Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

11
CHOICES, 1778

WINTER HAD A WAY of bringing bad tidings to London. The city had learned of the Boston Tea Party, the boycott adopted by the First Continental Congress, and the military disasters at Trenton and Princeton during earlier dark winters, but the worst news yet arrived in December 1777. Londoners learned of the loss of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. London had long been awash with gloomy rumors about the military situation in America, but until December 2 the hearsay was unsubstantiated.1 To the last minute, Germain held out hope. “Burgoyne's situation is bad,” he confessed to the king on December 1, “but it is hoped not so very bad as reported by the rebels.”2 The very next day a dispatch arrived from Carleton that confirmed the ministry's worst fears. Verification had not been required for Opposition members in the House of Commons to wale away at the government and to savage Germain. As early as October, Charles James Fox had blasted the idea of placing “the two armies in such a position as from their distance made it absolutely impossible that the one should receive any assistance from the other.” Burgoyne's “army was not equal to the task,” Fox had said all along, and in November he stridently maintained that Germain's policies had driven “the Americans to a declaration of independence,” caused “the continuance of the war,” and now had led a “gallant general “to be” sent like a victim to be slaughtered.”3

After December 3, when Lord North first publicly expressed his “sorrow at the unhappy news,” the fury of the Opposition knew no bounds.4 “Ignorance had stamped every step taken during the course of the expedition,” one raged. Another “condemned the whole of the expedition,” but especially the licensing of

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