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"Major Myths of the American Revolution" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2020 12:59 p.m. PST

""The Colonies will no longer need Britain's protection. She will call on them to contribute toward supporting the burdens they have helped to bring on her, and they will answer by striking off their chains." Comte de Vergennes at the close of the French and Indian War…"
Main page


21eRegt29 Apr 2020 3:27 p.m. PST

Excellent article and sums up why I believe had I been alive in 1776 I would have been a Loyalist.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2020 3:31 p.m. PST

No, not an excellent article. Some of those myths are not widely held, others are at least partly right. As usual, it is more complicated than that.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2020 3:39 p.m. PST

The colonies were scarcely taxed at all, directly, under salutary neglect, so any increase at alll seemed large. They did pay indirectly, via the mercantilist system, and were very aware of that. The East India Tea Company threatened to get a monopoly over American trade, which frightened the merchants, making them willing to support the radicals whose opposition was as much political and constitutional as economic. It is complex.

Brechtel19829 Apr 2020 5:15 p.m. PST

The problem at the end of the French and Indian War was that Great Britain was financially in trouble because of the cost of the war. The British government had invested much into winning the war in North America, troops and ships, and they believed that the colonies should help pay off the war debt.

That was not unreasonable, but the way the British government was hamhanded, haughty, and they treated the colonists themselves as second class citizens.

For a century at least they had handled the colonies with what has been called 'benign neglect' and with few exceptions the colonies defended themselves against their enemies with little British involvement. They considered themselves as Englishmen but were not treated as such by either king or parliament.

So, the demands of the British government after the war, beginning with the Proclamation of 1763 and continuing with the 'acts' the colonists detested turned many colonists against the mother country and led to armed rebellion.

If the British government had handled the needed increase in revenue with tact and fairness and had taken the time to explain to the colonies what the situation was, the situation might have taken a different path. There would eventually be independence, but it might have been achieved without an eight year war.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2020 8:00 p.m. PST

That is so, and there are other factors as well. The Proclamation of 1763 outraged the colonists, and the army they were to be taxed to pay for was the one enforcing it. Plus the Brit Army didn't do a very good job against Pontiac; many settlers were killed or driven out of their homes. Also, with Canada no longer French, the colonies simply didn't NEED Britain as much. England was still the Mother Country but children grow up.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2020 11:28 p.m. PST

"The wealthy and shipping merchants who dealt with large quantities of imports and exports were really the only ones who felt their purses lightened."

Someone doesn't understand economics. The merchants didn't pay the taxes, they collected them by raising their prices to cover them.

Brechtel19830 Apr 2020 5:04 a.m. PST

Plus the Brit Army didn't do a very good job against Pontiac; many settlers were killed or driven out of their homes.

Wasn't Pontiac and his rebellion defeated? Who conducted operations against Pontiac?

And wasn't Indian operations against settlers typical of Indian warfare?

Were General Amherst's policies at least partly responsible for provoking the rebellion?

The Swiss officer, Henry Bouquet did quite well against Indian forces. He defeated them at Bushy Run decisively and then relieved Fort Pitt which was under siege by the Indians.

Pan Marek30 Apr 2020 7:31 a.m. PST

Brechtel +1

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 10:14 a.m. PST

Uh, except that the British Army suffered a series of humiliating defeats first, as several forts were overrun, and the settlers had to flee. Final victory does not negate early disasters. Get some perspective.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 10:19 a.m. PST

Pontiac's allies captured 8 forts, killed more than 400 British troops, and killed or captured 2000 civilians, with 4,000 civilians displaced. (Wiki) So the British won eventually, but it was still a disaster.

rmaker30 Apr 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

The Stamp Act was a perfect example of HM Governments ham-handedness. Not only was it an example of Parliament interfering in local matters, but it was onerous, as the stamps had to be paid for in English currency, which was already in short supply in the colonies and therefore had a very high exchange rate.

Brechtel19830 Apr 2020 11:58 a.m. PST

The use of Wikipedia for historical periods, battles, and personnel is suspect at best.

That the British suffered early defeats during Pontiac's rebellion is not surprising, nor is the capture of British-held forts.

What is significant is the manner in which the British recovered from the early defeats and went on to suppress/defeat the rebellion and recover what had been lost.

The eventual victory was not a disaster. A 'W' is still a 'W'. It would have been disastrous if the British had not recovered and won.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 12:49 p.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my friend!. (smile)


Brechtel19830 Apr 2020 2:37 p.m. PST

Pontiac's allies captured 8 forts, killed more than 400 British troops, and killed or captured 2000 civilians, with 4,000 civilians displaced. (Wiki) So the British won eventually, but it was still a disaster.

Unfortunately, that's what surprise attacks accomplish. Additionally, there is no way to determine the Indian casualties.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 2:43 p.m. PST

Kids are typically warned not to use Wikipedia, which denies them a useful resource. I tell mine to use it except for topics still controversiai, where the material may be re-edited frequently. Pontiac's rebellion hardly qualifies.

It is myopic to consider only the "W" and not the cost and consequences. These were three fold: thousands of American settlers lost life or hone; the British army was revealed as incompetent; and the Proclamation of 1763 created a major colonial grievance. Detroit and Bushy Run were heroic -- Bouquet is one of my ancestors -- but they could not cancel the opening disaster nor its consequences listed above.

