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Could the American Revolution have been avoided?

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Showing 1-25 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 8, 2013 9:44:35 AM PST
Suet says:
What if, against all precedent, King George had made a royal progress of the American Colonies c. 1770, giving Washington a Colonelcy in the Guards, making Franklin Lord Warden of the Royal P***pot, appointing more Americans as colonial governors? Would that have done it?

As to the T-word, bear in mind that the average British tax-payer paid more than £1 a year, whereas the average American paid about 1 shilling. Of course, Americans were not directly represented in Parliament - but neither were the majority of Englishmen.

What might the consequences have been? I think Americans would still have taken the Louisiana Purchase, without paying for it, during the Napoleonic Wars. At the same time they could have annexed the Mexican territories when England was at war with Spain, and forgotten to give them back later. Slaves would have been emancipated in 1834 with compensation to their former masters, so no Civil War, sorry.

By 1840 at the latest, America would have been the first self-governing Dominion of the Empire, ahead of Canada and Australia, with Sir Andrew Jackson as Governor General. Fast forward to 19**. With the English-speaking world united, and the Royal Navy and the Royal American Navy ruling everywhere that a ship could float, would there have been - in anything like the same form - WWI, Bolshevism, Nazism, WWII? Who knows?

Now what about the downside ...

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 10:35:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2013 10:36:33 AM PST
S. Kessler says:
I've never been one for what if history predictions. Too many "ifs" to keep track of. But I don't think providing positions and sinecures forthe leaders of the American Revolution would have done to trick of avoiding hostilities. I don't think that's what Washington, et. al., were looking for in the first place. I think they genuinely wanted self-government, within the philosophical parameters of that notion at the time. The Founders were truly heirs of the Enlightenment. Had England allowed self government and taken Parliament out of the relationship between King and colonies, then perhaps we would have been the first Dominion under the Crown rather than a separate nation.

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 10:35:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2013 10:36:34 AM PST
That is some pretty fascinating speculation. I hadn't thought about it before, but it makes some sense. The simple answer to the question is, I think, "yes." It very well might have been avoided, if only... (fill in the blanks.)

As to the downside, we probably wouldn't be able to get good Mexican food, and everyone would have horrible teeth.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 10:55:31 AM PST
Yes, most anything can be avoided. But independence would have happened at some time.

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 11:18:31 AM PST
Clog says:
When you look at the list of serious grievances in the Declaration of Independence, little short of a political revolution in Britain would have been required to establish good governance.

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 11:55:07 AM PST
Given the attitude of the British aristocracy towards the American colonists, I doubt any constructive changes would be possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 2:18:57 PM PST
Suet says:
George Washington to Robert McKenzie, 9 October 1774

"I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish, or the interest of the Government, or any other upon this Continent, separately, or collectively, to set up for Independence; but ..."

Ah, the buts! But:

"I am well satisfyed, as I can be of my existence, that no such thing is desired by any thinking man in all North America."

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 2:24:20 PM PST
Clog says:
'Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother's Sword has been sheathed in a Brother's breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?'

George Washington to George William Fairfax
31 May 1775

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 2:27:46 PM PST
Suet says:
Evidently he changed his mind in about 6 months. ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 2:33:39 PM PST
Clog says:
He was probably as happy as anybody else with the status quo but subsequent events forced him to choose sides.

And then mild men become radicals.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 3:34:08 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
Even men are allowed to change their minds now and then. We women don't have a monopoly on that. ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 3:35:43 PM PST
Suet says:
S. Kessler,

I agree the best solution would have been to negotiate self-governing dominion status, or something of the sort, provided the colonists took over their fair share of the national debt arising from the French and Indian War.

Unfortunately there was no concept of such a thing at the time; and even if there had been, neither King George nor the radical patriots would have agreed to it.

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 4:24:24 PM PST
Suet says:
I seem to have trodden on the toes of some patriot here. ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 5:13:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2013 5:14:01 PM PST
Don't tread on me. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 5:37:40 PM PST
Suet says:
Haha, good one!

