27 May 2009

His Majesty the King

I borrowed the illustrated edition of our book from the library, and this picture of King George (now in the public domain) was one of the first pictures in the book, preceded only by George Washington. I am sure that His Majesty the King would not have approved such placement, though of all the royalty that I have read about (not that the list is long), King George seems the most real. The least caught by the power of the throne, the closest to what would make, in my own mind, a good King. King George is definitely going to be making an appearance in my Book of Centuries.

I love the description of the King's procession (and the picture in the illustrated edition!), though I've had to look up a number of the different things described: Horse Grenadiers, which are a sort of mounted infantry that fights with explosives, Royal Horse Guards (pictured below, right), and the Yeomen of the Guard (below left), who, it turns out, are the Monarch's bodyguards and the oldest existing British Military unit. In honor of this, they still wear the old Tudor style uniform. Today, the Yeomen are strictly ceremonial, though the Wikipedia article makes it sound like they were much more functional in the time of King George III.

One thing that I find terribly interesting about King George is that both 1776 and the Wikipedia entry for him paint him as a good and honorable man. Faithful to his queen, conscientious in his duties both as a King and a Father. I find it interesting that a man trying so hard to live in a way pleasing to God would be the man to preside over the American Revolution. Of course, just like there is more to our government than the President, there is more to the English government than the King.

As interesting as the King is there are other folks, both familiar and unfamiliar to me, mentioned in this chapter. Here is a selection, though I find that Kate is right and there are a LOT of guys just mentioned around here!

Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, yes, that Lord Sandwich. Turns out that the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) were named after him. Lord Sandwich was confident of the defeat of the colonists, saying they were "raw, undisciplined, cowardly men.(Page 19, illus. ed.)"

James Grant, Laird of Ballindalloch (General James Grant in our book), a Scottish lord and member of the House of Commons, former Governor of Florida, and an officer during the French and Indian War. He also fought in the Caribbean in the Seven Years' War. The thing that I find interesting about him is that he had actually been to the American Colonies, and still boasted that "with 5,000 British regulars he could march from one end of the American continent to the other. (ibid)" Wikipedia expands on this claim, quoting him as saying that he could go from one end of the continent to the other and geld all the males. Nice guy, eh? He went on to create plans for Battle of Brooklyn, and Battle of White Plains, both British victories, but in both cases George Washington and enough of his army escaped to continue the war.

The colonies had their supporters in Parliament. These included John Wilkes, that is, John Wilkes, Lord Mayor of London, who appears to have been quite the character, in addition to supporting the cause of the colonies. Our book calls him "flamboyant;" he was thrice expelled from Parliament after he wrote a pornographic poem, and he had a reputation as a rake.

Edmund Burke, considered the father of modern conservatism, was another gentleman who weighed in in favor of the colonies. An interesting tidbit about him: Burke was Irish and Protestant, but his political enemies kept trying to get folks to think that he was Catholic (as some members of his family were) in order to disqualify him from public service.

After he talks about the people, he starts getting more into talking about the events. Here, I found that I needed a timeline. I added a bunch of the dates to my Book of Centuries, and brushed up on Lexington & Concord's "Shot Heard 'Round the World."

This is Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull, one of his "history" paintings of the Revolutionary War. It's depicting the death of General Joseph Warren. It's included in the illustrated edition, and my first thought upon looking at was: war is a terrible thing.

McCullough mentions an "Olive Branch Petition" rejected by His Majesty, but says very little about it. I found this article at Wikipedia, in addition to the full text. It's interesting to see how people talk to the king. Such bowing and scraping! Here is a sample:

Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty's royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearance of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.

So many times, things could have gone another way. A confidential letter from John Adams was intercepted and arrived in London about the same time as the Olive Branch Petition, undermining it. The King actually announced that the colonists were in a state of rebellion & seeking independence, before the colonial leaders themselves had openly said anything about it. Looking at all this with the Book of Mormon in mind, and the way that Nephi talks about the "Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity" and their conflict with their "Mother Gentiles," I have always thought of the was as being a single event with a rather foregone conclusion, in spite of having studied US History relatively closely in high school. But it becomes apparent here that the conclusion was, at this point, far from foregone. These people all had their agency. Yes, the Spirit was working with those who would listen, and the final outcome was known to the Lord beforehand, but that's not the same as the "fated to be" view that I've often taken.

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