You guys need to consider more than what happens on the battlefield.

Brechtel19830 Apr 2020 2:49 p.m. PST

Using Wikipedia for historical research is at best 'iffy.' There is too much that isn't accurate and using it as a reference as far as I'm concerned is the lazy way to get 'information.'

We couldn't use it in grad school for obvious reasons and my students were not allowed to use it either.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 4:20 p.m. PST

I think that is simplistic. I have studied a number of Wiki articles on topics on which I have expert knowledge, and found it as reliable as any reference source. Of course one does not use an encyclopedia for research, one uses it to quickly find information one does NOT wish to research. But I would trust it as much as any other encyclopedia -- except, as I said, on hot topics of current interest.

My own grad school was 1968-71 and so preceded the internet, but when I was writing my dissertation I relied on, e.g., Boatner's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION and Ward's WAR OF THE REVOLUTION for topics outside my focus and research, stating so in my bibliographic essay. My advisor Bill Abbot (at UVa, former editor of the William and Mary Quarterly and at that time editor of the George Washington papers) was entirely content with that.

I confess to having some scepticism about established interpretations. For example, Jefferson's tenure as governor of Virginia is often considered a failure -- and of course it ended with the British overrunning the state and TJ having to flee Montecello one jump ahead of British cavalry. But Virginia was weak in 1781 because they had sent everything south, supporting the Continental effort and accepting the risk of their own vulnerability. Jefferson in fact ran an efficient administration, and his policy towards the west (read his instructions toi George Rogers Clark) was masterly and decisive. His successor as governor, Nelson, joined the army at Yorktown and simply served as another militia commander, which could have been a disaster except that people like William Davies of the Virginia War Office stayed on the job, as they had under TJ, and kept the army supplied. In short, the assessment of Jefferson as a poor war governor seems to have been made by people with little knowledge of his actual tenure.

Brechtel19830 Apr 2020 6:21 p.m. PST

I was once told by an excellent historian that there are no experts in the field. And the reason for that is all any of us have done is scratch the surface of the subject.

Jefferson was a very poor wartime governor as he did not prepare his state to be defended. And not only did he run from the British, he also 'abdicated' his position as governor of Virginia, leaving the state with no chief executive. That is cowardice, pure and simple.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2020 7:28 p.m. PST

No, that is simply incorrect; you are repeating the lies his opponents told about him. I addressed some of that in the previous post.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2020 5:05 a.m. PST

One point no one seems to understand is that the militia system was being used to draft 2000 men for the Continental Army. If the militia is called into the field, that draft cannot go forward. Jefferson was indeed no military man, but he was a good politician, and he knew how great was the threat of disorder and mass resistance to the law (especially the draft) in 1780-81. The militia is the body of the people, and it is difficult to use the militia to coerce itself. That MIGHT be done if unrest was localized; on at least one occasion Jefferson brought in reliable militia from neighgboring counties to put down one county's draft riot. But if there was widespread resistence to what the government wanted or needed to do, they had to back off; too many moderns don't get that. Reading Jefferson's papers during his tenure as governor gives one -- at least it gave me -- genuine sympathy for him. And I am no Jeffersonian; Hamilton is my boy.

I will grant readily that TJ should have gone with the legislature for the last week of his term.

Bill N01 May 2020 11:18 a.m. PST

Jefferson was a very poor wartime governor as he did not prepare his state to be defended. And not only did he run from the British, he also 'abdicated' his position as governor of Virginia, leaving the state with no chief executive. That is cowardice, pure and simple.

It is not that simple. Could Jefferson have done a better job than he did? Yes. Aside from Patrick Henry, Washington or Nelson it is doubtful you could find anyone else in Virginia who would have done as well as Jefferson did under the circumstances. Virginia late in the war was faced with rapidly diminishing resources at a time there were rapidly increasing and conflicting demands on those resources. The legal powers of the executive were restricted and divided.

Often not mentioned when accusing Jefferson of leaving Virginia unprepared is the actions others took which contributed to this. In 1779 Washington wrote to his Continental commander in Virginia that he should not allow raids in the Chesapeake to divert him from his task of raising and forwarding troops to reinforce Lincoln further south. In late 1780/early 1781 Steuben, who was in command in Virginia, was fixated on getting new troops for Greene's army.

As to leaving the state with no chief executive, Jefferson's term had expired. The Virginia constitution of 1776 provided that the governor was to be chosen annually by both houses. It also provided in the absence of a governor that the president of the Council of State was to act as governor until a new governor was chosen. That is what happened in 1781. Jefferson's term expired. The president of the Council took over until the legislature elected Nelson. Virginia law did not authorize a governor to continue exercising the powers of the office after his term expired, even if a new governor had not been chosen.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2020 12:47 p.m. PST



Brechtel19801 May 2020 1:14 p.m. PST

From Encyclopedia of the American Revolution by Mark Boatner, pages 553-556:

'He was not a man of arms, dreaded the duties of a soldier, had no stomach for physical combat.'-554.

'The philosophical qualities that made him so conspicuous as a planner and prophet were of little avail to him, however, as an executive…Resourceful in counsel, he was ever hesitant and reluctant in the exercise of authority, the very necessity of which he deplored.'-555.

