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August 11, 2007

We've Done It Before You Know

About those Iraqi interperters. We've done it before, left those who aided us to their fates.

Historians still debate how many colonists backed the British. Estimates range from one fifth to one third of the population of less than three million. At any rate, about 100,000 fled the new United States, which had stripped them of their property and their legal rights.

When the states’ legislatures refused to compensate them, Westminster worried about the cost of assisting so large a number of émigré Loyalists. It was Lord North, the former Prime Minister usually labelled with having “lost America”, who sprang to their defence. “They have exposed their lives, endured an age of hardships, deserted their interests, forfeited their possessions, lost their connections and ruined their families in our cause,” he reminded Parliament. “Never was the honour, the principles, the policy of a nation, so grossly abused as in our desertion of those men, who are now exposed to every punishment that such desertion and poverty can inflict, because they were not rebels.”

Yet in truth they were now a political embarrassment, standing in the way of improving relations with the new Republic. As one Loyalist rued: “Tis an honour to serve the bravest of nations/ And be left to be hanged in their capitulations.”

The thing is though, for those like me who take a rather Whiggish view of history, that we're supposed to be getting better as the centuries roll by. So let's not do it again, eh?

August 11, 2007 in History | Permalink

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Comments

In 'Citizens', Simon Schama recounts the meeting Talleyrand had with one such loyalist on the quay at Falmouth, while the Citizen Bishop of Autun was waiting to catch the boat to the New World.

The loyalist's name was Benedict Arnold.

Best not cite that example, Tim. Not for a global readership.

Posted by: Martin | Aug 11, 2007 12:06:53 PM

The most recent history I've read of the events reckoned that Loyalists and Patriots were each about 25% of the population; the rest watched and waited. Both sides committed some atrocities, the worst couple being by the Patriots. The historian in question seemed to feel that, with the exception of Geo. Washington, the Founding Fathers were a pretty scummy collection who were exceedingly lucky that the French won their war for them.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 11, 2007 3:10:48 PM

Well how about the Don Cossacks then, and the disgusting behaviour of the British military in relation to them?

Posted by: Andrew Duffin | Aug 11, 2007 3:14:22 PM

What about the Don Cossacks?

Seriously - what about them?

As deplorable as their fate was, were they worth enough to go to war with the Soviet Union?

Posted by: Martin | Aug 11, 2007 3:35:43 PM

After the US War of Independence there were some British commanders who stood up for the rights of those who had stayed loyal. Sir Guy Carleton's refusal to turn over the black slaves who had joined the British in return for freedom was particularly praiseworthy. No doubt Neil Clark and Martin Kelly will inform us of how they were just Quislings and collaberators who had made their decision and should have been forced to face the consequences.

Posted by: Ross | Aug 11, 2007 3:53:37 PM

"No doubt Neil Clark and Martin Kelly will inform us of how they were just Quislings and collaberators who had made their decision and should have been forced to face the consequences."

Ross, you make one major, and in my respectful opinion, deeply stupid error in your smear.

In order to describe those blacks to whom you refer as 'Quislings' (Neil's words, not mine - I'll stick with calling the Iraqis 'collaborators'), one would have to endorse slavery. Which I certainly don't.

Hmmm...accused of war crimes and supporting slavery in the same afternoon...You know, you're certainly a vinegary shower of half-arsed Jacobins, the lot of you...you'd have all made Robespierre proud...

Posted by: Martin | Aug 11, 2007 6:00:41 PM

The Times article is somewhat misleading as it implies the loyalists were all hung out to dry.

Many were resettled in Canada with material aid and pretty generous land grants.( admittedly in areas of almost complete wilderness) Land grants were also extended to men and officers of some of the disbanded regiments,including one of German mercenaries. Not all of the soldiers of Britain had a British home to return to.

Land grants for Loyalists were available for 15 years after the revolution and there was some doubt whether these late Loyalists were real refugees, or just economic opportunists.Some debates don't change.

Posted by: Bill | Aug 11, 2007 9:58:59 PM

"In order to describe those blacks to whom you refer as 'Quislings' (Neil's words, not mine - I'll stick with calling the Iraqis 'collaborators'), one would have to endorse slavery. Which I certainly don't."

Well that is nice to know. However I don't think that you have thought this through. If deserting a friendly population to their fate implies a support for whatever that fate is, then it implies that your support for leaving Iraqis who have worked with British forces to be murdered by sectarian death squads stems from supporting whatever reprisals occur.

Posted by: Ross | Aug 11, 2007 10:33:12 PM

"If deserting a friendly population to their fate implies a support for whatever that fate is, then it implies that your support for leaving Iraqis who have worked with British forces to be murdered by sectarian death squads stems from supporting whatever reprisals occur."

Bollocks.

Posted by: Martin | Aug 12, 2007 9:30:15 AM