Please sign in to post.

George Washington as "enemy commander"

Rick briefly mentioned the Imperial War Museum in his last podcast. I remember going there years ago, and they have dioramas of all their wars. In the one for our Revolutionary War (I don't remember their name for it), the "Enemy Commander" is listed as George Washington. It was a little shocking to see him as the "enemy," but of course from their standpoint, he was.

Posted by
16060 posts

In the one for our Revolutionary War (I don't remember their name for it),

Maybe "War Against the Land-Grabbing, Tax-Dodging Ingrates".

Posted by
8889 posts

Sam, It's the American War of Independence. I can't understand why it is called a revolution. A revolution means the overthrow of the current ruling class and a social revolution. It was neither. It was a war of the colonial ruling and land-owning (and slave-owning) class against outside control.

Posted by
1292 posts

All the founding fathers were also technically committing treason against the lawful government of the day, which is possibly where the 'revolution' comes from. It they had failed hanging would 'have been too good for them', the punishment for treason until the 1820s was hanging, drawing and quartering.

Chris makes a valid point. It is the American War of Independence in the UK, not the Revolution. In late 18th century terms when 'Revolution' is uttered, it is France that is meant. Now that was a proper revolution....

Posted by
8946 posts

A revolution means the overthrow of the current ruling class and a
social revolution.

That's one type of revolution. Most historian's would say the American version was a conservative movement to protect the interests of land owners and hinder the exploitation of natural resources by the British.

In any event, we won, therefore can call it whatever we like:)

https://youtu.be/8lMOL7GaPWI

Posted by
2353 posts

While the American colonies were somewhat autonomous they were taxed by the British Parliament but had no representation there. It was a revolution as it the actions that led to the war brought about a quick political change, ie. the forming of a new government. While it was a minor blip in the course of British history it is where the USA started.

Posted by
4528 posts

The USA ended up with a government system with an elected monarch.

The UK ended up with a government system with a hereditary president.

Discuss.

(I remember that one being posed when I was back at school ...)

Posted by
7124 posts

Interesting Marco. I guess it depends if your elected monarch is an absolute one. The way Congress has stymied recent US Presidents, I would dispute that comparison. The Queen though, with no real political power, can rightly be seen as a just a figurehead.

Meanwhile, here in Australia, we are yet to 'complete' our battle for full independence.

Posted by
8889 posts

Marco, True
In the 1700's and 1800's the British political system was in a process of evolution from royal rule to parliamentary rule. The American colonists took a view of the then current British system, even a slightly outdated view, froze it and added fixes for the perceived problems at that point in time. So they elected a monarch, but added limitations in that person's power.
The British system carried on evolving so within a few decades the monarchs role had reduced to merely symbolic, and the struggle became one between the vested interest minority who had the vote (and the money), and the majority who didn't. This second evolution ended with universal suffrage.
Yes, the US system could be described as a copy of the British system from the second half of the 1700's, with Band-Aids applied. And the monarch is now merely a figurehead.

Posted by
1292 posts

The USA ended up with a government system with an elected monarch.
The UK ended up with a government system with a hereditary president.
Discuss.
(I remember that one being posed when I was back at school ...)

I got that one at school as well.

The general view was a misunderstanding of where the British constitution was going, the monarchy losing power to the legislature.

One of my teachers commented that Europe's and the Commonwealth Realms constitutional monarchies - the UK, Canada Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg - acted more as republics than some republics such as France, the USA, Portugal where the president is a constrained absolute monarch.

Posted by
1292 posts

Meanwhile, here in Australia, we are yet to 'complete' our battle for full independence.

Ah, but the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Queen of Australia are legally different people. Hence the Queen's father is one of the few people in history to have been at war with themselves, as King of India and King of Pakistan.

When The Queen is in another Commonwealth Realm we have to have in the UK a regent. Charles has already been our de facto head of state when his mother has doing her duty to Australia etc.

Posted by
2353 posts

So true MrsEB! Checks & Balances as it were.

A Monarch has unlimited power - a United States President does not. He can veto the Congress - the Congress can vote not to pass legislation even if the Pres wants it and the Supreme Court can tell them all to go to Heck that a law they just passed is not Constitutional. The people can vote any elected official out and the congress can impeach a President.

When was the last Monarch impeached or voted out?

Is it perfect? No so much - but for the most part it does work - albeit very slowly at times.

Posted by
7124 posts

Getting back to the original post, it does seem rather insensitive, given the close relationship the two countries now enjoy, that an esteemed institution such as the Imperial War Museum would refer to "enemy commander".

