You are currently browsing the daily archive for July 3, 2011.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my American readers — wherever they are in the world — a happy Independence Day.

School history no longer being what it was, it seemed apposite to refresh our memories or, for younger readers, add a few complexities to the history behind the War of Independence.

The original, thirteen colonies were a diverse group.  Colonists settled them for different reasons, therefore, each one ended up with a distinct character. Some were founded for religious freedom, others for trade opportunities. Geographically, the terrain and climate shaped commerce and society. Some colonies were more supportive of their homeland than others. They were not universally one in mind and spirit. Furthermore, not everyone perceived a common enemy — Great Britain and King George III.

It is regrettable that a larger number of Christians in America lack an understanding — therefore, an appreciation — of what the Patriots went through to gain the colonies’ independence.  I was sorry to read some months ago that John MacArthur — old enough to know better — said that America succeeded despite her ‘rebellion’, citing Romans 13.  (Yes, I believe that MacArthur shows an unbelievably good understanding of the Gospel, despite his belief in ‘leaky Dispensationalism’ [a weakened perspective of the Rapture], as I, along with many confessional readers, am an amillenialist.)  A surprising number of Protestant laymen in America agree with MacArthur before admitting, ‘Well, to be truthful, I don’t know much about our history’.  Wow.  Let’s hope they’re not homeschooling!

When I was growing up, making a statement such as MacArthur’s would have landed you a thump — physical or verbal.  It would have been preceded by, ‘What are you, some kind of Commie?’  And, indeed, the story behind the American Revolution is a complex one, giving rise to polarised viewpoints, not unlike those of MacArthur and uneducated Americans.  Yet, having had a good background in history during primary and high school years, I cannot help but appreciate what the Revolutionary soldiers and the Founding Fathers, such as George Washington (pictured above, courtesy of e-how.com), accomplished in their creation of the Great Republic.

A book which appeared earlier this year gives us greater insight as to what happened during the War of Independence, including all the complex nuances.  The book is called Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War by Thomas Allen.  The Economist reviewed it in their January 8, 2011 issue.  What follow are a few excerpts from the review.

The number of loyalists versus patriots:

Mr Allen points out that although Loyalists were a minority—in the end perhaps no more than one-fifth of the colonists—in many places they were a very substantial proportion of the population of the colonies.

Where loyalists fled:

In the end, some 80,000 quit the new republic for Britain, the British colonies in the Caribbean and especially for Canada, where their influence has been lasting.

The predicament of slaves, freemen and Native Americans:

One tragic group were the black freedmen, in danger of being re-enslaved on the orders of George Washington. (At least one of them had belonged to Thomas Jefferson.) They were eventually allowed to emigrate to Nova Scotia, but were so badly treated there that they moved on to West Africa, where they became Sierra Leone’s elite, founding the capital, Freetown …

Many slaves, tempted by freedom, joined Loyalist units, such as Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment; so did many, though not all, of the Native American tribes on the frontier.

Tenant farmers:

Some tenant farmers fought alongside their Tory landlords, while others were Loyalists out of hostility to Patriot landlords. Some were tempted by promises of land, others by the fact that the king’s armies paid in a gold-backed currency, not paper dollars.

Divisions by Christian denomination and nationality:

Presbyterians were apt to be Patriots, Anglicans often Tories … Quakers and Catholics sided with the king, and so did many settlers of German and Dutch origin, as well as most Scots Highlanders, who had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Hanoverian crown in defeat and were not about to go back on it.

The review closes by mentioning the — shock, horror — ‘brutality’ of it all.  Well, of course, it was brutal.  This was the 18th century, after all, when such warfare and civil punishments were the norm throughout the world and still occur in many countries today. What the article neglects to mention is that America’s Founding Fathers went on to forbid ‘cruel and inhumane’ punishment.

The price of American freedom was a great one.  Those who have read accounts of the various battles will wonder how a scrappy, rag-tag bunch of earnest patriots fighting against unfair taxation could ever have defeated the mighty British forces.  The older I get, the more I ponder how it happened. Surely, it was God’s will?

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