Last week covered causes for the revolution.
Today I'm covering the philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence and the war conducted under General Howe.
1. From other histories I've read of the revolution there is mention of John Locke, who was a member of parliament exiled for his subversive writing. Others mentioned are Montesquieu and Rousseau both French.
Fisher lists a progression of philosophers that came before Locke. Burlamaqui, an Italian Swiss, Beccaria, Italian, Grotius, Dutch, and Puffendorf, German.
Of all of these he cites Burlamaqui the most and the others followed his thoughts. The one name on the list he says does not belong is Rousseau.
All these men concern themselves with natural law. To all but Rousseau they define this to mean natural legal law that allows society the pursuit of happiness for the citizens. The predominate point of their philosophy was "The people rule by consent."
This thought was validated by the Glorious Revolution when Parliament, forced King James II to flee and installed William III and Mary II as dual monarchs based on Parliaments consent to be governed by them.
Rousseau's thoughts and others of similar thought which led to the excesses of the French Revolution thought of natural law as the "law of the jungle" or the condition of tribes. Colonists living in fear on the frontier would not consider this appealing.
2. General Sir William Howe as commander of British forces in America.
William Howe fought in America during the Seven Years War. His elder brother was a commander and treated the American militia under his command with respect. He died at Ticonderoga and was mourned. A statue was erected in his honor.
William new the colonies and the Americans, he did not underestimate their ability to fight. He was a Whig member of Parliament as were Cornwallis. Burgoyne and Grant were Tories.
The troubles in the colonies and their disobedience to British law gave the Tories control of parliament and the government. They were for... wait for it.... Law and Order.
The Whigs being on the short end of the votes were for conciliation. They were against the harsh measures and taxes from the Stamp Act on. Not in the book, but from my term paper in the revolution class on William Pitt, he said in parliament when news came of the colonies refusing to buy the stamps, "I rejoice that they have resisted. For by this they have proven themselves the sons and not the bastards of England."
Howe said when pressure mounted to send troops to pacify the colonies, that he would not accept command.
The Tories politically could not stomp on the colonies as they wanted, there would be a backlash and the Whigs would regain power. The also feared France would come to their aid making for a bigger war.
Howe being an officer of the Army was ordered by the King to take command in the colonies. He couldn't refuse.
He was under orders to approach the war with a combination of sword and olive branch. We'd reverse the phrase with carrot and stick.
3. Bunker Hill and Saratoga.
When Howe arrived in Boston, he was under the command of General Gage. It was on his command that the Howe and General Pigot were to attack the rebel forces dug in on Breeds Hill. Colonel William Prescott moved down to Bunker Hill with part of the force.
Howe and Pigot following orders had their men line up in bright red wool coats in July with crossed white belts over their chest and wearing 60lbs packs. Gage wanted to impress on the rebels the glory of the Army by staging a parade.
Twice the two parts of the pincer movement marched to 50 yards of the rebels to be mowed down like grass. The third time Howe disobeyed orders and let his men drop their packs.
The rebels ran out of ammunition and were driven from the hill. Howe was dressed down by Gage for not following up his victory by pursuing the enemy. Howe responded by saying he didn't want to lead his men into a trap should the rebels have an even larger force waiting for him.
The books I've read mention that this psychologically damaged Howe for the rest of the war and he would not attack the rebels in a direct assault.
Fisher correctly mentions that Howe was furious at the stupidity of Gage who all0wed 2,000 casualties needlessly. In the two battles he commanded he used the indirect approach to drive the rebels out of their position.
What I took away from Howe's decisions and Fisher points this out, is that he followed orders by using olive branch. When forced to fight he let the rebels retreat hoping they would give up. This resulted in few battle casualties for both sides.
What caught me by surprise is his evaluation of Valley Forge. We celebrate Washington keeping the army together while they were freezing and starving. Fisher points out that Howe was in Philadelphia with 20,000 troops, and they were warm and well fed. From the farms around the same area as Valley Forge. The farmers were loyalist or least got paid for their provisions. The rebels only source of food was attacking the wagons taking supplies to Philidelphia. Those caught were marched through the city in their rags and only skin and bones as propaganda for the colonists to give up. They were then sent home if they signed a loyalty oath not to fight again. Which they had no intention of keeping. Another part of the olive branch.
His open defiance was concerning Burgoyne and his march from Canada to Saratoga. Howe was ordered to march up the Hudson River and join him, but the order did say it was his decision to remain and defend his position if he deemed it necessary.
Burgoyne marched down and found defeat at Saratoga for lack of support from Howe. My interpretation of Howe's refusal to join the Tory general, is that he wanted him to face the same problem that Gage had at Lexington and Concorde. He wanted his march to be devastating, but not a total defeat.
Here I have a bone to pick with Fisher. He gives Gates credit for Saratoga. Benedict Arnold wasn't in command, but he led the battle and turned defeat into victory while Gates was hiding behind the lines. Arnold lost a leg in that battle.
4. French Alliance.
The reason for the olive branch given by the Tories is that if they went with only the sword France might come to their aid.
The Americans needed a European ally, but feared that when the British were sent home, France would claim the colonies for themselves.
5. Plan B for revolution was if the British won the war that the rebels would move on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains, beyond the reach of the British waiting for a fight in the future. I'd never considered that possibility or heard it mentioned in all my other histories.
Next week the conclusion to the war.