Posted by
5654 posts

One country's "founding father" is an other country's "enemy commander".

Also brings to mind the horribly inaccurate Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot". One country's "patriot" may be another country's "terrorist".

Posted by
2353 posts

It's all a part of history. No reason to forget it or wash over it - that is hopefully how we, as humanity, learn.

Posted by
5979 posts

Just recently in Colombia, where they referred to Sir Francis Drake as Drake the Pirate. So it is definitely a matter of perspective.

Posted by
448 posts

In a similar vein, the military museum in Istanbul shows the Crusades from the viewpoint of Muslim soldiers (eg, the Knights Templars are getting a thrashing) and the campaign at Gallipoli from the Turkish viewpoint.

Posted by
448 posts

BTW: Was the Revolutionary War exhibition really at the Imperial War Museum? I thought the IWM focused on 20th and 21st century wars starting with the South African campaign against the Boers in the late 1890s. This sounds like an exhibition at the Army Museum in the Chelsea neighborhood of London. That museum covers England's wars going back many centuries.

Posted by
7124 posts

The view portrayed can even vary for those fighting on the same side, as with Gallipoli (mentioned above) where the Australian view is of bumbling British command.

Posted by
5634 posts

The poster said " I remember going there years ago..."

Anyone who has been to the "new" IWM care to comment if this still exists? I'll take Vegas odds it doesn't.

Posted by
4874 posts

History as viewed by the other side will have a different slant. No problem with that. As a student of British History, in my opinion, our Revolution for US independence was revolutionary, since it established the principle that the citizens had natural rights flowing from God rather than from a hereditary sovereign. However, much of our new system was based on our heritage from the mother country. Americans improved the old system.

The new system was so new for the late 18th Century that it was revolutionary. Universal suffrage for free males was revolutionary, as well as other rights associated with our Bill of Rights. Our founding fathers were not Marxist revolutionaries, thank God, but valued the principles of freedom. Without the foundation of the English Common Law, protection of property rights, trial by jury and others flowing from the mother country, not sue it would have happened as it did.

Posted by
1292 posts

When was the last Monarch impeached or voted out?
Is it perfect? No so much - but for the most part it does work - albeit very slowly at times

James VII/II in the UK was deposed by parliament, Isabel II in Spain as well. The last impeachments in the UK were in the nineteenth century, they are no longer constitutionally required as the government requires the consent of parliament. It survives in presidential systems because of the break. But in all the remaining constitutional monarchies there are ways of removing a monarch from office, but as so little real political power rests with the monarch this tends to be theoretical in practice.

As for unlimited power, even in the days of absolutism, prior to the revolutions of the 1790s and 1848, there were always checks on the monarch's power. British monarchs, Scottish or English, never had the power to make law as they were not part of parliament.

Posted by
2353 posts

I love history - I have spent much of my adult life becoming familiar with world history - it is always fun & interesting to get other perspectives on it. Probably one of the biggest reasons I travel. I love traveling with a smart phone these days as I can instantly google about those places I am visiting or look up an art piece or historical artifact. I may not remember every fact I read but hope it helps me understand the essence of people, places, things and times.

We had a lot guests in our B&B from the UK, many had just come from Boston, Lexington, Concord, Plymouth, etc. They were very interested in learning about our history and yes several remarked it was a little strange seeing the British as the enemy!

Posted by
911 posts

The first time I came across this was my first tour of the Tower of London after my senior year of high school. The Yeomen Warder had a lot of Americans in his group and while grinning at us called it the American Rebellion. I guess it would have been considered treason, but without representation I don't know that I would consider it that. As said, all about perspective. During Scotland's war for independence from England, James Douglas was considered a scourge by the English and known as the Black Douglas, but a hero by the Scots.

Posted by
1292 posts

I guess it would have been considered treason, but without representation I don't know that I would consider it that.

At its simplest treason is rebellion against the lawful authority, in word or in deed. Which is what the Americans were doing. Representation never came into it, and still does not.

What this thread is showing is how one country's history looks completely different through the lens of another. Also the things we chose to commemorate or omit, on the money, on stamps, or on street and building names, can be bizarre from an outsider viewpoint.

Posted by
448 posts

Claudia:

I visited the Imperial War Museum in 1998, 2010, 2012, and 2014. At no time was there any exhibition material that predated the Boer War of the late 1890s. I remember this vividly because the British claimed to have developed the concept of the concentration camp during their campaign against the Boers - an unfortunate feature of modern conflict.

Here is IMW's self description from their web page:
"IWM London

"Our London museum tells the stories of people’s experiences of modern war from WW1 to conflicts today"

An exhibit pertaining to our American Revolutionary War would have been found in the National Army museum or at one or more of the regimental museums based in London.

