Did you know the United Kingdom essentially admitted that George Washington and the rest of the American Revolutionaries were right? And I don’t mean recently, like in an ambassador’s speech at a Fourth of July barbecue. It happened while veterans of the American Revolution still lived.
America’s Founding Fathers did not originally want independence. During the 1760’s and early 1770’s, they just wanted more self-government: more power for locally elected colonial legislatures. Britain’s leaders, however, considered that demand preposterous and refused. The result, of course, was the War for Independence (1775 – 1783).
A mere fifty-five years later, Britain faced similar trouble in Canada: rebellious colonists demanding local control. The British government called for a report on the situation from Canada’s new Governor-General, George Lambton, Earl of Durham. In his 1839 report, Lord Durham recommended that Britain give the Canadians what they wanted: control of their own affairs, through an elected colonial legislature. British historian Niall Ferguson puts it best: “[What] the Durham Report … did was to acknowledge that the American Colonists had been right. … What Durham called for in Canada was exactly what an earlier generation of British ministers had denied the American colonies.”
Best of all, Parliament accepted the Durham Report and ceded control to a new Canadian legislature (eventually).
How often does a country get to say, “I told you so,” and hear a former enemy reply, “Yeah, you were right”?
- Print, Back view of the church of St. Eustache and dispersion of the insurgents, Charles Beauclerk (1813-1842), 1840.
- The Durham Report’s full and formal name is: Report on the Affairs of British North America, 1839.
© 2015 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.