'…when the British were able to make a serious military effort in Virginia in 1781 Jefferson's miserable failure as a leader was a vivid illustration of what happens to a society guided by a philosopher when it needs a 'man on horseback.' Unwilling to use means of doubtful legality even in times of crisis, and maintaining his confidence in the militia, he became a pathetic spectacle of ineptitude. When British occupation of Richmond forced the legislature to Charlottesville…Jefferson proceeded to nearby 'Monticello' and last exercised his functions as Governor on 3 June. Then, interpreting his term to have expired, even though a successor had not been elected, he in effect abdicated.'

Jefferson was nearly captured by Tarleton the next day (4 June) and on 12 June an investigation on Jefferson's conduct was ordered. His political enemies made allegations of personal cowardice and the subsequent loss of prestige took years to recover. On 12 December 1781 the investigation found no grounds to censure Jefferson. However, the speed with which he ran and then abandoned his office clearly indicate that Jefferson had no stomach for being a wartime governor. The charge of cowardice was truly merited.

Bill N01 May 2020 6:03 p.m. PST

"The charge of cowardice was truly merited."

Everybody's entitled to their opinion. Yours is one that I don't share. The Virginia General Assembly also thought otherwise.

One account has Jefferson being warned of Tarleton's approach at 5:00 a.m. He made arrangements for his family's departure and notice was sent to legislators several miles away in Charlottesville of the raid. By the time Jefferson departed Monticello, Tarleton's troops were coming up the hill. What was he supposed to do? Meet the British on the front door step with pistols in his hands? This was June 4. Jefferson headed south to his plantation outside Lynchburg rather than west to Staunton with the legislature. While it isn't clear whether Jefferson's second term had expired before Tarleton arrived, it had expired before the legislature reconvened in Staunton.

So where was Steuben? Why was the route to Charlottesville left open to Tarleton. Steuben was a short distance south trying unsuccessfully to defend the stores Virginia had collected at Point of Forks with Gaskins Continentals and a few hundred militia under Lawson from another raid led by Simcoe. Jefferson had no troops to defend Charlottesville. Steuben had about as many troops as Simcoe did. Steuben tried to remove what he could and then abandoned the rest without a fight.

Point of Fork came at the end of growing disappointments by Virginia with Steuben's performance. One source says the Speaker of the Virginia House on June 8 wrote "We have 600 fine men under Baron Steuben which he will not carry into action. What are his reasons, I know not, but I can assure you his Conduct gives universal disgust and injures the Service much". The Speaker of the Senate wrote three members of the Virginia Council said Steuben should be hanged.

Its an opinion I don't share. Steuben was acting with inadequate resources, an understanding of just how inadequate those resources were and poor intelligence. He also probably felt it was better to preserve his command than risk its destruction trying to defend the stores, especially since he viewed his primary mission as late as June 1781 as leading troops south to join Greene. Pragmatism over gallantry. Fair enough. However the same consideration isn't extended to Jefferson's actions at the same time. Jefferson had no troops. He had a family to look out for who were in the immediate vicinity. His term of office was expiring if it had not already expired.

Jefferson could have done better. So could Steuben.

After stepping down as governor Jefferson was elected to the Congress of the Confederation in 1783. He was sent by the Congress to France in 1784 and succeeded Franklin. He was appointed Secretary of State upon his return in 1789. Fairly quick recovery.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2020 6:55 p.m. PST

I agree with Bill N. And again, if anyone doubts Jefferson's contribution as war governor, they should consider his support of and instructions to George Rogers Clark. His letter of instruction is brilliant, recognizing that Clark will be out in the boonies on his own, but explaining in detail what Virginia's interests and priorities were.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2020 6:58 p.m. PST

Here's Jefferson's letter. Let us have no more crap about TJ not being a military man. he understood how to mount an offensive.
To George Rogers Clark
Richmond december 25th. 1780.Sir
A powerful army forming by our enemies in the south renders it necessary for us to reserve as much of our militia as possible free to act in that quarter. At the same time we have reason to believe that a very extensive combination of British and Indian savages is preparing to invest our western frontier. To prevent the cruel murders and devastations which attend the latter species of war and at the same time to prevent it's producing a powerful diversion of our force from the southern quarter in which they mean to make their principal effort and where alone success can be decisive of their ultimate object, it becomes necessary that we aim the first stroke in the western country and throw the enemy under the embarrassments of a defensive war rather than labour under them ourselves. We have therefore determined that an expedition shall be undertaken under your command in a very early season of the approaching year into the hostile country beyond the Ohio, the principal object of which is to be the reduction of the British post at Detroit, and incidental to it the acquiring possession of Lake Erie.

