September 13, 2006

Gratuitous Historickal Posting - Colonial Division

"The Death of Wolfe" by Benjamin West

Today is the anniversary, in 1759, of the Battle of the Plain of Abraham, in which British forces under General James Wolfe launched a surprise attack up the cliffs in front of the City of Quebec and, before the city's walls, defeated the French forces under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm. Both commanders were ultimately killed in the battle, which left the British in possession of Quebec and hastened the end of French rule in Canada.

There are certain of you out there (and you know who you are) who seem to believe that I indulge in French and Indian War posting because of my Tory affections. Not so. Instead, I tell you truly that I am more and more convinved of the impossibility of understanding American Revolutionary history without first understanding American Colonial history. In other words, one can't possibly fathom the currents flowing in 1776 without also knowing the waters of 1766 and 1756. And this makes it all that much more sadder that Colonial history, as far as I can tell, receives virtually no mention in our educational system these days. (To those who mutter that this makes it much easier to tee up the Revolution as a simple fight between Noble, God-Fearing, Freedom-Loving Patriots and the Eviiiil Minions of a Swishy, Inbred Tyrant, I simply reply "Oh, hush.")

A few books I would recommend on the period, in case anybody is interested:

Francis Parkman: Montcalm & Wolfe: The French and Indian War and The Conspiracy of Pontiac. Parkman wrote much more on the subject, but these are the volumes I've read.

Fred Anderson: Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766.

Fintan O'Toole: White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America.

Without digging through the archives, I know I've reviewed all of these books before. And all of them are endlessly fascinating.

UPDATE: Basil Seal has more on the battle.

UPDATE DEUX: Full disclosure - The description of poor old George III here is based on Dave Letterman's phrase "swishy, inbred monarch" from his Top Ten list of Reasons Why The British Lost the Colonies. My favorite: "Their diet: tea and crumpets. Our diet: raw squirrel meat and whiskey."

Just don't even ask why I remember these things.

YIPS from Steve-O: I loved in the comments section the British rejoinder:

The REAL 10 reasons we didn't win:

10. We had to stop and building a huge tea-strainer to dredge Boston Harbour (and by the way, you're supposed to put the milk in first).
9. We had no idea you'd stop trying to steal each other's land for more than five minutes, let alone eight years.
8. You distracted us by giving us Frenchmen to kill.
7. We couldn't stop laughing at all your chaps who tried to stick their heads up a dead squirrel's arse.
6. Daniel Morgan confused us by pretending to be a turkey.
5. You kept stealing all our clothes and…well, we just went into battle feeling shabby.
4. You only gave us Benedict Arnold after he stopped being good at fighting and stuff.
3. You never washed so we always had to stay up-wind.
2. You lied (a lot).
1. OK, yes – Mrs Loring.

That's why you don't have proper beer, free healthcare and the right to burgle your neighbour and not get shot. And before we start pointing fingers over inbred German monarchs, let's not forget who asked Fred the Great's baby brother to take over as king……..or his answer!

I have to confess the Mrs. Loring jokes were new to me.

But I heartily concur with Robbo's reading suggestions.

Posted by Robert at September 13, 2006 11:42 AM | TrackBack

There is a very good two volume set on the political events leading up to the American Revolution, by Berhard Knollenberg.
"Origin of the American Revolution: 1759-1766 and Growth of the American Revolution: 1766-1775"

It's available at
(I don't get a commission, though I usually buy from them every year.)

Upshot: After decades of mostly benign neglect, the British Parliament took a rather ham handed attempt at taxing the American colonies, without really understanding that the nature and culture of the colonies had changed.

Posted by: rbj at September 13, 2006 11:58 AM

Liberty fund rules.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at September 13, 2006 01:58 PM

Just a little O/T, but one of my favorite Top Ten lines came from "Top Ten Reasons why Las Vegas is Cooler than Paris":

"Paris=Old men in berets riding bicycles.
Las Vegas=Chimpanzees in cowboy hats riding unicycles!"

Posted by: utron at September 13, 2006 02:25 PM

An all-around good list:

"Vegas didn't lose single inch of ground to Nazi war machine."

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 13, 2006 02:30 PM