Tag Archives: Revolutionary War

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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AMERICA’S GROWING DIVISIONS

trump-and-obama

On the same day as the Inaugural in Washington, The Gambia was in the midst of a major constitutional crisis.   Gambia is a slither of a country in west Africa.   Until the weekend, it was ruled by the same dictator for over twenty years.

A recent election gave victory to Mr. Adama Barrow, but President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.

Neighboring countries in the region invaded to remove the former president and replace him with the new one.   Mr. Jammeh has now gone.

It’s different in America.   No coups or counter-coups were needed to remove President Obama.   Canadian and Mexican troops were not needed, either.

America has had smooth transfers of government for a very long time.   That is to America’s credit.

But some commentators, including some religious ones, are doing a disservice to the United States when they describe America as “unique” in this regard.   They also overlook an area of grave concern, deeply rooted in American history.

America’s peaceful changes of government are not unique.   England has had peaceful transfers of power since 1689, to name just one country.   Ed Morrow, CBS’s American wartime correspondent during World War II, marveled that, when faced with foreign invasion and possible extinction, the United Kingdom maintained a democratic system of government and people were free to criticize Winston Churchill.   He did not think America would fare so well when faced with similar threats.

It can truthfully be said that America is unique in one respect – it is the only presidential system in the world that always has peaceful transfers of power.   Others, like Gambia, have a bad history in this regard. It has taken over 50 years of independence for The Gambia to get a new elected Head of State – and the change was not peaceful.   Zimbabwe has had the same president for 38 years following its independence – there is no sign of change in the country, though people talk increasingly of “nature taking its course” – the president is well over 90 years of age.

So, credit to America.

But not so fast.

In 1860, the election was peaceful, but a few weeks later, fourteen southern states seceded from the Union.   Four years of civil war followed. 2% of the people were killed.

Go back even further, to 1775, and we see another civil war that claimed 6% of the people’s lives.   (The population was less then so the total number was less, but the impact was, arguably, greater.)   This war is known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence.   It lasted seven years.

Both wars saw incredible divisions in America.   Both saw “brother against brother.”   Both were truly civil wars of the worst kind.   Is another civil war possible?   It is not out of the question.

Again, we are seeing great division in American society.   Roughly half the voters supported Donald Trump, while the other half supported Hillary Clinton.   The latter seem no more inclined to accept the result than voters in 1860.   That is not to say there will be another civil war, but there could be a great deal of civil unrest; and, eventually, another civil conflict, this time between conservatives and liberals, with race as a contributory factor.

Hundreds of thousands, some would say millions, of angry women were out on the streets of a number of cities, demonstrating over threats to women’s rights; an issue that did not even exist in 1860.   The term “women’s rights” is a euphemism for abortion, the murder of babies.   There was no support for abortion in 1860 – that’s a new phenomenon that is directly due to the nation’s gradual rejection of Christianity.   Over 60 million abortions have been performed since legalization in 1973 – those children, who would now be adults, have been replaced by over 60 million immigrants, some from countries that are hostile to the United States.   It really doesn’t make any sense.

Many of those immigrants are now with the demonstrators against the new Administration.   This adds an ethnic dimension that did not exist in the two previous civil wars.   Some of the most outspoken critics of the new administration in Washington are Muslims.   Liberals come quickly to their defense. I even heard one prominent liberal on CNN yesterday extolling the virtue of an Islamic female leader who “is pro-gray, pro-LGBT.”   Do they really believe that?  The gay lifestyle is totally at variance with Islam.   Gays have no civil rights in any Muslim country.

These divisions in America, primarily over abortion (sorry, women’s rights) and race, will continue to worsen during the Trump presidency.   They have already resulted in some violence.   In time, they could explode into greater conflict.

Americans can pride themselves on being part of a presidential republic that has seen many peaceful changes of government, but America is not unique where peaceful change is concerned.   The challenge now is to make sure peaceful transfers of power continue. This is not likely to happen in a period of increasing diversity. Tribalism was a big factor in Gambia’s electoral disaster – tribalism is now a growing threat in America.

Diversity is just another word for “tribalism.”

We should not become complacent.   Jesus Christ warned that:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Matthew 12:25).

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLLYWOOD IS NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF TEACHING HISTORY

Patriot

Hollywood is adding to US foreign policy woes at an incredible rate. No less than four current movies are causing upsets in various parts of the world.

“The Interview” has received a lot of attention.   I have not seen it and would have had no interest in seeing it, if North Korea’s paranoid regime hadn’t flipped out over the movie, blaming the US president personally for its showing. (When you’ve grown up in a country where the “Dear Leader” decides everything, it’s not surprising that people think the US president plays the same role in America!)