The force destined for this enterprize is the Ilinois battalion, Colo. Crockets battalion, Major Slaughters corps, with detachments of militia from the counties of Fayette, Lincoln, Jefferson, Ohio, Monongalia, Hampshire, Berkeley, Frederic and Greenbrier making in the whole 2000 men, necessary garrisons only to be deducted. Our desire is that the execution of this may be so timed as that you may have the advantage of that interval of time, which intervenes between the breaking up of the ice in the wabache, and in the lake so as that you may avail yourself of the navigation of the former the moment it is open for the transportation of your Men and baggage and still find the latter blocked up and the Vessels of the Enemy therein of course liable to be destroyed. That you may be fully possessed of the means which are to be in your hands for the purposes before mentioned, you are furnished with Copies of the orders given to the Lieutenants, Commissaries and Quarter Masters in the Counties before enumerated; the substance of them is as follows—Mr. Rowland Madison is employed to carry 1000℔. of Rifle powder from New-London and 1500℔. of lead from the lead mines to Montgomery Court house, to purchase 300 pack horses with pack saddles, Halters and Bells ready and to lay in subsistence for them and for 137 Militia from Greenbriar County, who, by orders given to the Lieutenant of that County are to rendezvous at Montgomery Court House by the 20th day of February, there to take under their escort the ammunition and packhorses beforementioned and to be with them at the Falls of Ohio by the 15th. day of March. Mr. Madison is furnished with Money to purchase the horses and furniture and to lay in subsistence and forage from Montgomery Court House to the Falls of Ohio, where his duties cease.

Forty bell tents, 40 common tents, a Chest of Medicine, some Summer Clothing will be sent from this place; 1000℔. of Rifle powder from Staunton, 400 Camp kettles from Fredericksburg to the County Lieutenant of Frederick who is ordered to send them with 285 of his Militia to Pittsburg at which place they are to be the first day of March.
The County Lieutenants of Berkley and Hampshire are ordered to send the former 275 and the latter 255 of their respective Militias to be at Pittsburg by the first day of March.
Proper instructions are prepared for such persons as each of the County Lieutenants of Frederick Berkley and Hampshire shall appoint to act in the joint offices of Commissary and Quarter Master to Pittsburg where their Offices determine and Money is sent to each for the purpose of subsistence and transportation.

The County Lieutenants of Monongalia and Ohio are ordered to rendezvous one fourth of their Militia at Pittsburg by the first day of March. All these Militia are ordered to go under proper Officers well armed with Arms suitable to western service and to serve during the continuance of the expedition as herein described. Colo. Crocket is ordered to be with his battalion at Pittsburg by the same day, and Money to enable him to proceed is sent to him.

An Agent is1 sent to Baltimore and Philadelphia to purchase four tons of cannon powder and to send it to Pittsburg by the 1st. day of March.
Application is made to Genl. Washington to lend us of the Continental Stores at Pittsburg, 4 Cannon, six pounders mounted on field Carriages with ball suitable, a mortar with Shells, 2 Howitz,2 grape shot and other necessary furnitures, 1000 Spades, 200 pick axes, 500 axes, a travelling Forge, Ship Carpenter's tools and Boats for transportation down the river should we fail in having a sufficient number in readiness and to send us skilful persons to manage the Mortars.

John Francis Moore who was sometime ago sent to purchase in the vicinities of Fort Pitt provisions for the Western Posts, is now ordered to extend his purchases to 200000. rations of Beef and Flour, and to provide 100 light Barges fit for transporting Men and Stores either down or up stream. These to be all in readiness by the 1st. of March. As we are not certain whether he may not be gone down the river, these powers were directed to himself, or in case of his absence to any Agent he should have appointed, and if he appointed none, then to Mr. William Harrison of Monongalia.

At Pittsburg we depend on orders to be given by you for the removal of Men and Stores to the Falls of Ohio by the 15 of March.
The County Lieutenants of Fayette Lincoln and Jefferson are ordered to rendezvous at the falls of Ohio by the 15 March 500 of their Militia to be furnished between those Counties in proportion to their numbers, and to have ready at the same place and by the same day 50 Canoes each: Money is sent to pay for these. In those. Counties you inform us you expect 100000 rations will be provided for you. You will of course order them to the falls of Ohio.

All the preceeding orders (except as to the numbers of Men from each County) are submitted to any alterations you may think necessary, and you are authorized to supply any deficiencies in them. The Staff Officers are submitted absolutely to you, and on removal of any of them by you or their death, resignation or declining to act you are to appoint others. The County Lieutenants are desired to keep up a constant correspondence with you and the Staff Officers to inform you from time to time of their progress and to receive your orders. Thus you will perceive that we expect all to be in readiness at the Falls of Ohio by the 15. of March.

What numbers of Men and whether of Regulars or Militia you shall leave to garrison the Posts at the falls and Mouth of the Ohio, is left to yourself. As the latter however is exposed to attack from an Enemy against whom this expedition will be no diversion of force, and as it is distant from succour, it is recommended to you to leave it surely garrisoned and to take Measures for its being supported from the Spanish side of the Mississippi should it be necessary.

You will then with such part of your force as you shall not leave in garrison proceed down the Ohio and up the Wabache or along such other route as you shall think best against Detroit. By the construction of a fort or forts for retreat at such place or places as you shall think best, and by such other cautions as you find necessary, you will provide for the Ultimate safety of your Men in case of a repulse. Should you succeed in the reduction of fort Detroit, and a hopeful prospect open to you of acquiring possession of Lake Erie, or should such prospect open during the investiture of the fort you are to pursue it. As soon as you shall have accomplished both Objects of the fort and Lake, or shall have accomplished the one and find the other impracticable; or as soon as you shall find that neither is practicable, you are to consider your expedition as ended, and to withdraw your whole force if you attain neither Object, or, if you acquire one or both of them, to retain for a Garrison at Detroit so many of the Illinois and Crockets battalions as you may think necessary and to send the rest back across the Ohio; in the event indeed of declining to attempt the reduction of Detroit you are at liberty to consider whether some enterprize against the hostile Nations of Indians may not be undertaken with your force, and if you think it can, and that it will be expedient for the public good and eligible on view of all circumstances, you will undertake it and detain your force till you shall have finished it. In every event, the Militia on their return are to be marched back to their Counties under their own Officers and there to be discharged.

