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Thread: [History] Legacy of King George III

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    Default [History] Legacy of King George III

    Title: Legacy of King George III
    Author: Dick Cheney

    Legacy of King George III
    “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” – U.S. Declaration Of Independence

    I’m a yankee and quite proud of the American Revolution and the way it turned out, however in the case of King George III, I do believe he is deserving of revisionist history.

    King George III of course is remembered in American history as a tyrant and an enemy of the people. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence specifically names him as the main antagonist to the progressive ideas of the Founding Fathers along with freedom and democracy. Beyond American bias however, King George III is mostly remembered as a mediocre King who lost the American colonies and went mad.

    A much closer examination of the record though shows that King George III is worthy of some redemption, including praise for his ability and accomplishments.

    Some basic considerations before moving forward:

    --King George III was Britain’s longest reigning king – ruling for nearly 60 years.
    --George III presided over Britain’s agricultural revolution and industrial revolution.
    --George III presided over and won the world’s first global war – The Seven Years War (1754-1763).
    --George III never had a record of scandal -with finances or mistresses- and made efforts to separate himself from the politics and legacies of Hanover.
    --George III spoke English as his first language and was the first King of the United Kingdom (assenting to the Acts of Union in 1801).
    --George III helped secure the ascension of his heirs over the long term by reserving titles for family members, and also indirectly through the purchase of Buckingham house.
    --Opposed French imperialism, and of course, the rise of Napoleon.
    --Bankrolled successive wars with France and helped pay government debts (credit shared with ministers).
    --Was a supporter of the arts and sciences and helped established royal observatories and national libraries.
    --Assented to the end of the Slave Trade in 1807
    --Defended Britain from threat of invasion (greatest accomplishment in my view).
    --Ultimately recognized America’s Independence.

    Finally -for a contemporary opinion-, when asked by a group of school children which monarch he respected the most, The Prince of Whales mentioned George III, saying he was a "good king" who was often "misunderstood."

    Was George III a Tyrant (from the American Perspective)?

    I’m going to argue no. While the argument (and justification) for America’s independence has always been “no taxes without representation,” the counterargument has always been Parliament’s right to collect taxes – which the American colonists were unduly evading. Though the truth is somewhere in the middle, there is not enough evidence to convict George III for tyranny or ruling arbitrarily. In fact, the record for creating and instigating unfair taxes -if nothing else- shows that Parliament should be the main focus of the Declaration of Independence, and not the King himself, who in his assent to unpopular tax policies, only sought to replenish the government’s treasury from war and defend Parliament’s right to collect taxes and create laws. These acts of course are not consistent with a dictatorial ruler who was not bound by a constitution or had ignored the advice of his legislature.

    The King also had good reasons for many of his prerogatives; including mercantilism which prevented oversees trade with Britain’s enemies; and restricting settlement west of the Application Mountains, which prevented conflict with Native Americans. His assent to the removal of all colonial taxes -except for tea- also shows he was not inflexible, whereas retaliation for the Boston Tea Party could be justified as an appropriate response to a criminal act.

    All of this is not to say however that George III did not badly mismanage the American crisis or doom Britain in the Revolution. Instances of his mismanagement include the quartering of British soldiers, alliances with Native Americans, use of Hessian mercenaries, assent to the Coercive Acts (aka Intolerable Acts), blockade of Boston harbor, removal of charters and colonial appointed legislatures, denying trial by jury, and refusal to read the Olive Branch Petition. The double standard and lasting impression of these coercive measures of course (especially the last one), was that the King had refused to treat his American subjects with the same freedoms and rights that were guaranteed to all Englishmen – which was a logical argument to make, and even if not completely true, gave enough political clout and reason for the colonies to secede from Great Britain.

    It obviously did not help the King much either to proclaim the American colonies in a state of rebellion prior to the Declaration of Independence and when much of the population was still loyal to Great Britain (though the counter argument was that the colonists had fought the British Army and had planned to invade Canada). If the proper strategy then for preventing American Independence was winning hearts and minds and legitimating their concerns by granting them a seat at Parliament, then George III failed miserably and deserves the results for the American Revolution.

    However, in retrospect it is perhaps appropriate to read the King’s response to the Declaration of Independence, in which he denies ever being an enemy of the people. Placing blame instead on the Founding Fathers.

    In all, it could be argued then that the American War of Independence was less of a war against tyranny and oppression then it was in a clear disagreement between systems of government. The American colonies had long wanted cultural separation from Great Britain and had believed independence was the best way to secure their interests and prosperity.

    They had after all, immigrated from their mother country in search of a better life, new freedoms, and wealth.

    King George’s character was thus not what made him unfit to rule a free people, what made him truly unfit -in the final analysis- was that a king could not govern a people who were determined to show that they could govern themselves.

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