The movie revolves around a comedic attempt to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Along the way it makes fun of the more comical aspects of the regime.

As the US has never had good relations with North Korea anyway, Pyongyang’s anger can largely be ignored. But other movies are also a problem.

“American Sniper” has been labeled racist by Muslims who see the conflict with ISIS as a continuation of the clash of civilizations between the “Christian” West and the Islamic world. The movie tells the true story of the US military’s greatest sniper, who killed over 200 people during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As all his victims were Muslims, he, therefore, must be a racist. Don’t look for logic – it’s not a strong point with people who grew up in the Middle East.

“Unbroken” is also a problem, this time with the Japanese. Conservatives in the country are upset over the way Japan’s troops are portrayed in the film, which again is a true story, telling the story of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini’s experience in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in WWII.   It’s not the first movie to depict the horrors of life in a Japanese POW camp.   They had no respect for prisoners as their own military culture taught that fighting to the death was preferable to surrender.

The truth is the truth. No apologies need be made for “American Sniper” or “Unbroken”, assuming they stuck to the truth.

Even “Exodus” has been quite controversial, thousands of years after the event. My wife and I didn’t like it. Nor did the Egyptians who said it was “inaccurate,” that Jewish slaves did not build the pyramids and that the depiction of ancient Egyptians was not accurate. Although the depiction of the plagues was interesting and imaginative, and Christian Bale played a convincing Moses, the parting of the Red Sea and receiving of the Ten Commandments were much better in the 1956 version, when special effects were more primitive.   Perhaps the downplaying of the commandments reflects changing societal attitudes in the interim decades.

In Egypt, ‘Censors objected to the “intentional gross historical fallacies that offend Egypt and its pharaonic ancient history in yet another attempt to Judaize Egyptian civilization, which confirms the international Zionist fingerprints all over the film,” the statement said.

The ministry said the movie inaccurately depicts ancient Egyptians as “savages” who kill and hang Jews, arguing that hanging did not exist in ancient Egypt. It said the film also presents a “racist” depiction of Jews as a people who mounted an armed rebellion. The ministry said religious scriptures present Jews as weak and oppressed.

The statement also objected to the depiction of God as a child, which also drew criticism in the West.’  (Seattle Times, December 28th)

Hollywood has always had a problem with religion, rarely depicting biblical events with any degree of accuracy. “The Ten Commandments” (1956) was one of the better biblical movies, with considerable input from Josephus.

But Hollywood has also had a serious problem with history. I cannot think of any historical movie made in Hollywood that was 100% accurate. “Braveheart” has been labeled the most historically inaccurate movie ever made, with 87 historical inaccuracies, according to one website. Another Mel Gibson movie, “The Patriot” got the prize for the fourth most inaccurate movie in history. Amongst other things, the movie depicted British soldiers burning down a church with people in it. The film was set during the Revolutionary War.   British soldiers have never burned down a church full of worshippers, never at any time in history. If they did, they would be court-martialed and severely punished. But it made for great entertainment!

Mel Gibson defended these movies by saying, “We are not in the business of teaching history. We are in the business of providing entertainment to make money.” (The quote is a paraphrase heard on NPR many years ago.)

At least he was honest. Perhaps his anti-semitic rantings owe their origin to the same ignorance of history!

Hollywood has always had a problem with history.

Exactly a century ago next month, what is considered the most influential movie in American history, premiered. “The Birth of a Nation” was an anti-black, pro-KKK movie that led to riots in cities across America. The film was set during the Civil War and Reconstruction and blamed African-Americans for the problems that plagued the US during this period. The NAACP tried to get the film banned. The movie was the first motion picture screened at the White House, then occupied by President Woodrow Wilson.

In an age when few people read anything in depth, preferring to spend their time with electronic gadgets, including TV and DVD’s, movies are perceived as fact.   But they rarely are. If you want to know the facts, you have to read and do the research.

The 1960 John Wayne movie “The Alamo” was made with two historical advisers during production. One of them walked off the set saying, “there isn’t one minute of historical accuracy in this film” but it hasn’t stopped people watching it in the last 55 years.

Hollywood has a responsibility to strive for accuracy. It can be done. Good movies can be made while maintaining accuracy. “To Kill a King” is a prime example. This is a British movie about the English Civil War, the execution of the King and the subsequent Republic under Oliver Cromwell. The film was lauded by historians as the most accurate historical movie ever made.

Sadly, it’s hard to track down. Perhaps, after all, people are not interested in facts – they just want to be entertained!

FERGUSON AND THE GREAT AMERICAN DIVIDE

Ferguson MO

Race is America’s Achilles heel.  It’s also the country’s biggest blind spot.