Should you succeed in the reduction of the Post, you are to promise protection to3 the Persons and property of the French and American inhabitants, or of such at least as shall not on tender refuse to take the Oath of fidelity to this Commonwealth. You are to permit them to continue under the laws and form of Government under which they at present live, only substituting the authority of this Commonwealth in all instances in lieu of that of his Britannic Majesty, and exercising yourself under that authority till further order those powers which the British Commandant of the post, or his Principal in Canada hath used regularly to exercise. To the Indian Neighbours you will hold out either fear or friendship as their disposition and your actual situation may render most expedient.

Finally, our distance from the scene of action, the impossibility of foreseeing the many circumstances which may render proper a change of plan or dereliction of object, and above all our full confidence in your bravery, discretion, and abilities induce us to submit the whole of our instructions to your own Judgment, to be altered or abandoned whenever any event shall turn up which may appear to you to render such alteration or abandonment necessary: remembering that we confide to you the persons of our Troops and Citizens which we think it a duty to risque as long as and no longer than the object and prospect of attaining it may seem worthy of risque. If that Post be reduced we shall be quiet in future on our frontiers, and thereby immense Treasures of blood and Money be saved; we shall be at leizure to turn our whole force to the rescue of our eastern Country from subjugation, we shall divert through our own Country a branch of commerce which the European States have thought worthy of the most important struggles and sacrifices, and in the event of peace4 on terms which have been contemplated by some powers we shall form to the American union a barrier against the dangerous extension of the British Province of Canada and add to the Empire of liberty an extensive and fertile Country thereby converting dangerous Enemies into valuable friends.

T. J.
FC (Vi). RC of Dupl (WHi); corrected, signed, and dated by TJ: "Jan. 19. 1781"; at head of text: "A copy of the letter dated Dec. 25th 1780." The duplicate was presumably handed to Clark on 21 Jan. 1781 (see Clark to TJ, 18 and 20 Jan.; TJ to Clark, 20 Jan.). In the text presented here of this important letter a few words have been supplied from the duplicate where the top margins of the file copy (which is in the Executive Letter Book of 1781) have been shaved off. The few differences in phraseology between the file copy and the duplicate are recorded below.

42flanker02 May 2020 2:31 a.m. PST

Thanks, gentlemen. Getting a clearer picture of events of which I knew nothing.

Brechtel19802 May 2020 4:58 a.m. PST

Let us have no more crap about TJ not being a military man. he understood how to mount an offensive.

Really? When did he wear a uniform? What units did he command, especially in the field?

Jefferson had little or no knowledge of military operations and even less about warfare. He was no soldier, which has already been demonstrated.

And then he ran away both physically and intellectually from his responsibilities as governor when the British invaded in 1781.

In short, your idea on this subject is incorrect. And it is one of the most inaccurate statements that I have seen on this or any other forum.

Brechtel19802 May 2020 5:00 a.m. PST

you are repeating the lies his opponents told about him

Your accusation here is a false one and resorting to calling someone a liar merely demonstrates the bankruptcy of your position.

You should withdraw that comment and apologize.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2020 7:37 a.m. PST

Learn to read more carefully. I didn't suggest YOU were lying. And if you thought that I am sorry. But it is generally a mistake to accept uncritically what someone's enemies say about him, especially political figures. As to not wearing a uniform, right, the commander in chief doesn't.

Brechtel19802 May 2020 7:56 a.m. PST

As to not wearing a uniform, right, the commander in chief doesn't.

Washington was the commander-in-chief and he most certainly did.

The comment about wearing a uniform is being or belonging to the armed forces. Jefferson was no soldier. He was a governor and not a very good one at that.

As to the comment regarding 'lies' the statement you made was 'your are repeating the lies…' That isn't calling someone a 'liar'? I suggest that it is and you posted it. There is no reason to use that type of language and apparently you don't understand that people who make an honest mistake aren't lying.

Again, that comment should be withdrawn as it was both accusatory and directed to me. It is insulting, not true in any sense of what you wrote or meant. The use of the term denotes dishonesty and you are wrong.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2020 9:28 a.m. PST

We have civilian control of the military. The governor is cinc of the state militia. TJ was a very good governor, though it was not a rle he relished.

Again, lying is an intentional matter. Repeating someone else's lie in good faith that it is true is not lying. Your accusations against TJ mirror what his political opponents said about him, and are at best only half the story. That may be incomplete but it is not deliberate untruthfulness. If you took what I wrote that way I am sorry, it was not at all what I meant.

Brechtel19802 May 2020 1:34 p.m. PST

If that is accurate, then fine. However, you should be careful what you say and how you formulate your postings.

Yes, we have civilian control of the armed forces. And that is the key to the subject-they are civilians. Jefferson was never a soldier and certainly did not understand soldiers, campaigns, and fighting. He was not a pacifist, but he was not a practitioner of the art of war.

And he was not in any sense of the word, a good governor, especially a wartime governor facing a military crisis. And I posted evidence that supported that idea.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2020 3:22 p.m. PST

So what is your reading of TJs letter to GRC I posted?

