Sunday, June 01, 2008

Clueless about George III and 1776

On the political blog Dailykos, a poster quoted the famous entry for July 4, 1776 from George III's diary: "Nothing important happened today." As is so often the case, this was described by the poster as evidence of King George's cluelessness. The American colonists' declaration of independence! Nothing important!? Ho, ho, ho! Silly old king!

The really clueless ones are those who think that news traveled across the Atlantic instantly in 1776. It didn't even travel all that quickly across the colonies or across England, let alone across 3,000 miles of water.

Also, it's usually not clear at the time how important an event is. Sure, contemporaries can see the significance of major military victories or defeats, or major assassinations. Pompous declarations are another matter. Those happen all the time during unsettled times, and most of them come to nothing.

There's also an irony here. Suppose news had traveled instantaneously in 1776. If George III had heard right away about the gathering of those treasonous colonists for the purpose of announcing their renunciation of George's rule, he would have instantaneously sent orders to the appropriate commanders in the colonies, and the signers of the Declaration of Independence would have been rounded up and hanged. Later, the British would have known about the desperate situation of Washington at Valley Forge. Cornwallis would not have been trapped while waiting for a naval evacuation that wasn't going to happen. The very slowness of communication was a major reason that the American Revolution got started and succeeded.

1 comment:

Lahdeedah said...

Well you know, honestly, would it have killed George the III to check his e-mail now and again?