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Topic: British Version of the American Revolution

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bonham2

1. Posted:

I know this is mainly a British site, so I figured this would be a good place to ask. Recently, I've been interested in reading about what the British think about the American Revolution. What's it called in England? Do they even teach it in the schools? Our version in King George was a tyrant who taxed us unfairly and employed brutal tactics to keep us in line. Through some research, I've seen that this isn't entirely accurate. We think of George Washington, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jeffereson, and General Charles Lee as heroes, and the loyalists were traitors.

What do the British think about this stuff?

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Bulbousaur

2. Posted:

We just don't talk about it in schools at all to be honest, and almost all my knowledge of it comes from American television, limited research on Wikipedia and Assassin's Creed 3. We just call it the American Revolution. In my mind the Americans were the 'good guys' in this war (apart from the fact they were more or less against the Native Americans)

King George doesn't really get mentioned that much, apart from the fact he had a mental illness later in his life which has now been identified as porphyria, which made him basically go insane.

Edited on by Bulbousaur

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bonham2

3. Posted:

It's interesting that you would think Americans were the good guys. Everything I'm reading is really saying the opposite. We were rebels. King George tried to tax us in order to pay for defending us and we rejected all of the taxes. The Stamp Act (which was the catalyst for starting the war) was only created after we rejected like 10 other taxes). We wanted to be represented in Parliament as British citizens, but we didn't want any of those pesky taxes that went along with being a British citizen. And some of the stuff I read basically said that England was hoping to keep us as colonies and allies, so when they avoided completely squashing us at the beginning of the war in an attempt to find a more peaceful resolution.

It almost seems like England did everything they could to help us and we were just being unreasonable.

Edited on by bonham2

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Bulbousaur

4. Posted:

My limited knowledge on the subject might explain it, mainly due to schools here simply not teaching it. Its important to gain all the facts about the war, but British schools can't just go talking badly about the 'heroes' of our closest international ally.

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Klimbatize

5. Posted:

bonham2 wrote:

The Stamp Act (which was the catalyst for starting the war) was only created after we rejected like 10 other taxes). We wanted to be represented in Parliament as British citizens, but we didn't want any of those pesky taxes that went along with being a British citizen.

Where do you go to school?

The Stamp Act was a move that was going to curb American enterprise. It stated that any legal documents in the Colonies had to be printed on a specific paper that was only produced by Britain. It killed competition and would have dealt a huge financial blow to emerging businesses. And the Stamp Act wasn't the only tax coming down on the Colonies. Britain was looking to tax anything they could while also trying to force the Colonies to only purchase goods from the Britain. The bottom line is England was swimming in massive amounts of debt because of their quest to "make the world England". They spread themselves too thin, and a quick way to raise some cash was tax just about anything they could. As a side note, the US is now in a similar predicament with spreading themselves too thin and have now amassed staggering amounts of debt. The only difference is taxes are going down. It hardly matters as the largest percentage of the budget goes towards military spending; the only way the US will ever lower their debt is to stop spending so much on military operations...which is what Britain should have done as well.

Also, the Colonies weren't saying "we want representation, and oh yeah, don't tax us either". The whole point was if they were going to get taxed, they wanted representatives with actual power to participate in Parliament. "Taxation without representation" was a common revolutionary slogan.

Basically it all boiled down to money. Britain didn't have any, and they wanted to get as much as they could out of the Colonies without actually giving them anything in return.

Edited on by Klimbatize

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SkywardLink98

6. Posted:

bonham2 wrote:

We wanted to be represented in Parliament as British citizens, but we didn't want any of those pesky taxes that went along with being a British citizen.

No. Just no. We wanted to be represented, if we were gonna be taxed, we get to be in parliament. If you don't represent us in parliament, we won't pay your taxes. Now, I suppose the saying "The victor writes history" could be in affect here, but it wasn't we didn't want to be taxed. We were fine with paying fair tax but only if we were represented. And on top of it, the money wasn't going for our protection it was going for Britain's and the wars they waged over there.