42flanker06 May 2020 4:11 a.m. PST

It's gone very quiet

Brechtel19806 May 2020 8:01 a.m. PST

I'm waiting for a new book to arrive that I just ordered:


I want to take a look at it before answering anything on Jefferson's letters or writings.

I have some of the books in this series and they are excellent.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP06 May 2020 5:23 p.m. PST

The Jefferson Papers produced by UVa (they were finishing up as I was there in 1973) run 500 pp. per volume, and there are parts of THREE volumes covering jefferson's tenure as governor. So say 1000 pp. TJ is hard to get a handle on because he wrote so much, and over half a century; he can be quoted on both sides of many an issue. He was also a "playful intellectual" who sometimes embraced an idea, wrote passionately in defense of it, and then a few years later decides he doesn't think that after all. He was also fully human and his principles sometimes warred with his feelings or interests (see, e.g., Sally Hemings).

Brechtel19807 May 2020 3:56 a.m. PST

Judging Jefferson by his actions does not leave a good impression at all as a wartime governor or a president.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2020 12:02 p.m. PST

I am in some sympathy with you as regards his presidency. However, and this applies as strongly to his governorship, his focus on the west, and his vision (so distinct from Hamilton's) on America as a nation of small farmers extending all the way to the Pacific, was the basis for some excellent achievements, as GR Clark and Lweis and Clark and the NW Land Ordinnces and the (uncomstitutional) LA Purchase. His big failure as president, in foreign policy, was largely due to his desire to get the country out of debt and free of Hamilton's financial plan, so he had no money to spend on anything including defense. As I mentioned, I am a Hamiltonian, but without TJ perhaps we would be a much smaller country!

Brechtel19808 May 2020 3:46 a.m. PST

Jefferson's disdain for the regular armed forces and a reliance on the militia and privateers for defense, as well as his insistence that taking Canada would be a mere 'matter of marching' demonstrate his ignorance as president.

From his 28 June 1812 letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko:

'Our present enemy will have the sea to herself, while we shall be equally predominant on land, and shall strip her of all her possessions on this continent. She may burn New York, indeed, by her ships and Congreve rockets, in which case we must burn the city of London by hired incindiaries, of which her starving manufacturers will furnish abundance. A people in such desperation as to demand of their government aut parcem, aut furcam, either bread or the gallows, will not reject the same alternative when offered by a foreign hand. Hunger will make them brave every risk for bread. The partisans of England here have endeavored much to goad us into the folly of choosing the ocean instead of the land, for the theatre of war. That would be to meet their strength with our own weakness, instead of their weakness with out strength. I hope we shall confine ourselves to the conquest of their possessions, and defense of our harbors, leaving the war on the ocean to our privateers. These will immediately swarm in ever sea, and do more injury to British commerce than the regular fleets of all Europe would do. The government of France may discontinue their license trade. Our privateers will furnish them much more abundantly with colonial produce, and whatever the license trade has given them. Some have apprehended we should be overwhelmed by the new improvements in war, which have not yet reached us. But the British possess them imperfectly, and what are these improvements? Chiefly in the management of artillery, of which our country admits little use. We have nothing to fear from their armies, and shall put nothing in prize to their fleets. Upon the whole, I have known no war entered into under more favorable auspices…I know your feelings on the present state of the world, and hope they will be cheered by the successful course of our war, and the addition of Canada to our confederacy. The infamous intrigues of Great Britain to destroy our government…and with the Indians to tomahawk our women and children, prove theat the cession of Canada, their fulcrum for these Machiavelian lever, must be a sine qua non at a treaty of peace…'

He was arrogant, ignorant, and left the country with a very small army and navy that were not prepared for war with England in 1812, a war entered into in unpreparedness and ignorance by his protégé Madison who had continued the policies of Jefferson regarding the army and navy.

As an example of military ignorance, the promising and successful experiment of horse artillery run by Captain Peters was ignored in 1809 and the horses were sold by the Secretary of War Eustis and Captain Peter resigned in disgust. It would be at the beginning of 1812 that the idea resurfaced and had to be started all over again.

Interestingly, Major Peter as a volunteer militia commander of artillery, distinguished himself in the field at the disaster at Bladensburg in 1814, along with the Marines and Flotillamen commanded by Joshua Barney.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 4:44 a.m. PST

The preference for the militia was more ideological than military; standing armies were threats to a republic, that was a key and widely agreed upon principle. And in fact it would have been proved true had not Washington suppressed attempts to use the Continental Army to pressure Congress.

I readily concede that militia are ineffective as offensive weapons; but the failure to take Canada in 1812 had as much to do with poor transportation, hence the emphasis on internal improvements after the war.

The gunboats were CHEAP and recognized that all the US could do against the Royal Navy was hope to defend its harbors. I agree that building fleets on Champlain and the Great Lakes woulkd have been prudent -- IF the money was available.

Jefferson, and the Jeffersonians, had far more important ends in view than a probably futile defense against the world's superpower. The one thing Britain could never do, and after Yorktown would never even contemplate, was conquering the country in the face o0f the miliitia, however ineffective they might be on a battlefield.

