The Day When We Could No Longer Abide King George’s Crimes

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Pursuer of happiness. Bon vivant. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. There's a Twitter account at @burtlikko, but not used for posting on the general feed anymore. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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23 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    This made me think of a “Well actually…” on the Revolution.

    Which reminded me of this joke…
    Where do mansplainers get their water?
    From a well actually.

    HAPPY 4TH!Report

  2. J_A says:

    A former British Ambassador to the USA (apparently) usd to toast “the father of the American Nation”, King George IiI (*)

    (*) whose portrait (apparently) presided over the Embassy’s dining roomReport

  3. George Turner says:

    Your post left me confused. So are you loyal to the Crown or to the US?Report

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    A specific and a general response: The specific is that I call bullshit on your call of bullshit about dissolving the legislature and leaving it that way. Yes, English monarchs had done that back in the day. Charles I ruled for a decade without benefit of Parliament. How did that work out for him? The English Civil War pretty well established that this was no longer how they ran things. So by stating that George was doing just this, the claim was that he was rolling back hard-won rights of Englishmen.

    Which leads to the general point that the underlying dispute was whether the colonists were free Englishmen with all the rights thereof, or something less? The English constitution wasn’t really equipped to address this. They learned their lesson, and those other and/or later colonies comprised largely of English settlers never felt the need to repeat the American revolution. Which leads to the final point that this is a classic case of English behavior leading up to this being worse than a crime: it was a blunder.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Yeah, I think the governor (appointed abroad) had more legal powers than the Crown enjoyed following the Glorious Revolution (within their relative sphere of course). The Founders were Whigs, whether their views were consistent with other Englishmen at other times and place is beside the point. Tyler Cowen linked to a piece that claims the reason that the American Revolution was not forestalled with representation in Parliament is that America would throw all of its influence behind the radical Whig faction:

      I’ve never found the idea practical myself given the distance and seasonal weather constrains on the Atlantic Crossing. The representation would look more like Ben Franklin types living there for many years, and probably capable of being influenced.Report

  5. North says:

    Yeah it’s interesting how often Quebec pops up, directly or obliquely in the colonists lists of grievances. England had seized New France at the end of the Seven Year War and had been faced with somewhat of a conundrum; what to do with this sudden large population of Catholic Europeans who were used to being governed under French styles of law.
    The previous answer: expulsion a la Acadia (Nova Scotia) was not workable for such a large population nor was it desirable. The British opted to cut a deal; the French population was permitted to remain Catholic and French and the laws were bent to allow most of their customary French legal system to be integrated. In exchange their loyalty to the British Crown was expected. New England had viewed New France as their natural enemies for generations and these concessions didn’t go over well. It’s easy to forget how acrimonious religious divisions were between Protestants and Catholics. Where it comes to the subject of Quebec, though, the Revolutionaries grievances were largely that the Crown was being too freedom loving, too liberal and too accommodating rather than less. Ironic really.

    The revolution happened but during the revolution and subsequently during the War of 1812 the French population of Quebec remains stoically pro-British demonstrating the benefits of the British compromise with the French settlers and laying the foundations for Canada. Ultimately, though, I agree with Richard that the American Revolution was the result of English administrative blunders more than anything else. The British demonstrated subsequently that they were eminently capable of good governance of their European descended colonist populations at least. The mind reels at trying to even imagine what the face of North America or the World would have looked like had the British managed to administratively meet the colonists more practical demands and kept the 13 colonies in the Empire.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to North says:

      I think the pamphleteers in Boston viewed the Crown’s behavior in Canada as part of a multi-front effort to restore Catholicism. Most were religious dissenters that did not see that much difference between the Church of England and the Catholic Church anyway.

      There is always some difference between what the people believe who respond to the militia call, or who tar & feather a British tax collector, and the views smoothed out by intellectual elites at a distance. Perhaps the former views are conspiratorial, but England had given no assurance that the colonists had any political checks on the whims of its government.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    “We want to tell people how to live AT THE POINT OF A GUN and King George isn’t letting us!” has long been misconstrued as an argument in service of Liberty.

    That said, if this problem could have been fixed by giving the Colonies two guys in the back of the House of Commons and the King refused to give two guys in the House of Commons, he asked for this.

    But, really, given the attitudes of the British toward Henry VIII’s desires to do whatever the hell he wanted without acknowledging the established order, this was inevitable.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well technically it was Parliament that refused but yes, the core point is that a lot of the colonists substantive demands could have been redressed relatively easily by the British but for assorted reasons on the home front and due to lack of reason to worry about what would happen if they didn’t they failed to do so.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to North says:

        It’s somewhat nonlinear but I see some parallels to Japan’s government and associated classes in the couple of years leading up to Pearl Harbor.

        Primarily in the way we look back and see all these cases of actions that would have ratcheted back tensions, and in many cases would have been easier than the actions actually taken. But they never even considered these actions, they were literally invonceivable. Even the people who saw it coming never thought change would be a good thing.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to North says:

        Well technically it was Parliament that refused but yes, the core point is that a lot of the colonists substantive demands could have been redressed relatively easily by the British but for assorted reasons on the home front and due to lack of reason to worry about what would happen if they didn’t they failed to do so.

        In many ways, the governance of the colonies would have been much easier, too.

        Operating a government at a distance of four to six weeks is completely idiotic. This means the government in England was governing on a two to three month delay, which means when they did stupid things, it took them four to six months to stop doing them.

        England should have let the colonies do whatever the hell they see fit, as long as the colony’s parliaments are willing to make the tax payments England need, which were mostly the money needed to operate the colonies themselves anyway! (Or, rather, previously, during the seven year war, England had accepted soldiers instead of taxes, and had thus funded the colonies to produce those…but the war was now, and England wasn’t going to keep paying for them.)

        It’s not like humanity didn’t already know this…Rome figured it out thousands of years ago.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      There might have been good technical reasons why the colonies could not be represented in Parlisment. Travel and communications were really hard in the 18th century. This would make effective representation in Parlisment hard.

      Another reason was that colonial representation in Parliament would have opened a big can of worms in British politics that no MP or Lord wanted it. These were still the days of rotten boroughs and a very limited proprietory based franchise. The colonies would have had a wider franchise and fairer, more rational representation. People in England, Scotland, and Ireland would have noticed and start to ask some very uncomfortable questions.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;


    (Notwithstanding your correct point, Crispus Attucks started a long ignoble traditon of African American men being killed by the police without legal consequence)Report

    • notme in reply to Kolohe says:

      No, if I remember they got a trial and the best legal representation the colonies could offer. Maybe they started our tradition of jury aqquitals in police shooting cases.Report

  8. Michael Cain says:

    The Georgian Papers Project opened their portal site earlier this year. The plan is to digitize all 350,000 pages of stuff in the royal archives related to the Georges and make it publicly available. Wonder if there’s anything there that will change historians’ minds about George III?Report