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The Famous Tax Included, Tea Was Still Cheaper Here
An Englishman re-examines certain stereotyped attitudes on the American Revolution
April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
However that may be, any British view of the Revolutionary War must take into account what future generations of British statesmen learnt from it. Admittedly a generous offer of self-government in iy?R, or even early in 1777, might conceivably have brought the war to an end while it could still be regarded as primarily a civil war; but the British did not formulate such an offer until too late. In February, iy/8, Lord North was prepared to renounce the right to tax the colonists and to give them virtual autonomy in their own affairs; but by then the Continental Congress was unanimous for independence, and in May, 1778, the treaty with France was ratified. George III had clung too long to the contemporary idea of empire and his own concept of where his royal duty lay. Even a loose commonwealth connection might not have survived the strains and stresses of the Napoleonic Wars and Britain’s blockade of Europe.
Leaving the field of speculation, we can l)e grateful that the American revolutionaries endowed with victory their great federal, republican experiment, without which the world would have . been immeasurably poorer. We can rejoice, too, that Britain’s failure in her first colonizing venture led thinking men to review the imperial relationship. (.Ann anyone doubt that anything less than defeat could have caused the abandonment of Adam Smith’s mercantile system, as applied to colonial territories? And but for this change of heart, the gradual transformation of a colonial empire into a commonwealth of self-governing, independent states could never have been accomplished.