Both have been evident in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of an 18-year-old African-American male by a white policeman, in August. The decision by a Grand Jury not to send the policeman to trial led to serious rioting last night, which has continued into a second night.

Racial tension goes back to the very beginning of the nation’s modern history and not just between black and white.

The first British settlement on the shores of North America was at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607.   Twelve years later, the first African slaves arrived and continued arriving for almost two centuries.

Later in the century, the first major conflict in American history took place. King Philip’s War lasted three years (1675-78) and was, proportionately, the worst conflict the country has ever experienced, surpassing the Revolutionary War of 1775-81 (the second worst) and the North-South conflict (1861-65). All three were civil wars.   The first war resulted in the deaths of 10% of the population of the fledgling colonies. It was a war between the white settlers and Native Americans. Over the next two centuries there would be a great deal of further conflict between whites and Native Americans.

The country would also see more conflict between African-Americans and whites.

Discrimination against non-whites was a root cause of the violence.

In the 1960’s a new approach was favored. The Civil Rights movement addressed discrimination and efforts were put in place to make some fundamental changes. The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned all forms of discrimination. One year later, the Voting Rights Act made it much easier for southern blacks to vote, ending decades of discrimination.   Ironically, race riots erupted in the Watts area of Los Angeles the following day.   One month later, President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order that required government contractors to take Affirmative Action, granting favor to minorities in employment.

Riots were to continue throughout the decade, emphasizing the bad state of race relations.   Change was clearly necessary.

In 1971, a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism made some recommendations on assimilation in neighboring Canada. This is considered the origin of multiculturalism, the idea that all races, colors, religions and nationalities can live peacefully and successfully together.   The US picked up the ball and ran with it. Australia, New Zealand and the EU followed. Multiculturalism, sometimes called “diversity,” has been the guiding philosophy of western nations for the last four decades.   Perhaps its greatest achievement in the United States was the election of an African-American to the White House

However, what’s happened in Ferguson shows that diversity is not working as promised.

Not just Ferguson, of course.   America’s inner cities have experienced ethnic conflict for decades. New immigrant groups have battled African-Americans and other new immigrant groups in never-ending gang warfare.

This is where the “blind spot” comes in.

Americans like to think of themselves as a “melting pot,” a term that has been in common usage since 1908.   It’s a reference to how different ethnic groups have been assimilated and become one. However, the term was used to describe the various European ethnic groups that migrated to the country prior to the twentieth century. It is questionable that the melting pot concept is still working.   Some would say it never included African-Americans.

America is such a vast country that it’s easy for whites to escape big cities and move to isolated dormitory towns and suburbs, where they will rarely come into contact with other ethnic groups. So it is possible for people to believe that race relations are harmonious when others feel very differently. Ferguson is a classic example of this.

It’s not just white policemen shooting young black males. There are also frequent incidents of black males randomly killing whites. These are given far less attention by the liberal media. But both show continuing racial tension and conflict.

Trust is seriously lacking.

The United States is not the only country with racial problems.   Ethnic conflict between tribes is a daily occurrence across the continent of Africa; historic conflict between ethnic groups has been a primary cause of wars in Europe; and ancient animosities flare up regularly in Asia.   Is America worse?

Over twenty years ago, the Detroit Free Press sent one of its African-American reporters to South Africa to cover news there in the year leading up to the end of apartheid.   In his dispatches, he observed that race relations were better in apartheid South Africa than in the US, where he lived.   More recently, I viewed a discussion on British television on which a number of people of African descent who had lived in both the US and the UK were asked about their experiences. All agreed they felt race relations were better in Britain.   (It should be noted that Britain has had its share of race riots.)

Jesus Christ predicted rising ethnic tensions at the time of the end of the age. In Matthew 24:7, He said: “nation will rise against nation.” The Greek word used for nation is ethnos, a reference to ethnic groups.   Until a few decades ago, the lid was kept on much ethnic conflict by great powers that ruled over many ethnic groups.   Increasingly, those groups have splintered and now are turning on each other.

Perhaps we are about to find that diversity doesn’t work, that mistrust between the races is still very much a part of our culture and heritage, not just in the United States but elsewhere.   A serious rethink is needed on multiculturalism, as racial harmony cannot be achieved by legislation or coercion. There is a definite possibility that, as a consequence of Ferguson, more laws will be passed to force further integration, which could backfire.

Social programs should also be re-evaluated. LBJ’s War on Poverty, proclaimed fifty years ago this year, offered hope to all poor families, including African-American ones, by setting up a welfare system. However, it is now possible to look back and see that welfare has contributed to the breakdown of the family, a social trend that has been particularly devastating for black families. Nine out of ten African-American boys do not live with their father to the age of 16.   The lack of a significant male presence in their lives encourages criminal activity and is a reason why there is a disproportionate number of African-American males in the US prison system.

