King George III: The Abdication that Never Happened

George III was Britain’s king during the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence called him, “A Prince whose character is … marked by every act which may define a Tyrant.” But recent research has revealed a surprise about the king — one that hardly smacks of tyranny. In 1783, as the Revolutionary War drew to a close, George III almost abdicated—as revealed by a draft abdication speech in his own hand, recently discovered. The king’s speech blames the loss of the colonies on selfish partisanship within Britain. (Apparently, little has changed in the U.K. or in its former colonies.) King George also concluded that he had nothing left to offer. “A long Experience … has gradually prepared My mind to expect the time when I should be no longer of Utility to this Empire; that hour is now come; I am therefore resolved to resign My Crown and all the Dominions appertaining to it to the Prince of Wales my Eldest Son and Lawful Successor and to retire to the care of My Electoral Dominions the Original Patrimony of my Ancestors.” (The last point means he planned to move to his family’s duchy in Germany.) Continue reading “King George III: The Abdication that Never Happened”

This week in history: the Articles of Confederation

This week in 1781, the Articles of Confederation went into effect in the United States, following ratification by the 13 colonies – a.k.a. states. Work on the Articles had begun in 1776, around the time of the Declaration of Independence. Completion took a year and a half, until November 5 of 1777 – for two reasons: uncertainty about what to include, as well as several moves from city to city, to avoid advancing British troops. In the end, the final draft included state sovereignty, en bloc voting by state in a unicameral Congress, and terms that left western land claims unresolved – up to individual states. Continue reading “This week in history: the Articles of Confederation”

History’s Worst Governments Had the Most Ideology

Ideology is great stuff. It topples tyrants and fires up the citizens to achieve momentous things. But when a government adopts an ideology, it’s grim tidings for those who disagree — and for anyone suspected of disagreeing. Plus, fiercely held ideologies tie governments’ hands and lead to irrational policy choices. Ideology, in other words, is a prescription for bad government. Continue reading “History’s Worst Governments Had the Most Ideology”

Breaking News (to Me): Lafayette Was Not Handsome

I’m working on a post about the French and American revolutions, and I’ve come across some distressing news about the great Lafayette, hero of both.

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, was a French aristocrat who rode in on a white horse and offered his sword to George Washington in 1777, risking his life to bring justice and democracy to a foreign people. He was a cavalier general in a colonial blue uniform, complete with silver wig and golden epaulettes, raising his jeweled saber as he led a rag-tag band of colonials into the smoke and thunder of redcoat musket-fire. Continue reading “Breaking News (to Me): Lafayette Was Not Handsome”