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 6:17:07 PM PST
Suet says:
How did that "no taxation without representation" work out?
I hear you got both - happy now?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 8:16:10 PM PST
R. Largess says:
I'd say both sides stumbled into it. Remember, those Bostonians were the sons of Puritans. The British were pushing buttons that went back to the English Civil War when they thought up the Stamp Tax.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 8:20:27 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
You're right that at the time the concept of self-governing dominion status wasn't on the radar screen. To the Brit's credit they learned from the loss of the American colonies and rethought their relationship with the Canadian provinces to the north.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 9:07:40 PM PST
if the king had banned guns in the colonies there could be no revolution

Posted on Mar 9, 2013 3:39:20 PM PST
Clog says:
Having just reviewed the outline of events leading up to the American Revolution, it seems to me that the British would have needed to follow a dual track immediately following the end of the Seven Years War.

- The revenue needs should have been spelled out clearly with a view to an equitable sharing of the debt burden. The colonists would have been invited to state whether they still wanted British military protection.

- And the institutional arrangements in the colonies would have needed to be overhauled quite radically to enable Parliament to exercise its powers without chafing American sensibilities. That would've meant representation and other principles of the Glorious Revolution of 1689.

There would also have needed to be much care in implementing the changes. None of the passing of laws and then repealing them but stating the general principle of being able to pass any law at will. HMG seems to have veered from hard to soft measures and back again without much predictability.

There also seems to have been a bit of a muddle or a comedy of errors at the basis of Townshend's thinking according to wiki: when the Stamp Act was repealed, the colonists had stated that they held internal taxes (direct taxes) to be unconstitutional. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mistook that to mean that external taxes (indirect taxes such as those on imports) would therefore be regarded as constitutional and consequently acceptable. So the Townshend Acts were passed with that in mind.

I think what upset the balance was the shift from British taxation based on the Trade and Navigation Acts to taxation specifically designed to raise revenues. It was probably the hubris from having won the war against the French and feeling no need to compromise that led to a lack of consultation or even refusal to consider the colonists' petitions.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 4:11:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2013 5:38:34 PM PST
Suet says:
Thank you, Bairn. You think the colonists would have accepted an equitable sharing of the debt burden provided it was spelled out clearly? I agree that British policy was a confused mess, but I doubt if spelling it out clearly would have improved matters. Quite the reverse, actually!

"Representation", in the context of the time, could only have meant direct represention in Parliament, and there's the problem. It would have buggered up the delicate, irrational but working mechanism of Westminster, and I don't think any British statesman could have gone along with it. Did even Pitt or Burke suggest such a thing?

So there was no way out, eh? Oh well, although it could have been better, it didn't turn out too badly in the end.

P.S. I see my nemesis is back. :(

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 4:27:13 PM PST
Clog says:
I don't know what the vision was for what should happen when the colonies matured politically and economically.

There were serious institutional changes in Britain in the time period between the granting of the original royal charters and the Revolution. There were new ideas of the Enlightenment. Scottish and French.

It was one of those things where the Gordian knot had to be severed at some point.

At least a militaristic solution didn't prevail that would've created a cancer of servitude in the British body politic. Chatham was worried about that.

Posted on Mar 9, 2013 4:34:58 PM PST
jpl says:
Could the American Revolution have been avoided?

jpl: Did you create a time machine?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 4:43:02 PM PST
Suet says:
"There were serious institutional changes in Britain in the time period between the granting of the original royal charters and the Revolution."

That's true, and there were even more serious institutional changes in the next 70 years. If you guys could have come to the boil about 1840, things might have turned out differently. Oh well ...

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 4:45:54 PM PST
Suet says:
"Did you create a time machine?"

THAT'S what we need!
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  11
Total posts:  34
Initial post:  Mar 8, 2013
Latest post:  Mar 11, 2013

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