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bonham2

7. Posted:

The arguments from the last 2 posts are exactly what I learned in school. To answer your question Donkey, I didn't read this stuff in school. I've read it in various books and online articles talking about the other side of the story. I honestly don't know what is true. I know what our version of it is, but what's the other side?

I know that we felt we were being taxed unfairly and didn't have representation in Parliament. This is the exact opposite of what British historians say though. They say that the American colonists wanted no taxes. England was taxing us with the sole purpose of funding the protection of the colonies, but the colonists rejected every tax imposed upon them. British citizens in England were not given the choice to avoid taxes, but the colonists felt they shouldn't have to pay them. So after multiple rejected taxes, King George instituted the Stamp Act which did exactly what you said. That was the icing on the cake in the colonies. As far as representation is concerned, historians say that we were offered representation in Parliament. We had a representative for each colony, but we didn't feel that was enough.

I'm not saying I believe this stuff, I'm just interested in the other side of the story. It's true that history is written by the victor, but as a result, it's usually not entirely accurate. In these other perspectives I've read, George Washington was pretty much one of the most despicable humans in history. If England won the war, how would it be remembered? I think George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, etc. would just be more traitors in history (probably not even remembered).

I pretty much expected what Bulby said about not studying the American Revolution in school. I am surprised by his response about learning everything about it from American TV.

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Birdman

8. Posted:

I'm going to throw this out about American representation in Parliament pre-Revolution: technically, they were represented through a governing philosophy known as "Virtual Representation": the idea that any member of Parliament represented the entirety of the British Empire. iirc, this was a thinly-veiled excuse for the London aristocracy to pull out any time someone complained about lack of representation, be it the American colonists, or the citizens of Manchester (which also lacked Parliament members from there at this time). As for actual colonial representation, I believe the colonists were offered 2-3 nonvoting representatives in Parliament, who, since they only voiced colonial concerns but couldn't act on them, were deemed unsatisfactory by the Revolutionaries.

As for the issue of taxation, it was about the Americans wanting their say in what they had to do with their money. Even though the French-Indian War (1757-1763, which practically bankrupted Britain and started their taxation of the colonies) was started by the colonists, Britain's moves to maintain financial solvency and prevent future conflicts were done without the consent of the colonies. They felt their rights as British citizens were being violated, which led to protests of things like the Stamp Act, which, as Parliament was unwilling to bend to their demands, led to the British attempting to suppress the colonists, which led to a vicious cycle eventually resulting in the American Revolution. It's not that they were unwilling to pay reasonable taxes; they simply wanted to have some say in what taxes they paid.

Exactly.
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bonham2

9. Posted:

Thanks for your input. I'm curious as to where you are from and where you're getting your information. I'm certainly not debating you, I'm just curious. Is this an American perspective, British perspective, or considered to be fact? I'm guessing "fact" is debatable depending on who's telling the story. Your version certainly seems to have a little of each story, which is probably where the truth lies.

My thought on this issue is that in any war, both sides think they're right. England probably believed whole-heartily that the colonists were rebels and that they were given every opportunity to fall in line. I'm interested in what they thought of some of our "heroes" from that time. We loved Washington so much, we named our capitol after him, made him president, and put his face on a mountain. If England won, would he be remembered as a terrible human being like Hitler or Stalin?

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Birdman

10. Posted:

@bonham2 - I'm an American living in the South Suburbs of Chicago, and that information is that which I was taught in my AP US History course at my high school two years ago. I got a 5 on that test, the highest score possible on the exam, passed the class with an A average, and was on good terms with my teacher, who, despite not being the main teacher of the subject at school, is pretty much best friends with the main one (to the point he picked up playing tennis to be a volunteer assistant to the teacher after the official 2nd coaching position was cut). He did a good job presenting lesser-known (i.e. not completely patriotic and mainstream info) about the subject, and I've augmented that with some personal fact finding.

