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Our Last King
Cursed by ancestry,bedeviled by his posterity, beset by forces he could not grasp, George III is usually remembered as the ogre of Jefferson’s Declaration. An eminent English historian reassesses that strange and pathetic personality
June 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 4
As it had been with America, so with Wilkes, so with Ireland, so with his children. His motives were honorable; he gave all of his pitifully small abilities to the defense of what he thought to be the vital interests and essential rights of the British nation. Had he been as wise as Solomon, Britain and America would have gone their separate ways. The forces that crushed him would have crushed greater men. As it is, he remained a pathetic figure of tragicomedy; and, as the years passed, he acquired even a certain grandeur. There had been many worse kings to exercise rule over America and Britain. If he is to be blamed, it must be not for what he did but for what he was—an unbalanced man of low intelligence. And if he is to be praised, it is because he attempted to discharge honorably tasks that were beyond his powers.
*As may be seen from his letter to North of January 31, 1776:
"You will remember that before the recess, I strongly advised you not to bind yourself to bring forward a proposition for restoring tranquility to North America, not from any absurd ideas of unconditional submission my mind never harboured; but from foreseeing that whatever can be proposed, will be liable, not to bring America back to a sense of attachment to the Mother Country, yet to dissatisfy this Country, which has in the most handsome manner cheerfully carried on the contest, and therefore has a right to have the struggle continued, until convinced that it is in vain."
**This was brilliatnly pilloried by Peter Pindar in the Lousiad:
"How, how? what, what?—what's that, what's that?" he cries/ With rapid accent and staring eyes./ "Look there, look there—what's got into my house?/ A louse, God bless us! Louse, louse, louse, louse, louse."
The occasion was a louse dropping from a page on to the King's dinner place at Buckingham Palace.