The American Revolution was a period in American history that caused controversy even amongst the most dedicated Colonists. The question of whether or not America should free itself from British rule and become it’s own nation, independent of the Crown, was a major issue that came to the forefront in the late 1700's and it was during this time that the colonies were split into two very diverse groups: the Colonists who wished to create an independent American nation, and the Loyalists who wished to remain a part of Great Britain.
The reasons for each were widely varied depending on the individual, but Edmund Burke is best known as one of the strongest supporters of reconciliation with Great Britain and the avoidance of war through political means and a meeting of the minds between Great Britain and its colonies in the New World that would one day become the United States of America.
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Edmund Burke was a leading member of the British Parliament who remained on the side of the colonists in that he believed the British should try to work with the American colonists to create a better relationship, and these beliefs are seen within his writings from the period of time in American history that is known as the Revolutionary period.
The works written by Burke in the 1770’s share a glimpse into the world and thoughts of the man, and give historians the ability to get a strong sense of this differing opinion on the Revolutionary War that existed at the time, as it is often the fight for independence that is mostly studied as our country did become an independent nation free of British rule, but men like Burke and his ideals were also prominent and that is why his writings are so important to the understanding of Revolutionary history.
The viewpoint of Edmund Burke is best summed up as the hope for peace between Great Britain and its American colonies. He does not seem to believe that revolution is necessarily a sure thing for the American people and, in fact, urges against it. In his Speech to Parliament on March 22, 1775 Burke said, “My proposition is Peace” (Johnson 111). Burke did not feel that a war was the answer to the problems plaguing the American Colonies and their continuing struggle over taxation with Great Britain.
He reminds the British that “America… is an object well worth fighting for” but that war is not “the best way of gaining them” (Johnson 112). Within his speech on reconciliation, Burke mimics this opinion by claiming that the goal for the American colonies must be peace, and he explains this by saying, “It is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific (Burke)”.
This clearly means that war was becoming a major issue on the minds of everyone in the American colonies and it was beginning to become a focal point of many important men, both loyalists and patriots. Burke’s solution is the exact opposite that which men such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hoping for and worked towards, of course, because it meant that they would always be connected to Great Britain; however, Burke’s solution was meant to please both parties if put into practice.
It appears, from his opinions stated in his speech on conciliation, that he saw value in not pursuing the types of taxation that the British government was seeking to impose on the Americans, because in doing so it was losing the support and loyalty of the American people. This clear fact meant that if Great Britain were to find a way to please the American people, they would not only benefit by keeping the revenues produced by the colonies, but also their loyalty and support that would only grow over time as the population across the ocean grew in size.
Burke states in his defense of developing a relationship with their counterparts in American that would foster loyalty and love of the Crown, “It is the love of the people; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber(Burke).
” In essence, without the fostering of good relations between Britain and her colonies, they would lose a chance at a peaceful and powerful ally in the New World that was growing each year.
It seems that when Edmund Burke viewed the American colonists, he was not surprised at all by their conduct, because he recognized that “in this Character of the American, a love of Freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole”, and goes on to say that, “This fierce spirit of Liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in any other people of the earth and this from a great variety of powerful causes…” (Johnson 112).
He also says, in his conciliation speech, that “the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. ” He believes the two go together–liberty given to them would result in obedience to the Crown and the Empire. He is adamant that the Colonists are this way because they left England when the English were dedicated to freedom: “The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and directions the moment they parted from your hands” (Johnson 112).
He views the problem as being taxation, and seems to think that peace would be easy to obtain and war easily averted if not for the imposition of taxation on the American colonies. He believes that American revenue should not be ignored as important to the British Empire because it was financially beneficial to keep the American colonies underneath the umbrella of British rule for many various reason. Burke states, “Let us get an American revenue as we have got an American empire. English privileges have made it all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all it can be (Burke).
” By this he means that Americans want to be treated with the same respect and given the same privileges as their British counterparts, and therefore, if they treat them that way, war could be averted. It is obvious from the letter and speech written by Burke and quoted within this paper that the man was staunchly dedicated to the British Empire and the idea of conciliation, and it makes sense from his way of thinking because it would benefit both countries to give the colonies the benefits of being British while still retaining the good relations between the two.
Yet, it was not to be and without men like the Founding Fathers who would urge for independence, America and Great Britain would certainly have just continued to have disagreements because the way of life developing across the ocean was vastly different from what existed in England, and that would eventually have led to war, not over taxes, but over the desire to be masters of their own destiny. Works Cited Burke, Edmund. Burke's Speech on Conciliation with America. Project Guttenberg. Johnson, Michael P. Reading the American Past. Vol. 1. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004. 108-114.
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