, the great single nation had to break away from the crown, which is exactly what the United States did.   Note: ”He set Ephraim before Manasseh (verse 20)”. Britain was the world’s superpower before the United States.  In relative terms, Britain was also greater than its successor.  After the loss of the American colonies, the British went on to develop the greatest empire the world had ever seen.

In other words, God determined the outcome of the Revolutionary War in order to fulfill Bible prophecy.

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FOLLOW-UP

Hillary and donald

After my post “Hate will never win,” at least one website stated that I support guns in church.   This is not the case.   Jesus Christ said: “They that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”  (Matthew 26:52).  I do not feel it is appropriate for people to carry a weapon in church.  I will, however, add that I do feel this is a matter of personal conviction.

Forty years ago my wife and I lived in Rhodesia where I worked as a District Officer in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  This meant that I worked in the administration of tribal areas under a District Commissioner.   Although the area we lived in was relatively peaceful, there was a civil war going on and we were allowed to carry guns to defend ourselves.   District Officers had the most dangerous job in the country – many were killed including my predecessor Ian Fyffe and a colleague Jimmy Souter.

I chose not to carry a gun, based on the scripture quoted above.

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On the same website, it was suggested that I support Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.   For the record, I do not support either.

Mr. Trump sees Islam as the problem in the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando.  Mrs. Clinton blames guns.   Note the following comment from Tuesday’s Wall St Journal:

The Choice 
“As the presidential campaign unfolds, Americans will get the chance to decide, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, what kind of approach they favor to combat jihadist terror.   This election’s two candidates, more than any other presidential contenders in the era of terrorism, present starkly different profiles on the subject, notes our Washington bureau chief Gerald F. Seib.   Donald Trump appeared to hint Monday that President Barack Obama may be sympathetic to radical Islamists he said inspired the gunman in the nightclub attack.  Mr. Trump also criticized both the president and Hillary Clinton for what he claims are lax immigration laws that contributed to the rampage.  Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, pushed for stricter gun laws, including the reinstatement of a ban on the sort of assault weapons used by the Florida gunman.  (WSJ “The 10-Point” by Gerard Baker, 6/14/16)

Why does it have to be one or the other?

I remember some years ago a Canadian MP (Member of Parliament) explaining to an American audience the difference between a republic and a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system.   In the United States, on every issue, he explained, the country quickly divides, with both sides running rapidly towards the barricades.   In the Canadian system, on the other hand, both sides start opposed, but gradually work toward the center to achieve a compromise.

America is the only country in the western world where parents and grandparents have to worry on a daily basis about their children and grandchildren going to school.   I called the school of one of my grandchildren recently, concerned about security. I was partially reassured, but only partially.   I do think more can be done, within the parameters of the Second Amendment, which reads:   “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  At the time this was written, the threats were both foreign and domestic.   That remains the case today and would include ISIS and those inspired by ISIS, like Omar Mateen.

The right to bear arms goes back a thousand years – it is not peculiarly American.

It was a medieval English king who first ordered that every male over the age of 14 carry a lethal weapon to defend himself against the French.   For centuries the law required that all males do four hours of archery practice after church on a Sunday.   Again, this was because of the threat from France.   English colonists had the right to bear arms before the American Revolution, which would not have happened if the people could not carry guns.   In the French and Indian Wars they had to protect themselves against the Indians – and the French!   Today, the threat is more from radical Islamists and domestic terrorists.   People need to be able to defend themselves, but a balance has to be struck.   Adam Lanza and Omar Mateen – and others — have shown the need for this.

Mrs. Clinton is right on this issue – and may win the election because of her stance.   People are scared and may think that banning assault weapons will stop terror attacks.

But, having said that, I believe that the greater problem lies in our immigration policies.   On this Trump is right.   Something needs to be done.   As if to emphasize this point, an ISIS terrorist went to the home of a French couple barely 24 hours after the attack in Florida, shot dead the man and stabbed his partner to death, all in the presence of their three-year-old son.   On the same day, a 54-year-old Muslim immigrant seized hostages at a Wal-Mart in Amarillo, Texas, holding them for two hours, before he was shot.  Together with the massacre in Florida, the only factor common to all three incidents was the Muslim factor; yet the public is being told the first was due to homophobia and the latter was a “work-related incident.” At least the French admitted the involvement of ISIS.   When are we in the US going to wake up?

When Mrs. Clinton and President Obama ridicule Trump for his stance on Muslim immigration, they are showing an appalling ignorance of history.   Islam tried to conquer the West a number of times in previous centuries.   We are now living through the latest Islamic expansion into the West, made possible by the naivety of political correctness.   The two liberal leaders are also hiding the fact that their best friend and closest advisor, respectively, are both Muslims and that the Clinton Foundation receives a lot of donations from the Middle East, surely a conflict of interest.