Jefferson's strategic thinking was clear enough. He recognized, for example, that any other nation possessing New Orleans was automatically our enemy. Remember that the initial attempt was to buy NO; Napoleon shocked the Americans by offering all of Louisiana. And Jefferson understood the importance of OCCUPYING and not just owning or even exploring the vast new territory.

TJ was no military man, agreed. That does not make him ineffective as commander-in-chief responsible for GRAND strategy. To repeat, I am a Hamiltonian, but it is by no means certain that a Hamiltonian strategy (Adams, more or less) continued after 1801 by Federalist administrations would have left the country even as well off as Jefferson did.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 4:55 a.m. PST

TJ to Robert Livingston, April 1802:
The cession of Louisiana & the Floridas by Spain to France works most sorely on the US. on this subject the Secretary of state has written to you fully. yet I cannot forbear recurring to it personally, so deep is the impression it makes in my mind. it compleatly reverses all the political relations of the US. and will form a new epoch in our political course. of all nations of any consideration France is the one which hitherto has offered the fewest points on which we could have any conflict of right, and the most points of a communion of interests. from these causes we have ever looked to her as our natural friend, as one with which we never could have an occasion of difference. her growth therefore we viewed as our own, her misfortunes ours.

There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural & habitual enemy. it is New Orleans, through which the produce of three eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from it's fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half our inhabitants. France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. her pacific dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to increase our facilities there, so that her possession of the place would be hardly felt by us, and it would not perhaps be very long before some circumstance might arise which might make the cession of it to us the price of something of more worth to her. not so can it ever be in the hands of France. the impetuosity of her temper, the energy & restlessness of her character, placed in a point of eternal friction with us, and our character, which though quiet, & loving peace & the pursuit of wealth, is high minded, despising wealth in competition with insult or injury, enterprizing & energetic as any nation on earth, these circumstances render it impossible that France and the US. can continue long friends when they meet in so irritable a position.

they as well as we must be blind if they do not see this; and we must be very improvident if we do not begin to make arrangements on that hypothesis. the day that France takes possession of N. Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her forever within her low water mark. it seals the union of two nations who in conjunction can maintain exclusive possession of the ocean. from that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet & nation. we must turn all our attentions to a maritime force, for which our resources place us on very high ground: and having formed and cemented together a power which may render reinforcement of her settlements here impossible to France, make the first cannon which shall be fired in Europe the signal for tearing up any settlement she may have made, and for holding the two continents of America in sequestration for the common purposes of the United British & American nations.

this is not a state of things we seek or desire. it is one which this measure, if adopted by France, forces on us, as necessarily as any other cause, by the laws of nature, brings on it's necessary effect. it is not from a fear of France that we deprecate this measure proposed by her. for however greater her force is than ours compared in the abstract, it is nothing in comparison of ours when to be exerted on our soil. but it is from a sincere love of peace, and a firm persuasion that bound to France by the interests and the strong sympathies still existing in the minds of our citizens, and holding relative positions which ensure their continuance we are3 secure of a long course of peace. whereas the change of friends, which will be rendered necessary if France changes that position, embarks us necessarily as a belligerent power in the first war of Europe. in that case France will have held possession of New Orleans during the interval of a peace, long or short, at the end of4 which it will be wrested from her. will this shortlived possession have been an equivalent to her for the transfer of such a weight into the scale of her enemy?

will not the amalgamation of a young, thriving, nation continue to that enemy the health & force which are at present so evidently on the decline? and will a few years possession of N. Orleans add equally to the strength of France? she may say she needs Louisiana for the supply of her West Indies. she does not need it in time of peace, and in war she could not depend on them because they would be so easily intercepted. I should suppose that all these considerations might in some proper form be brought into view of the government of France. tho' stated by us, it ought not to give offence; because we do not bring them forward as a menace, but as consequences not controulable by us, but inevitable from the course of things. we mention them not as things which we desire by any means, but as things we deprecate; and we beseech a friend to look forward and to prevent them for our common interests.

Brechtel19808 May 2020 7:42 a.m. PST

Grand Strategy: ‘The strategy of a nation or an alliance. The goal of grand strategy is the attainment of the political objective of a war. Grand Strategy is formulated by heads of state and their principal civilian and military advisers. Grand strategy is more accurately called national strategy when the goals of a single nation are of primary consideration.'-Definitions and Doctrine of the Military Art by John Alger, 6.

Perhaps you can explain Jefferson's supposed ‘expertise' in Grand Strategy? He was undoubtedly a military incompetent and his treatment of the US Navy when president is an excellent example of his ineptness along with the excerpt from his letter to Kocsiusko is certainly an excellent example.

I sincerely doubt that Jefferson could either spell ‘grand strategy' or explain its meaning.

For the overall uselessness of the Jefferson gunboat policy, see The History of the American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle, Chapter Four, pages 179-242 which also has copies of the different designs for the gunboats.