Posted by
4528 posts

I thought that would spark off some discussion ... it is easily possible to argue each way.

The British constitution had moved on along way in the 18th century, mainly through the accident having 2 monarchs that didn't speak English much although some pertinent events were before that, such as the Glorious Revolution. The governance of the colonies especially their relationship with both UK parliament and the Crown had not moved on so much.

The relationship between the Crown and the British people is more complicated that is often realised. The former is in its position - particularly the individual - ultimately at the will of the people.

The online page where Washington is assessed against other of Britain's 'foes' is at http://www.nam.ac.uk/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/enemy-commanders-britains-greatest-foes/george-washington

Posted by
4666 posts

King Constantine II of Greece was deposed by referendum in 1974 due to what large parts of the population viewed as his dubiously friendly attitude towards the right-wing military dictatorship that had ruled the country in 1967-73.

Posted by
4 posts

OK, I had the wrong museum . . . but the "enemy commander" thing is something you don't forget, especially if you were a soldier at the time.

Posted by
3533 posts

George Washington was a general in the British Army in the aftermath of Britain capturing Quebec. Americans call that the French and Indian War. He lost a significant battle in the interior.

Posted by
3184 posts

Since the concepts of the American Revolution have had a wider and deeper global influence than Revolutions in Russia or China or France, I think that speaks for itself. Just because it wasn't particularly destructive doesn't deligitimize its revolutionary quality.

Posted by
1939 posts

Not to digress even further off the original point, but Washington was never a General in the British Army - was never even a regular officer in fact. Only served in the Colonial Militia (Virginia). The story of how he single handedly began the French and Indian War is an interesting one.

Posted by
16060 posts

The story of how he single handedly began the French and Indian War is an interesting one.

I'd love to hear the reference for that one.

He lost a significant battle in the interior.

If you are referring to the aborted British expedition to expel the French from Fort Duquesne (now grown up to be known as Pittsburgh), I believe the British General Braddock was in command at the time and lost his life when they were ambushed short of their goal in what is now Braddock, PA. The site of the battle is now the parking lot of the Giant Eagle Supermarket. Colonel Washington had to take command and lead the retreat.

Posted by
1939 posts

"I'd love to hear the reference for that one."
Try "His Excellency" by J.J Ellis, and "Realistic Visionary" by P. Henriques.
Refers to the massacre of a French diplomatic mission under Jumonville by troops under Washington's command. As part of his parole at Fort Necessity Washington signed a confession and accepted responsibility for losing control of his men which resulted in the atrocity. The International Incident that it became is viewed by many scholars as the catalyst that escalated diplomatic tensions between the English and the French into full scale war. Not Washington's finest hour....but he did get better with age.

Posted by
911 posts

Mc- If you consider the British the lawful authority absolutely, but what if you didn't?

Love this thread.

Posted by
1292 posts

jlkelman, in terms of the time, the British crown was the lawful authority. As any group that would like to change something now, in any country, the answer if you did not consider it the lawful authority was 'tough', same for the southerners rebelling against the lawfully elected Union government of President Lincoln in 1861. If you wanted to rebel, commit treason, you had to win. Or you would hang.

As my reading goes, in the early days before 1776 the Americans considered themselves British and accepted this lawful authority but wanted change within it.

Posted by
908 posts

"On July 13 The British camped about one mile west of the Great Meadows, site of Fort Necessity, and in the evening Braddock died. Washington officiated at the ceremony the next day. The general [Braddock] was buried in the road his men had built. The army then marched over the grave to obliterate any traces of it and continued to eastern Pennsylvania." - National Park Service

Fallingwater gets many more visitors than Ft. Necessity or Braddock's woods, but that entire bit of southwestern PA is beautiful and full of history. Well worth a visit. And yep, seeing history through the eyes of another nation is fascinating!

Posted by
911 posts

A major risk of course considering they were going up against the mightiest nation on earth at the time. Which makes me think of another question: would it have been better for the native population if the British had won? Diana Gabaldon brings this question up in her Outlander series and I find it an interesting one.

Posted by
16060 posts

Well, I sure am glad that the French didn't hold a grudge against Washington about poor Mr. Jumonville.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Thanks for lending the use of your Navy and a few regiments of French regulars to finish the job.

Posted by
420 posts

As an indigenous Canadian, I often hold different views of the people whom our colonizers hold up as heroes. It was interesting to see some of the monuments to colonizers, rapists, and murderers in Spain and Portugal, for instance.