As for British perspective on the Americans at the time, it's hard to say. That wasn't covered heavily in class (1 school year to teach everything from Pre-Columbus America up to the mid-1970's - Nixon era), but I can tell you he did a good job de-legendifying figures like Washington (pointing out that he freed his slaves only posthumously, that there was debate as to whether Horatio Gates, the victor at Saratoga, should replace him, that his desire to fight a traditional European-style war over a more practical guerrilla war nearly lost him the war and probably led to unnecessary deaths, etc.) and presented most of it in the most unbiased way possible (even controversial stuff). Anyway, British perspective: from what I recall, the aristocratic control of Britain led to their opinion being the opinion that mattered. Public (i.e. aristocratic) confidence in Britain over the war eroded as the war dragged on (much like with the Afghanistan/Iraq wars in modern times), with the killing blow being Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, which led to the opening of peace talks and the end of the war. I'm sure there were dissenters in Britain to the war, but they didn't control the armies.

Keep in mind that, even in America, only one third of colonists supported separation from England, while another third remained loyal to the crown, and the last third were indifferent to the struggle. Winners write history, and the winners in America held onto power for nearly 50 years after the war, while the Loyalists either left to other parts of the Empire or fell silent and the indifferent third continued on being indifferent, and these combined wrote the history we hear about so much today.

As for how the British would feel about people like Washington today if they had won, that's nearly impossible to say. You'd have to see how an additional 250 or so years of history would play out, and that could include everything from additional American Revolutions that may come after the first one failed, to what would happen to Britain without American separation (A World War 2-type event occurring in a different geopolitical climate comes to mind). Of course, I'm sure opinion on figures like Washington in Britain have softened due to time, but who knows. They could be simple opposition figures, Guy Fawkes-esque figures, or nothing at all. Who knows?

Exactly.
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Jack_Package

11. Posted:

You know, I don't think this is as big of a part of British history as it is American. We've had much bigger, more important wars than this one.

Edited on by Jack_Package

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Inazuma_Pikpik

12. Posted:

History is recorded by the victor, so George Washington and company are heroes and King George is a tyrant.

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bonham2

13. Posted:

Towels wrote:

You know, I don't think this is as big of a part of British history as it is American. We've had much bigger, more important wars than this one.

Well yeah. You guys have been around a lot longer than us, so I assume you have way more history to cover in your British History classes (if you even have those). We spend a few school years going through "World History" which basically covers everything non-US very vaguely. We spend a large portion of our US History courses learning about the colonies, Revolution, and birth of our nation. George Washington is one of, if not the, biggest heroes of our history.

I pretty much figured what you said. I figured you guys just don't really care about it that much. I was just wondering if your country had a different opinion/view point on the topic.

@Birdman - I wasn't doubting your information. I was questioning where you got your information. As an American taught in an American school, I think you and I learned pretty much the same information. It sounds like you were given a few insights in the way GW really was, but other than that, your info is exactly what I learned. I'm simply questioning the other side. I'm sure nearly every losing country in every war fought believes that they were right or "the good guys". So how would they view us and make us the bad guys here?

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Blaze

14. Posted:

Towels wrote:

You know, I don't think this is as big of a part of British history as it is American. We've had much bigger, more important wars than this one.

This. I think I vaguely remember studying the American Revolution for a six week period and then I never heard of it ever again. :3

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Nestalgic

15. Posted:

bonham2 wrote:

It's interesting that you would think Americans were the good guys. Everything I'm reading is really saying the opposite. We were rebels. King George tried to tax us in order to pay for defending us and we rejected all of the taxes. The Stamp Act (which was the catalyst for starting the war) was only created after we rejected like 10 other taxes). We wanted to be represented in Parliament as British citizens, but we didn't want any of those pesky taxes that went along with being a British citizen. And some of the stuff I read basically said that England was hoping to keep us as colonies and allies, so when they avoided completely squashing us at the beginning of the war in an attempt to find a more peaceful resolution.

It almost seems like England did everything they could to help us and we were just being unreasonable.

