Monday, July 6, 2015

Let's talk about: The British side of the American Revolution


As the United States Independence Day approached I was thinking a lot about what it must have been like for the British when they lost the war. 
I was intrigued by this idea and started searching and reading as much as I could to try to find a British perspective on the subject. 
One of the books I have been reading is called The Men Who Lost America by Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy. I will do a full review on this massive book when I finish it and I may be able to add a little bit to this conversation after its completion. 
For now though, I have only made a small dent in the book. 
In the book he states that on noon of October 19, 1781 the British Army lowered the Union Jack. 

"The victors were forced to wait for the pleasure of seeing their humiliated foe parade before them. Although Washington had specified that the surrender ceremony would take place at two o'clock precisely, the British and German troops did not appear for another hour. Dressed in smart new uniforms, they formed two columns more than a mile long....
There were numerous spectators from the surrounding countryside, beaming with satisfaction and joy. The onlookers eagerly awaited the appearance of Cornwallis.... but Cornwallis disappointed their eager expectations by pleading illness....
As they neared the field of surrender, the royal troops became disorderly and exhibited 'unsoldierly conduct', their step irregular and their ranks frequently broken....
It was indeed a humiliation for an army that had begun the war with an assumption of its own superior military prowess."

He also talks about how Lord North, the Prime Minister, found out. 

"Between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, the three cabinet ministers arrived at the official residence of the prime minister in Downing Street... Although he had long despaired of the war and had many times attempted to resign, Lord North reacted to the news with shock....
Pacing up and down his rooms for several minutes, North suddenly opened his arms, exclaiming wildly, "O God! It is all over!" North repeated the words many times in a state of consternation and distress."

So what happened then? 

Britain spent a huge amount of money fighting the war and as a result their national debt was hugely increased creating a yearly interest of nearly 10 million pounds. 
Taxes had to be raised as a result. 
Trade was severely interrupted which caused stock and land prices to plummet. 
Ireland was inspired by the U.S. and the British were afraid of another full blown revolution, so they relaxed trade restrictions on Ireland and allowed non-Angelicans to hold public office. 

This seemed to be the bulk of what I could find out about how it affected Britain. 

So I then moved onto how do the people now feel about it? What do they learn in school?

I found answers but they weren't what I was expecting. 
Apparently, they aren't really taught about it in school unless they go into the higher levels or go into special classes. It is barely touched on. 
 To quote King George lll (from the Madness of King George): "We don't talk about the colonies."

First of all, many have said that they don't call it the Revolutionary War. They call it "The American War of Independence" or  "Civil War". 

One thing I read over and over again was that to the British it was just another war in a long history of wars. To Americans it is a big deal because it was the war for our Independence and "to America 100 years is a long time."

That was another quote I kept reading: "In Europe 100 miles is a long way, in America 100 years is a long time."
I think that quote is really interesting. And I think it is true. 
One person said, "America has been independent for a few hundred years so it is still fresh in their minds. I have a church next to my house that is over a thousand years old."

So, essentially, from what I have read, I have learned that the biggest thing England took away from this war was how not to run a colony. They were then able to take those lessons to make changes in their imperial policies to prevent something like this happening again. 
But to the average citizen, unless they had lost a loved one in the war, their lives didn't change much. 

* If you have any additional insight that I don't know about or a different perspective, please comment! I would love to have found out more than I did and I will continue to research to find out more.