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The War for America, 1775-1783 by Piers Mackesy

By Piers Mackesy

The occasions of the yank Revolution signified through Lexington, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Saratoga, and Yorktown are popular to American readers. a long way much less accepted is the truth that, for the British, the yankee colonies have been just one entrance in an international conflict. England was once additionally pitted opposed to France and Spain. no longer continuously in charge of the seas and threatened with invasion, England attempted grimly for 8 years to subdue its rebellious colonies; to carry Canada, the West Indies, India, and Gibraltar; and to divide its ecu enemies. during this shiny background Piers Mackesy perspectives the yank Revolution from the viewpoint of the British govt and the British army leaders as they tried to execute an abroad conflict of serious complexity. Their tactical reaction to the yankee Revolution is now understandable, obvious as a part of a grand imperial technique.

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For this situation the King's supposed desire to rule in person has been blamed; but the truth is that it was a recent historical accident which North perpetuated. In 1766 Chatham had formed a miscellaneous Administration of clever young men with no bond of union but himself. When he fell ill the Duke of Grafton at the Treasury refused to act as effective Prime Minister in his place, and the Ministry was reduced to a collection of independent departments without a head. 3 This view would have suited the book of 1 Knox, 156.

Though the destinations of squadrons and reinforcements were determined in the Cabinet, they were determined with the First Lord's advice and assent. It was most unusual for the Cabinet even to discuss a naval question in his absence, and when they did so they deferred their decision till his return. Rare, too, were direct instructions to admirals from the Secretaries of State. It was very occasionally done for speed and secrecy2; but normally the Secretary of State's letter was addressed to the Board of Admiralty, who made out their own operational instruction from it.

It is true that Ministers were not bound to lay the business of their departments before it; but they preferred to do so, for its collective decisions already sheltered them from personal responsibility, and major decisions were rarely taken without its approval. Though attempts had been made by individuals early in the reign to repudiate their share of responsibility for a Cabinet decision, or to lay dissenting minutes before the King, unanimity was the rule in matters of national policy. In the heated political atmosphere of the American War, the shelter of a Cabinet minute was particularly attractive; and North, Sandwich and Germain all claimed the protection of collective Cabinet responsibility and insisted on Cabinet authority for inflammatory measures.

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