British Friends of the American Revolution

British Friends of the American Revolution

British Friends of the American Revolution

British Friends of the American Revolution

Synopsis

Fourteen short chapter studies profile a dozen British men and women, who, for diverse reasons, opposed the policy of the British government toward its thirteen colonies before and during the American Revolution and helped prepare the way for the recognition of the United States as an independent nation. Reich demonstrates how a mixture of political expediency, constitutional scruples, and a desire for reform at home led prominent politicians, economists, and leaders of public opinion to sympathize with the colonial point of view after 1776.

Excerpt

Whig domination under the first two Georges was made possible because the kings played a relatively passive role in government and placed their substantial patronage resources at the disposal of their chief minister. In practice, this meant that the "Court and Treasury" members of Parliament (or King's Friends or Placemen, as they came to be called), who gave their loyalty to the king out of respect, gratitude, or hope for appointments, pensions, or other sinecures, could be counted on to support the government in power unless the king indicated otherwise. This group occupied about one-third of the seats in the House of Commons, outnumbered only by the Independents who controlled about one-half the seats. The Independents, predominantly country gentlemen, also tended to support the government in power unless it adversely affected their own interests, or its policies were obviously bankrupt. All this changed with the accession of George III to the throne in 1760. He reversed the policy of his predecessors and determined to free himself from Whig influence and to play a much more active role in governmental affairs. This resulted in the end of the era of Whig supremacy and (unintentionally) ushered in a decade of political instability, during which relations between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies deteriorated to such an extent that compromise became virtually impossible for either party in spite of all the efforts of our "friends."

King George III made his first foray into politics in 1761, when he forced the resignation of William Pitt, the architect of British victory in the Seven Years' War, and replaced him as chief minister in the following year with his favorite, Lord Bute. Because of Bute's unpopularity, this experiment failed in less than a year and the king reluctantly accepted Bute's suggestion that George Grenville, whom Bute thought he . . .

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