That's such a twisted story. The colonists refused taxation because the British Empire refused to provide any parliamentary seats outside of England. Thus the whole "no taxation without representation" mantra that led to the rebellion.

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Nestalgic

16. Posted:

MetallicDonkey wrote:

bonham2 wrote:

The Stamp Act (which was the catalyst for starting the war) was only created after we rejected like 10 other taxes). We wanted to be represented in Parliament as British citizens, but we didn't want any of those pesky taxes that went along with being a British citizen.

Where do you go to school?

The Stamp Act was a move that was going to curb American enterprise. It stated that any legal documents in the Colonies had to be printed on a specific paper that was only produced by Britain. It killed competition and would have dealt a huge financial blow to emerging businesses. And the Stamp Act wasn't the only tax coming down on the Colonies. Britain was looking to tax anything they could while also trying to force the Colonies to only purchase goods from the Britain. The bottom line is England was swimming in massive amounts of debt because of their quest to "make the world England". They spread themselves too thin, and a quick way to raise some cash was tax just about anything they could. As a side note, the US is now in a similar predicament with spreading themselves too thin and have now amassed staggering amounts of debt. The only difference is taxes are going down. It hardly matters as the largest percentage of the budget goes towards military spending; the only way the US will ever lower their debt is to stop spending so much on military operations...which is what Britain should have done as well.

Also, the Colonies weren't saying "we want representation, and oh yeah, don't tax us either". The whole point was if they were going to get taxed, they wanted representatives with actual power to participate in Parliament. "Taxation without representation" was a common revolutionary slogan.

Basically it all boiled down to money. Britain didn't have any, and they wanted to get as much as they could out of the Colonies without actually giving them anything in return.

Well that's also partly incorrect. The largest portion of the US budget does not go to the military. It goes to entitlements. The largest portion of discretionary spending goes to the military though. That might have been what you were referring to. But then again, even if we cut the Pentagon budget to $0, we'd still be in a hole right now.

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The_Fox

17. Posted:

The revolution was the result of a hundred different differences between the colonists and England. The Quartering Act, Townshed Acts, Stamp Act, Declaratory Act and dozens of other political missteps led to an environment that was ripe for revolution. It was much, much more complicated than "England did everything they could to help us and we were just being unreasonable".

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k8sMum

18. Posted:

@nestalgic:
Well that's also partly incorrect. The largest portion of the US budget does not go to the military. It goes to entitlements. The largest portion of discretionary spending goes to the military though. That might have been what you were referring to. But then again, even if we cut the Pentagon budget to $0, we'd still be in a hole right now.

that is iffy. in 2012, counting in all of the defense contracts and personnel pay and benefits, military spending amounted to 24% of the federal budget. healthcare and welfare spending account for 22% and 12% of the budget, respectively.

tbh, i don't care for the buzz word 'entitlement', as it implies something that has not been earned and is therefore not deserved. a society that does not believe decent, basic healthcare is deserved by its citizens in severely lacking in common sense at the least.

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bonham2

19. Posted:

Nestalgic wrote:

That's such a twisted story. The colonists refused taxation because the British Empire refused to provide any parliamentary seats outside of England. Thus the whole "no taxation without representation" mantra that led to the rebellion.

Right. I am perfectly well aware of our version. I obviously know about "no taxation without representation." I am simply interested in the other side of the story. For example, I'm sure Britain felt that they were represented adequately.

The_Fox wrote:

The revolution was the result of a hundred different differences between the colonists and England. The Quartering Act, Townshed Acts, Stamp Act, Declaratory Act and dozens of other political missteps led to an environment that was ripe for revolution. It was much, much more complicated than "England did everything they could to help us and we were just being unreasonable".

I know about all the Acts. I just didn't feel like going into it.

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C-Olimar

20. Posted:

From what I gather both sides weren't exactly good guys. The Americans had the stronger moral leg to stand on though.
I haven't actually studied it yet, though I am currently doing the American Civil war (as well as the English Civil war).

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