Posts Tagged ‘King George III’

There are a lot of things I could say about the Seven Years’ War, but most of those things would be made up.  I vaguely remember discussing it in high school American History class and again in World History, but I was in high school many years ago and the memories have mostly faded.

I seem to recall that this conflict was something of a “world war”, not so much because the conflict spanned the globe (though it was pretty widespread), but more because the players involved were all the “all-star” countries.  Britain and Prussia and Portugal were on one side.  They were opposed by France, Russia, Spain, and Austria on the other.  There were probably some other players, too.  The conflict included the French and Indian War, where George Washington became a colonial hero.

The war began in 1755 and, if we hold to the war’s name, simple math tells us the war ended in 1762.  In fact, the Treaty of Paris (not this Treaty of Paris) was signed on February 10, 1763.  And as it turns out, a bunch of territory conquered by each nation was returned to its previous owners, which begs the question as to why they went to war in the first place.  Of course, I don’t know…like I said, high school was twenty-five years ago.

But some countries actually did alright for themselves.  Here in America, Britain (which already owned the Thirteen Colonies) gained from France all the territory east of the Mississippi that it didn’t already possess.  France also ceded New Orleans and, if I recall, the Lousiana Territory to Spain.

So Britain did alright as far as territory was concerned.  But as we well know in the 21st century, war carries baggage of its own, and the 18th century was no different.  In his biography of Samuel Adams, Ira Stoll writes, “One might not know it from the lavish spending or displays of wealth at the coronation, but Britain was mired in war debt . . . The debt was staggering – by 1763 it was £122.6 million, which meant £4.4 million just in annual interest costs, or more than half the total annual budget of £8 million.

The incredible financial burden not only caused King George III to come to the peace table, it had him looking for ways to pay down this massive debt.  And that meant taxes.  And it meant taxing the Thirteen Colonies.  And that meant imposing the taxes on the Colonists without really seeking their input or getting their approval.

First, steps were taken to better enforce collection of existing tariffs, which didn’t sit well with folks accustomed to having the British mostly look the other way.  But it was the Sugar Act, imposed the following year, that started the Colonial blood boiling.

These were some of the very first steps down the road to the American Revolution, and they began as the ink was still drying on a peace treaty.

Recommended Reading: Samuel Adams: A Life

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The Battles of Lexington and Concord convinced a goodly number of Colonial doubters that war with the British Crown was inevitable.  Bluster and pontification, threat and proclamation…they were all one thing (I’m not sure that’s grammatically proper, but oh well).  Muskets and shot, bloodshed and death…well, that was altogether different.

But still, there were those Colonists who wanted to avoid going to war against a superpower.  They recognized that there were serious issues that needed to be resolved, but believed a peaceful solution was still possible.  On July 8, 1775, these men prevailed upon the remaining members of the Second Continental Congress to send the Olive Branch Petition to King George III.  In it, they addressed their grievances, but also maintained their loyalty to the Crown.

Of course, 18th-century communication was slow, so it took some time for the Olive Branch Petition to arrive in the King’s hands.  But it mattered little because King George had already received word of the incidents at Lexington and Concord.  And his men had intercepted correspondence (particularly from John Adams) advocating war.  The King refused to even open, much less read, the Olive Branch Petition.

On August 23, 1775, King George III issued his response: A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition.  In it, the Colonies were declared to be in open rebellion against the Empire, and it gave officials permission “to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion.

And while the war of words would continue for a period of time, it was clear that words were no longer going to fix the tenuous situation.  The time for Revolution had truly arrived.

Recommended Reading: American Sphinx

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