Sunday, July 3, 2011
Happy 4th of July
Well, my friends and fellow Houselings the wheel of the year has turned and once more we find ourselves approaching a particualt time of signifigance for our American counsins. Ye it is indeed almost the 4th of July Holiday. Now apart from a wonderful mid summer break I am sure most people around the world and even here in the Antipodes have an inkling about its true origins. Yes as the common film versions of history tell us it was all about those loathsome British and their redcoated soldiers oppressing and murdering honest hardworking colonials at the orders of a distant an uncaring king. And as some would have it the right to bear arms. But we won't get into that right now. While films like the Patriot can partially convey an more modernist slanted impression, the reality was far more complex. For one support in Britain for the Colonial cause was extremely strong and the King's war in the Americas actually faced far more opposition than the US involvement in Vietnam. Officers refused to serve and resigned their commissions, gentlemen refused to pay taxes or subscriptions, papers like The Northern Briton by John Wilkes slammed the King's policies in Parliament. While at Westminster Burke, Conway, Colonel Isaac Barre and the old lion of Parliament Pitt the Elder spoke eloquently and passionate day after day in support of the rights of the colonists. It is this later point of the of the divisions created in the British Commonwealth that made the Revolution and Declaration of Independence such a tragedy of the time, it was in every way a Civil War both in the Amercian Colonies and in Britain. To make sense of all this and brign to life the multifaceted characters of the time none is better at telling the tale than Page Smith in-
A New Age Now Begins by Page Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Page Smith’s multivolume history of the United States is a phenomenal work in several large books packed with details and eyewitness reports from all sides of the both the small and larger events that shaped the path of the modern United States. Now I am not an American and as a descendant of British colonists in Australia I admit to possessing a distinctly different view of American history to others. That being said I found Page Smith presentation of the Americas of the pre Revolution and the progress of the Revolution deeply absorbing, in fact fascinating. Page Smith is quite prepared to present both side’s opinions, attitudes and angst. In doing so I feel that he brings the out the real humanity of firstly the British officers like Howe trying to solve or suppress the Rebellion. A gentleman, who found to his distress that duty and loyalty had to go before personal sympathy. The incomprehension of a King who couldn’t understand the motivations of his citizens, or the endless confusion and misunderstanding created by the Atlantic time lag and his orders.
Then we have the colonials who had grievances both real and manufactured. Whom felt pushed into an action they didn’t want to take and then under the most amazing leadership, that spanned the arc from inept to magnificent struggled to gain their interpretation of liberty and government. In all of this Page Smith takes you through month by month and in the case of moments of destiny or defeat almost minute by minute. In all this, he unlike other’s does not descend into jingoism, or hero worship. All the characters of this historical pageant are alive, some hopelessly flawed but still brave, some perceptive and farsighted but hindered by chance or support.
In the end this is not a dry recitation of revisionist history, it is alive and Page Smith as any good historian takes you to the heart of the events. I have no hesitation in recommending these first two volumes to any student of history.
Most of all it lays open the massive support the American colonists always enjoyed in Britain from all levels of society from the commoners to Parliament a fact that needs to be emphasised.
In closing a little clip from Barry Lyndon the Redcoats marching to the tune of the British Grenadiers
From the Good Doctor have a great and safe 4th of July!
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