 

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While we are on the subject of Muslim immigration, I mentioned in a recent blog, “Confusion Reigns,” that Japan has not got a problem with Islamic terrorism because they don’t allow Muslim immigration.

Within 24 hours of my posting the article, the BBC had a segment on Muslim immigrants to Japan.   The BBC was critical of the fact that Japan was not doing enough to help refugees by taking in Syrian and other immigrants.   It was mentioned that, in 2015, Japan only took in 24 Muslims.   I checked with another source that said it was 27.

It should be noted that Germany took in one million in the same year (not all Muslims), and is expected to take in a further half a million this year.   Additionally, Chancellor Merkel is ready to give 80 million Muslim Turks visa free travel within the EU.

So Japan has taken in some Muslims, but hardly enough to threaten the security of the country.  In fact, it’s hardly enough for a single mosque!

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Since my last posting, it has been revealed that Omar Mateen was a “closet gay,” who regularly frequented the nightclub he attacked.   I am reminded of an article in “Science” magazine written in the late 90’s.   The article showed that scientific research done on heterosexual males showed that the more anti-gay men were, the more likely they were to have the problem themselves.   I have often thought of that article in the 17 years since I read it, as I’ve listened to religious leaders and others rant about homosexuals.   “Methinks they protest too much.”   My apologies to Shakespeare and Queen Gertrude (Hamlet, Act III, Scene II)!

 

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

queen-elizabeth-parliament-opening

According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

SYRIA AND JOHN WAYNE

assad_damascus_2011_3_29                john-wayne

Over thirty years ago, my wife and I lived in West Africa.  We travelled extensively in that part of the world.  Cameroon is one of the countries we frequently visited.  

We had American friends there, based in the capital, Yaounde.  The husband worked for the US Embassy.

On one of our visits he was telling us how his current job was to recommend which side the US should take in the Chadian civil war, which was raging in neighboring Chad.  The war lasted three decades before there was a semblance of peace.

My logical response was to ask why take any side?  My friend replied that the US always has to take sides.

Why?  What’s the compulsion that drives the United States to take sides in every conflict?  In reality, it comes down to the John Wayne Syndrome.

I never did like John Wayne movies, so I can’t claim to be an expert on them.  But it seemed to me that the tried and tested formula was there always had to be a clear good guy (white hat) and a clear bad guy (black hat).  This wasn’t just true of John Wayne movies – most Hollywood movies are that way – always have been and likely always will be.

That’s the way Americans like their movies to be – and their foreign policy.  The US must always support the good guys against the bad.

This goes right back to the beginning.

The American Revolution is often depicted as a conflict between the Americans and the British.  But that oversimplifies the reality.  The reality was that the Revolution, like all revolutions, seriously divided the country.  Revolutions typically divide a country three ways – one faction is the revolutionaries, another is those who want to maintain the status quo, and a third faction are those who just want to stay alive through the chaos.

This was the case during the American Revolution.  The vast majority of incidents involving fighting were between Americans, not Americans and the British.  Loyalists and Patriots battled it out.  Both wanted freedom – they just had different ideas of what freedom meant.

Syria also has three factions, those loyal to President Assad (the Alawites), the rebels (amongst whom is al-Qaeda), and those who are just trying to stay alive and feed their families.

What side should the US take?

Options are to support the thug/murderer Assad, or the thugs and murderers who comprise Al-Qaeda.  There is no prospect of democracy coming out of this.  Surely, we’ve learned that lesson during the past decade in the Middle East?

As regards chemical weapons, there is little doubt Assad has used them but so would the rebels if they took control.

It’s frequently said that Assad has used chemical weapons “against his own people,” but that’s not really correct.  His own people are the Alawite clan, who are only 12% of the Syrian population.  They were at the bottom of the social pile prior to World War One and owe their elevated status to the period of French colonial rule between the two world wars.  Perhaps this is why France supports US action against Assad, which gives them an opportunity to at least partially rectify the mistakes of the past.

In Assad’s mind, killing non-Alawites is perfectly acceptable.  This is the way tribal politics works all across the Middle East and, indeed, Africa.  Assad will never give up using chemical weapons if that’s the only way for him and his clan to retain power.

It’s hard for the US to understand this because it’s so alien to the American experience, simplified by Hollywood.  There are no good guys in this conflict.  There are only bad guys.

Complicating the matter further is that the US is increasingly seen as one of the bad guys right across the Middle East, especially after the way the Administration has handled Egypt and Syria during the last few weeks.

Washington is in a no-win situation with this one.