The Real Revolution – the Global Story of American Independence, by Marc Aronson, focuses on the concurrent lives of three 18th century British soldiers Robert Clive, James Wolfe, and George Washington and their influence on the American Revolution. Equally compelling is how the hypocritical ideologies played out simultaneously on three separate continents converged to set the stage for rebellion.
Some political realities set the groundwork for this unfolding history. England established the East India Company, colonizing cities in sweltering India in the year 1600. While a British parliament became a guaranteed mandate for England in 1689, representatives were exclusively noblemen elected through elite influence and corruption, not unlike how business was run by the East India Company (EIC).
Britain’s “Glorious Revolution” accomplished little for the common man. By the 18th century, European parliaments had devolved into oppressive monarchies. In fact, in 1787 an estimated ¾ of the world population lived under some form of servitude, many laboring under a Spanish model of conquest and mercantilism.
In the mid-1700s, an Englishman named Robert Clive represented the philosophy of expediency and greed that revealed the absence of a moral compass. Clive managed to claw his way to the top of the East India Company through bribery and corruption. His success as a daring British soldier ensured the worldwide trade and political power of the EIC, well into the 19th century.
The British Empire was fueled by tea and other commodities traded through politically powerful profiteers. India and the American colonies were merely plantations for harvesting profit to empower the Crown.
On the eastern seaboard of North America, the Seven Years’ War, begun in 1756, involving eleven different European powers should have been recorded as the First World War.
British soldier James Wolfe heroically preserved the Ohio Valley for the King, a full two years before the lengthy conflict that indebted England and fomented strife in America.
While Aronson defines Wolfe as one of the main protagonists, one might consider Prime Minister George Grenville, elected in 1763, to be the prime catalyst of revolution for holding the opinion that Indian and American colonists were the convenient and exploitable servants whose purpose was to enrich an elite Empire.
The English refused to pay more taxes to dissolve the war debt, so Grenville levied new, oppressive taxation measures on the Americans. He also forbade Americans from crossing the Allegheny Mountains into what he proclaimed was Native American territory, in spite of the Virginia charter that granted land all the way to the west coast. His tightening of customs inspections and increasing taxes and dues on trade threatened American, British and Indian commerce, resulting in increased smuggling activities.
Burdensome taxation without appropriate representation of the working class, whether in Britain or the colonies, was the motivation for Patrick Henry and others to preach against the King of England. Revolutionary literature was being smuggled right along with merchants’ contraband goods. Grenville asserted his imperial authority yet again by planning a standing British army and courts in the colonies, to be financed by the Americans!
English parliamentarian Charles Townshend described the colonists as “American children, planted by our own care… nourished by our indulgence and protected by our arms” as a reason to expect gratitude, obedience and a constant revenue stream.
“They planted with your care? No! Your oppression planted ‘em in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and unhospitable country… And yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all those hardships with pleasure… They nourished your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of ‘em: as soon as you began to care about ‘em, that care was exercised in persons to rule over ‘em… They protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence!”
Barré praised the American “Sons of Liberty” while he condemned the British oppressors, then prophesied that the colonists’ “spirit of freedom” would ultimately motivate action. His warning went unheeded. Patrick Henry ramped up his rebellious rhetoric by suggesting that over taxation had historically been a valid cause to bring down a King.
General George Washington, turned rebel soldier, would put that threat into action. His willingness to sacrifice British citizenship, power, and profit for the higher goal of self-determination stood in principled contrast to the self-serving motives of Clive and Grenville.
A glaring hypocrisy loomed equally large in the new world and would threaten the future of our own independent nation. Could plantation owners, like Washington, who benefitted from the ideologies of an oppressive world empire succeed in making a convincing case for unalienable rights and guaranteed liberties, while flaunting their own oppressive laws?
was no stranger to human history, yet the argument for basic human freedoms that would allow independence and self-motivated prosperity had become a contentious idea around the globe.
Ironically, successful slave-holders like Washington and Jefferson and other political leaders in the colonies could enjoy time to think lofty thoughts about equal justice and innate civil rights only at the price of others’ hard work and freedom. The realization that human liberty and dignity depended upon the benevolence of government was becoming a precarious proposition for all levels of society.
Taxation by profiteering tyrants had become the newest method of enslavement. The colonists expressed their rebellion by tossing East India Company tea off of a ship and into the harbor.
The Boston Tea Party represents a brilliant metaphor. For health reasons, potable water required thorough boiling, rendering it flavorless. The very tea leaves that provided flavor but was controlled by a tyrannical empire left a bitter aftertaste.
The Sons of Liberty and American Patriots knew they were defying and provoking the world’s greatest empire. But the pressure had become intolerable. Their anger boiled over. They were willing to cast off the tyranny of tea and taxes for the sweet taste of dangerous independence. Their own hypocrisy would catch up to them, however, brewing a heated Civil War within a century.
By 1857, the heat of corruption in the East India Company necessitated a takeover by the British government. Finally, in 1947, utilizing the power of non-violence, India threw off the shackles of colonial tyranny and declared their own independence from centuries of British rule.