From page 179-180:

‘The act ‘Providing for a naval peace establishment,' passed March 3, 1801, was the first historical illustration of a type of national error that Americans seem prone to commit-the liquidating of their armed might before peace is firmly secured…'

'At the end of 1801 the new construction facilities were either liquidated or made inoperative. The property intended for navy yards was utilized entirely for storage; in some cases portions of the properties were sold. The frames of the 74's contracted for in 1799 were placed in these storage yards, but in most localities little was done to preserve the material. The frigates not sent to the Mediterranean were usually laid up at Washington, under the eye of the administration, and repairs and upkeep were niggardly attended to. The theory on which Jefferson intended to operate the Navy visualized the frigates laid up ‘in ordinary' as being in storage and capable of being made serviceable in a very short time. Economy was intended, and by this means the cost of maintaining the ships in cruising service was avoided, since neither the crews nor rations were needed in the ships laid up. While it was supposed that the ships could be maintained in ordinary in good condition for a long period with the minimum of expense, this assumption was not fully investigated, and many of the precautions that should have been taken were omitted…As a result, most of the vessels laid up deteriorated rapidly; the frigates not placed in service once in four years soon decayed and finally became wholly unserviceable…the Navy lost some fine and valuable vessels.'

The gunboats were generally worthless and unseaworthy, and those that survived to 1812 did not perform as intended. The carried either one or two long guns or carronades and could not fight British warships on anything like even terms, and they were susceptible to Royal Navy cutting out operations. Overall, they were a flop and a waste of money. See Flotilla: The Patuxent Naval Campaign in the War of 1812 by Donald Shomette.

The US Navy that fought the Quasi-War with France, and was inherited by the Jefferson administration was excellent and was composed of 34 frigates, sloops, brigs and schooners and as already mentioned had six ships-of-the-line under construction (it isn't difficult to imagine what the skilled and aggressive American naval commanders could have done with those ships in 1812 against the Royal Navy on the American station). Further, the system of naval yards established were more than enough to support that fleet. Instead all were sold off except for thirteen frigates and one fast schooner, the USS Enterprise. Seven of these ships were laid up in ordinary and through the lack of care were allowed to rot in place. The seven ships retained on active service had their crews reduced to two-thirds of their usual strength. Navy pay was reduced and most of the senior officers were put ‘on the beach.' All of the naval constructors were discharged. Then Jefferson wanted to Navy to go to the Mediterranean to fight the Barbary states. Grand Strategy indeed.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 11:00 a.m. PST

Sigh. Grand strategy is the integration of political, economic, diplomatic, and even moral resources with military ones to achieve a nation's defined goals. Once again, you are simply too narrow in your focus. Jefferson's letter to livingston and the whole New Orleans -Louisiana Purchase affair is a supreme example of a successful grand strategy. Increasing the size of the nation by 50% and gaining control of the key choke point? Priceless.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 11:06 a.m. PST

And sounds to me like the gunboat plan was poorly implemented, as opposed to being inherently ineffective. Of course a history of the sailing navy would condemn it!

And your quoted definition of grand strategy would not seem to cover, say, Reagan's efforts to bring down the Soviet Union. By, among many other things, supporting SOLIDARITY in Poland.

I'm as knowledgeable of military history as anyone, and have been fascinated by it for 65 years. But it always exists within a larger context and you do not seem to appreciate that fundamental fact.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 11:18 a.m. PST

Look, I have now posted the documents spelling out two of Jefferson's very specific and very significant strategic visions -- supporting Clark in the northwest territory, and gaining New Orleans and Louisiana. He did not want to spend money on an army and navy because he believed the country needed to get out of the Hamilton financial plan for the war debt as quickly as possible. That was a policy decision that one party liked and the other decried. Of course the army and navy people did and do think it a bad policy. But you are echoing one side of a debate as though it is the only possible view, and it is not. The US was in a horrible diplomatic and economic position with the two super powers at war, and Jeffersonian foreign policy was not successful. But some very large achievements were made nonetheless. Maybe a more military-minded Hamiltonian would have done better as president after 1800, there is no way to know but TJ was anything but incompetent. same applies to his tenure as governor.

Brechtel19808 May 2020 12:06 p.m. PST

Too much defense of an incompetent. The Louisiana purchase was a good deal, but that is not grand strategy. Apparently you don't understand certain terms.

And the definition I posted is very much in line with the US effort during the Cold War, including the Reagan and Bush administrations.

I'm not echoing anything but giving an analysis of a poor president and the road to a war that the US did not have to fight, especially picking a fight with a much more powerful country at the time. And much of that is Jefferson's responsibility and definitely demonstrates that he and Madison were incompetents as president.

Jefferson and Madison did not want to spend money on the army and the navy because they didn't believe in it and that almost led to a national disaster in 1812. Without the stout fighting of the US Navy and the development of competent army commanders by 1814, the US would have lost the War of 1812. The US was lucky to get off with a draw.

The bottom line is that you have not proven your point and have not demonstrated what you are trying to point out. I haven't brought up Hamilton at all and that is not the point of the exercise. What is the subject is the incompetence of Jefferson as a wartime governor and a president. You really have not addressed that point and you seem to be ignoring the goading that he engaged in to support his protégé in going to war in 1812. His ignorance of the military art, things military in general, and especially naval in particular is noteworthy.

Bill N08 May 2020 1:17 p.m. PST

Will this war go on longer than the AWI?

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2020 1:35 p.m. PST

Jefferson and Madison did not want to spend money on the army and the navy because they didn't believe in it

But WHY didn't they believe in it? They certainly believed in having an army and navy when independence was to be won. The answer is that they believed in other things MORE, like republican virtue.

And I'm not sure you are the arbiter of who needs to, or has, proven his point. You clearly know some history, as do I, but I think the history you know is too limited, too narrow in focus, and generally too closely identified with one side in 200 year old controversies.

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