Monday, July 08, 2019

Ave, Mike!

My buddy Mike went nuts and blogged up a storm a few weeks after his 50th birthday this past June 15.

His blow-by-blow of a colonoscopy is here. (My turn is coming, alas.)

His list of the Top Five Founders of the country is here.

His "Happy Fourth!" post (complete with bikini-clad chickadees) is here.

That last post quotes the Declaration of Independence. Of interest to me was this part:

[King George III] has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

One complaint about 2000's "The Patriot," starring Mel Gibson, was the supposed inaccuracy of portraying British troops as barbaric. (The movie features a scene in which innocent colonists are burned alive inside a church.) But the above words of Thomas Jefferson would seem to indicate that British barbarity was indeed the order of the day. True: the above-quoted passage mentions "foreign mercenaries," but note that Jefferson writes those mercenaries are coming to "compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny." In other words: works already started by the British themselves. So was Jefferson exaggerating matters to incite revolutionary ardor, or were his words a true reflection of British depredations of the era?

Mike? You're the history buff, here. What say you?


The Maximum Leader said...

Well... British barbarity can be rather subjective. It has been a long time since I have read highly detailed accounts, but it is my recollection (subject to revision) that the British didn't wantonly burn and pillage. After all about a 1/3rd of the population of the colonies remained loyal during the Revolution. (Many loyalists emigrated to Canada after the Treaty of Paris of 1783 - and before.) They did burn and destroy property and some towns. Generally the towns that were in open rebellion.

I don't recall when the Hessians started to arrive, but they were certainly here by 1776.

Kevin Kim said...

Would you say, then, that Jefferson's phrasing was overdramatic?

"...Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages..."

Let me step back a bit and clarify that I don't want to commit the fallacy of the excluded middle and imply that Jefferson's choice was only between depicting the British as perfectly civilized and depicting them as utterly barbaric. What I'm trying to do is locate where, on that spectrum, Jefferson's rhetoric lies. There does seem to be at least a teensy bit of a disconnect between Jefferson's purple prose and the way the British military actually conducted itself. (I can't speak for the Hessians.)