There will be more Fergusons. Sadly, more parents of young men, both black and white, will lose their loved ones in violent acts between the races.   More riots will result in more lives lost and more property damage, though there is no sense in driving businesses away.

Race remains America’s Achilles heel – ethnic conflict could bring the country down.   But there are also many examples of whites and blacks working well together. Clearly, more work is needed to improve race relations. The alternative is growing conflict in the years to come.

AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR

REV WAR

What was America’s worst war?

I mean in the sense of numbers of people killed as a percentage of the total population.

Many would say the Civil War (1861-65), when 2% of the population died.

In fact, three times as many people, proportionately, died in the Revolutionary War, sometimes called America’s First Civil War, which took place almost a century earlier.

6% of the population died in the earlier conflict and tens of thousands fled the country when the war was over.  As with the later conflict, families were divided, brother fought brother and there were intense feelings on both sides.

Both wanted freedom.  The Patriots (or Rebels) wanted to free the thirteen colonies from British rule; the Loyalists (Tories) were convinced that, without a king, there would be anarchy.  They referred to their opponents as the “sons of anarchy.”

Gordon Wood, an American historian who has written a number of books on the Revolutionary War and the events that surrounded it, brought out in one of his books that England was then the freest country in the world and that the people in England’s colonies were even more free; so why did some colonists want even more freedom?

It’s a good question.

There were legitimate grievances just as there are against any government, but the American Revolution is different from all other revolutions in that the people revolting were not the poor and dispossessed.  They were, in fact, the aristocrats of the colonies.   They were actually better off than the people they were revolting against.

It’s no wonder then that this was not a popular uprising as movies have sometimes suggested.  The country was very divided.  By some estimates, the division was a third, a third and a third – a third in favor of the revolution, a third who were loyal to the crown and a third that were largely indifferent.

Tired of war after six years of fighting, on the eve of the final battle, the number of people who were supportive of remaining under the Crown was higher than those who wanted to sever the tie and build a completely independent republic.

That final battle, the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, was to be decisive.

In their latest novel (2012), “Victory at Yorktown,” Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen are fair to both sides, until near the end when it is clear where their loyalties lie.

They bring out that, immediately prior to the battle, many in Congress wanted to negotiate with London on British terms.  Russia’s Catherine the Great had offered her services as mediator.  The proposal was that the new United States of America should remain within the British Empire but would maintain its newly created federation.  A total amnesty was proposed for those involved in the rebellion.

Washington had to persuade them to wait, to see first how the battle went.   If the battle was lost to the Continental Army, then a peace treaty would have been signed in Britain’s favor and the US would have remained within the Empire, under the Crown, similar to the way Canada is today.

If the sole combatants had been Washington’s Continental Army and British regulars, the British would have won.  But the French came in and made a big difference.  The British lost and their army surrendered.

Even then, the British could have simply sent another military force to continue the war.  Britain was the greatest military power on earth at the time but the parliament in London voted against further funds for the prosecution of the war.  The subsequent Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the new United States of America as a sovereign nation, albeit one without a sovereign!

The French paid dearly for their support of the rebel forces.  The country’s finances were in trouble as a result of the conflict and before the decade was out they had their own revolution, exacerbated by radical ideas brought back from America by French soldiers.

Following Washington’s victory at Yorktown, about 100,000 loyalists fled the country, mostly to Canada.  That was roughly 10% of the country.  Many loyalists remained – far more than left.  Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson came from an Anglophile, East Coast family that always toasted the king on his birthday, right up until after World War II (“Picking up the Reins” by Norman Moss, 2002, page 65).

In reading the book “Victory at Yorktown,” you realize how easily the battle could have gone the other way.  It’s too easy to say it was won because the French Navy was there.

There is also a biblical explanation.

Genesis 48 tells us that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to become “a multitude of nations” and a “great” nation.

Many people in Victorian times and the early part of the twentieth century believed this prophecy was fulfilled in the British Empire and the United States.  The British Empire comprised dozens of different countries, each different from the other.  They were all united by a common loyalty to the Crown.

If the US had lost the battle of Yorktown and remained within the empire, it would have been a part of the multitude of nations.  It had to be separated from the Crown even though, arguably, most did not want that separation in 1781.

The country went on to become what Winston Churchill called “The Great Republic.”

At the same time, the loyalists that moved to Canada made Canada the great Dominion of the British Empire, which it became.

The Battle of Yorktown was likely a foregone conclusion!